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DEMA HDV housing Mini-report


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#1 Drew

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 11:08 PM

I went around looking at the new housings for the Sony HDV cameras. Here is a little mini-report:

Sea & Sea

The new VXHC1 housing is very much like the old VX950 housing. The specs are already mentioned in another post. The new VMC-75 (a 2.5" monitor) sits in the front on the housing which may cause balance problems but it is light at 4.8kg and the form factor is compact. There is no manual white balancing. The old VX950 and 2100 ports can be used with the housing using the old VX950 step up ring. Something to consider for those who invested in the VX2100 SWA lens. The housing is due to ship next month.
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The FX/Z1 housing is anodized black and looks the most sleek and beautiful of all the housings I saw. As with the old VX2100 housing, it is a combination of manual and IR electronic controls, using the ancient and limited but rock solid Sony grip. Sony also developed a wideangle converter boasting 98° view but it has quite a fair bit of distortion and really isn't wide enough. I couldn't tell if there was any vignetting. It sells for over $3000. The housing shows typical S&S fare, with a lens shade built into the VF to protect the camera from being fried by the sun (something other manufacturers should take heed of for the people who are using their cameras often in the field). It is also angled nicely and the VF is big and plenty of space for mask and reg since it protrudes out from the housing.
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The internal electronics are high up in the housing and also protected from errant drops of water, so there is further protection for the dreaded water damage (add a sanitary napkin and it would be almost impossible to drown). You still have to lift your hands to change WB, but it is better than the old VX 2100 housing. There are still NO menu controls. The housing was balanced when used with the standard lens but I didn't try the SWA converter. Apparently the NX bayonet port are the same as the macro ports from the still cameras and can be used on this housing, but creates buoyancy and handling issues like the old VX2100 housing. The housing is available now.

Amphibico:
The FX/Z1 Phenom was reviewed by Paul Wags here. The vignetting problem is known by Amphibico and they are looking for a fix. There is no SWA lens yet in the pipeline. Also the tray electronics are uncoated and bare at the bottom of the housing. There is very little space for any measures like sanitary napkins etc. Extra care when opening in the field will be necessary due to the exposed IC boards. Also the view finder is 16:9 style and now has pictogram to tell you not to let direct sunlight into the VF (due to a few (including me) people frying their vf on the cameras) Would be so much easier to just have a built-in shade like the S&S.
Posted ImageHowever, I have to hand Amphibico the most innovative award for first thinking about the glass view area for the camera's LCD monitor, then coming up with an ingenious prism block that utilizes the LCD window like monitor but fixed onto the housing. This wonderful like piece is robust (much better than a separate LCD monitor housing) and simple. I'm sure Amphibico will sell the prism as standard (when it ships in Nov/Dec) when they see the demand. Other news is a new 4.5 16:9 LCD monitor to entice people to upgrade from the new prism.
The new HC1 housing is the Evo, with the same grip controls and flip filter. Optics are similar to the TRV950/PD10x housing. The cool thing is that the electronic control allows manual white balancing independent of the on screen LCD controls. It's a software reengineering but it works.
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Light & Motion
The new Blue Fin HD for the FX/Z1 has the same LCD glass area design like the Amphibico, but no prism device. They still use the small 2.5" monitor and widescreen(16:9) viewing is forced so it's even smaller. The IC boards are all exposed on the rear bulkhead as well as in the main housing. They are coated for protection but still errant drops of salt water from hair, wind etc could possibly make it a lousy day. Such a design requires more care in opening and handling the open housing.
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There is an internal ballast on the sides where you can adjust the balance of the housing. The Bluefin is the biggest of all the electronic housings.
There is also a macro port for even better closeup lenses, and with the internal ballast it should be well balanced but we'll have to wait to test that notion. ( I think it's a pity now that HDV gives video higher resolution, some of the manufacturers seem to think single element diopters would suffice when the older DV cameras could fit dual element diopters in the macro ports). And they will be shipping the FX1 housing in 2-3 weeks. They say there will be a SWA lens but no ship date on that.
The Bluefin HC1 housing is standard L&M bluefin housing like the PD10X/TRV950 housings, with a drawback, there is no true manual whitebalancing for the camera in this housing, but some sort of hack. The A1 version has a button that can be assigned to white balance and the housing will have access to that.
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Gates:
The HC1 and FX1 housing both have smart weight distribution design integrated into the housings. You can shift the handles on the top of the housings to adjust balance and hand size. There are also the Super WideAngle lens for the housings by Fathom Imaging. The FX1 SWA lens is massive and has a buoyancy collar. The HC1 SWA is smaller but is very long. Gates also has the biggest monitor available at 4.1" but still in 4:3 format. So the 16:9 widescreen mode will be smaller.
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Gates FX1 housing with Fathoms SWA lens (which promises 107° without vignetting)

