Review of underwater housings

Fantasea Line FG16 Housing Review

Brent Durand
Specs, Features, Accessories and Underwater Photos

 

Fantasea Line FG16 Housing Review


Specs, Features, Accessories and Underwater Photos

By Brent Durand with Settings & U/W Photos from Scott Gietler

 

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

The Fantasea Line FG16 is a versatile housing for Canon’s popular G16 camera, manufactured for function, style and durability. The G16 is the latest in a line of advanced compact cameras packed full of features. With full manual control, smart DSLR-like ergonomics, close minimum focus distance, RAW image capture, hotshoe mount and many other functions, the G16 has a reputation among underwater photographers for excellent macro performance.

Fantasea’s FG16 housing complements the G16, offering full functionality, ease-of-use, light and compact design, affordability and a wide range of accessories for underwater photography and video.

 

Specs

  • Depth rated to 60m/200 feet
  • Ergonomic design
  • Made from durable injection molded Polycarbonate
  • Full access to all camera controls & functions with clearly marked controls
  • Shock resistant
  • Double O-ring seal
  • Special mount for lighting accessories
  • Removable double fiber optic cable connection
  • Removable flash diffuser
  • Easy and secure installation of camera
  • Removable anti-glare hood for the LCD screen
  • Moisture Detector & Alarm
  • Dedicated video control button for easy video filming in any shooting mode
  • Compatible with a wide range of underwater photo accessories
  • Weight (with camera on land): 1.1 kg
  • Weight (with camera in 3.6% salt water): -0.3 kg
  • Dimensions (without accessories): 17 x 13 x 13.5 cm \ 6.7 x 5.11 x 5.4 inch (W x D x H)
  • Manufacturer's warranty included

 

 

In the Box

The Fantasea FG16 comes with all the accessories needed for a great kit, as well as the building blocks for a full rig with strobes, wet lenses and more.

-       Snap-on flash diffuser

-       Snap-on double fiber optic cable connector

-       LCD Hood

-       Neoprene hand strap/grip

-       Padded neoprene lens port cover

-       Extra o-ring, grease and removal tool

 

 

In the Lab

The FG16 housing looks stylish and functional right out of the box. The buttons/knobs are clearly labeled and placed in the same layout as on the G16 body. The front dial and exposure compensation dial each have a control knob on the housing. The zoom lever, camera mode dial (auto, manual, video, TV, AV, video, etc), and flash-up/down are easy to use. The video record button stands out for quick access when switching between photo & video modes.

 

 

The top of the housing has a cold shoe mount for attaching a ball mount and focus light, GoPro or other accessory. The built-in moisture detector and alarm provides confidence in the system when underwater. Opening and closing the housing is easy.

New underwater photographers will enjoy using the built-in flash diffuser for close-ups and snap-on RedEye filter for wide shots (which brings color and contrast back into u/w scenes), along with the neoprene handgrip.

More advanced shooters can pop on the dual fiber optic cable connector and mount the housing to Fantasea’s Blue Ray Tray and Flex Arm for use with video light and/or strobe. The snap-on EyeDaptor allows use of macro and wet lenses from Fantasea or other manufacturers.

 

 

 

In the Water

The Fantasea Line FG16 housing performs as advertised in the water. The clear labeling on the controls makes it easy to find and change settings. UWPG Publisher & Bluewater Photo owner Scott Gietler, took the Fantasea FG16 into the water for some testing with a variety of wet lenses, and as you can see, the results are great!

 

Canon G16 in Fantsea FG16 housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, manual strobe power. F6.3, 1/125, ISO 100.

 

Canon G16 in Fantasea FG16 housing with Bluewater +7 macro lens. F8, 1/1000, ISO 100.

 

 

Best Camera Settings

Scott Gietler’s recommendations are below:

For macro and super macro, I like to start at F8, 1/1000th, ISO 100. This does a good job of blocking out ambient light. For wide-angle, I’ll shoot at F6.3, 1/125th, ISO 100 – but these settings can change considerably depending on the ambient light available or if the sun is in the frame. We do recommend shooting at F6.3 – F8 when using a wide-angle lens for sharper corners.

AF-point zoom is a really nice feature when shooting macro. Turn it on in the shooting menu (3rd menu). It shows you a magnified zoom of the center when focusing.

I like shooting in RAW, auto white balance, spot focus mode, center weighted average metering, AF-assist beam off.

Further infomation can be found in the Bluewater Photo Canon G16 shooting guide.

 

Canon G16 in Fantasea FG16 housing with Bluewater G-series wide-angle lens F4, 1/125, ISO 100.

 

Conclusion

The Fantasea Line FG16 is a great underwater housing for the Canon G16. There is a lot of value for the price, making it a must-upgrade over Canon’s simple housing. There is room to grow as a photographer and add accessories as they’re needed.

 

For more information and to purchase an FG16 housing, visit Bluewater Photo Fantasea FG16 Housing.

 

 

About the Authors

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

Scott Gietler is publisher of the Underwater Photography Guide and owner of Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel. He enjoys helping others learn underwater photography online, in the store, and during international photo trips that he attends with his customers.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Housing Review: Nauticam NA-D7100

Brent Durand
Complete Review, Key Features & Benefits, Underwater Tests & More

 

Housing Review: Nauticam NA-D7100


Complete Review, Key Features & Benefits, Underwater Tests & More

By Brent Durand

 

Presented by:  LensProToGo.com

 

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

We’re continuing our series of in-depth housing reviews on the Underwater Photography Guide – this time diving with the Nauticam NA-D7100. The Nikon D7100 is one of the top choices for underwater photography and has proved very popular since its release in early 2013.  With 24.1 megapixels paired with Nikon’s DX-format CMOS sensor, the camera is fast and has great image quality. Check out our Nikon D7100 Review for detailed info on the camera.

 

 

NA-D7100 Housing Overview

Nauticam released the NA-D7100 on the heels of housings for the D600 and D800, incorporating their trademark engineering and ergonomic design into the build. The housing contains many of the features that separate new Nauticam housings from the competition, including a very simple and secure port locking latch system (*note that all housings in this category have differentiators).

The D7100 housing is supported by a wide range of ports, allowing flexibility in use of lenses for underwater still photography and video. Other Nauticam accessories are easy to add, including 45 and 180 degree viewfinders.

 

 

Key Features  

 

  • Sensitive Two-Stage Shutter Release
    • Easy to gauge half press. Gives fine control over shutter release
  • AE-L / AF-L Lever
    • Easy thumb focusing or thumb focus lock
  • Front Command Dial
    • Directly under shutter lever for easy aperture changes
  • Rear Command Dial
    • Change shutter speed with thumb
  • Multi Controller Pad
    • Instantly change focus points, even diagonal movement
  • Manual Zoom / Focus Knob
    • Zoom or focus with left hand on handle
  • ISO Paddle at Left Thumb
    • Access ISO control easily with thumb as well as zoom out during image review
  • Flash Pop Up & Push Down
  • Playback Button lever at Left Thumb
    • Effortlessly review images
  • Release Mode Dial
    • Quick access to shooting modes (ie continuous)
  • Info Button
    • Use right thumb to turn settings info on/off on LCD screen
  • Mode Dial
    • Switch between P, M and A modes easily
  • Trash, Menu, WB/?, Qual/+ Info Push Buttons
    • These buttons easy to reach with left thumb
  • Movie/Still Mode Lever
    • Easily preview 16:9 aspect ratio for movies
  • Live View
    • Easily push red live view button with right thumb
  • Start / Stop Video on Thumb Paddle
    • Paddle reduces camera shake when starting/stoping recording
  • AF-M Lever
    • Switch to manual focus mid-dive
  • Exposure Compensation on Right Thumb Lever
  • Metering Mode
    • Easily change meterting modes depending on conditions
  • Leak Detector
    • Dive confidently knowing the housing is water tight

 

 

Inside the NA-D7100.

 

In the Lab

  • The NA-D7100 feels great in the hands. The non-slip rubber handles are nice to hold without gloves. The first thing you notice is the full complement of thumb paddles, which provide easy access to frequently used camera functions like ISO and Playback on the left side and video record and AE-L / AF-L on the right. There is also a lower lever for toggling through info menus.

 

  • The front and rear control dials are low profile and spin easily to change aperture and shutter speed. The rear control dial requires slight repositioning of the right hand for the thumb to reach, but it’s not major.
  • A great feature is the multi-controller pad, which is used the same way as on the camera, allowing you to quickly change the autofocus point being used (if manually selecting AF points).
  • The Live View button is red, which is helpful since you need to activate it before shooting video with the D7100. From there you can start / stop video with the upper right thumb paddle.

