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red3

Ranting

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I just have to say a few things that I hope might make it to the powers that be at DEMA in regards to housing design for Canon cameras as well as strobe design. First let me qualify myself by saying that I have no photography pedigree and in fact calling myself a hack is giving myself too much credit. However, I do use a housing occasionally and I have found some things lacking mostly related to egonomics or user-friendliness on housings for Canon cameras.

 

I was dumb enough to switch to Canon from Nikon and I now shoot a 5D. I say dumb because I did not realize that most housing manufacturers seem to have a grudge against the controls on canon bodies. I am now on my third species of housing. I was wondering if anyone who manufactures housings actually uses them? Do they realize that on occasion, underwater photography can be more than a static event, that fish do move and that you may have to make an aperture and /or shutter adjustment on the fly? I say this because the control knobs for shutter and aperture on my housing, and almost all others for Canon cameras,are placed in locations that make absolutely no sense and are all but useless to use for anything but macro. Both knobs require that I remove my hand from the right handle and shutter lever to make any adjustments at all. To adjust the Quick control dial I have to move the housing away from my face, take my hand from the right handle (where the shutter lever is) make the random adjustment (since I cant look through the view finder), place the camera back up to my face, re-compose the shot, hope that the adjustment was correct and that the subject was patient enough for me to un-f*** myself and take the picture. All of this because the designers put the knobs in the wrong place. Now I'm not saying that all the manufacturers have made this same mistake. I have seen one housing manufacturer actually put a little thought in to user-friendliness. The only drawback is that the correctly made housing would cost more than the three housings that I have used, combined. That seems a liitle extreme for a couple of knobs that are in the right place.

 

Why are we still using the weak, pathetic and anemic Nikonos connector on sync cords? How about switching to S6 conectors or, even better, fiber optic sync cords? I know that your saying" but it wont work with TTL". Yeah, well, TTL seems to be a fairly random event unless your shooting macro so why worry about it. At least with fiber optics you could repair them in the field when they break and they dont flood. But then again the guys that make the sync cords would lose alot of business if the cords worked all the time. On my first housing I was breaking sync cords every 1.3 days of diving because of where they put it on the housing. My regulator would kink the cord every time I composed a shot and the wires inside would break. when I talked to the manufacturer about it they said that they had never heard about anyone having this problem but they were working on a fix for it. Well the fix that they came up with could only be described as kludgee at best. Why not put the cord in the right place to begin with?

Strobes. Why would anyone put the knobs on the side of the strobe? When I have to make a quick power adjustment I have to turn the housing sideways so I can see the knobs on the side of the strobe. The knobs are so tight at depth that I have to hold the strobe in one hand and adjust power with the other or I'll move the arm assembly all over the place. I recently saw a new strobe with lots of power, a pretty good recycle time and the knobs on the back. Sounded too good to be true and it was. The battery compartment cap is huge and makes getting to the control knobs difficult if not impossible with thick gloved hands. Open the battery compartment and you see a battery with a pig-tail connector that is bent 180 degrees and I gaurantee it will fail when your 12000 miles from home. The cap has a cut-out that fits around the pig-tail so you can screw the manhole size cover on the battery compartment. Guess what happens if you dont align the cut out with the pig-tail? The battery compartment cap will cross thread and WILL allow the strobe to FLOOD. I guess thats ok since your gonna need lots of spares anyway with the pig-tail breaking all the time. How about a battery that plugs in when it you put it into the compartment? You guys delayed the release of the strobe for months and this is what you came up with? good job guys.....

 

I could go on and on about the various short comings on different housings...none of them are perfect but most are not even close. A housing is nothing but a, somtimes water proof, box. It allows access to most of the important controls. Is it really so hard to put the controls where a diver, not some engineer, wants them? How about letting real divers test them before you go into production? If you do let people test the proto-type how about actually listening to their comments? It seems that everyone is more concerned about releasing thier housing first rather than right. The few flaws that I have mentioned here are not small nit picking complaints. These are problems that I as well as many others have brought up over time and most of them are blatent enough that stevie wonder could see them.....

