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Titan D100 review

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After reading Rod Klein's review, it got me wondering. Having never flooded a housing before, he had two floods. He noted the speculative cause of the first one and didn't mention a cause for the second one. Makes we wonder.

 

Also, I would have liked a confirmation that all the electronic controls worked flawlessly for the duration of the four weeks of usage.

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Now that you mention it George,

 

I noticed that Rod says the housing has both electrical and mechanical controls. But I don't see a control dial for the aperture or one for the shutterspeed - the two most important controls on the camera.

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The two floods (!) made me think the port seal was not as foolproof as you'd like.

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Guys,

 

Most housing floods are due to "pilot error" (not saying Rod's careless, as I've flooded a camera too) so it's not always the housing's "fault."

 

Cheers

James

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Most housing floods are due to "pilot error" so it's not always the housing's "fault."

True, but if the author has genuinely never had a flood before (and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of that statement), then has two floods with the same housing system in a relatively short period, to my mind it brings up the question:

 

Is there something about the design/implementation/components of this housing that increase the probability of operator error?

 

Are there things like really complex o-ring groove geometry, excessive torque necessary to close clasps (I played with a Titan d-100 at Cathy Church's recently, and found the clasps hard to get a handle on/counter intuitive), that sort of thing.

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Good questions Criag - I don't know.

 

Wasn't there a guy at the DDI that had a TitanD100 named John? Perhaps he can jump in here as well w/ his thoughts.

 

Cheers

James

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By Craig I know you meant both of us, James!

 

Good engineering is when you antipate problems and design your products to help prevent as many of them as possible. The best o-ring in the world isn't any good if users are inclined to break it frequently. That's what I mean by foolproof.

 

I'm not saying the Titan D100 has that problem; just that, like George, it made me wonder.

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Most housing floods are due to "pilot error"

 

All floods are due to user error. If you didn't use it, you wouldn't have had an error.

 

It is the design that determines how easy it is to create a user error. "It was my fault because I failed to disassemble every control, clean, re-lube and reassemble while standing on one leg with my fingers of my left hand crossed behind my back and simultaneously closing all four latches of the housing."

 

Example 1: A case study in gradual school was the Firestone 721 steel belted radial tire. (Long before you dreamed of driving a car James) There were many reported failures, some causing deaths. Firestone said there was no design problem. Eventually the problem was discovered. The failures occurred when the tires were severely under inflated, as in under 27psi. A survey discovered that few people ever check their tire pressure. Design error or user error? The tires said inflate to 32psi.

 

Example 2: The Aquatica A90 had a really long ribbon cable to the hot shoe connector. This was quite handy if you wanted to shoot your Ike strobes on land. If I hadn't read about someone else flooding their housing by pinching their cable in the main o-ring, I would have done it myself on a couple of occassions. Thanks to someone else's error, I was saved from my own error.

 

If someone goes 0 for xx years, then goes 2 for 4 weeks, you've got to wonder. There was no adequate explanation in the review. As a matter of fact, the first flood was explained,

I figured that the leak was caused by my carelessly pinching an o-ring on the front port. So, from that point on I began to check the housing in the rinse tank prior to each dive, as well as immediately upon entering the water. It was during my second week on the Aggressor that it happened again.

 

So, despite feeling the necessity to check the housing in the rinse tank prior to each dive (something that I never do), it still flooded again. No explanation on how the second flood occurred. Instead we get

The lenses feature a bayonet mounting system which locks the ports and extension rings VERY securely. You definitely know when your ports locked in place preventing any possibility of leakage.
and
I am of the opinion that Light & Motion makes the most user- friendly latches available.

 

I would have liked to have seen sample shots from all the lenses that he said he used, especially various wide angle lenses with various extensions.

 

I would also like to see reviewers disclose their relationship with the gear manufacturer that they are reviewing. We know some reviewers are dealers. The casual reader might not know. Reviews by Stephen Frink for Seacam and Mauricio Handler for Aquatica, etc. should be accompanied by disclosure as dealer/distributers. Some professionals also have "relationships" that should also be disclosed.

 

In Rod's E20 Titan review, "If you want to get the best available digital camera and housing combination, in my opinion, the Light & Motion Titan is the way to go."

