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Everything posted by mwalker_mw

  1. Having traveled through SJD in August and been hit with the housing tax I've done a bit of a writeup on the current state of affairs as well as some thoughts in the hopes it might help others. Crosspost from ScubaBoard https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/camera-housing-tax.587789/page-3#post-9161020 ------------------- Ok - as promised.I've been a bit busy though so not as fresh as I'd hoped....Anyways:Yes, when I traveled through SJD in mid August I was forced to pay an import duty on my camera housing.I, being curious and not in a particular hurry, spent more than 90 minutes debating with them as to whether a duty was appropriate.My conclusion: The front line officers have been instructed to tax housings and provide the reasoning of 'professional equipment'.They appear to have no discretion in this.This is most curious as it is a 'shakedown' but not by the officers.Rather I would speculate it is to hit a quota.The proceeds are collected by credit card and they do log it in a seemingly robust computer system - it looked like government software: ugly, bloated, hard to use and plenty of tracking data. It's not going in the pocket of anyone local.I should note that I had priority bags so I was one of the first hitting them. They asked what was in the cases and I answered honestly. Did not feel like experiencing a Mexican jail nor like having $10,000 worth of gear confiscated before a long dive trip. They would have Xrayed them anyways.I did note that they first asked if I had a camera and then afterwards specifically asked if I had a housing. See below for thoughts on this.Some observations:1) The officer I encountered spoke perfect English (hence my willingness to debate for 90 minutes), plus he was very patient and polite. He even made a really good effort to justify the situation but, as I was quite thoroughly prepared, it did eventually reduce to 'either you pay or you don't get into Mexico' when I'd poked holes in most of the 'official' reasoning he appeared to have been trained to promote.2) They are being very specific about housings now. They saw all my other gear (lenses, ports, etc.) it was just the primary housing they wanted duty for. And they knew just how much to charge (though they made an effort to google it for confirmation). This is, of course, very targeted. To argue that the housing is for professional use while none of the other items related to the camera, nor the camera itself was for professional use was absurd. You can't have one without the other. In my mind this was clear evidence that this was chasing a quota - make it a small enough value to minimize arguments (~$180USD) but collect it enough times to make it worthwhile. I even went so far as to gamble and point out that if they were taxing one thing they should tax the rest - they largely ignored this line of reasoning.3) I had the letter from Nautilus' Mexican lawyer. They didn't appear to have seen it before as they took a while to read it, however, they basically laughed at it and refused to accept it's validity or reasoning. Additionally they refused to comply with any of the demands in the letter/recommended procedures other than providing an official receipt. Reasoning was it was not part of their standard procedure.4) I repeatedly asked for permission to contact the lawyer for clarification. This was denied (it is a 'no cell phones' area).5) I also had a print out of the actual law allowing for two cameras plus accessories. They refused to accept the housing as an accessory though everything across my entire rig was.6) They focused in on 'professional'. To which I pointed out that for it to be 'professional', by definition in English or Spanish, it needed to be used for a profession. This caught them up and they eventually decided to ignore that path of reasoning as it was inconvenient for their narrative. "How do I know you're not using it to make money"7) The agent brought up the example of a GoPro and it's housing as an example of 'not Professional' with the justification being that the housing was also sold by GoPro. I pounced on this as absurd - this line of reasoning was also rapidly avoided after that. "If it looks professional to me it is professional and I will tax it"8) They would only allow me to 'escalate' to the front line supervisor - no further. Her English was much more limited (and my Spanish is useless) so this was pointless. She also wanted nothing to do with the discussion or debate - just "it's professional - you have to pay".9) They did offer me the path of holding it while I got a Carnet established. This, of course, is completely impractical for a vacation traveler both on cost and time frame. They knew this.I do think that how busy they are drastically affects how much this is enforced. I had arrived just before lunch and part of my strategy was to try and wear them out until they got hungry and gave up. This did not work.They did allow me to write 'under protest' when singing the acknowledgement. What I was being charged for on the paper was also quite generic. I suspect there might be a path to a credit card chargeback if one were so inclined. I am not going down this path as based on what my time is worth vs. the cost I would not win even if I won. I believe it has been calibrated to ensure this. Additionally, I've not been prompt in chasing this and I've had to do a lot of chargebacks recently related to airlines and some business matters. I don't want to get flagged by the card issuers for abusing the process over a measly $200 cost.I did receive a very official looking document as 'my copy'. I intend to keep this on file and present it in the future if they attempt to tax me again for the same equipment.That being said - this sort of activity makes me hesitate to spend any more money in Mexico. Corruption disgusts me - particularly when it is so brazen and officially sanctioned/mandated. They are ignoring their own clearly written laws to bite the hand that feeds them.I do appreciate that the officer was patient and cordial through the process. I also appreciate his effort in trying to come up with a justification. But, it was pretty clear he knew what he was part of and they've done a good job of making it essentially unavoidable.Ultimately, this is just a glorified tourist tax. If they'd just implement a $200 Marine Park Fee and ensured the funds actually went to the parks I think most would be happy to pay it. Instead there is this twisted workaround and I'm certain the money collected is not funding anything of value to either tourists or your average Mexican citizen.Anyways. Those are my thoughts on the matter. Hopefully helpful to those travelling in that direction in the future.
