There were high expectations at DEMA for new video housing announcements, with the launch of the Sony HDR-FX7/HVR-V1 and Canon XH A1/G1. Only two manufacturers announced and showed a housing. So it was a slightly disappointing show for the bigger camcorders but not for the single sensor cameras like the Canon HV10, Sony HDR-SR1 and HDR-UX1, when at least 3 manufacturers showed working prototypes or production housings at DEMA. Here’s a roundup of the new housings announced at DEMA in alphabetical order:
Amphibico announced and showed two mock prototypes (as announced on Wetpixel in our DEMA preview); the new Endeavor FXV1 for the Sony HVR-V1 and HDR-FX7 and the Dive Buddy Evo II HD.
The Endeavor is similar to the Phenom housing in function, with a dome acrylic port and similar feature set like variable zoom speed (tele/wide), mode change and focus lock. What you won’t see on their website but has been promised by Amphibico is access to the 3 user assign buttons, a boon for those using picture profiles to customize knee, black stretch, black compress and other settings.
The new Endeavor CAD pic
The Dive Buddy Evo II HD for the Sony AVCHD camcorders (HDR-UX1 & SR1) features a new 3.5” LCD monitor back with a 10° upward facing angled view, which allows easier viewing by the camera operator than the flat monitor back. They claim to have improved the optics on the lens to account for the increased resolution of HD.
The Dive Buddy Evo II HD
Aquavideo displayed a prototype of the AVMC-FX7 housing for the HDR-FX7 and HVR-V1 . The PVC housing is cylinder shaped and features removable back and front clear acrylic plates. The mechanical housing has standard control features like power on/off, rec, tele/wide and AF. Additional controls for other functions can be added for a price. The housing uses a clear acrylic dome port and a Century Optic wide angle adapter lens.
The AVMC-FX7 with Century Optic WA adapter
Ikelite had on display the Sony HDR-SR1 (PN# 6038.90) and HDR-UX1 (PN#6038.11. The clear polycarbonate housing has been designed with a 67mm threaded front element to fit the new W-20 Wide Angle Lens(PN#6420). The lens also fits all threaded ports in the Ikelite line and is a full zoom through, with FOV equivalent to a 20mm lens.
They also had a housing for the Canon HV10 and Sony HDR-HC3, all compatible with the W-20 lens. With the clever mirror accessory attached to the housings, there is no need for an external monitor, which is good since you can also see the zebra patterns for better exposure control.
Ikelite HV10 housing with W-20 lens attached
Light & Motion were showing a new and improved BlueFin HC3 housing for the Sony HDR-HC3, with a glass side and control to allow the operator to see the LCD monitor of the camera and operate white balance controls via the LCD screen. This allows one touch white balance but only if you put the camera into P-Menu mode, which obscures the display picture. If you leave it in P-Mode, it does allow one touch manual white balance but the whole display is obscured and you have to look at the screen to see what you are doing. Of course, accessories like the Sunray lights and batteries will fit easily with the new housing.
The menu window has to be on to do one touch white balance
Sea & Sea showed the VX-S1/S2 housings which fit the HDR- HC3/UX1 (each with their own individual mounting plates(purchased as an accessory). The idea is that when the next generation of cameras come, all you need is to buy a new mounting plate and the housing can be used again. The ABS housing uses a flat port with the venerable Sony IR lanc controlled video grip is still standard. It also has a hydrophone.
The VX S1/S2 housings are in the front. The viewfinder of the S2.
Seatool from Japan showed 2 new mechanical housings, one for the Panasonic HVX200 and another for the Canon HV10 (a prototype). The all-aluminum HV10 design is interesting in that the camera is mounted from the side and there are 2 mounting plates, a flat mount and the other has a monitor window so the on camera LCD monitor can be used as a viewing monitor.
Seatool HV10 housing with monitor plate. The flat plate option is on the side
The HVX200 housing is lighter than other aluminum housings due to the polycarbonate construction. It uses a dome port optical system with a wide angle adapter from Century Optics . They plan a future version with a separate housing for a hard disk drive (like the firestore FS100) for longer recording times at DVC Pro HD and thus removing the reliance on the expensive P2 cards and the limited recording times those cards provide.
