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A couple of weeks in Bonaire with the XA10/L&M Bluefin Pro

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#1 wydeangle


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Posted 08 July 2012 - 03:04 PM

Experiences with the L&M XA10 housing during two weeks in Bonaire June 23 - July 7, 2012.

First, my fault, I forgot to pack my flotation for the Fathom 90* lens. Rats!

Then the Allen screw holding one of the Sola bendy arms to the housing loosened. Had to buy some Allen wrenches on-island to tighten. Thank goodness for NAPA.

Next, the ON/OFF button seized up. I just put in fresh batteries, closed the housing and turned it on. It worked fine. Then I pressed the button to turn it off. It stayed on. I pressed harder. It still stayed on.

Finally, I extracted the camera from the housing and turned it off using the camera's ON/OFF button.

CAUTION: what follows is what I did out of sheer need! You may wreck something if you try this...

DO NOT TRY THIS YOURSELF! If you do, and lose or damage parts, remember I told you not to...

The monitor back has the ON/OFF button in it. I noticed on the preceding dives that the button was getting harder to press, so I should have figured something was not kosher.

I removed the monitor back. There were five button head Allen head screws holding a piece of black plastic to the inside of the monitor back. I had a potentially dead housing for a week. I had the assorted Allen wrenches. I took the screws out. This exposed some printed circuit boards, one of which tried to fall out but was held in by what appeared to be a fragile cable and its connector. I also noted the rubber band (looks a lot like an O-ring) fell out. The O-ring holds the four AA battery pack to the monitor back.

I still couldn't see the button.

NOTE: printed circuit boards are quite delicate and not resistant to static electricity. There is a very real danger you may ruin one of the boards if you expose it to static or touch it carelessly!

There were now four more Allen head screws visible, with washers under their heads. They are of course a different Allen wrench size from the five screws that were previously removed. When I took these screws out, the washers can escape (fall into the works), so I held the monitor back carefully tilted upright so the screws were pointed straight up. Note: when the four screws/washers were removed, another printed circuit board fell out and hung by another fragile cable connector. Also, a washer falling into the monitor back can cause havoc if it not recovered.

When I got this far, I could finally see the inner end of the ON/OFF button, which has a shaft about 1/16" diameter. It had the world's smallest E-clip in a circumferential groove at the end, retaining the shaft. I used the two Allen wrenches to push it off the shaft. When I did this, the E-clip disappeared into the depths of the monitor back.

Some lucky tilting of the monitor back allowed me to recover the errant E-clip. It is small enough that it could easily disappear forever so I felt quite lucky at this point. Finding another one that small on Bonaire is probably not gonna ever happen. Besides, if it stayed in the monitor back it could short one of the printed circuit boards. Not a happy thought.

When I pulled the button out of the rear of the monitor back it had a bit of resistance, doubtless what kept it from returning to its "non-pressed" position. I had to press on the shaft from the inside to extract it. At that time I discovered and pulled a spring from the ON/OFF button shaft (underneath the ON/OFF button head) and set it aside.

Then I cleaned the button's shaft as well as I could with some paper towel, put some genuine L&M silicon O-ring grease on it and pushed it back through. It moved much more easily than when it came out, so I put the spring back on, pushed it through and replaced the E-clip.

Then I carefully fastened down the internal printed circuit board with all the washers in place, tightened them snugly but not too tight, and positioned the first printed circuit board so the screw holes lined up. I put the rubber band retainer for the battery pack back into its holes and replaced the plastic cover. Then installed the button head Allen screws.

Finally, I installed the battery pack and reassembled the housing for the "smoke test."

It worked! The ON/OFF button actually moves a bit when I press it instead of feeling like a solid bump.

So far, so good.

The next problem was the so-called "one touch" white balance (WB).

First, if the correct handle program is selected, the FUNC box must be illuminated on the screen before pressing WB.

The handle has three programs - one for each camera L&M uses in the housing, including I think a Sony. If you have the wrong program active in the handle, either nothing happens or maybe you go into photo mode, or maybe the screen gets to a state no one needs to see.