  2. Certainly - while I did get away unscathed in Coz I have no intention of returning to any part of Mexico for any reason until they get their house in order on the shakedowns and fraud (that includes the taxi drivers...). So many other amazing places to go.
  3. COZ - Dec 4 to 21 - travelling with a flock of pelicans including DSLR housing, strobes, batteries, etc. and a 19L pony. Coming in: I was near front of line all the way through. Had electronic visa and declaration forms (they were very short on the plane so this is highly recommended). Dog sniff of carry-on between customs and baggage (this was done at the dogs pace). Asked if gear was 'professional' after xray. Said no. Waved through. Green Light and carried on. Interestingly cases were unopened all the way from YYC-IAH-COZ despite the pony cylinder and other interesting things (I use unique zip ties to verify) Leaving: United agent seemed to think I had the wrong part of the exit form but after a few minutes of staring at it and pondering carried on. No issues with it after that. I think they are still a bit unfamiliar with the electronic print-it-yourself versions. No questions on the bags (other than they usual airline ones you get anywhere). Had lithium in carry on, others in checked and they seemed fine with this. All in plastic cases. Didn't even want a look inside of my carry-on (my battery/charging case flags almost everywhere). Bags unopened until Denver but were then opened after recheck at DEN apparently as the zip ties were replaced by the time I pulled them off the belt at YYC and had a TSA notice inside. So, no issues at all at Cozumel. Or maybe I was just lucky. (I do have Precheck/Global Entry/Nexus which certainly seems to help at US and Canadian points along the way)
  4. Well - I did promise I'd post back here.... I'll wait until after my next trip (next week) to Cozumel for a full write up. But, I did have it in Bonaire for a couple weeks in September. My feeling was the housing was well built and I did not have any flood or leak problems (I did an overnight vacuum check in most cases). I was also mostly happy with the overall design and felt they did many things well. That being said - during the order, shipping and after sales process (I had some questions) I did have a similarly challenging experience with their reps. Very much a 'we're perfect it must be you' attitude despite a reasonable and valid inquiry on my part. Their documentation is vague and they do misrepresent some features. No deal breakers, but not a great vibe from them in general at the business level. Anyways... more to come. But, David, interesting to hear about your experience.
  5. That looks like the info I eventually stumbled on - I had the same understanding you did until finding it. Will save the doc this time and give it a good read at a later date. Thanks.
  6. The subtlety I believe being missed here is the difference between cargo transported on a passenger jet and checked baggage in the cargo hold of a passenger jet. Possibly the very same jet. So far as I can tell they are regulated completely differently. The document you are referencing appears to be targeted at the Amazons of the world shipping original boxed products, not Joe Vacationer and his luggage. Now, if you were to ship your gear ahead air-freight they probably would be applicable. My research into this was several years ago so i don't recall all the details, but the argument that convinced me I would have no issues with typical underwater photo gear was along these lines. There's a number of people reporting their real-world experiences more aligned with that understanding so I don't think I was completely off track. Can you point me toward anything in the doc that talks about passenger baggage? The entire tone of it seems geared towards businesses shipping things....
  7. That IATA doc seems to be regarding shipping of batteries or devices with batteries - not transport with a passenger for personal use...? (I only skimmed it) I believe (though I can't find the exact ref right now) that the quantity limits for 'spares' was always targeted at the mid-sized batteries (100 - 160 Wh) which is far above most typical dive photo gear. I dug into this a while ago and was coming to the same conclusions you did but then I found something that made it clear the limits were not applicable to single batteries and small packs in the quantities most use. Wish I could find the link but that would explain why so many people are not having issues (I've also not been asked to justify or do math on batteries despite any reasonable person looking at my luggage thinking 'he has a lot of batteries'). For comparison an 18650 is about 5Wh and Nikon camera battery is about 15Wh. The 100-160Wh classification is per battery. For pro-level video gear 15 years ago this was all very relevant - for modern DSLR and action cams not so much outside of the very biggest continuous video lights. When I did to the math on all my stuff before purchasing I found I was very far below any limits. Looking at TSA; CATSA and UK CAA sites seems to show no overall quantity limits for single cells and/or small packs: https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en/guidelines-batteries https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2013/06/11/travel-tips-tuesday-safely-packing-batteries-your-trip https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Before-you-fly/Baggage/Items-that-are-allowed-in-baggage/ I'd think at least one of those sites would be more specific if the quantity limits were a big thing or if spares needed to be associated with particular devices? Anyways, I think there might be a loophole here that makes this fairly simple for most of us....