Seatool HVX200 housing
The video accessories often make or break a video housing. Important things like external monitors, lights and tripods make a good video housing great. HID and LED were the biggest lighting element at DEMA this year. And the demand for better viewing external monitors have increased with the advent of HD camcorders. Here is the roundup of the accessories shown at DEMA(in alphabetical order):
Brightstar HID had DarkBuster 21/24W torch which can be converted to a video with a video reflector. It uses Sanyo rechargeable Li-Ion batteries that come in 2 different sizes: 4400 or 5200mA. The light is useable in/out of water and has a color temp of approx 5600°K. It can be mounted on video housings with a YS adapter which replaces the handle. They also make the Dark Buster Junior, a 12W version of the Dark Buster.
From L to R: Darkbuster 21W, 24W and Darkbuster Jr
Dive Lights International, makers of the Niterider lighting systems was showing the HID Pro 80, essentially a pair of 2 Dual 10W lamp heads joined together. The assembly allows each dual lamp limited lateral movement, allowing the user to spread the beam pattern wider. However, with 4 bulbs illuminating at an offset, hot spots may be present. For harness users, the excellent blackwater battery pack slips nicely on the harness bands and allows the diver to carry the batteries, thus not upsetting the balance of the housing too much.
Tom Carroll with the Niterider Pro 80 HID and a close up of the quad bulb light head
Gates had the most desired accessory by wetpixel HD shooters at DEMA this year, which is the new higher resolution 16:9 monitors for HD housings. Their version was connected via the Canon XLH1 composite and component. The 4.3” (110mm), 392k resolution monitor is native 16:9 and PAL/NTSC compatible. It can also auto-select between HD 1080i or 720p signals. It is powered by 8 AA batteries and has a low battery sensor which tells the user when to change batteries. The 6 pin connector allows HD component (RGB) input, which showed a slightly noticeable different in picture quality over the composite input from the camera. Most HDV cameras have HDMI to RGB component wires which will allow for maximum quality.
Another innovative product from Gates is the new prototype tripod. Dubbed the “Orwell” by this author (for the resemblence to the alien invaders in War of the Worlds), the tripod is a wonderful piece of engineering. Each leg is extendable to 18” via 2 dials and the legs are connected to the baseplate by Ultralight connectors. There are mounts for integration with the Green Force lights and when unused, the legs can fold right under the plate. The wider baseplate allows for a cost-effective way of mounting legs to a housing. These legs can also be used on walls and as handles for moving the housing so it transcends its primary design as a tripod to become a stabilizing tool. However it isn’t perfect. It is still lightweight and the bottom of the legs are ball joints. Adding spiked feet (or even threaded feet) and a method of adding weight to the bottom of the legs would improve the design even more.
The Gates Tripod with housing and folded for travel
Gates/Green Force have a new 2x50W HID system featuring 55 or100 min battery packs which are designed to be integrated with their housings and the new tripod. The all-aluminum head has a diffuser which gives a 110° wide beam and brings the color temperature down to 3800°k, which gives a warmer hue versus the typical 5000°K + color temperature HID systems are known for. The battery pack is made of Delrin.
Gates/Green Force HID 50
Ikelite has their new Pro Video 3 lights with 55/100W halogens as before but new 4aH battery packs using NiMH batteries instead. This makes the pack more compact and the ability to even have a double pack for double life or a second light head.
Ikelite Pro Video 3 Lighting system with the double battery pack on the left and the single under the camera
Keldan, a swiss company had 2 video lights on display, the component (lamp and battery separated) Solaris Movie 24 and the integrated Luna 8 WA. The all aluminum construction is violet in color and features a dome diffuser with a 60° beam, which outputs 1000cd per light head with the diffuser on. The battery is an 8mA 14.4V NiMH pack.
Solaris Movie 24
The Luna 8 WA is a variable setting HID light, with 8 power levels ranging from 14-28W, which is unique. Most HID lights I’ve seen have 2 power levels, to have 8 does give a a certain flexibility in use. It has the same diffuser lens and aluminum construction but the battery is integrated and is Li-Ion vs niMH for the Solaris. At full 28W, the light is a cool 5200°K at 1100cd and can last for 100min.
The Luna 8 WA
Nuytco Research, a Canadian firm, was displaying their Newtlite 200W HMI light, which until now the only company which had one was Halcyon. This lamp head has a switchable power level between 120/200W hot dimmable. The 5600°K light lasts for 40 mins at 200W. The major advantage of HMI over HID is the color rendering index rating of HMI is over 90, whereas HID is usually in the low 70s. Which is why HMI is the chosen lighting source for lighting film sets. It isn’t cheap but having 11000 lumens in a relatively compact lamp head means you can light up wrecks with ease. Nuytco also makes 600 and 1200W versions. The battery uses NiMH batteries and has a magnetic switch for extra safety.
