Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro Light Review

A compact, lightweight, and versatile option for macro and wide-angle video and photos
By Nirupam Nigam

In recent years, Kraken Sports has established itself at the forefront of underwater lighting. Catering to divers from all walks of life and all sides of the hobby, Kraken produces lights for underwater videographers, photographers, blackwater divers, macro divers, wide-angle divers, and anyone in between. Though marketed as a “macro” light, the Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro is as versatile as its manufacturer. 

Top side photo of Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro Video Light

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 2500 Flood  / 4000 Burst

  • CRI: 80 @ 5500K

  • Beam Angle: 100 Degrees Underwater

  • Burn Time: 55 minutes @ 100% flood

  • Modes: Flood, Red, Blue and Red+Blue

  • Switch: Dual push button on/off intensity adjustment with battery level indicator

  • Modes: Flood 100%/75%/50%/25% Spot 100%/50%/25%

  • Depth Rating: 330ft/100m 

  • Weight: 490g on land 240g underwater (including battery)

  • Dimensions: 55.2x137mm (2.17"x5.39")

  • Charge time: two hours from zero power

 

Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro Light Package

What’s Included:

  • Light, battery, and charger

  • YS mount, ball mount, and GoPro mount

  • Lanyard

  • Carry Case

The Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Compact and Dependable

The sleek and compact design of the Hydra series is reflected in the Hydra 2500 Macro. At 2.17” by 5.39” and 490 grams, the Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro is relatively small and lightweight for its output. Additionally, the head of the light is water resistant. Therefore, in the event of a flood, the expensive light elements in the head will be protected (although the battery will still need to be replaced). This feature saves the user from expensive repairs and replacements. 

Water resistant light elements

So Many Colors!

The Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro retains many of the same functions as other lights in the Hydra series. Similar to others in the Hydra Series, the Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro has flood, red, blue, and red+blue (pink) modes. The flood light is intense, at 2500 lumens, and the color is natural at 5500K and a color rendering index (CRI) of 80. Thankfully, flood light intensity can be adjusted. A dimmer flood light is useful for maintaining battery life through the dive as well as focusing for photos. The red light is excellent for approaching animals that cannot see red light. The blue light can be used to see underwater fluorescence, especially when you use a yellow filter on your mask or camera to visualize it (for more information on this, check out our article on fluorescent photography). In my personal opinion, the blue light can add a calm and ethereal feel to night dives. Sometimes I like to do a whole dive without taking photos or video, just watching subjects through the blue light. The pink light is a funky color to have underwater – a good paintbrush for artistic photos and videos. 

Top view of Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro Light

Why Macro?

True to its name, the Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro is the perfect light for avid macro photographers and videographers. Two features in particular yield excellent macro photos and video.

The first feature is perhaps one of the most innovative in modern video lighting; the Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro has a “burst” mode that enables the light to function as a strobe. The light is placed in burst mode by holding the right button when the light is on. A port on the underside of the light can be connected to a Sea & Sea style fiber optic cable. If connected to a camera via the fiber optic cable, when the flash is triggered, the Hydra 2500 will output 4000 lumens – enough to properly expose a macro photo. Personally, I find that the burst light is soft and even with a natural color. However, it can be a little dim compared to a traditional strobe; to compensate for this, photos should be shot at a slightly lower shutter speed or wider aperture. Overall, it is an ingenious solution for photographers and videographers looking for a cheap way to light their macro photos with strobe-quality lighting. 

Sea & Sea style fiber optic cable port

Sarcastic Fringehead with Kraken Hydra 2500 burst mode

Target Shrimp and squid eggs lit up by Kraken Hydra 2500

The second feature for macro is an optical condensing lens that reduces the beam to 20 degrees. Although the original 100 degree beam on the light is great for wide-angle video, it can be a little too soft for macro subjects. Especially when there is a lot of silt in the water, a 100 degree beam can be likened to having high beams on in dense fog. The light bounces everywhere, creating a hazy light and soft image. The optical condensing lens is great for producing a narrow, high-powered beam that brings out every detail of small, close-to-the-lens subjects.

Wide-Angle

The thing that sets Hydra lights apart is their versatility. The Hydra 2500 is no exception. The light is just as good for wide-angle as it is for macro. With just a single light, I captured excellent wide-angle photos and videos of mating squid on a night dive at Redondo Beach, California. The 100 degree beam and 2500 lumens is wide enough to fill the frame for most wide angle images and video. 

For best results change the Youtube video quality settings to 4K (2160p)! See my recent article about Sony A7R III 4K Underwater Video for more details about my experience.

Squid lit up by Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro on 100% flood

Squid lit up by Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro on 100% flood

Pros:

  • The Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro’s compact size is great for traveling. It is easy to manipulate and move underwater, especially with an arm. 

  • Combined with the burst function, this light could be a great solution for taking photos of macro subjects in hard-to-get places.

  • The 100 degree beam is great for wide-angle video and photos, while the ability to change it to 20 degrees is great for macro. 

  • Overall, the color is natural and 2500 lumens is plenty powerful for taking nice video.

  • The Hydra 2500’s multiple color outputs have the potential for many uses and many types of dives (my personal favorite being the blue light).

  • The burst mode is perfect for videographers that want to take some photos but don’t want to go out of their way to buy expensive strobes. It is also good for photographers wishing to switch to video, but not wanting to give up taking photos. 

Cons:

  • Because of its small size, the Kraken Hydra 2500 has a small battery pack and a short battery life. At 55 minutes on 100% flood, the light is usually only good for one dive. If you intend to do more than one dive at a time, I would definitely consider purchasing extra battery packs.

  • The wide, bright beam on the flood light can be overpowering if you’re looking to use this light as a focus light. If you only want a dedicated focus light, the Kraken 1000+ can automatically turn off and on when taking a photo.

  • Although the burst function produces a nice 4000 lumen light, it is still less powerful than a dedicated strobe. For serious photographers that need the ability to fine tune their light output, I recommend using a dedicated strobe. 

Tips:

  • If you’re on a night dive, make sure you have a back up light – especially if you go for a long dive.

  • Carry an extra battery pack on boat dives.

  • Before going for a dive, make sure you know how to operate the dual button system. The dual buttons are an ingenious way to incorporate a lot of functions. It is a good idea to memorize all the functions and buttons before you go on a dive – you never know what function you might need!

  • Attaching the light to an arm (like a strobe) will give you much more artistic control than attaching it to a simple cold shoe mount. Photographers should treat this light more like a strobe than a focus light. Kraken has multiple options for this, including a single handle tray and a dual handle tray.

  • Be sure to experiment with back lighting, side lighting, and the different colors for artistic effect.

  • Don’t forget to grease the o-rings and clean the threads before each day of diving! 

Additional Reading

The Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro is available now at Bluewater Photo!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

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