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Best Underwater Strobes and Flashes

Looking For The Best Underwater Strobe or Flash?

A good underwater strobe is the key to getting proper lighting and color in underwater images. When you try taking photos underwater without a strobe, they look washed out and blue. Light and color loss start just a few feet underwater due to a natural phenomenon called light attenuation. Underwater strobe lights add white light back into your image and bring out the true colors of your subjects, allowing your photos to pop. In fact, almost every underwater photographer shoots with a strobe to illuminate the astounding rainbow of subjects beneath the seas.

Pick an underwater strobe based on your style of photography, looking at important features such as power (listed as Guide Number), beam angle, and recycle speed. If you typically shoot wide angle underwater photography, then you might want to look at more powerful strobes with wider beams. Macro photographers can get by with less powerful strobes. If you shoot quick subjects that move fast, then look for a strobe with a fast recycle time, like the Sea & Sea YS-D3II/YS-D3 Duo or the Ikelite DS 160 II. Remember to think about other options and accessories such as diffiusers, strobe size/weight and the type of batteries required. Some strobes are compatible with TTL or TTL converters and some are not. TTL allows you to shoot "automatically" with your strobes, and allows your strobes to "choose" the correct power output for your scene. Some TTL works better than others, so it's important to know your option. To learn more about strobe triggering options, read this guide on how to fire your strobes underwater.

This guide will help you pick the best underwater strobe light the first time so you can avoid the headache and cost of outgrowing a strobe or needing to upgrade when you buy a new camera!

BEST UNDERWATER STROBES FOR PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Mark II Underwater Strobe

*Lightning-Fast Recycle Time, Newly Designed Circuitry, Cool Accessories*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Maximum Guide Number 33 (on land)
  • Recycle time: 1.7 seconds at full power, 0.6 seconds at GN 22, no recycle time below GN 16!
  • Battery life: 220 flashes with Ni-MH batteries (4X AA)
  • Wide beam angle of 120° (with included diffuser)
  • Has a pre flash cancel mode

The Sea & Sea YS-D3 "Lightning" is one of the world's best strobes for underwater photography. The "Lightning" in its name is well deserved. The YS-D3 is one of the fastest strobes on the market. At half power, it has a recylce time of a mere 0.6 seconds and below a quarter power, there is virtually no recycle time! It has lots on improvements from its predecessor, the YS-D2J. This strobe has a high power, professional-grade beam with a max guide number of 33 (on land). The flash tube features an aspherical troidal lens which produces even light dispersion. The strobe is slightly cooler than the YS-D2J, with a nice color temp of 5800K. The YS-D3 has a wide variety of native accessories from snoots to slave prisms. We recommend the YS-D3 as a future proof strobe that is especially effective for photographers shooting quick subjects.

The Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo delivers a very similar performance to the YS-D3 II, but has the optional RC-Mode which is not found in the YS-D3 II.


Scubalamp D-Pro Underwater Strobe

*Affordable, powerful, ultra-fast recycle times with a wide beam angle*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Maximum Guide Number 30 (on land, IOS100)
  • Circular flash tube - output is 160 Watts
  • Wide beam angle of 150°
  • Power output Capacity : 500 flashes at full power, 3000 flashes at 1st mode
  • Recycle time: 0.1s -1.1s. seconds at full power

The Scubalamp D-Pro is SUPE's flagship underwater strobe, an affordable strobe that provides underwater photographers with a powerful output option (GN #30), ultra-fast recycle times (0.1-1.1s at full power, with a Continuous Unlimited flash Sync with 10 flashes/sec at first mode), a more than sufficient wide beam angle of 150 degrees. The SUPE Scubalamp D33 battery pack includes 3 x 18650 Lithium batteries that offer 500 flashes at full power, and 3000 flashes on 1st mode, allowing more than one dive without having to change or charge the batteries. It also offers a focus light of 500 lumens to assist with your macro photography.

If you want value fo money, there is no better strobe out there.


