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Testing/Comparing new generation strobes - OneUW, Retra Pro, Ikelite DS230, Supe D-Pro (Marilux Apollo III)


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So I've been looking for an upgrade from my current Retra Pro strobes (the original, not the Retra Pro X or Retra Pro Max). Main annoyance is that they're quite negative and I don't like dealing with 8x (or more) Eneloop AA batteries each time. I'd prefer a strobe with a built-in battery solution, ideally lithium ion, not NIMH.

 

I got my hands on three strobes to compare against the Retra Pros and tested them in my garage to gauge color temperature, beam angle and recycling times, along with some of the intangibles like ergonomics, size of charger, ease of use. I'll post my results and comparative pictures below. But for now, here is the initial chart I've been compiling to start a discussion. Some interesting findings...

 

I'd really like to get one of the new Marilux Apollo III strobes in to also compare next

 

image.png

 

Initial reflections in no particular order:

 

1. Advertised color temperature (no diffusers) is way off. Especially for the Supe D-Pro, but surprisingly also for the OneUW 160.  A bit dissapointing on that end.

2. Of the 4, I prefer the controls, ergonomics and build quality of the OneUW and Retra Pro the most. Supe D-Pro controls are a bit clunky and power ratings are weird -- why go from 100%-90%-80%-70%-50% power? Who is that useful to?

3. Ikelite DS230 is a bit disappointing in terms of power. Seems roughly equivalent to the Retra Pro (with maybe a slightly broader beam angle -- hard to measure).  One-UW is 2/3 of a stop brighter than the Retra Pro and Ikelite DS230s, and a full stop brighter than the the Supe D-Pro.

4. While the Supe D-Pro initially seems like a bargain, there's enough compromises that to me it would be worth upgrading to the OneUW -- or the Retra, if you can stand dealing with the supercharges and 8 AA batteries per strobe..

5. So far, OneUW or Retra seems the best for traditional wide angle (because they also allow for TTL & HSS), with the Ikelite DS230 being a decent choice also. 

6. On paper, Marilux Apollo III looks like the best option for fast action pelagics where you need a combination of power, fast recycling time, and TTL, and color temperature is not so important. I look forward to getting my hands on one.

7. Neither the OneUW nor the Supe D-Pro triggered properly for me with fiber optic cables and the Nauticam LED flash trigger. Their optical sensors must be weaker than those on the Retra. Rather frustrating. I'm starting to think electrical sync cables are the way to go, especially  if the strobe supports TTL/HSS over the cables..

 

Guess I'll probably end up with 2x OneUWs for wide angle and people photos and 2x Marilux Apollo III's for wide angle pelagics. Maybe I'll keep the Retra Pros for when travel weight is absolutely essential. (I have 2 backscatter MF-2s for macro. I'll probably add them to the test at some point).

 

Edited by DreiFish
adding reflections
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3 hours ago, Phil Rudin said:

Hi @DreiFish I would be interested to know how you measured color temp and power, I assume a light/color meter but the type or any details are not listed. Thanks for all the work that goes into such testing. 

Hi Phil,

 

Nothing so professional 🙂 I don't have a color meter on hand. I simply took a raw image of a 18% grey card and 90% white card with a macro lens at same settings/same distance from the flash. Brought the images into lightroom and used the white balance tool to white balance off the white card. 

 

So take the results with a grain of salt. They are probably not an absolute measurement of the color temperature. They're mostly useful in comparing the four strobes and contrasting with the manufacturer specifications.

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I picked my Supe D-Pros on a work trip from Taiwan, was 560 USD each. That starts to be a a bargain even with the stobes shortcomings (colour temp/size).

I havent had any firing issues on them with my Nautocam trigger.

Edited by Sokrates
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On 1/28/2024 at 8:17 PM, DreiFish said:

So I've been looking for an upgrade from my current Retra Pro strobes (the original, not the Retra Pro X or Retra Pro Max). Main annoyance is that they're quite negative and I don't like dealing with 8x (or more) Eneloop AA batteries each time. I'd prefer a strobe with a built-in battery solution, ideally lithium ion, not NIMH.

 

I got my hands on three strobes to compare against the Retra Pros and tested them in my garage to gauge color temperature, beam angle and recycling times, along with some of the intangibles like ergonomics, size of charger, ease of use. I'll post my results and comparative pictures below. But for now, here is the initial chart I've been compiling to start a discussion. Some interesting findings...

