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paquito

Subal, Seacam, Aquatica VS Ikelite

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Aluminum housings may have quite a bit more machining & coating involved versus hollowing-out a block of polycarbonet, but the lever and switch designs seem to equal out what's involved in their make-up to manufacturer.

All require a bit of thought and experience and they all seem to do such a fine job for us underwater photographers. But curiousity....

 

What is/are the real advantages and differences that a higher-end housing (like the Subal, Seacam, UKGermany, and others) provide over a less-expensive model like Ike's? Outside of cost to the end-user.

 

Some perceptions that I have, possibly incorrectly as I am naive:

I don't see any true advantage in air-tight integrity.

Ports aand dome use is for the most part is fairly available (without being overly particular) for most lens' you would use for most of the housings (though the 105 sits apart in some cases).

Buoyancy varies, but I don't believe that should be a major consideration in your choice of housing?

Strobe and TTL compatibility vary greatly enough I'm not sure it can be referenced here?

Viewfinders are a whole other matter as they tend to be an add-on specialty in some cases.

 

So is there a functionality difference between the aluminum and polycarbonate housings?

Any true 'quality' difference? not referring to asthetics.

 

I'm not sure if some people don't like the look or feel of metal or 'plastic' so that may have been a factor in your choice. And most of us tend to use something we "like", but I thought it might be interesting to investigate what you all thought made up for the difference in price?

 

paquito

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This question has been asked a lot here, and it all comes down to what is important to *you*.

 

1) Aluminum housings are usually lighter and more compact (the Subal/Seacam for the D70 are usually half the weight of the Ikelite).

 

2) AL housings use extension rings and a few ports, meaning that you can cover a wide range of lenses with one dome, one flat port and a few extension rings. With the Ikelite you need many more ports to cover the same range of lenses.

 

3) Controls are more precise. In the Subal/Seacam, one click in turning wheels in the housing is one click in the camera.

 

4) Ikelite does not offer housings for the Nikon D2 and Canon 1d series.

 

5) Subal/Seacam have the option of a magnified viewfinder.

 

Are the five points above important to you? Are they worth the price difference? Only you can answer that...

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I have in my cupboard housings by Aquatica, Nexus, and Sea & Sea for N90; a Subal for the S2Pro and an old Seacam for an 8001. In my opinion they all work and in every case I bought each example because it was what was instantly available.

 

Now here is where I upset everyone:

 

I just bought a new Sea & Sea housing for the D200 and took it to the Red Sea for a week. Of all the big dome ports that I own, both glass and Plexiglass, I think the dome port of the Sea & Sea is sharpest across the full width.

 

Not only that,

The Sea & Sea housing may look a bit cheap and nasty in comparison to the European-made ones (and it does certainly cost a lot less) but the dome port NEVER FALLS OFF (no gaffer tape needed to stop it rotating) NOR DOES IT FLOOD due to kinking O-rings!

 

It is very hard to get full use out of a housing for a digital camera because the improved models fall like leaves in Autumn. So don't spend more than you need to either. If the Ikelite does the job, why not?

 

I just wanna take pictchers!

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One of the advantages to an Ike housing, is that you can see when you get water in your transparent polycarbonate housing. :lol:

 

I have also see it said that because the Ikes are transparent, you can visibly check the O-ring to make sure that it has a good seal.

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Why would anyone buy a D2X when you can buy a D200 or now a D80?

 

The same principles apply - in essence versatility.

 

Whilst all the housings mentioned here are capable of superb results, what you use depends on what you need in order to take the images you want. To some people their equipment is of no concern other than that it must work, to others, ergonomics and specific characteristics are all important. At the risk of sounding biased, personally, I cannot conceive of operating without my S45 viewfinder so my choice is simple!

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My curiousity was trying to look at things outside of the "it comes down to what you like and what your needs are" box and you have brought up some good points.

 

Out of the two aluminum housings I have had a chance to play with and the ike polycarbonet, some additional perceptions that I notice:

 

Some of the price difference seems to lay in the controls as more "clean" on the aluminum housings. There are less extending rods, and the dials have better contact to the controls of the camera. MAny are in fact in-contact whereas time is not lost pushing and turning to make contact.

 

Also, the shutter releases "feel" smoother and more natural in contact with the camera's and move more naturally on the more expensive styles. On the otherhand, ike's type of knobs and controls seem easier to clean and remove/replace orings on.

 

Someone will have to correct me here, but do the aluminum housings have less or no condensation formed inside when sitting out in the blazing sun on a longer boat ride and then jumping into the water?

 

Do the aluminum housings adjust with the same "pop" (flex) that the polycarbonates do when changing depths underwater? It sure makes you take an immediate look when you feel that pressure adjustment "pop" and flex in your hand when toating an ikelite around. Nerve-racking at first, but no issue presented here to ike for anything, he still makes one fine housing.

