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Canon 7D - A Tale of Two Housings


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#1 Gudge

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 11:52 PM

After using four different Subal housings over the last 13 years I decided it was time to make a change for my new Canon 7D. After a lot of research I ordered a Nauticam NA-7D from Scubapix in Cairns. While waiting for the Nauticam to become available, Peter Mooney from Scubapix offered me the loan of an Aquatica A7D housing to use until my housing arrived. I managed to do 10 dives with the Aquatica housing before the Nauticam arrived. Having now completed five dives with the Nauticam I thought I offer my thoughts on how the two 7D housings compare.

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General Impressions & External Fittings

• The design and quality of manufacture of both housings is very good.
• The handles on both housings are excellent( much better than either the standard issue handles on my old Subal housing or the ULCS handles that replaced them)
• Both housings have three threaded holes on the bottom for attaching tripods, trays, etc.
• The Aquatica has three points on top the housing for attaching strobe arms, focus lights, etc. One on top of each handle and the third is located top centre on the housing body. The Nauticam has four connection points, one on top of each handle and two located each side of the top of the housing. If you choose to use Nauticam ports (I’m using Subal ports with the Nauticam port adapter) there is a fifth connection for a focus light on their base adapter
• The Aquatica has two latches for holding the housing back on while the Nauticam has three. I found the latches on both housings to be fiddly to operate compared to those I was used to on both my Subal and my wife’s Seatool. The Aquatica latches irritated me more than those on the Nauticam because I couldn’t seem to realease them without jamming my fingers between them and the handles.
• The loan Aquatica only had the standard viewfinder but I found that as long as I held my mask up tight against the back of the housing I could see the entire viewfinder easily. The Nauticam 180° magnifying viewfinder that I ordered with my Nauticam housing is awesome. I had always thought that Subal GS180 viewfinder was excellent but the Nauticam is better, apart from a bigger view it is more tolerant of incorrect eye position than the Subal viewfinder.
• Both housings have a port lock to prevent the ports from turning once they have been installed. The Aquatica has a conventional bayonet port mounting system where you push the port in before rotating it into place. The Nauticam version has a innovative system where the port is just pushed into place and an internal locking ring is rotated to lock it into place (as an ex-submariner this method bought back many old memories as it is very similar to the locking method used on the rear door of the torpedo tubes in the submarines I served in).
• The Aquatica housing has lens release lever to allow the lens release button on the camera to be operated when changing lenses with the front port removed. There is no equivalent control on the Nauticam housing, it isn’t needed. When the front port is removed from the housing there is more than enough room to put your finger in the housing and press the button on the camera.

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Left Hand Side Controls

• The zoom/manual focus control on both housings is easily operated without removing your hand from the left handle.
• The Mode Dial control on both housings is also easily operated without removing your hand from the left handle. This control was my most hated control on my last two Subal housings. The Subal version was a tiny little knob that you had to push in and turn simultaneously, not an easy thing to do and the source of much cursing from me.
• The power switch on both housings was easily operated without having to remove your hand from the left handle. The switch on the Nauticam was very smooth while the Aquatica’s was a little clunky.
• The left hand row of buttons on both housings were once again very easily operated without removing your hand from the left handle. Buttons on both housings are angled to the left for easier operation.
• The Nauticam does not have a control for the One Touch Raw+JPEG/Direct Print button on the camera while the Aquatica does. I don’t see this as any sort of problem as I only shoot RAW and I’m never going to print direct from the camera (actually impossible to connect a printer while the camera’s in the housing). I’ve never used this button the camera (in or out of the housing) and didn’t even notice its absence on the Nauticam housing until I started writing this article and looked at photos of the housings side by side.

