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.
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”.
• 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.