 

thanks

 

One very frustrated U/W photo-butcher

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Thank you for your "rant," because as a newbie you've given me a list of actual user experience. [more]

 

I just have to say a few things that I hope might make it to the powers that be at DEMA in regards to housing design for Canon cameras as well as strobe design. First let me qualify myself by saying that I have no photography pedigree and in fact calling myself a hack is giving myself too much credit. However, I do use a housing occasionally and I have found some things lacking mostly related to egonomics or user-friendliness on housings for Canon cameras.

 

I was dumb enough to switch to Canon from Nikon and I now shoot a 5D. I say dumb because I did not realize that most housing manufacturers seem to have a grudge against the controls on canon bodies. I am now on my third species of housing. I was wondering if anyone who manufactures housings actually uses them? Do they realize that on occasion, underwater photography can be more than a static event, that fish do move and that you may have to make an aperture and /or shutter adjustment on the fly? I say this because the control knobs for shutter and aperture on my housing, and almost all others for Canon cameras,are placed in locations that make absolutely no sense and are all but useless to use for anything but macro.

 

Question: Is your exposure changing so much that, even with flash, you're changing settings?

 

Also, are you shooting RAW or JPEG? The exposure slider in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) can buy you at least one stop of underexposure. The 5D has a RAW + JPEG write mode, which you can leverage for faster workflow: Use the JPEG version for the web & 4x6 proofs if the quality is good enough; while saving the RAW for enlargements and for "keeper" shots where the JPEG isn't good enough (bad color balance, underexposure, etc...). [This is what some wedding photographers do, when they might have as many as 2500 shots(!), often in tricky mixed lighting, to reduce the time spent on the workstation.] [more...]

 

Strobes. Why would anyone put the knobs on the side of the strobe? When I have to make a quick power adjustment I have to turn the housing sideways so I can see the knobs on the side of the strobe. The knobs are so tight at depth that I have to hold the strobe in one hand and adjust power with the other or I'll move the arm assembly all over the place. I recently saw a new strobe with lots of power, a pretty good recycle time and the knobs on the back. Sounded too good to be true and it was. The battery compartment cap is huge and makes getting to the control knobs difficult if not impossible with thick gloved hands. Open the battery compartment and you see a battery with a pig-tail connector that is bent 180 degrees and I gaurantee it will fail when your 12000 miles from home. The cap has a cut-out that fits around the pig-tail so you can screw the manhole size cover on the battery compartment. Guess what happens if you dont align the cut out with the pig-tail? The battery compartment cap will cross thread and WILL allow the strobe to FLOOD. I guess thats ok since your gonna need lots of spares anyway with the pig-tail breaking all the time. How about a battery that plugs in when it you put it into the compartment? You guys delayed the release of the strobe for months and this is what you came up with? good job guys.....

 

Brand and model of strobe with the pig-tail battery leads... So I know what to avoid?

 

Thanks from a newbie (who is starting with a clean sheet of paper)!

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Dear red3,

 

I hear you..........I have provided a lot of feedback over the years, and sometimes wonder if it makes any difference.

 

I also appreciate the difficulties in designing products that can be manufactured and sold at prices the majority of UW photographers can afford.

 

A good friend, who is very mechanically inclined and I have taken to tweeking our own housings over the years, and some of the items you mention (such as rear command dial on Canon bodies) can be improved very simply.

 

Some manufacturers DO have actual UW shooters on staff. Some more experienced than others, and I think do try and accommodate most controls. Some included on many housings are unecessary, but that's just my opinion.......

 

It's too bad though that someone such as yourself has tried 3 housings and still notice things that could work faster in real world shooting situations......

 

Finally, don't go back to Nikon :)

 

LOL

 

dhaas

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It's embarrassing that the engineering of these products falls so frequently short of where it should be, and it's surprising that the customers, that's us, are so willing to accept it.

