BTS 2010 Coverage: [day 1] [day 2] [day 3]
Day 2 of Beneath the Sea was a whirlwind of activity on all fronts. The Wetpixel booth (#109) was crazy busy: subscriptions for Wetpixel Quarterly, boxed sets and t-shirts were flying across the counter all day, while I spent most of the day schmoozing with various equipment manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in an attempt to collect enough information for proper coverage of the show. Even though BTS is smaller than is DEMA, many brands of underwater photo and video gear are represented here, and it’s good to see familiar faces.
I started day two at Beneath the Sea 2010 at Olympus, where Andrew Bausk and Becky took me on a tour of their new PT-EP01 underwater housing for the Olympus PEN E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds camera. Every feature on the camera is accessible through the housing, including “RC control” of the strobe, which allows full strobe control from the camera’s menu. Olympus has a flat port available for the PT-EP01, but expects third party manufacturers to sell domes, wide-angle adapters and other accessories. The PT-EP01 should ship at the end of April.
At DivePhotoGuide, Jason Heller and young Matt Weiss showed me the relaunched DivePhotoGuide.com. The new system is really slick and has a lot of underlying infrastructure that allows nearly every aspect of their content to be linked up. For example, a new user review section allows users to both review equipment and see images taken with the equipment even if the images were uploaded to a different section of the site. Also, their pro galleries are a virtual treasure trove of images from professional underwater photographers all around the world. It’s well worth a visit.
I stopped by Dive Damai to see Alberto Reija and Anthony Rodhes. The MSY Damai and its upcoming sister ship, the MSY Damai II, are both luxury dive vessels in Indonesia that feature a lower passenger capacity (10 and 8, respectively). Wetpixel has charters on the Damai II during the end of 2011 and in 2012.
At Ikelite, Jean Brigham showed me their list of updated underwater housings. Ikelite houses nearly every digital camera out there, so I won’t even attempt to list them here for this update! Their compact video housings (e.g. JVC, Flip) are doing very well, and Ikelite has started distributing these housings through dive shops.
Juan Carlos at Aditech showed off an array of underwater video housings including the Mangrove MVHS-S, a housing for current Sony camcorders (electronic control) and MVHS-S-IR, which adds infrared menu access. There was also the impressively-bright Mangrove MVS-4L40, a 120°, 4050-lumen video light that uses 40W LED modules. The new light features a separate battery and light head, 2 power levels (100% and 60%) and NiMH batteries that power the lights for 2 hours at 100% and 4 hours at 60%. Aditech is working on a compact version that features integrated battery.
Reef Photo Video and Nauticam USA had an impressive line-up of housings, lights, and underwater photography and videography equipment on display. I noticed the Subal CD7 housing for Canon 7D, which has been redesigned for optimal ergonomics; it was really very comfortable under my hands. I noticed that the Subal CD7 has a dedicated, perfectly-placed lever for the camera’s LCD light. This may not be the most useful lever to have, but Reef Photo has a modification that allows ISO control via the lever, suddenly making it suddenly extremely useful! It may be the first SLR housing that offers one-hand access to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO — the exposure trifecta.
The full Nauticam lineup included a single sheet of paper with a CAD model preview of the upcoming underwater housing for the Canon Rebel T2i, which features a new locking system similar to the mechanism Seacam and Watershot use (a lever — no latches), and one-handed access to ISO, which will now be a button just a bit further out from the shutter release lever. Playback is now on a lever position near the left handle, just as it is on the Nikon D700 housing, and there is a new, dedicated lens release button. The lens release assembly lives on the quick release plate, which means that it will never interfere with focus or zoom gears like it does on most other housings. Sacrificial zinc inserts will now be included on the bottom of all housings. Nauticam hopes to include all of these ergonomic improvements on all future housings.
The FIX S90 is a tiny little housing by Fisheye for the Canon S90 with an option for a wetmate dome port / wide-angle adapter. A lot of my friends are now using their S90 as their pocket camera, and I’ve never heard anything bad about it, other than the fact that its video recording capabilities stop at 640x480.