If you do have the correct program selected in the handle (hold T & W simultaneously for three seconds to cycle to the next program) and you don't illuminate FUNC first, well, I re-learned how to cuss brilliantly underwater. At one point it started recording without pressing the RECORD button, another time it wouldn't respond when the RECORD button was pressed. I think the technical term is "wrapped around the axle."

Another of the possible results of having any other box illuminated is to erase all the on-screen information, including the degree of zoom, the battery life remaining and most irritatingly, the indication as to whether AF of MF is active. The latter is quite frustrating to me. It can also put the housing into photo mode, or turn recording on or.... You get the idea.

Annoyingly, I couldn't find a way to restore the lost screen display information underwater. If you can, please tell me how! The only way I was able to recover it was to cycle the camera off and on after removing it from the housing...

One of the L&M techs told me to use the ENTER button on the left handle prior to WB. This worked fine in the room, but failed miserably underwater. I went back to pressing the UP arrow enough times to get the FUNC box outlined. Sometimes one UP arrow would do, sometimes two or more UP arrows would be needed. Good luck if there's a lot of glare, even on the OLED screen. The Pentamirror (see below) proved invaluable when glare was a problem.

Dive and learn...

After all that, the quality of the video seems really nice. Low light seems good too. More on that in a later post. Right now I have the "spinning beach ball" in FCP-X. I guess since I switched from a PC to a Mac, Apple is trying to make me feel at home. Sigh.

One more disappointment cropped up: I have the "pro" which uses an OLED monitor. The battery life with four new, fully charged ENELOOP AA batteries is less than an hour. That is a major inconvenience since most of my dives are an hour or more, and then what do I do on a crowded dive boat with no camera facilities for the second dive? Bummer.

So I turn off the camera/monitor between shots. If an opportunity arises after turning the monitor off, there is a very significant time delay needed to restart the camera = meaning sometimes a lost shot, or getting to the action late.

Perhaps I will contact L&M to see if something can be done about this.

I like the Fathom 90 lens. I like the flat port. I even like the Subsee external diopters even though I only got to try the +5. I plan to try the +10 next trip. Really.

I like the output of the XA10 when I get the WB correct.

Do I recommend the whole rig? Yes. Could there be improvement? Yes.

I like the ease of carrying the whole thing, lenses and all, onto any flight I book inside a soft sided cooler I got at KMart. I like the reactions of relatively knowledgeable friends and family when we look at the day's footage on a 26" HD monitor.

The learning experience will continue. Maybe after I spend a few hundred hours UW with it, I'll have learned enough to be fully pleased. I sure hope so, and am determined to keep after it.


Edited by wydeangle, 08 July 2012 - 03:10 PM.

#2 andreikoc



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Posted 08 July 2012 - 03:39 PM

I have the same rig. My batteries for OLED are Annsmann 2850 mAh and last at least four dives on constantly. I admit there is a learning curve to WB and you really do need a white slate. Best to attach to a fin. So far, my buttons are fine. You must have a monitor problem or a dud set of batteries.

#3 wydeangle


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Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:01 AM


Thanks for your experience!

I have used three different sets of batteries: eneloop 1900 mAh, POWEREX 2500 mAh and IMEDION 2250 mAh in the Light & Motion OLED monitor back with the same result -> way less than one hour life. Sometimes only 30 minutes.

I will get some Ansmanns and see if they make a difference.

I'll also contact L&M to see if the back itself could be the problem.


#4 biminitwist


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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:07 PM

My eneloop Double AA battieries power my OLED monitor back for over 3 hours of continuous use on long shallow dives here at Blue Heron Bridge so I think you have a bad monitor back. I have the Bluefin Pro for the Sony CX550. Hope L&M can help, my experiences with them have been mixed.

Edited by biminitwist, 10 July 2012 - 04:09 PM.

#5 wydeangle


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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:39 AM


The monitor back and tray are on their way to L&M under a warranty RMA number. I'll post another note after the stuff is returned and used again.