 

It's not hard to consider ways to improve ergonomics. Put the knobs (how about the manual focus knobs in the wrong place?) where they should be. Stop offering handles that provide NO leverage out of the water. Offer arm mounts and bulkheads where they should be. Make the housings easy and more foolproof to maintain. Likewise, it's not hard to make battery compartments and seals more idiot-proof. Not only do manufacturers often make little attempt to get this right, they ignore feedback and we, as the consumers, praise them for their products rather than call them out.

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I should qualify my post by saying I'm pretty darn happy to be able to buy (for a reasonable price) a housing and strobes that allow me to make images of the UW world easier than anything ever envisioned back in 1969 when I started diving......

 

Can things continuously be improved. Likely yes......But as I've stated many times we are a small niche market.

 

I also hear all these design recommendations, AKA Monday morning quarterbacking, but I don't see anyone jumping into the "custom housing modification" business like in other fields.

 

Reason being, there's no money in it......Not enough customers, people won't pay for what mods may cost to complete, even the actual costs plus the poor guy making a profit for their time and expertise! Plus, as with any other business many customers will never be satisfied anway.

 

In today's world, cameras change fast, people want the stuff NOW and it's a tiny, special market.

 

Not conducive to the search for perfection :)

 

Just one guy's opinion :)

 

dhaas

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Hey, Red3 -

 

I *finally* understand why we couldn't get you out of the water -- you were down there trying to adjust your aperture AND your shutter speed at the same time. :)

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Red3, don’t take it so hard. A few years ago I attended a technical diver symposium and heard similar rants. The truth is underwater photography is a small and sometime entitled community like the tech diving community. After becoming the proud owner of a disastrous Aqua lens many years ago I spent some time on the phone from Hawaii to Canada with Aquatica employees who had purchased the company and were/are making a go of it and it helped me realize just how small the UW photography community is. I always thought that Aquatica had been a giant of the industry. Now I feel lucky that they are around at all. Making underwater housings is certainly more than having a foundry, lathe and milling machine at your disposal. I would argue especially in the US where master machinists aren't exactly growing on trees that you would not be likely to find many folks with the commitment toward underwater photography, but if you look around you will find a bigger selection of housings from all over the world than ever before that are better than anything in the past. For all their efforts none of the folks /companies I know of that make housings have their own Gulf Stream and a home in Malibu. I still take pleasure in being able to talk directly with housing manufacturers like Ikelite and get answers. Canon makes great gear and the 5D housings I have seen seem fairly decent and on the same level as my D2X housing. It’s only going to get better. In the mean time we have to baby our gear in an obsessive compulsive manner, expect occasional and expensive failures and take ergonomic improvements as we get them. Oh yes and then mortgage our homes. :) By-the-way I think the fastest most ergonomic camera set up ever made is the Nikonos III with old style 15mm lens and Sub Sea 150 strobe. I don’t know anyone that wants to go back to that though I personally miss the simplicity. At the end of the day serious underwater photography has always been a commitment that helps us appreciate those that do it really well. That's my rant and I am sticking to it. Vr Andy

Edited by 2Oceans

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Dan, to asnwer your questions, I am shooting RAW and unfortunately the conditions underwater do change that much on a moment by moment basis somtimes. For example when your shooting manta rays you may have your camera set up at say f8, 100/sec with your strobes at half or even 1/4 power as he's swimming by you....Suddenly he hooks a wing, turns left and is going to swim two feet over your head while being back lit by the sun...Now I need to make some quick changes to my system...F16-20, 200/sec and full power on the strobes to counter the back-lighting and the aperture change. All of these things are nearly impossible with the way that housings are currently produced. If you asked the guys that have shot really good pics like this you'll find that they set the camera up for these conditions and waited for this to happen...Opportunities like this may take several dives or even several trips to occurre....If TTL actually worked then at least I wouldnt have to monkey with strobes so much.... I'm not saying that wedding photography is easy, on the contrary every wedding photographer I know calls it combat phtography. But as we all know u/w photography is a whole different animal...not only are the conditions changing like a poorly lit disco but your buried in a totally hostile environment...Underwater....

