Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Seacam guy buys Aquatica 5DMkII housing


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 bmyates

bmyates

    Great White

  • Team Wetpixel
  • 973 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Seattle, WA
  • Interests:UW Photography, motorcycles.

Posted 04 June 2009 - 02:01 PM

Underwater camera housings just don't get any better than Seacam. I've used two different models now (Canon 1Ds MkII and MkIII), and LOVED them. In fact, I still have a 1Ds MkII Seacam. I also can't say enough positive things about Stephen Frink (U.S. distributor for Seacam) and his operation; he and Liz have been responsive, easy to deal with, and provide customer service extraordinaire (not to mention Steve's considerable testing and educational info).

Indeed, I have found precious little about Seacam to complain about...except the cost. We poor Americans, with our sick dollar (getting sicker all the time, it seems), have seen the cost of new Seacam equipment skyrocket to the point that it is downright prohibitive...at least for non-pros like me who just do this as a (very expensive) hobby.

So awhile back, at a scuba show, as I looked at all the toys at all the booths, the Aquatica booth in particular got me thinking. I looked at the build quality of their top-level housings--which was surprisingly high--and their prices--which were surprisingly low (about half that of Seacam's, in U.S. dollars)--and I began thinking seriously of changing brands when the time came for my next housing purchase. Sealing the deal was the fact that Jean (of Aquatica) said they were planning to come out with an adapter that would permit the use of Seacam ports on Aquatica housings. That was no small issue, considering the amount I have invested in Seacam ports and extension rings.

So...to make a long story short, when I bought a Canon 5D Mark II, I was one of the first to put in an order for an Aquatica housing. I received the housing a few weeks ago, just in time for a 1-week trip to Rangiroa, French Polynesia (see photos and a few very roughvideos), and here are my observations thus far:

- BUILD QUALITY is excellent. The Aquatica 5DII housing feels solid and sturdy, and every part meshes precisely. It is truly a professional-grade housing. It has a moisture alarm, and I like the way the camera mounts onto a tray, and the mounting tray slides solidly on two rods and latches in place, so there is no question of it being in place. I actually prefer this to the Seacam mount, which requires that you screw and unscrew a screw into the camera's tripod hole each time (I stripped the threads in one of my early 1D MkII bodies doing that). The only build aspect for which I still give the nod to Seacam is the "fuzz" that covers the inside of Seacam housings to absorb any bits of moisture that might find its way in. Although I never needed it because I never had a leak, anyone who has had a housing flood and seen (through a window or a clear plastic housing) a few tablespoons of salt water sloshing around (easily enough to fry the camera) can see the value of Seacam's absorbent liner.

- ERGONOMICS are also excellent. Knobs and controls are easily accessible - in a few cases slightly more so than Seacam for my particular hands, and in no cases less so. (Each person's hands are different, so it's worth getting your hands on ANY housings you're considering.) I especially appreciated the pronounced finger grooves on the handgrips, which allowed use of controls while only keeping a finger or two on the grip, and also the large white labeling of all of the major buttons, which made it easy to see which button was which underwater. My only complaint was that the top of the rear window covers the top line of info of the camera's rear screen (i.e., shutter speed, aperture, etc.) except when viewed from an extreme angle. Not a huge problem - just the only less-than-optimal thing I noticed right off. Then again, I'm not sure how they could have solved that and still had enough housing strength for the eyepiece.

- PORT ADAPTER (allowing use of Seacam ports): this ended up being far less useful than I had hoped. While it indeed allowed me to use my Seacam ports, the fact that the adapter itself is approx. 19-20mm thick meant that it significantly limited which LENSES could be used with those Seacam ports. For example, with the Seacam Superdome, I could not use my 15mmFE or 14mmII, two lenses I really like for WA photography. To use those, I will need to get an Aquatica dome port. And since having to travel with mulitiple dome ports is a pain, that diminishes the value of having an adapter in the first place.

The adapter is somewhat more useful with macro, but only as long as you shoot macro using AF. If you want to focus manually, which most of us eventually seem to, there's a problem. The MF knob on the Aquatica housing is in their port, whereas Seacam's MF knob is in the housing. IOW, none of the Seacam MF gears are any good in the Aquatica housing, and to use MF with macro lenses in the Aquatica housing, you need an Aquatica macro port and Aquatica gears.

While I was initially discouraged that my Seacam ports aren't going to be as useful with the Aquatica housing as I'd hoped, the fact is that for the cost of a new Seacam housing, I can pay for the Aquatica housing AND replace my ports, extensions and gears.

