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Uneven mobility of strobe arms


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Hi all! Been diving recently to prepare for an upcoming liveaboard and was remembered of an issue I have repeatedly with my strobe arms. When loosening the clamp between two float arms the mobility of one float arm starts way earlier on one side than on the other side. This happens on all ball joint connections (housing to float arm, float arm to float arm, float arm to flash). The clamps are fine, not twisted or the like. I even replaced the O-Rings on all ball joints without success. Anyone else experiencing this? Any tips on how to get a more even mobility? 

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3 minutes ago, WaterApe said:

Hi all! Been diving recently to prepare for an upcoming liveaboard and was remembered of an issue I have repeatedly with my strobe arms. When loosening the clamp between two float arms the mobility of one float arm starts way earlier on one side than on the other side. This happens on all ball joint connections (housing to float arm, float arm to float arm, float arm to flash). The clamps are fine, not twisted or the like. I even replaced the O-Rings on all ball joints without success. Anyone else experiencing this? Any tips on how to get a more even mobility? 

I've found that mismatched arms and clamps can be an issue, specifically clamps. Changing o-rings is a good start, and having good, fine thread clamps, like Nauticam's, can handle heavier strobes/lights. I've just ordered a single clamp to take the place of one misbehaving clamp.

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I can confirm that the connection between the Retra flashes and the Nauticam arms is the worst, probably due to slight differences in the ball diameters. I searched for a Nauticam ball I could attach to the Retra strobes, but couldn't find one yet. All arms and clamps are from Nauticam, but still sometimes mobility between them is uneven. 

 

@Kamaros: I'll give it try. I've sprayed them with WD-40, but not in a ziplock. 

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16 hours ago, WaterApe said:

I can confirm that the connection between the Retra flashes and the Nauticam arms is the worst, probably due to slight differences in the ball diameters. I searched for a Nauticam ball I could attach to the Retra strobes, but couldn't find one yet. All arms and clamps are from Nauticam, but still sometimes mobility between them is uneven. 

 

Same here,

Some brands have slightly different ball size. For example my Flex-arm balls are few tenths of mm smaller than the Nauticam one and the clamp grip is not accurate.

 

Another metric/imperial issue I guess.

 

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I have found the Nauticam arms/clamps mix well with INON and Isotta float arms, so you could look at Isotta and INON for a ball as well.  Are the Retra balls actually detachable - if so how do they connect to the strobe body?

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42 minutes ago, Chris Ross said:

Are the Retra balls actually detachable - if so how do they connect to the strobe body?

They are threaded in, but I'm not sure of the kind of threads - perhaps M6.

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On 4/24/2024 at 2:07 AM, TimG said:

I wonder if ULCS Ken has any thoughts on this issue?  @UltralightCameraSolutions

I am unsure about other manufacturers and will respond to what I know. The ball on Ultralight parts minus the o-ring is 0.962 or 24.44mm. The ball on the Nauticam buoyancy arms I have is 0.968 or 24.57mm. I have a side business where I run dive charters and see plenty of rigs with mismatched accessories. I never hear many complaints, and the ones I do hear about usually are always resolved with maintenance and/or new o-rings. The only problem I see at times is if you have two different manufacturer parts on each end of a clamp, like an Ultralight arm and a Nautivam arm both using the same clamp. This will cause the clamp to clamp down slightly at an angle, which creates problems with tightening and loosening.

If you have parts that are the same on both sides, they clamp the same. I haven't inspected other manufacturers clamps enough to see how the area is where the ball sits but I would assume there is a very slight difference. This could create problems but I wouldn't think it would be noticeable. 

