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Housing considerations for video on the ViDSLR:


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#1 Drew

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 02:42 PM

I was talking with a friend who just bought a new Aquatica housing for the Canon 5D MkII, particularly about video and lenses used. He was asking about which zoom lens to use and whether AF in liveview was usable underwater. I'd mentioned that if shooting blue water, the contrast AF would have difficulty focusing fast enough and I always use manual focus for video anyhow. He then had the look of a man who had just realized he forgot to research his product before buying. I was looking at him and how he was staring at his housing when I realized what he was worried about... the Aquatica had only 1 knob to control zoom OR focus but not both at the same time.
Realising that I always took for granted that my video housings ALWAYS had manual zoom and focus knobs, I searched online for housings for the Canon 5D2. S&S, Zillion, Aquatica, Hugyfot and Subal all seem to have the same configuration of a single knob for Zoom or Focus but not both. Of all the housings I checked out, only the Seacam had dual knobs for independent control of Zoom and Focus.
It seems while some of the housing manufacturers took the HD video capability of the 5D2 seriously by adding hydrophones (optional for some), it seems all of them had to compromise and left out some important but not necessarily crucial ergonomic and feature considerations.
Instead of dissecting each housing's pros and cons, which I can't do without handling them personally, I thought I'd list the things I think would be important to consider for the video side of the camera. Afterall even Canon has also seen the light. So here is quick list of things off the top of my head I'd like on any ViDSLR:

- Manual Focus and Zoom controls: The AF on the 5D2 is contrast only and slow. Most videographers shoot in manual to prevent AF hunting. It's easier to rely on a knob to control focus and also zoom (especially important is using a parfocal lens so focus isn't lost when zooming) for critical focus on the subject.
- Housing ergonomics: A few manufacturers put the set button higher up towards to the top of the housings. This allows easier control to start shooting video.
- Hydrophones: A few manufacturers added options for hydrophones and one actually has it standard. For some shooters, sound is very important, especially to capture animal sounds. It also avoids the camera's internal mic picking up noise inside the housing.
- Check the LCD window to see if it's possible to add some sort of visor or hood. Let's face it, the LCD monitor isn't terrible bright and the reflections of the LCD window make it more difficult for liveview. Having a shade or boot can help. I know none of the manufacturers have considered this but if there is enough space, a DIY rig might work.

These are just a few things I just thought of which would be useful to me. No housing is going to be perfect and compromises will have to be made. Feel free to add to the list and discuss options.
Funnily enough, I spoke to my buddy at Canon video side and he's complaining the 5D2 is eating into his video sales, especially the X series.

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#2 GoinDown

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:54 PM

During my research I noticed the lack of focus and zoom on most housings also, the Seacam is the housing to have for these features, but then I also noticed the price of the Seacam, THE most expensive system.

As is the case for most first adopters, there will be compromises, but I'm sure that with subsequent generations of kit there will be improvements until the 'perfect' housing is produced.

If Canon can't get it right first time, then it's no surprise the housing manufacturers don't get it right. Now if only Seacam would lower their prices, I'm sure they would have an army of 5D2 owners flocking to buy their housings.

Looking at innovative manufacturers, my money would be on Olympus to produce a camera and housing combo that provides that 'perfect' match for a m4/3 ViDSLR system, but we'll have to wait for that.

Do you think that the housing manufacturers may start producing MK2 versions of their housings to add features to match the camera once they realise they haven't covered all bases? Have they underestimated the market in the rush to produce something (similar to how Canon have underestimated the ViDSLR market) Ikelite were pretty quick to update their 5D2 housing with a modification for the 'set' button soon after they released the housing in January.

In addition to Drew's list would be:

Stobe/Video light combo
Larger viewfinder (I think Seacam trounce the competition with their viewfinders, the 45 degree doesn't obcure the liveview screen)
Continuous AF in Vid mode with manual override (this is a camera wish)

Edited by GoinDown, 30 May 2009 - 04:07 PM.

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#3 Paul Kay

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 12:19 PM

For info - the Seacam 5D2 housing has a third (unused) flash socket. It would not be a huge job to fit a hydrophone or similar using this (I looked into it but we are using a presenter with a full face mask and the recording equipment is on the boat, whilst the presenter carries a back up hard-drive recorder in his pocket, so whilst it was clearly possible, I didn't pursue it).
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#4 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 03:28 AM

Larger viewfinder (I think Seacam trounce the competition with their viewfinders, the 45 degree doesn't obcure the liveview screen)

That's not true. The Seacam 45 VF does block the LCD:

Posted Image

For info - the Seacam 5D2 housing has a third (unused) flash socket. It would not be a huge job to fit a hydrophone or similar using this (I looked into it but we are using a presenter with a full face mask and the recording equipment is on the boat, whilst the presenter carries a back up hard-drive recorder in his pocket, so whilst it was clearly possible, I didn't pursue it).