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Gates HC1 housing with Fathoms SWA lens (note how much weight is toward the front)

Gates also offers housings for the XL2 and soon the XL HDV cameras from Canon. The XL2 housing is similar in size to the FX1 but a bit longer. The ports are designed to use the XL2's own lenses. Gates has also promised housing for the Panasonic HDV200, probably the most advanced of the HDV cameras for the price.
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Gates Canon XL2 housing
Overall, the housing manufacturers have listened to the consumers. Most have made adjustable balance as features, one of the most important things for a shooter. Still no one housing has a significant advantage. Some lead in optics, other in functionality. Amphibico has jumped ahead in releasing a wonderful prism VF that is hopefully cost effective. It can be viewed in 16:9 as a reflection of the camera's own hi res LCD monitor. The L&M and S&S monitor solutions are small and are 4:3 forced to widescreen 16:9, which makes the picture even smaller.
Amphibico have a very wide standard lens, but to avoid vignetting the FoV shrinks to about 85°. Gates has the very cool Fathom Imaging 107° lens for the FX1. The first to break 100° for the HDV 3CCD camera. But it's not cheap at $5k. S&S has a 98° converter but I didn't try it and have heard rumors of vignetting and distortion (from competitors so I took it with a sack of salt).
The only certain thing is that prices of these toys haven't stayed in line with the older housings. For instance, the Amphibico VH2000 started at $3200 at DEMA in 2001, the Phenom is over $6k. The same for the other manufacturers. The smaller HC1/A1 housings also follow in line with the VX950/PD10x housings but nothing to the point of the big 3CCD camera housings. The future seems to be more expensive for HDV shooters, unfortunately.

Drew
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#2 MikeVeitch

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 04:41 AM

Great report Drew.

Sure wish my Phenom would arrive one of these days so i can try it out...

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#3 Drew

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 09:53 AM

Mike
Seriously consider that prism for the LCD... it's really nice.

Drew
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#4 eborac

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 11:16 PM

Hi,
that sea & sea hc1 looks just great. i assume the monitor is 16:9 ?
any hint on the price ?
cheers HH

#5 Drew

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 11:28 AM

All the LCD monitors are 4:3 as stated in the report.
The VMC75 is going for about $900 if I remember correctly.

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#6 motionsync

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 05:09 PM

Thanks Drew for the Info and the Pictures....

A Video Camera is on my list years now, especialy becauce I like to make some documentarys about freediving and the Amphibico sea & sea or Light and Motion will be awesome.

I still wait for to see more infos about the controls the housings will have (like manual whaite balance etc...) and the price include a monitor....

Lambis

P.S. Thanks for the Black d2X aquatica photo!!!!
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#7 triswebb

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 06:39 AM

Thanks for this info!

Did you get any idea of housing costs while you were there? I had a good look for more information on the Sea&Sea housing but cannot find anything!

Thanks,

Tristan

#8 Drew

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 11:09 AM

I hope one of the many wetpixel vendors would step up here and help out with pricing? I wrote it down somewhere but can't remember where I put all the stuff. So much for my roving reporter career.

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#9 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 12:10 PM

Sea & Sea Pricing-
VX-FX1- $5995
VX-HC1- $2550
VX-G1- $1525

VMC-75 $995
.48x SWA Lens- $3400

I believe the other manufacturers prices are listed on their respective sites.

Fathom has also said they'll build their 107degree lens for this housing, but they have a lot on their plate.

Some additions to what Drew wrote-

The LMI Bluefin HC1 will have manual white balance through the ROC Smart Grips. This is a software process that essentially forces the camera to go through its startup procedure, and isn't instantaneous.

Their Bluefin A1u will have access to the custom button on the side of the camera, which can be defined as manual white balance.

Most impressive to me about the Bluefin for the FX1 was the enhanced build quality. Everything on this housing is industrial strength.

The Sea & Sea housing will access the custom setting, or pop the flash up on the HC1 ;), but will not access the Telemacro function, which has been pointed out as an issue by some.

I didn't look at either Gates or Amphibico for the HC1, Amphibico's FX1 housing is nice, but seems rather limited in the wide angle department.

Fisheye is also working on a small, CNC milled plastic housing for the HC1 that is incredibly form fitting, doubling as a splash housing. I'm not sure whether or not AtDeep, INC, will bring this to market here or not.

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#10 motionsync

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 02:50 AM

Thanks Ryan for the infos

Can you please tell me more about the The LMI Bluefin HC1 white balance through the ROC Smart Grips? You say that the camera go through its startup procedure, also on & off? Is it fast?

The A1 have a custom button that we can program for manula white balance?