 

In this D100 Titan review, "With the Titan E20, I had always felt that the placement of the electronics was vulnerable to moisture or some other type of damage."

 

"the Titan E20 had some reliability problems found in many newly introduced products"

 

This is the first mention of E20 problems over a year after the initial review.

 

I've seen the Titan up close. I like it and hope it works perfectly. If I was certain it was reliable, I'd buy one myself and use it, despite being an Aquatica dealer. I'd hate to take it on a $6000 dive trip to Indonesia and have it fail. Nor do I want to carry a backup housing and camera. One down side is that if you mingle top side shooting with u/w shooting, constantly dismounting the ROC controller from your camera is a pain in the arse.

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George, my disclosure: I am a Light & Motion Dealer, and I sell this housing. It is my recommendation as the best housing for the D100 to anyone who asks, and it is the housing I personally shoot.

 

I helped John Gordon determine the source of his flooding. He flooded his housing once on the Nekton, and once at the Digital Diver.net DDI in Florida.

 

We were able to recreate his housing's failure- a pinched o-ring, by intentionaly misaligning the backplate and rolling the latches. It was easily noticed when inspecting the seal, and should have been caught before diving. It was user error, as floods tend to be. I would have loved for the misalignment to be corrected by the latches, but it wouldn't have been fixed by any other latch system either.

 

I don't know Rod's problem.

 

I do agree with his opinion of latches. They are easy for me to operate, and roll applying even pressure to seal the o-ring. They are much easier, in my opinion, than the spring-loaded cam buckles used by Sea&Sea, Aquatica, and Ikelite. If someone had trouble operating the Light&Motion latch, I can see them having considerable difficulty with the Aquatica and Sea&Sea systems.

 

I would like to see a port/lens pool test done, and hope may do it myself in the future if necessary. I stand by my claim on other boards, and Rods in the review: This is a great line of ports. I've used it with Nikkor 16, Sigma 15, Sigma 14, and Nikkor 20. The only lens that wasn't as sharp as I'd have liked was the Sigma 14- not shown as supported by Light&Motion. Even then the softness was slight in the extreme corners.

 

The 60 & 105 offer both M/A shift, and MF on the port. They setup quickly, engage easily, and operate flawlessly.

 

This port system doesn't support the 200mm macro, or the 70-180. It may at some point, but these are niche lenses.

 

James, the front and rear command dials are reached through the ROC grips, electronicly controlling aperture and shutter speed. If you were to lose the electronics, you would lose these controls, as you were hinting at. As John and Rod have unfortunately discovered, the electronics can stand up to being flooded twice. That is testament enough for me.

 

Lastly, I don't quite understand this:

One down side is that if you mingle top side shooting with u/w shooting, constantly dismounting the ROC controller from your camera is a pain in the arse.

To remove the camera tray, you push a lever (the tray is spring loaded) to pop the tray out, the tray removes easily, then unscrew the tripod screw that holds the camera to the tray. Why is this a pain? If anything, removing the tray makes it easier to unscrew the tripod screw.

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Does this "system" of two ports support a midrange zoom like the 24-85, 28-105 or 28-75? Does it support the 105mm plus a teleconverter? Of all the lenses listed, I only use one, yet I can list 4 lenses I use that it does not support. A whole lot of people will be unhappy with the choice of glass for the large dome. It is heavy and expensive and will be ruined if damaged, something that happens often enough with larger domes. I certainly don't agree that it is a great line of ports. I'd say it is a very incomplete line of ports. In contrast, Nexus offers 5 domes (both acrylic and glass), 5 dedicated flat ports, 8 extension lengths, and the outstanding multiport system that fully supports 5 different macro lenses and can be made to support others easily. All lenses Ryan listed plus all lenses I listed can be used with the Nexus port system using only one of the acrylic or glass domes plus the multiport system.

 

As far as I know, my Nexus back cannot be latched when misaligned so the problem can certainly be addressed though engineering and there's an existence proof of that. As far as the port flood, no analysis has been offered yet.

 

A failure of the electronics renders this system inoperable due to critical controls being electronic only. Since the controls James mentioned are both critical and easily supported mechanically, I view this as a poor design decision on LMI's part. Does LMI make the electronics available for purchase separately so that you can service the housing in the field?