 

 

  • The Nauticam D7100 does not have a TTL converter. The downsides are that you cannot shoot TTL and that rapid-fire shooting is limited by the recycle time of the D7100’s on-board flash. The positive is that there is no hotshoe adapter to plug in and remove when inserting / removing the camera body from the housing.
  • Lastly, the port lock system is excellent. Simply push in the grey button and pivot the red lever and then pop off the port. No twisting (or worrying about twisted o-rings) needed.

 

 

For additional insight, check out the video review of the NA-D7100 by Scott Gietler:

 

 

 

In the Water

I had a chance to take the Nauticam NA-D7100 out on two beach dives in Malibu this past weekend. 15ft visibility, sunshine and minimal surge provided some great macro shooting conditions. I shot the D7100 with 60mm macro lens inside the Macro Port 87. The port is designed for the Nikor 105mm, however the only downside to using it with the 60mm is the extra air between the front of the lens and front of the port (meaning you can’t get the lens as close to the subject).

The housing performed as expected underwater, and I was able to take advantage of the design features listed above while adjusting shutter speed, aperture, focal points, ISO, info menues, etc. Switching between still and video modes was intuitive. changing settings with 5.4 milimeter gloves also proved no problem.

The NA-D7100 was light in the water and I ended up using 4x of the large Stix floats to balance the rig (normally I use 6x for macro).

The only negative was opening the rear of the housing after each dive. The red buttons securing the housing back levers tend to get stuck and needed some extra work to get moving smoothly.

 

The NA-D7100 in the water. Back view.

 

The NA-D7100 in the water. Front view.

 

 

Yawning rockfish. Nikon D7100, Nikkor 60mm, NA-D7100 Housing with Port 87, Dual Strobes.

 

Fringehead. Nikon D7100, Nikkor 60mm, NA-D7100 Housing with Port 87, Dual Strobes.

 

 

Overall Performance

 

Pros

  • Lightweight, ergonomic design

  • Excellent port latch system

 

Cons

  • No TTL option

  • Red buttons used to open housing back should be maintained after every dive

 

 

The Bottom Line

The NA-D7100 is another great addition to Nauticam’s underwater housing lineup and a solid option for housing the Nikon D7100. The housing is easy to set up and to operate underwater for both photo and video, offering many accessories for custom configurations. For more information or to ask personal questions, visit Bluewater Photo’s Nauticam NA-D7100 housing page.

 

Blenny. Nikon D7100, Nikkor 60mm, NA-D7100 Housing with Port 87, Dual Strobes.

 

 

The Nikon D7100 & 60mm lens in this review were provided by LensProToGo.com.

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 Housing Review

Mike Bartick
MDX-D7100 Housing and D7100 Camera Review for Underwater Photography

 

Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 Housing Review

 

First in Industry: Built-in Optical TTL Converter

 

MDX-D7100 Housing & Nikon D7100 Camera Review
for Underwater Photography

Text and Photos By Mike Bartick
with additions by Brent Durand

 

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

After 5 years of solid and reliable use of my Nikon D300 and D300s camera & housing systems, I finally decided it was time for an upgrade. The new addition to the family would need to be a step up in capabilities and not just an increase in pixels. The choice wasn’t an easy one, as I have been holding out for the “New D400” or the next generation in the Prosumer Nikon camera lineup that isn’t full frame. My decision to purchase the D7100 over the other Nikon options was based purely on my needs as an underwater photographer, my shooting style and what would serve me the best.

Disclaimer: I purchased both camera and housing and am not being paid by either Nikon or Sea and Sea for this review and for those reasons I will be very candid in my findings. The topside capabilities of the D7100 have already been discussed in UWPG’s Nikon D7100 camera review, so I’ve focused on specific features used in underwater photography followed by the Sea & Sea housing review.

 

Part I:  Nikon D7100 Review for Underwater Photography

Part II:  Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 Review (click to jump to housing review)

 

Part I

D7100 Camera Specs at a Glance: 

  • Pixels: 24.1 Million megapixels
  • Image Sensor Size / Type: DX Format, CMOS Sensor @ 23.5mm x 15.6mm
  • ISO 100-6400 expandable to (ISO-25,600)
  • Media: 2 SD-Card slots for memory
  • Video capabilities: HD 1080 with live focus capabilities
  • Long battery life

More detailed camera specs are available in the D7100 camera review.

 

Field Testing the D7100

This review is conducted as a series of challenges based on the way I used my camera system during a 2-week period.

 

Challenge 1: Macro

My primary style of photography leans heavily on macro photography. I enjoy capturing smaller critters with vibrant backgrounds in a natural setting. Often times this means the background is drab, so I rely heavily on my lighting and f-stops to make the subjects jump out. I also don’t like to crop, which is the main motivation in selecting a smaller sensor.

Finding: The images shot with my 60mm macro lens and my Sigma 28-80 macro lens are all very color rich with a color depth increase from 22.5 (with D300) to 24.2 (D7100). Color depth (aka bit depth) describes the distinct colors represented by each pixel (bits per pixel). The quality of the images captured and the detail are very great overall. Noise begins to creep in when the images are greatly expanded but for media purposes or even large prints this is negligible.

 

Rich color and detail of two mating nudibranchs.

 

Challenge 2: Super Macro

These shots use a 105mm lens with +5 or +10 diopters, providing a magnification ratio greater than 1:1 with no cropping. The super macro challenge needs to be subjected to 2 separate factors:

  1. Ease of use, the mechanics of how I/others will use this system to capture super macro.
  2. Image quality

Ease of Use:  To capture images of the very small critters like Hairy shrimp, Popcorn shrimp, Skeleton shrimp etc., I use AE-Lock lever to “Focus Lock” and fire. Oftentimes I will also slip the camera into manual focus, rack out the lens and moving the camera back and forth to find sharp focus. All of these functions are accessible through levers on the Sea & Sea housing and I can access them without having to remove my hands from the system.

Image Quality: The vibrant colors, detail and contrast are the first things that I noticed once the images were on a large monitor. There has been some chatter on the Internet about diffraction at higher F-stops, but based on my findings the diffraction is a non-issue for underwater photo contests or publications.

 

Super Macro detail of a Caprellid.

 

Challenge 3:  Wide-Angle

Shooting wide angle is always a challenge for me. Backscatter is a constant, proper lighting is difficult to achieve and the list goes on. I have concentrated on landscape wide-angle images to see how this pixel packed sensor handles the colors and the noise from edge to edge.

Finding: The D7100’s CMOS sensor handles noise well in the strobe lit foreground but begins to show more noise as it transitions into the dark areas of the images. Sun balls are tight and easily controlled with very slight contrast banding seen in the jpeg images (RAW shooters can ignore this). Sharpness from the front of the image to the back remains fairly detailed with very little loss of information. For testing purposes, when shooting in low light without strobe flash at ISO 320, the photos became a little grainy when magnified at 100%.

Looking closely at the corals (100%) in the foreground will give the viewer some indication of the noise levels.

 

100% crop of foreground soft coral.

 

100% crop detail.

 

Beatiful reefscape color.

 

Challenge 4: Close Focus Wide-Angle

Oftentimes I shoot light-colored subjects in the foreground that often get blown out, lose contrast and lose detail. As a result, this requires close attention to the highlights in the foreground while capturing a wider angle of view and appropriate ambient light in the open water background. Naturally, photographers will use of higher F-stops and the D7100 steps up to the challenge.

Finding: CFWA was a breeze when shooting with the Tokina 10-17 lens. Using spot focus helped me to gain an edge as the bright background can distract the focus on other settings. The subtle details all come through well without losing any significant highlights. I was particularly pleased with the way the sunlight came through in the reefscape below. My guide recognized the photo opportunity, moved quickly into the sun and over me, allowing this shot to happen very quickly. The ergonomics of the D7100 and Sea & Sea housing allowed for quick settings adjustments during the fleeting moment.

 

CFWA with a light subject.

 

Challenge 5: Afternoon Light and Autofocus

Afternoon light underwater will put any camera’s autofocus to a real test. For this challenge I chose to photograph fast-moving flasher wrasse, which live over shallow broken rubble. Photographing one of these lovely creatures while flashing demanded 100% of my concentration and quick work with the camera and lens (the 105mm for shooting long). The dipping sun and long shadows of the afternoon suck the color away from the reefs, and these fussy fish shy away from modeling lights, creating challenging shooting conditions.

Finding: The D7100 performed well without a modeling light and lack of contrast. The autofocus on the 7100 is fast, (measurably faster than the D300) so I have been enjoying the challenge of shooting fast-moving subjects. One of the housing features of all Sea & Sea MDX housings is the AE-Lock lever controlled with the thumb. I use this to lock focus and to quick focus on fast moving subjects. There is also a 3D auto track feature on the D7100 that assists in tracking your subjects. I highly recommend using these features for fish photography, especially in low light.

