Inon Z-240 has been the mainstay flash gun for underwater photographers for almost 10 years now. It has been a flexible workhorse that has stubbornly refused to be displaced from the top position by competitors. Other models have come and gone but you could always trust the Z-240. This autumn I sold my last ever Z-240 unit. It was discontinued by the manufacturer Inon and there was no replacement in sight. The company kept their lips sealed and It took until the new year before the replacement Inon Z-330 was announced to the world. It then took another few months to the end of February before we saw the first products in the UK. The new Z-330 is now available in limited numbers from Mike’s Dive Cameras.
What has changed?
The Inon Z-330 retains the overall shape of the classic Z-240 strobe. However, after comparing them side by side it is slightly larger in all dimensions and seems to taper more towards the front. The weight has increased also as the Z-330 weighs 637g (without shade and batteries), which is about 50 grams more than Z-240.
The first easily noticeable difference is, of course, the dome port. The new Z-330 comes with a non-detachable polycarbonate dome that allows the light beam to travel from the strobe into water without the narrowing effect. This seems to be Inon’s answer to various third-party accessory domes and diffusers, that have been recently available in increasing numbers. This addition makes the Z-330 the world’s most compact and affordable underwater strobe with a dome port. (A few domed strobes exist on the market, like the Seacam 100 range, but we are talking about quite different kind of money here)
With the strobe, ships also a removable light shade that can be rotated 360 degrees to the desired position. This clever device has two main uses. Firstly, it will reduce backscatter by creating a better shadow on the front of the lens port so fewer reflections are created by the particles in the water. Previously the only way to combat this was to turn the strobe units facing slightly away from the target. Secondly, it reduces the flare that can happen on the edges of dome ports. This is a known issue that affects especially domes that do not need an extension. Typically, these kinds of domes are used with short fisheye-type lenses. Previously you had to pull the strobes back so that the edge of the beam didn’t catch the side of the dome. With the Inon Z-330, you can be more relaxed with strobe positioning with all kinds of ports.
Another thing Inon has taken on board from the selection of aftermarket accessories are the extended control knobs. All sorts of homemade extensions were sold for the Inon Z-240 strobe. For the Z-330 there is no need for these anymore as the company has completely redesigned the knobs. I don’t think anyone can complain anymore about them being too small.
The final major improvement is, of course, the output. The new Inon Z-330 has a max guide no. of 33. Sounds like they had to pip the competition just a bit as the Sea & Sea’s recent YS-D2 comes with the guide no of 32. In practice, this difference is way too small to matter…. But hey… it goes to 33.
There are few smaller differences also: The rear panel is now fluorescent, the spotting beam is more aligned with the strobe optical axis, and finally, the user manual has been simplified and can actually be understood without a doctorate in electronics.
With all these upgrades Inon has introduced a new standard: An enthusiast prosumer strobe with advanced features normally seen only in the expensive way-over-1000-pound-category. The Inon Z-330 costs £699 in the UK and there is really nothing else on the market currently that would offer a similar combination of features. Long live the new King! Inon Z-330 is now the most powerful general use underwater strobe out there as it beats the nearest competition, The Sea & Sea YS-D2 by a whisker. It also is the only one that comes with a built-in dome port. For all the rest you must spend extra some money to get an after-market unit.
So how about the thousands of Inon Z-240 users out there? Should they upgrade? It seems that many have, if you can judge from the unprecedented demand and from the amount of second hand Z-240 strobes flooding the market. If you are a very keen underwater photographer, the Z-330 offers enough new features and more power to justify the upgrade. If you are an occasional underwater photographer, you can continue using your Z-240 for years to come… there really is nothing wrong with it.