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Inon S220 Strobe Review

Inon S220 Strobe Review

Posted by Nirupam Nigam on March 7th, 2024

Underwater strobes, or flashes, are devices used to bring color back into your underwater photos when water would otherwise make your images washed-out and blue. The Inon S220 is Inon's newest budget strobe, perfect for new underwater photographers, compact camera shooters, and those who need to travel light. We had the chance to be the first to review these strobes with Takuya Torii from Inon while diving with them in the Pacific Northwest. We would like to Takuya for providing the equipment for this review and the excellent company on our dives across the state of Washington.

Inon S220 Strobe Review

The Inon S220s After a Dive - You can see just how small their form factor is when placed on a OM System TG-7 System

To preface this review, I must say - I was thoroughly impressed with the S220s after just a few days of diving with them. As a pro-photographer, it can be hard to switch to an entry-level strobe knowing the limitations in power and recycle time. But my whole time shooting with the Inon S220s, I never felt limited. In fact, I loved the even beam quality and had a lot of fun playing with the ND filters that come with the strobes. At lower powers, the Inon S220 is quite quick when it comes to recycle times, and the strobes were were powerful enough for wide angle photography for my application -  diving in the cold, darker waters of the Pacific Northwest. So even though this strobe is priced for new underwater photographers, it can be very much enjoyed by seasoned pros who need a small strobe to carry to hard to reach places. 

Click Here to Purchase Your S220 for $399.95 at Bluewater Photo

A Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker photographed with dual Inon S220 strobes in an Inon Canon R6 Mark II Housing

A Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker photographed with dual Inon S220 strobes in an Inon Canon R6 Mark II Housing

Inon S220 Specifications

No strobe review would be complete without a list of specifications. Let's get to it: 

  • Guide Number: 22
  • Recycle Time: 2.1 seconds
  • Beam Angle: 140 degrees
  • Color Temperature: 5500K - optional 4600K and 4900K filters
  • Double Orings Reduce Flooding Risk
  • Comes with a standard white diffuser and ND filter
  • Phosphorescent Control Panel
  • S-TTL and 12-step manual flash
  • Size: 3.1" D X 3.5" H x 5" L
  • Weight: 348 grams on land, 50g underwater
  • Depth rating: 100m (328 ft)

In dark, coldwater environments, the Inon S220 is plenty powerful for wide angle photography. Photographed with dual Inon S220 and the Canon R6 Mark II in an Inon R6 Mark II housing.

In dark, coldwater environments, the Inon S220 is plenty powerful for wide angle photography. Photographed with dual Inon S220 and the Canon R6 Mark II in an Inon R6 Mark II housing.

Key Features

A High Quality Beam

The Inon S220 has an extremely wide, 140 degree beam with a guide number of 22. As guide numbers can only serve as a rough estimation of power (every manufacturer measures this slightly differently), for context, this strobe produces enough power for photos of close, macro subjects in any conditions. For wide angle photography, the Inon S220 will work fairly well to get colors back in your photos. But if you are shooting in shallow, clear water with a lot of sun, you might struggle to compete with the sun to get color in your photos and you images may be a little more washed out. Typically, a professional strobe, like the now discontinued Inon Z330, would have a guide number of 30 or higher. That isn't to say, you can't use the Inon S220 in all underwater photography situations - you most certainly can. It just performs better for macro photography and situations where you are close to your subject.

Even lighting and no hotspots when photographing this nudibranch with the Inon S220

White Diffuser, ND Filter, and Optional Warm Diffusers

With a 140 degree beam angle, you almost don't need a diffuser when using the Inon S220. But if you want a little more coverage if you want to use one strobe or cover more of the reef for wide angle shooting, you're in luck! The S220 comes with a white diffuser. The diffuser will increase the beam angle to an extremely wide 150 degrees. While this will soften the light and cover more of the scene, diffusers do increase backscatter in the scene. 

