I have had generally very good experiences with the previous Wave HD model for Sony 550 or MC50 which I am using. About a hundred dives with this configuration and many rough rides on a RIB boat. I dive mainly in icy cold dark murky waters with gloves on.
I am extremely pleased with the overall ergonomics allowing effortless continuous video shooting. The main advantage is the positioning of the LCD screen so that you can view it both from the back and also from above allowing optimum video framing all the time whilst swimming in proper horizontal trim. I like the wide angle. I also like the light weight of the configuration, very good for air travel. The newer housing is still a bit lighter than mine.
Combined with camera's image stabilization (I use the mid setting) and the two sturdy handles, the video image is very stable. However, most of the time I hold only the left handle and use my right hand for aiming my lamp. Here I have to be careful to use modified fin kicks instead of full kicks, or otherwise there will be slight wobble in camera angle and uneven speed when gliding over objects.
I have learned to be careful in loading the camera into the housing and do it well in advance of the dive(s). Whilst sliding the camera tray in, you have to be careful with the cables and the on/off bar as these might prevent the tray from sliding fully in. Couple of times I have forgotten to lock the tray which will become apparent during the dive. Thus I run through all the controls after I have closed the housing. I am not fully pleased with the housing latches. The double locking of the other latch is a bit soft and it might open from contact. For peace of mind, I have secured both latches by covering them with duct tape.
Knock on wood, the housing has not leaked yet despite my minimal maintenance. Max depth sofar has been 55m. I do rinse/soak the camera after dives, but often this takes place many hours after diving. I have not bothered taking the main O ring out except a few times a year. I do a visual check and slide my finger on both the O-ring and the opposing metal before closing the housing. Sometimes there appears white powder at the edges and I wonder whether this is salt or oxidization of the aluminium.
The lever for the red filter is very light. It is possible to inadvertently have it move slightly during surface action thus causing an unfiltered light leak or shadow in the picture. Thus I try to remember to check it during descend.
If shooting fully upwards, the LCD screen might lean backwards on the control buttons thus causing undesired operations on the touch screen. This has occurred only a couple times and can be prevented by playing with buttons to reposition the screen and then not pressing too hard on the Rec button.
In my first videos I was too reliant on autofocus. The benefit of autofocus of course would be sharpest focus. But I have learnt that autocus might pump in and out in darker conditions with less contrast in sight and also might be distracted by water particles, lamps or even dust reflected from the inside of the dome. The single click manual focus is very convenient in this respect. In the beginning of the dive I setup the manual focus once and then forget it.
I recommend using fastest memory cards if shooting full HDMI. With lesser cards I have noticed occasional dropped frames in continuous video shooting.
Some minor grudges:
- After about a hundred dives, the cord for the hydrophone must have come loose at the other end. No sound anymore. Need to fix.
- The rolling knob for doing manual adjustment of exposure, focus, color shift etc does not get a reliable rubber to metal mechanical contact on the corresponding camera control. I have tried adjusting this further in/out, but the contact is more or less fiddly and cannot be relied on. Gave up on this one. On the other hand, the single click manual focus works and has been sufficient.
- The dome port is sensitive to scratches. I have couple of times clipped the camera on a chest D-ring and thought that the camera would be safe enough. Unfortunately some small scratches have appeared on the dome and are visible in certain lighting conditions. In order to prevent further damage I now take the neoprene dome cover in my pocket and protect the dome when not in use.
- The touch screen controls cover all controls necessary for recording. More than pleased with this. However, for playback review whilst U/W it is difficult to select a given clip for review.
For clips shot with this camera/housing combo, please see vimeo.com/r4e
. I have tens of hours of more recent (and better) video waiting for edit.
Despite these grudges I am overall very pleased with this camera/housing combination. The main reason is light weight and ergonomics. This has made me hesitant in investing in a new and heavier housing for my 1DIV with 1.3 crop factor requiring FF lenses. With an external monitor and the 8-15mm this might be doable, but I am still not sure whether the possible (hoped-for) improvement on image quality is worth the investment.