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Nauticam Battery Pack Problem - A6500


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#1 jgttrey

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Posted 06 February 2017 - 03:38 PM

So, I have a new A6500 with the Nauticam housing.  Love them both, FWIW.

 

However, a big selling point for me on this setup was that the new Nauticam housing has provision for a thin battery pack under the camera that plugs into the micro-USB on the camera and gives you another 2100 mAh of juice.  That solves what, for me, was a pretty big limitation on the camera.

 

Here's the problem and I'm curious if anyone has a solution (or failing that, at least it gets the word out to Nauticam and potential buyers):

 

The auxiliary battery pack is basically a small and thin version of the ubiquitous little power packs like you'd use to recharge your phone.  Charge it up with a USB charger and it has 4 little blue LEDs showing the charge state and that it is "active".  Take any Anker portable battery product from Amazon and shrink it to about the size of a deck of cards but half as thick, and you've basically got this battery.

 

To use, you charge it up, plug it into the camera, close the housing and draw a vacuum.  All good.  However, the problem is that the battery pack will go to "sleep" after some period of time if it isn't charging the camera.  Of course, at the beginning of the day when the internal camera battery is full, there's nothing to charge, and at some point, the auxiliary battery turns itself off and it will not turn itself back on and commence charging, even when you discharge the camera battery.  To "wake" it up, you have to unplug and replug it.  In other words, once it goes to sleep it is useless no matter how much you drain the camera battery until you open the housing unplug it and replug it.

 

The problem, of course, is that it might be an hour or two after I close up the housing before I hit the water, by which time the thing has gone to sleep.  I'd prefer not to have to open the housing again, on the boat just so the battery pack "wakes up"  That sort of defeats the purpose and I'd like to see my little green vacuum okay light for more than 5 minutes before I jump in....

 

I had some limited success with periodically turning the camera on for a minute or two here or there before the first dive so the auxiliary battery would see a voltage drop and maybe do a tiny charge and reset its sleep countdown, but that is an uncertain PITA.

 

Any ideas out there?  



#2 Colin Snow

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 09:49 PM

Thanks for your write-up. What a hassle!

 

I just got this housing but not filmed with it yet.  At $60 a pop, this is a serious oversight by Nauticam. Perhaps you can write them and report back here their response.


Edited by Colin Snow, 20 March 2017 - 09:55 PM.


#3 jgttrey

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 05:16 AM

I have not discovered a solution.

 

When I contacted the [major online retailer] from whom I bought the housing and battery they confirmed that they have seen the same issue on the A7 auxiliary battery system.  It's not a secret, except to consumers.

 

I did email Nauticam over a month ago.  I received a prompt response that they would have their engineers look at the issue and get back to me.  Since then, it has been radio silence.  I did ask for an update after a couple of weeks and received no response.  I'll ask again.

 

I'm really disappointed with Nauticam.  The availability of the auxiliary battery was material both to my decision to go mirrorless and to get this particular housing -- and the battery, without question, fails to do what it is supposed.  What good is an auxiliary battery system that turns itself off before you can get in the water?

 

I understand this is a niche market and I don't expect Nauticam to have a 1000 beta testers.  Some hiccups are totally understandable.  I get that, but I do expect them to try to fix the problem.  

 

More importantly, I don't think it is acceptable is to continue to sell this product knowing that it is a 100% fail.  It isn't just the $60 battery itself.  There are surely people like me that are choosing the housing vs Aquatica or others because they think this battery system will address the single biggest problem with mirrorless bodies -- battery life.  

 

I hope they will address this.  If they simple got with whatever Chinese factory makes this battery packs and told them to change the firmware to extend the time before the pack goes dormant they could largely fix this.  

 

Nauticam is a good company and I think/hope this is out of character for them, but in my opinion it is irresponsible to keep selling this product until they fix it.



#4 jgttrey

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 05:33 AM

Update.  

 

Nauticam responded this morning to my latest ping.  I appreciate that, but the answer was less than what was hoping for.

