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Light & Motion HC3 review

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Background:

I just spent 11 days shooting with the HC3 in Cozumel, MX. Before the L&M housing, I shot with a JVC-DVM70u housed in an Ikelite housing. I have been shooting UW video for about 7 years, mostly with the Ikelite housing. I decided on the L&M HC3 housing because it allowed access to MWB, I thought Gates had better optics but no access to MWB.

 

I already had a trip planned to visit Cozumel to see the hurricane damage in person and my JVC camera had finally died; it was time to upgrade. On a side note, Cozumel is fine and I had some of the best diving I have ever had in Cozumel.

 

My Setup:

L&M HC3 housing with standard port

Wide Angle port

Sunray-S Pro HID lights

2.5 external monitor

 

White Balance:

In case it is not clear, MWB is accessed on this housing using a 'plunger type push dial' that presses the appropriate screen options. To MWB you have to press the plunger on the 'p-menu' screen option, then press 'White Balance', then the 'One Push' button to actually perform the balance. Finally you have to press 'OK' to remove the on-screen menu.

 

As you can probably guess I initially found MWB to be difficult to use. You would think that looking at the screen and pressing the options would be the best route, but I found NOT looking through the screen and using the dial pointer worked better. You always hear that your mask will refract the image, trying to look through the screen window and point at a touch screen is a great example of it. I found that I would get my MWB set, but when I went to press 'OK' to clear the screen, I would accidentally press the 'One Press' again. Now my camera would MWB on whatever it was pointed at. Once this occurs, you have to re-MWB. ARGH!!!

 

Instead of going through this optical illusion, I started to MWB without looking through the screen window. The pointer dial has an elongated tip that lets you know where you are pointing, after a little practice I was able to MWB without looking at the screen quite quickly and accurately.

 

Controls:

The L&M HC3 housing gives you access to the following electronic features: record, zoom in/out, focus in/out, auto focus/off, momentary auto focus, photo, photo display, lights. If you press the ‘on-mode’ button 3 times you will place the camera in play/edit mode and complete playback controls are available.

 

For manual controls, the housing has the plunger mentioned in the MWB section. This same plunger gets you access to the Tele Macro feature and the Slow Record option. There is a manual flip down CC filter and a Manual button that enables a turn dial. The turn dial can be set to WB shift, Focus, Exposure or AE shift. There is also an Easy button that in my opinion should be avoided at all times.

 

Use of Controls:

As mentioned before, I found the MWB to be somewhat tricky to get used to. I was able to train myself into using it efficiently, however this should be considered if you are thinking of purchasing this setup.

 

Tele Macro and Slow Smooth record are slightly different than the MWB option in that they are either on or off. The resulting button presses are less and easier. I found Tele Macro to be a very useful and useable option. I did not try the Slow Record option but it might be a cool feature if you have something fast you were trying to capture.

 

The Manual button and associated Manual Dial can be setup to be 4 different options, WB shift, Focus, Exposure and AE shift. I found both WB shift and Focus to be useable options. I started out using the WB shift but eventually shifted to the Focus option. This allowed me to really dial in my focus for those Macro shots. That being said I wish the camera could be set to display the focus distance in feet instead of meters.

 

The Easy button is a nightmare. The Easy button is good for people who don’t know anything about a camcorder, it basically makes the camera really dumb. The real problem with it is for those of us who actually want to use the features of the camera. I go in and set about 5-6 options in the Menu before placing the camera into the housing. One of the important settings is the Video Out, which tells the camera send all the video to the external monitor. When the Easy button is pressed, all your settings go back to a default and even when Easy is undone, your settings are history. I am seriously thinking about ‘disabling’ this feature even if it requires a modification to the housing.

 

Optics:

The housing comes with a standard port that gives the camera a 65 degree FOV with complete zoom through. I also purchased the WA lens that increases the FOV to 80 degrees, but limits the zoom through to about 1/3. Changing the lens is easy using the standard L&M double o-ring design.

 

I started out using the WA lens for the first part of the trip, and then went to the standard for the later half. Both lenses provide a beautiful image that is crisp edge to edge. I have a 77 inch HD screen in my house and I was amazed with the picture this little housing produced.

