By David Haas - Photographer and Ikelite Dealer
The week of October 11-18, 2004 found me aboard the vessel Deep Blue in the Galapagos Islands . Ikelite had sent me a SLR-DC housing for the Canon Digital Rebel with their new eTTL circuit board to test. As of this writing the PC board has a new revision enabling it to work with Ikelite's DS125 and DS50 strobes plus most brand TTL strobes. (Check with Ikelite's site for latest information.) I used the back mounted controls to monitor and adjust eTTL light output and when shooting wide angle in manual mode was able to adjust strobe power from the housing controls eliminating the need to reach up and adjust strobe power. This proved very convenient for wide shooting or for those choosing to shoot manually even for macro.
I used a single Ikelite DS125 strobe for wide angle and macro shooting. With the eTTL circuitry it's necessary to set your strobe ON THE TTL SETTING as you will now control everything from the back buttons mounted below the camera tray which are the same reliable spring-loaded push buttons used for other controls. You need to use the newest Ikelite #4103.51 single or #4103.52 double cord to gain full use of the circuitry.
Power up and LEDs in eTTL mode
Once you turn your camera on and power up the strobe the circuitry knows there's an eTTL strobe connected, just as if you had a dedicated surface unit attached to the hot shoe. A YELLOW LED below the TTL label signifies you're shooting in TTL mode. The far right push buttons let you adjust flash output with a RED LED lighting up under the amount of EV adjustment you have selected. You have a little more adjustment towards the underexposure direction, which certainly makes sense.
Manual Power Adjustment
Holding both the left and right buttons down together switches the circuitry to MANUAL STROBE ADJUSTMENT. You HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE METER ON THE CAMERA IS DONE "TIMING OUT" before switching from eTTL to MANUAL mode. On the Canon Digital Rebel this was about 6-8 seconds. Once while trying to switch in a hurry (as the fish swam away anyway) the system "locked" and wouldn't leave eTTL mode. As instructed by the folks at Ikelite I simply turned the strobe off and on again and everything was fine.
Use in shooting
For fish and macro shooting the system worked very accurately. Even when some animals were over white sand the primary subject(s) weren't underexposed. I set the Digital Rebel in manual mode, set a shutter speed of 1/125-1/200 and then picked an f-stop based on how close I was shooting. The eTTL freed me to compose and let the strobe and camera control flash output. Shooting wide angle I simply would hold down both buttons and the YELLOW LED under the M label told me I was now in manual mode. I could adjust the EV output from full power down to 1/8 power in 1/2-stop increments.
Ikelite's Canon eTTL circuitry works well and I found it a real convenience to control the strobes from the housing back versus reaching up to the strobe head. By cracking Canon's eTTL code first Ikelite housings offer a great tool to underwater shooters combining TTL advantages with simpler manual lighting control. Ikelite almost has completed circuitry for Canon's eTTL II; present on the newest Canon 20D and Nikon's iTTL for the D70 will be right behind. The Canon Digital Rebel housing is currently offered with or without eTTL. Check the Ikelite web site (www.ikelite.com) for the most current updates.
Haas Photography Inc.
More sample photos submitted by Dave Haas, including some interesting wide angle exposures: