Like the MDX Pro, I started with the 15mm fisheye with Magic Filters using the 8” acrylic dome port and the Hartenbergers 250TTLs, on the Liberty wreck.
My first dive turned out to be quite interesting as I discovered the ins and outs of the housing. With my eye 2.5” away from the viewfinder, I could align my eyes to see the AF points but not the data on the side. This is typical of standard viewfinders. I did not test the Aqua Viewfinder.
The standard viewfinder doesn’t allow full view so framing is difficult
I then switched to LCD monitor mode to see how the LCD window worked out. With the standard viewfinder, the housing blocks the top portion (about 8-10%) of the LCD screen. However, there is a small area of clear acrylic to see the red dot when recording in Video Mode, which is nice.
The LCD monitor is partially blocked by the design.
A caveat for those thinking of using the quick menu in INFO mode for shoot parameter changes, you can’t! You can get the information but all but without access to the Multi Controller, you have to select the function you want via the specific buttons on the camera and it will display on the LCD screen.
The controls are easily within reach and very easy to actuate, except for the shutter release control. I had difficulty feeling for the ½ shutter point and occasionally shot off frames while trying to get metering, scaring off my subject. In Video mode, I had a few cases of interrupted video sequences, because the camera stops recording video for 1 second while it takes the still picture. This was a used housing that I borrowed so it could’ve been out of tune.
Another control that seemed out of tune was the OFF setting of the power switch. I could turn on the camera without problems but often when I switched it off, it would not catch. I fixed that myself by adjusting the switch alignment. Every other control worked very well without fail.
Juvenile lionfish shot with 100mm 2.8 macro with 20mm extension tube and snoot
I had attempted to balance the housing with float arms to make it as near neutral as possible. The acrylic 8” port is a nice dome but being lightweight with such volume meant it caused the housing to be front light. The housings own weight exacerbated this issue. Using my divinylcell arms, I attempted to compensate for the volume and lack of weight in the front. I had to live with some front torque as I wanted to keep the housing negative neutral. To balance the housing, I finally positioned both strobes to rest on top of the dome port, which dramatically improved front-aft stability but made horizontal axis stability a bit more wobbly.
Shot with 15mm Fisheye with Magic Filter.
Using the Tokina 17mm ATX-Pro, I used a 18453 (28mm) extension ring which made the imbalance a tad worse. To my surprise, the dome port actually rotated slightly, because boat guy accidentally nudged the dome shade while passing the camera down. The extension ring is held in place by the port lock system, but connections after that unlocked. This happened several times over the 2 weeks, the dome port would by accidentally nudged and rotate out of position.
The bayonet mount from Aquatica requires a good push to insert, then the rotation takes very little effort. Removing the dome also requires a bit of effort. So the risk of the dome port popping off is not realistic. Still it is a bit disconcerting, especially under water.
Shot with 15mm Fisheye with Magic Filter and strobes.
When I switched to the Macro port, the 18453 extension and the 100mm Macro lens with 25mm extension tube, the balance improved. Shooting stills became easy but for video, a tripod is still necessary for close up work. I switched to the Inon 45° viewfinder with an adapter from Backscatter. This gave me a full view of the viewfinder and all the shot info as well. It also allowed me to set the housing down on the sand to shoot lower angles. With the Inon 45° viewfinder attached, the LCD monitor was even more obscured and required the line of sight to be more direct to view the LCD screen.
Rhinopia shot with 100mm 2.8 Macro and 20mm extension tube with snoot.
I realize it may seem like I’m not writing a lot about the Aquatica, but that’s because whatever issues I brought up are there and the rest of the time, it just worked.