Operational Issues with the Prelude:
The only instance I did have an issue was when the QR button would not actuate. But pressing the Q button would scroll through one window occasionally. I tried to repeat this topside but could not. I surmise that the problem was the camera being slightly off alignment due to it being improperly secured inside the housing. The 60D exacerbates the issue because of the dial in dial configuration. Thus if the camera is not secure on the platform, the body moves enough where this issue can occur.
Other than that, the housing performed with excellent reliability. I will say that the silver finish looks great but it can be damaged. With the surf launches in big waves, things invariably do knock about and the housing did get a few nicks. All anodized aluminum would have the same problem but the silver contrast makes any blemish stand out.
Overall Impressions and Conclusion.
Canon EOS 60D.
I won’t go through all the functions but touch on the pertinent ones I have not mentioned in the field test. Other websites have tested the camera and have had reviews up for months.
Canon’s is an 18mp DSLR with the first reticulating LCD monitor onboard. It’s an update of the 50D, using the same AF system but with a new 63 zone, Dual layer metering system. As I mentioned in the field test, the metering system seems to handle backlit situations well and surprised me with a few good shots in Assisted and Auto modes. I wish I had tested it more thoroughly. I can’t say it’ll consistently push out nicely exposed pics, but shot in RAW, the latitude of play available in post makes it quite intriguing to ponder. It is a pity it’s programmed to stay at ISO400 with strobes connected though. However I think it will only stay at ISO400 if it detects ETTL strobes. With my 1D series and 5D2, blocking out the hot shoe pins with tape removes the ISO400 limitation, and the strobes will have to be fired manually.
The 60D can even process RAW files in-camera. It’s like having Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software in the camera since the basic RAW conversion parameters in the menu on the computer program is available on camera too, including High ISO speed noise reduction, Auto Lighting Optimizer and even Distortion adjustments.
Here’s a sunburst shot for those who like them. Processed through the camera’s RAW converter.
The camera performed very well. All its systems were competent and while the build is plastic, it does feel sturdy. It’s aimed at the photo enthusiast and has 7 different modes to help the shooter, on top of the “advanced” modes.
The many modes of the 60D
The image quality of the files is comparable to anything other camera in the class and beyond, including the Nikon D7000 and Canon 7D. It can shoot 5.9fps but only has one memory slot. At $1000 for the body, the 60D’s image production is as good as the 7D. It’s just slower in AF and fps and is made of plastic. I was pretty impressed with this camera and how it performed. I compared it to an old 1Ds Mark II file at ISO200 and the detail and resolution were in fact superior.
Here is a 100% crop comparison of resolution of the 60D vs D7000. ISO640
Thanks to Alex Mustard for supplying the D7000 file.
Seacam Prelude 60D.
I have to say I enjoyed using the Prelude for stills, especially in macro. The lack of full controls didn’t bother me once I got accustomed to how to work (around) it. After all, if one owned this housing, one would get accustomed to how its functions. As a reviewer using a borrowed housing, I did 20 odd dives with it before I was comfortable with it.
The S10 viewfinder took me awhile to get accustomed to using it. I think it’s a nice in between product, which fits between the S45 and S180. It’s just as bright and magnifies just as well. The slight tilt gives it a bit of the S45 functionality, and it’s 20% cheaper than the S180. If I could afford only one viewfinder from Seacam, I’d buy this one. Only those with visual issues should check whether the on-camera diopter is adequate.
The S10 Sportsfinder
Still, as I said at the beginning, I was reticent in reviewing this housing due to my own expectations of what housings should do. There is no denying the quality of the housing. The excellent materials and attention to detail, the ergonomics and feel makes this housing an exemplary housing for the price. But therein lies the problem, to drop the price to be competitive with other manufacturers, and maintain the Seacam build quality, the design philosophy sacrificed a few controls which a user like myself would want.
