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Subal or SeaCam for EOS 1Ds (1Ds Mk II)?


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#1 H2Oplanet

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:58 PM

I have been shooting Canon 1Ds and 1Ds Mk II cameras in Subal housings for ~1-1/2 years now and generally I am VERY happy with the results. Having said that, I believe that the Subal system is not as comprehensive as it should be. Specifically, to my knowlege, a manual focus port is still not available for the 100mm lens (crutial for super macro work w/ teleconverters, extenders and diopters...in conjuction with port extension). Also, the system is less than ideal for over/under work and pole-cam work both of which are important to me (I continue to use film-based Nikonus RS systems for pole-cam work). It is my understanding that SeaCam can/does address these omissions with a more comprehensive line of accessories: manual focus flat port is available, 9" dome is available, and supposedly a nicely designed pole cam arrangement is available (not clear if this is an off-the-shelf system or if it is custom). Lastly, one other concern is that Subals availability of new products and response time to field problems has been less that desireable.

Again, for most shooting I think Subal is fantastic but I want a system that addresses these other "special shooting" situations. I am seriously considering jumping to SeaCam in the next few days... Any "pseudo-objective" recommendations? Is SeaCam just as sluggish in terms of product availability and responding to problems?? A change will be costly so I want some opinions other than those of the distributor...

Thanks...
Scott Marshall
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#2 Rocha

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 05:36 PM

Hi, this has been discussed here before, and the conclusion is that you can't go wrong with either housing. Check these two topics for more:

http://wetpixel.com/...?showtopic=7162

http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=10294

I hope this helps,

Luiz

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#3 H2Oplanet

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 05:49 PM

Thanks Rocha...these are very helpful threads and a good start...I forgot about the viewfinder choices with SeaCam which is not trivial...
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#4 Rocha

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 06:41 PM

Hi, I am sorry I didn't read your entire post, when I saw the title (Subal or Seacam) I just assumed you would ask which one to get. But... You already have a Subal! In that case, I really don't know.

I saw one of Ryan's posts somewhere that Subal was working on a manual port for the 100 USM, but nothing confirmed yet. As far as I know, seacam is the only one that supports that cable for use as a polecam.

Here is a good discussion about pole-cams:

http://wetpixel.com/...?showtopic=8716

Luiz

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#5 bmyates

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 08:40 PM

The ideal person to answer your question would be someone who has (or has had) both brands of housings. I don't qualify -- I've only owned two brands of SLR housings: Ikelite and (now) Seacam. However, as I have no financial interest in Seacam, I can at least offer an unbiased opinion on the Seacam housing for your camera.

First, yes, Seacam offers manual focus for the 100mm macro lens (as well as the Sigma 150mm macro lens) -- I've used both lenses with MF, with no difficulties. I actually find the Seacam MF knob easily accessible (somewhat more so than the zoom knob, which takes a bit more getting used to).

Second, the Seacam Superdome works well with a variety of wide angle lenses, and is great for over/unders. It's a big damn thing, but once you get it to your destination, it's a great dome port.

Third, you mentioned Seacam's special viewfinders. These are great viewfinders with multiple optical elements that magnify the image and have an adjustable diopter to customize the correction for your specific vision.

If there's anything I DON'T like about this housing, it's the weight and lack of balanced buoyancy. It is quite negative to start with, especially with the macro port, a long lens (e.g., 100mm or 150mm), and/or either of the special viewfinders. The big superdome adds a lot of air space, and therefore some buoyancy, but it is still negative (at least if you're using one of the special viewfinders). James W. came up with an ingenious "buoyancy collar," and I followed his directions to make one of my own (although I did it in multiple interchangeable "rings" rather than one big collar). That helps tremendously in overcoming the housing's negative buoyancy, but since it puts the buoyancy all on the port, the housing tends to want to constantly point skyward. I plan to use the same technique to create some sort of "buoyancy base" to connect to the bottom of the housing itself to make the buoyancy more evenly balanced.

