Product Reviews

Compact Underwater Camera Lighting Package Product Review

Compact Underwater Camera Lighting Package Product Review

Point and Shoot cameras are getting better and better with time. On land, one can produce very good shots without external lighting due to improved camera sensors and better performance in high ISO setting. Underwater the conditions are very different and external lighting is necessary to bring back the actual colors of the objects we are shooting. The reason is the water acting as a blue filter absorbing the red color frequency and causing our photos to appear very blue and unsaturated.

Mozaik Fantasea / Sea and Sea Compact Lighting Packages.

For this reason, compact lighting packages are becoming very popular and many divers understand that investing in an underwater strobe or video light can sometimes benefit their photos more than buying new more modern cameras.
Most divers that use point and shoot cameras have a limited budget as these are amateur underwater cameras that are usually bought for 300-800$.
These budget limitations pushed the manufacturers to create more economic products that will fit almost every beginner underwater photographer’s budget.

We ran some tests with a combination of Fantasea Tray and Arm Packages and the relatively new line of Sea and Sea strobes to explore just how well we can shoot underwater with such packages.
We tested 3 variations, all based on the newly designed Fantasea blue ray tray and flex arms. The packages were tested with 2 cameras, the Fuji F80 EXR with Fuji housing and the Nikon Coolpix P7000 with Fantasea housing.

The following variations were tested in our recent dives and are reviewed below.

Blue Ray Tray and Flex Arms ReviewFantasea Blue Ray Tray and Arms

The Fantasea Blue Ray tray was released last year and is considered to be a leading underwater tray in the industry.
This tray is made of Aluminum and as such is very durable, strong and light weight. It is designed for housings as small as the Ikelite Ultra Compact housings and will even fit larger housings as the Olympus Pen housing, Ikelite Compact housings and the Fantasea FP7000 housing. Generally this is the probably one of the most universal trays in the market as it can be used with Canon, Fujifulm, Olympus, Fantasea , Ikelite and many other housing manufacturers.
The Blue ray tray has a number of unique features:

  • The Double tray is constructed of 2 parts, the main tray and the extension. This allows using only part of the tray if only one arm is necessary and a compact package is required or the 2 parts together for connecting 2 arms. (See pictures)
  • The extension is connected approximately 1.5cm below the main tray in order to allow space for gripping the side of the housing comfortably.
  • The tray has an adjustable stopper which prevents most housings from rotating on the screw axis.
  • The bottom tripod screw allows connecting almost every housing and can be slided from one side to another allowing the diver to place the housing where it suits him best.
  • The Tray comes with an Ikelite set of screws and allows connecting the Ikelite housings with their 2 unique screw threads.

The tray has 2 T2 slide adapters on each side which allow mounting standard flex arms and these are very easy to assemble and take apart.
I found the flex arms to be very comfortable to use underwater as they both serve as a grip from both sides of the package and are flexible enough to allow placing the strobes in various positions. While Ball and Joint arms require playing with screws underwater to move the arms angles, the flex arms just require a slight push and they can be maneuvered to any position.
The top of the flex arm has a YS-mount connector which will fit Sea and Sea strobes, a large number of video lights and with the correct adapters, almost anything.
Another big plus of this package is that it can be taken apart in less than a minute and is very small to pack and travel with.

Variation 1 Blue Ray Tray Package with YS-02 and Focus LightSea and Sea YS-02 Strobe Package

The most basic package we tested includes the following:

  • YS-02 Sea and Sea strobe
  • Nano Focus light offered by Fantasea
  • Double Blue Ray Tray + 2 Flex Arms (30cm)
  • Fiber Optic Cable + Nano adapter for Sea and Sea strobe connection

This package retails for approximately 500$.

The Blue Ray tray and arms handle these accessories very easily. The Sea and Sea strobe YS-02 being one of the most compact strobes in the market does not put much weight on the arms and as such this package is very easy to manipulate both above and underwater.

