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Thread: Need help choosing strobe..

  1. #1
    Guppy Founding Member
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    Need help choosing strobe..

    A little help guys and gals. While I had hoped to upgrade to a new G9 and Ikelite housing with DS-125 strobe for my upcoming Cozumel trip it's just not fitting into the budget.

    So, I have a SD500 Canon with the Canon UW housing that I have used for the last 3 years and plan to take with me again this time. I have never had a strobe for this set up and feel like I would like to try a less expensive one with my current set up prior to making the upgrade to something better.

    As this will probably be replaced in the (hopefully) not to distant future, do any of you have in mind a strobe that would suit my needs and work well with my current set up. Keep in mind that I don't want to spend a lot of money on one and this is just for a beginner to maybe get some nice family photos. I have absolutely no experience with using a strobe and would hope that one of you could give me a heads up as to one that would be inexpensive and easily set up with my current camera.

    Thanks for anyone's help.

  2. #2
    Grand Master Spammer Founding Member
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    I have been really happy with my Inon strobes, but with a little automatic camera like the the SD500, it's probably overkill.

    I would actually take a look at the Fanta-Sea Nano Strobe. Pretty cheap, small and compact (like the camera), and simple to operate. Not super powerful, but you won't be able to take advantage of a super powerful strobe with this camera anyway. I have a buddy that used one for a long time and he got some fantastic shots out of it. I've actually been considering picking up a small SD870is and one of these for those times that I want a smaller camera setup along.

  3. #3
    Grouper
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    I'd recomend buying a piece at a time and get the best you can afford. I went to the Ikelite housing and DS-125 too a few years back (for the TTL control) and love 'em. You may want to look at the Inon D-2000...
    Thanks,
    Capt. Freddie

  4. #4
    Grouper
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    I would look at the Inon D2000, Sea and Sea 110, and the Ikelite DS51. All three of these strobes are good enough to support a future camera, while being reasonably inexpensive (for a strobe). If you want to really plan for the future, the Inon z240 and Ike DS125 are higher performance - but around 700 plus right now.

    The Inon and Sea and Sea are fiber optic coupled, the Ikelite would use the Ike manual controller to trigger the strobe (get an Ike package around 425 - the other 2 are well over 500 with cable). The Ikelite would allow you to shoot TTL when you buy your G9 (nice camera) and Ike housing in the future. I have used 2 DS50s for years - they are a great macro strobe (light, cheap, reliable as hell, plenty of power (but a relatively small angle of coverage). Click on the link in my signature - all the photos you see were taken with the Ike DS 50's.
    Underwater photography addict
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bversteegh/

  5. #5
    Grand Master Spammer Founding Member
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    The OP wanted to start small and plans to upgrade to "real" gear later, meanwhile not spend a lot of money and "maybe get some nice family photos". And y'all are recommending fantastic $500+ strobes?

    Don't get me wrong... I love my D2000. But that's not the sort of recommendation the OP was asking for. He already has the G9 and DS-125's on the future wish list.

  6. #6
    Grouper
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    Quote Originally Posted by CompuDude View Post
    The OP wanted to start small and plans to upgrade to "real" gear later, meanwhile not spend a lot of money and "maybe get some nice family photos". And y'all are recommending fantastic $500+ strobes?

    Don't get me wrong... I love my D2000. But that's not the sort of recommendation the OP was asking for. He already has the G9 and DS-125's on the future wish list.
    He also said he hopes to upgrade in the near future. One of the little cheap strobes don't have any future utility, and not that much better than the internal strobe in the camera. The Ike DS 51 package has everything you need (strobe, arm, cable/controller) for 425; and can be used for years to come (I know, I've used them for 5 years). But I am the first to admit I spend way to much on this hobby, so I'm not the right one to ask for the absolute bare bones solution....... but the other consideration is value - I just sold one of my DS50's on ebay for 275 dollars, not bad for a four year old strobe that only cost 350 new - and I am confident it will give great value to its new owner for years to come - they are a bulletproof little strobe.
    Underwater photography addict
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  7. #7
    Guppy Founding Member
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    Incredible pics bversteegh. I'd love to be able to get some shots like that. Would the DS-51 be easy to set up and use with my current camera? What (in laymans terms) is the big difference in the DS-51 and the 125?

    I've looked at the strobe comparisons but to be honest I have no idea what I am looking at or what half that crap means. If I bought the DS-51 now would it work well with the G-9 or would I be sorry later for not holding out for the 125? I could probably swing spending 400-500 now if I wouldn't have to upgrade later. However if I'm going to have to upgrade later for a new set up then I hate to spend that kind of money.

    Keep the suggestions coming guys, I've got less than two weeks to get this figured out before I head to Coz and I am depending on your opinions.

  8. #8
    Grouper
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagnaBoxer View Post
    Incredible pics bversteegh. I'd love to be able to get some shots like that. Would the DS-51 be easy to set up and use with my current camera? What (in laymans terms) is the big difference in the DS-51 and the 125?

    I've looked at the strobe comparisons but to be honest I have no idea what I am looking at or what half that crap means. If I bought the DS-51 now would it work well with the G-9 or would I be sorry later for not holding out for the 125? I could probably swing spending 400-500 now if I wouldn't have to upgrade later. However if I'm going to have to upgrade later for a new set up then I hate to spend that kind of money.

    Keep the suggestions coming guys, I've got less than two weeks to get this figured out before I head to Coz and I am depending on your opinions.

    thanks - I enjoyed taking them, and love to show them off

    Ok, so here is my view of current strobes. If I was starting from scratch and money was available, I think the Inon 240 is probably the best all-around strobe out there right now. It is small, powerful, good coverage angle, and uses AA batteries. Offers TTL by mimicking the flash from your camera (the downside - you have to use your internal flash for every shot, so less battery life for your camera, and higher chance of condensation due to heat). You can also attach it via a sync cord and shoot manual if your housing has a sync cord bulkhead (the Ike G9 housing does, for example), then don't need your internal flash enabled. But the strobe plus fiber optic or sync cord is over 800 dollars.