Right Hand Side Controls

• The controls on both housings to access the camera’s Multi-controller are very good. I found the four distinct widely spaced buttons on the Aquatica easier to use than the Nauticam’s smaller buttons arranged as quadrants of a circle. On the other hand the Set button which has to be used in conjunction with this control is much easier to access on the Nauticam than the Aquatica. This control was the second most hated control on my Subal. The Subal implementation is a single button which you point in the direction you want to move the Multi-controller and then push in. It was slow and laborious and I gave up using it after a while. It was a pleasure to be able to use this control quickly and easily on the 7D in both housings.
• The controls for using the Live View/Movie Switch and Movie Start/Stop button on the Nauticam are excellent, smooth and very easy to use. By using clever design they are located on the right hand side of the housing and can be easily operated with your thumb without removing your hand from the right hand handle. On the other hand the same controls on the Aquatica are located toward the centre of the housing adjacent to the viewfinder. They are difficult to reach and were a little clunky in operation. In particular I had problems with the Live View/Movie Switch, I just could not get it to operate on the surface and shallow dives down to 6 metres despite several adjustments of the position of the control inside the housing. On deeper dives it would engage and work.
• The four buttons on top of the housing for AF/Drive, Metering/White Balance, ISO/Flash Exposure Compensation and M-Fn button were located in the same position on both housings.
• The AF-ON switch on the Nauticam is a small lever easily accessed with the thumb while holding on to the right hand handle. Below sit the three “piano keys” for actuating the AF point selection/magnify, * and Select buttons on the camera. All these buttons are easily accessed with the thumb without removing your hand from the handle. I found the Aquatica arrangement for these controls to be much more difficult to use. The AF-ON switch and * control is combined into a single lever that slides sideways to access each control. While this lever is easily accessed with the thumb with your hand on the right hand handle trying to use both controls at the same time (something I often do) is impossible. In addition when I had the lever in the * position it would slowly move back towards the AF-ON position each time it was used and disengage itself without warning. Both the Select and the AF point selection/magnify buttons are located away from the edge of the housing and are much more difficult to use than with the Nauticam’s “Piano Keys”.

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• I like the shutter release on the Nauticam much more than the Aquatica’s. There is some mechanical feedback on the Nauticam (as there was with my Subal) where you could feel the shutter come in contact with the shutter release on the camera, I couldn’t feel anything with the Aquatica. In addition I found the shutter release return spring on the Aquatica is to be a lot stiffer than I liked.
• The aperture and shutter speed controls on both housings are similarly placed and easy to access and use. I liked the Aquatica controls better than those on the Nauticam because the knobs are a little larger and have a more textured surface which made them a little easier to operate.

In summary, I found both housings to be very good and would have no problems recommending either to anyone. Personally, I like the Nauticam the most. The design and finish are just that little bit bette than the Aquatica and the ergonomics are much better.

Finally a big thankyou to Peter Mooney for giving me the opportunity to try out the Aquatica while waiting for my Nauticam to Arrive. I'd also like to thank Ryan from Reef Photo and Video for all the early advice he provided regarding the Nauticam housing before Scubapix were appointed as the Australian agent for Nauticam. If an Australian agent hadn't been appointed I would have got mine from Reef Photo and Video.

Edited by Gudge, 10 April 2010 - 05:04 AM.

Canon 7D, Nauticam NA-7D housing, 2 x Inon Z240, 1 x Inon S2000, Tokina 10-17 & 12-24, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Tokina 35 macro, Canon 60 & 100 macro, Tamron 2X & Kenko 1.X Teleconverters.

#2 Mike L

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 12:19 AM

Excellent and thorough comparison of the two housings, something that will be VERY much appreciated by those shopping for a 7d housing. Thank you
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#3 adamhanlon

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 01:49 AM

Wow Gudge,

What a fantastic comparison-thank you for taking the time to post it!

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#4 greedo5678

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:10 AM

Thanks Gudge.

Thanks for an amazing comparison.

Can i ask, did u notice any difference in loading and unloading? Does either allow battery change without full removal and unscrewing from the mount? Any easier to line up buttons etc?

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#5 Gudge

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:42 AM

Can i ask, did u notice any difference in loading and unloading?

