Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Subal or Nauticam?


  • Please log in to reply
72 replies to this topic

#1 rumblefish

rumblefish

    Wolf Eel

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 134 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Netherlands
  • Interests:Underwater photography and wreckdiving. Contributing editor to dive magazines in The Netherlands and Belgium.

Posted 04 November 2012 - 01:09 AM

Hi all,
I am looking to replace my camera and housing somewhere in the near future. I used Subal over the past 20 years (to my full satisfaction) but I am considering Nauticam, too. Is there anyone here who has used both Subal and Nauticam housings in the field and can elaborate on the major differences -- e.g. ergonomics and the feel and reliability of the controls?
Best regards,
--Rob

Nikon D600, Nikon D80, Tokina 10-17mm FE, Sigma 14mm, 24mm macro, Nikon 60mm macro, Sigma 180mm macro. Nauticam NA-D600, 45° viewfinder, Subal ND80, GS180 viewfinder. Sea&Sea YS350 and YS90. ULCS arms.


#2 loftus

loftus

    Blue Whale

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4571 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Winter Park, Fl

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:52 AM

Hi all,
I am looking to replace my camera and housing somewhere in the near future. I used Subal over the past 20 years (to my full satisfaction) but I am considering Nauticam, too. Is there anyone here who has used both Subal and Nauticam housings in the field and can elaborate on the major differences -- e.g. ergonomics and the feel and reliability of the controls?
Best regards,
--Rob

I have owned and used both. I had Subal D700 and D200 housings, now have Nauticam D800 and D7000 housings. I think Nauticam really upped the game in housings.
6 months ago I would have come down firmly on the side of Nauticam as I think the precision and feature set of Nauticam housings is a significant improvement on my previous Subal housings. The new Subal housings really appear to have added many of the features introduced by Nauticam with a cleaner less cluttered design. Nauticam has had some quality issues which they appear to have addressed, but their design is a little cluttered on the inside with what would appear to be more parts etc than absolutely necessary. These parts can loosen, come off etc and I make a point of checking and tightening things etc from time to time to minimize this. Subal still lacks a full port and extension locking system which I think is a weakness. Outside of Europe Nauticam has a price advantage, so I'm not sure if that applies to you. Overall, if price were not an issue, with their new housings I would lean toward Subal, but if Nauticam offers a good price advantage I might go with Nauticam.

Edited by loftus, 04 November 2012 - 03:52 AM.

Nikon D800, Nikon D7000, Nauticam, Inons, Subtronic Novas. Lens collection - 10-17, 15, 16, 16-35, 14-24, 24-70, 85, 18-200, 28-300, 70-200, 60 and 105, TC's. Macs with Aperture and Photoshop.

#3 Luko

Luko

    Wolf Eel

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 169 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Paris, France

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:59 AM

Yep,
I used to have Subal in the past years (Canon 5D) then I switched to Nauticam 1,5 years ago (Canon 7D).
In terms of difference

Subal : more compact and lighter housing, more balanced underwater, better external coating finish. I like the quick lock system for the housing, the housing I owned also had a window above the housing which is convenient for displaying the current settings without having to look at the rear LCD. The DP-FE3 glass dome is great.
For the downsides, I hated the flat handles which start to hurt after a 1 hour. They were also slow to provide optical flash sync on their housings. The flat ports are quite bulky and not so practical to fixe a wet lens. DId I mention I flooded my housing because of absent port locking system (/3 version). And then there's the price, getting parts can be tiringly slow too...

Nauticam : inventive ergonomics although a little complicated, the piano keys are a great idea IMO. The port locking system is tops, I also liked that they provide adaptors for any port brand and that they're directly compatible with Zen ports, although I quickly sold my Subal ports (still have the Nauticam/Subal port adaptor for sale, almost unused). Nice flat port system with 67mm thread available. I like the comfortable handles too, fortunately because you have to use them indeed.
They have set one of the best selling network, ensuring you can quickly order and get spare parts, have advise or feedback. They're also on the competitive price side.
For the downsides, I was disappointed with the anodization quality, some parts of my housing were showing oxydation after a few months use. After one year use, the "set" button control wasn't functional anymore, I was recently advised to have my housing serviced (more than 400USD!), which I think is a bit tough for a less than 1,5 year use. If that is the case each year, Subal would have been cheaper altogether...
Also, I clearly don't like the "old style" housing latches, and I find the housing quite heavy compared to the SUbal which was a feather underwater, despite its weird handles.

