I recently got a chance to take the Kraken Hydra 3500 video light with me for 3 weeks in the Philippines, where we hosted 2 groups for underwater photography workshops, at Atlantis Resort Puerto Galera. Here are my thoughts about this excellent light with a few samples taken with it.
The market is flooded with underwater video lights. Theoretically that’s good for the consumers, who have plenty of options to choose from. In reality, too many options are paralyzing, and often divers are torn between all the options and end up diving in the dark, so to speak.
Occasionally, one light manages to pierce the darkness and shine above others. This year, it’s the Kraken Hydra 3500.
UPDATE 2018: The new Kraken Hydra 3500S+ includes a strobe feature, allowing you to trigger the light optically using your built in flash to produce a stronger, burst beam of light, acting similar to a strobe!
Kraken managed to produce a great value light – high quality materials, strong output, precise beam, great controls, versatile and multipurpose, reliable and compact. Let’s go through the features in more details:
The Hydra 3500 has a compact, sturdy design. Thick enough to contain a large proprietary lithium battery, but still small enough to be used handheld if needed. The light consists of a simply metal body, with a lanyard hole in the back, battery and the light head itself, where the magic happens. Two O-rings seal the light head and body, keeping the battery safe and dry. The light head is waterproof, so even in the unlikely event of a flood, no harm will come to the main compartment and only the battery will need to be replaced.
The light itself is fairly light, at 500g on land, but does add some negative buoyancy underwater (250g) so take that into account and add some float arms or float units as needed.
The charger connects to the battery directly with a cable, instead of taking it out and putting it in the charger. I like that because I can leave the battery in the body on the rig, and simply connect the cable directly to it.
The light is controlled by 2 buttons, making it easy to switch between modes and power levels, as opposed to single button lights where you need to scroll between all modes and intensity every time.
The left button switches between modes – Flood, Spot, Red, UV and the right button changes intensity on the relevant modes – High, Medium, Low. Turning the light on and off is done by pressing both buttons simultaneously. The new lights also include standby mode, in which the light is ready to turn on by a single click of the left button, with the battery indicator lit up.
Around the buttons, there are small color LED’s which indicate the battery status – Blue is full, Green is medium, and Red is low.
Remote Control Ready
An optional remote control can be purchased, which allows you to control two lights from a single remote control unit, via standard fiber optic cables. This feature makes it much easier for videographers to control their lights smoothly while shooting, without reaching out to each one individually or moving the rig around.
The remote also allows you to control each light independently if needed, but most shooters will enjoy the simultaneous control over both sides with a single click.
As stated before, the Hydra 3500 features 4 different modes – Flood, Spot, Red and UV. In addition, SOS mode can be activated to signal your buddy / group that you’re in trouble.
Flood mode produces an even circular beam of 3500 lumens out of a single LED at a beam angle of 110 degrees (underwater). The LED is rated at a CRI of 80 and emits a light temperature of 5000K, similar to daylight. The burn time on 100% power, on flood mode, is 68 minutes in ideal conditions on a full charge.
Spot mode produces a narrow 800 lumen beam, which is great for spotting critters and using as a general dive light.
Red mode is quite straightforward, 3 power levels of red light, great for focusing at night without disturbing marine life.
UV mode produces a powerful ultraviolet light, which excites the fluorescence qualities of corals and marine life, to produce a very cool effect! Especially when combined with a yellow filter for your dive mask and camera, but also visible without it.
SOS mode flickers the light at a random pace, to alert other divers that you’re in trouble.
As mentioned above, strobe mode allows you to use the light the same way you would use a strobe – trigger it optically via fiber optic cable and get a strong burst of light (4500 lumens) which is more powerful than the light’s rating.
To turn on strobe mode, press both lights simultaneously to enter standby mode, then short-press the right button to turn it on and finally, long press the right button to switch to strobe mode. In strobe mode, the LED will blink to indicate the mode and the light will remain on, using the lowest power setting, to indicate which mode the strobe will be flashing on (flood, red, or spot). Use the left button to switch between modes, still remaining on strobe mode.
Strobe mode can be triggered by any flash, either your built in flash or as a slave to an external flash such as YS-01, YS-D2J etc.
All you need is a fiber optic cable.
The light comes in a slick high-end padded carrying case, which protects the light during travel and organizes the charger, mounts, manual and other accessories in one place.
Two mounts are supplied with the light – ball mount and YS mount, which allows you to mount it on virtually any rig.
Spare o-rings are also included, as well as a lanyard, charger and rubber battery cover for isolating the end for air travel.
Remote control and fiber optic cables are sold separate.
The Hydra 3500S+ is one of my favorite lights currently in the market.
At US$499.99, it provides excellent value, multiple features, interchangeable batteries, and great overall quality. I strongly recommend it and feel any underwater photographer or videographer will be very pleased with it.