A strobe, also known as an underwater flash, is an essential piece of equipment if you want to take your underwater photography to the next level. Underwater strobes are responsible for creating ample artificial light to reduce backscatter (reflection for particles in the water) and illuminate colors underwater. Pictures taken the built in camera flash tend to be monotonous and boring. So how do you find the best underwater strobe for you?

One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to make your life easier when it comes to gear shopping. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose a strobe for underwater photography and show you our selection of the best underwater strobes.

Want to learn more about getting your underwater photography kit set up? Check out our guides on dive cameras and lens for underwater photography to get you started.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST UNDERWATER STROBE

PICTURE
STROBE
GUIDE NUMBER
RECYCLE RATE
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
STROBE
GUIDE NUMBER
RECYCLE RATE
PRICE
RATING
SEA & SEA YS-01
20
2.5 seconds
$$
5.0
SEA & SEA YS-D2
32
1.5 seconds
$$
4.5
1
SEA & SEA YS-03
20
3.1 seconds
$
5.0
INON Z-240
24
1.6 seconds
$$$
5.0
INON S2000
20
1.5 seconds
$$
5.0
SEA LIFE SEA DRAGON
20
5.0 seconds
$
4.0
IKELITE DS-161
24
1.4 seconds
$$$
5.0
IKELITE DS-51
28
3.5 seconds
$$
4.5
OLYMPUS UFL-3
22
2.0 seconds
$$
5.0
INON D-2000
20
1.8 seconds
$$$
4.5

 

 

UNDERWATER STROBE 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST STROBE FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

 

1. STROBE POWER

The strength of the light flashed on a strobe is indicated by the Guide Number (often noted as GN). Higher guide numbers mean stronger strobes. When it comes to underwater photography, the more light, the better.

A guide number is represented by the strobes power at a distance of 1 meter away from the subject at ISO 100. The guide number has no relation to the size, weight or shape of the strobe.

Concentrated light beams will have a higher guide number compared to diffused light beams. It’s important to note that using an add-on diffuser on your strobe will reduce the guide number.

 

2. STROBE COVERAGE ANGLE

The angle of coverage is the spread of light created by the flash. Typically this ranges from 80-120 degrees in a circular form. If you plan to add a diffuser on top of your strobe, the angle of coverage will increase.

For shooting wide-angle photography, you are going to want a larger angle of coverage. For macro shots, an angle coverage of 90 degrees or less will be sufficient. If you’re into macro photography, we recommend checking out our post on the best macro diving sites in the world!

 

3. RECYCLE RATE

The recycle rate of a strobe is defined by the time it takes a strobe to regenerate for a second shot. This is an extremely important feature and must be taken into great consideration when purchasing a strobe!

Imagine being on a dive in Belize and having a dolphin swim face to face with you for a brief second – you are going to want a fast recycle to get a few properly lit photos. The faster the recycle rate, the better. A recycle rate of 1 second is considered fast compared to a 3 second recycle rate which is slow. This is measured assuming you have fired the flash using its full power. Strobes fired at a lower rate will recycle faster.

 

4. SIZE AND WEIGHT

The less size and weight the better. A dive camera housing is big and bulky enough, you are going to want an ergonomic, lightweight strobe to accompany your housing, especially if you will be using two strobes.

 

5. FLASHES PER BATTERY

The more flashes you get out of a single charge, the better. Flashes per battery vary between 100 – 300 flashes, with 100 being low. We recommend opting for something with over 200 flashes. It is important to use the recommended batteries for your specific strobe model as this will allow you to get the most out of the flash.

 

best underwater strobe

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/chameleonseye

 

 

STROBES FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEWS

THE TOP 10 BEST STROBES FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

 

SEA & SEA YS-01

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Excellent for both macro and wide-angle photography with DSLR, mirrorless or compact cameras

GUIDE NUMBER: 20

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 100 x 100 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 2.5 seconds

PROS: Strong and affordable with a built in target light

CONS: Larger than its main competitor the Inon S2000

 

 

 

SEA & SEA YS-D2

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Excellent for both macro and wide-angle photography with DSLR, mirrorless or compact cameras

GUIDE NUMBER: 32

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 80 x 80 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 1.5 seconds seconds

PROS: Audible confirmation beep with the strobe is ready to fire again and comes with two different diffusers to increase angle coverage

CONS: A little bit heavier than it’s previous model the YS-D1

 

 

 

SEA & SEA YS-03

1

Check out the latest price on:
LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Great for both macro and wide angle, for DSLR or compact users.

GUIDE NUMBER: 20

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 100 x 100 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 3.1 seconds

PROS: Very affordable strobe and comes with a tray, flex arm and fiber optic cable

CONS: No manual settings and no built in target light

 

 

 

INON Z-240

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Great for both macro and wide angle, for DSLR or compact users.

GUIDE NUMBER: 24

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 100 x 100 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 1.6 seconds

PROS: Built-in focus light and a great circular beam

CONS: Heavy and bulky and mounts must be bought separately

 

 

 

INON S2000

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Compact camera users

GUIDE NUMBER: 20

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 110 x 110 degrees with diffuser

RECYCLE RATE: 1.5 seconds

PROS: Ultra compact and very powerful lightweight strobe

CONS: Small and confusing controls and you need a special connector

 

 

SEA LIFE SEA DRAGON

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Compact camera users

GUIDE NUMBER: 20

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 120 x 120 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 5 seconds

PROS: Great compact and convenient set up for compact camera users. Very affordable.

CONS: Very slow recycle rate

 

 

 

IKELITE DS-161

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: DSLR wide angle photography

GUIDE NUMBER: 24

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 90 x 90 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 1.4 seconds or less

PROS: Extremely fast recycle rate with a very strong output

CONS: Expensive, heavy and bulky. It also has a very specific battery with no alternatives

 

 

 

IKELITE DS-51

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | LeisurePro

BEST FOR: Use with compact cameras

GUIDE NUMBER: 28

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 70 x 70 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 3.5 seconds

PROS: Very affordable and easy maintenance

CONS: No modeling / focus light

 

 

 

OLYMPUS UFL-3

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Best used with an Olympus camera. If not using an Olympus, better opt for the YS-01

GUIDE NUMBER: 22

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 78 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 2 seconds

PROS: Amazingly compact and very light

CONS: Basically the same strobe as the YS-01 but more expensive

 

 

 

INON D-2000

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: DSLR camera users

GUIDE NUMBER: 20

ANGLE OF COVERAGE: 100 x 100 degrees

RECYCLE RATE: 1.8 seconds

PROS: Two flash bulbs create an even circular beam

CONS: Need to buy mounts separately