 

Sharp focus on a fast-moving flasher wrasse.

 

Challenge 6: Night Dives

Focus light power (lumens) can play a significant role in how a camera functions at night, and I noticed a big improvement from the D300 to the D7100.  In the past I used my 60mm lens nearly exclusively on night dives primary for its fast focusing capability.

Finding: With the D7100, I decided to use the 105 to see how the camera / lens combo would focus at night. The D7100 rose to the occasion. Fast, sharp focus on small subjects is obtained when lit with a variety of focus lights (varying power in lumens). This is particularly important to me as it means no further investments in costly focus lights.

 

Fast focusing with the Nikkor 105mm at night.

 

Challenge 7: Fluoro Photography

Underwater fluoro (blue light) photography demands shooting at higher than normal ISO ranges (1600 and up) with an intense blue modeling light and filters. Digital noise control would be apparent right away, and shooting the photos through a range of settings would reveal how the D7100 functions in this challenge.

Finding: Pleasantly surprised at both the digital noise and as an extra bonus, the ability to use my 105mm lens with fluoro light. The noise control exceeds that of the D300 and 300s without any question, and the 105mm was easy to use at the higher ISOs.

 

Blue light detail of a mantis shrimp.

 

An anemone lit with blue light.

 

 

Video with the D7100 & MDX-D7100

(Video test contributed by UWPG editor Brent Durand)

The Nikon D7100 shoots HD video with full manual control. The camera must be set to Live View before video can be recorded. As with all DSLR video, using autofocus is not ideal since the contrast detect autofocus systems used in Live View are nowhere near as sophisticated as the phase detection systems used when shooting through the viewfinder. This is why serious videographers rely on manual focus.

The video below was shot handheld (no tripod for stabilization) using autofocus in order to test the autofocus system with the Nikkor 60mm lens.  

The D7100 performed well, and the Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 housing made it easy to focus by half depressing the shutter lever (to activate autofocus) before pressing the red video record lever.

 

MDX-D7100 Video Test - Handheld with Autofocus

 

D7100 Field test results

 

Pros:

I think that the Nikon D7100 is a definite upgrade from the D300 and the D300s. It outperformed my D300’s in several categories as listed above and even surprised me a bit. The most significant find for me is the D7100’s ability to quickly focus in low contrast situations and the overall performance in low light capabilities. The dynamic range for bright sunlight and ambient shooting along with the ease of handling large files are also a bonus.

 

Cons:

Digital Noise is my biggest concern with the D7100 and the images that it’s producing. I tend to look deep into the photos (pixel peeping) to find these flaws so that I can continually improve image composition and lighting on a frame-to-frame basis. With the megapixel-packed high performance D7100 the images tend to be a bit noisy, however the detail is also stunning. It’s a fair trade off in the long run and I have to say the image quality is at least 15-20% superior to that of the D300/s.

The overall images produced by the D7100 are inline with any high performance consumer grade camera. It will fill the need for any publication, print size or internet posts. The system is a value at the market price and leans heavily towards a professional grade system.

 

 

 

 

Part II

Housing Review:

Sea and Sea MDX-D7100

 

Sea & Sea housings have endured my special blend of abuse over the years. As an example, one of my D300 housings has bounced off of the hull of a moving boat without a catastrophic flood. This dependability and reliability made my choice to match the D7100 with a Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 housing a no brainer.

Sea & Sea housings are known for solid engineering, reliable manufacturing, excellent design and being well built. Sea & Sea has been a pioneer and leader in the industry for many years and has lived up to their great reputation once again in the MDX-D7100 housing. The design allows the user full control over the camera system without being over-engineered. The housing remains light and ergonomic even with the addition of some new features. Machined from aluminum, the housings are field-tested and tough with a low fail rate (barring human error).

 

MDX-D7100 Housing Specs

  • Fiber optic plugs-TTL compatible with YS-D1 strobes and YS 250 pros
  • Camera strobe pop-up and close button/lever
  • External Port lock/unlock for quick changing lenses-New feature
  • Info illumination button
  • Large LCD viewing window
  • F-stop knob
  • Shutter speed/command dial
  • Review lever
  • Video lever
  • Quick auto ISO
  • Visual leak detector
  • Audible Leak Detector

 

These main features are easily and naturally accessible for active shooting, and there are more passive functions also available at your fingertips.

 

  • CONSTRUCTION:  Body – corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy (machined)
  • DEPTH RATING:  100m / 330ft
  • DIMENSIONS (WxHxD): 341 x 192 x 136mm / 13.4 x 7.6 x 5.4 inches
  • WEIGHT: Approx 2,700g / 94.5oz (housing only)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Colorful reefscape.  Right: Vivid detail of a cuttlefish.

 

MDX-D7100 In the Lab

(In the Lab section contributed by UWPG editor Brent Durand)

 

New MDX-D7100 Features & Benefits

 

  • New Lens Lock release button and port lock allows you to change lenses/ports without removing camera from the housing.

 

  • Optional built-in Optical YS Converter/N converts camera’s TTL signal into a light signal. Easily switch between manual and TTL modes from outside the housing, with easy power level adjustments. Blue and green lights let the diver know which mode they are currently using.

 

  • Compatible with both VF180 1.2x and VF45 1.2x viewfinders.  Both viewfinders provide a 1.2x magnification ratio with full field of view.

 

  • New handle design is more travel-friendly, with threadless fixings to facilitate easy transportation, mounting and removal.

 

  • Built in leak sensor.

 

  • Multi selector designed and operated in the same way as the camera control.

 

  • Recording video is easy with the MDX-D7100. The Live View button is easy to access (if not already in Live View mode) and the red video lever is easy to press. For those shooting with autofocus - the shutter lever is a bit close to the video record lever, making it a little challenging to focus with the shutter lever while starting/stoping recording.

 

 

MDX-D7100 Impressions from the Water

Setting up the housing for use is a simple plug-and-play, and once the camera mount is in place at the base of the camera body, all that is left is port selection based on lens. The three most important controls for any underwater photographer are ISO, Shutter Speed and F-stop, and each of these three command dials are at your fingertips. I particularly like this fact, as I don’t need to go into the camera’s menus or make double use of any button/knobs for quick adaptive changes. This allows me to keep my hands on the camera and an eye in viewfinder. 

An unexpected bonus worth mentioning is the ability to use the camera’s on-board TTL instead of a TTL converter. When using sync cords in the past, a TTL converter was needed to fully control the strobe power (when shooting TTL), however this is no longer the case with fiber optic cables. I opted not to purchase Sea & Sea’s new TTL converter and am pleasantly surprised that I still have the option to shoot TTL if needed. Those that frequently shoot TTL would want to purchase the built-in converter, however.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

In summary I am very pleased with the overall function and performance of the camera and housing. I feel the camera is a definite upgrade from the D300/s cameras and the match of these two products (D7100 + MDX D7100 housing) form one perfect system that will surely endure my abuse for years to come.  Now get out there and have an adventure!

Special thanks to: Crystal Blue Resort and El Galleon Resort for their support during the diving portions of this review.

 

Selfie of the author / reviewer in the Philippines.

 

About the Author

Mike BartikMike Bartick is an avid and experienced scuba diver and Marine Wildlife Photographer. He has an insatiable love for nudibranchs, frogfish and other underwater critters, and is the official critter expert for the Underwater Photography Guide. Mike is also one of the UWPG trip leaders. See more of his work atwww.saltwaterphoto.com.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Aquatica A5D MkIII Housing Review

Brent Durand
Ergonomics, Proven Technology & Full Functionality in a Fantastic Housing

Aquatica A5D MkIII Housing Review


Ergonomics, Proven Technology & Full Functionality in a Fantastic Housing

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

Aquatica

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

The Aquatica A5D Mk III is an excellent housing option for Canon’s 5D Mark III camera. I’ve been using the housing for the past three months on Southern California beach, kayak and boat dives as well as trips to Northern California and La Paz.

The 5D Mark III is Canon’s flagship prosumer DSLR; boasting a full frame sensor, sophisticated AF system and high ISO performance among many other features. It’s also the best DSLR for shooting video, with a higher bit rate than competitors (note: keep an eye on Canon’s new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology introduced with the 70D). If you’re not familiar with the 5D Mark III, check out Todd Winner’s in-depth camera review.

 

Aquatica

 

Aquatica Housing Overview

The A5D Mk III is constructed with aircraft grade aluminum and premium stainless steel. It is anodized with Aquatica’s trademark military-grade powder coating, which serves to protect the housing against corrosion (along with included zinc anodes). Aquatica has a long history of making housings and blends this experience with industry-leading design that takes full advantage of the 5D Mark III’s features.