The Sea and Sea YS-02 strobe connects to almost any housing in the market using a fiber optic cable that can either have a Sea and Sea connector on the housing end or a Velcro attachment for housings that do not offer such a connection.
It has a simple on off switch that allows using it with cameras that have pre-flashes or ones that don’t and it has a level knob that is very simple to use and as such simplifies using it even due to its lack of TTL support. I found that when using the strobe in manual mode, most of the time the power level can be set about half way and only when a wide shot is necessary would I increase the power to its maximum.

Obviously, when using cameras that offer an easy to use manual mode such as the Nikon P7000, the strobe can be set to maximum and most settings controlled by the cameras aperture setting. When shooting Macro mode, there is not much choice but to decrease the flashes output to avoid over exposed photos.

We found this package (1 strobe) to be quite effective for shooting distances of up to 2.5 meters and we were able to shoot quite decently lit shots at night time as well.

The Nano focus light is a small flashlight that turns itself off when the strobe fires using a special light sensor and therefore does not interfere with the strobes lighting the photo. This means that photos that were shot with the strobes will not have the hotspot of the light in the middle as would happen with regular dive light. This light is designed to work in low light conditions only and is aimed solely for assiting the cameras focus. Common dive shots where it can be used are wrecks , caves , under large rocks or on night dives.

To sum it up , this package is the bare minimum that one needs to upgrade the quality of his photos and for 500$ it does an excellent job.

Here are some photos taken with this package:

Underwater Strobe Beam
Shot with Wide Angle Lens – It is visible that the angle of light with one strobe is limited, Night Dive with strobe on half power.
Fuji Housing Package
In the picture – Double Blue Tray package with one strobe (YS-01)

Variation 2 Blue Ray Tray Package with 1 x YS-01 Strobe and 1 x YS-110alpha Strobe

The next most advanced package we tested includes the following:YS-110alpha and YS-01 with SOLA 1200 Light

  • Sea and Sea YS-01 strobe
  • Sea and Sea YS-110alpha
  • Double Blue Ray Tray + 2 Flex Arms (30cm)
  • 2 x Fiber Optic Cables + 2 x Nano adapter for Sea and Sea strobe connection

This package retails for approximately 1290$.

The Sea and Sea YS-110alpha strobe is significantly heavier and larger than the YS-01/YS-02, when carrying the package above water, one needs to support the strobes with both hands as the weight can push down the flex arm and put pressure on the aluminum screws. Regardless, underwater as with every gear, the package becomes almost neutrally buoyant and as such the weight is no longer felt. The Sea and Sea strobe YS-01 is built in the exact same body and as such is also compact and lightweight as explained in the previous package.

The Sea and Sea YS-01 is identical to the YS-02 in its structure, size and weight, power and controls but there are 2 major differences that make this strobe far superior and definitely worth the extra 100$:

  • TTL Auto Exposure support
  • Built in Focus Light

I will explain TTL in just one sentence. Basically, the new digital cameras, mainly the higher end ones have a built in light sensor near the CCD which senses the exposure of the image. When the exposure is correct, its shuts off the flash. The result is accurately exposed photos no matter what the camera settings are (as long as the flash is on auto mode). The YS-01 strobe mimics the built in flashes function and therefore supports this TTL. While many professional photographers will say this ruins the point of shooting manual, for amateurs this is a life saver. It allows you to use the cameras aperture setting to determine the backgrounds brightness while the TTL makes sure your main object is correctly exposed.

I must say that at night dives, this feature did not work for me and I had to use manual , probably the contrast between object and background is too strong for the camera to correctly expose the image.

The built in focus light is a great feature, it is a bit stronger than the Nano Focus light and does not require you to handle another accessory underwater, plus the extra batteries and overhead. The light can be turned on with a switch at the back of the strobe and it also shuts off when the flash fires.

The Sea and Sea YS-110alpha strobe is a much larger strobe in size and weight. It is said to be more powerful than the YS-01 but I personally did not notice much of a difference underwater. In terms of features it is very similar to the YS-01 but it also has a Nikonos 5 Pin connection for connecting the strobe electronically to DSLR cameras. With compact cameras, this is not required which is why I think there is no real advantage to this strobe over the YS-01. Getting 2 x YS-01’s instead can save around 200$ on the price of this package but for us, this was a good trial.