  8. See here for a few things I came across while digging into this yesterday: https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/attention-uw-photographers.586968/page-7#post-8810713 (Courtesy Nautilus Liveaboards)
  9. My view/experience is packing peanuts in general are only useful for protecting boxes from other boxes and should never be used directly on an item. That being said, I get all sorts of electronics factory packaged with nothing more than a box and a wrap or two of thin bubble wrap or foam and generally no issues. With the right balance of mass and density it is amazing what works for packaging. That box should have been (barely) enough with the right materials, though, perhaps on the small side of what would be a 'good idea'. I think it's safe to say that nothing is going to protect something from that level of abuse. Fork lift fork penetrations punching thorough multiple boxes, $100,000 pallets of electronics rolled off the back of a trailer - that is normal for the shipping industry. That's what the insurance is for (and why it is priced as ridiculously as it is). It does look like the core bits are in recoverable shape. Chase the full amount from the insurance claim, get it fully serviced by Nauticam and hopefully come out well ahead on costs for your troubles. You got screwed - but it was 90% by the shipping industry and the ridiculous liability limitations they are allowed to enjoy. Go after them aggressively and I hope you can come out ahead in the end. You might find shipper needs to do some of the legwork to get the claim processed.
  10. Some random background that might be helpful (since I deal with this for my business from time to time): - Avoid Purolator unless you're actively seeking an insurance claim. (Yes, I had stuff on that truck) - Purolator is often the cheapest quote in Canada and is somewhat infamous for terrible service and unreliable delivery. Drivers fraudulently signing for undelivered packages, deliveries to wrong addresses and delivery of only part of multi-box shipments are all par for the course. I know of a number of organizations that have dumped Purolator realizing the cost savings were not worth the risk. (Fedex, UPS, DHL aren't perfect - but their error rates are way lower in my experience. And that of every other business I talk to.) - Purolator to the US is also a particularly bad idea as they don't operate in the US. I believe it gets handed off to UPS for delivery. - Purolator is owned by Canada Post and and performance is about what one can expect from a government owned and heavily unionized organization. Employee accountability = 0. If you are selling or buying from Canada I strongly recommend specifying in the agreement: no Purolator. That being said, sounds like there was insurance so not sure what buyer is complaining about. Similarly, brokerage/duties/taxes are a matter of course for any cross border transaction and, unless agreed otherwise, are typically the responsibility of the importer. Seems like research was not done by the buyer. For small, high-value items it is sometimes cheaper to do expedited shipping with the prep fees included when operating as an individual (i.e. you don't have your own broker). This also can expedite the clearance process. However it is critical that the shipper makes sure all the paperwork is filled correctly (especially the commercial invoice) - for a $3000 housing with a declared value (for insurance) they are almost certainly going to be curious. I like Fedex's website as it guides you through all this fairly well and I seem to have minimal issues. (the fees going into the US are substantially less draconian than those for buying into Canada from the US as the exemption into Canada is much lower than the exemption into the US) Anyways, some random bits of info that might be helpful to someone in the future....
  11. Housing and housing accessories sold. Looking for $350USD for remaining: Camera, Batteries, Charger, Tray, Arms, etc.
  12. Updated price - $550USD plus shipping for the remaining package. Also open to selling of individual pieces - I believe the housing will work with the TG-6.
  13. Please tell me those measurements are in cm not inches? Or am I missing out on the joys of a 10' wingspan? :-) I'm curious if anyone has had much success with triple arms? I've bought enough pieces to do it (bulk buy from China) and I've seen it in some photos of photographers... but the first time I put it together it seemed very problematic and was rapidly reduced to 2 before I even got near the water. Wondering if it is something worth exploring again? Anyone in love with the setup? Similarly, how well do the extending arms hold up over time? And, answering the original question, I put mine together both ways and one was obviously much easier to work with given all the bits involved.