Ikelite DS230 Underwater Strobe

*Ultra Fast Recycle Time, Improved Ergonomics, Integrated Modelling/Video Light*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Circular flash tube - output is 160 Watts
  • Wide beam angle of 120°
  • DS230 - 213Ws Strobe with 205 Lumen LED Spot light
  • Fast Recycle Time - 1.2 sec or faster

There are two options available:

  1. Ikelite DS 232 with Video Light - $1495 (See below under "Best "All-in-One" Combo options)
  2. Ikelite DS 230 with Modeling Light - $1295

As the latest addition to Ikelite's DS Strobe line, the Ikelite DS230 is 33% (213W) more powerful than its siblings. The controls are larger and taller for easier control, even while wearing thick gloves. Click-stops at each power setting and a limited sweep allow you to quickly jump between TTL, full power and the lowest manual power setting without taking your eyes off your subject. The DS230 also uses new circuitry which makes the recycle time ultra fast! A new circular xenon flashtube produces a perfectly gradated beam pattern and warm color temperature. Another awesome feature of the strobe is that it has an integrated 2500-lumen video light. It also has a sensor which automatically shuts off when taking a photo. You can also use older batteries (for the DS 160 and 161) with the new DS 230 strobe.

Both the Ikelite DS230 and the Ikelite DS232 have the same strobe capabilities, with the only difference being with the video light vs modelling lights options. The Ikelite DS230 has a 205 Lumen LED Spot light, while the Ikelite DS232 has a 2500 lumen video light in the center of the ring flash.

We recommend the Ikelite DS 230 and DS 232 to photographers who need the highest quality beam for wide ange photography, compatable with some the best TTL converts (automatic strobe power) from Ikelite on the market.


Ikelite DS160 II/DS162 Underwater Strobes

*Fast Burst Recycle Speed with Soft, Wide Light Output*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Circular flash tube - output is 160 Watts
  • Beam angle of 100°
  • DS162 - 160Ws TTL Strobe with 2500Lm Video light
  • DS160 II - 160Ws TTL Strobe with 205 Lumen LED Spot light
  • Fast Recycle Time - 1.0 sec or faster

There are two options available:

  1. Ikelite DS 162 with Video Light - $1295
  2. Ikelite DS160 II with Modeling Light - $995

The Ikelite DS160 II combines power with wide angle coverage to give you the most bang for your buck. It has been upgraded from the original DS 160 with a quicker recycle time of .1 to 1 seconds, better ergonomics, and 300 flashes per charge at full power. The quality of light is exceptional due to a round flash tube and a custom powder-coated reflector designed specifically to deliver the softest, most even coverage possible. Strobes with a straight flashtube may be capable of high powers, but require the addition of a diffuser to spread out their sharp, rectangular beam pattern and reduce harsh hot spots. The DS160 II beam is designed to be perfectly soft thanks to its reflector design, and is capable of providing you the coverage and power you want and avoiding the one f/stop loss caused by adding a diffuser.

Both the Ikelite DS160 II and the Ikelite DS162 have the same strobe capabilities, with the only difference being with the video light vs modelling lights options. The Ikelite DS160 II has a 205 Lumen LED Spot light, while the Ikelite DS162 has a 2500 lumen video light in the center of the ring flash.


Marelux Apollo X Underwater Strobe

*highly innovative and revolutionary, TTl, High Speed Sync (HSS) and RC compatible, with MTL mode *

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number of 33 (tested on land
  • 15 strobes fires per sec
  • Beam angle of 110°
  • TTL, HSS & RC compatible UW strobe
  • Full power recycle time 0.6 second
  • Red & White Modelling Light

The Marelux Apollo X Underwater Strobe is a game-changer for underwater photography. With advanced features like TTL support, Olympus RC compatibility, and HSS modes, this strobe delivers stunning results. Its MTL mode allows continuous flashes, ensuring you capture every moment. Equipped with two fisheye wireless signal sensor units and a fiber port, it offers wide coverage and seamless wireless triggering. With a scattering angle of 110° underwater (140° with the dome diffuser) and a temperature range of 5500K-6200K, this strobe creates beautifully balanced lighting.