s220 strobe underwater photo

Using the ND filter, I was able to produce interesting bokeh with a nice color pallet when photographing this octopus with dual Inon S220 strobes in an Inon Canon R6 Mark II Housing

The S220 also comes with an ND filter which reduces the output of the strobe by 4 stops. While this may seem counter intuitive, ND filters are a great way to get color on your subjects but open up your aperture in order to get more bokeh in your shot. I played around with this while shooting nudibranchs and octopus and I found that it really accentuated the background and created a soft look with creamy bokeh. The benefits are great for full-frame cameras with a shallow depth of field - like the Canon EOS R6 Mark II in an Inon housing that we used for part of the review

The Inon S220 ND Diffuser

The Inon S220 ND Diffuser

If you want to improve your background blues, the S220 has two option "warming" filters - the 4600K and 4900K diffusers. These diffusers make the subjects lit by your strobe warmer. When you correct for white balance in post processing, the image as a whole will need to be made cooler, making your blues, bluer. 

A Compact and Travel-Friendly Size

Perhaps the most attractive attribute of the S220 is its extremely compact size. The strobe clocks in at 348 grams above water and only 50 grams underwater! It's significantly smaller than any professional strobe on the market like the Sea & Sea YS-D3Scubalamp D-Pro, or Ikelite DS 230. It is also slightly smaller than the Sea & Sea YS-03 and YS-01 Solis

It was very easy to bring a pair of S220s shore diving in the current heavy waters of the Pacific Northwest. There's almost no drag in the water and they add very little weight to your system as a whole. If you are mostly a macro shooter and size is important to you, it might make sense to seriously consider the S220s. 

This crab was photographed with the OM System TG and dual Inon S220 strobes - a popular combination!

Ergonomics and a Phosphorescent Control Panel

The back control panel of the strobe is particularly useful if you are a night diver. If you shine your light on the panel, the strobe will glow for a limited period of time! I found this to be very useful when I was dialing my strobe power in manually on a night dive at the Keystone Jetty. 

Changing the power on the S220 is easy, even with gloves in cold water. You just need to rotate the dial at the bottom of the control panel with your thumb.

TTL and 12 Steps of Manual Control

The S220 offers both TTL and manual flash control. TTL, or "through the lens" is a setting where the strobe will "read" the flash output from your camera and automatically guess what output it needs. While it's not perfect, I found that most of my exposures were pretty accurate in TTL mode. In fact, I kept the strobe on TTL for most of the time that I was shooting. You can adjust TTL exposure compensation if you need to, but I left the strobe on "b" and didn't touch it through most of my time shooting.

If you do want a little more control and wish to shoot in manual mode - or if your camera does not offer TTL - you have full manual control with the S220. You can adjust your strobe power through 12 different power steps.

A nudibranch photographed by Takuya Torii of Inon with dual S220 Strobes

A nudibranch photographed by Takuya Torii of Inon with dual S220 Strobes

Moderate Recycle Times

While the S220 is not designed to be the fastest strobe on the market, I found that if I wasn't shooting at full power, the recycle time was fairly fast. In many cases, it felt faster than competing strobes. At full power it has a moderately quick recycle time of 2.1 seconds. If you are a compact camera shooter with an on-board camera flash, you will be most likely more limited by the on-board camera flash than the strobe itself. 

Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers can move quickly - but the recycle time kept up! Photographed by Takuya Torii of Inon


Overall, I was surprised with just how much I enjoyed shooting my local photo subjects with a new lighting tool. The S220 performed better than I expected in every way. Coupled with the fact that Inon offers interesting lighting tools like ND and warming diffusers, the S220 is an excellent compact strobe option for macro photography. That said, if you don't have a lot of ambient light while you're diving, the S220 can be a good option for wide angle photography.

With a nice even beam, accurate TTL, and a compact design, the S220 is a traveler's dream. If you are considering taking your first underwater photos or looking to downsize for travel, the Inon S220 fills a much needed niche in the underwater strobe market. 

Diving deep with the Inon S220s

Diving deep with the Inon S220s

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