The A5D Mk III is supported by Aquatica’s wide range of ports and accessories, making it a great investment for divers who use a variety of lenses. This is particularly important for divers who want manual focus capability when shooting video on popular lenses.

The housing features 3 bulkheads for extreme versatility with accessories, including strobes, external monitor, triggering device and/or sound recording devices. The ergonomics have been optimized for both photo and video shooters. Examples include shifting the AF-ON and/or FE-lock buttons to a lever accessed by the right thumb (used for back button focus), angled menu buttons, oversized Set and Record buttons, and a new gear system to allow smooth zooming while shooting video.

 

Aquatica

 

Aquatica

 

SPECS

  • Machined from aircraft grade aluminum and premium stainless steel
  • Simple internal mechanics are proven and reliable
  • Excellent ergonomics optimized for photo and video shooting
  • 3 Bulkheads for versatility with accessories
  • Depth rated to 300ft/90m with optional upgrade to 425ft/130m
  • Wide range of lens and port options
  • Secure port lock system

 

Comparisons

The Aquatica A5D Mk III housing is designed with the “hard working professional in mind, who truly understands reliability in the field.” This is very apparent with the three bulkheads. No matter what direction your photography/videography takes you, the A5D Mk III is ready. The oversized zoom gear is extremely helpful for smooth zoom while shooting video, and all the oversized knobs feel excellent with 5mil gloves or bare fingers.

The A5D Mk III also allows you to change lenses and ports without taking the camera out of the housing, which is critical for fast lens changes out in the field (rocking dive boats, etc). The back plate latches are also very tough and do not get stuck.

Aquatica has tried to keep camera buttons in similar positions as on the camera body, however with ergonomic shifts for easy reach (like the AF-ON lever). As someone who shoots my camera on land as much as underwater, it makes for an easy transition between the camera and housing, even when shooting at night and operating the housing by touch alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Lab

Handling the A5D Mk III feels great. The camera is easy to insert and remove from the housing and the guide pins for mounting the back plate are very helpful. All buttons are easy to reach, yet not located where they’ll get bumped by accident (I have a habit of turning off my strobes every time I reposition them). Adjusting the control knobs is fast, easy and precise.

The zoom actuating pinion gear and lens release lever pull out to allow the camera/lens to easily be removed from the housing with zoom gear attached.

Aquatica’s port system feels extremely secure, especially with the port-lock system. As the manual indicates, it’s much easier to install the port when the housing back is open (due to air pressure). If the housing back is closed, it can be difficult to maintain the pressure needed to pivot the bayonet mount while also pushing the button to disengage the port-lock system. Port extensions feel nice and secure.

I use a diopter for supermacro, and the diopter adapter locks onto the macro port with ease.

The accessory mount on top of the housing (ball mount for focus light or GoPro) is a little close to the bulkhead when the sync cord is attached, but it's not an issue if you position the clamp a little bit sideways.

 

Aquatica

 

 

In the Water

My first dives with the A5D Mk III were in Mendocino, California. The housing ergonomics felt great with 5mil gloves and it was easy to change settings while shooting in manual. The housing is the slightest bit negative with the macro port and extension for the 100mm 2.8 L (with 6x Stix floats on my strobe arms). The 9.25” megadome had some float at the front, but that’s standard on any housing with large dome. Car wheel balancing weights could be a quick fix.

One of the first things I noticed was the need for the optional ISO lever (moving access to the ISO button to your right forefinger or thumb (yes, you can choose either)). Once added, I had fingertip access to all frequently used controls.

Aquatica

 

Best of all, the housing took abuse during a week of camping, diving and kayaking with minimal maintenance (not recommended) and has performed like new for the past three months with several dives a week. During the UWPG La Paz workshop I used the housing without gloves and it felt just as nice.

 

 

 

Pros

  • Tough & still in same weight class as others
  • Ability to change lenses and ports with camera inside housing
  • Oversized knobs for easy settings adjustments
  • Hassle-free back plate clamps
  • Aquatica ports support a huge range of lenses (including manual focus)
  • Great ergonomics for photo and video shooting

 

Cons

  • Can only fire strobes with sync cords (5D Mk3 has no pop-up flash)

 

Conclusion

Any 5D Mark 3 shooter in the market for an underwater housing needs to consider the Aquatica housing. All housings have some pros and cons depending on the photographer's style of shooting and needs and the Aquatica 5D Mk3 stands out in the ways described above. It’s an excellent housing that will keep even the most demanding photographers and videographers in the water.

 

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Fantasea's FG15 in the Lab & the Water

Brent Durand
Housing Review for Canon's G15: Ergonomics, Ease of Use & Excellent Photos!

Fantasea's FG15 in the Lab & the Water


Housing Review for Canon's G15: Ergonomics, Ease of Use & Excellent Photos!

By Brent Durand

 

Fantasea FG15

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

Canon’s G15 has been a top choice for compact shooters since its release, offering more manual functionality than other cameras in its class. As a Canon shooter, I can switch between the G15 and my DSLRs with minimal adaptation. The Canon G series has a reputation for excellent underwater macro images and isn’t too shabby for wide-angle either.

 

Fantasea FG15 Housing Overview

Fantasea’s FG15 housing sits between Canon’s G15 housing and housings twice the price. In other words, for a budget slightly above the Canon housing, G15 shooters can have access to full camera functionality and excellent housing ergonomics that the more expensive options provide.

The FG15 is a polycarbonate housing depth rated to 60m/200 feet. It has an elegant and functional design that provides access to full camera functionality with clearly labeled (individual) buttons and makes it simple to add and remove the camera from the housing. The housing also accommodates the most popular macro wet lenses as well as the Fantasea BigEye wide-angle wet lens.

 

Fantasea FG15

Top view of the FG15 housing. Note how the controls are labeled and the cold shoe mount for accessories like a focus light.

 

SPECS

  • Depth rated to 60m/200 feet
  • Ergonomic design
  • Made from durable injection molded Polycarbonate
  • Full access to all camera controls & functions with clearly marked controls
  • Shock resistant
  • Double O-ring seal
  • Special mount for lighting accessories
  • Removable double fiber optic cable connection
  • Removable flash diffuser
  • Easy and secure installation of camera
  • Removable anti-glare hood for the LCD screen
  • BONUS - Moisture Detector comes installed in every FG15 housing at no additional cost!
  • Dedicated video control button for easy video filming in any shooting mode
  • Compatible with a wide range of underwater photo accessories
  • Weight (with camera on land): 1.1 kg
  • Weight (with camera in 3.6% salt water): -0.3 kg
  • Dimensions (without accessories): 17 x 13 x 13.5 cm \ 6.7 x 5.11 x 5.4 inch (W x D x H)
  • Manufacturer's warranty included

 

Fantasea FG15

The leak detector is a great feature on the FG15. Notice the LED light just above the red wire, visible through the clear polycarbonate housing.

 

Comparison to Other Housings

The FG15’s polycarbonate body means that it is lighter than metal housing options. One of the big benefits to a compact camera rig is the small size, and the lightweight housing makes traveling a breeze. On the negative side, the FG15 is more buoyant in the water if used without a tray/arms and strobe.

The FG15 uses the same macro wet lenses as its competitors (through an adapter made by Fantasea) and has a great wide-angle solution with the BigEye lens. The BigEye isn’t as wide as some others underwater but delivers excellent value for the price.

Lastly, the FG15 has clearly labeled buttons that make it easy to change settings underwater. This is a great feature for those who don’t have every button memorized.

 

Fantasea FG15

Labels on each button make it easy to see use the camera controls.

 

In the Lab

My first impressions holding the FG15 were great. After playing with the camera for a few minutes it was easy to put in the housing and close it up. The clear polycarbonate makes it easy to check for possible contaminants (hair, sand, etc) on the o-ring prior to closing the housing back. The button placement on the housing was the same as on the camera, taking full advantage of the G15’s ergonomics and quick setting changes in manual mode. This includes the front command dial, which can be programmed for many functions, including manual white balance.

The latch is simple to use and very secure. The FG15 can be set up for the beginner with a flash diffuser that pops into place. For more advanced shooters, simply pop in the fiber optic cable adapter to use one or two strobes: no need to mess with strobe mask kits!

 

Fantasea FG15

The buttons on Fantasea's housing line up with the buttons on the G15 camera for easy operation.

 

Fantasea FG15

Photo of the pop-up flash diffuser, which snaps securely onto the housing, along with the fiber optic cable adapter.

 

Fantasea FG15

Close-up of the fiber optic cable adapter. Simply pop it up to remove if using the diffuser.