Marelux Apollo III Underwater Strobe

*highly innovative and revolutionary, TTl, High Speed Sync (HSS) and RC compatible *

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number of 44 (tested on land
  • Red & White Modelling Light
  • Beam angle of 110°
  • TTL, HSS & RC compatible UW strobe
  • Full power recycle time 0.6 second
  • 2 aiming light colors,250 lumen on white, 300 lumen on red
  • Special designed MTL mode, support continuous flashes

The Marelux Apollo III Underwater Strobe, the ultimate tool for capturing stunning underwater moments. With its support for TTL, Olympus RC, and HSS modes, this strobe offers unparalleled versatility. The specially designed MTL mode allows for continuous flashes, ensuring you never miss a shot. Equipped with two fisheye wireless signal sensor units and a fiber port, it provides extensive coverage of 160°. With a guide number of 44 and a scattering angle of 110° underwater (140° with dome diffuser), this strobe delivers brilliant lighting every time. Its compact size and quick recycle time make it a must-have for any underwater photography enthusiast.

The Apollo III has just started shipping and we intend to be the first to do a full review of the strobe so stay tuned!


ONEUW One 160X MkII Underwater Strobe

*high quality, powerful with advnaced features *

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number 20 (162Ws)
  • Beam Angle equalling 130°
  • Fast Recycle Times - 0.1 to 1.6s
  • HSS Mode
  • Works with Nikon, Canon, & Sony TTL Protocols
  • 250 flashes at full power with NiMH BAttery Pack
  • Depth Rating: 200m/650ft

The ONEUW 160X MK ii Underwater Strobe has an high-quality light with a slightly warm color temperature and homogeneous, wide coverage. This strobe cutting-edge has electronics that are highly efficient, adaptable, and supports TTL digital protocols from Sony, Canon, and Nikon. It also supports connections for fiber-optic and synchro cables. The user can immediately update the strobe's firmware over App/Bluetooth to fix, enhance, or add new features. The high-speed syncronization (HSS) mode is an exciting high-end function that can be used in manual flash exposure mode or auto flash digital TTL mode. This is a strobe with ergonomic controls and settings that are easy to read and use. A superb product that is incredibly durable and dependable. The strobe does unfortunately suffer from a low GN of 20, which is why it does not rank higher in our recommendations for a wide angle strobe. Also it's higher price than it competitors, which may also count against it.


BEST UNDERWATER STROBES AND FLASHES
FOR MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY AND PHOTOGRAPHERS ON A BUDGET

There are a lot of great strobe options out there for photographers on a budget. However, this is a quick word of warning. Underwater lighting is the most important aspect of underwater photography. We recommend spending as much of your investment as possible in underwater lighting systems. It is better to budget a housing, lens, or camera rather than underwater lighting. If you purchase any of the "professional" grade strobes above, then you will be able to keep your kit "future-proof" and bring your strobes along to any upgrade. Budget strobes tend to be great for compact and macro shooters, but they can be more difficult to move to your next system if you choose to upgrade.

Inon S220 Underwater Strobe

*Compact, with improved performances*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number of 22 (tested on land
  • Beam angle of 140° horizontal and 100° vertical
  • S-TTL Auto and Manual Flash modes
  • 12 Step Manual Flash modes
  • Up to 250 flashes on a single charge

Inon has taken their renowned strobe series to a whole new level with the revolutionary Inon S-220, a worthy successor to the beloved S2000. This cutting-edge strobe boasts an innovative "fly-eye" diffusion surface within its dome port, ensuring unparalleled control over light distribution. The S220 features a wide light dispersion, complemented by an integrated focus light.

The S220 has a boosted Guide Number of 22, akin to the Inon S2000, but in a more compact and high-performance package. The strobe has a large wheel dial and a phosphorescent panel for easy adjustments at night. For protection, the S220 is designed with dual orings which minimizes flooding risks.

If you are looking for an extremely affordable strobe with quick recycle times and TTL capability, the S220 is currently the best option on the market.


Ikelite DS 51 II

*The TTL Macro/Compact Strobe*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide number at 1m (ISO 100): 17 full power
  • Beam angle of 80º with included diffuser
  • Power control: 6 stops in 1/2-stop increments
  • Ikelite ICS 5-pin bulkhead
  • TTL and remote slave options

The Ikelite DS-51 II 50Ws TTL Strobe is the perfect strobe when traveling. It is small and compact yet powerful enough to capture stunning photos. It only weighs 443g and since it's small, it makes for a great addition to a lightweight and easy to use underwater system - like the Olympus TG-6. In fact, the DS-51 is the most affortable strobe compatible with the RC flash mode on the Olympus TG-6, using an RC1 TTL converter. In RC mode, you do not need to adjust the strobe power, the camera and strobe "talk" to eachother to give you the best results.