That said you can't go wrong with any of the brands, if price isn't an issue I'd say Subal is maybe ahead in terms of build quality. Nauticam probably has an advantage with the ports system and its selling/aftersale network.
Pls have a look at my Flickr photo gallery and leave a comment.
Galleries in Pbase : Ambon & Maluku, Bangka & Bali, Komodo & Maumere, Moalboal, Mabul & Sipadan.
Vanuatu incl.SS Pres.Coolidge wreck.

#4 loftus

loftus

    Blue Whale

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4571 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Winter Park, Fl

Posted 04 November 2012 - 04:25 AM

For the downsides, I was disappointed with the anodization quality, some parts of my housing were showing oxydation after a few months use. After one year use, the "set" button control wasn't functional anymore, I was recently advised to have my housing serviced (more than 400USD!), which I think is a bit tough for a less than 1,5 year use. If that is the case each year, Subal would have been cheaper altogether...
Also, I clearly don't like the "old style" housing latches, and I find the housing quite heavy compared to the SUbal which was a feather underwater, despite its weird handles.

New Nauticam housings have great latches, which are even easier to use than Subal's. One thing I have learned from all my housings, is to coat all threads, interfaces etc on the outside with teflon paste

Edited by loftus, 04 November 2012 - 04:26 AM.

Nikon D800, Nikon D7000, Nauticam, Inons, Subtronic Novas. Lens collection - 10-17, 15, 16, 16-35, 14-24, 24-70, 85, 18-200, 28-300, 70-200, 60 and 105, TC's. Macs with Aperture and Photoshop.

#5 Gary.Makai

Gary.Makai

    Triggerfish

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 41 posts

Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:05 AM

I have a nauticam housing for my d800e and love it. I used to have Aquatica for my d300s and this is a major step up. I dove with a friend that had a D800e housed in a subal and his rig was slightly smaller on the outside than mine. I felt that mine was a bit more ergonomic and easier to use.

#6 Stitchercaroline

Stitchercaroline

    Sea Nettle

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 13 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:London

Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:20 AM

I have a Canon 7D and use a Hugyfot housing made in Belgium. Beautiful housing and I love the huggy check system

#7 Luko

Luko

    Wolf Eel

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 169 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Paris, France

Posted 04 November 2012 - 06:02 AM

New Nauticam housings have great latches, which are even easier to use than Subal's. One thing I have learned from all my housings, is to coat all threads, interfaces etc on the outside with teflon paste

Yes, I have seen the new latches, they came up exactly when I was buying my housing and was sorry it wasn't ready yet for the NA7D.
As for the teflon coating, I think it's a disappointing workaround for a 3.000EUR housing whereas I haven't noticed or heard housing brands like Subal, Seacam or Aquatica having this problem.
Pls have a look at my Flickr photo gallery and leave a comment.
Galleries in Pbase : Ambon & Maluku, Bangka & Bali, Komodo & Maumere, Moalboal, Mabul & Sipadan.
Vanuatu incl.SS Pres.Coolidge wreck.

#8 John Bantin

John Bantin

    Sperm Whale

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1857 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Teddington/Twickenham UK
  • Interests:former Technical Editor of
    Diver Magazine (UK) and www.divernet.com
    occasional contributor
    SportDiver (Aus)
    Undercurrent
    Author of Amazing Diving Stories (Wiley Nautical)

Posted 04 November 2012 - 07:37 AM

If you can't afford to make a mistake and flood your camera, maybe you need Hugycheck or something similar. Nauticam's UK agent has said that they are working on it.

Edited by John Bantin, 04 November 2012 - 07:37 AM.

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#9 loftus

loftus

    Blue Whale

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4571 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Winter Park, Fl

Posted 04 November 2012 - 07:52 AM

I think it's a disappointing workaround for a 3.000EUR housing whereas I haven't noticed or heard housing brands like Subal, Seacam or Aquatica having this problem.

You are right about the 3,000 EUR thing, but actually I started using it (recommended by Reef Photo) as I had issues even with my Subal with handle screws etc with the threads binding in the housing, and also my flash synch cord lock nuts etc binding. So I first started using it for this on my Subal not for the Nauticam surface oxidation issue. I think it may help the oxidation issue by insulating the different metals. I'm not advocating smearing this stuff on the actual outside surface as that would be a mess.

Edited by loftus, 04 November 2012 - 07:54 AM.