The issue of putting it near where the handles are is that every time a stray finger touches the mic, it will be amplified in the feed. That's why facing it towards the front would be the best.

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#5 loftus

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 03:44 AM

Just a thought on the manual focus / zoom thing, I would imagine the problem could be overcome if someone made an extension ring with focus / zoom knob as is already done for example on my Subal macro port. It would only require one shot extension which could then be used with other extension combinations. Just a thought - probably not ideal, but workable I would think.
On the Seacam thing, I don't think there is any question that Seacam is THE top of the line housing, and that's what you pay for. If SeaCam cost less, you'd get less.

Edited by loftus, 02 June 2009 - 04:58 AM.

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#6 GoinDown

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:26 AM

That's not true. The Seacam 45 VF does block the LCD:

Posted Image


That clears that myth then! Rather than simplify and use the word trounce, what I probably should have said was: it looks better/more integrated and according to what I've read the optics are of a higher standard and may be brighter with a wider view than the competition, however I have no way to compare various products as I've never used a Seacam and I am only going off reviews and forum comments ! :rolleyes:
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#7 loftus

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 06:16 AM

I always use manual focus for video anyhow.

Two weeks ago on the WP Oceanics trip, I used my Sony HR-12 for the first time. Needless to say, my stuff sucked.
Why do you use MF on video, whereas you use AF with stills? I must say I struggled trying to monitor focus with an LCD.
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#8 Ryan

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 07:18 AM

Sea & Sea delivered their first MDX- housings for the 5D Mk II to dealers this weekend in Long Beach, and the control layout is by far the best of all the housings I've seen. Double thumb levers for AF-ON and Star are great for my still photo shooting, but I don't think they'll be as important now that we have manual exposure.

Athena builds extension rings for 16-35 /2.8L II & 17-40 that have a focus control:
http://reefphoto.com...roducts_id=3459

A couple of FIX LED1000DX lights mounted on the rig are pretty nice!

We have a custom solution for activating video that is easier than Set, but I'll leave that for a future thread.

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#9 ronscuba

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 09:13 AM

Two weeks ago on the WP Oceanics trip, I used my Sony HR-12 for the first time. Needless to say, my stuff sucked.
Why do you use MF on video, whereas you use AF with stills? I must say I struggled trying to monitor focus with an LCD.


Focus UW will many times hunt because of particulate in the water. I usually autofocus, then lock it into manual. The next scene I do the same thing again.

#10 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 09:48 AM

if someone made an extension ring with focus / zoom knob as is already done for example on my Subal macro port.
Why do you use MF on video, whereas you use AF with stills? I must say I struggled trying to monitor focus with an LCD.

For macro. it could work for static subjects but any follow focusing would be impossible to keep steady as one would have to lift the hand off the handle. This is especially for WA dome ports.
As for MF vs AF, with 2/3" and smaller sensors, there was ample DoF to just leave focus at say 0.4m and everything would be in focus. No need for AF. The same would apply for a 35mm sensor but the compensation would be from ISO and stopping down.
As Ron says, video AF isn't as sophisticated as DSLR AF, especially when it comes to controlling subject tracking time etc. SLR AF is far more tuneable than video, thus slightly more reliable. Plus you want to freeze motion whereas video is about capturing motion over at least 24fps. Different altogether.

We have a custom solution for activating video that is easier than Set, but I'll leave that for a future thread.

Ok Mr Secretive Ryan, do I really have to force it out of you? Did you find the hydrophone yet? :rolleyes:

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#11 loftus

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:11 AM

For macro. it could work for static subjects but any follow focusing would be impossible to keep steady as one would have to lift the hand off the handle. This is especially for WA dome ports.

Why not just support the rig with one hand on the handle and the other cradling the port / extension, just as you would hold a camera when shooting (especially telephoto) topside
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#12 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:30 AM

Jeff, on a well balanced housing, that isn't as big an issue. If all the housings are anything like my DSLR housing is, then I'd want to balance it out and keep it steady with both hands on the handles, which will be the axis for stability.
Furthermore, with my ports, the knobs are usually on top or directly to the side of the rings. So keeping the housing steady with just 3 fingers isn't going to work for me. Too much contortion and not enough support.