The Nauticam is definitely easier for loading/unloading the camera. I found with the Aquatica that the camera base plate holes were difficult to line up with the guides in the housing and that it sometimes stuck in place and required quite a bit of force to remove.

Does either allow battery change without full removal and unscrewing from the mount?

The battery can be changed without having to remove the base plate from the camera with both housings but you still have to remove the camera from the housing to do this. The memory card can be changed in the Nauticam housing without removing the camera from the housing, with the Aquatica housing the camera has to be removed from the housing to change the memory card.

Any easier to line up buttons etc?

There is no problem with lining up the controls in either housing when loading the camera.

I should also point out that the photos I posted above of the Nauticam housing are obviously of a pre-production version. If you look closely at the pictures you will see that there five buttons shown on top of the housing. The button that is out by itself closest to the right hand side of the housing is not present on the production model housing I have. I have no idea what it was for.

Edited by Gudge, 10 April 2010 - 03:52 AM.

Canon 7D, Nauticam NA-7D housing, 2 x Inon Z240, 1 x Inon S2000, Tokina 10-17 & 12-24, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Tokina 35 macro, Canon 60 & 100 macro, Tamron 2X & Kenko 1.X Teleconverters.

#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:56 AM

Fantastic info, Gudge.

Thanks very much for sharing it.

Alex

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#7 yahsemtough

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 05:06 AM

Well done.

That is the kind of comparison people looking will certainly find helpful. Thanks for sharing.

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#8 Steve Williams

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 05:28 AM

Thanks Gudge, great information, well presented. How were you set up with the strobe connections? Is it possible to have both both optical and electrical sych on the Aquatica?

How did the size of the two compare? Did you get a chance to weigh them? The Aquatica looks smaller for some reason.

Does the Aquatica have double release "safety" latches? I know the Nauticam does'nt.

Did you try shooting video with the housings? I was wondering what you thought about the controls.

Cheers partner,
Steve

Edited by Steve Williams, 10 April 2010 - 10:10 AM.

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#9 Jay-11

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 07:30 AM

Thanks Gudge,

Great information and like the way you presented the comparison. On the Nauticam with you using the Subal ports I'm guessing that fifth connection was not accessible for a focus light?
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#10 bursprak

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 09:53 AM

Fantastic!
Nice to see a objective comparison between the two housings...

Thanks Gudge

#11 MIKE POWELL

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 10:12 AM

Good job Gudge!

My Nauticam rig is do here Monday then off to Tiger Beach, Bahamas on Friday.

Thanks to you also Steve W. ! Maybe now I'll get my t-shirts from Ryan. :D :beer:

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#12 Gudge

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 02:24 PM

How were you set up with the strobe connections?

I used fibre optic sync cords with both housings.

Is it possible to have both both optical and electrical sych on the Aquatica?

It is possible to have both electrical and fibre optic sync cord connections fitted to both housings.

How did the size of the two compare?

They're roughly the same size. The actual Nauticam housing is a little boxier (narrower and higher) than the Aquatica but with the handles on they are approximately the same width.

Did you get a chance to weigh them?

No. The Nauticam viewfinder is quite large and adds a fair amount of wieght to the housing so it felt heavier than the Aquatica which only had the standard viewfinder. I never compared the two without the Nauticam viewfinder attached.

Does the Aquatica have double release "safety" latches? I know the Nauticam does'nt.

Yes it does and this is why I find them more irritating than the Nauticam latches. The fact that you have to hold the safety release in with one finger while releasing the catch is why you end up jamming your finger between the latch and the handle. Although Nauticam don't have double release safety catches they have put a plastic fairing around each catch to prevent anything accidentally getting under it a possibly releasing at an inopportune moment.

Did you try shooting video with the housings? I was wondering what you thought about the controls.

