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First Look at Retra’s new 4th Generation Pro Max, Prime + and Pure Underwater Strobes

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Retra Flash
Retra’s three new, fourth-generation Pro Max, Prime + and Pure underwater flash system.
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Retra UWT recently introduced three new, fourth-generation versions of their popular underwater flash called the Pro Max, Prime +, and Pure.

At a glance, this new generation of underwater strobes looks similar to their original model Retra Flash. They retain the aluminum alloy housing that's made to withstand depths up to 100 meters that was first introduced in their original model Retra Flash. They also feature the same bayonet mount with a locking mechanism incorporated in the front that attaches to all existing Retra accessories such as their Light Shaping Device (LSD) and lighting reduction ring. Beyond that, the three newer models differ in a few areas.

New size, new configuration? Side-by-side difference between the new Retra Pro Max (left) and earlier Retra Pro (right).
New size, new configuration? Side-by-side difference between the new Retra Pro Max (left) and earlier Retra Pro (right).

Power Output and Battery Status

The top-of-the-line Pro Max now generates a maximum illumination of 140 Watt-seconds as opposed to previous Pro X model’s 150 Watt-second (Ws) rating. I see this 10Ws drop in maximum power as a more realistic representation of what their specially designed circular flash tubes can produce.

In place of the single LED indicator light between the dials, the new Pro Max uses an OLED display pane that provides information on battery status, mode, and power level as a recycle indicator. All are all displayed (not at once) in numeric fashion, which gives you much more at-a-glance information. 

Retra has never previously provided any type of illumination feature on their power level dial, making it nearly impossible see and identify the strobe settings in situations such as night diving. With the new OLED display, the same numeric setting that the dial is positioned on is displayed in the window. Certainly a feature I will welcome on a blackwater dive.

View of Retra’s new Pro Max (far left), Prime + (center) and Pure (far right) underwater flash systems from the back.
View of Retra’s new Pro Max (far left), Prime + (center) and Pure (far right) underwater flash systems from the back.

Meanwhile, the new Prime + and Pure models will continue to use the LED indicator light that uses different colors to indicate battery status (green for full, yellow for half, red for low), as well as the selected mode setting (i.e. magenta for manual, cyan for TTL, etc.).

On the outside, the new Prime+ and Pure look the same as the Pro Max — minus the OLED panel. The Prime + is their midlevel model with all the same features as the Pro Max, except its max output at full power is 90Ws. 

The Pure, with a max output at full power of 70Ws is regarded as Retra’s entry level model. The only other difference between it and the Prime + is that it is not fitted with company's built-in water leakage detection for water entry into the battery compartment and does not have High Speed Sync (HSS) functionality.

New Electronics, Better Battery Boost

Retra says this latest generation of strobes feature a “completely redesigned” set of electronics that require less power for the same light output. Retra also says that the optical triggering system is now more reliable even when using “sub-optimal fiber optic cables” connected to the flash.

For wide angle photography, I am a big fan of the quality of light produced by Retra’s unique fully circular flashtube. Read my review on the 2nd generation Retra Prime Flash here.

At the time I did that review I felt the Pro model with a rated 150 Ws output at full power wasn’t given the proper power supply it deserved; it’s like having a car with a V-8 engine but with a fuel tank intended for a subcompact.

The biggest design change to the exterior of the new Retra Flash was made to the battery compartment as it now features a raised lip with the O-rings on the outside. The purpose of which is to reduce the chance of water droplets getting inside when the battery door is removed and to allow an additional set of AA’s to be installed when paired with the Booster battery door.
The biggest design change to the exterior of the new Retra Flash was made to the battery compartment as it now features a raised lip with the O-rings on the outside. The purpose of which is to reduce the chance of water droplets getting inside when the battery door is removed and to allow an additional set of AA’s to be installed when paired with the Booster battery door.

Retra’s workaround to this was an add-on module called a Supercharger that held an additional four AA’s. While I will admit the Supercharger does achieve its goal, nearly doubling the number of flashes with a slightly shorter recycle time, I still felt it was a wonky solution due to the way it protruded behind the strobe. I would have preferred that Retra design that battery compartment from the start to hold eight AA’s instead of four, which would make more sense for a pro level model strobe

Pictured left, new Retra flash with both the standard battery door (installed) and Booster battey beside it. On the right, Pro Max’s battery compartment loaded with eight AA’s before the Booster battery door is installed.
Pictured left, new Retra flash with both the standard battery door (installed) and Booster battey beside it. On the right, Pro Max’s battery compartment loaded with eight AA’s before the Booster battery door is installed.

This time around Retra has done just that by first making the strobe housing slightly longer and redesigning the battery compartment with a raised lip that puts the O-rings on the outside. This changer makes it likely for water droplets to get down inside the case when the battery door is removed. What makes this design even more appealing is that the user can choose between using the strobe with four rechargeable AA’s or eight AA batteries by means of an optional “Booster” battery door. 

Side-by-side compresence in how the eight AA batteries are configured in a Retra Pro Max (left) using the Booster to how a Retra Pro/Prime model (right) fitted with the Supercharger.
Cleaner, sleeker approach. A side-by-side comparison in how the eight AA batteries are configured in a Retra Pro Max (left) using the Booster to how a Retra Pro/Prime model (right) fitted with the Supercharger.

Rather than being another battery module you add onto the strobe, the Booster is essentially a taller version of the battery door that comes standard that allows an addition four AA’s to be stacked on top of the first four. While it still creates a significant protrusion off the back the strobe housing it’s certainly less obnoxious looking than the former Supercharger. The best part to this redesign is that it provides an easier, cleaner way to load and unload those eight batteries.

Even Lighting

One more new feature you may not notice is that the glass dome in front of the circular flash tube on the Pro Max, Prime + and Pure has changed from totally clear to a frosted surface. According to Retra, this change improves the illumination from the flashtube by creating a more evenly distributed light spread. This is expected to enhance the strobe's capabilities in a variety of conditions.

The new Pro Max, Prime + and Pure series (left) feature a new frosted dome front whereas the earlier Pro and Prime models glass dome in the front of the circular flashtube (right) is completely transparent.
The new Pro Max, Prime + and Pure series (left) feature a new frosted dome front whereas the earlier Pro and Prime models glass dome in the front of the circular flashtube (right) is completely transparent.

As mentioned earlier I am big fan of the quality of light produced by these strobes for wide angle photography. Their fully circular flash tube design allows me to forgo using a diffuser most the time. Can’t wait to see what these new strobes will do in the water. But that may not happen till around Sept/Oct 2023, which is the estimated shipping date from Retra UWT

The price point through retailers for the Flash Pro Max is $1,575 with the Flash Prime+ at $1,250 and Flash Pure are priced at $1,025 (all USD). The Booster battery cap option is priced around $185 USD. 

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Walt Stearns
Walt Stearns
Editor for Scuba Diver Magazine's North America edition, Walt Stearns, has been involved in the diving industry for more than 30 years. As one of the most prolific photojournalists in diving media Walt’s articles and images have appeared in a wide range of national and international diving, water sports and travel titles.
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