OK, just thought I'd offer my thoughts (and a few photos) after a week of diving with these new arms/floats on a Socorro trip (gallery can be found at http://www.seattleya...m/UW Photos.htm
I did about 20 dives (I stopped keeping a dive log years ago, so don't know precisely how many), with almost all of the dives reaching 100 feet (that's where the hammerheads were), and the deepest being 125 ft, so the arms were exposed to a fair amount of pressure. Some observations:
- The floats held up suprisingly well in terms of maintaining their shape and buoyancy. Only one of them showed any deformation from pressure, and that was just a mild "caving in" on one side. I would expect them to hold their shape for hundreds of dives at moderate depths (e.g., 50-100 ft), but would be somewhat concerned if I were doing constant deep (e.g., 120 ft+) diving with them.
- I found them very easy to use, and not awkward or "in the way' at all when adjusting strobe position, etc. The only way in which they affected handling the camera at all was that the boat crew were forced to take the camera from me using the housing arms, rather than the strobe arms...not necessarily a bad thing.
- I spray painted the floats black, and the paint job didn't hold up all that well. As you can see in the attached photos (taken at the end of the dive trip), the outside of the floats seemed to "fray" (presumably some of the outermost closed cells broke open), and the paint came off, especially around the edges. This had no real functional impact, and the resulting "greyish" look was OK, but they would certainly look nicer if they were manufactured in black originally instead of white.
- I didn't use loctite or anything else to hold the screws in. And I didn't re-tighten any of the screws over the course of the week of diving; I just screwed them in initially with moderate "hand-tightening" - cognizant that I might crack the balls if I made them too tight (BTW, none of the balls cracked). When disassembling the arms I found only one screw that had worked its way slightly loose (was partly unscrewed). IOW, if a person checked all the screws every 2 or 3 days for tightness, I doubt that they'd ever have any screws come out.
- I found the plastic balls to hold somewhat less "surely" than UCLS ball-ends. That may be because I was afraid to tighten the clamps (I was using UCLS clamps, BTW) for fear of cracking the balls, but I found that the arm segments tended to be slightly more "floppy" than I'm used to. Not enough to be a real problem, and again, it may be "user error" -- just thought I'd mention it. I'm used to those metal UCLS arms/balls, where there's no such thing as "too" tight.
- Bottom line: I'll definitely use them again - I think they're a very nice, lightweight, compact design, and -- while I'd prefer that the floats be black and the balls be more "UCLS-like" (e.g., with rubber o-rings for better grip when tightened) -- I'm satisfied that they do a good job for their designed purpose. The real test will be when I use them with big macro lenses (I was using them with the Seacam superdome and all wide angle lenses on this trip), but I think they'll really help balance the beast with almost any lens...