 

In the Water

I decided to test the FG15 on a beach dive in Malibu, CA. The vis was great and I was back and forth between shooting macro and wide-angle, a luxury DSLR shooters don’t have. The constant changing of settings was easy in the housing and I could even switch between the pop-up flash diffuser and the single strobe setup I paired with the housing (although one wouldn’t do this in “real life”). Focusing was quick for both styles of shooting.

 

Fantasea FG15

Single strobe and pop-up flash diffuser setup for my demo dive.

 

PROS

  • Great value for the price
  • Excellent ergonomics and clearly labeled buttons
  • Can be set up for both beginner and expert compact shooters
  • Leak detector brings peace of mind

 

CONS

  • Doesn’t work with UWL-04 wide-angle wet lens (a popular option for compacts)

 

Conclusion

The FG15 is a great housing, delivering nice value for the cost. It’s a great option for beginners shooting with the G15’s pop-up flash or for advanced shooters using one or two strobes.

If you'd like to learn more about the FG15, please call our partner store, Bluewater Photo. They dive the gear they sell.

 

Fantasea FG15

View inside the back of the FG15.

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer with a rapidly growing portfolio of unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook and Twitter for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Ikelite 5D Mark 3 Housing Review

Brent Durand
A Must-Read for Anyone Considering Housing a Canon 5D Mark 3

Ikelite 5D Mark III Housing Review


A Must-Read for Anyone Considering Housing a Canon 5D Mark 3

By Brent Durand

 

Sea Lions

Sea lions check out their dome port reflection on my 2nd dive with the Ikelite 5D Mark III Housing. Canon 5D Mk3, Tokina 10-17. Malibu, California.

 
SHARE THIS STORY

Ikelite is known for producing great housings for underwater photographers on a budget – whether compact or DSLR. I’ve been diving with an Ikelite 5D Mark 3 housing for about 9 months: beach dives, a warm-water trip, the occasional boat or kayak dive and even a few sessions in California surf. The housing has performed really well in these conditions for macro, wide-angle and split shots. If you're not familiar with the Canon 5D Mark 3, check out Todd Winner's camera review.

As with all housings, adjusting camera settings is much easier with bare fingers than with gloves, however I’ve found no problems twisting the Ikelite knobs with 3.2 or 5.4 mil gloves. The main control dial takes a little practice with thick gloves but soon becomes second nature.

 

Hermissenda Crassicornis nudibranch

Hermissenda crassicornis nudibranch. Canon 5D Mk3, Canon 100mm Macro, SubSee +10 diopter. Redondo Beach, California.

 

Basics

Attaching the camera to the Ikelite tray and opening/closing the housing is easy. The screw goes right into the camera's tripod socket and can be twisted by finger and then tightened with a wide flat screwdriver, coin or key. The latch system is very effective even when doused in sand. Changing lenses and ports with the camera in the housing is easy as well. The ports are attached with a 4-clasp system that is very sturdy underwater. I've used mine in breaking surf and rough beach entries over rocks with no problem (note: this is not recommended!). A benefit to Ikelite’s clear polycarbonate housing is that you can physically check the o-rings for any abnormalities after closing. Cleaning the o-ring grooves is very easy compared with other housings.

One of the negatives is that the housing doesn’t offer access to the joystick, which has two downsides. First, without access to the joystick you need to use the rear control wheel and main control dial to move the AF point around the frame, which is a slow process. Second, you cannot move around the screen when zoomed in during image review. This makes spotting backscatter on image sides or zooming in on non-center focal points tough.

For those using Ikelite strobes, the 5D Mark 3 housing offers full control of TTL exposure compensation via two buttons on the bottom right of the housing back – a really cool feature.

 

Ikelite 5D Mark 3 HousingIkelite 5D Mark 3 Housing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specs

- Access to all important camera functions
- Capable of electrical TTL strobe exposure
- Comfortable rubber grips
- Glass optical viewfinder enhanced for underwater
- Visible o-ring seals
- Corrosion-proof solid body
- Ports available for most popular lenses
- Lens zoom gears included with housing
- 200ft (60m) depth rating

 

In the Water

I’ve been using the 5D Mark 3 with three lenses: the Canon 100mm Macro F2.8, Tokina 10-17, and Canon 17-40. The macro lens fits in Ikelite’s affordable macro port (no additional adaptors needed) and I use both the fisheye and wide-angle lenses in the 8-inch acryllic dome, although with different port bases.

Shooting Macro:  The Ikelite 5D3 housing is great for shooting macro, both with the 100mm and with the 100mm plus a SubSee diopter and flip adaptor. One downside is that the strobes and arms are pulled in close to the housing, so sometimes when I’ve put myself in position for a shot I’ll need to drift up and away from the reef in order to reach around the strobe arms and twist the main control dial. This is the best way to avoid touching or damaging the reef if in a tight spot, but takes some extra time composing each frame. Higher-end housing controls are more ergonomic and this is a non-issue.

 

Melibe Nudibranch

Melibe Leonina nudibranch with oral hood flared. Canon 5D Mk3, Canon 100mm Macro. Malibu, California.

 

Shooting Wide-Angle: The Tokina 10-17 is hands-down the best fisheye lens for crop sensor cameras underwater and works very well on the 5D Mark 3 as long as focal length is kept between 15 and 17mm. I shoot the lens in Ikelite’s 8-inch dome and don’t bother with a zoom-ring, essentially creating a prime lens at 15 or 17mm (depending on anticipated subject). There are pros and cons to using an 8-inch dome vs. a 4-inch dome, but I chose the 8-inch because I shoot a lot of split-shots. The dome is slightly buoyant, however that’s an issue with any housing and acrylic 8-inch dome combo. Overall, the Ikelite housing works great for wide-angle and split shots.

 

Ikelite 5D Mark 3 Housing

 

Housing Maintenance

Maintenance is similar to every other underwater housing. It's ideal to soak the housing in water as soon as possible when exiting the water, as well as push all the buttons. I will also do warm water soaks without the camera in the housing in order to push the buttons in all the way and break up any salt buildup.

 

Pros

  • Great value for the price
  • Access to all important camera functions
  • O-rings & o-ring grooves very easy to clean and maintain
  • TTL functionality with Ikelite strobes
  • Easy switching of lenses/ports with camera in housing

 

Cons

  • No access to joystick on camera
  • Buttons require frequent maintenance to keep from sticking

 

Conclusion

This is a great housing for anyone wanting to house a 5D Mark 3 for about HALF the cost of any other housing. I enjoy the housing in every way (except for the few items I pointed out) and recommend it to anyone pursing great full frame images.

 

Barrel Sponge

Barrel sponge & diver at the UWPG Anilao photo workshop 2013. Canon 5D Mk3, Tokina 10-17.

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer, writer and adventurer with a rapidly growing portfolio of unique underwater and ocean lifestyle images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Recsea Canon G15 Housing & Macro Review

Amr Abdu-Majeed
Amr reviews the Recsea Canon G15 housing, G15 vs G12 and G15 Supermacro Capability

Recsea G15 Housing Review & Canon G15 Underwater Macro Review

 

By Amr Abdu-Majeed

April 28, 2013

recsea g15

Christmas Tree Worm, Canon G15, M mode, F8, ISO 100, 1/200, 2x Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes with
SubSee +5
 
SHARE THIS STORY

The Recsea G15 is a great housing and has many improvements over the previous G12 model.  The housing is made of high quality aluminum and comes with a big wheel in the rear which makes it easier to change settings like ISO, macro, manual focus and flash. The buttons are easy to press even when wearing gloves and do not get stuck.

 

Recsea Housing Improvements (G12 to G15)

In my opinion there are two major differences (improvements) between the Recsea G15 housing and the previous Recsea G12 housing:

1. The ISO wheel has been improved, which makes changing the ISO smoother than before.  It also fixes an issue with the Recsea G12 where if the ISO wheel is not pressed hard enough the Mode wheel will rotate with the ISO wheel, causing the camera mode to change.

2.  The Recsea G15 has a Record button (Red Button), which makes recording video quick and easy.  With the Recsea G12 you had to switch to video Mode through the Mode wheel.

A unique feature of the Recsea housing is that the port can be replaced by a fisheye lens like the UWL-04 fisheye.  For supermacro photography an adapter can be placed on the Recsea housing port to add macro wet lenses.