Nikon D800, Nikon D7000, Nauticam, Inons, Subtronic Novas. Lens collection - 10-17, 15, 16, 16-35, 14-24, 24-70, 85, 18-200, 28-300, 70-200, 60 and 105, TC's. Macs with Aperture and Photoshop.

#10 E_viking

E_viking

    Manta Ray

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 403 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Munich, Germany
  • Interests:UW Photography, Diving,
    Skiing & Mountaineering

Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:18 AM

Can someone elaborate on the Oxidation issue with Nauticam. Is it something that is solved now?
I am sorry for intruding in the Thread...

Nikon D800, Nikon 60, 105, 16-35, Sigma 15, Nauticam D800, Zen 230mm, Subsee +5 & +10, 2*INON Z240


#11 Timmoranuk

Timmoranuk

    Great White

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1168 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Near NDAC, South Wales
  • Interests:Technical diving; open circuit and rebreather, U/W photography, topside photography, travel, aviation and sailing.

Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:13 AM

I use simple silicone grease on the external threads of my NA-7Ds (Mk1 & 2) which has prevented any binding or corrosion in the 2/3 years of ownership. I'd do this with any housing... Neither housing has shown any signs of oxidisation (fitted with sacrificial anodes) and both operate as well as they did on the day of delivery. The UK distributor can return housings to Nauticam for factory servicing for, IIRC correctly, about £200.00 (please chime in Alex). For a little more I know that Nauticam can take a well-used and battered housing and make it like new again...

FWIW, my experience of Nauticam's pre and post sales service has been excellent and that they are a Hong Kong / China based company has not been any issue whatsoever.

If its any recommendation, to date, I own four housings from Nauticam.
· Canon 5D3, 7D & Nauticam housings. Sigma 15mm, Canon 16-35mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Sigma 8-16mm, Canon 10-22mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Sigma 120-300mm, Canon 60mm & 100mm
· INON Z-240s & Sea & Sea YS-250 Pros
· SmallHD DP4 monitor & NA-DP4. Fisheye Aquavolt 3500s & 7000s
· Zen DP-100, DP-200 & DP-230

#12 Alex_Mustard

Alex_Mustard

    The Doctor

  • Super Mod
  • 8376 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Peterborough

Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:39 AM

I have used both brands extensively in the last few years and recently made the choice between them (and others) when selecting a housing for my D4.

Neither would be a poor choice. In fact I believe that they are both in most people's top 3 choices, money no object.

In terms of ergonomics (ease of using your camera underwater) I believe that they are strongest two on the market. Nauticam continues to innovate and if you look at the ergonomic features and solutions on their D4 and D800 housings and compare them to any of the Nikon D3 housings on the market (Nauticam didn't make a D3 housing) then the progress is, quite frankly, amazing.

The number of controls that have been moved from being push button to being conveniently positioned levers in impressive. As is the Nauticam multi-selector. Plus you've got port lock, great viewfinders, excellent housing latches and a full port and accessory system.

The but comes with reliability. And this is a sensitive issue. First because when comparing brands we tend to exaggerate the differences for the sake of comparison. And second because there is a difference between what photographers will say face to face compared with what they will write on a forum. People have even said to me that they dare not speak out against some brands on Wetpixel because they know the dealers are reading!

But you would have to live with your head permanently in the sand (or underwater) to not have seen a Nauticam niggles threads. Though it should be stated that there are also a lot of Nauticam's out there now. There is one below this in this forum:
http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=48174

That said, I haven't had a problem with a Nauticam that has stopped me shooting. I think that most issues we see are best thought of as housings going out of tune. It is worth budgeting for a service every year or two and you will be insulated from these. Plus the dealers are excellent at staying on top of them. But I have had niggles with the controls on my Nauticams. I have never had a Subal serviced.

In the end I chose a Subal for my Nikon D4 (not just over Nauticam - I considered many brands). There were many reasons for this. And yes, it was not as financially attractive as some other brands for me!

But one important factor was that I dive and shoot and the Subal's I have owned have been trouble free.

Ergonomically, I was attracted to the fact that the Subal D4 had three controls I had not seen on a housing before (Pv, Fn & AF-ON(vert)) all of which are programable. I have written else where on how I can now shoot silhouettes for example with the pull of my right finger. It is a big step on from their D3 housing. And they have focused development on improved ergonomics (moving controls) and improved reliability, beefing up controls that have caused problems in the past and keeping engineering solutions simple. They have also introduced an ISO lever, which was something that Nauticam introduced on their D4 housing.