 

Now, whether you should use fine or coarse-threaded clamps is up to the user and what they believe or have used previously. Here is a blog I wrote on this very subject-https://ulcs.com/2023/11/14/which-type-of-clamps-coarse-or-fine-threaded-are-best/

 

One thing I know for sure is when something isn't holding (after all maintenance has been done), it isn't necessarily the parts. I have done several unscientific tests with our parts and can get a combination of Ultralight arms and clamps to hold 5 lbs overnight at 24" horizontal out from a fixture like a vise. The problem is most people cannot twist the knob tight enough to make this happen. I used a special tool I made to test and prove this, and this was done with all course threaded clamps. Personally, I don't use our fine-threaded clamps on my own rigs. Our AC-CSB coarse threaded clamp seems to work really well when something needs to be tight, and the person using them has the strength in their hands to tighten them enough. Just last week I had someone come by the shop with their DSL camera with the complaint the arms always moved letting the strobes spread out. We switched the arms and clamps to all Ultralight using the CSB clamps, and no matter what angle they moved the camera to and no matter how hard they shook the rig, the arms and clamps stayed put. 

 

Sorry for the lengthy reply, but I believe that by providing as much information as possible, you can all make a better assessment of what you might need for your camera rigs.

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On 4/24/2024 at 2:23 AM, WaterApe said:

I can confirm that the connection between the Retra flashes and the Nauticam arms is the worst, probably due to slight differences in the ball diameters. I searched for a Nauticam ball I could attach to the Retra strobes, but couldn't find one yet. All arms and clamps are from Nauticam, but still sometimes mobility between them is uneven. 

 

@Kamaros: I'll give it try. I've sprayed them with WD-40, but not in a ziplock. 

On the Retra connection, Nauticam has an M5 and and an M10 threaded mounting ball.  Have you determined what thread the Retra is attached with?

 

On the Nauticam connections - are the clamps of different ages?  perhaps there is more wear on some clamps?  Did you try using a Nauticam o-ring and the Retra ball?  that might help if it fits?

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Thank you all for your extensive feedback! Highly appreciated!! 

 

Just wanted to add that the described issue does not stop me from taking uw-photos 😉 , so nothing severe but annoying sometimes. Could be better, always trying to optimize...

 

My Nauticam clamps are of the same age, quite new (<100 dives) and regularly cleaned. So I think the issue is a combination of different slightly ball sizes between Nauticam & Retra (don't have the tools here to measure the difference accurately) and maybe user error regarding the Nauticam to Nauticam connections while assembling the setup before diving. By design the clamps can be slightly angled, maybe not paying enough attention to close the clamp really even is causing this.

 

As you can see on the pictures below, I swapped the Retra o-ring for a Nauticam one, but that didn't help much.

 

I have a Nauticam M10 strobe mounting ball for housing [25221], that does not match the Retra one and the thread looks quite different, too.

WP-9.jpg

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you would need to take the Retra ball to a fastener place to find a nut that fits it to determine what the thread is.  You will need to know this to work out which ball to purchase.  For example Isotta sell balls with 1/4-20 Whitworth and M8 threads, which from eye balling might match what Retra uses.  M8 is 7.97 OD and 1/4-20 W is 6.35mm OD, while the M10 bolt should be 10mm dia.

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8 hours ago, WaterApe said:

@UltralightCameraSolutions regarding getting things to hold well and twisting the knob tight enough, playing with my setup on land, i managed to wreck some clamps that were not up to the task 🫣

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Thank you for sharing and a good example of you get what you pay for. Not to get on Weefine, but many people have told me this about Ultralight parts: "You only have to buy them once." We are fully online now and usually have everything in stock. https://ulcs.com/shop/ 

 

Of course, shipping isn't cheap if you are from overseas, but overall, it's probably worth it. Everything we manufacture is in the US with US materials, hand assembled and packaged in our warehouse in Oxnard, CA.

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Couldn’t agree more on the “only buy them once”. I’ve had my ULCS arms and clamps 24 years and they’re still as good as new. 

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On 4/26/2024 at 12:10 AM, WaterApe said:

@UltralightCameraSolutions regarding getting things to hold well and twisting the knob tight enough, playing with my setup on land, i managed to wreck some clamps that were not up to the task 🫣

WP-12.jpg

Basically, Weefine quality is exactly as the picture shows... lacking.

Having said this, ULCS clamps work fine for me connecting Retra strobes with ULS arms. Been using this combination for the last several years (previousy using Inon Z330s with no issues, and before that Z240s with no issues).

Your post did get me a bit curious - I used a ULCS clamp to connect a Retra strobe to an Inon Z330 - no issues, clamps down easily.