 

Recsea G15 Housing

Canon G15 Recsea housing with dual Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes (front view)

 

Recsea G15 Housing

Recsea G15 Housing (back view)

 

Canon G15 Improvements

I had a canon G12 for almost 3 years and the results I got from it were pretty good.  In my opinion, the thing that put the canon G12 at the top of the compact camera list for almost 2 years was the amazing macro capability with its 10MP.  I loved the sharpness in the pictures.  The Canon G15 has the same macro capability but with some major improvements.  It is smaller, focuses faster, is sharper, and the video quality has significantly improved since the G12.  Canon added the full HD 1080 video, along with faster focus during video shooting, improved white balance adjustment and a separate video recording button.

 

Recsea G15 Housing

M mode, F8, ISO 80, 1/400, Canon G15 , 2x Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes with Bluewater +7 and SubSee +5 stacked together

 

Shooting Supermacro with the G15

To achieve a supermacro shot with Canon G15 I recommend using a wet macro lens or two macro lenses stacked together for maximum magnification.  Common macro lenses (diopters) include the Bluewater +7, SubSee +5 and SubSee +10, which allow you to get closer to your subject and fill the picture frame with your subject, eliminating the need to crop photos.

Bluewater +7 Wet Lens:  This is a great lens that provides increased magnification and sharp details.  Because of the high-magnification, you must bring the lens close to the subject.

SubSee +5 Wet Lens:  This lens also delivers sharp image details, however at less magnification.  I've found that if you zoom the camera in all the way with the +5, the results will not be as nice as with the +7.  The front of the lens is further from the subject, allowing room for many creative strobe positions.

When you stack the 2 lenses together, the Depth of Field is very shallow, so remember to use a higher f-stop.  A focus light helps dramatically when stacking two wet lenses.  Shooting with two wet lenses takes some practice, and I would recommend new divers/photographers to practice with one wet lens before stacking two together.  Stacking 3 wet lenses together yields poor results - two is much better.

 

Recommended Settings

I recommend the following settings for shooting supermacro with Canon G15, along with one or two macro wet lenses.  If  you are using single or double strobes:

  • Flash always on (forced to fire)
  • Macro mode on
  • Digital Zoom standard
  • Servo AF on
  • Continuous AF on
  • F8
  • ISO 80-200
  • Shutter Speed 1/250 to 1/500
  • White Balance Auto
  • Zoom all the way in (even go with digital zoom 10x to 20x)

Note:  If you are not using strobes, use the same settings as above but with a lower f-stop - about F6.3.

 

Shooting Tips

1.  The photographer must be neutrally buoyant and keep the camera very steady in order to keep the subject in focus (especially with 1 or 2 wet lenses).

2.  Start with your aperture at F8 and play with shutter speed and ISO for a couple shots.  If the image still isn't light enough, reduce the aperture by 1/3 or 1/2 stops, which will bring in more light and help the camera focus faster.

3.  Try various compositions.  For macro, the subject often looks great in the center of the frame, however you can also frame the subject using the rule of thirds.

4.  I prefer to use the digital zoom in supermacro, which allows me to see exactly where my focus point is and to fill the frame.  The more you zoom, the more shaky the subject will be in the viewfinder, so remaining stable is key.

 

Recsea G15 Housing

Canon G15, M mode, F8, ISO 100, 1/320, Canon G15 , 2x Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes and 2 macro lenses together (Bluewater +7 and SubSee +5)

 

Recsea G15 Housing

Canon G15, M mode, F8, ISO 100, 1/320, 2x Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes, macro lens (Bluewater +7)

 

Recsea G15 Housing

Canon G15, M mode, F8, ISO 100, 1/320, 2x Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes (no macro lenses)

 

 

About the Author

Amr A. Abdul-Majeed was born in 1980, in Jeddah-Saudi Arabia to a Jordanian father and an Iraqi mother.  He graduated from Jordan University of Science and Technology in 2006 as a Telecommunications and Electronics engineer, and is currently works at the Consultant & Design Engineering office.  Amr became certified to dive in July 2009 and has been a PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Instructor since May 2011.  He lives in Jeddah, a coastal city on the Red Sea.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Acquapazza Sony RX100 Housing Review

Carolyn Wang
First impressions with the Aquapazza Sony RX100 Housing

Acquapazza Sony RX100 Housing Review

 First Impressions with the Aquapazza APSO-RX100

By: Carolyn Wang

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

It seems a bit ironic that while we strive to capture the deep, rich colors present in our oceans with our underwater photography, virtually all of the gear we use to do this is limited mostly to basic black or safe silver...functional, serious, and nondescript. 

In contrast, the first thing you will notice about the Acquapazza RX100 housing is the dazzling array of fourteen (!!) different color options, running the gamut from violet, red, bright yellow, blue, gray, bronze, green, silver, gold, orange, pink, turquoise and champagne, to your tried and true black.

If you’re looking for an inconspicuous camera housing that no one on the boat or at the resort will ever ask you about, the Acquapazza is not it. It’s not the basic tee shirt of your closet, but rather the statement piece: Attention-grabbing but elegant, and tailored to your personality. 

 

Acquapazza Housing Material and Build Quality:

But it’s not just about slick looks.  Hands on, you can immediately tell that Acquapazza put a lot of thought into the design.  Build quality is excellent with precise machining. The housing feels like a polished, finely tuned product.  The body is made of corrosion-resistant aluminum, the port is cut from glass, and the rear viewing window is made of polycarbonate.  All the external buttons and screws are made of stainless steel, and the internal gears are a combination of rubber and hardened plastic.  The housing seals with double o-rings and a secure locking mechanism. 

 

            

Photo Left:  Inside rear housing cover.  Gears and Button that actuate all controls on the back of the camera
Photo right:  Front dial for "wheel" control as well as the shutter lever

 

Acquapazza housing controls and Ergonomics:

I tested the Acquapazza during my recent trip to the Philippines, and it gave me full and accurate access to all of the buttons and front dial "wheel" control (pictured above), as well as the mode and rear control dials on the camera.  

The control dials were easy to grip and dial as needed, and there were no noticeable skips. The front and rear dials are identical, but the mode dial is designed so that a slight downward pressure on dial knob is required in order for it to engage. This helps prevent unintentional mode changes.

The rear buttons are made of stainless steel and are tiered in different heights to give you a tactile cue for which button you are pressing.  I was able to quickly and accurately use them during my test dives to modify my settings.  The buttons are placed relatively close together, and while I did not find this to be an issue, those who use thick gloves could find them a bit cramped without some practice to get a feel for the housing.  This is a consideration for nearly all compact camera housings as the tight button layout is typically driven by the incredibly small dimensions of the cameras themselves.  The buttons are labeled, though if this was done in a contrasting color I think it would help increase visibility for those new to the camera.  If you are using a camera with any sort of frequency, you tend to memorize the buttons anyway so this is not a concern with regular use.

The shutter is a lever style, which is a nice feature seen most often on dSLR housings.  It was amazingly accurate (one of the best I have used) and gives you the ability to half-depress the camera's shutter button effortlessly when you want to focus lock.  The movie button is protected by a half-crescent shaped piece of aluminum that shields it from accidental activation (seen in photo below), but is still accessible when you want to record.

This is definitely one of the smaller housings made for the RX100, and the front contour makes it easy to grasp if you want to use the camera alone for ambient light or onboard flash shots.

 

Photo:  Rear of housing showing the polycarbonate window and stainless buttons

 

Wet Lens Options:

The housing's standard port has a 67mm female thread, which allows it to accept all of the popular macro and wide-angle wet lenses.   I tested it with my 67mm Dyron +7 macro wet lens and the results were great!  Check out the RX100 wet lens comparison article to see how the camera performs with other lens options.

Wide-angle options include the UWL-04 fisheye (approx. 165 degrees, step-down ring required), WA-110 wide angle (approx. 110 degrees), and the Inon UWL-100 28M67.   As with all housing and wet lens combos, make sure to "burp" the lens once in the water to ensure there is no air trapped between the port glass and lens.  During testing, the wide-angle lenses did not vignette underwater though there was very slight vignetting topside (in air).

The Acquapazza housing also has an optional port that will accommodate 28LD mount lenses for those who prefer bayonet style mounting.

 

Ambon Scorpionfish, ISO 100, f11 1/640th, 1 Dyron +7 lens

 

Accessories

For my test dives, I configured it with a tray, dual handles, and either dual YS-D1 strobes or a ring flash. The housing comes with a strobe mask that is compatible with Sea&Sea style plugs and comes with a rubber bush plug if you have Inon-style fiber optic cables.

The housing has M6 and M10 female threads on top which allowed the easy addition of a 1” ball adapter which I used to attach my focus light or GoPro.  This provides great flexibility for a range of attachments and accessories, and felt more secure than the cold shoe mounts that are commonly seen on compact housings.

