HomeScuba Diving GearAwesome Retra Flash Pro Review

Awesome Retra Flash Pro Review

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Nicolas and Lena Remy Review the Retra Flash Pro

The warm and even light helps nicely lighting big scenes, sharks captured by Retra Flash Pro
The warm and even light helps nicely lighting big scenes, sharks captured by Retra Flash Pro

Since 2018, the underwater strobes market has been more active than ever, with no less than 9 products being released. In this 2-parts review I am going to cover one of the latest models: the Retra Flash Pro. This article focuses on the flash itself, whereas next month I will cover the optional accessories compatible with this strobe. At the time of writing, Lena and I have spent 51 hours in the water with two Retras, 20 hours shooting wide-angle, 31 hours on macro work.

Retra Flash Pro Front view outline
Retra Flash Pro Front view outline

The Retra Flash Pro is a nicely built unit, with a brushed aluminum finish that feels sturdy and eases heat dissipation. It isn’t a small strobe yet remained easy to move around underwater, being 130mm long, it was simple enough tucking it close to our macro port. The three controls (2 dial knobs and 1 push button) are easy to grab and differentiate by touch, even at night with dry gloves. The “Pro” also comes with several innovative features, some being a first in the industry.

The even, soft light makes it easier not to “burn” fish scales. Captured by Retra Flash Pro
The even, soft light makes it easier not to “burn” fish scales. Captured by Retra Flash Pro

For instance, it can be connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth, to visualize useful data and customize strobe functions. Examples include a low-power mode or fine-tuning the focus light output. This is an evolutive strobe, and further customization capabilities are expected.

HSS (High Speed Sync) is another exciting capability: provided your camera and your housing LED circuitry (if you are using one) are capable of transmitting HSS signals, you can use the Retra Flash Pro at shutter speeds beyond the camera’s maximum sync speed.

Retra Flash Pro Backside angle
Retra Flash Pro Backside angle

Lastly, the flash can be triggered by hand thanks to the rear push-button, which opens-up creative opportunities with long exposures on tripod.

In the water, I was impressed by the Retra’s very wide, even and warm light beam, a big advantage for wide-angle and large animals’ photography. In practice, I found it easier to completely light a big scene, whilst minimizing hard shadows, backscatter and avoiding to “burn” fish scales.

Enough “oomph” to reach the background and illuminate the incoming shark. Captured by Retra Flash Pro
Enough “oomph” to reach the background and illuminate the incoming shark. Captured by Retra Flash Pro

Besides quality, the Retra Flash Pro also delivers quantity: this is powerful strobe and we mostly found ourselves dialing it between 12 and 50% for wide-angle, 1-25% for macro and fish portraits.

Out of 4 Eneloop Pro AA batteries, we typically got around 300-350 photos per charge when shooting wide angle, whereas in macro we got around 600-800 shots, depending on subjects. I reckon this should be enough to cover a day of diving for most shooting situations.

Retra Flash Pro Collage
Retra Flash Pro Collage

In terms of recycle time, we haven’t felt constrained except when going above 50% power, which we seldom did.

If you feel you need more shots or fast recycling at high powers, consider the optional Retra Flash Supercharger, which I’ll review next month.

The Retra Pro is also well suited for macro.
The Retra Pro is also well suited for macro.

Lastly, the Retra Flash Pro is well protected against water damage. Dual o-rings secure the battery compartment, are easy to inspect (fitted onto the battery cover), and only require greasing every 10 dives. What’s more, a leak detector is integrated within the battery contacts, which will trigger a visual alarm with as little as 2ml water ingress. This alarms tells the diver to stop shooting and clean battery contacts with fresh, soapy water as soon as practical. Doing so, there is a good chance the strobe will work again – a great “save-the-dive-trip” feature.

The beam from Retra Flash Pro is wide enough (approximately 130 degrees) to illuminate a 3-meters long shark with just 1 strobe.
The beam from Retra Flash Pro is wide enough (approximately 130 degrees) to illuminate a 3-meters long shark with just 1 strobe.

Article Written By Nicolas Remy

Photo Credit: Nicolas & Lena Remy

For more images from Nicolas and Lena visit their Website, Nicolas & Lena Remy Photography or follow them on Instagram and Facebook

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