 

Sometimes easier port adjustments on some of the bayonet style attachments, like the Sea & Sea - line up dot to dot and you are done.

 

Some of the aluminum housings offer more options on different strobe make capabilities, I think some cost justification here is warranted.

 

Not all camera controls are accessible in all housings. I've seen some higher cost aluminum housings offer far less features than some less-expensive models and I have to wonder why you would even consider spending the extra money when a lot of desired control is gone?

 

If you ding-up an aluminum housing, does extra corrosion start to become an issue, especially around bulk-heads, etc? A polycarbonate, if you scratch and ding, its just a scratch and ding.

 

These are all apples and oranges, I know that. But its like a ferrari, a mercedes, and a toyota - they all get your where you need to go, but some have definite distinctive differences in what warrants their price. I was more curious in what those distinctive differences were and if performance, quality, and longevity were affected by them? Probably not as much as one might think?

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Do the aluminum housings adjust with the same "pop" (flex) that the polycarbonates do when changing depths underwater? It sure makes you take an immediate look when you feel that pressure adjustment "pop" and flex in your hand when toating an ikelite around. Nerve-racking at first, but no issue presented here to ike for anything, he still makes one fine housing.

What exactly you mean by that? I didn't notice such a behavior with my housing.

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One thing that I see a lot is people "upgrading" from a cheaper brand to a more expensive brand of housing as they get more serious about their photography. So they certainly see an advantage.

 

And of course on thing that is definitely more expensive than the top brand housings is to buy a cheaper one first and feel the need to upgrade.

 

I have never bought a clear plastic housing - so can't really comment on quality issues. But I would expect to take nearly all the same images with any housing.

 

Alex

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Available housings foir your camera, housing eronomics and weight under water iare also an issue.

 

The aquatica housing is negative under water and could have better ergonomics.

Unfortunately, one is often not able to wet test the housing before buying it.

 

I am happy with my Aquatica, but wonder if I would have been happier with a subal, nexus or seacam.

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II just bought a new Sea & Sea housing for the D200 and took it to the Red Sea for a week. Of all the big dome ports that I own, both glass and Plexiglass, I think the dome port of the Sea & Sea is sharpest across the full width.

 

Not only that,

The Sea & Sea housing may look a bit cheap and nasty in comparison to the European-made ones (and it does certainly cost a lot less) but the dome port NEVER FALLS OFF (no gaffer tape needed to stop it rotating) NOR DOES IT FLOOD due to kinking O-rings!

 

I can't see anyone being upset by this. I handled the 5d S&S housing last month at Komodo, and I gotta say it was impressive. THe D200 is built on the same basic mold. Give me an enlarged viewfinder and I would put this housing (functionally) right next to the finest Euro models at 1./2 the price. Fit and finish were very good, if not at the level of my Seacam, and the controls were well laid out. Great to see S&S back to form with great housings after the D100/S2/1Ds debacle.

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John - "no gaffer tape needed" - how can you say this. Surely all 'real' photographers need some gaffer tape somewhere for credibilities sake!? I suppose that you could use it like one of my friends to patch holes in his weasel, but you can't really see it under the drysuit. I'm shocked at you.

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Paul, shhhhh. ol JB needs gaffer tape to hold a lot of things together these days... don't make it too public, he gets sore about that..

 

:guiness:

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patch holes in his weasel

 

 

I'd be seeking medical assistance if I had a need to patch a hole in my weasel :guiness:

 

(We always travel with a big roll of 3M duct tape, the stuff's essential to modern life)

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Arnon Ayal,

 

What I meant by this is that the poly housing adjusted to the different pressures at various depths and you can literally hear and feel it pop and flex. No leakage or anything that I have ever seen, but boy is it a strange feel at first and really makes you glad you insured your rig. You get used to it. I think its a natural expansion/contraction think since poly's are more flexible than aluminum. Has anyone else felt this or am I an island on this one? Nope, narcosis wasn't it :guiness:

 

One of the first things I learned with my first housing is that you should take it without the camera to 30m/100ft to see how it adjusts and flexes, also to insure that it isnt going to leak. A lot of times this can be done in the pool, but unfortuantely its hard to go through an atmosphere that way.

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If I'm at any depth that would cause my Aquatica to flex and pop, I'm sure I would have flexed and popped first. :guiness:

 

I don't see a thick aluminum housing wall flexing. I'd imagine that the plexiglass port or maybe one of the o-rings to blow before the aluminum deformed to the point of popping.

 

Gawd, that's just a scary thought all around!

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Apparently (I have no direct experience) the controls on even the most expensive housings do tighten up a bit at 135m which is the deepest I've come across anyone running one to date - it was aluminium by the way and as far as I know didn't flex!

