Inon S-2000 Strobe – Product Review

January 31, 2011

I’ve had my Inon strobe about a year now, and one of my dive partners – also a travel writer – suggested I review it. First, a little about the rest of my setup, and why I needed an external flash: My camera is a Canon Powershot G10. I bought the G10 primarily for diving, based on the advice of several other divers who had earlier versions of the G-series. I saw the results they got and decided this was the right camera for me. I purchased the Canon waterproof housing when I bought the camera. As something of a side-note, the G10 has proved so good that I now rarely bring my older DSLR with me on my travels.

Inon S-2000 Strobe and Canon housing
The Inon S-2000 strobe with the Canon waterproof housing, t-bar, grip, etc. Not shown: the diffuser for the flash.

Now, although the G10 takes great pictures underwater, with a pretty good built-in color correction, there’s a bit of a problem when it comes to macro photos. One of the features of the G10 is it’s optical zoom, which gives you the equivalent of a 28 to 140 mm lens. That kind of zoom range requires a lens which can extend out from the camera up to a couple of inches. Of course, the housing has to allow for the lens to extend its full range, so it’s fairly bulky. The result is that the housing effectively blocks the light from the built-in flash on the camera body. Even with the diffuser provided with the housing, you will likely only get light on a quarter of the subject. You can work with it, but it’s far from ideal.

So, I went in search of an external flash. Here in Bangkok, my options were limited. After a little research I settled on the Inon S-2000, a small strobe made in Japan. The unit is relatively compact, and fires optically. It takes four AA batteries, and I’ve recently tried using rechargeable batteries with good results.

The S-2000 has switches on it to allow you to adjust the timing of the flash. It took only a couple of experimental shots to fine-tune the timing with my camera. Actually, I should have spent more time testing the setup before I took it diving, since it turned out that with both the internal and external flashes going, the photographs were over-exposed.

After briefly considering the purchase of the fiber-optic slave cable, I hit on an amazingly simple solution that worked out very well. What I did was take a small piece of dryer tape and stuck it inside the housing over the area in front of the built-in flash. Just to be clear, dryer tape is not the same as duct tape. Dryer tape is thinner and has mirrored backing, which is part of the trick. The tape is opaque, so no light gets through it, but the mirroring ensures that enough light escapes to the side to set off the S-2000. The tape was very easy to fit just right because the housing has fins on the inside to help ‘funnel’ the light from the flash.

I’ve been really happy with the S-2000, and once I got everything synced up, I started getting some great shots, especially macros. The setup really proved its usefulness in Lembeh, where you can see from just the highlight photos how well the gear performs. It doesn’t help much on wider shots, but there’s probably nothing short of a fish-eye lens and two strobes that will help improve that kind of shot.

One thing you’ll want to watch with the strobe is that, if diving in the tropics, as I do, the optical trigger is so sensitive that it can easily be repeatedly set off by sunlight bouncing off the waves when you’re on the surface. To save the batteries, and my eyes, I try to remember to switch off the flash unit before I surface.

Filed under: Gear Review — Michael @ 6:58 pm

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