It seems it is not designed for advanced/pro users as a main housing, but as a lower cost entry level housing not only for beginners to shoot without getting too engrossed in functions, but more importantly to gain access into the Seacam product line.
According to Seacam’s design philosophy, a beginner starting out would not do many things an advanced shooter would want. They want simplicity. To quote:
I can’t say I entirely agree with that philosophy. Yes, in the stills department, the housing has all the controls necessary for a photographer to shoot. Not necessarily at the press of a button, but what’s a few more presses, for most situations? The 60D does produce very good quality files, with great noise control and resolution, but one cannot check focus using the magnification review on the housing for immediate feedback. Fortunately, the AF system does an excellent job in macro and a very good job in wide angle. It’s competent enough that one could say that there isn’t a need to chimp every shot to check. In fact, it’s sold me on APS-C as a camera system for underwater use.
The only (and I really hesitant to use this word, since it’s a design aspect) “flaw” in this otherwise well built entry level housing is the video portion of the design. It’s incongruent to me as where the stills portion of the housing takes advantage of clever design to reduce the number of controls, but still allow full essential manual control, it was not applied to the video portion. It’s fair to say that the 60D’s own design exacerbates the issue. It’s also clear that video is not a priority for Seacam’s design philosophy. I’ll respectfully disagree as HDSLR have now reached a quality level whereby it can do both very well, replacing the lower end camcorders with superior optics and of course the dual function of taking stills. That’s just my opinion. I am very big on video, and that heavily slants my views.
The idea that the 60D would be replaced by a x0D in a couple of years, and thus by that time the user would be advanced and ready to move onto the 9D or 5D mark III etc. By then, the user would already have Seacam ports and viewfinders, know the build quality of Seacam and be eager to upgrade within the brand. Seacam has built a complete product line. They have strobes which have TTL capability built-in, a strong port system and other accessories which work together with the housing line. All built to an excellent quality, arguably the best in the business, and that tends to keep customers faithful to the brand. I know I’m a fan of the brand. Certainly, the 60D Prelude combined with the Seaflash 150 makes a very competent photography rig.
Seacam is a premium priced product and the price is higher in the US and other markets because of the weak US$ over the last few years. In €, it still commands a premium but not like it does when converted to US$ for pricing. A decade ago, when the € was about US1, Seacam products were highly sought after because it was excellent value for the dollar. Even with currency fluctuations, the Prelude 60D is actually competitively priced against other manufacturers.
In conclusion, the Seacam Prelude 60D is an excellently built, high quality housing that’s designed with a certain user in mind. This beginner user is more concerned with stills and shooting video is a secondary requirement. I initially thought Seacam wanted the Prelude series to be the lower priced, high volume seller. Only time will tell how it will fare against the competition, as the market will ultimately decide whether the form/function of the Prelude suits them or not.
Price of equipment tested:
Prelude 60D Housing: US$3350
S10 Sportsfinder: US$1675
Seaflash 150D: US$2974
Flash Arm 150/300 US$566
Ports were my own: Superdome, P90 Macroport, PVL25/35 extensions, Wideport.
For more information on pricing, please check with your local Seacam dealer.Seacam Prelude 60D
This is a highly subjective note of what I thought were the positive and negative points of the housing:
Excellent build quality and finish, inside and out. (The best in the business, in my opinion)
Bayonet port system is very secure with double o-rings.
Excellent system range (from strobes to mini-domes and wet-diopters).
Very good ergonomics.
Controls have excellent feel.
Single QR (right) button to scroll through Quick Control Menu. It works but…
No optical strobe connectors (Seacam offers ETTL with their SeaFlash strobes using S6 sync cables).
No dedicated ISO button.
No access to ISO at all in video mode.
No MENU button (Many functions for video are in the MENU system).
No Up/Down control of Quick Control Menu. Would save time and with MENU control would give the housing control to all essential functions in video mode as well.
No access to Magnified View for focus check.
Please note the Seaflash 150 will be reviewed separately.