Before Hurricane Hillary tore through the west coast this August, I had the opportunity to sneak into the relatively warm, crystal blue water that only occurs off Southern California's coast at the end of summer. Fortunately I had a few new toys to play with - the new Sea & Sea YS-D3 duo strobes straight from Japan and the Ikelite Canon R100 system. I was lucky enough to be the first person to review the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duos before the initial release date at the end of August....and I'm happy to report that the D3 Duos are more of the same great quality, power, and lighting recycle times we've come to expect from Sea & Sea!
Although this article is not our full review of the YS-D3 Duos, I wanted to share my initial thoughts and photos that I captured over the course of three dives with the strobes. As the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo's are very similar to the original YS-D3 lighting strobes, be sure to read out full review of the YS-D3 lightings as well.
Differences Between the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo and YS-D3 Mark II
This seagrass scene was lit by dual Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo Strobes
An initial search of the YS-D3 Duos results in a $849.95 price point, whereas the YS-D3 Mark IIs clock in at $799.95. Both strobes will likely overlap during the period that they are on market, so what is the difference between the two? And why is there a price difference?
The Duo in "YS-D3 Duo" stands for dual circuits. Not only is the Sea & Sea YS-D3 duo equipped with the TTL circuitry found in the YS-D3 Mark II, it also has an Olympus RC TTL circuit that produces much more accurate exposures with Olympus Tough and OM cameras. In many ways both the YS-D3 Mark II and the YS-D3 Duo are the same strobe on paper. The Olympus RC mode in the YS-D3 duo is the defining factor.
There are few more minor changes with the YS-D3 Duo over the YS-D3 Mark II. The first is that the metal heat sink band is now gold. I think it's a really nice aesthetic choice. The second is that the dials on the back of the strobe have been updated slightly to make it easier to see what mode you are in. Finally, the ready sound is much louder on this strobe. This makes it very easy to tell when your strobe is ready to fire underwater.
Do I Need to Upgrade?
Unless you are an Olympus shooter, if you already have the Sea & Sea YS-D3 or YS-D3 Mark II strobes, there is not much need to upgrade to the YS-D3 duo. But if you are a Sea & Sea YS-03 or YS-01 solis shooter, you should definitely consider the YS-D3 duo strobe for the higher power output for wide angle photography. The YS-D3 duo is also compatible with the same wide range of accessories like a dome diffuser and snoot that make it an enticing choice for a photographer looking to expand their horizons of creative lighting.
You can't have a conversation about an underwater strobe without talking about the quality of the beam of light. The YS-D3 Duo is equipped with the same 105 degree beam (without a diffuser) shaped by an aspherical toroidal lens. This produces even and uniform light distribution to the periphery of your image. We could see that when we were capturing photos of this Garibaldi in the kelp forest and even the kelp on the edges of this fisheye shot lit up nicely!
The aspherical toroidal lens allows for even light distribution to the periphery of the image
The recycle times in the YS-D3 duo remain just as fast as those found on the original YS-D3 lighting. And recycle time is what truly propelled the YS-D3s to stardom. At full dump the YS-D3 duo has a recycle time of 1.7 seconds. But it truly shines at lower powers. At half power the strobe has a recycle time of .6 seconds - capable of keeping up with a low continuous burst. At quarter power there is almost no recycle time. We got to play with quick recycle times quite a bit as dive conditions were quite dark during this day at Anacapa.
Capturing quick sequences of photos is easy with a quick recycle time! In these dark conditions, we didn't need to use more than half power
An Updated Light Sensor
Perhaps one of the most exciting updates of the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo strobes is the new and improved light sensor for triggering the strobes via fiber optic cables. The sensor is much more sensitive which makes it compatible with most flash triggers. This improvement also makes TTL more accurate! While this sensitivity does make the strobe fire at times without a fiber optic cable plugged in, the strobe is complete with a safety mode that stops the strobe from firing until a fiber optic cable is plugged.
The overall build of the the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo is excellent. In fact, it's probably the largest selling point when considering the Duo vs other strobes on the market. In the water, the strobe has a buoyancy of only -20 grams! This makes it easy to dive and travel with. We found it very comfortable to move the strobe around and keep our rig balanced with the D3 Duo.
Ultimately. this is just a first look at the Sea & Sea YS-D3 duos. We did not have an Olympus camera on hand to test the RC TTL mode, but we will during our underwater photo workshop to the Sea of Cortez this week. So stay tuned for the full review coming just around the corner!