Underwater Strobe Comparison

Underwater strobes light up our world. They bring vivid color back into wide-angle and macro scenes, while also freezing motion to deliver crisp images of the subject. I’ve written this underwater strobe comparison in order to help you find the best strobes for your kit, whether upgrading or buying new.

The list and comparison below incorporates of some of the most popular underwater strobes on the market today. It’s an exciting time to be in the market for strobes as we have two fairly new models mixing it up with the workhorses of the past few years.

I’ve compiled specs into a comparison chart below, but note that it uses manufacturers’ available info, which isn’t always apples to apples (welcome to underwater photography gear).

strobes vs lights underwater

RELATED: Underwater Camera Lights 101

Strobe Comparison Chart 2019

Underwater Strobe Comparison Chart
Sea & Sea YS-03

This is a nice strobe if you’re on a lean budget or looking for a simple lighting solution, as it doesn’t offer manual strobe power control. My opinion is that strobes grow with you and if you really think you’ll get into underwater photography, try to spend the cash on the YS-D2J (which does offer manual control (featured below)).

$300 | On Backscatter | On Amazon

SeaLife Sea Dragon Universal Flash

The SeaLife flash comes with the Flex-Connect tray and handle, making it a quick solution for adding light to a compact camera and housing. Manual and TTL control, plus the quick assembly/disassembly of the arm system make it very simple to use. SeaLife also sells combo kits with dual flashes, a flash and light combo and more.

$399 | On Backscatter | On Amazon

Inon Z-330

Brand new for 2018, Inon released this follow up to the Z240 (which was very popular before the Sea&Sea YS-D1 (predecessor to the YS-D2)) hit the market. I haven’t had a chance to use the Z-330, but check out Adam Hanlon’s review on Wetpixel.

Note that Inon also makes the S-2000 strobe ($365), which is a more affordable option than the Z-330. It has a guide number of 20, whereas the Z-330 is 33.

$650 | On Backscatter

Sea & Sea YS-D2J

The YS-D2J is the workhorse of many serious underwater photographers and my first strobe recommendation. I use the older YS-D2 model, but these rock. Enough said. Use the 100 degree diffuser set instead of the 120 degree.

$690 | On Backscatter | On Amazon

Retra Flash
retra flash underwater

Retra hit the scene a couple years ago with their LSD (light shaping device), helping spark a second wave of macro snoot photography. Backscatter showed me this new flash at DEMA 2017 and it looks very cool. You can check out Adam Hanlon’s review on Wetpixel.

$829 | On Backscatter

Ikelite DS161
ikelite ds161 strobe

A solid strobe with a reputation for quick recycle time, although the competition has now caught up. Aquatica housings also have an option for built-in Ikelite strobe compatibility for added convenience.

$949 | On Backscatter | On Amazon

Featured Tutorials
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Underwater Strobe Positioning (video + tutorial)

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How to Create Black Backgrounds (video + tutorial)


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Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world. BrentDurand.com.