 

Housing Features:

  • Available in 14 different colors for those who prefer a more personal look (some colors only available by special order).
  • Standard double o-ring seal.  The o-rings feel very durable and are white, which was great when checking for dirt and debris.
  • The locking mechanism feels very secure and is easy to use.  Has to be pinched in order to open, preventing accidental disengagement of the latch while underwater.
  • Rear window has a ridge for optional monitor hood.
  • Strobe mask reflects upwards to help eliminate backscatter and reflection.
  • Projection style diffuser available as an accessory.
  • 67mm female threaded standard port. Optional 28LD port.
  • M6 and M10 female threads on top of the housing allow for numerous style adapters for strobes or focus lights.
  • Depth rated to 75 meters or approximately 160 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

Final Thoughts:

Acquapazza has created a very strong housing option for RX100 users.  Build quality and materials are excellent, and the ergonomics are very good for a compact camera, particularly the full and accurate access to controls - the standout being the dSLR style shutter lever.   Its diminutive size and weight are great for travel, and it easily accommodates the popular macro and wide-angle wet lenses for maximum flexibility to shoot whatever you encounter on a dive.  And, you can get all of these features in the unique color of your choice.  The Acquapazza RX100 is an attractive housing that offers impressive performance at a competitive price. 

 

Flamboyant cuttlefish ISO 100, F11, 1/500th, Dyron +7 lens

 

Sony rx-100, 1 x dryon macro wet lens and Athena ring flash.

 

About the Author

Carolyn WangCarolyn Wang is video game marketing executive, dive mistress and underwater photographer who can often be found in California waters while plotting for her next dive trip abroad.   She currently shoots with the Sony RX100 and dual YS-D1 strobes.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

Customer Review: Sony NEX 7 and Nauticam NA-NEX 7 Housing

Bill Pottinger
From Wide to Macro, Bill Pottinger gives a thorough evaluation of the Sony NEX-7 and Nauticam NA-NEX7 Housing

A Customer Review: Sony NEX-7 and Nauticam NA-NEX7

From Wide to Macro, Bill Pottinger gives an evaluation of the Sony NEX-7 and Nauticam NA-NEX7 Housing

Text and photos by Bill Pottinger

 

Shrimp shot with the NEX 7

NEX-7 and 30mm lens, F11, 1/60, ISO 100, Nauticam NA-NEX7 and macro port 45, 2 Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes, TTL control.  Glass Anemone Shrimp with eggs, Wakatobi, Indonesia

 

SHARE THIS STORY

I would like to share my experiences using my new Sony NEX-7 and Nauticam NA-NEX7 housing on my May 2012 Indonesia diving trip to Wakatobi and Bali (Pemuteran).    My comments will be confined to actual use of the equipment underwater.  I assume the reader has read more extensive reviews of the camera and housing elsewhere, and has made peace with the limited lens selection in the short term. 

 

Equipment Choices 

My priority in camera rig selection was to reduce equipment weight and bulk without compromising image quality.  I only used Sony’s fixed prime lenses (30mm macro and 16mm with 12mm ultra-wide converter), seeing no compelling reason for the 18-55mm zoom for my underwater work.  

NEX 7 Camera SetupAssembled rig without camera.  Single arm segments and 3" strobe adapters reduced weight and drag.  Maximum distance 

Equipment details: 

  • Purchase price (camera body, 2 lenses, housing, ports, arms, tray and handles, strobes, cables, camera backpack) $6,171
  • Topside assembled rig weight 8.5 lbs
  • Submerged weight less than ½ lb negative with buoyancy floats
  • Airline baggage weight including backpack, laptop, extra batteries and charger, hand tools, and 18-200mm lens for topside use,  22 lbs 

I chose two Sea and Sea YS-01 strobes on ULCS 5” arms (only one arm section per strobe) and a Nauticam tray and handles.   The small strobes and one-segment arms significantly reduce size, weight and drag, and are well suited for macro and CFWA photography.  However, I found that a more powerful strobe with wider beam width and additional 8" strobe arm segments are needed for wide angle reefscapes at distances over 6 feet, or for fisheye work where very wide angle illumination may be needed.

NEX 7 Camera and Housing in camera bag

Everything plus laptop fit in this Case Logic DCB-309 camera bag with room to spare

Otherwise, I never missed the extra length that adding 8” strobe arm segments would have provided.  The 5” arm length and 3” strobe adapter length achieved every strobe position I needed.  I tried the same setup with single 8” arms but could not position the strobes properly in some macro circumstances.  I really appreciated the reduced form factor that one arm segment per strobe presented when diving currents.  It was also smaller in the rinse tank, easier to port around topside, and helped reduce carry-on size and weight. 

Nembrotha Lineolata

Nembrotha Lineolata.  Example of NEX-7's high ISO performance.  30mm lens at F16, 1/60, ISO 1600, Pumeteran, Bali, Indonesia

Nauticam NA-NEX7 Housing

The Nauticam NA-NEX7 Housing size is small enough for easy one-handed operation.  I added Stix jumbo buoyancy floats to my strobe arms to achieve slightly negative buoyancy.  When released in open water, the rig retained its upright position and sank slowly enough that I never used a lanyard.  

Consider purchasing the hand strap instead of the second handle if opting for a single strobe setup.  The result will be an even smaller profile with no compromise in ergonomics, but one less grip for handing the camera to and from dive staff on board.  Note that this alternative may require two strobe arm segments for all lighting requirements, or an 8” arm and 3” strobe adapter mounted on the housing cold shoe. 

Reef shot with the NEX 7

NEX-7 and 16mm lens, F5.6@1/60, ISO 100, Nauticam NA-NEX7 and 100mm dome port, 2 Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes, manual control.  Wakatobi, Indonesia

The Nauticam tray and grip assembly is widely adjustable, which was essential for my small hands.  I definitely recommend the Flexitray over the Easitray for added customizability.  The Nauticam tray and grip design, machining and finish are all superb.  Every adjustment is secured by two set screws, and never slips.  I like the grip finger molds.  ULCS 15 degree clamps and arms worked perfectly with Nauticam handle ball ends. 

Blenny

White Spotted Combtooth Blenny.  NEX-7 and 30mm lens, F11, 1/60, ISO 200, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

 

Sony NEX-7 Camera Setting Accessibility

All primary camera settings are directly accessible with a knob or button, or are available from one click of the control wheel button.  Aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation are set by the top dials, and ISO is set with the control dial.  I customized the ”A” and “B” buttons to access flash compensation and shooting mode (though most of the time I shoot aperture priority), and the control wheel button (“C”) for white balance when shooting with ambient light.  Another button toggles between auto focus and manual focus with Sony’s very effective focus peaking feature. 

NEX-7 and 30mm lens, F16@1/60, ISO 100, Nauticam NA-NEX7 and macro port 45, 2 Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes, TTL control.  Tomato Anemonefish, Wakatobi, Indonesia

Because no manual focus ports were available for my lenses, I used the autofocus for initial focus settings.  I then switched to manual focus/peaking when needed, and moved the camera closer to or away from the subject to fine tune the focus point to precisely where I wanted it.  The peaking feature is readily visible for precise real-time focusing assistance, and it worked very well.   I worked most often at F8 or F11 and ISO 100 or 200 when shooting macro. 

Schooling Barracuda

Schooling Barracuda.  My twin Sea and SeaYS-01s and 5" strobe arms were able to handle this wide-angle shot without difficulty.  16mm lens, F5.6, 1/160, ISO 100, Wakatobi, Indonesia

 

Strobe Settings

TTL worked reliably for macro and close-in work.  For in-the-blue subjects I usually switched to manual strobe exposure settings.  YS-01’s controls are easy to operate in warm water diving conditions but might be challenging for larger hands in 5mm gloves in cold water.  For those regularly shooting using manual strobe, note that having flash compensation directly accessible on the housing allows turning the camera strobe intensity to a minimum (-3EVF) to conserve battery strength.  As noted below, I never exhausted a battery on my 3-dive days, but conserving battery strength can improve shot-to-shot times, which are delayed by the camera’s strobe recycle time. 

Pleurobranch

Pleurobranch.  This guy left no discernable trail in his wake as he crept along the sand.  Night dive, 30mm lens, F11, 1/60, ISO 100, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

I discovered a flare issue when using the wide-angle lens and port.  The on- board camera strobe strayed past the lens through the dome and lit the subject.  I reported this to Nauticam, and they are working on a more elegant solution than the lens barrel baffle I devised.  Check with them for details and status. 

Editor's Note: Nauticam is shipping a solution to the flare problem as we speak.

