A month ago I purchased a Hugyfot Nikon D70(s) housing as a follower to my much loved Hugy Atlan 81 for the Nikon F80. At the same time I also promised to write up a short review for Wetpixel on the the housing. Due to various other commitments and even some issues with the housing itself, it has taken it’s time.
The housing, as can be expected from Hugyfot/Greenforce is very well made by CNC machining out of a solid block of aluminium. The finish is satin dark grey, not painted but I suppose anodised. It feels very nice in the hand, but seems to scratch reasonably easily.
All the buttons and dials are in the right places and I can really say that this piece of kit really scores quite high on ergonomics. The shutter and both rear and front control wheels are where you’d expect them to be and I especially like the AF-AE lock lever to the top left of the housing. This falls just right under my thumb when holding the housing with the Hugy trademark neoprene strap. When using a second handle to the right, it does not work so well…
My only gripes about the handling are the missing Flash comp. button (Yeah, I know, shoot manual, blaa blaa blaa…) and the fact that the front control wheel requires almost a full turn to shift the exp. time by one stop (I use 1/3 stop increments and the speed to the front for consistency with my topside kit). The rear wheel works perfectly as does the focus control wheel itself. More on focusing later. The “digital” push-buttons are smooth, well labeled and easy to use evan with gloves on. They seem to be of quite soft material, though.
The viewfinder protrudes out of the back of the housing, but is not magnified to any great degree. Personally, I can see the entire image and even the exposure display at the bottom of the screen without noticing any inconvenience, but I can imagine that people with different eyesight/mask combinations may experience this differently.
Inside, the first thing that caught my eye was that the inside of this housing is bare metal, when the old Hugy housings had a soft black fabric. No biggie, that. The closure of the housing is through two bolts that fall nicely into place when aligning the pieces - which is very easy due to a machined lip in the front half. The main o-ring sits very securely outside this lip, although the one that came with my housing from the factory felt just slightly too long.
The leak detector battery as well as the optional Heinrichs-Weikamp iTTL chip are located to the left of the front part and still I can just about fit the USB cable to the camera without removing the camera from the tray. Fitting the camera into the tray is not a one-handed operation, but requires quite accurate alignment.
Now, When I first got the housing, I tried it with my trusty Tamron SP 90mm macro lens using my old Hugyfot focus gear. This was a very tight fit and practically unusable due to being very stiff to turn. After some emails exchanged with the factory they concluded that the measurements of the gears probably had changed when Greenforce took over the manufacture from Rene Hugenschmidt. Hugyfot promptly sent me a new style focus ring - a “universal” model since they did not have a ring available for this lens - but this was even worse. After a couple of nights of tweaking I finally concluded that the camera tray was misaligned inside the housing. After some shimming, the camera now sits straight in the middle and all the focus gears align as expected. Minor stuff, but very time consuming.
After a couple of dives on the housing I can say that underwater it performs very nicely. The housing itself is slightly negative with camera and a small dome, so some form of bouancy addition may be necessary with heavy strobes and arms. I dive almost exclusively with thick drygloves and even with these on, all the controls are totally usable. I have dived the housing with and without a hard handle to the right and even though the handle aids in mounting strobes and handling the housing, Hugy has clearly designed this housing to be used with the soft grip to the right. Which again is not a problem: The housing can be held from inside the hard handle by the excellent machined grip while shooting. This way, all the controls fall naturally into place.
Sizewise, this is indeed a small housing. The comparison with Hugyfot Atlan 81 for Nikon F80 shows that it is not much larger. I have not been able to compare with Subal D70 housing yet, but will post images when I get hold of one.
All in all, after the initial gripes I’m happy. I now have loads of ports and lenses to use with my D70s and I look forward to getting to some serious action with this setup. During the whole process, Hugyfot has been very helpful, if not always as fast on the email as I would have wanted. They even hand-delivered the housing for me to Brussels airport when my schedules for pickup changed for the umpteenth time.
Would I recommend this housing? Well, judging by my sample-of-one statistics if you do not mind the plastic domes, live within a walking distance from the factory or are willing to do some tweaking yourselves, this is a great piece of kit for the price. While the current manufacturer does not quite share Rene’s “everything is possible” attitude to ports and gears, they seem to be very committed to building quality housings for a modest amount of money.
Below is one image from m/s Coolaroo wreck here in Helsinki shot with this setup (Nikon D70s, 15mm Sigma FE, f2.8, 1/8 sec, ISO1600, natural light)