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Housing for Canon 1DX Nauticam or SeaCam? Other options?

Canon 1DX Nauticam SeaCam

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#1 Grant Gunderson

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 02:51 AM

Hi guys, I am new here, so hoping to learn a lot from this forum.

 

I just got into diving last year while on vacation in Belize and am now 100% hooked on it.  I am full time Ski Photographer by trade, so I am looking into getting a housing system for the gear that I already own: Canon 1DX bodies with the Canon 8-15mmL and the 16-35mmL II plus looking at picking up the Canon 100L Macro to compliment the system.  I have a quote from the local photo shop in Seattle for both a SeaCam and Nauticam system, but wounding if the SeaCam system is really worth 7K more..  Is there any other options out there for the 1DX?

 

If your curious about my non dive images, you can check them out here: http://www.GrantGunderson.com

 

I am really looking forward to learning a lot from this amazing community.

 

Thanks!



#2 Drew

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 02:39 PM

Grant, the Seacam 1DX isn't out till later this year.  If you can wait, Subal will also be coming out with one as well.  Then you'll have more options.
I like Seacam because of the simplicity of design, build quality and that lining which can save a camera when there's a flood.  Most importantly, it has 2 dials for focus and zoom, the only housing that has this on the housing body and not separated like other makes.  It's a big deal for those who care.
I'm a little confused about how the Seacam can be $7k more?  Are you including ports and other accessories or just bare housing?
 
I've used the Nauticam NA-1Dx and find the right thumb area to be too crowded for my preferences, but there's no denying the port lock system is nice, as are the panel buttons.  Not a big fan of the optical outlets since there's no product to use it yet from Nauticam, but optical firing of strobes is a nice way to get minimal prep work for strobes.  However, most of the big strobes can't be fired optically.  Another characteristic of Nauticam is the requirement to remove the rubber rings on lenses to fit their gear.  Not a big deal for many, but I use my lenses a lot topside and don't like the gears there when I do.
 
If you don't need the 12fps, maybe you should consider saving money and just buy a 5D3 with housing.  It will cost about the same as a housing for the 1DX and can matches well with the 1Dx in everyway except max speed fps.
 
I'm pretty sure someone is thinking of saying this so I'll do it.  With underwater photography, buoyancy is very important and most people don't/can't get their buoyancy right for at least 50 dives.  I've seen too many noobs forget basic things because they are fussing with a camera.  So I suggest you get some more dives in and get very comfortable in water before you mess with a big housing like a 1DX.

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#3 Grant Gunderson

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 09:36 AM

Thanks Drew.  After discussing the quote with the shop a lot of the cost difference was that the SeaCam included SeaCam arms and strobes, so if I go with the YS-250 pro strobes and Nauticam arms, the cost diffence is more like $3500, so is the SeaCam housing body and 180 view finder really worth the extra $3500 over the Nauticam body with there 180 view finder?  Either way its a large investment, and something that I want to make sure I do it right from the begining, as it will be commited to that set up for a long time.

 

As for using the 1DX instead of the smaller body, its more cost effective for me, since I laready own two 1dX cameras and getting a smaller body (5Dmk3) and a housing for that would end up being more and personally I own two 1DX's because I hate going back and forth between different cameras.

 

As far as bouyancy goes, it came really easy to me, so I'm not too concerned about having the large housing to deal with.    I'll also be doing a lot of over under shots with it at first for some of my action sports clients before I ever do an actual dive with it, so that will give me a lot of time to get familiar with it. When I do start to dive with it, I'll be starting out with more mellow dives before doing anything too adventurous.

 

 

Thanks again for the help.



#4 Drew

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 08:40 AM

If you are shooting over/unders, the conventional wisdom is to use is the 45° viewfinder, but that is a preference thing I think.
 