In the interest of weight savings and initial cost reduction, I used the YS-01’s aiming light as a poor man’s focus light on night dives and dark conditions.  Its auto shutoff at exposure works perfectly, preventing hot spots in the image.  It was an acceptable compromise since I had a second strobe available for top, side or back lighting.  However, I may add a dedicated focus light to the housing’s cold shoe.  Moreover, I came to really appreciate the aiming light for its intended purpose of fine-tuning the strobe’s direction and placement.  It takes the guesswork out of the initial setup, and has little apparent impact on battery drain (though I turned them off when not in use as a courtesy to my fellow divers).   

Frogfish

Frogfish, 30mm lens, F11, 1/60, ISO 200, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

 

NEX-7 Electronic View Finder

Although the NA-7 housing’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) window works well with the NEX-7 EVF, it obscures the upper left corner of the rear display when viewed from an overhead angle.  I think Nauticam should offer a plain back option with no EVF lens.  I never had reason to prefer the EVF to the rear display when underwater.  The rear display’s resolution, size and brightness are excellent, and quite sufficient for quickly evaluating exposure settings for subsequent adjustments. 

The housing accepts Nauticam’s pricey 45° EVF viewfinder attachment as a factory installed retrofit, providing a shooting position close to the ocean floor while still floating above the reef.  But you don’t need the existing EVF lens for that option since the entire glass backing is replaced.  In any event, if you use the camera’s EVF eye cup for topside photography as I do, you must temporarily remove it when placing the camera in the housing. 

Crab taken with the NEX 7

NEX-7 and 30mm lens, F11@1/60, ISO 400, Nauticam NA-NEX7 and macro port 45, 2 Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes, TTL control.  Decorator Crab at night, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia 

For cameras larger than compacts, housing designs use mounting shoes to position the camera in the housing with utmost precision and stability.  I learned how important it is to screw the camera on its tray very snugly to assure all controls properly engage. 

Anemone in Brittle Stars

Amenone in Brittle Stars, 2nd Place, macro category, SoCal Shootout.  "Anemone" is Greek for "daughter of the wind."  It took several exposures to catch the anemone's surging cnidae at just the right moment for symmetry.  16mm lens, F9, 1/60, ISO 160, Channel Islands, California, USA

 

Sony NEX-7 Batteries

As noted earlier, all camera body controls are accessible from the housing.  The camera lens and port can be quickly changed without removing the camera from the housing.  Swapping the battery requires taking the camera off its mounting shoe.  A fully charged camera battery easily lasted three dives, or over 200 flash exposures and a few videos.  I never came close to draining a battery. 

As for the YS-01 strobes, same story – I never drained the batteries to the point where refresh times became noticeably longer, even with frequent use of the aiming lights.  I started each diving day with freshly charged batteries in strobes and camera.  I never noticed any overheating from either camera or strobes. 

Chromodoria Magnifica

Chromodoris Magnifiica, 30mm lens, F11, 1/60, ISO 200, +.7 step, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

 

Sony 30mm Macro Lens

The 30mm macro requires small working distances for best detail.  I regularly worked a few inches from my subject.  However, the shorter lens improved depth of field and reduced camera shake for very sharp images.  Although these benefits help offset the challenges from the small working distance, I still look forward to when a longer macro lens and port are available. 

I’m very happy with the performance of my NEX-7 rig, and look forward to lots of great photography over the years. 

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse, 30mm lens, F10, 1/160, ISO 800

 

About the Author

Bill Pottinger HeadshotBill Pottinger lives in Berkeley, California.  He can be found diving the Monterey Coast and elsewhere with camera in tow.

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


RecSea Canon S95 Underwater Housing

Scott Gietler
Complete review of this high-end aluminum housing for the Canon S95

RecSea Canon S95 Underwater Housing

An underwater housing review

By Scott Gietler

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

I am not sure which I am more impressed with, the Recsea housing or the Canon S95 camera. Both are amazing feats of technology, with very few flaws. Aside from a full-fledged dSLR system, it's difficult to find a more potent combination underwater than the RecSea+ S95.

 

Recsea is a brand name of high-quality Japanese-made underwater housings, manufactured by the same people who make Seatool housings, and who also manufactured the FIX S90 housing.

This housing is a marvel of compact engineering. The Recsea + S5 results in one of the smallest housed cameras ever, just like the S90 + Fix housing did.

The Canon S95 adds 720p HD video to the Canon S90. It's a small, pocket size camera with a fast F2.0 lens, 28mm-105mm zoom range.

It has raw, a 10MB sensor, full manual controls, an excellent LCD, excellent image quality, and a zoom range that is not too long - in summary, an underwater photographer's dream camera - almost. It is not perfect, and we will cover the imperfections later on. More Canon S95 specs are here.

Recsea S95 underwater housing

Holding the Recsea S95 housing, you can't help but feel that this is the most perfect underwater housing ever made. The well-built locking mechanism means that you won't be accidently opening the housing, or partially closing it - it is either open or shut. The o-ring is easily removed, cleaned and replaced. Because of the single thin o-ring design, I recommend the o-ring is carefully inspected and cleaned often, and changed each year.

This housing is tiny - the Canon S95 fits perfectly inside. I can easily grasp my entire hand around it, and it is extremely light.

recsea canon s95 underwater housing

Improvements over the FIX CanonS90 housing

Although the name has changed, at first glance the Recsea S95 housing looks identical to its predecessor. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice careful improvement. The precise shutter release button has been made wider, to fit your finger more comfortably. The buttons seem to work more smoothly, and the rear control wheel is easier to turn. The LCD screen area is noticeably bigger, and the housing says Recsea instead of FIX. But for the most part, the housings are almost identical.

Recsea S95 housing

Full access to aperture and shutter speed rings

Unlike the Canon and Ikelite housings, the Recsea housing gives you complete control over the innovative Canon aperture and shutter control rings - a nice feature when shooting in full manual mode

Precise shutter control

The shutter control is a lever rather than a button and is located on the front right top of the housing. The lever offers tactile feel providing feedback for both full actuation and half press (to lock exposure and focus).The shutter release gives you precise control, meaning it's simple to lock focus with the Canon S95 before shooting, a nice feature when focus lag in compact cameras can be significant.

A mode dial that actually works

For some reason, housing manufacturers have trouble getting housings to properly rotate mode dials on cameras - dials that change between auto, video, program mode, aperture mode, etc. The mode dial works great on this housing - no doubt because it lifts up when you place the camera in the housing, and then you push it back down & rotate it to change modes. Don't forget to pull it back up in order to remove the camera from the housing.

canon s95 underwater housing

Perfectly made for fiber optics & TTL

The housing does not block the internal flash, although for close-up macro you'll need to use a diffuser, or zoom the lens in, to avoid the short port blocking the flash in the lower right corner of the photo.

The housing supports up to 4 fiber optic connections in 2 different styles, meaning getting almost any fiber optic cable to work should be seamless. The connections seem ready made for Sea & Sea or Inon fiber optic cables.

Installing a Sea & Sea fiber optic cable took only moments, and TTL with a Sea & Sea YS-01 strobe performed flawlessly in aperture priority mode.

Great wet lens support

The Recsea housing has native 44mm male threads, which gives the flexibility to support a range of wet lens mounts, from fisheye lenses all the way to different macro setups. Different adapters or step-up rings are often used with the various wet lens combinations. The Fisheye UWL-04, Dyron Fisheye, and Inon UFL-165AD fisheye are commonly used with this housing & camera. There will be future articles on various wet lens combinations.

Recsea makes some excellent flip-diopters for macro photography, including a 2-diopter flip lens and a 3-diopter flip lens.

For more details, see the review of the previous version of this housing - all of that still applies equally.

recsea s95 underwater housing review

Canon S95 vs Canon G11 /  G12

Because the Canon S95 has a smaller zoom range than the Canon G11 & G12, the port on the housing can be made shorter, allowing wet lenses to be attached. Most Canon housings that I know of require a port change to be made on land to attach wide angle lenses.

Downside of the Recsea / Canon S95 combination

I have yet to find a flaw with the Recsea housing, although small-fitting housings often fog up easily, so I'll have to be careful to use fresh desiccants with this housing.

The Canon S95, on the other hand, is not perfect. Its macro capability out of the box could be better: it has trouble properly focusing up close, especially when zoomed in. It's not known for a long battery life. And last, but not least, you will not get TTL in full manual mode - thank Canon for not giving you TTL in manual mode. The Sea & Sea DX-2G is better in these areas, making it a strong competitor in the high-end compact camera space.

The Recsea housing is sold in the USA at Bluewater Photo.

 

canon s95 underwater photo

Simnia snail. Canon S90, stacked Inon macro lenses. Photos from the S95 will look the same, it's basically the same camera. Expect the Recsea + S95 to go underwater soon!  It would have been this past weekend, but a storm came in. Images will be posted. Photo by Kalani Patterson

Further Reading

Canon S95 Underwater Settings

 

Syndicate content