 

I don't have any problem with the LMI latch though I like the Amphibico one better. The goal is to leave the housing closed as much as possible so latches are a secondary consideration for me. The fact you can't turn the D100 off in this housing is disturbing. I love the fact that I can go two days between battery changes with my Nexus. It only requires two latches as well.

 

I believe the issue with the tray is that it's bulky so you don't want to leave it on. I wouldn't want to damage it while shooting topside, either. Most trays are small enough that they don't get in the way. I prefer no tray since it makes mechanical control alignment more precise. It does make removing the camera more difficult, though.

 

How is the viewfinder on the Titan? As many know, the D100 does not have a large viewfinder and VF optics can be a differentiator for some people.

 

For anyone interested in spending this kind of money on a D100 housing, they should consider Nexus or Subal. Lee Peterson at Marine Camera Distributors (wetpixel sponsor) carries all three of these products and is someone you really should talk to about them. Seacam and Aquatica are equally worthy competitors. All four of these manufacturers have good reputations, long histories with SLR housings, and port systems far more complete and mature than the Titan.

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Just like Jonah, LMI is new to the field of digital SLR housings. I think it was a wise move for them to start off moderately with an 8" dome and a simple flat port. They are moving from video housings with add-on optics to the E-20 housing, which also had add-on optics. Now they are having to grapple with the problem of port/lens combos, extension rings, zoom and focus gears, etc. The two "starter" ports offered will cover the two lenses that users MUST have - a fixed wideangle and a fixed macro. But I would not go as far as to call this a "great line of ports." They may be great ports - but they aren't a lineup yet.

 

LMI can build off of them by adding port extensions at a future date, to accomodate most, but not all lenses. I would have started with an acrylic dome, as they are lower cost, and like Craig points out, if you scratch one, you don't have to replace it.

 

I think from a purely business standpoint, LMI should put more work into designing and fabricating their own ports, as folks that have Subal or Nexus ports will probably just buy a Subal or Nexus housing (as Craig has vociferously stated :-)

 

The Aquatica housing also has lineup studs to help in closure, and it only has two latches as well. You can close the housing if it is misaligned, but it is pretty obvious by the gaping crack. I also don't see any way for the main o-ring on the Aquatica to pop out and get pinched, but I suppose it's possible.

 

Cheers

James

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I agree. The two ports offered are the bare minimum. According to the LMI site, the 12-24 and the 17-35 are also supported. I'd like to see a midrange zoom and either the Sigma 180 or Nikon 200 added. A wider range of extensions would help fit unusual lenses along with a greater selection of focus rings. A 20mm and 25mm extension ring set would allow the use of 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters (although the AF/MF switch would no longer work).

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Just thought I'd add a few comments from a Titan/D100 user:

 

I have a Subal F100 housing, but went with the Titan and Subal adapter ring rather than a Subal for the D100. My primary reason was ergonomics and the accessibility of the ROC strobe control. I have small hands, and the F100 Subal housing is really a stretch for me to use with one hand. I really don't see any issue about the port lineup. The adapters are very easy to install, and give alot of flexibility about ports to users like me. That said, there were moments where I wished I gotten the Subal! (see electronics problems, below)

 

I also have a Subeye camera and originally used a Nikon RS, so the viewfinder is extremely important to me. As I didn't have all the housings to compare, I had to rely on reviews and opinions of folks I consider knowledgable. The feedback that I got was that the Subal and Titan viewfinders are comparable, and both are larger than the Nexus. I still find the Titan viewfinder woefully inadequate, as I am used to a big and bright viewfinder (even the Subal F100 viewfinder is too small for my liking). I was unwilling to invest in a Seacam for my first digital setup, as I felt I wouldn't have it long (which will likely be true). However, my next setup will probably be a Seacam. I use primarily manual focus, and I can't stand tiny viewfinders.

 

I don't like not being able to turn off the camera in the housing. But I haven't had any troubles with the latch system or alignment of the back. It feels foolproof to me, but obviously it isn't if others are having problems.

 

There are replacement electronics available for field replacement.

