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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
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 ULCS 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.
When purchasing a strobe which uses AA batteries, don't forget a couple sets of high quality NmH 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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