Seacam's 1Dx isn't out yet and won't be for at least 2 mths.   So no one can tell you what that will look like or what functions are going to be available and how it can be accessed.   Still I would search Wetpixel for both Nauticam and Seacam's history on whatever issues there may be, if you feel you have to do due diligence.  Unfortunately for you, you will have to check for the strobes and other accessories as well.
I think a better question for you is what you need in terms of housing quality.  Seacam has a absorbent lining that is unique to the industry.  The design ethos is very much about precision quality and high grade materials.  There's even certificates for the materials used.  There's all sorts of things included that gives the impression of a top quality product. It now even includes a magazine specially printed for Seacam owners exclusively.  
Now compare it to the Nauticam NA-1Dx.  It's available now, has lots of accessories and dome ports.  The optical ports, to me, unnecessary for now because Nauticam hotshoe trigger doesn't work with my strobes (high power strobes like the YS250 and Hartenberger) that can keep up with the 12 fps of the 1Dx at any decent amount of power.  Ryan Canon, a dealer, has stated he's tested some optical triggers which can hit 11fps, but didn't clarify if that was for a Canon.
You obviously use your lenses topside a lot.  Do you like the focus/zoom rings to have a gear instead of the rubber ring? That's what Nauticam's gear system uses (at least for the lenses I owned).
I realize this is all new to you and it's easy to have someone say buy this or that and be done with it.  You just won't get that from me because I have different needs from you.  Bottom line is, list your needs, time frame and budget, then compare the housings.  The Nauticam is available now, Subal/Seacam aren't.
As for accessories, there are lots of alternatives to the housing's own accessories. For instance, because I travel so much, I use carbon fiber strobe arms, which are lighter than aluminum and gives more buoyancy.  

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#5 adamhanlon

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 11:33 AM

I actually find that shooting over/unders with 45° viewfinder is a pain as the water gathers in the eyepiece.

 

Saying that, I am sure you can probably removed the rubber cover around the eyepiece-I am just too scared to do so. :)

 

have been fortunate enough to have used a wide range of housings (not for the 1 DX I should add) and find that the quality of materials and manufacture is overall very high throughout.

 

My suggestion would be to contact dealers close to you, or some of the excellent Wetpixel sponsors and advertisers, and get your own hands on the housings that are available. Any advice that is offered here will always be tinged with what an individual likes/wants from a product and there is no substitute for handling them yourself. 

 

Shooting a SLR underwater will always result in a high level of task loading. In my experience, the only way to mitigate this is time in the water. Whilst over/unders may seem like an easier option, I think you may be surprised at quite how difficult they are to shoot!

 

Good luck with your search-you are lucky to be looking at housing such an amazing camera.

 

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#6 Alex_Tattersall

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 07:00 PM

We have successfully tested the nauticam hot shoe flash trigger with the YS-250 here.
www.flickr.com/photos/alextattersall

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#7 Drew

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 08:00 PM

Thanks Alex.  How many fps did you test it to? On which camera?  Since Nauticam has a 1Dc/x around, did you guys test high fps on that?  I remember high speed sync for Canon flash is a series of lower powered pulses from their EX strobes and thus most eTTL back engineer jobs have failed to reliably crack high speed sync.  What about rear curtain? Has Nauticam cracked both?

Adam, one way to avoid water into the 45° cup is to use cling wrap. A lot more reflection but no more fiddling other than a wipe of the finger to clear the water of the plastic. Oh and very important to make sure you don't leave that plastic floating off into the ocean when done! Recycle, reuse, reduce! :)

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#8 tdpriest

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 03:02 AM

I actually find that shooting over/unders with 45° viewfinder is a pain as the water gathers in the eyepiece.
 

 
Turn the 45-degree finder sideways....


I'm only an upstart Nikonian, but the functional difference between Nauticam and Seacam isn't great. If you're rich, well...
 
... but Nauticam have impressed me with their service and reaction to customer's problems. There's an engineering elegance to Seacam, and a slightly inelegant cleverness to Nauticam housings...
 
... but a housing in production is worth any number of housings in the pipeline.
 
Don't be put off when your terrestrial photographic skills betray you into complete incompetence underwater: the learning curve is like a particularly vicious roller coaster, or climbing a black run in ski boots!

#9 Drew

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:27 AM

Tim, as you know very well, functionality is also about reliability and quality of build. I personally would NOT like to test customer service the way you had to.  

As for reliability, I have a Seacam 1DsII housing from 2005 that still works very well, only been serviced twice in the last 8 years.  Never skipped a beat and works well still.   And you are absolutely right about the elegance and simplicity of design of the various buttons and trigger. It's quite easily field serviceable.  No loctite, easy to tear down etc.  Try doing that with any of the Nauticams in the same time.  There's also the oxidation issue that I think has yet to be resolved.
The price difference is a major factor for most.  With a camera like the 1Dx,  it will have a long service life as a stills camera, probably 6 or more years.

That said, we don't know what the Seacam 1Dx will look like.  And then there's Seacam's Austrian neighbor Subal coming out as well to consider when it does ship.  I think it's great that there are choices for people to choose, but not so great for the person trying to decide to buy one. :)


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#10 CheungyDiver

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:22 PM

Hey Drew

 

Cling wrap?  Flower pot as sunshade! 