Lastly, you asked about the dealer situation. I have found Stephen Frink's operation (U.S. dealer for Seacam) a delight to work with (I should mention that virtually all of my contact has been with Liz). They are honest about anticipated delivery times (and delays when applicable), and bend over backwards to get things to you when needed. OTOH, bear in mind that they don't keep a huge inventory on hand, so it often takes a number of weeks to get components from Austria. That's not a negative reflection on the Frink organization; it's just a fact of life dealing with a specialized product produced in limited quantities overseas. As for dealing with problems, I couldn't be happier with their responsiveness. It doesn't mean you'll get overnight turnaround, but my experience has been that they will do everything they can to make you happy.

As I'm sure you know, everything about Seacam housings and accessories is soberingly expensive (the Superdome and viewfinders EACH cost almost as much as some housings!). But the craftsmanship is top-notch, the design is well-thought-out and extremely functional, and there is little lacking. I chose Seacam because I wanted the best possible housing -- one that would last for many years. Having now used the housing with two different cameras (1D MkII and 1Ds MkII) to shoot over 10,000 photos, I'm totally comfortable that I "got what I paid for." More important, if I had to do it over again, I'd buy Seacam again.

Hope that helps,

Bruce Yates
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#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 01:56 AM

I have never owned a Seacam and am a Subal user (but with no financial connection to them - in fact I don't even email Subal direct).

I think both are excellent systems. My personal opinion is that the Seacam looks better in the showroom and the Subal is better in the field.

I also don't like the fact that the Seacam housing for my camera (D2X) doesn't have any labels on the controls. I have no need for manual focus ports - so I can't comment there.

I have dived alongside many Seacam users (as I am guessing from your interests you must have too H20?). And freely admit that their housings look sexier than mine. But none of them can change ports or lenses or get there camera in and out of their housings as quickly as I can. I have been on boats when I am already in snorkelling and shooting a random pod of dolphins, while other housing users are still unscrewing their ports and fiddling their cameras into their housings. Or I am downloaded and rigged up for the next dive and topping up the Mustard tan, while they are still in the camera room. Every time I speak to Harald he goes on and on about his super secure screw on ports. I don't understand this as ports falling off doesn't seem a big problem in my underwater photography.

I am sure i will raise a few heckles with that last comment. But i do feel that there are more Seacam users active on this forum than Subal ones - so I thought I should state the case for the opposition!
Also if I had got into Seacam first I would probably prefer it to Subal. I think a lot of my bias comes from what I am used to!

One of the things I really like about Seacam is that Harald seems to listen to his photographers and come up with innovations that they want (polecam, new strobe, wet-dioptres, viewfinder) etc. Although you have to pay for these, of course. Also Harald is younger than Arnold and I am not certain what is going to happen to Subal when Arnold retires?

I agree with Bruce that another very important aspect with either company is dealer support. And this is very dependant on where you live - and who are the local dealers. Many of your problems may be solved by finding a "better" dealer/distributor?

Alex

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#7 Paul Kay

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 04:52 AM

Sorry Alex

I have to comment!

Although you may think I'm biased, after having taken many thousands of images using Seacams and Subals I have to disagree with you comment that Subal are better in the field. I have no criticisms of the Subals I've owned and used but the Seacams are just as good in the field too - this is from my own personal experience, and certainly I don't find them slower to open or get the camera out from. I've just shot 4000 images over the last month and really enjoyed using my own Seacam - perhaps more interestingly, my wife on her second trip with her Seacam also shot a lot (and some very good) images - she found the shift from a film based Subal system to FF digital Seacam pretty seamless.

Now accepting that I'm the British/Irish dealer for Seacam you might consider me to be biased! But in my defence I'll repeat the advice I give to anyone contemplating buying either a Subal or Seacam, which is to handle and if at all possible try them both! Admitted this isn't always that easy but both are costly and worth investing time and effort into thoroughly checking out. And at the end of the day the decision has to be made on personal preference.
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#8 james

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 05:53 AM

Wow, very interesting discussion - it's like comparing a Porche to a BMW - NOT EASY!

