Belgian manufacturer Hugyfot has a well-earned reputation for doing things a little differently to most manufacturers. Their D7000 housing certainly bears this out. The housing is smaller than most, and has curves where other have corners. Most people’s immediate reaction is that it a good looking housing, less boxy, more curved and more “camera shaped” than most others. It was released in July 2011, and Wetpixel were supplied with a review model early in 2012. To my lasting shame, it has taken this long to finish diving and reviewing this housing, and I should immediately recognize the patience shown by Pascal Eeckhoudt of Hugyfot and Andy Fenn of UK importer Blue Orb and register my official apologies for the delay in the process.
Hugyfot has used the marketing line “fits like a glove” for some time, and their housings certainly seem to be snug fits.
The D7000 housing has several new (for Hugyfot) features that will no doubt now be carried forward into its next generation of housings. One of the unique features that come as standard with all their housings is the HugyCheck system. This consists of a bulkhead in the housing with a one-way valve, an internal electronic pressure sensor with indicator lights and a vacuum pump. The idea is that once the camera and lens have been mounted in the housing, the user uses the vacuum pump to lower the pressure inside the housing. When it has reached a set level, the indicator light goes from a red flashing LED to a green one. This gives a visual indication of the housing’s integrity, and should help prevent floods. It is worth noting that although Hugyfot are the only manufacturer that fit this as standard in all their housing, there are after-market versions available for other brands of housing.
In the case of the D7000, Hugyfot have elected to offer fiber optic triggering of strobes. This has presented several design challenges. The traditional position of the HugyCheck indicator lights was on the camera’s hot shoe as this is visible through the rear window. With fiber optic triggering mandating the use of the camera’s pop-up flash, an alternative mounting system was needed. In addition, Hugyfot has previously not used a camera saddle for attaching the camera within the housing, simply using a bolt in a fixed base plate to secure it. Both of these have caused some fairly comprehensive redesigning of the housing.
Starting on the left hand side of the housing, there are rotary knobs for lens release and zoom/focus control. Tucked just behind the lens release knob is a lever that controls focus mode and above it a red button for focus area selection.
Above all of these and on the curved shoulder of the housing is a button that activates the pop-up flash and (when used in conjunction with a command dial) also the flash’s output. Towards the rear is another longer lever that is pushed forward for image review and above it, is the bulkhead for the HugyCheck.
On the rear of the housing itself is a knob that controls mode (there is no release mode control), and a series of vertically oriented buttons that access delete, menu, white balance, ISO and image quality functions. Moving rightwards, is the main window and viewfinder. The review housing was equipped with the standard Hugyfot viewfinder, although it can be fitted with Inon or other brand straight and 45° versions. To the right of the viewfinder is a lever that activates the camera’s Live View and then 5 buttons that control the multi selector. Below these is a well positioned button for the Info button.
Moving further right, but still on the rear of the housing, is the sub command dial knob and then two levers, one for the AF lock, and the other for the video record on/off. Moving forward again are slots that allow for the attachment of a “hand strap.” Above these is a window that allows the user to view the control panel LCD. This is a feature that is missing from many housings, and although there are work-a rounds involving the info button or on/off switches available, being able to view this is a significant advantage.
Just above and left of this is a lever that allows the pop-up flash to be depressed and in front of the window are two buttons for metering mode and EV compensation and a lever for camera on/off.
Below and to the right of this is a know for the main command dial, with a large shutter release lever located in a recess on the front right hand.
On top of the flash housing is a 25mm ball attachment point and Nikonos 5 pin and fiber optic bulkheads.
The housing is supplied with two handles, that slot into a dovetail groove on the bottom of the housing.
On top of the handles are a further two 25mm ball attachment points for strobes, arms or lights. Once arms etc. are attached, there is a significant “spring” in the handles. Given that there is only one ball for attaching strobes etc directly to the housing, the handles can end up with a lot of leverage and weight on them. I think the new dovetail holds them very securely, so the movement is transmitted into the handles themselves. The balls are attached with Nylok nuts that seemed to come undone quite easily and repeatedly during our testing. This could be solved with a dose of Loctite of course.
Hugyfot ports attach with a simple bayonet, and do not have any port lock. The HugyCheck system renders the need for this somewhat superfluous, however it does not prevent the port being inadvertently disengaged whilst getting in the water or during a dive.
Internally, the housing’s compact proportions are very obvious, with what space there is around the housing being occupied with controls or circuitry. Hugyfot provide TTL wiring for electronic strobe triggering as standard and this and the HugyCheck means that there are quite a few internal circuits.
The housing is supplied with removable hot shoe wiring for electronic TTL triggering, and this has the conventional HugyCheck LED array on it.
If fiber optic is being used to trigger the strobes though, an additional pair of LED lights is situated below the camera base plate.
The base plate itself has a wonderfully machined aluminum dovetail. Quite simply the nicest design that I have seen. The HugyCheck is powered by a battery that is located under the base plate on the right hand side.