 

You are becoming like a McGiver of plastic :)  

 

As for 1DX housing. Anyone contemplating getting one. Always find a dealer near you. It does not which brand. You need to have the service at this level. Every housing I know need some minor tweaking and familiarization. I am not bias to any brand and I have used/owed most. No one is perfect. I have even customized a few. Just my two cents.

 

I did not know there is a LED flash trigger in eTTL? Is it manual mode only? The canon eTTL is one tough nut to crack. As for high speed sync the best I have for mine is 1/250 in manual sync. The circuit for that is not rocket science. Some clever bloke discussed that in this forum a while ago.

Fast and multi FPS is probably impossible at the moment with LED trigger. 

 

 

Cheers

David


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#11 Drew

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:00 PM

That's right David. As Grant knows, the 1Dx will only hit 12 fps @ 1/1000+ shutter speed, so it has to be high speed sync to shoot with strobes.  Which is why Alex's statement got my attention.  No one has got high speed sync cracked on eTTL but according to Alex, Nauticam might have hopefully.

As for getting things to work, you would cringe at what else I've used to get things to work the way I want. :)

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#12 Alex_Tattersall

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 10:04 PM

No, not eTTL, manual only at present.


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#13 John Bantin

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 12:04 AM

I'd like to find a strobe that recycled at 4fps. Inon told me my tubes went black because I was repeat flashing and that was once every two seconds!


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?

 

#14 Drew

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 03:07 AM

The Hartenberger 250hs John. Will hit 3-4fps at full blast with the Ni-Cad, depending on battery freshness (as in newness).  I stopped using the NiCad for environmental reasons and switched to NiMH (repacked the battery pack.)  Easily maintains 2fps at full blast with NiMH batteries.  Been using them for years. They are the fastest recycling strobe and more powerful than the YS250 S&S by a bit under 1/3 stop by my unofficial tests.  I've tested it up to 8fps even with the 1D2n, 1D4 and 1Dx @ 1/320 @ 1/2 power.  If you want super fast recycling strobes and don't mind the bulk and weight, the Hartenbergers are the ones.  All the other 250W+ strobes have limiters on the recycling time, this is the only strobe that doesn't.   I've changed my tubes once in 4 years and I shoot high fps every year in South Africa and other high action places.  Inons are housing in plastic so heat disspation isn't as quick.  My tube got so hot it half melted the filter I had inside!  Which was why I had to change the tube! :)


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#15 John Bantin

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:01 AM

Drew, Why didn't you tell me earlier? :)


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?

 

#16 Drew

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 11:46 AM

Well I think Divegypsy (Fred B) and I sorta did years ago in some thread about the Hartenbergers.  You were obviously ignoring one or both of us! :)


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#17 John Bantin

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 11:50 AM

Well I think Divegypsy (Fred B) and I sorta did years ago in some thread about the Hartenbergers.  You were obviously ignoring one or both of us! :)

Thanks but I have abandoned my Subtronics because I can't afford the excess baggage charges. :(


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?

 

#18 Grant Gunderson

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 12:13 PM

Drew,

 

Actually the 1Dx tops out at 10 FPS when shooting RAW, the 12fps is useless IMOP because it only works in JPEG, that and I cant think of a single subject where more than 10fps is useful.  Even when I am shooting skiing, I very rarely fire off more than just a frame or two at 10FPS, whats more important to me, is the very fast AF that tends to come with higher FPS bodies.

 

I dont understand the desire to be able to routinely fire flashes at a high FPS.  At least in my experience when working with flash, you take your time to dial in your flashes manually and compose your shot the shoot. If i'm going to take a second frame then I'm either going to re-compose or make an adjustment to the light position. Plus if your going to try to do it at a high FPS, then your going to most likely be pushing your shutter speed to max synch killing your ambient, or your not going to have a fast enough t.5 flash duration to stop action unless your either shooting near stationary objects, or with the flashes set to a really low power.  If there is a need to be able to fire the flashes at a high FPS, then please enlighten me. I'd be very curious to know when you guys need to do that.

 

The other thing I dont understand is what everyone's obsession with E-ttl is.  The key to really good stunning flash work is understanding the relationship between your flash and ambient portions of your exposure and the impact that light position plays.  I just dont see the need for it, unless your basically shooting with an over priced point and shoot.  Anyone that takes the time to learn to shoot flash manually is going to get to a point where they are going to quickly do a way better job than what the camera would do with E-ttl.

