Seacam Prelude for the Canon 60D review

Video Mode

One of the best features of the 60D is the new Video Mode, which is separate from all the other modes for stills on the Mode Dial.  It has its mode on menus and contextual menus for camera features.  The 60D now retains exposure settings in Video mode which are independent from the still modes.  That means there’s no need to reset the shutter speed to 1/60 and ISO etc.

On the first Canon camera with video, the 5D2, one could record video just by turning on Live View and preset the SET button to record video in any mode.  The 7D and 1D mark IV moved some of the menus into a separate button and switch but the principle was still the same.  All modes except Manual mode on the dial means full auto.  The 60D does the same but it’s all in the contextual menus under Menu.

However, that also means many of the settings have to be accessed through the Menu button and the Prelude doesn’t have that button.  Nor can ISO be set once the housing is closed.  Thus many of those settings have to be preset before closing the housing, including ISO and exposure compensation should the user choose to use auto mode.

For the test, I chose to use 1080/30p in Manual mode, Quick AF with AF-ON button and use the Technicolor Cinestyle Picture Profile, which is the flattest profile available for the Canons, which makes it easier for color correction in post.  I also chose to ISO320 since I can’t change it mid-dive.  I used ISO steps of 2/3rds (ie 160,320,640 etc) which delivers the lowest noise performance at the expense of losing 1/3 stop in the highlights.  I don’t use Highlight Tone Protection because it adds noise when it adjusts for highlights.  Manually adjusting 1/3 or 1/2 stop by half pressing the shutter trigger to show the meter is probably the best way to adjust exposure for video.


Schooling Trevally at 4-6m. 1/60 f8 ISO160. Sigma 8-16 @ 8mm.

Shooting video with a super wide angle lens like the 8-16, one should just focus on a subject that’s perhaps 2-3ft off the dome port and let the depth of field take care of focus, especially in turbid waters.

I’d expected the 60D to perform very similarly in noise performance to the 7D.  Despite have a single DIGIC IV processor, it is newer by a year, so it’s not too much to expect similar performance from essentially the same sensor.  And so it did prove that Canon measuredly placed the 60D to perform just a tad under the 7D.  Noise wasn’t significantly different until after ISO3200, then the Dual DIGIC IV just produced a slightly cleaner picture.

Like the 7D, the 60D’s sensor seemed more optimized for highlights than shadow.  I’d normally shoot -2/3 stop with the 5D2 to keep from clipping highlights. With the 60D I could do -1/3 or zero stop.  I did try Auto mode for exposure for super wide-angle for a second but gave up because the program would choose a small aperture instead of raising ISO. With super wide-angle at 8mm, going to f4.5 creates softer corners, especially when one does not have the optimized extension rings.  With the 10-17, it probably wouldn’t make as significant a difference.

For video function, it’s important to have the housing well balanced.  The strobes can be used to stabilize rotation and flotation to stabilize front/aft motion.  I also normally balance out the housing with flotation on the domeport and strobe arms so it’s just 200g negative and level.  With the Prelude, I just used what was given to me, Prelude housing, with Seaflash 150 and flash arms and the Superdome, which made for a heavy housing.  I’d originally though the flash arms were positively buoyant, but they sink.  The neoprene cover for the 150 helped with buoyancy but the overall weight of the housing with a big glass dome was over 800g negative.

Overall, the video mode in the 60D was somewhat hampered by the lack of ISO and MENU controls on the Prelude housing.  Using manual was difficult if there were huge changes in lighting conditions as I would need to change ISO to keep shutter speed at 1/60. I couldn’t switch to 720/60p if I wanted to shoot slow motion.  It was disappointing to be limited like that.

However, one can use Auto ISO in Video Mode, then set the custom functions in AF-Metering for Video under the Video menu to set AF-ON button for AF-Start and AE-Lock for shutter button. This way, one can AE lock the exposure and the camera won’t change exposure during shooting. I just had to keep the shutter at half to lock auto exposure. It’s a good thing the shutter trigger lever has great feel, but even then I did shoot off a frame by accident. But this is a workaround.

Next: Issues and Conclusion.