 

If the WA lens provided for full zoom through, it would have never been removed from the housing. But the Tele Macro feature is too cool not to use and the WA does not allow for it. I found the WA lens was really nice for general reef shots, I was able to get the camera very close to subject (1-2 inches) while maintaining focus and clarity.

 

The Standard port is a better lens than the WA in terms of build and zoom, I really enjoyed the full zoom through and the Tele Macro options. In this area I think L&M is behind the competition. I would be willing to pay for a Super WA with zoom through, but maybe I am the only one in this prosumer range.

 

Handling:

Before I can review the handling, I have to reveal that I immediately changed the arms on the Sunray HID lights. They come standard with the LocLine connectors with I did not like. I have always used ULCS arms for lights and strobes and this was no exception. I also was running with a Fisheye 48LED light at night. All of these modifications added to the overall weight topside and negative buoyancy UW.

 

The whole reason I went with the HC3 camera was its size, and the housing is just as small. Another gentleman was shooting with an HC1 on the same trip, we were amazed at the size difference. Even with the extra lights and arms, it was extremely portable. The whole setup (all parts, chargers, etc) fits into a M2500 storm case which is airline approved for non-checked luggage. It was great traveling knowing that my housing was with me, I can buy everything else if they loose my luggage.

 

I did take a few shallow dives without any light setup and the housing was extremely light and nimble. Even with all the lights the housing was great in the water and did not take up too much room in a dive boat. Since the housing is almost symmetrical side to side, there was no feeling of turning and the housing stayed flat in the water.

 

External Monitor:

Without an external monitor, the L&M HC3 housing allows for viewing though a viewfinder attached to the rear plate of the housing or by looking through the side of the enclosure through a window showing the camera LCD. Neither of these is very useable in my opinion especially if you plan to use zoom or Tele Macro.

 

The external monitor provided by L&M is not my favorite product. First off, the resolution is not that great, second there is no indication of remaining battery life or charge status. I purposely ran the monitor until it died so I had some idea of how often I needed to recharge it.

 

From a pure video quality perspective the monitor cannot be trusted. Sometimes the color looked washed out, sometimes it looked blown out even though it wasn’t. I found the camera LCD to be pretty accurate and I used it to verify color saturation after a MWB. I did find the monitor very useful for framing, especially on the really tight shots. I don’t think I could have used Tele Macro without it.

 

Tele Macro:

What a cool feature. I initially didn’t know if it would be useable UW, but after being able to fill my FOV with the eyes and gills of a seahorse I was hooked. I ended up taking many shots at WA, then after a light zoom in, and finally in Tele Macro. For example I have some great footage of a carpet anemone blowing in the drift, after a slight zoom in you can see the cleaner shrimp working in the tentacles, and finally after a Tele Macro the cleaner shrimp fills the FOV. To be able to fill the FOV with such small things was something I did not have access to in my previous setup and was/is really exciting. It took some practice to be able to hold the camera steady, but I was also in Cozumel with the familiar 2-3 knot drift.

 

Focus:

The housing allows the camera to be shot using either manual or auto focus. It also has a cool feature called Momentary Auto Focus (MAF) that allows the auto focus capability of the camera to be toggled on/off. I found this very useful when changing subject distances rapidly. I was close up on a reef when I saw a spotted eagle ray off to the right of me, coming at me; my camera was in manual focus @ .8m. I immediately aimed my camera at a section of the reef 2 meters away and pressed MAF button to allow focus. Now my camera was ready for the ray coming at me.

 

I did not find the electronic manual focus too trustworthy. It seems you have to hold the button for a moment to get it engaged, but then it moves to quickly from near to far. The manual focus dial was much more accurate and useable. That being said, I gained focus lock 90% of the time use the MAF button. In Tele Macro having access to the manual focus was a nice option of the MAF would not lock.

 

Low Light / Refracted Light:

As mentioned in other HC3 posts, the low light capabilities are not the best on this camera. It was quite noticeable during a swim through or cave with no lights. I thought the refracted light tolerance was better that I was used to; for example if you are shooting a reef scene upwards and into the sun.

