Product Reviews

Testing the Strobe Feature on the Kraken Hydra 5000S+ / 3500S+ / Macro 2500

The thin line between strobes and video lights is starting to diminish, with Kraken recently adding a “Strobe” feature to their entire line of video lights!

Starting with the Ring Light 3000 and the Hydra Macro 2500, Kraken introduced a new feature to their video lights. By using a fiber optic cable, you can trigger the light, using the built-in flash in your camera, to fire a burst of light, for brief moment, which is actually stronger than the maximum output of the video light. For example, the 2500 model can fire a burst shot at 4000 lumens.

This feature was recently implemented in the popular Hydra 3500 and Hydra 5000 lights, while at the same time upgrading the CRI to and impressive 90. The new models were renamed 3500S+ and 5000S+.

So How Does It Work?

The video light is fitted with an extra hole for fiber optic cable, in addition to the one that’s dedicated for the optional remote control. You connect a standard fiber optic cable (S&S type connectors) between the Hydra light and your camera housing.

To set the Kraken Hydra on strobe mode, you first turn it on (long press both buttons) then press the left button to cycle between the modes and choose your “constant” mode. That’s going to be the one that’s constantly on and helping you focus.

Then you long press the right button, to turn on strobe mode. In strobe mode, you can use the left button to cycle between your “burst” mode. This would usually be set on flood.

Now, the light will be on the “constant” mode on a low setting, with the indicator LED blinking. When your camera flash fires, the Hydra will output a short 1 second burst of light, then go back to dim constant.

Pretty cool huh?

Blenny, Taken with a Nikon 105mm and Hydra 5000S+ on strobe mode

What’s So Great About It?

One light fits all – You can use the same light unit for both videos and photos.

Conserve battery life – Your Hydra light will last much longer on strobe mode, since you are only using it for short bursts of light.

No recycle time – Because it’s an LED, the Hydra can fire as fast as you want! Your limitation here would be the built-in flash though, which needs to recycle. I recommend lowering the output on your built in flash as much as possible.

Strong(er) output – Sure, it’s still no match for a strobe, but you get much more juice out of the burst mode, about 1.5 times the maximum power of the light. Give it a few years and we’ll see lumen rating go up.

Two shrimps, Taken with a Nikon 105mm and Hydra 5000S+ on strobe mode

What’s Not So Great About It?

The utopian reality of LED strobes isn’t here yet. There are still some limitations which keep classic strobes relevant.

Lower Power Output – An entry level strobe produces light equivalent to 30,000-40,000 lumens. LED video lights aren’t there yet, and the ones that are that strong aren’t very compact.

Freezing your subject – A strobe dumps most of its light in an instant. Sometimes as fast as 1/10,000s. This helps us freeze the subject even with a slower shutter speed. The power isn’t affected by shutter speed. A video light on strobe mode still works as a video light and emits a constant beam for about 1s which means the amount of light in your frame is still affected by your shutter speed and susceptible to motion blur.

No TTL – There is still no solution to produce a TTL-like feature, which causes the light to produce the exact power output required to light up your subject well.

No power modes – The burst mode always fires at full power and cannot be adjusted. Yet.

Clownfish, Taken with a Nikon 105mm and Hydra 5000S+ on strobe mode

Bottom Line

Kraken’s innovative strobe feature is awesome. It creates an alternative for a strobe, which isn’t perfect yet, but definitely nice to have and sufficient for many underwater photographers. It’s only going to get better from now on, with stronger outputs, new technology and features and interesting future innovations. We’re excited to see how this develops.

Until then, I strongly recommend using the Kraken Hydra lights on strobe mode for macro photography. It works great, the power output is strong enough for good macro shots and it’s very fun to experiment with!

Blenny, Taken with a Nikon 105mm and Hydra 5000S+ on strobe mode

Ran Mor
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  1. Dawn December 2, 2018

    How are you getting good exposure shooting this way? I have been playing around with this feature today (with a Lumix LX10, on land) and all of my photos come out extremely overexposed. It seems like the Kraken light maybe doesn’t come on fast enough (with the pre-flash) for the camera to meter. But it seems like with a one-second burst it should be on for the entire pre-flash/flash and allow the camera to meter properly. Maybe I don’t understand what settings I should be using on my camera. I’ll keep playing around with this, but so far it isn’t working how I imagined it would.

  2. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor December 3, 2018

    Hey Dawn!

    That’s an excellent question!
    There is a difference between shooting with a strobe and using a burst mode on an LED light.
    With a strobe, shutter speed does not affect the exposure.
    With a burst LED, which flashes for a fairly long time (1s), shutter speed is crucial.
    Also, it can only fire on maximum power while strobes have several power outputs.
    The way to avoid overexposed shots is to use Manual mode and adjust the shutter speed until you get good exposure. The aperture priority mode or any other automatic or semi-automatic modes will likely not get it right.
    You can also adjust aperture and ISO as needed and play around with it.

  3. Peter Chan January 10, 2019

    Hello, trying to get into underwater photography, looking at the 5000s+ but only shooting with a go pro7 black anyway to utilize the strobe with my setup?


  4. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor January 15, 2019

    Hey Peter,

    The Hydra 5000 lights are amazing and would work great on a GoPro as well. However, the strobe feature can’t be used since it has to be triggered by a built in flash which the GoPro lacks.
    If you plan to upgrade from the GoPro to a compact camera in the future, you will be able to use the strobe feature with your lights so it makes sense to get them.
    Otherwise, if you plan to stay with the GoPro, it makes sense to get more affordable flood lights such as Big Blue VL4200.

  5. ed shapiro August 8, 2020

    can you compare this light to the tovatec galaxy II video light

  6. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor August 11, 2020

    Sure Ed,

    The Tovatec Galaxy II is fairly similar in design and features, but Kraken implements better and stronger LED lights (3500 or 5000 flood, depending on model). They also have the strobe feature available for a stronger burst of light using fiber optic cables.
    The new Kraken lights include the RGB mode which creates different color lights for creative macro capabilities.

    Furthermore, Kraken has amazing customer service and stand behind their products 100%, so it’s very easy to handle any issues that come up quickly and efficiently.

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