Underwater LED Light vs. Strobe – Which is best for me?

By The SeaLife Staff

Underwater LED lights for photos and videos have become very popular recently.   Mainly because battery and LED technology has evolved rapidly in the past few years; batteries have become more powerful and LED’s have become brighter and more efficient. 

Is the underwater strobe or flash destined for extinction?   Hardly, and for several reasons; number one is the sheer power of a strobe – an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 lumens output per flash of your strobe (this is an estimate and actual results depend on the strobe wattage, type of bulb, and power level selected) makes for a very bright source of light in that quick burst of time, and secondly, the xenon or neon lamps used in most strobes or flash units produces a nice warm light – perfect for underwater photography.   In most cases, the strobe is so powerful when shooting up close subjects, that a diffuser must be used and the power reduced to a minimum (Most strobes or flashes offer a range of 1-10 or similar, many offer an “automatic” setting).  You’ll also need to be familiar with your automatic or manual camera controls in order to balance light, aperture, and shutter speed. 

 The Sea Dragon Universal Flash (SL963) uses a fiber optic cable to sync with any camera with a built-in flash.

Now, there are many new advancements in underwater LED lighting, most notably the availability of new COB LED’s.  COB stands for “Chip On Board” and are easily identifiable by the large coin sized LED.   The advantage for you are several; for one the COB LED yields a very wide beam angle, up to 130 degrees, making this type of light perfect for wide angle cameras and lenses.  COB LED’s also offer a warm color temperature, and offer a much more image friendly color rendering than some of the older “cooler” burning LED lamps.   And finally, the new LED’s can handle a lot of power that new battery technology can put out, this means higher lumens and more brightness, with 3000, 4000 and higher actual lumens measured.

In the end you have to ask yourself what you’re most likely going to be shooting with the camera:  If most of your images are still photos, you owe it to yourself to get an external Flash (or Strobe), if only half or less of your images are stills and you shoot a lot of video, get a photo-video LED light – preferably one with the latest features as described above.

 The Sea Dragon 3000F Auto light (SL678) offers auto functions that work with your strobe.

The best of both worlds can be had with both a strobe and LED light.   Several new LED lights, such as the Sea Dragon 3000F Auto, offer functions that work with your strobe; “auto” or automatic LED lights have a built in photo sensor that temporarily turn off the LED light when a strobe is fired, eliminating shadows or excessive light.   The new Sea Dragon also offers a red LED feature which allows your camera to focus, while at the same time won’t frighten skittish sea creatures that may not enjoy bright white LED lights – with red LED’s you’ll be able to stealthily sneak up on your subject and snap the perfect photo with your strobe.

The Sea Dragon Pro 3000F Duo (SL749) is a camera and light set that gives you the best of both worlds.