 

Conclusions and opinions:

I think L&M did a great job getting the most out of the camera considering where some of the features are located (like in a menu). The housing is well built and gives you the feeling of confidence; I was never concerned when the housing spent some time on the floor of the boat between dives. Even though the lights were not part of my review, the Sunray-S Pro HID lights were awesome and a nice surprise going from a halogen based lighting system. The reason I purchased the HC3, the size, was probably the best feature. I feel like I can get some professional quality video out of an extremely small system. Traveling was a delight regardless if it was an airport, getting to the dive shop or getting in/out of the water.

 

My biggest complaint at the beginning of the trip would have been the MWB process (and this might be at the beginning of my next trip). By the end of the trip my complaint was optics; I wish I could purchase a WA with full zoom through. Maybe this will be an option in the future, but I am not going to hold my breath.

 

Disclaimer:

I do not work for any UW, camera, or review company. All the comments in this review should be considered strictly the opinion of the author. I cannot be held responsible for any outcomes that my form from this review.

 

Ryan

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Nice review Ryan.

 

I guess such a super WA zoom-through lens would be big bucks, and the market for it with that housing just too small.

 

So you have a manual focus dial as well as manual focus buttons? If so I wonder why they put that on the HC3 housing but not the FX1/Z1 housing.

 

So is this tele macro a feature of the camera itself as opposed to the housing? I wonder how they achieve it. Optically or with some digital enlarging? With my Z1 I can't fill the FOV with the eyes and gills of a seahorse even with a flat port and the flip macro lens, so this feature sounds like something that would be useful on the higher end cameras too! Any chance of a frame grab of footage taken with it?

 

Also how are you LMI HIDs working for close-up stuff? Do you find you've sometimes got just too much light from them? I'm using their halogens.

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Nice review Ryan.

 

I guess such a super WA zoom-through lens would be big bucks, and the market for it with that housing just too small.

 

So you have a manual focus dial as well as manual focus buttons? If so I wonder why they put that on the HC3 housing but not the FX1/Z1 housing.

 

So is this tele macro a feature of the camera itself as opposed to the housing? I wonder how they achieve it. Optically or with some digital enlarging? With my Z1 I can't fill the FOV with the eyes and gills of a seahorse even with a flat port and the flip macro lens, so this feature sounds like something that would be useful on the higher end cameras too! Any chance of a frame grab of footage taken with it?

 

Also how are you LMI HIDs working for close-up stuff? Do you find you've sometimes got just too much light from them? I'm using their halogens.

 

 

I was thinking the same thing about the WA lens, but after seeing the HC1, the lenses looked identical, and the ports were identical (my WA port fit on his HC1 housing). I don't know if the optics built by L&M are designed for each camera individually (with exceptions to the FX1, etc).

 

As for the manual focus, yes. The housing has the normal far/neer buttons but there is also a 'Manual Button' and right next to it a 'Manual Turn Dial'. It doesn't have to be set to focus, I am assuming L&M included it becuase it was there (like the easy button).

 

The Tele Macro feature is a feature of the camera. If I am relatively close to an object say 12-18 inches and I attempt to zoom in all the way to get as close as possible, the camera will not be able to focus. When I enable tele Macro it places the camera in full zoom, but gives me a closer focus range; it also has a much smaller focal length so I am assuming it is an optical feature. When I am in telemacro mode and I attempt to back out of the zoom, the telemacro mode feature is disabled and I immediately loose that focus ability.

 

As for a screen grab, you might notice the post I have in the editing forum, I need a HDV editing machine. Honestly I wasn't convinced of the HDV capabilities so I was waiting for footage in hand before buying the editing machine. Now I have the footage.

 

The HID lights were a nice surprise. Keep in mind these are not the full blown L&M HID's, these are called the Sunray Mini Pro. They are indeed bright and white; if I was shooting anything close I had to pull the lights back a bit to be able to get the color I was looking for. For reef scenes they were nice and wide. Actually, they were a little bright for a consistent night light. If I left them on for the entire night dive, by the end of the dive everything would have moved away from us in about a 30 foot radius :) I used my fisheye LED for spotting and diving, and the HID for recording only. I thought I would miss the ability to give the 'wong' feeling with Halogens, you know, when you turn them on and you give your subject the 'wong'. But it was kinda nice to turn on the HID's once the desired subject was spotted and let them gradually brighted over 10-15 seconds. I found the critter was less apt to go into 'headlight mode'. I still miss the ability for different brightness settings you get with the halogens.