The strobe power/exposure mode switch is prominent on the rear of the strobe with bright white details making it easy to see where it's pointing.
 
For connectivity, the DS-51 II is very flexible, you can use an electronic sync cord or fiber optic cable (with the Ikelite fiber optic converter). Remote triggering is also supported.

Sea & Sea YS-01 Solis

*Affordable, Compact, Great for Beginners and Advanced Photographers, Features Manual and TTL Modes*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number 20
  • 100° x 100° Beam Angle
  • Cutting-edge DS-TTL II circuitry
  • Has a pre flash cancel mode

The Sea & Sea YS-01 is a small and compact strobe, ideal for compact camera shooters and macro shooters. It is powerful for its size, with a guide number of 20. The strobe has a wide beam angle of 100°. The YS-01 Solis features TTL capability as well as a manual shooting mode where you can adjust the power to your liking. The YS-03 Solis is essentially the same strobe, but it lacks the manual shooting option.


Sea & Sea YS-03 Solis

*Budget Option with Limitations*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number 20
  • 100° x 100° Beam Angle
  • Slave TTL
  • Color Temperature: 5600K

The Sea & Sea YS-03 solis has many limitations, but it is at a much lower price point than any other strobe. It is not as powerful as the YS-D2 & YS-D3, and only supports firing via TTL - there are no manual settings. It includes a very basic tray, flex arm and a fiber optic cable. The Sea & Sea YS-01 Solis is the same strobe, but offers manual control.

The Sea & Sea YS-03 solis has many limitations, but it is at a much lower price point than any other strobe. It is not as powerful as the YS-D2 & YS-D3, and only supports firing via TTL - there are no manual settings. It includes a very basic tray, flex arm and a fiber optic cable. The Sea & Sea YS-01 Solis is the same strobe, but offers manual control.


BEST "ALL-IN-ONE" STROBE & VIDEO LIGHT COMBOS

Ikelite DS232 Underwater Strobe & Video Light

*The Best high power "All-in-One" Strobe & Video Light Combo *

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number 20
  • 140 degree beam angle
  • Battery life: 600 flashes
  • Recycle time: 0.9 seconds at full power
  • 3000 lumens focus light or video light
  • Powerful ring flash - Color temp 5500K

The Ikelite DS232 strobe boasts a potent power rating of 213 watt-seconds, making it one of the most powerful underwater strobes available on the market. This impressive power allows the strobe to cut through water effectively, delivering sharp, vibrant images even in challenging lighting conditions. Its quick recycle time ensures you can capture fast-paced underwater action without missing a beat. The Ikelite DS232 features intuitive controls, offering 10 steps in 1/2-stop increments, allowing for precise adjustments to get the desired lighting effect. The strobe connector is an Ikelite Bulkhead, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of underwater camera housings.

The Ikelite DS232 is not just a strobe, it also incorporates a 2500 Lumen video light. This powerful light can significantly enhance your underwater videos, delivering brighter, more vibrant footage.


WEEFINE WFS07 STROBE & VIDEO LIGHT

*Best budget "All-in-One Strobe & Video Light Combo*

UNDERWATER STROBE RATING

KEY FEATURES

  • Guide Number 20
  • 140 degree beam angle
  • Battery life: 600 flashes
  • Recycle time: 0.9 seconds at full power
  • 3000 lumens focus light or video light
  • Powerful ring flash - Color temp 5500K

Look no further than the Weefine WFS07 Strobe 7 video light if you've ever dreamed of owning an all-in-one underwater strobe and video light. This compact device can deliver 60Ws flashes and 3000 lumens of continuous lighting, fulfilling the needs of both underwater photo and video shooters. It's not an easy feat to design a device that can provide both functions in a single housing. After iTorch's popular Symbiosis line of strobe and video light combinations was discontinued, the market lacked an analogous device for a few years. Therefore, we are thrilled to see the Weefine WFS07 reintroduce and redefine the hybrid photo-video lighting market.


USEFUL UNDERWATER STROBE RESOURCES

Learn more about lighting, techniques and creative options through our tutorials on the Underwater Photography Guide. Get detailed reviews, technical breakdowns and more!

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