The Marelux Smart Optical Flash Tube (SOFT) Pro replaces and perfects the already popular Marelux SOFT and is arguably the best value, feature-heavy snoot on the market. In fact, the SOFT Pro goes beyond what a standard macro snoot has to offer with the release of a wide range of accessories that can be used with the SOFT dock (mount) for any underwater strobe.
An snoot is a device that attaches to an underwater strobe in order to control and direct the light of the beam - limiting the spread of light to a specific area. This can be useful in macro photography, where a photographer wants to illuminate a specific, small area of a subject, such as a small fish or coral. A snoot is particularly useful because it allows the photographer to control the light and create a more dramatic and focused beam of light on the subject, which can make the subject stand out more clearly against the background (often a black background). It also can be used to create shadows and contrast, adding depth and interest to the photograph.
****A Note from the Author****
All photos from this Marelux SOFT Pro review were captured over the course of one dive. We think that shows just how versatile and powerful of a creative tool the Marelux SOFT Pro is. Why one dive? Winter Eastern Pacific conditions! We'll be taking the SOFT Pro to our Raja Ampat underwater photoworkshop so stay tuned!
This beautiful male scalyhead sculpin would have blended in with the background in the image if not for the isolating snoot effect of the Marelux SOFT Pro. This image was captured with the Marelux SOFT Pro, a Sea & Sea YS-D2J Strobe, the Canon EOS R7 in an Ikelite housing, and the Canon 100mm macro lens. f/13, 1/160, ISO 320
A Snoot to End all Snoots......And All Other Macro Tools
Attaching the SOFT Pro to Your Strobe
The Marelux SOFT Pro is the snoot to end all snoots. It is jam packed with features and there is no need to buy a dedicated flash to use with the snoot - the SOFT can attach to the strobe you already own. This means you'll be able to take snoot photos with a much quicker recycle time than a mini flash (and it ends up being more affordable too!). The SOFT Pro retails for only $499 and SOFT dock prices start at $99 and vary depending on model.
The SOFT dock (mount) is made specific to any model of strobe on the market. If you do not see a model listed on our product page, reach out to us and we will have one made for you. The dock features a quick release mount that allows you to detach the SOFT from your strobe underwater with the simple push of a button and a quarter turn. Likewise, it's as simple to attach the SOFT back onto the mount.
Dramatic lighting on greenling eggs in the early stages of development with the Marelux SOFT Pro
Marelux SOFT Pro Specifications
- Easy to install
- Adjustable beam width from 3mm to 50mm
- Built-in aiming light that can change between red and white - with adjustable brightness and an auto-off feature while shooting
- Beam focal length - 150mm (can be adjusted using the SOFT Pro Extension Lens)
- Uses single 18350 battery that can last up to 3 hours
- Built-in neoprene buoyancy collar
- Depth rated to 100m
- Weight on land: 790 grams
- Weight underwater: 210 grams
A female scalyhead sculpin with incredible detail brought out by the Marelux SOFT Pro. Photographed with the Canon EOS R7 in an Ikelite housing. f/14, 1/160, ISO 500
Marelux SOFT Pro Key Features
A Smaller Anodized Aluminum Build
The top improvement we wanted to see with the original Marelux SOFT was the size. Well, Marelux listened and the SOFT Pro is significantly smaller than it's predecessor, cutting out almost 200 grams in weight as well significant length as well! Underwater it is very light at 210 kg, making it easy to maneuver. We noticed the difference on our dive - it was easier on our clamps and very easy to aim during quick situations.
The SOFT is still rock solid, featuring a scratch-resistant anodized aluminum built that protects the optical lenses inside of the flash tube. On the aft edge the SOFT Pro, there is a built in diffuser that softens light as it comes out of the strobe before getting optically condensed for higher lux.
We also saw improvements to the mounting system with the SOFT dock. There's no need for a new dock if you already have the original SOFT. But we felt the quick release was a little smoother with the SOFT Pro.
An Optically Condensed, Adjustable Beam
The Marelux SOFT Pro uses internal optical lenses to condense light coming from your strobe, producing more lux (lumens per square meter) when it comes out the other end. This means you can keep your strobe at a lower power than you need to with other snoots, saving you battery life.
The beam itself has a focal length of 150mm, but you can use a SOFT Pro Extension lens to extend that length for harder to reach subjects.
Perhaps our favorite feature of the SOFT Pro is that this beam is entirely adjustable via a dial-controlled iris/aperture. You can adjust the beam width from 3mm to 50mm with a simple dial turn. There's no need for aperture cards used by other snoots!
A nudibranch rhinophore photographed with the Marelux SOFT Pro and a beam width of 50mm (wide aperture)
A nudibranch rhinophore photographed with the Marelux SOFT Pro and a beam width of about 25mm (medium aperture)
A nudibranch rhinophore photographed with the Marelux SOFT Pro and a beam width of 3mm (smallest aperture)
A New and Improved Aiming Light - with a Red and White Beam!
