Report: ADEX Show 2016

ADEX 2016 by Drew Wong

Asia Dive Expo is the biggest dive show in Asia and in 2016, it has hit just under 58,000 visitors, an amazing achievement considering the relatively small population of Singapore. This year the speaker roll was impressive with the likes of our own Master Class photographer, Alex Mustard, Laurent Ballesta, Kurt Amsler and many more.

With such dignitaries in the underwater imagery world and fast growing, one would think the imagery equipment manufacturers would have a strong showing. 2 housing manufacturers had their own stalls, while a few manufacturers were represented by their local dealers with the latest new top cameras, except for the Red Weapon housing

ScubaCam (dealer)

As usual, Wetpixel party cohort David Cheung of Scuba Cam was my first stop for the goodies tour. As expected, there were new toys big and small, including the Gates C300 Mk II housing for the Canon C300 Mk II, which has been the underwater darling due to its gorgeously accurate colors from the sensor for underwater use.

The Gates C300 Mk II housing with the EM50 monitor

The housing is typical Gates fare, with full mechanical controls and standard steel latches, and removable grips and large white mark dials for focus and/or zoom (depending on lens choice).

The left side of C300MkII

The right side of the C300MkII housing

The inside is also the familiar Gates simple and clean mechanical dials and gears with 3G HD-SDI the only electronic interface.

The clean interior of the C300MkII

A few people commented about Gates and how they still used steel latches and haven’t really innovated. I think that is the point of Gates’ formula. Over the years, they’ve added things that had functional use, like the Gates Seal Check and dials with white lining for markings for precise follow focus etc, things professionals need, because they consult with professionals on what is important. The old philosophy of “don’t fix what isn’t broken” may seem unexciting to the gear head but reliable, field serviceable gear is something most professionals would never balk at, even at the price of constant innovation.

Scubacam is also the Singapore dealer for Aquatica, the Canadian housing manufacturing. Aquatica’s latest housing is the A7rII, the new darling of mirror cameras, because like the old Canon 1D MkII series, you can fit cameras with 3 different sensors into the same housing. The A7rII Pro housing can also house A7II and A7sII, so one can choose the high resolution of the A7rII or the low noise performance A7sII for example.

The Aquatica A7rII Pro Housing, proudly made in Canada

The housing comes with the Aquatica 90m or 130m depth FOC option, and fiberoptic connectors (with optional Ikelite or Nikonos connectors), with additional ports for hydrophone and monitor feed all in that tough texture aluminum which we all know.

The top of the Aquatica A7rII Pro Housing, Note the C1 lever

The housing features almost all controls on the camera body, resulting in a very crowded rear bulkhead. The 2 most noticeable features are the long actuators for SET and C1 buttons.

The rear of the Aquatica housing. The SET lever is prominent

I am accustomed to the robust nature of my Aquatica housing and with that SET lever being so big and protruding from the housing, it would mean it needs a bit more care in handling. I certainly wouldn’t pack it the same way I do with my older 5D MkIII housing, with junk tossed on top, in fear it would damage the C1 lever. In my opinion, it marks a departure from the usual design that Aquatica is known for.

Interior of rear bulkhead of Aquatica A7II housing

To juxtapose the Aquatica A7II housing, I’ll compare it to the new Seacam housing here, even though Seacam had its own booth After all, Scubacam is a Seacam dealer and the new offering at the show from Seacam is the completely new Compact range, beginning with the new A7II housing.


The Seacam Compact A7II housing front inside

As with the design philosophy of Harald Hordosch, the Seacam approach is different to other housing companies. The compact series, starting with the new A7II, follows the Prelude range design whereby not all camera buttons have direct corresponding buttons on the housing, and only the top of the line Silver range has full functionality built in. Some of the “missing” functions can be bypassed by assign them functions to the custom function buttons like C3 and C4. However, with only 2 directions on the rear dial, there will be a bit of button pressing to cycle round menus and features.

The rear with the 30° tilt window and shade built into the rear bulkhead

Still, Seacam hasn’t skimped on design or build. This housing still has the typical high quality build and clean design that is Seacam’s philosophy, including Helicoil threads and certified alloys. The new integrated window shade and 30° tilt is interesting, but without a proper test, I can’t say how effective it is in strong sunlight. Seacam will also offer optical flash triggers with this housing. Well, you’ll also have to wait for the 2nd production run since every one of the A7II housings are now sold. Seacam will also be releasing the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X Mk II housings in the 2nd half of 2016.

From the deliberate pace of the small Austrian design house to the frenetic paced big engineer and market share leader of Nauticam, where housings are somehow ready within a few weeks of a new camera announcement, indeed sometimes even before the camera they house is available, like the new 1DxMarkII. The new Canon flagship is slightly changed in dimensions so it’s no surprise that the old housing will fit it, but has a big change with the Movie button. Like the lower range EOS line, there is now a switch to go between Movie and Stills mode.

As you can see from the image below, the seemingly tranquil outside rear of the housing matches the stealthy good performance of the 1D X MkII, which quietly improved fps, AF and even has a limited diffraction correction built-in Digital Lens Optimizer. In fact, quite a few of the images in this coverage were taken by a 1D X MkII, and I wish I didn’t try it! It’s really good!