Man thats hard.. there is a low cost camera like HC1 perfect for UW and this white balance feature (the most important for me) is the problem

Lambis
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#11 Drew

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 03:37 AM

Can you please tell me more about the The LMI Bluefin HC1 white balance through the ROC Smart Grips? You say that the camera go through its startup procedure, also on & off? Is it fast?
Basically, the HVR HC1 white balancing is done inside the LCD menu. However, the camera does reset the auto-wb once it powers on again. So the way to trick it to white balance is to turn it on and off. Not very efficient or fast.

The A1 have a custom button that we can program for manula white balance?
The HVR-A1 has an "assign" button that can be programed to white balance at a touch of a button.

Man thats hard.. there is a low cost camera like HC1 perfect for UW and this white balance feature (the most important for me) is the problem
Well perhaps you should think of the A1 which is a better performer. I'm thinking of using my Z1 topside only and go with the A1 u/w. Saves on travel weight etc. Only wish a good 16:9 monitor solution was available.


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#12 motionsync

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 03:45 AM

Off cource is the A1 a great altenativ but are alle features needed if you use it only for UW work? Will be the qaulity of the material better that with the HC1

I must read again the specs of the A1 but for me to pay near 1000 dollars more only to have manual white balance is to mutch. I dont know how its look with manual expose. This will be a reason to take a closer look

Lambis
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#13 Drew

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 02:22 PM

Obviously the CMOS sensor is the same for HC1 and A1. Timecode, XLR audio, custom functions may not be all that important for you though.
The added advantage of macro-mode for u/w is probably a great thing for u/w shooters who like macro. Add that on top of a diopter and you have a HD closeup of a pygmy seahorse. Depending on the optics of the housing of course.

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#14 DanB

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 03:48 PM

I think the HVR-A1U is the way to go. Over the HC1 I mean.

B& H sells the camera for $2599 (not on the web site, you have to call for the best price) Sure, it is $700 more than the HC1 but is $2599 too much to pay for a compact HD camera that offers one touch white balance? Remember, white balance on the HC1 is on the touch screen so even topsite white balace is pain.

When you add up all you are going to spend on the camera, housing, lights, monitors, etc.. I can't see saving $700 to not have one touch white balance.
Fast, easy, accurate. Press the button that was made for it.

An electronic work around may be available in some housings, but will they be as fast? What does it have to do? Turn the camera on and off? Go through a series of menu commands? I don't know. It might work great, might not. With the A1, you know.

And it's still a heck of a lot less than an FX1 set up.

my $.02

Dan

#15 motionsync

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 04:13 PM

Dan Thats a good Argument but in Sweden the price of the A1 is very high (for now) more that 1000 USD
i think that the housings for the A1 will be more expensive that the ones for the hc1.
Off cource , on the end if the A1 setup (camera , housing, etc...) is 1000 usd more expensive that the HC1I will go with A1 but if it is 2000-3000 USD I dont know ....
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#16 triswebb

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Posted 14 October 2005 - 02:35 AM

Hi Motionsync,

To be honest, I think that Amphibico will relieve all your fears of white balance! There housing looks very impressive (especially the PRO EVO). For myself and probaly many others, cash is a major issue :-). I think for me I would rather get the HC1 and spend the extra little bit of cash on getting the Amphibico Pro Evo (which will still take a huge chunk out of the next few months budgets :-) ).

Not sure if your aware of this already, but I have listed all the features that this housing will offer below! (email recieved yesterday). In my fantasy world of course I would be throwing cash on an FX1, with all the trimmings and a lovely housing, montior and home video editing suite etc etc :-). But i think this will be a great little setup - or at least one I can (just about) afford :-)

1) Housing Color GOLD with Black Pro Logo



2) Housing Features

Ten Electronic Push Button Controls on Right & Left Hand Grip
Record/Standby
Telephoto
Wide Angle
Zoom Speed (Shift Key)
Photo (INCORPORATE LSD FOR STROBE APPLICATION) (need to purchase Bulkhead connector for Strobe)
White Balance
Special Effects
Review
Toggle between Manual to Auto Focus
True Manual Focus
Mode Change
Off
Playback Mode: Navigate and play back recorded scenes
Flashing Green Tally Light when Recording
Electronic Moisture Sensor Alarm

Left Hand Grip Controls

Focus +, Focus -
Review
Special Effect
Execute
Playback Navigation

Right Hand Grip Controls
Record/Standby/Photo
Wide-Angle/Telephoto
White Balance – Mode
Manual/Auto Focus

3) Make grips slanted like PD170/VH2100

4) Manual Push Button Controls on a MENU PANEL

a-Tele Macro Button :Pressing the Telemacro button allows shooting of small subjects at a very close distance

b-Expanded Focus Button : doubles the size of the image on the LCD by pressing the expanded focus button.

c-Exposure / Volume Button : Adjust the exposure manually by pressing the + or - Exposure Volume buttons to increase or decrease the exposure

d- Auto / Manual Exposure Button : Toggles between auto exposure and manual exposure.