Canadian company Aquatica, via their UK supplier, Cameras Underwater, supplied the third housing for this review. Aquatica’s housings have a distinctive look, and the AN-5N is no exception to this. It is machined from aluminum on a 5 axis 3D milling machine, anodized and then powder coated with the trademark rough finish powder coating as per their other housings. In conjunction with the nauticam housing reviewed earlier, there is no doubt that this is a housing based on the design of an SLR housing, rather than on a compact camera version. Aquatica also supplies a range of ports to suit Sony e mount lenses.
The design brief of this housing is to mimic the placement of the controls on the cameras with those on the housing. In general, controls are similar and in the same position. The housing provides access to almost all camera controls and buttons with the exception of the lens release.
On the left hand side of the housing body, a well knurled knob provided access to zoom control with the 18-55mm lens, provided the appropriate lens ring is fitted. There is no provision for manual focus.
Just below the zoom knob is housing latch. Those familiar with Amphibico products will immediately recognize the turn and lock cam closure that the A5-5N sports. It is a very secure and practical means of securing the housing.
On the rear left hand side of the housing, there are no controls, which mimics the layout on the camera. The viewing window is large, and the camera’s LCD is designed to be tilted at 15° for a good viewing angle. I will return to how this is achieved later but, for now, suffice to say that it is simple but clever engineering.
Moving over to the right hand side rear of the housing, the key controls become accessible. From the top, there are two buttons, a silver metal one and an oversized red one. These control image review and video on/off respectively.
Below these is a shallow thumb groove, and lower still, the actual control dial and soft touch buttons. These have been designed to faithfully duplicate the controls on the camera, with the housings control dial capable of moving through 360°, as well as vertically and horizontally via inward pressing.
This is identical to the way the control works on the camera. Both buttons are made of metal, with the control dial also being of metal construction, and featuring deep grip grooves cut into its surface. It was very easy to use even with thick gloves.
On the right hand side, Aquatica has provided two attachment points to allow for the use of a hand strap. With small housings like this, this is an effective method of holding the camera, and ergonomically there is no compromise for doing so, as the controls are close to the hand and hence accessible with the hand in the strap.
Staying low, but moving round to the front right hand side, there is a button that controls the housing’s port lock.
On top of the camera are two standard fiber optic ports for strobe triggering. These are the same ones as used on Aquatica’s SLR housing and can accept Inon or Sea & Sea type L cords.
Next to these is a lever that raises and lowers the camera’s internal flash.
Still moving rightwards, the next lever controls the on/off function, with a metal button just in front of it that releases the shutter.
Moving internally, the camera is held very securely on a beautifully made saddle, which locates onto two stainless steel pins. Looking at this, there is no doubt as to the housings heritage within the design of SLR housings.
The saddle incorporates a clever innovation that I alluded to earlier. It has two lugs that extend out of the back of it that the camera’s LCD sits against, giving the 15° viewing angle. This simple modification makes getting the precise camera angle very simple.
There is no leak detector fitted as standard.
The control wheel is manipulated via a rubber contact surface. This allows the use of both the revolving and push controls.
The control wheel controls are well spaced and easy to access.
Aquatica currently provides port support for the Sony 18-55mm, 16mm pancake, the 16mm pancake + FE adapter and Sony 30mm macro lenses. There is a 4” glass dome available for the 16mm, and with an extension, the 16mm + FE conversion lens. There is also a flat port for the 16mm and 30mm macro, and a wide-angle zoom port for the 18-55mm.
On the bottom of the housing are attachment holes. These are designed to allow the attachment of the company’s Accessory grips. This allows for the attachment of a handle to either side, or two handles for both. If strobes and arms are to be attached, 1” ball mounts can be attached to the top of each handle. There is also an attachment point behind the fiber optic port that accepts a 1/4 ” stud.
This housing feelS very light and compact in the water. The “feel” of a housing is very subjective, but I found the powder coating to be very tactile and “grippy”. The size may feel a little bulky if the user has come from a compact camera background, but felt very nimble to me. The engineering and design of the AN-N5 is a result of Aquatica’s primary business in making SLR housings, and this definitely shows in the housing’s finish, as well as its ergonomics. In a nutshell, the housing gives off a sense of fitness for purpose.
Aquatica’s approach to the issues around Sony’s use of a control wheel for the bulk of camera control functions is both innovative and very effective. I think the brief of emulating the camera’s controls has been well carried out, and worked very well in use. The spacing and design of the buttons is very “big finger” or glove friendly. I like the way the camera could be used with a strap, and would use this technique if I was aiming to try and shoot fast moving subjects. I think that this is a logical application of the hand strap, on bigger housings, the space between the controls makes it less effective.
I found Aquatica’s combination of color coding, different sizes and metal construction for all their buttons to be both ergonomic and adding to the feeling of simple reliability
The whole of the camera’s LCD can be viewed, and the 15° tilt within the housing is both effective and simple but makes for a very ergonomic viewing angle.
Lastly, the AN-5N has a simple button and pusher for the shutter release. I found that this made pre-focusing somewhat awkward, especially with gloves on. I note that Aquatica offer a “shutter extender” as an accessory, it would be interesting to note whether this increases its sensitivity.
The AN-5N housing has a retail price of around $1,559.00 (about £1,200) for the housing only. Ports will cost at least another $190-$559 (£169.99-£450.00) depending on the lens combination in use.
Aquatica’s goal with the controls of this housing have been met, making it very easy to use. The controls are very accessible, even with thick gloves. In use, there is no doubt that this is a solid reliable housing with a strong pedigree in SLR housings.
For many people, the aim of buying into an EVIL camera system like the NEX-5N is to stay within the “genre” and upgrade by using their existing ports and hardware and simply changing housings as camera models change. Aquatica’s decision not to continue with their development of a housing for the NEX-7 will throw this process into sharp relief. Given the standard of the AN-5N, I hope that the company will continue to support the EVIl category in future.
FTC disclosure: As mentioned above, the Aquatica AN-5N housing and ports was loaned by Aquatica, via their UK supplier, Cameras Underwater for the review. Many thanks to Jean Bruneau and Blake Stoughton of Aquatica and Jenny Rosenfeld and staff of Cameras Underwater for all their assistance.
Page 1: Introduction.
Page 2: 10 Bar housing.
Page 3: Nauticam NA-NEX5N housing.
Page 4: Aquatica AN-5N housing