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Nice review Ryan.

 

I guess such a super WA zoom-through lens would be big bucks, and the market for it with that housing just too small.

 

So you have a manual focus dial as well as manual focus buttons? If so I wonder why they put that on the HC3 housing but not the FX1/Z1 housing.

 

So is this tele macro a feature of the camera itself as opposed to the housing? I wonder how they achieve it. Optically or with some digital enlarging? With my Z1 I can't fill the FOV with the eyes and gills of a seahorse even with a flat port and the flip macro lens, so this feature sounds like something that would be useful on the higher end cameras too! Any chance of a frame grab of footage taken with it?

 

Also how are you LMI HIDs working for close-up stuff? Do you find you've sometimes got just too much light from them? I'm using their halogens.

 

I forgot to ask you, how accurate is the electronic manual focus on the FX1 housing. Does it have that same lag or is it smooth?

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Hi Ryan. Good review. My experiences with the BlueFin HC3 were nearly the same as yours. Personaly, I like the manual control knob set to adjust exposure, but that's just me.

 

I agree that the easy button should be avoided, it's no good. Luckily it's easy to deactivate. If you look inside he housing you will see a small plastic part where the easy button is. This is the piece that actualy touches the camera. Simply reach inside and gently pull the part away from the housing and then slide it back and out of the housing. Very easy.

 

Have fun watching your footage on your 77 inch HDTV. 77 inches? Really? Damn!

 

Danb

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Hi Ryan. Good review. My experiences with the BlueFin HC3 were nearly the same as yours. Personaly, I like the manual control knob set to adjust exposure, but that's just me.

 

I agree that the easy button should be avoided, it's no good. Luckily it's easy to deactivate. If you look inside he housing you will see a small plastic part where the easy button is. This is the piece that actualy touches the camera. Simply reach inside and gently pull the part away from the housing and then slide it back and out of the housing. Very easy.

 

Have fun watching your footage on your 77 inch HDTV. 77 inches? Really? Damn!

 

Danb

 

 

Thanks for the tip on the Easy button modification, it will happen before I dive again. I never tried the exposure setting for the manual button, but that would be a logical choice. Do you find the electronic near/far buttons are somewhat tricky to use?

 

It is a 77 inch projection setup. Actually kinda small by projection standards :)

 

Ryan

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To be honest Ryan I haven't used the Bluefin FX1's focus buttons much for ages. I've been either running in auto focus or using momentary auto focus if I think the focus might hunt.

 

But when I did need to use the manual focus buttons, for example shooting macro when the camera wants to focus on the background behind a ribbon eel and not the eel itself, I found that there was a lag and that the focus would shoot very quickly from near to infinity or vice versa. So then I had to make very quick presses on the buttons to try and get the focus sharp. A manual dial would be easier.

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I can't fill the FOV with the eyes and gills of a seahorse even with a flat port and the flip macro lens, so this feature sounds like something that would be useful on the higher end cameras too! Any chance of a frame grab of footage taken with it?

 

After looking at the footage again (with editing software) it is not quite filling the FOV; however i found it to be impressive since I was not using a macro lens. I pulled this frame using quicktime (thanks to TheRealDrew) and converted it to .jpg using PS with a quality setting of 9. This is not cropped:

post-7799-1171995505_thumb.jpg

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Yeah Ryan that's pretty good for a standard lens and it's just about as much magnification as is useful/manageable in most situations.

 

It's about the same as I can get on the Bluefin with flat port and flip macro. I'm pretty sure the attached pic was done with that combo. I could probably have got a little bit more magnification but not much. And could maybe have got more by being further away with the camera.

post-3234-1172034771_thumb.jpg

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nice review ryan, do you have any pictures of you L&M. Most of the controls you were talking about. I'd like to see plunger type dial. L&M site don't show to many detailed pics.