Somewhat uniquely, the housing closes with two Allan headed bolts, rather than the more conventional latches. A (supplied) Allan key is required to open and close the housing.
Setting up this housing is somewhat different to most others! In the case of the Tokina 10-17mm, Hugyfot’s excellent zoom gear slips on to the lens. It has a soft silicon rubber skirt that gently compresses and holds in place on the lens barrel.
However, in order to get the lens (with zoom gear attached) in, the camera must be mounted first, and then the lens added from the “front” of the housing. This means dismounting the port in order to do so. The camera mounts very securely onto the baseplate and the battery for the HugyCheck is inserted. The rear of the housing is than attached and the bolts holding it in place are tightened.
Once the housing is closed, the HugyCheck pump is pushed against its bulkhead, and the pressure lowered in the housing until the green light replaces the red one. These flash, so are quite visible.
If electronic strobe triggering is being used, the lights will be on the hot shoe, if fiber optic strobe triggering, they are visible on the base plate. Sticking with fiber optic strobe triggering for a minute, it is critical that the user tests to see whether the pop-up flash will elevate fully. On the review housing, the wiring from the Nikonos bulkhead could prevent the flash from fully deploying, and hence would not function. This was frustrating as opening the housing, correcting the problem and then re “HugyChecking” it is a lengthy procedure.
In general, I found the process of getting the camera in and out of the housing (which needs to be dome for battery/card changes or to exchange lenses) is a significantly more complicated process. If you are the type of photographer that tends to not open housings very often, this is fine. If you tend to change lenses, cards or batteries between dives, the process is a tad too long winded.
Against this, the Hugycheck does provide some reassurance that the housing is likely sealed and hence unlikely to flood.
David Kneale, who owns a Hugyfot 7D housing, used the D7000 and commented:
“The first thing you notice about Hugyfot housings is their ergonomic design; no sharp edges or needless bulk; which makes the whole package sit comfortably in the users hands even if using thick gloves.
Having experienced, on the day, another diver flood his housing, the Hugycheck system is, to my mind, worth its weight in gold. The certainty and confidence that it provides reduces to zero one of the main stresses experienced by underwater photographers.
Even though the housing itself is a sleek matt black, I particularly like how all the controls and levers are a different color to the housing as this makes it easier to use, particularly where it matters: Underwater.
The only gripe I have is that the shutter speed control is not easily usable without taking your hand off the housings handle. I would prefer this control to be configured so that, like the aperture control, it can be used whilst looking through the viewfinder. This may be possible for those who only dive in warm waters without gloves but not on dives where thick gloves are required.”
Controls are in general well spaced and buttons far enough apart to work well with gloves on. The focus area control button is a tad obscured by the lens release knob. Given that underwater the focus control is far more important than the lens release, the oversize control for the latter seems a bit counter intuitive!
I found that when using the grips, and even with the right had grip in as close as possible, I have to move my hands significantly to access the command dials. I could reach either main dial and shutter release or sub command dial, but not all three simultaneously as the latter is set quite far towards the center of the housing. This meant that I had to remove my eye from the viewfinder to adjust my shutter speeds.
I discussed this with Pascal and Andy at the London Dive Show, and they suggested that rather than holding the grip, I should use the hand strap. This threads through slots in the right hand side of the housing.
It certainly brings the hand in much tighter against the housing. It is possibly my lack of familiarity, but I still found that my thumb did not reach the sub command dial. I also found that in order to adjust strobe settings for example, I had to remove my hand from the hand strap, and getting it back in correctly can be awkward.
The shutter release is an elegantly curved long metal lever, which sits very neatly in a recess machined into the housing. The length of the lever makes it very sensitive and it was easy to feel the AF and shutter even with the tweaky D7000. I found that, with thick gloves on, the recess made it hard to locate the lever, and was frustrated at times when I actually had to look for it rather than find it simply by feel. Again, it should be pointed out that familiarity may well cure this.
The housing is very compact and this means that it is a tad negative. It needed 6 Stix float segments to be neutral in fresh water with Hugyfot’s 174mm (7”) acrylic dome. This is of course offset by it’s packed size, which with the handles removed, is significantly smaller than most other housings.
I mentioned above that I found the addition of the control panel LCD to be a great feature. Subal and Hugyfot are the only two housings reviewed that have this so far.
Hugyfot represent the most radically different design so far reviewed. As is the case with the other D7000 housings reviewed, Hugyfot have done some radical innovations with this housing, which have improved its performance over that of its predecessors. The layout of the controls on the housing is generally good, although accessing key exposure controls can be awkward. HugyCheck will be something you either swear by, or cannot see the point of. For those that perceive its advantages, its inclusion as standard in this housing may well be a key selling point.
The Hugyfot D7000 housing retails at £2,219.60 including UK VAT.
FTC Disclosure. The Hugyfot D7000 housing and port were loaned by Hugyfot via their UK distributors Blue Orb for this review. As mentioned in the introduction, the review has taken longer than planned, so many thanks again (and apologies) to Pascal Eeckhoudt and Andy Fenn for their assistance.