Focus light suggestions

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Postby LAlstrand » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:31 am

I am shooting with an Olympus E-620 in an Olympus housing with dual UFL-2 strobes. I used to shoot a Cannon Rebel with Ikelite strobes. I have noticed that with the Cannon setup I was able to get the camera to autofocus in much lower light levels than I can with the Olympus setup. I know part of the issue is that out of the box Cannons can autofocus in lower light levels than Olympus can, but I also feel that the built in focus lamps in the Ikelite strobes were a help. The Olympus strobes don't have focus lamps, but there are so many other things that I love about them, I am not going to trade them in for different strobes. My question is, what focus light setup do any of you use, what are the pros and cons of your current setup, and could you please post photos if you have them of how you have your focus lights attached to your rigs.
Thanks!
Lesley
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Postby CompuDude » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:26 pm

Focus lights range from fairly affordable to insanely expensive (IMO). There's the low end ($50-150), the middle range (which seems high to me at ~$300), and the are-you-kidding-me ultra-high end at $400-800+.

Most focus lights seem to use a YS-Style mount, which can connect to your housing or armature in various ways depending on what you're using. Most people use ULCS arms and clamps (or compatible), so a simple ball-mount to YS adapter is used, then you can use a 3-way clamp to add to your existing kit. If your housing has a cold shoe mounting bracket on top, you can attach to there instead with a cold-shoe mount. There is pretty much always a way to attach it, it just depends on your current setup (which you didn't really tell us what kind you're using).

On the low end of focus lights are options like the Fisheye FIX Mini LED (and the Fantasea Nano LED (roughly $50). Nice focus lights, but very small area of coverage. Cuts out for about one second when your strobe goes off, then back on, to avoid any hot spots in your photos. Nice feature, IMO. Uses 4x AAA batteries which will last 4-6 hours... generally a full dive day.

Slightly higher is something like the $65ish LED44, not a bad light, but they have an iffy reliability history... some have great luck, although I know a few others who have gone through several in short order. Much better coverage. Uses 5x AA batteries, slightly better battery life than the smaller lights. Does not auto-cutout when the strobes go off, so sometimes you may need to be careful not to get a hot spot in your photo, depending on what and how you're shooting.

All of the above can be attached to your rig pretty easily with a YS-Style clamp to whatever arm system you're currently using (ULCS, etc).

The BossK Big Blue is the next level up. $140 at Reef Photo for the 1x5 model. 4x AA batteries, lasts 3 hrs at 100% then 3 hrs at 50%. Comes with a ULCS-style ball mount. Has an auto-cutout, but the off cycle is a whopping 3 seconds long, which strikes me as absurdly long. (Many have complained about this as well) It's also pretty darned huge.

The next level is a big jump up... around $300.

I'm currently using the iTorch VDO. Big step up, about $300. Uses the same YS mount my Mini LED did, conveniently (for me). 4xAA, lasts over 4 hours, depending on which output level you use (high, medium, low). No auto-cutout. Semi-reasonable size for a smaller camera rig (about the same as the LED44) ... not exactly small, but not massive, either. I just upgraded to this from the Fisheye Mini LED, which flooded after being reliable for about a year and a half.

There's also the Fisheye Fix LED500, which is a very nice light. Again, YS-style mount. Longer battery life than the iTorch, but it uses 8x AAs and is quite large and quite heavy. No auto-cutout. I almost went with this light over the iTorch, but the smaller size (and more reasonable number of batteries) won me over.

Similarly priced again is the BossK 3x5 (around $300). Similar to the 1x5 (in good ways and bad), but higher output, bigger, and uses 8x AA instead of 4x.

Taking it to the next level are lights in the $400+ range like the Fisheye FIX LED1000 ($600), or the Hartenberger lights ($400-550) which are very well-regarded, and the Fisheye HG20DX. Some of these use proprietary battery packs, some are halogen instead of LED. I haven't bothered to look too much at the highest end lights, because the lower-priced lights meet my needs very well. Plenty of info on them at Reef Photo's focus light page, however: http://reefphoto.com/index.php?main_pag ... ath=135_14

Hope this helps!