    The Inon 2000 is less expensive, but not as powerful and has a narrower angular coverage. But it is targeted at the intermediate cameras, and does a great job. I think they are around $600 with a fiber optic cable -no sync cord operation available.

    The Sea and Sea 110 is a pretty new strobe, and also has good specs (not quite as powerful as the Inon, but pretty close). Again, can be triggered by a fiber optic off the camera internal strobe, or via an external sync cord. AA batteries (which is a huge benefit). I have never used one, but some people I know have had trouble getting them to reliably sync to there camera. But if they work with your camera, seem to be a great strobe, and are also around 600 with a fiber optic cord if you shop around a little.

    The Ikelite DS51 is a update to the DS 50, adding several manual control levels - for finer control of exposure when shooting manual. $425 for a complete entry package, and use AA batteries, so by far the cheapest of this group of strobes. With Ikelite housings that have TTL controllers (Oly 350, Canon G7& G9, for example - and any Ike DSLR housing), it shoots full TTL via a sync cord. I personnally love the Ikelite TTL - very accurate exposures, so don't have to mess with setting exposure level when on TTL (TTL is a fully automated exposure system). The DS51 is actually pretty powerful for its size/cost - but has a narrower angular coverage than the above more expensive strobes (60 degrees vs 90 degrees without diffusers). So the DS51 is not a good choice for true wide angle, but is outstanding for macro and fish portrait photography. Search for other posts by me, I have described my experience with these strobes for WA on a previous post. These guys are really small, light, and reliable - practically bulletproof. And Ikelite truly has the best customer service in industry - I had a battery compartment flood on a 3 year old strobe - Ike repaired it at no cost, and even paid the return shipping. Their customer service keeps me coming back to their products.

    Finally, the Ikelite DS125. I just bought 2 (found a great deal on some year old strobes at another website classified add, so didn't pay full retail), after much deliberation. New, they are around 650 for the strobe, plus 100 for the charger. And sync cords or a manual controller adds another 100 (I already had these, use the same as the DS50). I am already invested in Ikelite sync cords and housings - so they give me TTL with my camera. Performance wise, a great strobe, and again, great customer service. But these are the largest strobes in the group, so heavier to pack. And they use a custom battery pack - great for performance (fastest recycle time in the group, and 350 plus shots per charge), but the battery packs are expensive, and require a dedicated charger - so one more thing to pack and carry on trips. So the Ike 125's have some downside - but are great strobes.

    One other thing I will say about Ikelite strobes - they hold their value pretty well. I watch ebay and the classifieds at several underwater photography websites - and both DS125's and DS51's routinely sell for 75 to 90 % of purchase cost, depending on age and condition. So you don't take a huge loss if you decide to go another direction in the future - even if you keep them a couple years before moving on (while a camera and housing loses 50% of value in a couple years).

    OK - lots of words above; hopefully showed you highs and lows of the popular strobes on the market. If you plan to use Ike TTL housings in the future; I'd probably stick with Ike strobes; I have had really good luck with them. And the DS51 is a great little strobe; even though I have the 125's, I am keeping 2 DS50's to use for macro - because they are so small and easy to manuever underwater (small size let's you position them close to subjects on the reef without hitting the coral). So I am big fan of the DS50/51 - don't think you can go wrong; and they are a lot cheaper than any of the others listed above. I have used them (2) exclusively for almost 5 years, while progressing from an Oly 5060 to an Oly 7070 to a Canon DSLR, and have had pretty good success (to include getting a feature story published in Sport Diver UK later this year).

    But if you want to shoot true wide angle (angular coverage > 100 degrees) - they are not the best strobe for that environment, the other strobes listed above are a better choice. Hope this helps. Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions - I have recently done quite a bit of research while trying to make up my mind on which way to go.
    Underwater photography addict
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bversteegh/

  9. #9
    Guppy
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    Quote Originally Posted by CompuDude View Post
    The OP wanted to start small and plans to upgrade to "real" gear later, meanwhile not spend a lot of money and "maybe get some nice family photos". And y'all are recommending fantastic $500+ strobes?

    Don't get me wrong... I love my D2000. But that's not the sort of recommendation the OP was asking for. He already has the G9 and DS-125's on the future wish list.
    I would NEVER recommend to anyone to buy a lesser strobe than the ones Bruce mentioned. IMHO, they are a waste of money. A person would be better off utilizing their internal strobe and / or a magic filter until such time that they could afford one of the ones listed. A lessor strobe will not grow with your system and will have virtually no resale value when you are ready to upgrade. Again, this is purely my opinion.

    I also believe that electrical bulkheads and sync cords will be obsolete someday and replaced by fiber optics (such as Nexus & Seatool are offering now). FO is more reliable and cannot be flooded.

    YMMV,
    Dave
    Nikon D7000, Nauticam, (2) Inon Z240


  10. #10
    Grand Master Spammer Founding Member
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    Oh well, so much for answering the question the OP actually asked.

    I agree with the recommendations at he higher end level... all solid. I'm a huge Inon fan, personally.

    I also am a fan, however, of answering the questions that are asked. Since the OP asked for an INEXPENSIVE strobe that he would be upgrading away from LATER, that's the recommendation I gave... something that fit his parameters.

    If you want to chuck his parameters out the window and sell him on all high end gear, that's ok, too... but perhaps state that that is what you're doing. *shrug*

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