The NA-1DX Mk II with the Canon 1D X Mk II, neither of which are in the market yet!

However, underneath that smooth exterior is an intricate web of control arms and gears which give the rear joystick and and other functions of the camera.

The intricate control design of the NA-1DXMKII

The NA-1DXMkII is the only housing currently avaialable and will be shipping around the same time as the 1DX Mk II will be released. It is Nauticam’s impressive speed in producing housings as new marquee models come out.

The inside of the front of the NA-1DXMkII


Since we are already discussing about Nauticam, we may as well follow with Nauticam’s booth and the goodies presented there. First off is the Arri Alexa Mini housing, which is jointly produced with Hydroflex, the renowned housing maker for cinematic film cameras.

One can see the touches of Hydroflex’s legendary Pete Romano (ASC), with the marking dials, HD-SDI surface feed plug for pool work and director viewing, and of course, remote control of lens and camera and universal lens motorized controls. It is definitely technologically a step up from those tubes Hydroflex used in the early days.

The Arri Alexa Mini housing with a Red Epic next to it

The housing’s remote features are enabled through Ethernet and there are even 2 Hydroflex connectors for legacy equipment.

Nauticam Alexa Mini Housing with a mock setup camera

Also on hand was the Epic LT housing, the lightweight version of the Rossa housing for the traveling Red shooter.

Epic LT housing interior

In the DSLR range, the new Nikon D5 housing, the NA-D5 was on hand. The newly released top of range Nikon camera offers some significant performance improvements over the D4s including 4k video, faster shutter lag and 153(!) AF points.

Nauticam NA-D5 housing

The NA-D5 is typical Nauticam flagship fare, with all controls accounted for like in the NA-1DXMkII housing with the same design and the same back dial design.

The back of the NA-D5

On the smaller end of the housing market, the mirrorless Sony A6300 housing made its debut, accompanied by a bunch of new accessories, like the float collar for the WW1 wide angle lens and accessory arm attachments.

NA-A6300 with WW1 wide angle converter lens, float collar and the new accessory arms which work with the WW1 and CMC1 lenses

Other new accessories include a new version of the fiber optic flash trigger with eTTL for Canon cameras, which still does not have high speed sync, which is a pity.

New flash trigger for Canon cameras with eTTL compatibility except high speed sync

Fisheye FIX Aquavolt series lights were also featured including the new 10000 lumen versions that will be available in May this year. Compared to the 5000 mini, it weighs a little less than twice as much and has similar burn times.

Fisheye FIX Aquavolt 5000mini and 10000

Nauticam managing director and founder, Edward Lai was a speaker at ADEX about how lens design has changed and spent a little time with Alex Mustard, to discuss things underwater.

Nauticam founder Edward Lai and Alex Mustard

All things image making @ ADEX

While roaming around ADEX, I ran across Matthew Smith. Matty was at ADEX to speak on his recent series of over/under pictures, but more surprisingly I found his big dome on sale at ADEX. His “Jawsome 168 port” is priced at US$2380 and has a weight pocket and handle designed into it. The version is for Aquatica housings.

Matty Smith’s “Jawsome 168 port”

Over at the Fantasea Line booth, the newest housing is the FG9X for the Canon G9X, which incorporates the ability to use the rear touch screen. Fantasea’s Howard did forbid me to publicize how it’s done, but it does work.

Fantasea FG9X

The FG9x rear with touch screen capability

The accessories offered by the parent company of Fantasea included some snoots for specific strobes, the Z240 and Sea & Sea YS-D2. These snoots seem very similar to those offered by 10Bar.

Snoot for Inon Z240

Snoot for the YS-D2

Around the show

ADEX is always known for bringing in some of the best underwater image makers and this year, the list included Laurent Ballesta, whose film had some of the most intense shark and grouper action I’ve seen.

Laurent Ballesta presenting his film in a talk

Kurt Amsler, dome man and recently the luckiest shooter, showed off his good fortune in the Azores, where he documented the birth of a baby sperm whale.

Kurt Amsler with his film on Sperm whales

ADEX also had a “library zone” for books with underwater themes. Each author would speak about their books, which were on sale in the library. Scubazoo’s Jason Isley, whose pictures of miniature toys in the underwater world made headlines, now has a book entirely of that theme called Small Blue World: Little People, Big Adventures.

Jason Isley was “happy” after a long day of book signing and talks

Wetpixel’s own, Alex Mustard, who was one of the speakers and judges for the UW360 photo competition, was also “hot off the press” with his new book, Underwater Masterclass, his instruction/guide book to underwater photography. While he didn’t have his book available on sale, the pre-sold copies were waiting for him to sign!

Alex Mustard signing his new book

ADEX – a growing success

Hidy Yu, Hong Kong celebrity and avid dive instructor taking a turn as a mermaid

ADEX hit a new high in attendance and profile this year, all while trying to maintain an environmental theme every year. With a mix of celebrities and underwater themes, ADEX’s John Thet and his team have kept the expo the biggest and best dive show in Asia. It is now expanding into China with ADEX Beijing so it seems destined to continue this growth. Wetpixel will continue to cover it as it grows.

Check out our annual party pics here.

  1. ADEX 2016 show coverage.
  2. ADEX 2016 Wetpixel/Scubacam Imaging Party.