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The Inon LF-800 N: Underwater Snoot Photography & Video Made Easy!

Written by Lee Burghard October 2015

For anyone who's tried underwater snoot photography using a traditional strobe and snoot design, you understand the level of difficulty involved.  You're stuck aiming a non-constant light source with a very narrow beam at an underwater subject that can be smaller than your thumbnail. You often have to fire off several rounds of shots before you get the strobe position lined up just right and by then your subject may have already moved. As one of those underwater photographers who have had this experience, I've been eager to find an alternative to traditional strobe and snoot designs.


With 800 lumens all packed into a tight 5 degree beam, the Inon LF800-N LED Flashlight sounded like a promising solution that would eliminate some of the difficulties typically found with strobe and snoot combos.  By using a constant light source for snooting instead of a strobe, aiming and positioning the light source at an underwater subject would be easy and could be accomplished in a matter of seconds.  You can also add the option Inon Condenser Lens LF-N to further narrow the light beam and provide a closer usable range with a smaller illuminated area. 

In theory it all sounded great but how would it really perform? I decided to give this a thorough test against a few popular strobe/snoot designs and see for myself...


Camera Equipment Used:

  • Canon 70D DSLR and Canon 60mm lens
  • Nauticam Housing and Flat Port

 

Snoot Equipment Used:

  • Inon Z-240 Strobe with Inon Z-240 Snoot Set
  • Inon Z-240 Strobe with Reefnet Micro Snoot Mount & Reefnet Snoot Fiber Optic Arm
  • Inon LF800-N LED Flashlight & Inon Condenser Lens LF-N

 

Test Image Comparison:

The images below were shot with the end of the strobe/Inon light at full power approximately 10 inches from the subject at ISO 100, aperture at f/16, and a shutter speed at 1/250.

Inon LF-800-N   Inon Snoot Set Reefnet Snoot Set

The images below were shot with the end of the strobe/Inon light at full power approximately 5 inches from the subject at ISO 100, aperture at f/22, and a shutter speed at 1/250.

Inon LF-800-N w/ Condensor
Inon Snoot Set  Reefnet Snoot Set

Summary:

After having the opportunity to use Inon LF800-N and review the images these were my conclusions: 

  • Easier and simpler to use than a traditional strobe and snoot configuration.
  • Performs as an "Always On" snoot - This give you the ability to see where you're aiming and also see your exposure in live view mode making snoot photography simple.
  • Serves multiple purposes - Can be used as a focus light, dive light, underwater photography snoot, and an underwater video snoot!
  • When used with the Inon Condenser Lens LF-N, it provides a tighter concentrated beam than traditional snoot sets. This opens up some very unique macro opportunities for both images and video.

A few important things to note when using the Inon LF-800-N:

  • The light works best when used from a distance of 8 inches or greater from the subject. When it's used within 8 inches a dark "halo" appears within the center of the light beam.
  • When combined with the Inon Condenser Lens LF-N the light works best within 5 inches or less from the subject. When this combo is used further than 5 inches from the subject a dark "halo" appears within the center of the light beam
  • Using a lightweight underwater tripod to mount the light is very useful. Products like the Joby Gorrilapod SLR-Zoom Tripod or the Inon Weight Plate (ScrewType, VelcroType) with a 1 inch ball or YS attachment make for ideal solutions. The advantage of this equipment is is keeps the light in a fixed position underwater that's independent of your camera, therefore allowing you to move your camera around the subject for framing while the snoot light remains in a fixed position.
  • You'll need to add on an Inon Single Light Holder LF to attach the light to your camera setup or underwater tripod.