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Retra Pro Max

I’ve just taken delivery of a pair of Retra Pro Max strobes.

Although I’ve not had them in the water yet, I thought a few initial comments might be of interest to anyone thinking of upgrading from the earlier Retra models or buying the new ones.

As you may well have seen from images, they look pretty much the same as the Pro/Prime and Pro-X/Prime-X models. It’s the same very sleek design in aluminium. If the former Apple designer, Jony Ive, built a strobe, it would probably look like this.

Specific things I’ve spotted so far:

  1. The click-stops on the mode and power selector feel a little clicker and more precise. They also now have tiny pointers.
  1. The ball mount design has changed with a bolt that now runs completely through the mount. The mount is held in place initially by a locator peg and then screwed in using an Allen key to tighten the bolt.The thread is not visible when the mount is detached from the strobe. This is helpful, I thought, when storing or travelling with the strobes.
  1. The 8x AA battery fitting has been re-designed and is now called a “Booster”. This is significantly more compact than the old strobe/"Supercharger" arrangement.  In addition, and very usefully, the number of O-rings has been reduced from 4 to 2 when using 8x AAs.  Less maintenance, only one size O-ring and less O-ring faff. The system now has just two O-rings on the strobe body rather than two at each end of the Supercharger - or two at the end of the battery cover if using just 4x AAs. There are no O-rings on the Booster or the battery cover. As before, Retra supply an extra pair of O-rings as part of the strobe package along with a tube of silicon grease.
  1. I found my two strobes have the slightest flicker on the pilot light when set on M. This does not appear on TTL or HSS. Retra tell me this is not a problem. Retra have advised though of a critical issue when using the pilot light with the Booster.  This needs to be corrected with a firmware update and Retra have sent details of this to users. (I’ve found Retra’s service support consistently excellent).
  1. The new strobe design does not now have quite the same perfectly circular body. It bulges very slightly near the battery cover. I discovered (annoyingly) that the rear bumper from the older strobes will not fit on the new series. If you are ordering bumpers the Retra Shop website now offers two options - one for the new strobes and one for the original style for the older models. So choose carefully! I missed this completely.
  2. The Max version has a small OLED panel between the dials providing various useful bits of information. It now has a Charge indicator (CHG) when you switch the Max on initially. Once charged it shows, amongst other possibilities  the Mode and Power setting. Very useful for night dives.

So, now to get them in the water - although that might be in the bath for now!

I’ll admit to being a big fan of the Retra range which I have been using since 2020. But I pay for my own strobes from my hard-earned cash. Well…  hard-earned pension….

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  • 2 weeks later...
15 minutes ago, fruehaufsteher2 said:

Still fighting with myself whether one or two Pro Max would be a great Christmas present for me. 
 

two questions: who needs the supercharger…? Everything that adds bulk to my gear is bad… 

how good is the focuslight? 
 

thanks a lot for sharing the initial thoughts. 

I recently got my new pro max, but they haven't gotten in the water yet, and won't for a while.  I got the superchargers on the basis of better to have and not need than need and not have.  More often than not I suspect I won't need them, but considering the overall cost of the stuff, they aren't that much more  $ and I am sure they will get used.

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I'm with JohnD to an extent on the "Boosters".

Got to say though, if I was using a snoot (I've got the LSD) on the Plus-Xs, I really felt the need to use a Supercharger. I usually found I had to crank up the power with snoot shots especially on the smaller masks and that chomped through the battery. 

As John says, for the Boosters cost - and how little room they take up (bonus!) it's worth it and better to have them than not.

I find the focus light very good for macro and usually use one with the LSD and the macro rings. If you're in low viz water I find them good too with a reflector. Actually using a reflector and lowering the power in poor viz was a revelation. So much less backscatter. 

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I really like the Pro Max strobes. I have shot the insides of the Pro Max flashes on all my trips for the last 12 months (320 dives), switching to full production versions of Pro Max flashes in the summer. 

I don't use the Boosters for macro trips or cold water (darker) trips. But do for wide angle. Improved battery life if the biggest difference over previous Retra Pros. And also the ease of living with them - especially when using 8 batteries per side. With the boosters I can get my batteries out of the flash and all on charge in seconds.

I think the right chargers really help living with these flashes. I use 4 x 4 fast chargers (branded INFAPOWER in the UK) that run off a single high power USB hub - and the whole lot recharge in an hour or so and don't overheat in tropics. The chargers are very light and small for travel, I reduce to 2 on macro trips. have displays showing charging status, and by having 4 I have more redundancy in case of issues (which I have had none). On most trips now I just take one set of batteries and a few spares because I can always recharge my batteries in the gap between dives over lunch. And then at the end of the day. No need to travel with loads of cells. 

