Sea & Sea YS-D3 Strobe: A First Look

The Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobe features a redesigned, even beam, quicker recycle times, a guide number of 33, and multiple new accessories
By Nirupam Nigam

Underwater photography is all about lighting. Artificial light, often in the form of a strobe, is paramount in an artform where nature removes colors and light at depth. The Sea & Sea YS-D3 is an underwater strobe that can bring back the light and color you need to make your images pop. It is packed with new features, innovations, and accessories that make it stand out in a crowded field of underwater photographic lighting. In fact, the new YS-D3 might just overtake it's predecessor, the YS-D2J as the world's most popular strobe. It's not just a minor upgrade. The YS-D3 features a completely redesigned flash tube, quicker recycle times, a better beam, new circuitry, and an awesome range of accessories including a snoot, dome diffuser, slave prism, and redesigned ball mount. It's clear to us at the Underwater Photography Guide that Sea & Sea saw a need for innovation in photographic lighting and responded with everything we asked for! 

The Sea & Sea YS-D3 will be the strobe of choice for both working professionals and enthusiast photographers that need a lot of power with a nice beam in a small package. It's a strobe that can fit in a carry on while traveling and still take a beating through surf. The YS-D3 is capable lighting up both macro and wide angle scenes - even bright sunballs or diffiult macro angles. We can't wait to take the YS-D3 underwater and show the world what it can do! 


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Sea & Sea YS-D3 Underwater Strobe


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Accessories:

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Snoot

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Dome Diffuser

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Slave Prism

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Strobe Diagonal Ball Mount




Jump to Section

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Specifications   |   YS-D3 vs YS-D2J   |   YS-D3 Features

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Accessories   |   Who Should Buy?   |   Conclusion




Sea & Sea YS-D3 Specifications

  • Guide Number (Land): 33
  • Beam Angle: 105 X 80 degrees (with no diffuser). 100 and 120 degree diffusers included with strobe. Optional 150 degree dome diffuser available. 
  • Battery Life: 220 flashes with Ni-MH batteries (4X AA)
  • Recycle time: 1.7 seconds at full power, 0.6 seconds at half power, and virtually no recycle time at quarter power and below
  • Color temp: 5800 K. 5500K with diffuser
  • Depth rating: 100m/330 ft
  • Dimensions: 3.6 X 4.4. X5.8 inches
  • Weight: 610g/21.5 oz (above water), -20g/0.7 oz (underwater)
  • New aspherical troidal lens in flash tube - for a nice, even beam
  • New circuitry
  • Two stage signal - both visual and audible notification when strobe is ready to fire
  • Pre flash cancel mode
  • More powerful target light (4X more powerful than target light on YS-D2J strobe)
  • Auto Power Off
  • Over Pressure Relief Valve
  • DS-TTL II, Slave TTL, and Manual modes
  • Compatibility with 5-pin sync cord/N and fiber optic cables


The Sea & Sea YS-D3 vs YS-D2J

People have the tendency to care only about power when considering a strobe. But power isn't everything. In fact, the YS-D3 has the same guide number as the YS-D2J, which is a rough indication of power. Despite no upgrade on this front, there have been enough improvements made on the YS-D3 where and upgrade from the YS-D2J could be seriously beneficial. 

The most important upgrade to the YS-D3 is the quicker recylcle time. A full power, it's actually just a tad slower than the YS-D2J (1.7 seconds vs 1.5 seconds). But at half power, the YS-D3 recycles in a mere 0.6 seconds. At a quarter power and below, the YS-D3 has virtually no recycle time! This will be a huge benefit for anyone shooting quick, wide angle wildlife using burst modes. A strobe that can keep up and sync with a camera will be revolutionary. However, we're going to have to likely enjoy this feature in colder, darker water as a quarter power is not going to be enough for bright, mid-day tropical reef scenes.

The beam on the YS-D3 has been improved compared to the YS-D2J. The flash tube as been modified with an aspherical troidal lens. This makes the beam more even and without hotspots. 

The targeting/model light on the YS-D3 is four times more powerful than the targeting light on the YS-D2J! Not only will this make focusing using the strobe more feasible, it will also help with targeting using the new snoot available for the YS-D3. The YS-D3 will also be a better choice as a back up light during a night dive. Many of our staff at UWPG are YS-D2J users and we are quite excited to have some brighter modeling lights on the YS-D3.

The ergonomics of the YS-D3 have been improved with larger knobs perfect for people with big hands and cold water divers with big gloves. 


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Strobe Features

Build and Ergonomics

As with all Sea & Sea strobes, the YS-D3 is a durable, solid strobe. It's similar in size to the YS-D2J, and underwater it's even slightly positively buoyant! This is great for any photographers concerned about packing and diving light. With a guide number of 33 the YS-D3 is still very bright for its size - certainly enough for a professional. 

The strobe's ergonomics have been improved with changes to its knobs and backlit panel. The knobs are larger and easier to use underwater. The backlit panel is perfect for shooting in environments with limited visibility. It's easy to see which mode you are in and which controls are lit. 

