Well, I got to test the Patima 400D housing and I love it. I love it so much, Iâ€™m hoping that if I plug the shop who lent it to me enough (www.divervision.com), then they will give it to me. Divervision is incredible, great deals on Japanese prodâ€¦â€¦ no, seriously.
First of all of course I have a disclaimer, and quite a significant one at that. This is the first time Iâ€™ve used a DSLR housing underwater so I can only realistically compare it to my previous experience with compact housings (Olympus Mju, Canon IXUS, Fuji E900). Iâ€™m also not very technically minded so bear with me.
OK, so my impressions. The first time I saw Patimaâ€™s 350D housing, it was on a shelf alongside a Sea and Sea housing and an Anthis Nexus housing. I have to admit, it looked a bit like legobrick car parked next to a BMW and a Mercedes. The styling, in my opinion, is a little boxy and the macro port is particularly unattractive (sorry Patima). Even worse, for an English Language teacher like me, the dubious English grammar in the logo (which reads â€˜Patima, Addiction of Underwaterâ€™) made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. The instruction manual is equally in need of a good proofreader. I have to say, at the time, if Iâ€™d been looking to buy a DSLR housing, all these things would have made me consider the next manufacturer on the shelf.
However, my superficial dismissal of this product magically evaporated when my local shop offered me one to take to Malaysia to test. â€˜Yes pleaseâ€™ I said greedilyâ€¦., â€˜we want it back, you knowâ€™â€¦. Doh!!
For this trip I decided not to take the dome port as I was seriously over the luggage allowance already. I packed the housing into my divebag (adding 2200grams to my 29 kilo bag) and put the Anthis macro flatport into my handluggage. The Patima housing is compatible with Nexus ports so there is a slightly cheaper acrylic option to the high priced glass dome port offered by Patima. Also, the styling on the Nexus macro ports are much less like â€˜something out of a Buck Rogersâ€™ than Patimaâ€™s own, making the whole setup much more appealing to the eye. This picture shows the housing with the Anthis macro port.
I have to say that my first impression of the â€˜feelâ€™ of the housing was immediately much more positive. It felt solid enough to fight of even a frenzied Humboldt squid, while at the same time all the buttons had a nice soft feeling to them. Iâ€™ve been used to using the E900 â€˜rough and readyâ€™ Ikelite housing which after a few days use invariably leads to blisters and calluses on my â€˜officeworkerâ€™ fingertips. Installing the camera is no problem except that you have to remove the rubbery bit around the viewfinder which I have since lost somewhere. Annoying.
Just a small side issue while I think of it, the 400D has a sensor just below the viewfinder which detects the userâ€™s face approaching and automatically turns of the LCD screen for better viewing. I assumed I would have to turn this function off when the camera was in the housing but this was unnecessary. The glass section of the back plate did not cause the LCD to automatically switch off.
I used the camera with the Canon 60mm macro lens. Everything was shot with twin INON strobes in manual mode as the Patima housing requires customization for TTL. Iâ€™m told Patima have some strobe housings, one giant, sinfully ugly one for the Canon 580EX flash (http://www.patimahousing.com/htm/e_strobes4.php), the other resembling a cybermanâ€™s private parts (for those of you who donâ€™t know Dr Who, sorry) for the SUNPAK PZ40X (which only uses 2 AA batteries and, according to the manual, takes 8 seconds to charge after a full dump). Both of these, Iâ€™m again told will allow the use of Canon ETTL (whatever that may be).
Underwater I was in heaven with this new toy. After having used compact cameras only, I was probably not the first person to be delighted with the fast response time of the SLR. Writing RAW in microseconds. No more having to sit and watch the fish come up with some incredible behaviour while waiting for the cameraâ€™s internal flash to recharge. Many shots which I previously wouldnâ€™t have bothered with (anything moving basically) were suddenly firing off with the greatest of ease. It took a little while to get used to framing with the viewfinder and I wasnâ€™t too keen on the new body position required to take shots as I kept scraping my chin on the coral, but after a while I got used to this. It would be nice to have the viewfinder attachment thing which allows you to look down into the viewfinder. Iâ€™m not sure if these are available for this housing.
I just noticed a bit of a debate going on relating to the spring on the shutter release lever where this contacts with the camera. This is indeed the case. However, until I read this debate I hadnâ€™t realized there was a spring at all. It was easy to operate, easy to hold at half press, and compared to the length of travel on my Ikelite e900 case, a pleasure to operate. Having said this, I did revert back to the trusty FUJI e900 as I needed more macro capabilities and the fisheye option (and I was trying to avoid falling too far in love with the SLR). However, for taking one-time opportunity photos the SLR was far better than the E900 (in my hands that is). We were lucky enough to spot a blue ring octopus in Kapalai last week and I raced over before the other 5 divers with cameras noticed the guide pointing frantically. In my excitement at finding such a macro prize, I didnâ€™t change any settings on the cameraâ€¦ got in close and firedâ€¦ watching the dazzled ock disappear into a hole, I glanced down at the e900 LCD screen and noticed Iâ€™d completely overcooked the shot. If Iâ€™d had the dSLR with raw I could have saved it, Iâ€™m sure.
Hereâ€™s a few shots taken with the setup, I love the image quality (bear in mind I only used it on 2 dives).
So, in summary, I want one but itâ€™ll have to wait until someone decides to give one to me (or start paying me for my photosïŠ). Hereâ€™s my overall evaluation of the positives and the negativesâ€¦
TTL requires customization.
At present, the ports that allow zooming are for the kit lens (strange choice) and the 10-22mm Canon WA.
At present, no possibility for manual focus apart from half click and moving in and out.
Dome port is costly (although previously it was apparently considerably cheaper).
Styling is a bit legolike.
Dubious English grammar.
Build Quality (Solid Aluminum).
Compatible with Nexus ports.
AV button on the 400D requires 2 hand to operate on the surface. This housing has a built in locking switch to enable easy use of AV.
Ease of use
Here's a link to Patima's website (how's your Korean?)
Any questions ladies and gentlemen ?