Joe Bendahan at Aquatica showed me Aquatica’s improved HD WAVE housing, which now has support for the Sony HDR XR550v, CX550, XR520V/500, and more. The many Sony camcorder models confuse the hell out of me, so you should check with Aquatica if you are interested in specific compatibility. The HD WAVE is 100% mechanical, with full access to the menu via touchscreen push buttons. It is lighter in the water (“nearly neutral,” they say), has a built-in hydrophone, and has an option for a compact wide-angle lens that should have a 80-90° field of view. The new HD WAVE should be available in June.
Blake Stoughton and Jean Bruneau showed me Aquatica’s new port locks, which will lock any Aquatica port extension for $79. The port lock fits over a port extension and locks it to the port until it is released. I took video of Jean playing with the TLC tripod, and saw the new port adapters for Subal / Sea and Sea, and the tiny, 100mm dome port. That the new tripod will also work with any standard tripod legs that can have a Manfrotto head attached (pretty standard). The 100mm dome port works with 10.5mm fisheyes and with the Tokina 10-17 (with a small port extender). It has not yet been tested with 15mm fisheye lenses on full-frame cameras.
Newcomer Blaise Douros was at the Light & Motion booth showing underwater video lights along with Stingray G2, G2+, and Bluefin housings. In addition to the Sunray 1200 and 2000x, I was able to play with the new SOLA600 light, which is absolutely tiny and light (1/2 pound). It is completely sealed so it cannot flood, tests brighter than 600 lumens, has 3 power levels of white light and 1 power level of red light, and will burn for 75 minutes. I can’t wait to try a SOLA600 myself because it definitely sets a new record for performance over weight.
Terry and Dave Reid at Ultralight Control Systems had their booth mobbed by customers, which is the norm at every show. Their clamps and arms have become the standard for underwater photographers. They showed me a new handle and optional double ball mount for Ikelite’s popular compact video housings. It was a prototype and not yet anodized, but as I was standing there, a customer walked up and yelled, “That’s exactly what I need!”
The Backscatter boys, Jim Decker, Russ Sanoian and Sterling Zumbrunn (album coming soon!), were showing off their new hybrid port / adapter for the INON Underwater Micro Semi-Fisheye Relay Lens UFL-MR130 EFS60 (AKA “insect eye”). Currently, the adapter is compatible with Aquatica, Subal, and Ikelite housings, with Sea & Sea in the works. It doubles as a 60mm macro port (and has a 67mm thread on the front when used as one) and retails for $449.
Sterling highlighted the new Flex Arm Packages, which pair strobes with Locline arms and a bracket. The bracket and arm costs $79.
Eli Woolery, Abi Smigel and I went to the BTS evening film festival, in which MC Mike deGruy introduced a series of films culminating in honoring Dr. Phil Nuytten by giving him an enormous carving of his head and bust — in a Newtsuit, of course! The films shown included some incredible historical footage from 1924 of the first color underwater video ever, show by Jack Williamson (introduced by his daughter, “Little Captain,” who went underwater into the contraption when she was only 6 weeks old), excerpts from Sensational Seas Two, a beautiful shark film by a young guy whose name I can’t remember (it was true shark porn with a slight conservation bent), and a segment on deep sea exploration by Mike deGruy himself. In addition, Bret Gilliam gave a 15-minute version of a 3-minute speech in which he announced his generous donation of 1,250 copies of Diving Pioneers and Innovators to BTS film festival attendees. Bret really surprised me by calling me up onto the stage to be seen with a half-dozen of the world’s true diving pioneers. I was humbled, and looked pretty silly standing there in my fleece jacket and cargo pants; everyone else looked distinguished, as they were truly industry greats — in formal attire!
Then, I had a drink with Eli, Abi, Sterling, Carl Roessler, and some folks at the party who thought I was famous before retiring to our room to work on day 2’s show update. These days are way too long, but it’s worth it!