Subal now have a port lock, although this isn't a big issue for me, first I've not had a problem with Subal ports (although have seen others) but also I have a vacuum seal on my housing, which checks for leaks (pre-dive) and holds ports firmly on the housing.

I realise that I am not your typical underwater photographer. Shooting a huge amount more than the average. And therefore for me ergonomics and reliability are super important, while for others who dive less regularly all housings are already over engineered for their needs.

Alex

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#13 loftus

loftus

    Blue Whale

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4571 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Winter Park, Fl

Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:06 PM

I don't dive nearly as much as Alex, but for me Subal were not completely trouble free - particularly my D700 housing which did not seem to fit my camera with the same precision as my present Nauticam D800. The way this manifested was in the tray seating and some of the controls not engaging properly. Specifically I had niggly problems with the A / M focus lever, the lens release lever, meshing of zoom gears and back buttons from time to time, that required some fiddling and adjustment. Sometimes I could track it back to the tray issue, sometimes back to the individual controls themselves. The Nauticam tray seems to lock the camera in much more securely and precisely, and controls generally seem to mesh more precisely. Subal did have some financial problems a few years back, so I don't know if it was a quality control issue with just my housing or a particular batch of housings.
These niggly issues were part of the reason I changed to Nauticam. Looking at the new Subal housings though, they do look really nice. Alex I really think a port lock without an extension ring lock does not really qualify as a proper port lock. Never flooded mine but came close a few times on some bumpy boat entries, where we both saw others Subal ports twist off and cameras flood.

Edited by loftus, 04 November 2012 - 12:09 PM.

Nikon D800, Nikon D7000, Nauticam, Inons, Subtronic Novas. Lens collection - 10-17, 15, 16, 16-35, 14-24, 24-70, 85, 18-200, 28-300, 70-200, 60 and 105, TC's. Macs with Aperture and Photoshop.

#14 John Bantin

John Bantin

    Sperm Whale

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1857 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Teddington/Twickenham UK
  • Interests:former Technical Editor of
    Diver Magazine (UK) and www.divernet.com
    occasional contributor
    SportDiver (Aus)
    Undercurrent
    Author of Amazing Diving Stories (Wiley Nautical)

Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:48 PM

. Never flooded mine but came close a few times on some bumpy boat entries, where we both saw others Subal ports twist off and cameras flood.


Twice! (In my case)

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#15 eyu

eyu

    Great Hammerhead

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 724 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Wilmington, DE

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:43 PM

I just got back from a break-in trip to Bonaire for my Subal ND800 with a dive buddy who was also breaking-in his Natuicam D800 housing.
The Subal housing worked flawlessly, I just mounted the body on the tray and slid it into the housing. No problem with accentuating any of the camera functions and no finickiness. I love the way I can feel each click on the command and subcommand dial as I change f stops and speed. The ergonomics make this camera rig easy to handle and a pleasure to dive with.

Nikon D800E, D800, Subal ND800, Inon Z240, ULCS with StiX floats


#16 Kogia

Kogia

    Lionfish

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 72 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Kona, Hawaii

Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:56 PM

On the thread corrosion topic, I would like to note that there will always be corrosion when two dissimilar metals are put together then immersed in saltwater. Every aluminum housing I have ever owned (including most major brands) has had handles and other attachments secured with stainless steel screws, and all of these have shown a tendency to corrode and either disintegrate or weld themselves together over time, in spite of meticulous rinsing and soaking. I have not tried the teflon paste, but I have used a product called Lanicote for years with great success. The trick is to disassemble the housing parts and coat all the threads with whatever type of grease you choose before ever taking the housing into the water. This begs the obvious question: why can't the manufacturers do this? For whatever reason, they don't, and you should. The only other way out is to go with Ikelite, or other non-metal housing.

#17 Alex_Tattersall

Alex_Tattersall

    Great Hammerhead

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 870 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 05 November 2012 - 12:42 AM

I obviously have some bias here. However, prior to becoming the UK and French distributor of Nauticam, I owned housings from three other brands and I had to get used to working within the mechanical limitations/idiosynchracies/failings of each of them. The inherent difficulty of mechanically operating increasingly complex and small cameras with significant individual tolerances is something faced by all housing manufacturers. I recently too an NEX7 back to the factory which had been purchased in the UK. It was a full mm shorter than the factory working version which had been bought in Hong Kong.

It would be disingenuous of any manufacturer, distributor or vendor to claim that their housings never have any issues, we have customers who have moved to us from ALL major brands, many of whom have tales of non-alignment and functionality problems. What makes the difference however is the manufacturer/distributor reaction to these issues.