As for the strobe that has the pigtail I dont want to get into brand bashing....As a new u/w photo guy I hope that this topic helps you make a more informed descision when you buy... Look at housings and strobes from the standpoint of using them not just because they look cool or hi-tech....when you hold a housing are the shutter speed and aperture knobs easily acsessable with your thumb and fingers without taking your hand of the handle?. Can you see into the viewfinder easily with a regulator in your mouth? Is something sticking out of the back of the housing going to depress the purge valve on the regulator and blind you with bubbles as that 16ft tiger shark approaches you face to face? can you adjust the strobes wth gloved hands (i have no faith in TTL for wide angle)? These are just a few of the most blatent and aggravating short comings that I feel are totally inexcusable in housing/ strobe design.

 

Dave...I am glad that over the years that you have been able to make modifications to your housings to make them more user friendly. However, this post was not to try and start a new industry such as custom housing modification... the idea was to get the manufacturers to make the products right in the first place...A custom modification should be for people missing fingers or a spare bulkhead for a remote shutter(although I think housings should already come wth this), things that are out of the norm...As you know Im not afraid to modify a housing...I have adapted several housings to work for later generation cameras... I have a small machine shop in my garage and the ability to use it... I can easily move the knobs that are so offensive to me on my housing but the housing has been machined too thin, by the manufacturer, to safely accept an O-ring and a shaft for the knobs to attatch to.

 

I know that this a small cottage industry. Thats why the morons at Canon and Nikon are getting away with using these idiotically small viewfinders. They dont care about the professional photographer or even the serious hobbyist. We are too small a market for them to be concerned with... the money is with the masses and they seem to think that smaller is better... When the new live-view becomes more usable the whole viewfinder thing is going to be moot anyway.. I feel bad for the guys that have shelled out the $1000-$2000 for those wazoo viewfinders... It is because this is a small cottage industry that I find this so inexcusable....We're not dealing with Ford or GM (remember the Pinto?). We SHOULD have access to the guys at the factories and the machine shop floor... They should be making the changes almost instantly as the market (customer) demands...Thats the problem, we are not demanding that this stuff be made right (Does the phrase"thank you sir! May I have another!? mean anything to us). We keep buying these abortions that they are producing and saying how wonderful they are. Market demands who survives and who dosent. Why should we be grateful for a barely usable piece of crap? Dont let the manufacurers tell you how difficult it is to make these things either. Dome technology aside, making a housing is a very simple process that can be handled by any parolee that has been to a prison machinist class...People talk about big CNC macines and all the technology that is needed to make these things, but the reality is that the only thing that you really need a CNC machine to do is cut the O-ring groove in the back of the housing. The rest can be easily handled on the most basic manual milling machine...The reason they use CNC machines is because it is more cost effective when making multiple copies of a given product. Solving the shutter/aperture problem on most of these housings is a simple matter of changing the X/Y coordinates of those knobs and making the discs that contact the camera body larger. It would take the CNC prgrammer about a minute to make these changes but somebody needs to tell him to do so!!!!!!! Clearly the machinist dosent use his own product. If he did he would be embarrassed by the product and make the changes that were needed.

 

I cant think of another industry that has survived, over time, that requires the customer to adapt to thier products. They should be adapting to our needs and demands not the other way around!!! It's just a semi- waterproof box, and it's not going to the moon!!!

 

I'll take my soap box and go home now. I feel better. I hope that I have not offended anyone exept the manufacturers who should be ashamed of what they force us to use....

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As cameras get more computer-controllable via USB, you'd almost think that someone would come up with the electronic-interfacing housing. That would change the yearly control-position-update game to just a software management issue, for the most part.

 

Still, I'm sure it would add enough price to the housing to sort of 'negate' the savings of being able to swap new bodies into the same case, with perhaps just new baseplates to assure the position relative to the lens port.

 

But just think of the aftermarket added control SW / feature enhancement options that would also enable!

 

Sorry, I'm still waiting for my matrix-like implants, and damn pissed they're taking too long to get here. I was promised in my youth we'd have flying cars by now, too. Damn that lazy George Jetson!!!

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I should point out that I can make the adjustments red3 complains about with my Seacam. Aperture and shutter speed are both readily available without moving my hands from the handles, and I spin them in the right directions sort of on instinct when animals move above or below me.