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I've never used Ikelite but from what I've seen from divers on my trips...and now heard about popping, it's not my cup of tea. I have used the Aquatica 5D housing and felt it to be very clumsy and heavy. I'm used to being able to adjust aperture with my thumb on my Subal and you can't do that with the Aquatica. I can feel each click as I go up and down the scale with the Subal. Even with thick 3 finger mitts, I can feel a half press on the shutter button, on the Aquatica, it was more touchy, even with tropical weight gloves.

 

I expect to dive my finished, converted Subal C10 (10D) housing with my 5D and modified Aquatica 8" dome port for my 15mm FE by month's end. If I couldn't have my Subal modified, I would have likely gone to S&S

 

Stu

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Has anyone else felt this or am I an island on this one?  Nope, narcosis wasn't it 

 

I've taken my CP5000 Ikelite housing to 69m (210ft ?) once and have had both (350D and CP5000) to 40m / 60m on several ocassions and never experienced "popping" or any abnormal movement.

 

I recently flooded my 350D (human error) and am looking at a 5D as I've always wanted to go full frame.

 

While an Ikelite fan I have been looking at the Sea and Sea on the basis of "If your going to spend that much on a camera would you put it in a cheaper housing"

 

But as I look closer, I'm struggling to justify the housing cost difference, I can't see value for the extra dollars in the more expensive housings, so I suppose I'd echo whats been said above, thats it is a "value" feeling and whats important to you.

 

I've no problem with the Ikelite controls, I don't bring a heaps of lens with me on trips so only need 2, at most 3 ports, I like to be able to see into the housing, (even if I looked in too late to see the end of a cable tie under an O ring :guiness: )

 

Aengus

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I suspect this "popping phenomenon" is a characteristic of older style Ike housings? It is something I've not experienced either. Or maybe it only happens in the northern hemisphere??...

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Paquito, tn'x for the clarification.

As I wrote I didn't heard such a 'pops' with my Ike housing and also not with the two cheap housing from Canon I had to my olds s30/50.

I know some advances of the hi-level housing over Ikelite's ones (weight, controls...) but toughness is not one of them (in my opinion).

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I've not had my Ikelite housing make any kind of noise including popping...

 

 

With a new D70 replacement out I'm very glad not to have spent more on my housing. The D70 is fine and I'm keeping it for at least another generation. But the days of a lifetime camera and a gold plated housing to go with it are over I'm afraid. Others with more mone and more diving will want the best but the Ikelite gets the job done and at $1500 is still darned expensive.

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I upgraded from Ike to seacam because of the viewfinder ....that's a lot of money for a magnifying glass!

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In 1995 I made the transition from rich amateur to poor professional underwater photographer. Before that, I bought underwater photography kit because I wanted it. Now I have to see how I can make a profit. I changed to digital simply because the augument against buying film & processing was unarguable but now I realise that the clever marketing guys are simply taking our money by changing the hardware and software instead.

A top quality film camera lasted me with full hard professional use around 25 years. My first expenditure (note: I did not say investment!) in digital photography lasted me two years (the housing 18 months).

People buy Porsches because they want them. I once did. It is just a way of keeping money in circulation and helps the economy. One can argue that expensive camera housings do the same.

(I last bought a new car eleven years ago and I still have it and it still takes me where I want to go. Thankfully, unleaded petrol is still available for it.)

So buy things because you want them. If you have the money to spare, why not? On the other hand, do not feel bad because someone on the dive-deck has a more expensive outfit. They might be a crap photographer! Feel jealous if they take more interesting pictures!

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"On the other hand, do not feel bad because someone on the dive-deck has a more expensive outfit. They might be a crap photographer!"

 

John. Are you daring to suggest that its not the equipment merely the person behind the camera? There are some things that really should not be said!

 

But seriously, the housing choice is extensive, you can quickly narrow it down by making decisions on depth rating, viewfinder, ergonomics, etc. As with most things the higher your specifications for your requirements, the more expensive the housing.

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Paul, You are right!

My BMW 318Ti does only 135mph when my Porsche did 155mph. Clearly the Porsche was a better car. The depreciation on my Porsche was around £20,000 in two years whereas the depreciation on my BMW has been around the same over eleven years. Who would argue that the cheaper car was better?

 

I am sure that if you were a Porsche dealer you would have all the arguments as to why I made a mistake buying the cheaper car. Seacam housings are undoubtedly the best especially with 'that' viewfinder.

I have just signed a contract with a publisher to supply 350 underwater pictures at £30 each. That does not go a long way to paying for my £2million house in Twickenham but if I decide to move to a caravan in Anglesey I shall definitely buy a Seacam housing for the latest DSLR (to be announced soon!)

 

All the best.

(For those readers who don't know, Paul is the importer for Seacam in the UK.)

 

JB :guiness:

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