The strobe has been designed with a new two-stage ready-to-file signal that is both auditory and visual. The signal will indicate when the strobe is ready to fire at guide number 22 and then when it's ready to fire at guide number 33. 

Compared with other strobes on the market, we expect the YS-D3 to live up to Sea & Sea's engineering - small, durable, easy to use, and powerful. 

The YS-D3 takes the same four AA batteries of it's predecessors. This makes it easy to find batteries in a pinch. For this strobe we recommend using rechargeable Eneloops


Strobe Beam Quality

The YS-D3's beam has seen some serious improvements from the YS-D2J. The addition of an aspherical optical troidal lens to the flash tube has created a nicer, more even dispersion area without hotspots. Combined with quicker recycling times at lower power, this strobe will be perfect for photographers looking to shoot moving subjects that might be moving towards them. We expect the YS-D3 to be especially useful for photographing creatures like sharks and sea lions. 


Shooting Modes

The Sea & Sea YS-D3 is equipped with Sea & Sea's accurate DS-TTL II shooting. TTL is a great strobe mode to use in situations where you need your strobe to meter the proper light quicker than you can. It's almost like "automatic" mode for your strobe. What makes TTL on the YS-D3 even better is that you can fine tune the TTL's exposure compensation with one of the dials. This makes it so that you can adjust the power brighter or darker, but it will expose similarly regardless of where your subject is positioned.

Manual mode on the YS-D3 is as it sounds. You can turn the GN/EV dial to your desired guide number and fine tune your adjustments by about 1/3rd of a stop. 

The YS-D3 also has a slave function. When combined with a slave prism, you can trigger the YS-D3 from a distance with another light source. This is great for lighting large areas like wrecks, caves, and reef scenes. 


Targeting Light

The targeting/modeling light on the YS-D3 has seen a huge upgrade from the YS-D2J. The YS-D3 is equipped with 4 times the power in its targeting light which makes it an even more viable option as a backup light. We're also hoping that there will be more situations where the targeting light can double as a focus light or targeting light with a snoot. The YS-D2J's targeting light could have definitely used some more power, so we are really excited to see this in the YS-D3. 


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Accessories

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the release of the YS-D3 is the innovation behind it. With the YS-D3, Sea & Sea is doing something unprecedented by offering a series accessories native to the brand that appear to be a direct response to trends in underwater photography. If you like black backgrounds and snoots when shooting macro, Sea & Sea has an answer for that. If you want softer wide angle shots, Sea & Sea's got somethign for that. Want to fire strobes from a distance for large back lit or creatively-lit reefs, caves, and wrecks? There's something for that!

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Snoot

That's right! A snoot has finally been designed by Sea & Sea for the YS-D3!! Snoots allow photographers to limit the area of their beam for more creative, contrast-filled images. It's a great tool for isolating subjects and producing black backgrounds. The Sea & Sea snoot is special because it features a prism that concentrates the light from the YS-D3's targeting light, making it easy to move the target light over the subject and get the right shot every time. We are curious how well this snoot will perform when put to the test. The opening appears rather large in the images, which may make it less versatile for macro photography but an even more interesting option for wide angle!

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Dome Diffuser

Dome diffusers are great for producing ultra-wide, soft, even beams of light. They're especially useful when shooting with an ultra-wide lens such as a fisheye. Sea & Sea has designed a dome diffuser for the YS-D3 that increases the beam angle to 170 X 150 degrees. The diffuser reduces the guide number by 1.5 stops of exposure. 

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Slave Prism

The slave prism for the YS-D3 allows the strobe to be triggered from a distance without cords or cables. It captures light from another strobe, syncs, and fires. The makes it a great tool for backlighting scenes or illuminating large seascapes like caves, wrecks, and reefs.

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Slave Prism


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Diagonal Ball Mount

The diagonal ball mount designed for the YS-D3 has a 35 degree inclination in order to help minimize interference between the sync cord and ball mount. It naturally moves the strobe back which can help when shooting wide angle scenes. 

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Diagonal Ball Mount


Who Should Buy this Strobe?

As Sea & Sea's best strobe currently on the market, the Sea & Sea YS-D3 is clearly designed to be a workhorse strobe for professional underwater photographers and enthusiastic amateurs. With a lot of power and quick recycling speeds packed into a small package, it's perfect for photography in any underwater situation and travel to any location. Improved ergonomics and simplicity also yield to beginner underwater shooters - especially to those who don't want to bother upgrading in the future. 

We think the YS-D3 is also a worthy upgrade for YS-D2J users - especially for those who want to take advantage of the multitude of inexpensive, high-quality accessories. We are especially excited to see just how the snoot, dome diffuser, and slave prism will perform. 

Finally, we recommend this strobe to photographers that want to take advantage of it's unique, quick recycling times when shooting burst photography. 



We already love the YS-D3. An improved beam, quicker recycle times, better ergonomics, more accessories - what more could you ask for? We are confident that the YS-D3 will be the new world's most popular strobe. Especially all the amazing accessories that have the potential to change underwater photography for Sea & Sea users. We can't wait to get into the water and put it to the test.


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. Check out more of his photography at!


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