 

Red3 did have some gripe about the Seacam, though. I think it was the weight? the cost? both? :)

 

Also, I much prefer my viewfinder to live view. The optical view is much higher resolution, and is just... beautiful. There is something to be said about what inspires you in photography, and looking through a large viewfinder cannot at the moment be replicated by looking at even a 3" LCD. That big Seacam viewfinder on a 1Ds Mk II gives a cinematic view of the world -- especially when using a really wide lens. It's usually a much wider field of view than I can see through the mask, and sometimes I look through there just to get another view of the world.

 

Plus, you old farts are going to have to use a monacle to see that live view LCD. So you should probably stick with the $1-2K viewfinder. :)

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Why are we still using the weak, pathetic and anemic Nikonos connector on sync cords?

 

I've been ranting about the Nikonos connector since before the first digital camera went underwater. It was the standard. The problem has always been, what is the next standard and who owns it? I would be perfectly happy if the Ikelite connector were the new standard, but if you are another housing manufacturer, you probably aren't in a hurry to make someone else's proprietary design the new standard. In the meantime, I have to hire a kid with good eyesight and flashlight to connect my cables.

 

As for strobe power settings, someone has addressed that. Light & Motion has a wonderful design that allows you adjust strobe power without reaching anywhere. You can control the power of each strobe independently or in unison.

 

As long as we are ranting, my other observation is that handle ergonomics is inversely proportional to the price of the housing. Seacam and Subal reside in the upper echelon of housing manufacturers, yet the handles seem to be designed for some alien form of being. I've tried to figure out whose hands were used for modeling the handles, but haven't figured it out. Must be some weird looking dude or dudette. If not for the strap, I 'm not sure how I could ever lug the Subal around for long periods of time or into a current. The inelegant, cludgey Ikelite handles are sooo much more comfortable.

 

To prove my point, ULCS sells replacement handles that aren't even form fitting. Hey, Seacam and Subal, listen up! If people are buying replacement handles for your $5-10k housings, you may be doing something wrong. A few years ago, Seacam went to a matte finish instead of a slippery smooth finish. I was thinking to myself that this is like offering a Yugo with better tires.

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This thread proves:

 

* Better Moustraps are in demand

 

* Mfrs. try, but may never invent them

 

* One person's likes are another's dislikes

 

* Those who know the mystery man (RED3) still like him :)

 

YMMV

 

dhaas

 

P.S. - I have to agree with Eric that despite all the hoopla' about Live View on new dSLR models I think it will never replace a dSLR's UW viewfinder. Even my modest Ikelite SuperEye behind a lowly little Canon Rebel XTi works for me and my Rx bi-focal mask (I look through the distance portion of course.....) That and a low volume mask :)

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P.S. - I have to agree with Eric that despite all the hoopla' about Live View on new dSLR models I think it will not ever replace a dSLR's UW viewfinder. Even my modest Ikelite SuperEye behind a lowly little Canon Rebel XTi works for me and my Rx bi-focal mask (I look thorugh the distance portion of course.....) That and a low volume mask :)

 

David,

Never say never. I could imagine a time where the screen becomes the viewfinder - that is with some type of cowling (similar to what one can buy as add-ons now) so that the experience will become essentially the same as looking through a viewfinder. It would save size and weight.

Jeff

 

I guess a P&S without the delay

Edited by loftus

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Having quite a lot of insight into the process, I'm impressed that the level of quality these guys put out is as high as it is.

 

The luxury of prototype testing isn't available. These rapid product life cycles don't allow it. The best we can expect is that manufacturers learn from their mistakes and implement fixes in the next product they build.

 

Canon command wheels have long been a grip of mine. Yes, Seacam does a very nice job with their implementation. Subal's design on the early 1D, 10D, and 20D left a lot to be desired. On the 5D & the latest revision of the 1D, the rear command wheel has been moved to the upper right hand corner of the housing where it is easily accessible from the handle, but the front command wheel is still a reach if you don't have big hands. Fortunately, this is being fixed on the 1DIII and 40D housings.