A housing may work 100% when it is first constructed and passes QC perfectly. However, each production housing obviously cannot be tested under the kinds of conditions that Alex uses them before being sold to the end user. Manufacturers therefore rely on feedback from the field surrounding any issues which can be improved into the future.

The reason I am so supportive of Nauticam is the seriousness in which they react to such issues. They have recently employed a new recruit with a distinction Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London (a top ten world university specialising in Engineering) who is charged with the responsibility of managing dealer and end user product feedback and acting on this to make any required improvements. As a company, Nauticam are humble enough to welcome and encourage criticism in order that they can make improvements to their products. They have recently opened a number of service centres in their key markets with employees of these having to partake in a rigourous training programme on the assembly line (I was there two weeks ago with the Italian distributor). I think that the responsiveness and seriousness that they deal with any issues is a key factor which has resulted in them being the market force they now are in such a short period.

I also think this highlights the importance of buying from a local dealer who can provide support needed if required.

That said, if we had issues with every housing we’d sold, I wouldn’t expect our business to have grown as it has and I’d be up to my neck in housings to repair. This is certainly not the case, 95% of our customers have no issues at all.
www.flickr.com/photos/alextattersall

www.nauticamuk.com
www.uwvisions.com
Exclusive official importer of Nauticam products into the UK and Ireland

#18 Drew

Drew

    The Controller

  • Video Expert
  • 10637 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:GPS is not reliable in South East Asian seas

Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:05 AM

Rob
You don't mention which camera you are buying the housing for. I think that's important since many issues that have been listed may not be an issue in the latest models. I think you should look at the design and reveiws of the latest housings.
I've used the latest Nauticam D800 and 60D (reviewed) relatively extensively (3-4 weeks at a time) and 5D3 and D4. The Nauticam ergonomics is good, and like others have mentioned, it is intricately designed and thus service is more complicated (more man hours needed to do it.) However, I only have 2 major criticisms. The oxidation issue is well documented in the thread and here. My other issue is the zoom and focus gears required the rubber rings of the lens to be removed. I think it is a negative on design and practicality.
Like Alex, none of these issues prevents the housing from working, however, the oxidization in the 60D locked the nut in the handle and prevented me from disassembling the housing for travel in my very limited baggage space, only after 2 weeks of usage.
My Subal experience of late has been testing the D800 and D4 for myself. Both housings work well and with the port lock, my dislike of the 1/4 turn lock port system is squashed although like Loftus says, use of extension rings means the rings are locked and not the port for T3 (I believe T4 ports can do that)! There was an issue with the AF button but it was fixed in less than 20 minutes by dis/re assembly with adjustments. The Subal seems easier to do field repairs due to the less cluttered design.
I have to agree somewhat with Doug. No housing brand is immune to quality issues. I've also had oxidization issues with many brands, except my Seacam 1Ds housing which is still going strong. However, it's really the percentage of production that has quality issues that is more important in distinguishing whether the brand has QC issues. The real issue is which issues you are willing to contend with. We have people putting coatings on parts, duct tape for moving ports and all sorts of work arounds. What are you comfortable with?

Drew
Moderator
"Journalism is what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations."

"I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there.


#19 John Bantin

John Bantin

    Sperm Whale

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1857 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Teddington/Twickenham UK
  • Interests:former Technical Editor of
    Diver Magazine (UK) and www.divernet.com
    occasional contributor
    SportDiver (Aus)
    Undercurrent
    Author of Amazing Diving Stories (Wiley Nautical)

Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:32 AM

I think there are some good parallels in the car industry. Some hand-made so-called exotic cars give their owners nothing but trouble but the Porsche 911, thanks to its very long production run and constant deveopment proves really reliable. The more you make, the more chance you have of perfecting a product. Blame the digital camera manufacturers for the short production runs engaged in by housing manufacturers! It's almost as if every one is a prototype.

Edited by John Bantin, 05 November 2012 - 01:34 AM.

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#20 Drew

Drew

    The Controller

  • Video Expert
  • 10637 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:GPS is not reliable in South East Asian seas

Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:48 AM

Car analogies have started! LOL

You're right John. I'd like to see the day when manufacturers consult with each other like Porsche did with Toyota, Lamborghini with Audi etc etc. Of course, we don't want a Chrysler with Daimler Benz! :D

Drew
Moderator
"Journalism is what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations."

"I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there.