DEMA 2008: Seacam

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SEACAM #2843
October 23, 2008 - 4:00 PM

Harald Hordosch, Stephen Frink, Liz Johnson, and Charles “Chuckie” Luzier (of Canon USA) were at the Seacam booth. Harald and Stephen took Matt Segal and me on a tour of Seacam’s new underwater housing for the Nikon D3—a revolutionary jump in Seacam housings design.

Although the new D3 housing still has a distinct Seacam shape, it is the first large Seacam housing to be machined from a solid block of aluminum; previously, only the smaller SLR housing line from Seacam was machined, but now, all Seacam housings are. Harald says he has “smoothed out” the lines, but all Seacam housings have always looked pretty smooth to me.

The D3 features a new housing locking system that features an internal titanium latch, 60 Kg of spring force holding the housing together (at 1 atmosphere), and a button release that is easy to engage. Many housings simply hold the front and back of a housing together lightly. Seacam now holds the two pieces together with tremendous force, making it very difficult to flood the housing, even on the surface. They have tested the latch mechanism 300,000 times before having problems with it, and the internal latch design doubles as a registration point so the housing only closes one way.

The remote socket on the D3 now doubles as a USB interface for remote camera control via computer.

It also features improved ergonomics. Instead of just poking holes into the housing and putting control buttons where the holes appear, Harald pulled all the controls out toward the handles, making it easier to reach from shooting position. There is a new shutter lever, which falls right under the fingers and offers good haptic feedback when you attempt half shutter-button presses. There is also a new lens release lever so you don’t have go poking your smallest finger into the space between the housing and your lens in an attempt to reach the button on the camera.

The new D3 housing represents a new Seacam design philosophy, and all of the improvements and design elements in the D3 will be carried forward into future housing designs.

The Seacam Superdome has been updated with a larger bore size to accommodate thick lenses like the Nikon 14-24mm lens. Black flocking has been applied to the inside back surface to reduce reflections. The new Superdome also seals with two o-rings instead of one, which helps to keep sediment out of the inner o-ring. Finally, the new dome is good to 600’. The housings themselves have also been used in very deep water, but need to be retrofitted with stronger springs. And speaking of retrofits, you can send your current Superdome in to have it retrofitted with the larger bore size and black flocking.

Harald is working on underwater housings for both the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700; both should be available in Q1 2009.

The Seaflash 150, which was announced at the last DEMA, is now shipping. The Seaflash ships with a diffuser (which replaces the protective ring on the front when in use). Seacam will also be shipping a red light filter (which only covers the focus light) and a graduated neutral density filter (1-stop, rotating).

Finally, Seacam showed off the Power Handle, which is a remote interface that operates without the remote monitor unit (and only costs 1/2 as much).  The Power Handle a remote trigger to be mounted on it and serves as the wiring point to a housing and to VR goggles. Stephen Frink has chosen to use Eyetop glasses (a one-eye solution; don’t worry—we didn’t let Matt Segal get near the thing), and Seacam will provide an over-the-shoulder sling that holds the power supply and wiring. For safety, the remote sync cord is designed to detach easily so you won’t go flying off the boat when a shark steals your camera while you are pole-camming.

The Power Handle supports other glasses, and custom solutions are available.

Charles Luzier led me hold a Canon 5D Mark II production camera, which was exciting. I wasn’t allowed to put a compact flash card into it, but it was still fun to handle such a revolutionary product.