We’ve been getting this question over and over and would like to publish our 2 cents about what is the difference is between flex arms or ball and joint arms.
Lets start with a short explanation of each:
These are plastic segmented arms, with a strong resemblance to a human spinal cord. They are basically a one segment arm that can be bent and shaped in many ways. There are 2 very popular types in the market, one is made by Locline (which is in fact not even from the dive in industry and makes cooling hozes) and the other is a Chinese made arm sold by Fantasea / Intova / Mangrove / 10 Bar and many others.
Ball and Joint Arms
Ball and joint arms very much resemble the human arms. They consist of aluminum segments with a ball at each end and the segments connect to one another by clamps that hold the 2 balls together. Some B&J arms have O-rings on their balls to tighten the grip and others don’t.
Many adapters and modifications are available for these arms such as YS to Ball mounts, Buoyancy Segments , Triple Clamp, Clamps with an extension or D-ring.
So What should you Choose ? Flex or B&J ?
The first factor to consider is price. An average Flex arms costs less than $50 whereas an average B&J arm of a similar length would cost about $150.
The second factor is travel weight. A B&J arm, being made of aluminum, weighs at least x2 or even x3 of than the flex arm.
Now, let’s ignore the above 2 factors for a minute and consider the difference in usability, functionality and durability.
Durability – The aluminum B&J arms are naturally more durable due to the fact that Aluminum is a strong material and is not affected from water, dirt or shocks. Flex arms get dirt and sand inside which case them to become more stiff, they can break in certain situations and can also lose their stiffness over time causing them to not hold the weight of the light.
Functionality – Flex arms cannot be too long , if they are too long , they won’t hold the weight of the light. Flex arms also in most cases cannot hold the weight of the light above water and are only aimed to hold the weight underwater. This can make carrying the package on the boat more difficult. A flex arm can generally be up to 14″ in length , more than that will be problematic and frankly, shorter is slightly better.
Why would you need long arms underwater ?
The main reason would be to prevent backscatter. You can read about it here.
It almost impossible to mount anything in the middle of the flex arm as opposed to ball and joint arms. Things you want to mount are focus lights, lens holders, dive lights and more..
Usability – Flex arms are in many cases easier to use. They don’t require opening and closing clamps and can easily be positioned to any position with only one hand which comes in quite handy underwater. They can make some squeaking noise which can scare away the fish and spoil the calm atmosphere in your video.
Travel – Flex arms bend and thus can be packed without disassembling as seen here.
Take a look at some examples of using both types of arms.
The decision very much depends on what you want to mount on the arms but assuming it is only a light on each arm, you would have to weigh the pluses and minuses.
If budget and travel weight is important then flex arms are the choice for you.
If you are looking for a versatile system and are willing to pay more for quality materials and extra length than go for ball and joints.
Buy Arm Systems here
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