So I'll just say that no underwater camera system is perfect, however these two are darned close.

To answer your questions: yes, Seacam offers a complete package remote control for the Canon setup. It's not a custom part, it's something you can call up and order "off the shelf" I believe.

Seacam makes manual focus gears that engage the control in the housing - I use these with my 100mm USM and my 150mm Sigma, and these work with a standard flat port w/ no gear on it. They also make a MF flat port with a gear drive on the front. Which you choose depends a lot on the lenses and teleconverters you plan to use.

As for the other comments - I think all are valid. I can add my own experiences with Seacam:

The threaded port saved my butt last year when I got rammed by a tiger shark. When I finally recovered from checking my body parts, I noticed that my port was at a 90 degree angle. If it had been a 90 degree bayonet mount, my housing could have flooded, but since it was threaded, the O-ring was still sealing. Alex's comment about the topside service-ability is a good one. With the Seacam there is no quick release plate for the camera, so it takes a bit longer to remove.

As for service, the US dealer is great. I'm not sure they you'll see a difference in the responses from the manufacturer between the two companies, as they both have the same constraints.

Cheers
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#9 bmyates

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 08:45 AM

1)...I also don't like the fact that the Seacam housing for my camera (D2X) doesn't have any labels on the controls...

2)...But none of them can change ports or lenses or get there camera in and out of their housings as quickly as I can...

3)...Every time I speak to Harald he goes on and on about his super secure screw on ports. I don't understand this as ports falling off doesn't seem a big problem in my underwater photography...

4)...I agree with Bruce that another very important aspect with either company is dealer support. And this is very dependant on where you live - and who are the local dealers...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Just a few quick comments on the above four points in Alex's post:
1) After much contemplation, I was able to solve this problem with a fine point permanent marker. :D

2) I don't argue that you would win a port/lens changing race, but I can swap out lenses and ports in about 1-2 minutes. Thus far that hasn't significantly impacted my ability to get back in the water and/or work on my tan (although the extra few minutes probably gives me slightly less risk of skin cancer than you). ;) And the extra time I spend on ports/lenses is likely offset by the fact that I use AA lithium batteries in my strobes, which only need to be changed about every 10 dives.

3) I haven't submitted my rig to the "tiger bump" test like James did (maybe next week?! :o ), but having lost a camera to a bumped Ikelite port, the solid screw-on mount on the Seacam was a real selling point for me personally...

4) I live in Seattle, and Stephen Frink (the only Seacam dealer in the U.S., AFAIK) is in Key Largo, FL. That's about as far from "local" dealer as you can get (within the U.S.), and I've never met any of the people there, yet my experience dealing with Liz been great and very "personalized."

As others have said, I think you're talking about two outstanding products here, and I'm not sure one has any clear overall advantage over the other. My decision to buy this housing (and camera) was partially colored by past "mistakes" I have made, mostly in attempts to save money (e.g., I tried to house a Minolta SLR because I already owned it, and I can't tell you how many times I wished I'd made the switch to Nikon or Canon way back then). So--determined not to look back and regret my short-sightedness again--the overriding question I asked myself (and some other uw photographers I know) was, "If money was no object, what would I buy?" That's how I ended up with this rig, and painful as the initial cost was, I still feel like it was a good decision. OTOH, I'd trade it in a minute to have taken 1/10 of the great shots Alex has, so I guess it all goes to show that there really IS NO WAY to overcome picture envy! :)

Bruce Yates
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#10 Rocha

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 08:45 AM

Hi all, here is something that I just remembered from a previous topic. Someone said that the Seacam was a lot more negative underwater than the Subal. Does anybody know if there is a real difference in weight underwater? This is an important consideration, I think.

Luiz

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#11 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 08:52 AM

I am with James that I think that there are good points coming from both sides. And of course the differences we are debating are all minor and really aren't effecting people's ability to get the shot. As Bruse points out speed of working on a housing is rarely a crucial factor!