I then dug up a Nauticam arm, a ULCS clamp, and connected the arm to a Retra strobe. Based on my (imperfect) measurements, the Retra ball mount and the Nauticam ball are slightly different sizes, but by only 1-2mm - the ULCS clamp had no issues holding the arm and the strobe at what ever position I set them (hand tightened, and not overtightened).

The issue might not be the ball head(s), it might be the clamp. As others have said, ULCS is rock solid stuff - I've been using their arms & clamps for over 15 years, and I still have many of the orginal clamps (and they work). I only upgraded some of mine to the newer ones because I didn't want to experience FOMO 😉 (and they now sell colored bits, so how can you say "no" to that).

They feel a bit more robust compared to the Nauticam ones as well.

 

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9 hours ago, OneYellowTang said:

Basically, Weefine quality is exactly as the picture shows... lacking.

Having said this, ULCS clamps work fine for me connecting Retra strobes with ULS arms. Been using this combination for the last several years (previousy using Inon Z330s with no issues, and before that Z240s with no issues).

Your post did get me a bit curious - I used a ULCS clamp to connect a Retra strobe to an Inon Z330 - no issues, clamps down easily.

I then dug up a Nauticam arm, a ULCS clamp, and connected the arm to a Retra strobe. Based on my (imperfect) measurements, the Retra ball mount and the Nauticam ball are slightly different sizes, but by only 1-2mm - the ULCS clamp had no issues holding the arm and the strobe at what ever position I set them (hand tightened, and not overtightened).

The issue might not be the ball head(s), it might be the clamp. As others have said, ULCS is rock solid stuff - I've been using their arms & clamps for over 15 years, and I still have many of the orginal clamps (and they work). I only upgraded some of mine to the newer ones because I didn't want to experience FOMO 😉 (and they now sell colored bits, so how can you say "no" to that).

They feel a bit more robust compared to the Nauticam ones as well.

 

 

9 hours ago, OneYellowTang said:

Basically, Weefine quality is exactly as the picture shows... lacking.

Having said this, ULCS clamps work fine for me connecting Retra strobes with ULS arms. Been using this combination for the last several years (previousy using Inon Z330s with no issues, and before that Z240s with no issues).

Your post did get me a bit curious - I used a ULCS clamp to connect a Retra strobe to an Inon Z330 - no issues, clamps down easily.

I then dug up a Nauticam arm, a ULCS clamp, and connected the arm to a Retra strobe. Based on my (imperfect) measurements, the Retra ball mount and the Nauticam ball are slightly different sizes, but by only 1-2mm - the ULCS clamp had no issues holding the arm and the strobe at what ever position I set them (hand tightened, and not overtightened).

The issue might not be the ball head(s), it might be the clamp. As others have said, ULCS is rock solid stuff - I've been using their arms & clamps for over 15 years, and I still have many of the orginal clamps (and they work). I only upgraded some of mine to the newer ones because I didn't want to experience FOMO 😉 (and they now sell colored bits, so how can you say "no" to that).

They feel a bit more robust compared to the Nauticam ones as well.

 

You will usually never notice a difference when using a mixed bag of parts, but it could depend on what you are using. There are so many products and knockoffs on the market that I have no idea how it will all work together. I will say that when people have any type of problems with clamps, they usually need cleaning and maintenance, which is often overlooked. I am not saying yours are, but most calls and inquiries I get about that quickly disappear once I send them the link to our YouTube video on the subject.

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After a trip to Galapagos years ago, we had particularly strong currents. I really had to clamp down my arms to get them to stay in place. After I go home and did a more relaxed dive, I noticed that all my arm segments were super floppy! I assumed that the o-rings had taken a beating and bought a full new set. Problem solved!

 

I had my first set of ULCS clamps for over 10 years and used them on many hundreds of dives. At some point when I was reconfiguring my camera and adding longer arm segments, I decided to buy all new clamps. I did a good job cleaning all of the older ones and put them up for sale. I recall that I was able to sell them for about 50% of the cost of brand-new replacements. If these things are cared for, they hold their value really well over time. Not too many UW Photography accessories you can say that about!

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