You must have skipped over this bit in my original post:

• The controls for using the Live View/Movie Switch and Movie Start/Stop button on the Nauticam are excellent, smooth and very easy to use. By using clever design they are located on the right hand side of the housing and can be easily operated with your thumb without removing your hand from the right hand handle. On the other hand the same controls on the Aquatica are located toward the centre of the housing adjacent to the viewfinder. They are difficult to reach and were a little clunky in operation. In particular I had problems with the Live View/Movie Switch, I just could not get it to operate on the surface and shallow dives down to 6 metres despite several adjustments of the position of the control inside the housing. On deeper dives it would engage and work.


I'm guessing that fifth connection was not accessible for a focus light?

That's a correct assumption.

Edited by Gudge, 10 April 2010 - 03:00 PM.

Canon 7D, Nauticam NA-7D housing, 2 x Inon Z240, 1 x Inon S2000, Tokina 10-17 & 12-24, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Tokina 35 macro, Canon 60 & 100 macro, Tamron 2X & Kenko 1.X Teleconverters.

#13 Steve Williams

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:00 PM

Yes it does and this is why I find them more irritating than the Nauticam latches. The fact that you have to hold the safety release in with one finger while releasing the catch is why you end up jamming your finger between the latch and the handle. Although Nauticam don't have double release safety catches they have put a plastic fairing around each catch to prevent anything accidentally getting under it a possibly releasing at an inopportune moment.


Thanks Ross, as you know I have the Nauticam for the 7D and about the only thing I was curious about was the lack of safety catches. Not really sure you need them, I just got used to them on my Sea & Sea. Glad to know there is reason they are not used.


I guess I asked my question about video poorly. I was wondering if you shot a lot of video where you would have a chance to get used to the controls on the Aquatica. Like you, I really like the Nauticam setup with all the controls on the right side. To be able to shoot stills and video with out having to take your hand off the handle is really nice and for me it's the biggest difference between the two housings. There is a trade of course and the cost in this case is more levers, linkages, and mechanical bits inside the Nauticam housing. When I first opened the housing it's was a little intimidating. The other "cost" is that because all the controls are on the right they have to be a liitle smaller just to make room for them as you mentioned. I think if you're wearing big gloves you might have a problem but I haven't tried it.

I keep finding little things about the Nauticam that I like. At first I missed the two alignment pins that are used on the S&S to line up the two halves of the housing. Then I realized that the Nauticam uses an internal lip around the whole housing to accomplish the same thing. My only real experience with a DSLR was with the S&S so it was great to hear your much more experienced opinion.

Thanks partner,
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#14 Gudge

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 01:51 AM

I was wondering if you shot a lot of video where you would have a chance to get used to the controls on the Aquatica.

As I stated earlier I couldn't get the Aquatica video/live view switch to engage on the surface and dives shallower than 6 metres. Bad wind and tides limited my diving to sites that had a maximum depth of 6m for most of the time I had the Aquatica on trial. I did manage to get two dives in at 15 metres and had a go at some video on these dives to test out the Aquatica video controls. They worked fine at this depth but were a lot harder to access than those on the Nauticam due to their location on the housing.

There is a trade of course and the cost in this case is more levers, linkages, and mechanical bits inside the Nauticam housing.

The Aquatica is a little simpler but still has lots of levers, linkages, gear trains in it. I'm a mechanical engineer and love this sort of stuff as long as it is designed and constructed well. Both Nauticam and Aquatica have done a good job in this area.

Edited by Gudge, 11 April 2010 - 01:51 AM.

Canon 7D, Nauticam NA-7D housing, 2 x Inon Z240, 1 x Inon S2000, Tokina 10-17 & 12-24, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Tokina 35 macro, Canon 60 & 100 macro, Tamron 2X & Kenko 1.X Teleconverters.

#15 aussie

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 04:41 AM

Great write up Gudge! I'm yet to dive with a Nauticam, although I'm more than happy with my Aquatica.

The Aquatica latches irritated me more than those on the Nauticam because I couldn’t seem to realease them without jamming my fingers between them and the handles.


I've never found this. Maybe you have overly larger hands? Or otherwise you're doing it wrong :beer:

I couldn't get the Aquatica video/live view switch to engage on the surface and dives shallower than 6 metres.