 

Thanks for the info on the housings.  I'll have to do some research on the Subal one as well, but right now I'm leaning towrads SeaCam if they can deliver before my first scheduled shoot date.

 

 

That's right David. As Grant knows, the 1Dx will only hit 12 fps @ 1/1000+ shutter speed, so it has to be high speed sync to shoot with strobes.  Which is why Alex's statement got my attention.  No one has got high speed sync cracked on eTTL but according to Alex, Nauticam might have hopefully.

As for getting things to work, you would cringe at what else I've used to get things to work the way I want. :)



#19 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:49 PM

I've been (desperately) trying to find uses for high frame rates underwater, as both my cameras last year (Nikon D4 and Olympus OM-D could do 10 frames per sec) and few other UW systems could.

 

In available light shooting of big animals, it can be useful. I shot basking sharks and whale sharks last summer, for example, and it was interesting to have 6 or 7 options of the best point of the pass, rather than 1-2. It meant you could choose after the fact and avoid things like crud in the water being right in front of the eye, or have light patterns in exactly the right place. Things you couldn't see at the time when looking at the whole of a 6-8m shark through a fisheye lens.

 

However, I'd put that down as useful, rather than essential.

 

I have also been trying to find a use for higher frame rates with flash photography. I have tried this with fish spawning photography, both with mandarinfish in Indonesia and hamlets and angelfish spawning in the Caribbean. I was hoping that the high frame rates might reveal aspects of the spawning behaviour I hadn't got before. They didn't really, they gave me lots of frames of the spawning and as a result lots of frames of the egg release part. But didn't really pull out anything new.

 

My Inon strobes are able to keep up with the D4 for about 7-8 frames. I set the Inons on minimum power and the camera on ISO 1600, which gives me plenty of light at the apertures I want to work for macro behaviour shots. Which is usually enough in these cases. If might zap off 6-7 frames stop for half a moment and then zap off another 5-6.

 

Perhaps the biggest advantage of this approach is that the fish seem very relaxed and continue their behaviour in the low level strobe light, than possibly they do in one big pop of light?

 

I'll keep trying ideas - as many of the cameras being used underwater are not good at high frame rates (D7000, D800) so I am hoping I might get something that others cannot. But so far, I haven't really.

 

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#20 Drew

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 04:27 AM

Grant
The 1Dx high speed  continuous shooting is 12fps if shutter is 1/1000 and ISO is set under 25600.  JPEG lockdown mode is 14fps.  I know I'm being pedantic but now you have an extra 2fps you don't need! :)
 
As for high fps, as Alex says, it's very useful when you need it, but useless when you don't :).  I shoot different things than Alex, who is a master of fish behavior.  I shoot predation behavior of big animals like sharks, whales etc in very fast action.  One could say a good photographer would know when to pull the trigger, but for my modest talent (or lack there of), that's in the realm of "use the force, Luke" and I'd rather use the inelegant approach of attrition. 
 
This brings up high speed flash, which allows me to lfill light animal subjects with ambient backgrounds, especially with cameras with excellent ISO performance.  In baitball and other predation behavior, one could be trying to light up a 2m shark in a baitball, something the little INON would not be able to do but my big 250W Hartenberger chomps for breakfast.  This ties into the higher shutter speeds which leads to the eTTL protocol.  The Canon eTTL controls high speed sync, and so eTTL is essential for high speed sync.
 
And eTTL also ties into program modes which can also get you the shot when the action moves unpredictably.  Most people will say TTL for wide angle underwater is not a good thing, and manual is preferred. Normally I agree but for certain situations, it works well to control your fill flash.  It can also get a shot you aren't ready for.
 
That leads to strobes that can do eTTL, which only a few manufacturers can, including Seacam's SeaFlash.  I did a review of them a couple of years back so you can find it in the archives.  Lastly, only the SeaFlash can do rear curtain, which is also part of eTTL, so if you need that function, you'll have narrowed your choice.
 
Like I said before, list down the things you want to do with the housing, then choose the housing that fits your needs.  Personally, I'd wait for the Seacam to show the 1Dx housing before putting money down.  With the 5D3 housing, Seacam tossed out full joystick control which made the Q menu functionality limited. I personally use the Quick Menu constantly for stills.  So I didn't choose the Seacam because of that.  I have no idea what the Subal will look like either, since they aren't delivering yet.
 
Good luck! :)

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