According to Marelux, the aiming light built into the SOFT Pro is the standout feature of the product. It's easy to see why. The aiming light shines through the exact same opening that your strobe light does when using the SOFT Pro. This means the aiming light highlighting the subject matches the exact beam that will be displayed in the image. It makes it extremely easy to line the SOFT Pro up with your subject and get a useable shot every time. When I first started snoot photography, only about 10-30% of my shots were keepers and the rest were black because legacy snoots don't have this feature. The SOFT Pro has bumped my success rate up to 80 or 90%!
I'd like to think the red aiming light was less disturbing to these tiny baby greenlings resting in their eggs
Marelux has equipped the SOFT Pro with a red beam to accompany the white aiming light available in the original SOFT. This allows you to sneak up on shy critters, may of which can't see red light. When you fire your strobe, the aiming light will automatically temporarily shut off so that it does not interfere with the light from your strobe.
The SOFT Pro has a smaller 18350 battery for the aiming light (not included) which provides a burn time of up to 3 hours. This is easily enough for a whole day of diving.
Finally, the aiming light on the SOFT Pro is much brighter than the original SOFT, which makes it easy to see during bright, sunny, tropical diving conditions.
Marelux SOFT Pro Accessories
Marelux has gone a step further with the SOFT Pro by creating a whole ecosystem of accessories that can be used with your strobe and the SOFT dock - expanding the artistic potential on a dive to infinite levels. These accessories attach to your strobe using the same quick release button, making it very easy to switch accessories in the middle of the dive. I was able to use all accessories featured here in a single dive by storing them in my pockets.
It's incredible the scope of creativity in my photos from just one dive - from colorful backlighting to soft, diffuse lighting from a dome diffuser to harsh snoot lighting with an optical extender.
The Marelux SOFT Pro Dome Diffuser
The Marelux SOFT Pro Dome Diffuser retails for only $30! It can be used on any strobe as long as you have the SOFT dock. Dome diffusers are a great way to "soften up" the beam coming from your underwater strobe. They tend to fill in shadows with light, making them less harsh. They also increase the beam angle of your strobe - which is great for underwater photographers only shooting with one strobe. And while they do increase the amount of backscatter in your photo slightly, they make backscatter smaller, which is easier to remove using masks in Adobe Lightroom.
During this dive we played around with a male scalyhead sculpin that was being very cooperative in his barnacle shell home. You can see in this photo that the dome diffuser helped soften up some of the bokeh in the background, creating a little more background separation in the shot. In many ways, using a dome diffuser gives you an "anti-snoot" look.
A photo captured using the Marelux SOFT Dome Diffuser & Sea & Sea YS-D2J Strobe
The Marelux SOFT Pro Flat Diffuser and Color Filter Kit
The Marelux SOFT Pro flat diffuser and color filter kit is a screaming deal at $60 for the full kit. The external slot snaps right into the SOFT dock on your strobe and allows you to add any color filter or diffuser you need. Because it works with any strobe, it opens up a wide possibility for all photographers to shoot niche macro photography like fluorescent photography (using the blue filter), and colorful backlighting. We played around with the purple and blue filters, ultimately deciding the the purple filter worked perfectly for the scalyhead sculpin when it came to backlighting.
Purple backlighting using the color filters allowed us to accentuate the purple coralline algae on this fish's barnacle home
The Marelux SOFT Pro Extension Lens
The SOFT Pro extension lens is like training wheels for your SOFT Pro, retailing at $58. It can be difficult to shoot with a snoot, even with the SOFT's nice aiming light. An extension lens extends the focal point of the beam, allowing you to snoot subjects from farther away. We used our extension lens on this nudibranch below, which was in a hard to access spot in the rocks.
A rainbow nudibranch (Dendronotus iris) photographed in the rough waters of the Pacific Northwest with the Marelux SOFT Pro, Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobe, and Canon EOS R7 in an Ikelite housing. f/16, 1/125, ISO-400
I said this about the original SOFT and I'll say this about the Marelux SOFT Pro - this is the most excited I've ever been about a macro tool for underwater photography. The SOFT Pro goes beyond making snoot photography easy. It introduces a whole ecosystem of macro accessories with a single easy-to-use, quick release mount that can be used with any strobe. Once you have the SOFT Pro and all it's accessories, there's really no other lighting tools you need for macro photography. After all, what more could you do with underwater macro photography? I have no doubt Marelux will answer that question in no time.
Another greenling egg perspective
Testing the Marelux SOFT Pro in Raja Ampat
February 2023 saw the first of this year's Bluewater Travel photoworkshops take place in Raja Ampat. With over 600 species of hard coral, 1700 species of fish, and small critters galore, this would be the ideal destination to take the Marelux SOFT Pro for a test. Conditions are often perfect for macro work, with little current and clean water, which helps when working close in and trying to align the subject with lens and snoot. But with subjects from nudibranch’s to arthropods or soft coral crabs to small anemone fish, opportunities were plentiful and the results below speak for themselves.