  14. The wet lens is now sold. The camera, housing and tray package remains available.
  15. Hi WittzEnd, If your contact with mbrock didn't work out I've just posted my TG-5 package:
  16. Hi Pyrolancer, My recent listing might be of interest:
  17. Due to upgrades (a recent housing purchase for my D750) I'm selling off my 'training wheels' underwater camera setup. The camera's reputation precedes itself as one of the top rated underwater compact solutions for the past couple years. Here's Backscatter's review: I've used this package on roughly 100 dives on 4 trips over the last 18 months. Accessories have been added to turn it into a compact, easy to travel and complete solution. The only thing not included are lights, however a 'universal' mount for a regular dive light is included. I'm holding on to the lights I've purchased. I'm looking to sell this as a 'turnkey' package, however, I've broken out the wet lens as that was a recent purchase and is in 'almost new' condition. That being said, i highly recommend buying it all together for the greatest flexibility. Photos of the gear condition at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!ArvnUdWmJ1CKhrYrfr0yzP4c_j2irw?e=DDRfQ9 (This is the actual gear - photos taken yesterday) All of this was diving with me in Bahamas in June and is in good working condition. 1 x Olympus TG-5 Black Camera (used but excellent condition - it's always been used in a housing) 1 x Olympus PT-058 Underwater Housing for TG-5 (Good condition - some minor scuffs & wear. Nothing that impedes functionality or image quality. Lens is clear.) 1 x Olympus UC-90 Charger (Almost New) 2 x Olympus LI-92B Batteries (Good Condition) 4 x 3rd Party Batteries (New condition - will only charge in camera, not in Olympus charger; Use of 3rd party batteries is at your own risk... but they worked for me) 1 x Accessories (Spare O Ring; Olympus Grease; Removal tool; Wrist Strap; Lens Cap; Baggie 'o' desssicant; Optical strobe clip for Sea&Sea style cables) 1 x 52mm to 67mm step up thread converter (Good condition, modified with additional holes for easy removal) 2 x Mozaic Underwater Flex Arms (Plus an additional 'parts only' spare - these have minor damage to the mount base - see photos - does not affect use in any way) 1 x Mozaic Underwater Aluminum Tray (Good Condition) 1 x 'Universal' dive light mount (New Condition - allows for attaching a standard dive light to flex arms) Looking for $675USD for the package above. Separately priced is Backscatter M52 120deg Wide Angle Wet Lens. This was recently purchased and only used on one trip. It is in pristine condition. https://www.backscatter.com/Backscatter-M52-Underwater-0.50X-120-Wide-Angle-Wet-Lens Looking for $325USD for the lens. All gear is located in Canada and I'm willing to ship worldwide however terms are FCA Calgary. Buyer is responsible for shipping, insurance, duty, tax, etc. I can ship on my Fedex account and add it to the bill, however, responsibility for items while in transit would remain with buyer. Payment by wire transfer in CAD (preferred) or USD - alternate methods and currencies are negotiable. Item ships upon receipt of full payment. I am happy to answer any questions and provide a few tips on use/maintenance as well.
  18. There are also some self printing options out there: https://www.onlinelabels.com/materials/polyester-laser-labels I've been using these (the clear matte laser version) to ID all sorts of equipment for my business and I've been using them on some of my dive gear as well. Applied dry and clean they last a good long time even with water exposure. I wouldn't count on them to last forever underwater but I just stick a couple on any single item and replace as needed. I can also usually find a place to put them that is dry but easily found and sticking them in the battery compartments and on the batteries gives a 'last resort' guarantee that one of them will survive and be looked at by anyone that finds it. They are dirt cheap and I just print whatever info I need on them. Then, for Ptouch (Dymo/Brother/Rhino/etc.) type labels - there are various types including 'extra strength adhesive' versions. I haven't tried them underwater, but they do hold up against rain. Similarly, relatively cheap and replaceable. You can get Brother label printers for nearly free if you look around and one tape cartridge will last you a very long time if just tagging dive gear. With all of the above the trick is applying it clean (no finger oils) and dry as well as giving it a good rub into the surface if there is any texture present. Another thing I'm just in the process of trying is some custom 'ID' cards using Vistaprint's plastic business cards. They are an international supplier of web order printed material and I've used them for regular business cards in the past - the option I'm using will give me something essentially equivalent to a standard credit card/ID sized plastic card but printed with my own custom information including contact info, emergency contact info, insurance info (providers, accounts, phone numbers) and a QR code / URL that I can publish travel itineraries and anything else I might want to add in the future. I do most of my travelling alone and it seemed prudent to compile all the 'if you find my body' info in one place. However, these will also be good to attach or put inside various pieces of gear and should be quite durable. Will see how they turn out in a few days... (Note: if you use Vistaprint there is always a coupon code out there. Usually 30-40%.) Anyways... a few cheap/non-standard options I've been experimenting with. Certainly $25 for a sheet from that dive labels place is not a terrible deal if you only need one sheet.
