The Prelude range is marketed as the “value” series from Seacam. The “Less is More” concept that Harald tells me about is about having a minimalist approach to photography, where one doesn’t have the clutter of too many options (and the 60D does have many modes to choose from) and can concentrate on the shooting.
This design philosophy deviates from Seacam’s traditional Silver range. Designed specifically as an entry level housing for the beginner, the idea is to have bare essentials for photography and not be distracted with too many choices, but still bearing the Seacam seal of quality.
Looking at it, one could tell it’s every bit a Seacam housing. Every part exudes the same quality as the Silver series, including the milled alloy and the black velvet lining in the interior. The metal/alloys used are of the highest quality, in fact Seacam can even present a certificate by some metallurgy agency stating what kind of alloy and the quality standards it passes. The Safety Lock system are made from Titanium, and locks the housing easily, just as they do on the Silver series. All the controls are standard Seacam controls seen on the Silver series.
The velvet lining and refined layout of controls shows the quality of the build
The brand new S10 Sportsfinder features 3x magnification, 100% view 10° angled viewfinder, which omits the diopter adjustment and added a 10° upward tilt, compared to the older S180 viewfinder. It is smaller, lighter and best of all, 20% cheaper than the S180.
The nice thing about the S10 is it does not protrude as much from the housing. Nor is it as large as the S180, which means the LCD monitor is slightly less obstructed. But it still blocks a significant part of the screen.
Included with every Seacam part are neoprene bags with logo for easy packing of the hex keys, special oil for the housing exterior coating, tube of lube and spare o-ring set. For the Seaflash 150, there are neoprene covers for the strobe, charger and even the Flash Arm strobe arm system has a neoprene pouch for travel.
Zinc plates are attached to the housing on the handle mounts, which are located on the rear half of the housing. At the bottom of the housing are 4 rubber patches which act as feet for the housing.
The Prelude build quality and attention to detail is as high as Silver series, so it isn’t build quality that Seacam sacrificed to drop prices. So what’s the catch and what’s missing? The answer lies elsewhere…
The Prelude series has the quality build of the Silver series but the lower price meant some things had to give. Thus, quite a few of the controls operating the camera’s functions on the top and back of the camera are missing. This is where the Prelude differs from the Silver line.
For instance, the top row of buttons of the 60D, which are the ISO, Metering, Drive and AF mode controls are not included, nor is there a window for the LCD menu. Only the top control dial and shutter release have controls.
The back of the Prelude
On the back, controls for the AF-ON, Live View/Video Rec, Q (Quick Control Panel), Play, Multi-Controller dial and the right click of the Quick Control Dial (QR) are the only controls from the camera. (This is explained in detail later)
Obviously, the On/Off switch is a dial as is the Mode dial. There is only one dial for lens control (Seacam has 2 dials for focus and zoom control in the Silver line) and that’s used for zoom only. There is a lens release lever which is actuated by pushing up.
The top view of the housing
Staying with their “Less is More” philosophy, these controls were the ones deemed essential for shooting, particularly for the beginner. I’ve always been a manual shooter but I know quite a few professional shooters who use programmed modes and even auto modes occasionally. If the essence of photography is exposure and composition, then according to Seacam, all you need is access to shutter speed and aperture with ISO a close 3rd. It was back to basics photography.
The left side of the housing
One of the things I’ve always liked about my Seacam housings is the ease of setting up the camera in the housing. The Prelude follows this design tradition. Opening the housing ensues just pressing the release on the door arms and twist out, then lift the back of the housing off.
Loading the 60D is easy. Align the tripod screw to the camera and just fasten. Unlike most other housings, Seacam does not have a tray system. It uses a simple screw on a base platform to secure the camera. Installing the camera is achieved by 2 rods, allowing the camera to rest on the housing body. Final alignment is just a matter of screwing the camera into the base platform via the tripod mount on the camera.
The dot indicates where the mounting screw is.
This system allows the camera to be inserted into the housing with lens and zoom/focus gear on. One just has to watch for the lens release arm catching the zoom/focus gear while inserting the lens through the lens port hole. Then simply align the gear teeth with the housing and push the camera to its final position. Only the widest lenses like the Sigma 12-24 were more of a struggle to put in. Even the 100mm f2.8 Macro with a 36mm extension tube was pretty easy. Personally, I have always liked this as I can just pull the camera out and use it topside without fussing about with the bottom tray. Not many housings are as user friendly.
Aligning the camera properly is especially important with the 60D. The Mode change control requires a button to be pressed while turning the dial. The Quick Control button also requires proper align, otherwise it won’t engage properly (I’ll explain further in the field test portion of the review.)
Once installed, just simply insert the strobe sync hot shoe, check the o-ring, align the locks, close the housing and it’s ready to go.
The camera position allows the SD memory card to be changed without removing it from the base. However, battery changes still require removing the camera.
Changing the viewfinders is also very easy. Just remove the recessed plastic ring from the viewfinder from inside the housing, then either pull out the viewfinders like the S10, S45 or S180 or push out the Pro G viewfinder. I would just wipe the hole once in awhile and grease up the o-rings a bit. The user should remember to set the diopter on the camera, if needed, for all the viewfinders except the S180 and S45, which have diopter adjustments on the viewfinder and can be adjusted anytime.
To change viewfinder, just remove that plastic ring and push out the viewfinder. Then put it back in once the viewfinder is fully inserted.
The port system of the Seacam is a full 360° twist with a bayonet style alignment so the right side is always up. Seacam ports are double o-ring secured, as are the extension rings. There isn’t a port lock system because accidental rotation like the ¼ turn bayonet systems won’t affect this port system. While other companies have resorted to port locking systems to prevent accidentally floods, the Seacam port system is as reliable as any other port lock system, just different in execution.
Putting the zoom gears onto the lenses are just as easy. Simply slip the gear on the zoom ring on the lens, align it so it’s within 1cm of the lens opening and tighten with the hex keys. The gear used in the housing is wide, measuring almost 2 cm so alignment doesn’t have to be as precise so long as no controls on the lens are touched and the tightening portion is on the proper ring on the lens. With camera and lens in the housing, port screwed in and everything tightened up, the housing is ready to go!