And as I said I think a lot of what we prefer in this minutia comes from what we are used to. Rather than what is better or worse.

Also if I had got into Seacam first I would probably prefer it to Subal. I think a lot of my bias comes from what I am used to!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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#12 H2Oplanet

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 09:04 AM

"Great Stuff" from everyone...I appreciate the thoughtful responses...

Bmyates, I agree that "balanced neutral bouyancy" is very important and I have been impressed with my Subal system for most setups including macro setups which don't have quite the bouyancy of wide angle due, in part, to the dome port bouyancy...Years ago, I experimented with my RS systems through a variety of modifications in attempts to not only obtain neutral bouyancy but also to avoid bending moments...I acheived the former but not the later...the constant torque on my wrists coupled with the extra components led me to abandon the quest...in the end, I decided to compromise and get into the gym to bolster the bicepts...

Alex, I appreciate the comments regarding fast "reloading" and I certainly have been happy with the performance of Subals mounting system: "quick release plates".

As a follow up, would my dual S6 sync cords be interchangeable from Subal to Seacam? This is a relatively minor cost issue but every little bit helps...


Lastly, and I can move this to the "lighting" section if preferred...are the expensive Seacam Flashes "good functionally" and "reliable"? I have had a few a few problems with my housed Canon 550's with the Subal systems...Again, I'm not here to bash Subal; on balance, it has been wonderful...just looking to compare and contrast so that I can make an informed decision...

Thanks Again...

Scott Marshall
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#13 Paul Kay

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 10:17 AM

Hi Scott

In answer to a couple of your points:

The S6 connectors SHOULD be fine - unless Subal wire them up very differently which would very much surprise me (even if so it wouldn't be impossible to rewire accordingly) - I'm sure Stephen would be able to check this for you

I'm about to order one of Seacam's new flash units. I would wait for reaction to this (the Seaflash 250) flash as its spec is very impressive and it is built by Seacam.

I've tried Seacam's 550 housings with no problems - and I'm pretty sure that they'll take the 580 too (I must check as I have a couple). They are ttl only.

Hope this helps.
Paul Kay, Canon EOS5D/5DII, SEACAM/S45, 15, 24L, 60/2.8 (+Ext12II) & 100/2.8 Macros - UK/Ireland Seacam Sales underseacameras & marinewildlife & paulkayphotography & welshmarinefish

#14 Drew

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 10:47 AM

Whoa James... BMW IS NOT in the same league as Porsche... let's that that straight first! :) :o Ok the new M5/6 MAY be an exception. :D
On the Subal,
1/4 turn is fast and efficient, but I've seen floods from accident turns on Subals.
H20
Is the polecam, 100mm MF port and 9" dome worth changing systems to you? That's really the question.
Both are in Austria and both are run on low inventory on spare parts. I doubt either would have any advantage in that department. Harald travels for trade shows as do the Stephaneks and somehow things just seem to slow down when they aren't in Austria.

Wow, very interesting discussion - it's like comparing a Porche to a BMW - NOT EASY!

So I'll just say that no underwater camera system is perfect, however these two are darned close.

To answer your questions: yes, Seacam offers a complete package remote control for the Canon setup.  It's not a custom part, it's something you can call up and order "off the shelf" I believe.

Seacam makes manual focus gears that engage the control in the housing - I use these with my 100mm USM and my 150mm Sigma, and these work with a standard flat port w/ no gear on it.  They also make a MF flat port with a gear drive on the front.  Which you choose depends a lot on the lenses and teleconverters you plan to use.

As for the other comments - I think all are valid.  I can add my own experiences with Seacam:

The threaded port saved my butt last year when I got rammed by a tiger shark. When I finally recovered from checking my body parts, I noticed that my port was at a 90 degree angle.  If it had been a 90 degree bayonet mount, my housing could have flooded, but since it was threaded, the O-ring was still sealing.  Alex's comment about the topside service-ability is a good one.  With the Seacam there is no quick release plate for the camera, so it takes a bit longer to remove. 