  19. Thanks all - I've just pressed the 'buy' button. Will advise how it turns out.
  20. Thanks both for your responses. Definitely - the product looks good - but I'm hoping to establish if there's a balanced company behind it as well. Not just design/engineering but support, marketing, etc. Will it still be working in 3 years, 5 years.... if it isn't, can one get parts and service? It is good to hear that the company has been around for a while... is diving their main business? Ibedogini - i am looking at the current website. There is absolutely no images of the interior (how it works, what the button mechanisms, gearing and control manipulators look like, etc) and there is apparently no manual for any of their products. I can't believe something like that wouldn't ship without instructions but, having just been burned by a supplier for my business in a similar manner, I have to wonder: is there a manual, or do I just guess at 'best practices' for using it. For something where even a 'small' error is probably a $5000 mistake - I'm hoping for a bit of certainty :-) As such - i'm reaching out with a broader question for those who have bought them hoping to establish if the preponderance of experience with the company was good or bad. Any other owners out there? Thanks.
  21. I've been looking at a NiMAR housing for my D750. I quite like the design of the enclosure and the cost seems reasonable.... however, the company itself... is this a legit business/can they be trusted? Thus far: - Website contains no manuals or documentation whatsoever; specs are missing lots of important info - Website looks like web store from 2003 rather than that of a manufacturer - The only way to even get a good look inside the housing is to watch several youtube videos and even then there are gaps in what one can see... why are there not detailed photos of the product, inside and out? - Amongst the low-res images on the site showing the housing several appear to have been edited in 'Paint' to add notation. - The photos for the D750 housing show a camera in the housing that is definitely not a D750. - When I registered for their website to verify shipping costs they sent back the password I used to register as clear text in an email. - unprompted email 'eStalking' from sales rep since I added a couple items to the cart on their website So, in light of the complete 'amateur hour' presentation, I ask: is this a legit business with the capability for long term support? Will they still be around in a year? Are their products reliable? Has anyone been dealing with them for a while or had to work with them on warranty issues? Any insight from long term users greatly appreciated...
  22. As a general FYI for those in search of them in North America: I successfully ordered a Z330 from Onderwaterhuis.nl in the spring (about the time of the last post in this thread) and have just received a second unit from them (have not retrieved it from the post office yet). In both cases they had stock and orders shipped within 1 day and other than the 2-3 weeks of travel time (most of it sitting in customs) they arrived without issue. Cost, including shipping, here in Canada was competitive with any US options (make sure to check out to get the non-VAT price from them - it is much lower). It does seem to be a bit of a geographic thing...
  23. I can't compare them, however I have used the backscatter one a bit. Couple notes: It has 'Optics by AOI' stamped all over it so, very possibly coming out of the same factory... (if considering build quality) With the Olympus housing there is a bit of an issue with flooding the space between the lens and the housing. The thread is so deep that it would create a sealed air bubble against the lens by blocking the vent holes in the mounting ring. I found that when I'd installed it on the boat I needed to unscrew it several turns and then flip it around to get the bubble out (or just take it off all the way if it was a calm dive). It was also possible to do this in the rinse tank ahead of time but it did prove to be a bit annoying at times. I found the 'zoom through' to be less useful than it would seem to be in theory.
  24. I've found this thread and several others on here very useful in bookings some upcoming trips - as such I've registered and will add some info of my own info current as of summer 2019: Horizon Divers Florida - Taught me the SDI Solo course and, obviously, is friendly to anyone with a suitable qualification since they are teaching it. Scuba Club Cozumel - Did not object when I mentioned solo shore dives when booking. Anything in the Marine park must be guided per Cozumel law. Red Sea Blue O2 - Claimed CDWS prohibits all Solo Diving (which is incorrect per CDWS's own website). I didn't bother to write back. Red Sea Grand Sea Explorer - Fine with card. Mentioned it would be at the boat crews discretion and for some dives may not be allowed (having been there before, this is reasonable). Bonaire Beyond the Corals - not equipped to support directly but did not object in principle. Mentioned rental pony's available from nearby shops. It is worth mentioning that there are previous posts indicating Blue O2 is Solo friendly - apparently this has changed. Lying about it being a CDWS decision is completely unacceptable, however. Anyways, hopefully this is helpful to others.
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