 

I'd really like to get one of the new Marilux Apollo III strobes in to also compare next

 

image.png

 

(...)

 

 

This is some great testing, thanks!!

Any chance you could add something like Inon Z240 ? 😉 Or Weefine WFS07.....

 

Quote

7. Neither the OneUW nor the Supe D-Pro triggered properly for me with fiber optic cables and the Nauticam LED flash trigger. Their optical sensors must be weaker than those on the Retra. Rather frustrating. I'm starting to think electrical sync cables are the way to go, especially  if the strobe supports TTL/HSS over the cables..

 

You could look into 3rd party LED triggers - I had a few random crappy, half broken cables, that would never trigger with Nauticam (or rarely, depending on how I bend them). Changed to Turtle now, and lo and behold, even those cables suddenly work fine.

But yeah, on the other side, one would expect that strobe should rather work out of the box, especially with quite a popular housing/LED trigger brand.

Edited by makar0n
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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

I finally have the Marelux III in my hands, so I did some additional testing comparing them to the OneUW 160s. I also receive the diffusers for the OneUW 160s So far, I'm quite impressed with the build quality and light output/recycling times, though the controls aren't as ergonomic as the Retras. Still... I think I prefer the manual dials to OneUW's electronic paddles, which always confuse me.


Some observations:

 

  • ONE UW color temperature is ~5400k without diffusers and ~4900k with diffusers. Diffusers lose about 1 stop of light power (all these measurements are in the center -- I haven't look at beam pattern and edge falloff yet
  • Marelux III color temperature is ~6500k without diffusers and ~5800k with diffusers. Diffusers lose between 2/3 and 1 stop of light power in the center. 
  • Power wise (again, in the center), the Marelux III is marginally brighter than the ONE UW. Maybe 1/3 of a stop. The One UW as observed above is about 1 stop brighter than the Retra Pro. (Below, ONE UW 160 histogram on the left, Marelux III on the right. Both at full power without diffusers.)
  • ONEUW 160 at full power, no diffuserScreenshot 2024-03-16 at 12.05.02 PM.png
  • One UW is heavy. With the ball mount and neoprene cover, it weighs in at 1709g compared to 1373g for the Marelux III
  • Marelux III recycles much faster. ONEUW 160 is able to maintain 3 fps shooting only at -5 stops from full power. Marelux III, when put in its MTL mode, appears to automatically dial down power by about 2 stops (if at full), but can maintain 3 fps shooting already at this power setting. 
  • Overall, I like the Marelux III so far. I think they would make great strobes for shooting wide angle action like sharks or other fast-moving subjects where you want to shoot in continuous drive mode. They're not ideal for reef scenic shots in blue water though because of the higher color temperature. Haven't compared the beam coverage yet, but I suspect the OneUW has more even light (at least without the diffuser) 
  • IMG_3879.JPG Caption
  • IMG_3880.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by DreiFish
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Just to demonstrate the variations in manufacture temp specs I compared an Ikelite DS161, Inon Z330 and Marelux Apollo III using a Kenko Professional color temp meter designed to measure color temp.

 

First the color temp increases as you lower the strobes power so Ikelite DS-161 had a color temp of 4870K at full power and at 1/4 power it was 4940K from the same one meter distance with the meter at the center of the strobe. With the Apollo III full power was 5660K and 5100K with the defuser. Inon had the highest color temp at full power it is 5970K and 5240K with the 4600K diffuser cap installed. Lots of variations for different meters and testing methods. It would be nice if this could be standardized across manufactures. 

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Posted (edited)

Interesting findings, Phil. Did you run the test in a fully dark room, or one with ambient sunlight? I wonder to what extent the ambient light is influencing the results. That could explain why the color temperature changed at lower power. 

 

Since testing the OneUW strobes, I've been in contact with the owner and learned a few things that are worth mentioning. So please take the above results with these caveats:

 

  • The strobes I have are some of the earliest models made, from late 2018. OneUW subsequently changed the design of the aluminium housing, and the new design is about 115g lighter without compromising on 

 

 

  • Also, the battery packs are old, which may be impacting the recycling times. I re-did the testing and was able to get 3fps at -4 stops and 6fps at -5 stops (with light output decreasing slightly over time). With new battery packs, the results may be better. It's worth noting that these results are on par with the DS230s, so not bad at all for NiMH strobes.
  • 3. The color temperature remains unresolved. I will try to get my hands on a color temperature meter to supplement the testing done using a grey card and Lightroom.
Edited by Davide DB
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