The big difference we noticed in this package compared to the 1st variation is the fact that we have 2 strobes. The effect was profound and allowed us to shoot wide angle shots from even 3-4 mts while still having most of the image lit with vivid colors. This also gives you a lot of options for pointing the strobes from the bottom and top or from both sides. I think if one can afford having 2 x strobes this would defiantly be worth the investment.

The Blue Ray package allows pointing the strobes far from the camera and thus reducing backscatter significantly. While it may sound crazy getting a 1000$ lighting package for a 500$ underwater camera, it will take you more than half way to professional shots without going up to the level of DSLR which Is no less than 4000$. The photos in this review will prove my point.

Here are some photos taken with this package:

Shooting deep dives Photos in deep dives
Taken from a distance of around 2.5 mts – clearly visible the 2 strobes provide a wide angle of light. Taken at depth of 26 mts. 2 Strobes Produce vivid colors even from a distance of 2-3 mts.
Same as image on the left

 

Variation 3 Blue Ray Tray Package with YS-01 Strobe and 1 x I-torch Video Light

The next package, which is also used for video , that we tested includes the following:

  • YS-01 Sea and Sea strobe
  • I-torch Video Pro Light
  • Double Blue Ray Tray + 2 Flex Arms (30cm)
  • Fiber Optic Cable + Nano adapter for Sea and Sea strobe connection

This package retails for approximately 900$.

We discussed strobes enough, what this package now offers is a video light. Compact cameras shoot excellent videos today and with the popularity of videos on the web, many divers want to have this possibility underwater. But how do you get the vivid colors your strobe provides in video ? With a video light.

The I-torch video light we tested is 650 lumens in power and has 4 modes (3 power levels and red mode). A 650 lumen light is not very significant when shooting at a range of more than 0.5-0.8 mts from your subject. As such you can use this light in day time to shoot Macro videos, and there are plenty nice ones to shoot or you can use it at night time.
The Red light feature is huge for night time as your eyes stay accustomed to the dark and the fish are not scared by an intimidating white light. Once you find an object you want to take a video off, just switch the light back to white mode and you’re good to go.

I can speak about video lights for a long time but this will be explained in another review.

To sum it up, this package is a very good one, you get the advantages of the YS-01 strobe, with TTL and focus light and you get basic video capabilities, mainly for night dives. If you want to take good videos in daytime dives , bear in mind you will need no less than 2 x 1000 Lumen lights or 1 very powerful light , otherwise you will be limited to less than 1 mts range from your subject and that cannot always be accomplished. Having a wide angle lens here is also very helpful as you can get much closer to the subject but then bear in mind you may need a wider angle of light which can only be achieved with 2 video lights.
Bottom line, the Fantasea Blue ray packages opens a new world to compact underwater photographers as they are getting an excellent arm and tray package at a low price which allows them to put more money in the strobes and lights themselves.

Here are some photos taken with this package:

Video Light at Night Dive
1 Strobe at close distance produces beautiful images – taken from about 1 mts. Night Dive with the YS-01 , taken at half power and even at 1.5-2 mts distance the light is very powerful
Underwater Video Light Review
The effect of a 650 lumen light in daytime is quite small even at 1 mts of distance.

Here are some more shots taken in our test dives:

FP7000 Lighting Package
YS-01 and Video Light Package In Action
Beautiful Underwater Lighting 2 Strobes and Video Light
Even at 3 mts distance colors are vivid and photo is much clearer with a strobe YS-110alpha with I-torch 555 Video Light and Blueray Double Package
Divig with 2 strobes
Double strobe – YS-01 and YS-110alpha

 

These underwater strobe packages are now offered by Mozaik Underwater Cameras and are fully customizable for almost any strobe and video light in the market.

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Our editorial team consists of our sales staff and guest writes from the industry.
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