Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo Strobes: A First Look

First time underwater with the NEW Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo Strobes
By Nirupam Nigam

In the calm days preceding Hurricane Hillary's path along the western shores this August, I seized a golden opportunity to immerse myself in the balmy, crystal-clear waves along Southern California's coastline. To my delight I had some novel underwater gadgets at my disposal - the new cutting-edge Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo Strobes fresh from Japan, accompanied by the newly released Ikelite Canon R100 System. The privilege of being the inaugural reviewer of the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duos, even before their official launch slated for the end of August, was mine to relish. With immense pleasure, I affirm that the D3 Duos continue to embody the unmatched excellence, potency, and rapid lighting recycle rates that have become synonymous with the esteemed Sea & Sea brand.

Shop at Bluewater Photo for Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobes! 


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Mark II

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo

Differences Between the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo and YS-D3 Mark II

This seagrass scene was lit by dual Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo Strobes

A preliminary inquiry into the YS-D3 Duos unveils a price tag of $849.95, while the YS-D3 Mark IIs are listed at $799.95. These two flash units are poised to share the market shelf for a while, prompting curiosity about their distinctions and the rationale behind the price discrepancy.

The term "Duo" in "YS-D3 Duo" aptly signifies its dual circuitry attributes. The Sea & Sea YS-D3 Duo not only incorporates the TTL circuitry present in the YS-D3 Mark II but also integrates an Olympus RC TTL circuit. This specialized circuitry yields notably precise exposures when used with Olympus Tough and OM cameras. In many aspects, both the YS-D3 Mark II and the YS-D3 Duo boast comparable specifications. However, the pivotal divergence lies in the inclusion of the Olympus RC mode, setting the YS-D3 Duo apart as a distinctive choice.

Minor Changes

The YS-D3 Duo brings forth a handful of subtle enhancements compared to the YS-D3 Mark II. Notably, the metal heat sink band has undergone a transformation, now adorned in a captivating shade of gold. This alteration stands as a testament to thoughtful aesthetic evolution. Another noteworthy alteration can be observed in the revamped dials adorning the strobe's rear. These adjustments have been ingeniously made to enhance visibility, ensuring effortless determination of the current mode in use. Drawing attention to an auditory improvement, the ready sound emitted by this advanced strobe boasts heightened resonance. This auditory refinement substantially simplifies the process of detecting the strobe's readiness to unleash its brilliance in underwater settings.


Do I need to Upgrade?

Unless you find yourself firmly in the Olympus photography camp, and you're already reaping the benefits of the Sea & Sea YS-D3 or YS-D3 Mark II strobes, the call for an upgrade to the YS-D3 duo might not ring as loudly. However, if your underwater photographic endeavors align with the Sea & Sea YS-03 or YS-01 solis variants, then the YS-D3 duo strobe beckons as an avenue worth exploring. Its amplified power output particularly suits the demands of expansive wide-angle captures. Moreover, the YS-D3 duo seamlessly harmonizes with an extensive array of accessories – including the likes of a dome diffuser and snoot – thus casting an alluring proposition for photographers with an eye for elevating their creative illumination techniques.

Beam Quality

Discussing an underwater strobe inevitably leads to an exploration of light beam excellence. In this regard, the YS-D3 Duo stands out, boasting an unadulterated 105-degree beam (sans diffuser). This exceptional illumination is meticulously sculpted by an aspherical toroidal lens, resulting in a flawlessly uniform radiance that gracefully extends to the edges of your visual frame. A striking demonstration of this phenomenon occurred during our underwater escapade, precisely when we captured the mesmerizing Garibaldi amidst the kelp forest. Notably, even the kelp fringes in our expansive fisheye composition were remarkably aglow, painting a truly enchanting spectacle!

The aspherical toroidal lens allows for even light distribution to the periphery of the image

Recycle Time

The recycling speed within the YS-D3 duo model remains unaltered, retaining the rapidity showcased in the original YS-D3 lighting system. In fact, it is the impressive recycling time that has propelled the YS-D3s into the limelight. When expelling a full burst of light, the YS-D3 duo achieves a remarkably swift recycling time of merely 1.7 seconds. However, its true brilliance comes forth when operating at lower power levels. Set at half power, this strobe boasts an astonishing recycling time of a mere 0.6 seconds, showcasing its ability to seamlessly keep pace with a low continuous burst of activity. Remarkably, when set at a quarter of its full power, the recycling time becomes almost negligible. Our experience afforded us ample opportunities to engage with these swift recycling times, as our dive took place under particularly dim conditions during our excursion at Anacapa.

Capturing quick sequences of photos is easy with a quick recycle time! In these dark conditions, we didn't need to use more than half power

Stay Tuned!

Ultimately. this is just a first look at the Sea & Sea YS-D3 duos. We did not have an Olympus camera on hand to test the RC TTL mode, but we will during our Underwater Photo Workshop To The Sea Of Cortez this week. So stay tuned for the full review coming just around the corner!



Nirupam Nigam is the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo - the world's top underwater photo & video retailer. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. After receiving degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, Nirupam worked as a fisheries observer on vessels in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. Since then, Nirupam has been a full time underwater photographer and photo gear head. Check out more of his photography at!


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