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#13 loftus

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:07 AM

Jeff, on a well balanced housing, that isn't as big an issue. If all the housings are anything like my DSLR housing is, then I'd want to balance it out and keep it steady with both hands on the handles, which will be the axis for stability.
Furthermore, with my ports, the knobs are usually on top or directly to the side of the rings. So keeping the housing steady with just 3 fingers isn't going to work for me. Too much contortion and not enough support.

Yeah, I get your point.
Seems like one holds a video housing differently from a still housing as well, out in front of you, vs up against your face.
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#14 Drew

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 02:47 AM

Well 2 factors there:
1. it's more the fact that the liveview LCD + water magnification makes holding the housing up close more suitable for teenagers who can focus at 3" away from their pupils. I can do 6 now and probably 7-10 the next 5 years. :)

2. Video is different in that you have to keep it steady for minutes instead of just a few seconds. There's limited cropability. To keep the housing steady, you use your arms as the gyro. while the rest of you bobs and tosses around. Slightly bent outstretched arms provide better stability.

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#15 Ladygodiver

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 04:14 PM

"We have a custom solution for activating video that is easier than Set, but I'll leave that for a future thread."

Nothing new here...just using the Canon infra red controller which can be positioned anywhere within the housing that fits...and activate via a dedicated lever control, rather than the awkward SET.

I've done this for my Subal F4 mod for my Canon 5D2...should be equally feasible with any housing.

Edited by Ladygodiver, 18 August 2009 - 04:15 PM.


#16 CheungyDiver

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 06:14 PM

I was talking with a friend who just bought a new Aquatica housing for the Canon 5D MkII, particularly about video and lenses used. He was asking about which zoom lens to use and whether AF in liveview was usable underwater. I'd mentioned that if shooting blue water, the contrast AF would have difficulty focusing fast enough and I always use manual focus for video anyhow. He then had the look of a man who had just realized he forgot to research his product before buying. I was looking at him and how he was staring at his housing when I realized what he was worried about... the Aquatica had only 1 knob to control zoom OR focus but not both at the same time.
Realising that I always took for granted that my video housings ALWAYS had manual zoom and focus knobs, I searched online for housings for the Canon 5D2. S&S, Zillion, Aquatica, Hugyfot and Subal all seem to have the same configuration of a single knob for Zoom or Focus but not both. Of all the housings I checked out, only the Seacam had dual knobs for independent control of Zoom and Focus.
It seems while some of the housing manufacturers took the HD video capability of the 5D2 seriously by adding hydrophones (optional for some), it seems all of them had to compromise and left out some important but not necessarily crucial ergonomic and feature considerations.
Instead of dissecting each housing's pros and cons, which I can't do without handling them personally, I thought I'd list the things I think would be important to consider for the video side of the camera. Afterall even Canon has also seen the light. So here is quick list of things off the top of my head I'd like on any ViDSLR:

- Manual Focus and Zoom controls: The AF on the 5D2 is contrast only and slow. Most videographers shoot in manual to prevent AF hunting. It's easier to rely on a knob to control focus and also zoom (especially important is using a parfocal lens so focus isn't lost when zooming) for critical focus on the subject.
- Housing ergonomics: A few manufacturers put the set button higher up towards to the top of the housings. This allows easier control to start shooting video.
- Hydrophones: A few manufacturers added options for hydrophones and one actually has it standard. For some shooters, sound is very important, especially to capture animal sounds. It also avoids the camera's internal mic picking up noise inside the housing.
- Check the LCD window to see if it's possible to add some sort of visor or hood. Let's face it, the LCD monitor isn't terrible bright and the reflections of the LCD window make it more difficult for liveview. Having a shade or boot can help. I know none of the manufacturers have considered this but if there is enough space, a DIY rig might work.

These are just a few things I just thought of which would be useful to me. No housing is going to be perfect and compromises will have to be made. Feel free to add to the list and discuss options.
Funnily enough, I spoke to my buddy at Canon video side and he's complaining the 5D2 is eating into his video sales, especially the X series.



The Seacam 5Dm2 + Superdome or FE dome actually slightly positive. So a pair of video lights and batteries acting as counter-weights will make it just right. Something like a L&M GAS plate or Gates Tripod and battery adapter. Ah, I knew someone would find out about the infrared remote......

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