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nice review ryan, do you have any pictures of you L&M. Most of the controls you were talking about. I'd like to see plunger type dial. L&M site don't show to many detailed pics.

 

 

I am out on a business trip right now, but this weekend I will take a picture. It looks like a turn-dial with a pointer on it. You can then aim the pointer and press the plunger into the video screen option.

 

Ryan

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The first picture is the plunger from the outside of the housing. You can see the clear pointer on the inside of the housing.

 

The second picture is me pushing the plunger in to show the action of the plunger.

 

The third picture is the pointer from the inside of the housing

 

The fourth picture is the pointer from the inside of the housing, but the plunger is depressed.

 

Notes: You should notice the plunger on the outside has an elongated pointer that can be used to determine where the plunger is pointing. The plunger swivels 360 degress.

 

Let me know if this helps...

 

Ryan

post-7799-1173060151_thumb.jpg

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Optics:

The housing comes with a standard port that gives the camera a 65 degree FOV with complete zoom through. I also purchased the WA lens that increases the FOV to 80 degrees, but limits the zoom through to about 1/3. Changing the lens is easy using the standard L&M double o-ring design.

 

I started out using the WA lens for the first part of the trip, and then went to the standard for the later half. Both lenses provide a beautiful image that is crisp edge to edge. I have a 77 inch HD screen in my house and I was amazed with the picture this little housing produced.

 

If the WA lens provided for full zoom through, it would have never been removed from the housing. But the Tele Macro feature is too cool not to use and the WA does not allow for it. I found the WA lens was really nice for general reef shots, I was able to get the camera very close to subject (1-2 inches) while maintaining focus and clarity.

 

Ryan,

 

I have been using the HC3 in a mechanical housing but, due to frustrations with optical quality, awkward image monitoring and inconvenient mechanical controls, I have placed an order for the same housing, monitor and lens package that you have reviewed here. I already have the L&M HID lights from my previous Mako housing.

 

Could you elaborate a bit on your "WA does not allow for it" comment. When you say it does not allow it, do you mean that you can not switch to tele-macro or, if you do switch to tele-macro, the image will be out of focus.

 

The same question applies to "If the WA lens provided for full zoom through". Is that you can not zoom all the way to "T" with the WA lens on the housing or, if you do, the image will be out of focus. How far can you zoom in and still be in focus?

 

And, about the camcorders LCD monitor. I gather that you did not use it except for accessing those 3 menu functions. Did you turn the LCD brightness down low to save battery? Would that make sense?

 

Finally, what is the closest that you can focus with WA lens? How does that compare with the closest focus distance for the standard lens?

 

Regards

Peter

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I agree that the easy button should be avoided, it's no good. Luckily it's easy to deactivate. If you look inside he housing you will see a small plastic part where the easy button is. This is the piece that actualy touches the camera. Simply reach inside and gently pull the part away from the housing and then slide it back and out of the housing. Very easy.

Danb

 

I guess that the only downside of removing that "easy" button is that, there is no way to get back to "auto" WB. Once you do a one-push WB, you will stay in one-push WB mode until the camcorder is taken out of the housing. This should not be too much of a hassle but you would need to remember to keep adjusting the WB if conditions change (e.g. moving to shallow depth or doing some surface shots after the dive). Should not be a problem as long as you are not forgetful...

 

Regards

Peter

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I guess that the only downside of removing that "easy" button is that, there is no way to get back to "auto" WB. Once you do a one-push WB, you will stay in one-push WB mode until the camcorder is taken out of the housing. This should not be too much of a hassle but you would need to remember to keep adjusting the WB if conditions change (e.g. moving to shallow depth or doing some surface shots after the dive). Should not be a problem as long as you are not forgetful...

 

Regards

Peter

 

This is an interesting review as I am currently looking at this housing for my HC3.

 

If you use the Easy button I believe it removes the settings that ouput to the external monitor so you wouldn't want to use it anyway. Could you not get backl to Auto White Balance by selecting White Balance and Auto on the screen using the plunger?