Newtlight 200W HMI light with battery pack
Patima was showing a 4” high resolution external monitor, but besides being 24bit 390k pixels resolution and 16:9 native, it can also play MP3, jpg and video files. It’s basically a housing for the Maxian T700 by Patima. It has a 30GB drive and supports almost all media files on the internet. Best of all, it allows composite video i/o so it can also function as a high resolution external monitor. This monitor is already impressive(albeit impractical) as a standalone underwater personal media player. To have a monitor that can play what you just shot(if your housing supports that feature) or the episodes you missed on Lost or even a movie during a long deco stop (it’s rated to 100m(330ft)) makes it special, especially with a MSRP of under $2000 for player and housing.
Michael Kim of Patima with the PMP T700 housing
Patima also had few lampheads on display. The most impressive of them all is the 35W HID light head PL-35HID. This very good looking lamp has a super wide 130°, 6000°K beam and is rated to 100m(330ft). The HID bulb is by Philips and it weighs a heavy 1.3kg(dry).
One other product from Patima which caught my interest was the Arm Type PLAS-PL40, an LED arm light designed as an integrated focus and backup light built into an arm for still shooters. With the slim construction, I would also use it as a modeling light for critters in holes etc, where the bigger lamp heads can’t fit. It uses 13(!) AAA batteries for a 4 hr burn time. It is an all-aluminum construct that comes in anodized silver or black.
Arm Type PLAS-PL40 light and buoyancy arm
Patima is the first lighting manufacturer I know of that uses Li-Ion Polymer batteries in their battery packs, now commonly found in laptop computer batteries and cellphones. The advantage of li-Ion polymer is that it packs much smaller than li-Ion. Hence you can get higher voltage battery packs in compact casings like the Battery Pack N and V types which are all aluminum machined constructions. This means a lighter battery pack with more power. But it is a bit more expensive compared to niMH batteries.
Sartek Industries was showing their new EBL20MRW 20W LED lights. This light has a 6000°K color temperature, 700 lumens beam that is produced even when the battery is nearly fully discharged due to the efficiency of the LED bulb. The modular design of the lamp head allows the user to choose different battery packs with the E/O wetplug design (such as the Niterider Blackwater) as well as Sarteks own PVC or acrylic enclosed battery packs, which includes li-Ion battery packs up to 31.2AH 11.4v capacities.
The EBL 20MRW LED light system
Sea & Sea displayed the LX33, a 33W halogen light that has built-in 5000mA li-Ion batteries that can be charged directly. There is a LED battery level indicator. The LX33 has a variable dimmer switch and has an 80° beam. The “color temperature enhancer” diffuser raises the color temperature from 3200°K to 4500°K.
Sea & Sea LX33. Rear pic shows the charging hole and battery indicator
Seatool had a housing for the remote control for the Sony cameras. I haven’t tried it but with a clear housing like the Ikelite or any housing with enough of an opening for the IR beam to get through, it’d be great for shooting shy critters bothered by regulator noise.
This year’s DEMA did not produce the housing frenzy that was DEMA last year with the launch of the housings for the HDV cameras from Sony, Panasonic and Canon, even though four new affordable HD camcorders were just announced and being sold around this time. Another thing was that almost all of the manufacturers were showing HD products exclusively. 2006 is the year of underwater HD camcorders, even if the latest cameras were not given due notice. However, that little setback did not make DEMA a dull place for the videographer. Gate’s innovatively versatile tripod, Patima’s PMP T700 housed personal media player/ external monitor and the LED arm light are three products that made me go back several times to examine them closely. As a wonderful lady always says to me, accessories make the outfit, but in this case, it’s the video rig.
As for my favorite accessory, I’ll have to give the nod to the Patima PMP T700 housing. It functions as a high resolution external monitor as you dive and then becomes a media player when you’re drying out. It has a GPS interface using Rousen navigation and even a built-in English-Korean dictionary. In a world where luggage space is limited and everything should have multiple uses, this little product just beats the others in multifunctionality and plain coolness (although the Gates tripod is ubercool as tripods go).
For more DEMA 2006 coverage, please check out the official Wetpixel DEMA 2006 coverage page.