Sea & Sea YS-D1 Strobe Review

Review of the YS-D1 strobe, and comparison to YS-110a and Inon Z240.
By Scott Gietler

The Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe, which became available April 2012, is Sea & Sea's first new strobe since the YS-01 was announced in December 2009. It replaces the YS-110a, which made its debut in 2008.


Special sale, $70 off the YS-D1, 1 week only starting Nov 22nd 2014, full details here.


I was able to take the strobe to Catalina Island in Southern California this past weekend on a Bluewater Photo charter, and I tested it out with various setups including a Nikon D7000, Canon compacts, the Olympus XZ-1 and others. We also had some other strobes with us including the YS-110a and the Inon Z240. Let's see how it performed!

Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe reivew
The YS-110a, YS-D1, and Inon Z240
YS-D1 strobe back
YS-D1 strobe back. The right dial controls strobe power in manual mode, and exposure compensation in optical TTL mode.


YS-D1 strobe key features

More power than the YS-110a or Inon Z240

It was important for me to compare apples-to-apples, so I did my comparison tests with the 100 degree diffuser on the YS-D1 strobe, the 0.5 stop diffuser on the Z240, and the standard diffuser on the YS-110. I think this is how most people will use these strobes, and it is probably the fairest comparison.

If a strobe is a "stop" stronger than another strobe, it means it puts out twice as much light. So if you can shoot a subject at F11 with one strobe, you can shoot the subject at F16 with a strobe that is 1 stop stronger.

Tests showed the YS-D1 about +2/3 to +1 stop stronger than the Inon Z240, and +1 1/3 to +1 2/3 stops stronger than the YS-110a.

During my macro test shots the YS-D1 proved to be an additional +1/3 stop over my tested wide-angle shots. This gives the macro user the added benefit of "powering the strobe down" even further, offering softer light, for those f22 macro situations.

This is a nice boost of power, and it will really help when shooting into the sun, and with wide-angle shots where you can't get as close as you want, or really need to shoot at a small aperture. For even more power, you can remove the 100 degree diffuser from the YS-D1 and get another +2/3 of a stop of power. Read more about strobes and diffusers.

Sea & Sea YS-D1 underwater wide-angle photography
Taken at F16, ISO 100. I could easily shoot at F16 without getting too close to the subject, which was really nice. I'm sure that F22 would have been no problem, which will make shooting bright backgrounds, especially sunballs, easier to control. I hope the viz is better next time so I can try some sunball shots.


underwater photo with YS-D1 strobe ttl mode

Bristle worm in Anilao, taken with the YS-D1 strobe with a Nikon D7000, TTL mode.


Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe wide-angle photos
Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe in use in Anilao. F22, 1/250th, ISO 100.


Trumpetfish from the UWPG Anilao 2012 workshop.


underwater photo with Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe
Taken with dual YS-D1 strobes.


YS-D1 strobe, taken at F22


YS-110a strobe, taken a.t F13, same distance as above photo. -1 2/3rds stop difference


YS-D1 strobe, taken at F22


Inon Z240 strobe, taken at F16 at the same distance as the above photo, showing a -1 stop difference


YS-D1 strobe, taken at F18


Inon Z240, taken at F14, same distance as the above photo, showing a -2/3rds stop difference

Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe review for underwater photography
YS-D1 strobe, Tokina 10-17mm lens at 12mm, F22


Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe review for underwater photography
Inon Z240 strobe, Tokina 10-17mm lens at 12mm, F18. The YS-D1 was +2/3 of a stop stronger overall.


Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe review for underwater photography
YS-110a strobe, Tokina 10-17mm lens at 12mm, F14. The YS-D1 was +1 1/3 stop stronger overall.


TTL Exposure compensation

The strobe allows you adjust exposure when shooting in optical TTL mode. You can increase exposure by +1.5 stops, or decrease it by -1.5 stops. This is a really nice feature, and in my tests with a Nikon D7000, it worked very well. Note that results may vary slightly depending on the subject, the metering mode your camera is in, and the camera used. Read more about optical TTL.


Recycle rate - fairly quick

On full power, the strobe recycles in 1.9 seconds, just about the same as the YS-110a or Inon Z240 on full power. However, when the strobe is turned down half a stop, it recycles in about a second, and when turned down 1 stop, it is less than a second. This means, when shooting at the same power that your old strobe did on full power, you'll notice a much quicker recycle time.