Alex

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I splurged on these for my trip to lembeh last month (previous strobe died end September and less replacement options now) 

I did really enjoy using them. I like how easy it is to change power with a positive click and see what power each strobe is on (previously had s2000 and the power button just keeps rotating and is too small for me to see well). 

i haven’t worked out how to use the pilot light yet!

I found the front bumpers really hard to get on - my hands are too small/weak - so needed help pushing it on the last mm and taking off. Hopefully it will stretch a little with time. 

i tried the beam restrictors and macro rings this trip  - I’ve never used a snoot and so thought that a step too far at this point!! 

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Hey Crittermad27

Well done on the Retras. Yeah, cool eh?

Assuming you have the Max, Pro or Prime X models: Pilot light - just push the button in the centre of the coloured illuminator. Press it once for pilot light to be on 50%, twice for 100%, 3 times for Off. 

Bumpers: yep, they need a bit of a push but that's deliberate of course to stop them sliding off. Try a bit of silicone grease or even soap to help get them on. I think Retra recommend you take them off after dives to clean the strobe. I'm a neat-freak with my gear and soak everything after dives but must admit I did not take the bumpers off at all over 250 dives - and the strobes still looked as good as new when I sold them a few weeks ago - to help finance Pro Maxs....... 

I LOVE the LSD snoot and on the Retras with the aiming light, the learning curve isn't too great.

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5 hours ago, TimG said:

Try a bit of silicone grease or even soap to help get them on.

I wouldn't suggest using soap as it could contain chemicals that potentially speed up corrosion while trapped beneath the Bumpers. A very very small amount of silicon grease should suffice, to get the o-ring slightly shiny. 

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1 hour ago, Oskar - Retra UWT said:

I wouldn't suggest using soap as it could contain chemicals that potentially speed up corrosion while trapped beneath the Bumpers. A very very small amount of silicon grease should suffice, to get the o-ring slightly shiny. 

Noted! Thanks!

 

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I use the additional 4 batteries largely due to cold water. I have had the signal go from red to green on warming up after an overnight warm up at room temp. Now on holiday travel (first time since pandemic) - not able to use the new strobes due to weather prior to leaving. Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Great info and observations in the new Retras.  I’m currently using a pair of Z-330s [Type 2].  So far I’ve been very happy with them.  Question - What is the real advantage to upgrading to the new Retras?  Obviously this would involve a noticeable increase in cost.  I’m not opposed to it, but would like to know the what I would get for the “investment.” Thanks in advance! 

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1 hour ago, ChipBPhoto said:

Great info and observations in the new Retras.  I’m currently using a pair of Z-330s [Type 2].  So far I’ve been very happy with them.  Question - What is the real advantage to upgrading to the new Retras?  Obviously this would involve a noticeable increase in cost.  I’m not opposed to it, but would like to know the what I would get for the “investment.” Thanks in advance! 

I mostly use the Inon 330s as well. I have also used Retras on a few occasions. Honestly, I don't see much difference in output or useability. The newest Retra's support HSS, and they are better for snoot work with their LSD add-on than the 330. I use a Backscatter MF-2 for snooting, so not an issue for me. Battery life on the 330s is pretty great, so I don't know if Retra is better or worse. Probably similar. Size, form factor, and controls are very similar between the two designs.

Unless you really need HSS, I don't see much need to upgrade from the 330s. They are not making 330's anymore, so if your current strobes die the Retra might be a good option. 

Edited by Dave_Hicks
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"Investment" eh? LOL, yeah, good one.... 🤣

As I think I have explained in a previous post, I moved from Z240 v4 so I can't give a defect comparison with the Z330 v2. As Dave says, I found a huge difference using a snoot with the Retra after the Inons and shoot macro almost always with a snoot. So for me that was a major benefit.

I had never used HSS before getting the Retras. I now find I use that setting a huge amount especially when shooting upwards with wide-angle towards the sun.

I do find the Retras easier to use than the Inons. The controls, to me, are simple and self-explanatory. Though I was used to the Inon Z240s, I did find the controls a bit pokey and confusing.  

Colour and coverage? Hard to compare. I feel that I get a wider coverage and more power with the Retras but couldn't quantify that.

The other thing I like about the Retras is the range of accessories. They give you options for controlling and shaping the light. Using a reflector, with lowered power in poor, turbid viz was a revelation for me in terms of reducing backscatter. And I like too the macro rings when not using a snoot. 