Again, not a problem I've found at all. In fact the video/live view switch is very easy to click over on mine and I would say very well designed. Just wanted to point out that this isn't a problem on all A7D housings.

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#16 Ferg42

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 11:13 AM

Great comparison. Happy I went with the Nauticam, which is now sitting on my desk, but yet to get wet. My parents' murky swimming pool at about 10 degrees C beckons.......
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#17 Alex_Tattersall

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 11:34 AM

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#18 betti154

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 02:17 PM

Great write up Gudge! I'm yet to dive with a Nauticam, although I'm more than happy with my Aquatica.



I've never found this. Maybe you have overly larger hands? Or otherwise you're doing it wrong :beer:



Again, not a problem I've found at all. In fact the video/live view switch is very easy to click over on mine and I would say very well designed. Just wanted to point out that this isn't a problem on all A7D housings.

Ryan.


I've had the same or a similar issue with the Aquatica video/still mode selector. It was quite annoying though Aquatica are apparently providing a new base plate to rectify the issue.

Having dived the Aquatica in still and video mode I can relate to Gudge's comments/issues on the Aquatica. That said it's a great housing (best I've used) though not surprisingly the ergonomics are gear more towards stills than video. I don't often use the * and AF-ON buttons so don't find this dual purpose lever an issue.
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#19 Gudge

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 03:27 PM

I don't often use the * and AF-ON buttons so don't find this dual purpose lever an issue.

I often use these buttons at the same time when shooting super-macro. I set up the camera so that shutter release operates only as shutter release (ie does not carry out auto focus on half press) and re-assign the Flash Exposure Lock (FEL) to the * button. I use spot or partial metering combined with FEL to get the flash exposure by pressing the * button, I use the AF-ON button to lock focus and then move the camera to recompose the shot and get the focus sweet spot where I want it and then release the shutter. The fact that you can't easily shoot in this mode with the Aquatica won't be an issue for most people but it is a big issue for me. The location of the AF-ON lever and the * piano key on the Nauticam makes shooting in this way very easy (even better than on my old Subal C40).

A friend of mine has only just taken delivery of the Subal 7D housing and is coming to Exmouth at the end of this week for a couple of weeks diving on Ningaloo. He said that I can have a play with it (I don't think that will involve taking his new baby for a dive) so I should be able to give some comments on the Subal 7D housing in light of what I've said with regard to the Nauticam and Aquatica versions in a couple of weeks.

Edited by Gudge, 11 April 2010 - 03:39 PM.

Canon 7D, Nauticam NA-7D housing, 2 x Inon Z240, 1 x Inon S2000, Tokina 10-17 & 12-24, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Tokina 35 macro, Canon 60 & 100 macro, Tamron 2X & Kenko 1.X Teleconverters.

#20 betti154

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 05:28 PM

I often use these buttons at the same time when shooting super-macro. I set up the camera so that shutter release operates only as shutter release (ie does not carry out auto focus on half press) and re-assign the Flash Exposure Lock (FEL) to the * button. I use spot or partial metering combined with FEL to get the flash exposure by pressing the * button, I use the AF-ON button to lock focus and then move the camera to recompose the shot and get the focus sweet spot where I want it and then release the shutter. The fact that you can't easily shoot in this mode with the Aquatica won't be an issue for most people but it is a big issue for me. The location of the AF-ON lever and the * piano key on the Nauticam makes shooting in this way very easy (even better than on my old Subal C40).


I'm familar with the techique though just don't use it. I don't use the FEL button as I find it just as easy to take a shot and adjust off that using the historgram. On the AF lock side I really like the half press shutter on land, so find it unnatural to change underwater. That said, I do map the AF-ON button to "AF-OFF", so that I can override focus lock and release the shutter any time I want. I use this if I can't get lock for WA work (e.g. pitch black caves, wrecks) or for tight macro (I just use the AF system to pre focus the lens to minimum distance first and move camera into position).
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