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Thanks Ryan for the pic of the plunger set-up. From the looks of it you have a window on the side of the camera to see the screen? Think you could post a picture of that whole side of the housing. or any other pictures you might think are of interest on the housing.

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Ryan,

 

I have been using the HC3 in a mechanical housing but, due to frustrations with optical quality, awkward image monitoring and inconvenient mechanical controls, I have placed an order for the same housing, monitor and lens package that you have reviewed here. I already have the L&M HID lights from my previous Mako housing.

 

Could you elaborate a bit on your "WA does not allow for it" comment. When you say it does not allow it, do you mean that you can not switch to tele-macro or, if you do switch to tele-macro, the image will be out of focus.

 

The same question applies to "If the WA lens provided for full zoom through". Is that you can not zoom all the way to "T" with the WA lens on the housing or, if you do, the image will be out of focus. How far can you zoom in and still be in focus?

 

And, about the camcorders LCD monitor. I gather that you did not use it except for accessing those 3 menu functions. Did you turn the LCD brightness down low to save battery? Would that make sense?

 

Finally, what is the closest that you can focus with WA lens? How does that compare with the closest focus distance for the standard lens?

 

Regards

Peter

 

 

Hello Peter, I hope you enjoy your order. The WA lens allows for about 50% zoom and then the image becomes out of focus. The TeleMacro feature requires the lens to be completely zoomed, actually when you enable the feature it zooms your camera to 100% telephoto. To cancel the feature all you have to do is zoom back a bit which makes it really nice UW. Once you have TeleMacro enabled you can shoot your shot and then just zoom out and keep shooting.

 

I did not adjust the LCD brightness. I was using the 90 battery which was claiming to have 25x minutes off usage. I did not run out of battery at any time during any dive. I even spent 30-40 minutes after some of the dives showing people the footage using the same battery. That being said, I carried extra batteries so I did not have to worry about charge times. I did use the LCD monitor for a quick color check a few times; it seemed relatively accurate.

 

The WA lens with no zoom was able to get within inches of a subject and keep focus lock, the image is crisp edge to edge.

 

 

This is an interesting review as I am currently looking at this housing for my HC3.

 

Dougaldiver, I am relatively happy with it. My biggest complaint is optics; I like the size and image quality of the HC3 but I would be willing to spend a lot more on a good WA lens. Gates had this option, but I really wanted electronic controls. I have been having a good year (business) so I have been thinking of selling the HC3 to get a FX1 or equivalent, but the size has me scared. Are you in the market for a slightly used HC3 housing? -_-

 

 

If you use the Easy button I believe it removes the settings that ouput to the external monitor so you wouldn't want to use it anyway. Could you not get backl to Auto White Balance by selecting White Balance and Auto on the screen using the plunger?

 

The easy button is a bad bad thing. You are correct, once one-push WB is in effect, the plunger does NOT allow you to choose the auto WB again. This was not a problem for me as I didn't want to shoot with AWB anyway. Once Easy is pressed, you might as well stop shooting. All your settings such as WB, exposure, focus go back to the default, your external monitor shuts off, and any work you had done moving menu icons, etc is history. It is really a bad idea.

 

 

Thanks Ryan for the pic of the plunger set-up. From the looks of it you have a window on the side of the camera to see the screen? Think you could post a picture of that whole side of the housing. or any other pictures you might think are of interest on the housing.

 

I will post some more when I have a bit more time...

 

R

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Dougaldiver, I am relatively happy with it. My biggest complaint is optics; I like the size and image quality of the HC3 but I would be willing to spend a lot more on a good WA lens. Gates had this option, but I really wanted electronic controls. I have been having a good year (business) so I have been thinking of selling the HC3 to get a FX1 or equivalent, but the size has me scared. Are you in the market for a slightly used HC3 housing? -_-

The easy button is a bad bad thing. You are correct, once one-push WB is in effect, the plunger does NOT allow you to choose the auto WB again. This was not a problem for me as I didn't want to shoot with AWB anyway. Once Easy is pressed, you might as well stop shooting. All your settings such as WB, exposure, focus go back to the default, your external monitor shuts off, and any work you had done moving menu icons, etc is history. It is really a bad idea.