Note that when using optical TTL, you may be limited by the flash recycle time on your camera, or by a limitation on the number of sequential flashes your camera can make. Of course the best way to really utilize the fast recycle time of this strobe is to use an electronic sync cord.


Reduced size & weight

The YS-D1 is slightly smaller and weighs slightly less than the Ys-110a, and it is slightly shorter than the YS-110a. It weighed about the same as my Inon Z240, and is about the same size, although the dimensions of the YS-D1 and Z240 are quite different, the Z240 is more fat and stubby.


TTL works with the Nikon D7000, other compacts

The optical TTL functionality worked well with my Nikon D7000. Exposures were spot on.

I also tested the optical TTL with other compacts, it seemed to work well although results were spotty with the Olympus XZ-1, it worked well on land but underwater it has some issues - I think the variable pre-flashes of the XZ-1 may occasionally confuse the YS-D1 - further testing will be needed.


Possibility of three different beam angles

The Sea & Sea YS-D1 comes with 2 different diffusers. I recommend people use the 100 degree diffuser for most of their shots. It will be wide enough for most wide-angle shots including shots with a fisheye lens, and it only reduces the power by -2/3rds of a stop. The stronger diffuser is a 120 degree angle diffuser.


Better controls, ergonomics and little extras

The dials are very nicely implemented - definitely the easiest dials to use out of any of the 3 strobes. Sea & Sea made a nice little "hatch" that opens up to expose the fiber optic connection point, a nice touch. I like how quickly I can open the battery compartment, just like with all the Sea & Sea strobes. Note - the YS-D1 takes 4 AA batteries, and uses the same o-ring as the YS-110a and YS-01 strobes.

Last, but not least, a ball adapter is included with the strobe, which can replace the YS mount and reduce the form factor of the strobe even further.


LED Target light

The built-in LED target light not that strong. It is certainly not even close to being a focus or video light. But it is nice to have as a back-up light.


Sea & Sea YS-D1 Review - conclusions

Overall - I give the strobe a big thumbs up. It was difficult to find anything about it that I didn't like. It is strong, small, easy to use with gloves, and has a great exposure compensation switch. I used the strobe in Anilao, Philippines for two weeks so look forward to some more photos and feedback. I lalso used the strobes for 10 days in Raja Ampat, here are my Raja Ampat photos with the strobe.

And at $699 retail in the USA, the price is great!


Sea & Sea YS-D1 - where to buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by supporting our sister site, Bluewater Photo, who is usually well stocked up on the YS-D1 strobe.


Sea & Sea YS-D1 - official specs

[Guide Number (ISO 100/m) (land)] : 32, 24 (with Diffuser 100 attached), 20 (with Diffuser 120 attached)
[Beam Angle] : 80°x80°  (without diffuser), 100°x100°(diffuser 100), 120° x 120° (diffuser 120)
[Batteries] : 4xAA A: 6V Ni-MH: 4.8V
[Number of Flashes*1] : A: 150 Ni-MH: 250
[Recycle time (full)*2] : A: 2.8 sec. Ni-MH: 1.9 sec.
[Color temperature] : 5600K
[Color temperature w/diffuser] : 5250K
[Depth rating] : 100m  / 330ft
[Dimensions (WxHxD)] (Excluding protruding part(s) and the arm holder.): 87x135x111mm / 3.5 x 5.4 x 4.4 inches
[Weight] : 650g / 22.9oz (w/o batteries) * Attached a YS Mount
Strobe Adaptor and a fixing bolt to the Strobe.
[Underwater weight] :  0.5g / 0.02oz(w/ batteries)
Exposure control: DS-TTL II,  Slave TTL, Light level control dial (GN): 1 / 1.4 / 2 / 2.8 /4 / 5.6 /8 / 11 / 16 / 22 / 32 (11 steps)
Pre-flash control: Equipped with pre-flash cancel mode
DS-TTL II function
Slave function
Auto power OFF function
Sync cord: 5-pin Sync cord/N, Fiber-Optic Cable (L-type)
Over-pressure relief valve
LED target light


What to do if you flood your strobe - find out in this vide



Further Reading

Best dive destinations for underwater photography

How to reduce backscatter in your underwater photos

How to remove backscatter in photoshop


Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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