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Strobe arms and their length is a very personal choice. Traditional logic aside strobe arms should be a length that you are comfortable with and should not make your rig unmanageable either topside or underwater.
Of course, you could get by mounting the strobe directly to your housing or a handle, but we don't recommend that option. If you mount the strobe directly to the handle (one joint) you not only sacrifice flexibility and reach, but you force the strobe to fire along the same axis as the camera lens, which often results in backscatter and almost always produces unpleasant subject illumination.
A single-segment/two-clamp arm does not offer much flexibility in aiming the strobe 'outside the box'. Try this example. Rest your elbow in one spot on a table or desk. You can move your forearm and hand, but only in a fixed radius around your elbow. You cannot reach an object inside that radius. You cannot touch your elbow.
Our favorite setup is two-arm segments and three-clamps which not only gives you more extension, but lets you put the strobe exactly where you need it, up close for macro work or extended out for wide angle or creative lighting. Going back to our earlier example, now pick up your elbow from the desk. With the use of your whole arm again, you can reach almost any position in a hemisphere around your shoulder.
For new shooters or those with very small compact rigs, we suggest a 3" + 5" configuration. It is compact enough that it doesn't overwhelm a compact camera, and is easy to handle both in and out of the water.
For this compact camera and two Inon S-2000 strobes, we have added a right handle to the Flexitray.
On the top of each handle is a Nauticam 1 Inch Base Ball for Flexitray.
Shown with the rig are two wet-mate lenses: an Inon UCL-165m67 Close-up Lens and a Fix UWL-28m52 Fisheye Lens.
The double-ball arm on the right handle has an Inon Double M67 Lens Holder.
When not in use, the wet-mate lenses can be stored in the lens holder.
This set gives you plenty of reach to get the strobe well off camera to control backscatter and do creative things like side lighting macro subjects.
Remember, each clamp adds about an inch to the setup as does the strobe adapter, so the 3+5 arm set gives you a full 12" extension from the housing.
If you shoot a lot of wide angle work, you should consider longer arms for more reach in lighting large areas, but in most cases that involves more than one strobe. Also remember that the farther you put the strobe from the camera, the more drag it will create in the water.
So criteria boils down to personal preference, overall size of your rig and comfort level with the final rig as much as anything.
The nice thing about the double ball arm system is that it is completely modular, and we sell each piece individually so you can upgrade at any time without losing your investment in clamps, adapters, etc.
Two-strobe DSLR Rig
The photograph above illustrates a Canon 5D MK III in a Nauticam Housing with 45 degree viewfinder all set up for wide angle photography. This system is using electrical sync cables to the Inon strobes and four 8 inch strobe arms. The strobe arms on the left are mounted to a ball on the left handle and the strobe arms on the right are mounted to an M10 mounting ball directly to the housing. A lanyard with snap hooks is attached to one arm on each side; the lanyard provides a comfortable carrying handle for you as well as a "grab me here" point for when you hand your rig up to the boat crew.
Should you find that your underwater photography system is a bit heavy underwater, buoyancy can be added by choosing arms which add buoyancy or by adding Stix Floats.
A Sea & Sea strobe mounted with one single-ball arm (strobe adapter), one double-ball
arm, one Nauticam Carbon Fiber Float Arm and three Nauticam clamps.
Nauticam carbon fiber float arms are available in two diameters and in lengths from 6 inch to 12 inch.
This DSLR System With Standard Strobe Arms Weighs Approximately 3 Pounds In Fresh Water.
This DSLR System With Two Nauticam 8 inch Carbon Fibre
Float Arms Weighs Approximately 1+3/4 Pounds In Fresh Water
This DSLR System With Four Nauticam 8 inch Carbon Fibre
Float Arms Weighs Less than 3/4 Pound In Fresh Water
An Aluminum Buoyancy Arm by Ultralight Control Systems.
Ultralight Control Systems manufactures buoyancy arms in many lengths and in two diameters.
This configuration uses a Mounting Ball on the Nauticam Multi-Purpose Clamp to add a video light.
Ball adapters can be mounted directly to many housings in addition to those mounted on handles. You may wish to read this article with many photographs which illustrate mounting balls directly to the housing.
This configuration mounts the video light on a separate arm using two clamps
and a Nauticam M10 Mounting Ball mounted directly to the housing.
Types of Arm Mounts for Housings
Mounting balls may be mounted on handles, on the 'cold shoe', or directly to the housing. There are multiple choices for attaching mounting balls to housings, and multiple choices for attaching balls to handles as well.
Variations for attaching arms to housings include: T-Plate, Dovetail, M10, and 1/4-20.
A T-Plate type Flex Arm Base by Fix on a Subal Housing
Nauticam 1 Inch Ball Adapter for T-Plate on a Subal Housing
XIT404 manufactures a "Quad Ball Mount" for T-Plates.
Cold shoe mounts are usually used with focus lights and can attach to ports or to housings.
Handle mounts also have the varieties of T-Plate, Dovetail, and 1" ball.
Ultralight Control Systems 1 Inch Ball for Ikelite Quick-Disconnect Handles.
T-Plate base for Nauticam Flexitray handles.
Ultralight Control Systems T-Plate for Ikelite Quick-Disconnect Handles.
When purchasing a strobe which uses AA batteries, don't forget a couple sets of high quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a world (multi-voltage) charger. If you travel to remote locations we always recommend a second charger for redundancy.
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