As for service, the US dealer is great.  I'm not sure they you'll see a difference in the responses from the manufacturer between the two companies, as they both have the same constraints.

Cheers
James

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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#15 AndyBarker

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 10:50 AM

HI,
this is a very interesting topic, I am quite new to this type
of photography & I also done alot of home work before I
brought my housing. I had a good look at as many as possible
I then narrowed it down to Subal or Seacam, and after alot of
handleing & playing & travelling, I chose a Seacam. Which I
think is a wonderful piece of engineering & a dream to use,
in which my images have improved 100%. I think that you
have to look at it as horses for courses, you pay your'e money
& take your'e pick.We all know how expensive our underwater
play things are just enjoy!! :) :o
I'm thankful that Seacam have a supplier in the UK!!
Thankyou Paul Kay :D ;)

Andy

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#16 Jolly

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 11:20 AM

The S6 connectors SHOULD be fine - unless Subal wire them up very differently which would very much surprise me

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


European manufactures don't really care about standardization. It’s a kind of miracle they came down to identical bulkheads. Example: Seacam strobe housing for Canon 550EX with S6 doesn’t work on Sealux housing with S6 (it does mechanically, but not in terms of wiring). I don’t know about Seacam <-> Subal, maybe they do the wiring identical. I would check before ordering.

Julian
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#17 cor

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 02:11 PM

Last sunday Kasey, Julie and I were sitting at the local dive shop with our 3 housings (Julie and I have a Subal/D2x, Kasey a Seacam/D2x) next to eachother on the deck. I think they look and feel very similar. One thing I liked about the seacam is that he can take out his viewfinder so easily. But all in all I think they're both state of the art housings, and you cant go wrong buying either one of em (unless you give up a kidney for it).

I remember Kasey and I looking at eachother and at the same time thinking.. holy ****, there is a lot of money sitting on this little wooden table with all those discover scuba divers around :)

Cor
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#18 davidrodkeller

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 05:14 PM

[quote name='Alex_Mustard' date='Mar 7 2006, 02:56 AM']
"I think both are excellent systems. My personal opinion is that the Seacam looks better in the showroom and the Subal is better in the field. I also don't like the fact that the Seacam housing for my camera (D2X) doesn't have any labels on the controls."

First-time poster (the FF vs. Cropped almost got me, but I resisted madly) :)

Doc, I think Subal and Seacam are fine products, and people may find some manner of fault with either, prescribed by personal preference. But the one *defining* difference which cannot be argued away, or otherwise impuned by implication or exclusion, is the splendid viewfinders Seacam offers that Subal, or anyone else, has yet managed to equal.

1) If nothing else, which isn't the case, viewfinders distinquish Seacam from all other housings. There is no grey area on this point. Seacam plays in another realm where viewfinders are concerned. I don't think there would be a market for housings of Seacam's cost without viewfinders of Seacam quality and effectiveness.

2) The camera is held in the Seacam housing by a single threaded knob that takes 10 seconds to loosen, that's the simple truth. The implication that it wastes time is a curious one....though if that is a complaint, then Harald has indeed allowed slim-pickings for the Seacam dessenters. That's a tease, my good man.

3) I cannot remember the last time I was in the "field" and had to take my eye away from the viewfinder and look at a label in order to see what lever, knob or button I was actuating. Nor can I picture you perusing your ND2 looking for the label to the control you want to engage.

The whole point of intuitive controls and superb ergonomics is to make us independent of labels and contortions. To me, their exclusion seems quite logical for any custom housing like Subal or Seacam.

DRK
Thanks,
DRK

#19 MikeVeitch

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 02:45 AM

My god i need a new job to even read this thread..... :)

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#20 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 03:12 AM

Yeah, I guess that most of these points aren't relevant to a professional underwater photographer, hey Mike! :)

Its a funny world.

Alex

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