I will post some more when I have a bit more time...

 

R

 

OK, Got it, Easy Button = BAD!

 

Slightly used Bluefin HC3, Hmmm.... Depends on how much you want for it.

 

As I'm buying the whole lot (lights monitor etc.) I can get a package price. If I bought the housing separately I would have to pay more for the lights, monitor etc, plus there's the shipping cost to the UK.

 

Let me know, it's possible

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White Balance:

 

Instead of going through this optical illusion, I started to MWB without looking through the screen window. The pointer dial has an elongated tip that lets you know where you are pointing, after a little practice I was able to MWB without looking at the screen quite quickly and accurately.

 

Ryan,

 

My L&M HC3 housing arrived yesterday. I am already familiar with the basic operation as I previously owned the L&M Mako for my PC-330.

 

I started playing with the MWB setup as this is also one of the key features for me too. I like your suggestion of learning to do this by feel rather than sight as this will be much quicker.

 

I discovered that, if you pre-select one-push manual white balance before the dive, the following actions will do a MWB underwater:

 

1. Turn dial to 5 o'clock, press (P-Menu)

2. Turn dial to 7 o'clock, press (White Balance)

3. Hold white card in place

4. Turn dial to 4 o'clock, press (One Push WB)

5. Turn dial to 5 o'clock, press (OK)

 

Does this gel with your experience?

 

I plan to practice this so that it becomes ingrained for quick use underwater.

 

I have decided that, for now, I will not remove the "easy" button plunger. The external button is out of the way and unlikely to get pressed by accident. The one circumstance that I might use it is after surfacing from a dive. I often like to get some footage of the dive boat, the others divers chatting as they fin back to the boat, any interesting scenery, etc. One press of the "easy" button and the camera is ready for such shooting. Of course, I then have to open the housing and reset all the menus again before the next dive.

 

Regards

Peter

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The WA lens allows for about 50% zoom and then the image becomes out of focus.

 

Just playing with the HC3 in the L&M housing this morning (dry), I noticed a peculiar thing with auto-focusing through the "super wide angle" housing lens.

 

Using the Momentary Auto Focus button, I pointed the housing at an object about 5 meters away. The image in the monitor looked like it was in focus. But the HC3 displayed the manual focus symbol and 0.2 meter. No matter where I pointed the housing, doing a MomAF appeared to find the right focus but the focus distance displayed was always wrong - way too close. I guess that this is caused by the wide angle optics fooling the distance calculator in the camcorder. The camcorder is focusing very close to compensate for the apparent image coming through the SWA lens.

 

Did you notice the same thing underwater?

 

It's not a problem as long as you don't rely on the distance display to confirm focus. But, it is something to be aware of as I occasionally check the distance displayed to make sure the MomAF had picked up the right target.

 

I guess that I am a bit sensitive about this topic as it was one of the big issues I had with the mechanical housing's add-on wide-angle lens that I used a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes the HC3 would change focus to the inner surface of the add-on WA lens and I had to use manual focus to get it back out to the right distance. I think that this was caused by small particles in the water between the housing port and the add-on lens. It was a pain in the butt because, diving in water with a lot of suspended plankton, the problem could occur any time during a dive. At least I wont have that problem with the L&M...

 

Regards

Peter

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Tonight I have been playing with the "Easy" button to figure out if it is usable.

 

As mentioned above, the one time that it would be useful is, at the end of a dive, on surfacing, the camcorder settings would all be set for an underwater situation. In my case, this would usually mean focus locked at the distance of the last shot, Exposure shift probably at -1 and WB at MWB probably set during the ascent phase at 9 to 5 meters. Pressing "easy" would quickly enable surface footage to be shot at auto-focus, auto-WB and auto-exposure. Of course, one should never touch that "easy" button during a dive.

 

What does the "easy" button reset? From my testing it resets the camcorders controls to auto-focus, auto-exposure and auto-WB and turns off any "shift" settings. It also resets the "DISPLAY" menu to VCD (Why, Mr Sony, why?), removing all the data (e.g. battery time, tape remaining) from the housing's external monitor. Let me be clear on this last point because there was some misinformation earlier in this thread: The easy button does NOT turn off video output to the housing's external monitor. It only turns off the display of the data (the text that appears over the video image) to the external monitor. You still see what the camcorder is capturing.

