We use these housing's commercially for broadcast TV work. We have a number of them by choice and rely on them for professional results and reliability, we are not connected to Gates other than being a client. In our view it is by far the best mid size camera and housing option available today, image quality easily surpasses larger HD camera systems when used with the Nanoflash recorder and SWP44C port. We only use two ports the SWP44C and the macro port with diopters, though its rare if the macro port gets used. The SWP44C is essential, its a fantastic lens.
I'd say either or any of the methods you suggest for focus and Id use either depending on the situation, but it really depends on shooting style. Its not really an issue seeing sharp focus when using the HD monitor. Using menus and assists is only possible on the HD monitor when recording to the internal SxS camera cards, as menus cannot be displayed on the HD monitor when using the optional nanoFlash recorder as it uses the HDSDI feed from the camera which shares the menu on off option with the HD component out, and would result in recording menus to the Nanoflash recorder. This is about the only issue we have with the system. Its easy to rig and support in the field and also manageable due to its size which is important when entering or leaving the water when most accidental damage occurs. We tend not to hang lights of it but run these separately via buddy diver though we have a few guys using the system who mount all sorts of external lighting off the housing, its has many attachment points and interfaces with third party and custom accessories easily.
Let me know if you need more info.