 

According to them, (1) this is how the batteries work, (2) they have been unsuccessful in getting  a software update to remedy the problem and (3) there is no workaround.  

Nevertheless, they think it is "valuable in extending single dive run times".  

 

I will simply say, "only if you wait to plug in the battery and close the housing until 5 minutes before you dive."  That defeats the purpose of the vacuum system and requires me to open the housing on the boat immediately before my first dive.  So, the battery system is only useful for those people who are willing to ignore standard good practices and greatly increase the chances of flooding their rigs.

 

Bottom line for right now is that I would give the availability of the battery system zero weight in making a housing choice and I continue to believe that Nauticam should withdraw this product until they get a more permanent solution.  I think the marketing of this product is misleading.



#5 Colin Snow

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 01:41 PM

Thanks for the update.  I am wondering if this USB Battery Pack Keep-Alive Load Kit would work. http://swling.com/bl...alive-load-kit/.  What do you think?



#6 jgttrey

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 03:51 PM

Colin,

 

 

That's a good find and something like that is probably workable in theory.  The big questions are whether there is room in the housing and what load you'd have to set to keep the pack awake (and what heat is generated by that load).  It's only a 2500 mAh pack, so if you had to run that little unit at 150 mA to keep it awake, you'd go through battery fast and maybe generate more heat that was desirable.  At lower mA settings, it might be a good solution provided it fits.   I'll look tonight, but I'm thinking that without some creative cabling, it won't fit.  It's a pretty sharp bend.

 

FWIW, the Nauticam battery pack comes in a box marked "iThin".  If you Google IWO iThin, there's an Amazon listing but is no longer available -- but you can still find an image for it  on the Google search page.  So, it's just an off-the-shelf cell phone battery charger that has been repurposed.  It isn't even packaged in a Nauticam box and still comes with a little leatherette pocket case.  In short, I don't think Nauticam had anything to do with the product specifications.  

 

Obviously, the correct solution would be to get with the manufacturer and make a simple change to the firmware -- not all chargers go to sleep, after all.  But, I suspect (a) Nauticam has an inventory of these things and (b)  probably doesn't have the volume needed to get the factory in China to do a custom run.  That's just a guess, but it's the only reason I can imagine why they wouldn't fix this problem the correct way.  It would be very easy.  

 

Right now, Nauticam sees the user of this system as either folks that do a lot of video or extended run times - and are willing to open the housing right before the dive and then leave the camera on thereafter (A6500 will shut down in 30 minutes even at max delay).  I just think that is bad practice and asking for a flood.  I want to seal my rig before getting on the boat and plugging in the battery pack in that tight space means getting all up inside it.  There's a real chance of messing up your nice clean o-ring.  It's not just a quick open-and-close.

 

They did say they would look at updating the product description to make its limitations clear.  That is a good thing, but it would be so easy to get this right rather than just make it clear that it is not very useful.

 

There are any number of chargers of this type with similar dimensions on Amazon.  I'll measure my actual unit tonight, but the old Amazon listing for the iThin was 98x58x6.5mm.  The best solution would be to see if there is a similar sized unit that doesn't have the auto power off feature.  They only cost 12 bucks or something.



#7 bubffm

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 07:11 AM

Wow, that is a very serious design flaw by Nauticam. Whats the point in having an addl. battery in the housing if you have to open up the housing to get it activated? Totally pointless. Bythe time you got the housing open you can as well get a "proper" battery inserted in the cam.

What a joke!

Edited by bubffm, 23 March 2017 - 07:12 AM.


#8 jgttrey

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 07:37 AM

It is a problem, for sure.  The key trick is to keep the battery pack "on" until you begin your first dive.  After that, it will keep the camera charged and even if it later finishes "topping off" the camera during your surface interval and shuts down, at least you can start the second dive with a full camera battery -- and I have no problem getting through a single dive on a full internal battery.  

 

Whether the level of hassle associated with "teasing" the battery pack into staying active until your first dive starts is worth it is up to you.  In some situations, that might not be a big deal.  In others, it would be a major headache or impossible unless you want to open the housing again.

