Hello all and happy holidays,
This post might is a bit long but I think it might prove to be useful to some. It is an overall user report on my first trip with my DSLR setup. The trip was to the Turks and Caicos on the Turks and Caicos Explorer II.
This is my first time shooting underwater with a DSLR setup. Up to now I have been shooting with an Olympus 5060Z in an Olympus Housing and an Inon Z240. I have now decided to take my topside Cannon 20D underwater in an Ikelite Housing with an 8" dome, and the Inon Z240.
I have a lot of experience in topside photography and the 20D is not a new camera to me.
Packing the Rig:
I am sorry I didn't pay more attention to this a few weeks before the trip. I figured that I'll manage somehow. The last place you want to be, is Friday night before a Saturday departure and needing to find a shop that is open at 9pm to buy a bag. What I eventually did is the following:
Camera bag (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/425851-REG/Tamrac_554902_5549_Adventure_9_Backpack.html):
Camera with 17-40L lens attached
Lens 11-16 (Tokina)
2 Zoom Clamps
2 Zoom Sleeves
Laptop (Thinkpad T60)
Power supply for Laptop
Chargers for batteries (NiCad for flash and camera battery)
Arm (correct term?) for the strobe
Carry on roller:
Ikelite Housing wrapped up with all my clothes
Checked in duffle:
Using the Rig:
Ok so here is where I begin starting to act like an idiot :-)
I read the manual (being in IT I'm all for RTFM), and something did strike me a bit strange but not strange enough to cause alarm. The threading of the port body to the dome assembly was my first point of failure. I saw that there is too much distance between the two pieces but the thread stopped me from going any further, so I figured that the pressure will take care of it. When I dunked the housing (sans camera) into the camera tub on the boat it was fine. So on the first dive I took the housing with me without the camera and within less then 30 seconds it was flooded. I surfaced thanked the universe I didn't take my camera with me, handed the flooded housing back to the boat and did my dive. After I surfaced the crew and I examined the housing toughly and saw that the threads on the port body were filled with "gunk" (as if the manufacturing process did not finish) after we cleaned them out the port body threaded all the way through to the O-Ring on the dome assembly. You can actually feel the O-Ring pressure when you reach it.
After the slight fiasco from above I took the housing down again and it worked great. On the third dive I finally put the camera inside the housing and took a few shots topside and everything seemed fine. Underwater everything was great for about 20 min. and then I noticed that my strobe was firing randomly. The Focus Light was working Perfectly. Once again topside everything was working great. After 2 more dives of this I finally decided to take everything apart re-grease all the O-Rings and see if I can find the culprit.
Once I took apart the cable connecting the housing to the strobe I saw that it was all corroded and basically flooded. I did my best to clean it re-greased the O-Ring and used force to put it twist it back on. That taught me an important lesson. Never EVER EVER use force with these things. I ended up bending one of the 5 pins and breaking it when I tried to straighten it. The strange thing is that ever since then everything has worked perfectly.
One of the things I was extremely surprised about was the fact that on both my lenses the zoom clamp and sleeve did not fit from the front of the lens. The zoom clamp was less of an issue since it has springs but the zoom sleeve simply did not fit. This basically meant that the lens had to be removed to fit these on, and removing lenses on a camera table in the middle of the ocean is not a fun thing to do.
1. When using such wide angle lenses it is best to have a second strobe. 1 strobe does not cut it and actually makes the pictures "lopsided" from a lighting perspective some of the times.
2. Never EVER use force
3. RTFM RTFM RTFM.
4. Make sure you feel the O-Ring pressure on any thread
5. Insure everything (I did except for the cable, which might have been the culprit in the strobe flooding, I will call Reef and see what they say).
6. Pack your rig at least a week in advance
7. Make sure you have your 2 lens back covers with you on the camera table to cover the body and the lens back when switching lenses
Suggestion to Ikelite - Add to the manual that you should feel the O-Ring pressure and not only the thread when assembling the port body to the dome assembly.
That's about it for now. If I remember anything I'll add it to this thread.