Here's a shot of my iTorch on my Fix S90 housing. You can see the YS-to-ULCS adapter and the 3-way clamp clearly:

Image
-CompuDude
Photographer
Canon S90, Fisheye FIX housing, Inon D2000 strobe, Fisheye FIX Mini LED Focus Light, Inon UCL-165AD Macro Lenses x2, ULCS arms, Ikelite Handle/Tray with custom adapter plate
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Postby smb2 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:21 pm

Not an expert here, but if you plan on doing a lot of night diving in the tropics then that brings in other considerations.
Last night I got completely wormed out. Just turning on the focusing light attracted so many worms that taking photos was almost impossible.
I have read that this can be helped by having a torch that can emit a red light. Would like to try it. Light and Motion has the Sola 600 (in the to expensive to believe category) and I would be interested to hear from anybody who has tried red light at night plus recommendations.
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Postby CompuDude » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:52 pm

smb2, there are a number of lights out there that offer red plastic filters to filter the light. I'm sure something could be jerry-rigged to work with pretty much any focus light you'd care to use.
-CompuDude
Photographer
Canon S90, Fisheye FIX housing, Inon D2000 strobe, Fisheye FIX Mini LED Focus Light, Inon UCL-165AD Macro Lenses x2, ULCS arms, Ikelite Handle/Tray with custom adapter plate
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Postby seekncritters » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:34 pm

Very nice job on the focus light post, CompuDude! :D

-Dana
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Postby CompuDude » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:56 pm

seekncritters wrote:Very nice job on the focus light post, CompuDude! :D

Thanks. I've looked into the matter once or twice over the last couple years. :geek:
-CompuDude
Photographer
Canon S90, Fisheye FIX housing, Inon D2000 strobe, Fisheye FIX Mini LED Focus Light, Inon UCL-165AD Macro Lenses x2, ULCS arms, Ikelite Handle/Tray with custom adapter plate
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Postby cdub » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:33 am

Thanks for the info on lights! I also shoot with the S90 and the Fix mini light right now. Unfortunately, I found it really wasn't powerful enough to be useful during my recent Cozumel trip. :(

Looking to upgrade it in the next few months, so I'll check out the reef article as well.
_______________________________________
Canon s90 | FIX housing | 2 x Inon S2000 | FIX 2-lens macro | UWL-04 lens | UCLS tray & arms | L&M Sola 600
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Postby CompuDude » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:41 am

cdub wrote:Thanks for the info on lights! I also shoot with the S90 and the Fix mini light right now. Unfortunately, I found it really wasn't powerful enough to be useful during my recent Cozumel trip. :(

Looking to upgrade it in the next few months, so I'll check out the reef article as well.

I found it to be plenty useful on my trip to Bali last year. The only reason I finally upgraded was because it flooded.

How were you using it that it wasn't powerful enough? During the day at moderate depths there is plenty of ambient light... it's barely needed unless you're shooting under a ledge. At deeper depths or at night, I found it to be sufficient. Barely, but certainly enough to let my camera get focus faster and easier than without, and that's what they're for.

If you're looking to upgrade, though, I'd look into the Fisheye LED44 or go up to the $300-class lights, with our small camera.
-CompuDude
Photographer
Canon S90, Fisheye FIX housing, Inon D2000 strobe, Fisheye FIX Mini LED Focus Light, Inon UCL-165AD Macro Lenses x2, ULCS arms, Ikelite Handle/Tray with custom adapter plate
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Postby Fredrik » Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:35 am

Does anyone know if the Inon LE550 focus lights are any good? How do they compare to others like the Fisheye Fix LED500? I've been trying to decide on a focus light for my next trip to Bali where I will be doing mostly macro.

Inon LE550-S
http://www.divervision.com/catalog/-p-1104.html

Inon LE550-W
http://www.divervision.com/catalog/-p-1106.html
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Postby Vizart » Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:09 am

Inon LE550-W has a wider beam preferable for use as a focus light.

Inon LE550-S has a narrower beam preferable as a dive light.
Jean Bruneau, Aquatica Technical Adviser
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