- VALUE of this housing is excellent, especially in U.S. dollars. I realize that value is subjective; a race car driver may feel his $300,000 race car is a good "value", especially if it helps him MAKE money by winning. Similarly, as I said earlier, you can't do better than a Seacam housing, and I have no doubt that Seacam will remain a staple of professional uw photographers for the foreseeable future. OTOH, if you can't quite justify spending that kind of money, I can say that Aquatica - judging by the 5DII housing at least - is putting out truly top-notch gear.

I'm not willing to say the Aquatica 5DII housing is better than Seacam's housings. But I'm not sure it isn't as good overall...and that is high praise indeed.

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
Canon 5DMkII in Aquatica, 1DsMkII in Seacam, G15 in RecSea...Inon Z240's...too many lenses
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#2 Stewart L. Sy

Stewart L. Sy

    Great White

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 903 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Richmond, BC

Posted 04 June 2009 - 02:18 PM

I would most definitely concur! I fon...handled the Aquatica 5Dmk2 Housing at the NW Dive and Scuba Show. Jean was very gracious to this (then) Subal loyalist, even acknowledging that he recognized my sign in name here on Pixies, to make a long story short (especially since Bruce covered the fist of it>...) I have since sold my Subal housing and my 5Dmk1. I'm just waiting for a couple more issues to fall into place and my Aquatica will be on order. According to Jean, the Subal port adapter does not add any length since it fits handily inside the cavernous port opening of the Aquatica. I'm glad I can save a bunch by keeping my Subal ports. I will like buy the Aquatica 4" FE dome.

Aquatica, you've come a long way Baby!

Stu

www.stewartsy.com
SLS Photography, when your images matter....
Aquatica, Amphibico, TLC, ULCS (Philippines), Stix, iTorch, FIT, Magic Filter Dealer
Philippine Dive Trip Specialist


#3 TheRealDrew

TheRealDrew

    Humpback Whale

  • Moderator
  • 2854 posts

Posted 04 June 2009 - 02:45 PM

I have a couple of Aquaticas myself and almost considering the 5D Mark II...really impressive when I had a chance to see it live. Just considering whether I go FF or not. But I already have the Aquatica ports :)

#4 Marcelo Krause

Marcelo Krause

    Moray Eel

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 88 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Brazil

Posted 05 June 2009 - 07:16 AM

Hi Bruce, nice pictures and videos (specially the drift dive), thanks for sharing.
I have been using Aquatica housings for 11 years now, have nothing to complain (quite the contrary, my F5 housing is still working fine…), but I’ve heard that these new models are really neat. I have one on the way for my D3x, and will use it on a dive trip by the end of June and report back…

Best regards,
Marcelo Krause
www.marcelokrause.com

#5 jodyelliott

jodyelliott

    Sea Nettle

  • Industry
  • Pip
  • 14 posts

Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:16 PM

Hi Bruce,

I liked your article. It was informative. I looked at some of your images in your gallery and I like quite a few of them.

I am a hobbyist shooter as well. I have a Canon 1DS Mk II in a Subal housing. I had a 5D Mk I in an Aquatica housing before that. I loved my Aquatica housing. I switched for a few reasons. I like both housings though.

I did want to let you know there is a possible solution to shooting manual focus with your set-up. I had my husband design me a gear set for my 5D to move manual focus off of the port and up to my wide angle focus/zoom knob by my left hand. It works really well. I also had him design it to accommodate a 1.4x tele and a 2x tele using the same gear. It is designed to fit on the 100mm lens. My company, Xit 404, is now selling these gear sets through Backscatter, www.backscatter.com Not trying to promote my company here (I guess I really am) but this is exactly why we started that branch of our company, to solve problems like this. We worked on fitting up our gear set with the 5D Mk II Aquatica housing. It was finished last week. We have also designed the 50mm Sigma lens to fit in the set but is not quite released yet. What I don't know is what happens to the port opening once you attach your Aquatica to Seacam adapter. Our gear set works fine with Aquatica's port's diameter. If your half of the adapter gets too small, it won't fit the gear. If you let us know what is your port diameter is we can tell you if it will work or not. Pictures would be great to see what the set-up looks like. So this may save you in having to buy all the Aquatica ports.

Jody Elliott
www.xit404.com

#6 bmyates

bmyates

    Great White

  • Team Wetpixel
  • 973 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Seattle, WA
  • Interests:UW Photography, motorcycles.

Posted 05 June 2009 - 01:38 PM

...I did want to let you know there is a possible solution to shooting manual focus with your set-up. I had my husband design me a gear set...now selling these gear sets through Backscatter...
Jody Elliott
www.xit404.com


Jody,

If only I had a husband like that! :)

Thanks for the tip - promotional or not. It offers a valid solution, and - while I'm not a moderator - seems perfectly appropriate for this thread. And your gear sets probably WILL work just fine with Seacam macro ports (which appear to be virtually identical in diameter to the Aquatica opening (the Aquatica-to-Seacam adapter I mentioned in my original post does not narrow at all - you have to look twice to know it's not just a 20mm Seacam extension ring!).