 

Getting these things implemented took a lot of asking over a long period of time. Dave nailed it, one person's likes are another's dislikes. I understand a manufacturer being hesitant to change anything when their mailbox is full of praise from happy customers. In my experience suggestions are listened too, though, and if enough people make a suggestion it is usually implemented.

 

Handles are a funny thing. We get complaints about EVERY manufacturers handles. ULCS has the right idea by using bicycle grips. While they may not be form fitting, people don't seem to have trouble hanging on to them for long periods of time while they work their butt off.

 

While this thread seems to be aimed at housings for Canon, it isn't really explicitly said. I have no complaints about the ergonomics of my subal for nikon housing. Like Eric, I can change aperture and shutter speed instinctively without taking my eye from the viewfinder. Having my thumb on focus lock and my finger on the shutter release is no problem. I can even brace my rig because I'm focusing my heavy macro lenses by cradling the port. If I could have Light & Motion's ROC strobe controller on this housing, I'd be so happy I'd buy a hookah system and never leave the water.

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Jeff,

 

You may be right, but looking at a LCD in bright light no matter how well you shade it can be challenging. But if the speed of no lag is there many will likely try it.

 

Ryan has some great insights into this whole process. The handle grip comments are spot on, too. I know people who have several sets of grips they've tried on their housings! And others who are perfectly happy with ones others hate :lol:

 

Maybe I've just always been the kind of shooter who thinks of ways to change MY shooting style, techniques, etc. Plus try and get to salt water and spend as much time as possible UW to make photos.

 

If I miss a shot now and then, these days I don't want to commit suicide over it. A story that would illustrate this, diving with the great Lazaro Ruda (which I will furnish later) coined the phrase we share "Enjoy the Moment" :)

 

Works for me........ :)

 

dhaas

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I used the Subal grips on the last trip and they were OK underwater, nothing to get upset over, but they were unacceptable when lifting the housing out of the water. It's simply too easy to improve that---look at what other manufacturers do. Seacam's grip is prettier but no better.

 

Seacam does a lot of things well, but they're the ones with no functional manual focus macro port. I like their products, but they are guilty of these mistakes like everyone else.

 

My Nexus and Subal housings allowed me to adjust shutter and aperture, too, just like Seacam. Not all housings have this problem but too many do.

 

My personal annoyances include small details, too. Why does the Subal center ballmount have a permanent adapter? Why don't they have a standard tripod mount? Why don't all housings have a center ball mount? Why do strobes have so many, incompatible strobe arm adapters? These kinds of things are unnecessary and add cost and weight to our rigs.

 

When I pick up a camera I don't instantly think of ways it could be better, yet when I pick up underwater gear I frequently do. When you consider that housings frequently cost more than the camera bodies they contain, that's pretty surprising; even more so considering some of these manufacturers have done many, many generations of product by now.

 

I don't dispute the economics of our industry or the fact that we have high quality products and good manufacturers, but we should expect better. Much of that is providing good feedback but manufacturers need to be willing to listen and invest in learning how to use their own designs. Many innovative products come from divers who make cool stuff because it's what they want to use. The door's wide open for someone to come along with better products. Sadly, doing so would probably involve converting a large pile of money into a small one.

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This thread proves:

 

* Better Moustraps are in demand

 

dhaas

 

This is why companies like ULCS exist.

 

* One person's likes are another's dislikes

 

This is how individual products like replacement handles come to exist; enough people dislike the stock item to create demand for a replacement. While you can find someone who complains about every brand's handles, ULCS only seems to make them for Subal and Seacam. This would be an indication that that is where the demand lies, no?

 

I don't think that this thread was specifically aimed at Canon. Some of the complaints have more to do with legacy design aspects (connectors) that have nothing to do with product life cycle.

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Why don't all housings have a center ball mount?

 

This is something I´m still trying to understand... This piece is a MUST on all DSLR Housings, however many manufacturers won´t seem to be able to place one...

 

And come on, this is an extremely EASY improvement on housings, and costless...

 

My two cents.

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