 

Let me add a few things in fairness:

 

1.  I will say that the line of communication with Nauticam is wide open.  There was a missed email earlier in the process, but since then they have been very responsive and I give them high marks on that. 

 

2. While they believe the current system offers advantages to certain types of divers, they are not oblivious to the limitations created by the auto-shutdown.  Apparently, a firmware update on the battery pack is not as simple as I suppose it to be for various reasons (I am an amateur after all), but they are looking at other approaches.  They are not ignoring this, and I appreciate that.

 

3.  I do love the housing.  The battery issue is not a reason not to buy the housing.  It just may not (yet) be the positive differentiating factor that I hoped it would be.  For some users with different habits or needs, it might be advantageous.  You just have to understand the limitations in light of your needs and factor that into your decisions.



#9 bubffm

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:14 AM

Well, if you're screening the market for something that gets around one of the major flaws of a compact cam setup underwater, its certainly a major issue and non-starter, so thanks for making us aware of it.

#10 Colin Snow

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 01:20 PM

I found this battery for $12 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M19ZRKZ/

 

It's a snug fit, but it works. See pics below.

 

I also ordered the USB Battery Pack Keep-Alive Load Kit  (link above) and this USB 2.0 Extension Cable-Right Angle A Male to Female- 3.9 Inch(10 cm) for $8 on Amazon https://www.amazon.c...uct/B06XRW713L/

 

I'll give an update if it works and fits. -  Colin

 

IMG_7044.JPG

IMG_7046.JPG

IMG_7043.JPG

IMG_7045.JPG



#11 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 07:12 AM

Are there any updates on this?  I am thinking about an A6500 and wanted to know if this has been resolved, or if the DIY solution discussed above works.

 

Thanks!



#12 jgttrey

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 07:44 AM

Nauticam has a new version of this battery pack. I just received it a couple of weeks ago. It appears to stay active as long as it is connected to camera but, if unplugged, will go to sleep. I've only tested it on my desk so far, but am headed to GCM today and will update after I dive with it. I think they have solved this issue.

FWIW, it does seem to slowly discharge while plugged into the camera. I left it plugged into a fully charged camera and after about 6 or 7 hours, one of the four LEDs had gone out, but that doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

I'll update with real world trip report when I get back.

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk

#13 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 08:42 AM

sounds like they built in a "keep alive" type of feature to draw just enough current to keep the battery active.  As you said, the low draw seems very reasonable.

 

Looks like my only concern with this has been resolved.

 

Look forward to your "real world" report.



#14 Colin Snow

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 10:13 AM

Thanks for the update.  I called Reef Photo and they are exchanging my old for new.



#15 jgttrey

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 04:07 AM

So, mid-trip report:

 

The new version of the battery pack is great.  The firmware fix has fully solved the issue of the pack going to sleep.  It appears to stay awake indefinitely once plugged into the camera. I had no problem setting it up at the condo several hours before the dive.  I can get through 2 dives before I even begin to draw on the camera's internal battery.

 

One thing I noticed -- I think, but will check out today -- is that while the camera is on the external battery, the camera itself will not turn off the LCD after 2 minutes, or whatever you have programmed.  Of course (assuming I verify this), that is a camera issue not a battery issue.  So, just be aware that you should turn camera off during surface intervals, etc. because I don't think it will shut itself down while on external power.  I haven't really run this to ground yet, but will try to look at it today. There may be a menu setting that would address this.

 

Anyway, the bottom line is that Nauticam fully addressed this issue and I am very appreciative of the way they listened to their customers and took action to improve this product.  A+



#16 rgilkes

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:10 AM

EDIT: Originally asked if this also applied to a7 battery, but Backscatter specifies that the battery only charges when the camera is off.


Edited by rgilkes, 06 June 2017 - 09:14 AM.


#17 jgttrey

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:14 AM

Sorry, I don't know about the A7 battery pack.  Hopefully, they're working on that too.