 

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23 hours ago, ChipBPhoto said:

Great info and observations in the new Retras.  I’m currently using a pair of Z-330s [Type 2].  So far I’ve been very happy with them.  Question - What is the real advantage to upgrading to the new Retras?  Obviously this would involve a noticeable increase in cost.  I’m not opposed to it, but would like to know the what I would get for the “investment.” Thanks in advance! 

I still have a number of Inon Z220 strobes - now decades old. Never really warmed to the Inon battery compartment design that has not changed. Retras are much better especially the latest models IMHO. As well one has the choice of 4 or 8 batteries. Main disadvantage (esp with second gen Retras) is a dedicated fiber optic design as I use Seacam housings that come with electrical synch cords. The adapter (starting with gen 3) has one advantage and that is one can see if the cable is working by observing the disconnected adapter (one can also look for the light at the end of a FO but FOs are a tad fragile esp for my application so not so great IMHO).

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I know a few members use the Retra reflector but I thought I'd post a short piece about using them as it was something relatively new to me. Apologies if this is old hat!

I was in the Red Sea out of Marsa Alam a few months ago. The last dive was the usual outside-the-harbour type dive and the viz was utterly cr*p: maybe 3'-4'. One of those dives where I wondered why I was bothering. I'd been using my D500 with the Tokina 10-17 for the whole trip and usually had the Retra reflector in a BCD pocket (yeah, a big pocket!) but hadn't really used it.

There were loads of juveniles knocking around on the site so I thought I'd take some pics just for the fun of it. I gave the reflector a go, reducing the power from the strobe a good bit and using the reflector aimed more directly at the subject to try and reduce backscatter. Results on the camera screen looked ok. When I got back and looked at the images on the big screen I was pleasantly surprised as to how well they came out given the viz and turbidity.

On the pic below, there is some backscatter on the top left but, generally, give the viz, not a bad result I thought (yeah, the picture is nothing special, I appreciate)

 

 

TG56295.jpg

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2 hours ago, TimG said:

I know a few members use the Retra reflector but I thought I'd post a short piece about using them as it was something relatively new to me. Apologies if this is old hat!

I was in the Red Sea out of Marsa Alam a few months ago. The last dive was the usual outside-the-harbour type dive and the viz was utterly cr*p: maybe 3'-4'. One of those dives where I wondered why I was bothering. I'd been using my D500 with the Tokina 10-17 for the whole trip and usually had the Retra reflector in a BCD pocket (yeah, a big pocket!) but hadn't really used it.

There were loads of juveniles knocking around on the site so I thought I'd take some pics just for the fun of it. I gave the reflector a go, reducing the power from the strobe a good bit and using the reflector aimed more directly at the subject to try and reduce backscatter. Results on the camera screen looked ok. When I got back and looked at the images on the big screen I was pleasantly surprised as to how well they came out given the viz and turbidity.

On the pic below, there is some backscatter on the top left but, generally, give the viz, not a bad result I thought (yeah, the picture is nothing special, I appreciate)

 

I think our measurements of visibility must be different! You can still see the reef in the background. 🙂 

In the PNW 3-4 feet of vis mean you can't see your own fingers from 3 feet away and can't see your buddies dive light from 10 feet! Tons of fine or clumpy bits in the water column.

Here are a few photos I took this summer in what I would call 5-10 foot visibility, which is pretty typical of that time of year.

[Wolf eels on Sunrise Reef - D850, 60mm with Kraken wet-wide lens, Inon 330 of Backscatter MF-2]

Sunrise Reef June 11, 2023 (137 of 229).jpg

Sunrise Reef June 11, 2023 (89 of 229).jpg

Sunrise Reef June 11, 2023 (147 of 229)-Photoshop.jpg

[Mosshead Warbonnet - D850 60mm w/Subsee +5, Backscatter MF-2 snoot and Inon 330 for fill]

Sunrise Reef June 11, 2023 (176 of 229).jpg

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Super pics, Dave.

Maybe the shock of going from really good viz in the St John’s area to the Port Ghalib harbour messed with my viz calculations 😜. But it was really poor viz where normally I wouldn’t bother trying WA pics. 

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I used the reflector on a single Retra (previous pro model) for most of my 105 shots from Palau in Feb 2023. Compared to many of the pix posted here I used slower shutter speeds to bring out more background. Because I am 4000  miles from the motherlode - I only have my website as reference. Many shots here https://www.salmonography.com/Marine-and-Freshwater-Biology/Palauan-fish-portraits/

There are some flashless shots as well as wide angle shots when I used a dome diffuser in this gallery. One can see a shadow in most of the reflector shots. One shadow looks more natural to me. The tiny circle with i in it will get you to the exif data.

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