Beneath The Sea (B.T.S.), billed as the largest consumer Scuba and Dive Travel Show in America, set up once again at the Meadowlands Exposition Center this past weekend. And once again divers in the North East were treated to seeing hundreds of booths tailored to their passion.
If you have not attended B.T.S. before, you will find anything you can possibly think of at the show, from information about live aboard holidays worldwide, dive safety information or the newest regulators and fins.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There are some things about underwater photography and video. I guess that is to be expected since B.T.S. has been running an underwater photography and video competition for many years.
Speaking of the underwater competitions, when I first entered the floor I saw Robert Schrager who is one of the people who puts this altogether. I had not seen the winning images or video yet and asked him which way to go. He gave me a smile and said I HAD to see what was done for the images this year. In the past prints of the winners were made and hung up for viewing. This year BTS took it further and had monitors which made things really “pop.”
I then started going around the booths. I did a quick walk up and down the aisles to get a sense of who and where everyone was, then started going around with an eye to what new toys may be out there. With the recent rounds of new camera releases (the Nikon D4, Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III) I kept an eye out for anything that may be coming around for them.
I first stopped by at the Equinox booth, and they introduced me to their XTC cameras, the video camera in the Go-Pro size range. Though they have been out for a bit now, it was the first time I got some hands on time with them
There are 3 models, an SD Model ($99), a 720p Model ($169) and a 1080p Model ($249) The 1080p model can also be shot in 720p and SD mode via a switch. They have a five-hour battery life, can hold cards up to 32 Gigs in size and are depth rated to 130 feet. They also have a 127-degree FOV and include the housing as standard.
A second product from Equinox that caught my eye was the new Equinox HD5 housing, which is designed for smaller cameras, such as the Panasonic HDC-TM900. This all-manual control housing comes in at under 10 lbs, and includes an LCD screen, a red filter and a diopter all at a price of $1,350.
Equinox also has a general surf type housing, the R-Cam that appeared pretty rugged and costs $200. With a depth rating of 30 feet, it is a nice option for some general shooting without breaking the bank or sacrificing a bit of toughness.
Next up was Aquatica. Though there was nothing really new out, it was because they were busily trying to get the housings for the Nikon D4, Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III and RED all finalized. These offerings should be out by the summer.
Next I wandered over to the Backscatter Booth and had a chance to speak with Jim Decker, one of their UW video gurus, for a bit. I should have walked away. Jim had a Canon 5D Mark III at the booth and he let me play with it for a bit. I had not really thought about upgrading my Canon 5D Mark II that much (okay, maybe just a bit) until I actually used the Canon 5D Mark III for about two seconds. The responsiveness was great. Of course I did not have a chance to put it through many paces, but the first impression is I gotta go out and give a serious look. Jim also mentioned the codec is a lot easier to edit in Final Cut than the 5D Mark II.
Jim also showed me the new Backscatter housing for the Go Pro. The housing was a hot seller and it took until the end of January for them to catch up with demand. The housing allows for sharper focus and there is no vignetting topside or underwater. It features a 55mm thread for close up lenses and other items and there is a detachable red filter available, which again does not vignette. The housing is rated to 180 feet and costs $119. The filter runs $39 and there also is a tray with handle for $39. Jim showed me some footage from the set up on the large monitor in the booth, and it looked pretty darned good for such a small package at a great price point.
Next up was Reef Photo and I had a chance to speak for a brief moment with Ryan before we both had to head off. Then I began a game of tag with Chris Parsons. Each time I came to the booth, a customer would come up and I told him I would catch him later. Finally the timing was right and he had some information. The Nauticam D4 housing prototype is shipping April 6th with the Nauticam D800 shipping in April also. The Nauticam 5D Mark III will be shipping by May. Pricing for the D4 has not been fully set, but the D800 and 5D Mark III will be around $3,600.
I was able to sneak a peak at the drawings from an unnamed source that showed me the three housings. I would also post the 5D Mark III image, but my flash went off and I did not want to reveal my source or the location of our meeting. Though I guess it sort of looks like the Reef Photo Booth somewhat (and kind of like Chris).
Chris (who is not the secret source, for the record) also discussed the Nauticam NA-NEX7. The base configuration allows a user to switch between the viewfinder and LCD by a flick of a switch. There plastic part on the back can also be replaced with an upgrade, which allows the attachment of optional magnifying viewfinders.
Nauticam also has the NA-GX1 housing coming out on April 1st. This housing is the lowest cost Micro 4/3rds housing released to date.
Wandering around the aisles a bit more I came across the Light and Motion booth and some of the new releases in the Sola Line, including the 2000 Lumen video light.
This pint size lights pack a lot of power and are a great addition to a rig if you are looking for something that is highly portable. In fact I purchased one of the earlier models last year at the show when I ran into Scott Geitler from Blue Water Photo, as the show was about to close, as a last minute impulse purchase. Turns out Scott was there again this year and I ALMOST did it again, but put my credit card back into the wallet.
He was there with his line of the portable Recsea Mirrorless Housings, among other items, including a rather powerful UV light. Kelli from Blue Water also had some nice examples of what the set-ups could do at the booth.
Earlier on I had seen Matt Weiss from DPG briefly, but did not get a chance to speak with him and say hello. So with a little help from Ryan from Reef Photo I eventually found the booth. I was looking for the beloved turtle and missed the forest through the trees and Matt, Keri Wilk and Joe Tepper manned the DPG booth with a large cover of the first issue of through the lens Scuba Diver.
And like last year the booths set up to help others impressed me. Diveheart has now set up their first regional entity in the Northern N.J. area and the Wounded Warriors Project was also there. Both bring Scuba Diving to those with disabilities and to help rehabilitate people with injuries
There were many conservation groups there, including Sea Shepherd. They had numerous t-shirts and other things on sale to support their cause. Unfortunately they did not have the only thing I really wanted – an autographed poster of Eric Cheng appearing in Whale Wars. Fortunatley, that was the only disappointment I had during my time at BTS and look forward to going again next year.