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
Canon 5DMkII in Aquatica, 1DsMkII in Seacam, G15 in RecSea...Inon Z240's...too many lenses
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#7 RST

RST

    Starfish

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 7 posts

Posted 08 June 2009 - 02:59 AM

Any views on how their top-of-the-range viewfinders compare?

#8 bmyates

bmyates

    Great White

  • Team Wetpixel
  • 973 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Seattle, WA
  • Interests:UW Photography, motorcycles.

Posted 08 June 2009 - 07:50 AM

Any views on how their top-of-the-range viewfinders compare?


Sorry I failed to include my thoughts on that in my initial post in this thread. I DO have an opinion.

I have used the Seacam S180 viewfinder for years (also tried the S45 for awhile, but never could get used to the angle, so sold it), and absolutely loved it. So naturally, I (at the same time I ordered the Aquatica housing) purchased the "Aqua View" viewfinder.

In both cases, these viewfinders have three primary advantages:
1. they put your eye (meaning your mask) several inches BEHIND the back of your housing, so you don't have to jam your nose/cheek up against the housing to see what's in the viewfinder;
2. they have optics that magnify the image in the viewfinder to make it larger;
3. they can be adjusted for your specific eye (i.e., almost like a prescription lens).

Both the Seacam S180 and the Aqua View accomplish all three things very well. I personally (others might feel differently) give a slight edge to the Seacam S180 - it seems just slightly easier for my eye to see the edges of the image (where the camera's exposure arrow is, for example). However, I don't want to give the impression that the Aqua View is a bad product. On the contrary - it is a great add-on to the Aquatica housing. I just don't think it is better than the Seacam viewfinders, and it certainly would not be reason to switch from one brand to the other.


BTW, I've received a few private e-mails asking if my original post was omitting something "between the lines," such as an issue with Seacam quality, that I just didn't want to post publicly. The answer is "Absolutely NOT!" As I tried to make clear, I really don't think you can find better housings than Seacam's. From the standpoint of design, build quality, and (at least here in the USA with Stephen Frink) service/support, they are unsurpassed. My decision to try Aquatica for my 5DII was FINANCIAL (i.e., the U.S. dollar vs. Euro), plain and simple. I'm just saying that Aquatica is building damn good housings these days, and I was delighted to find that I wasn't having to settle for an inferior housing in the process. IOW, my post was not meant to bash Seacam, but to praise Aquatica. Please don't read more into that than is there.

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
Canon 5DMkII in Aquatica, 1DsMkII in Seacam, G15 in RecSea...Inon Z240's...too many lenses
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#9 spryb

spryb

    Sea Nettle

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 13 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sydney, Australia

Posted 15 September 2009 - 03:34 AM

Bruce,

I can't agree more. I am using a Seacam F100 housing and absolutely love it but to upgrade to digital will cost me $US6000 for the housing for my D700. Ouch!! As an amateur I can't really afford that. Aquatica looks like good value for money.

Bruce Spry

#10 Bannahan

Bannahan

    Brine Shrimp

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 1 posts

Posted 18 November 2009 - 07:36 AM

I've been trying to convince myself to get the 5D Mark II for the last few weeks and it does seem really good and so worth it but i just can't bring myself to part from that sort of money.

But i really do need a camera of that quality!!

#11 stever

stever

    Sting Ray

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 209 posts

Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:30 PM

to me, the question is do i need a camera of 5D2 quality underwater. on land, i love the hight ISO performance of 5D2 and the ability to make large prints with impressive detail (or crop to crop-frame size without losing any detail compared to a 40D)

if i were serious about available light and large animals, the 5D2 would be an easy decision (setting aside the cost)

i just made a 13x19 print from my 20D with Tokina 11-16 pretty well withstands close inspection (but i wouldn't go bigger). with the 5D2 and 17-40 i could easily to to 17x25 - but i don't really need to

part of my cost equation is unwillingness to travel half way around the world to dive sites i'll probably never visit again without a backup - hence the cost of a second body, or tossing my old housing with 20D in my already overweight bag and hoping someone will steal it and i can collect some insurance (which still won't be anything like enough to buy the 2nd 5D2)

#12 wthurman

wthurman

    Triggerfish

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 30 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Branford, FL, USA

Posted 20 November 2009 - 05:38 PM

Bruce-

Thank you for the objective and informative post. After a (quite) long hiatus from underwater photography, like Marcelo I've just purchased an Aquatica housing for a D3x. In the early 90's I owned and enjoyed an Aquatica 4 housing and had no complaints with it; that experience as well as the cost issues drew me back to Aquatica. It's great to read that the housings Aquatica makes today are world-class; I'm looking forward to receiving mine.

Wendy