 

What it does NOT reset is the REC LED (still off), BEEP (still off) and the P-Menu Setup (still set to your preferred settings).

 

This last one is important and can ease some of the hassle of getting the camcorder back to the way it was before you pressed "easy".

 

By modifying the P-Menu to include everything that you might like to set before a dive, you can quickly overcome any negative effect of the "easy" button. For example, my P-menu now includes the DISPLAY menu so I can quickly set it back to V-Out/Panel. It also includes Exposure Shift so I can set it back to -1, a setting I use for most dives. Of course, these can only be done between dives, by taking the camcorder out of the housing so you can get to the full VCD menu. Hence the golden rule: only ever use the "easy" button after the dive is over.

 

If you thought that you would ever want to use "Easy" underwater, you can change the P-Menu so that you can recover all its resets back to your preferred underwater settings. To do this you would replace "Smooth slow record" on the right-hand side of the first P-Menu with DISPLAY. Then, even if you pressed "Easy" underwater, you could set the DISPLAY setting back to V-Out/Panel using the external plunger. You can set all the other settings through the manual control dial. A bit fiddly but at least you'd be back in action.

 

So, I would like to suggest that the "easy" button is not as bad as first thought and can play a useful role for the underwater videographer in some circumstances.

 

I also learned tonight that becoming familiar with how the P-Menu setting function works is a useful way of tailoring the HC3 to your specific requirements.

 

Regards

Peter

Edited by peterbkk

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Using the Momentary Auto Focus button, I pointed the housing at an object about 5 meters away. The image in the monitor looked like it was in focus. But the HC3 displayed the manual focus symbol and 0.2 meter. No matter where I pointed the housing, doing a MomAF appeared to find the right focus but the focus distance displayed was always wrong - way too close. I guess that this is caused by the wide angle optics fooling the distance calculator in the camcorder. The camcorder is focusing very close to compensate for the apparent image coming through the SWA lens.

Peter, you're right. Because the front port is actually a lens it's giving you a virtual point of sharpest focus that can't be related to the real-world units. That's horribly put because I don't know the technical terms but hopefully you know what I mean.

 

The Bluefin FX1 with the 80 degree lens does a similar thing. It more often than not focusses at 0.3m in good light if you hit momentary auto focus.

 

The other thing to bear in mind is that the wide angle lens is increasing your depth of field so you might see variations from say 0.1 to 0.5m and it might not matter too much, everything may still be sharp. Need to check on a big monitor though. HD/HDV is very unforgiving of poor focus. Personally I'm running on auto focus most of the time and just kicking in manual focus for macro shots that need it, or momentary auto focus if I'm shooting a pelagic that isn't giving much contrast to keep the auto focus sharp.

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HD/HDV is very unforgiving of poor focus. Personally I'm running on auto focus most of the time and just kicking in manual focus for macro shots that need it, or momentary auto focus if I'm shooting a pelagic that isn't giving much contrast to keep the auto focus sharp.

 

I am planning to become a bit more "anal" about using the Momentary Auto Focus feature. Momentary Auto Focus is so easy and reliable on the L&M housing that, unless you are planning a pan shot with varying focus distances, the Momentary Auto Focus just seems to make sense for a lot of shots.

 

Recently I was in a shallow cave with a pair of nurse sharks. I was up-close and wanted to do a tracking pan from head to tail. There was plenty of light, the shark had a distinct outline and so I figured auto-focus would handle it. I took the shot three times to make sure I had it right. In all three takes, when the camera panned over the center of the large shark, the image filed with grey shark skin and the camera hunted. It only hunted for a split second but it is obvious in the footage. So I had to split it into two clips in the editor and trim out the hunting. Still nice, but would have been better as one long pan from head to tail. Momentary Auto Focus would have solved the problem.

 

New resolution: press Momentary Auto Focus often! <S>

 

Regards

Peter

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