 

The ROC tray is definitely larger than my F100 Subal tray, and since the alignment of the electronics is critical, I don't like taking the tray off for topside use. This is an issue for me as I don't care to leave any tray on my cameras while using topside. But overall, I do prefer trays for housings. Granted, the Subal F100 housing has very precise mechanical controls and gear alignment, so I haven't found any need to have room for adjustment there.

 

Now, do I *like* my Titan D100? As I mentioned, the viewfinder is an issue for me, but there are very few better alternatives (Eric's new rig would be, if I could stand to lug something that size around...). I have had a few problems with the electronics (needed board replacement initially, and a couple of problems with buttons working afterwards). Currently, it appears to be working. It's a heavy and large rig compared especially to my Subeye and even my Subal F100 setup. I'm also still getting used to all the postprocessing I have to do. I have a batch loader for my slide scanner, and precise color management set up, so I have to do very little to my slide scans. It seems to be much more work to get the color accurate on my digital images (I shoot RAW). A friend with a 10D feels his out of camera color (also RAW) is better. Perhaps the S2 color would be more to my liking. Still hard to compare with Velvia. Oh, but having the ROC strobe control is great.

 

Anyway, the jury for me is still out. I'll keep using it and watch for something more acceptable (for *my* criteria) to come along. I think for now it is a perfectly fine training wheels setup for me.

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Is it possible to use a DTTL (e.g. SB80DX) strobe with the Titan?

 

I think the ROC system looks very easy to use and saves the photographer the effort of reaching up and changing the strobe power on the guns. However, there are times (skittish macro and behaviour subjects) when I prefer to have TTL(DTTL) instead of manual strobes with the D100 - to get the shot when you only have one chance.

 

It is not clear to me whether the ROC system can be over ridden to allow a DTTL gun to be used.

 

Alex

 

Plus I think it looked much cooler in black than in silver.

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Alex, there is no way to circumvent the ROC system to allow the camera to control D-TTL strobes directly. ROC controls the strobes using TTL and takes over any camera control. I agree about wishing for real TTL/D-TTL for those brief encounters where you don't have time for strobe adjustments and the exposure may be tricky. It would be nice if LMI incorporated the capability to choose.

 

The other thing that frustrates me during special encounters is the D100 limit of 4 RAW images in the buffer, along with the slow write speed. I'd love to have a bigger buffer or at the least one like the S2 that accomodates 7 images of any format. My solution is to switch to JPG, but I hate messing with the menus underwater, and sometimes you just don't have time to switch, or you'll miss the shots altogether. I like RAW for the flexibility it gives me to choose white balance later. I don't know how many times I have sat there with something special in the viewfinder, and half shutter presses just get me "r00".

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Make sure that you are shooting uncompressed RAW files. They store VERY quickly. In fact, if I ask for a full dump from my YS120s, the strobe recycle takes longer than storing the file. I have NEVER outrun the buffer unless I outran the strobe recycle.

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Make sure that you are shooting uncompressed RAW files.

 

Kasey, thank you!!! I've had it set on compressed all this time, as apparently it's the default for RAW. I just went and checked it, had never even thought they'd make compressed the default...

 

I used to have the YS-120 strobes as well, and changed to Ike strobes in large part because of the improved recycle time :( . Was not fun to start shooting digital only to have much longer wait times! This should help alot, not to mention prevent me from losing so many topside photos because I turned the camera off while it was still writing to the card :D .

 

I owe you a beer if I'm ever on a boat with you!

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Hey Kasey,

 

Hows vacation, are you back yet. I have your Sea & Sea YS-90 back from service. Can't wait to see your latest images from the far east.

 

Doug

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Wow, how about board management, a reply is moved to a new topic, then the thread is closed. That will be easy to follow in future searches, etc.

 

I gotta' hand it to you Craig and James.

 

Since I can't follow up what Rod posted in the thread he was moved to, I'll have to do it here.

 

This is the first Light & Motion SLR, housing, it won't be the last. Do you honestly think Nexus, Aquatica, and Subal (my opinion, the widest port lines in the industry) built their line overnight? I don't.

 

I know they listened to feedback from users, and built the ports that were needed as they were needed.

 

What makes you think Light & Motion won't do the same? They've started with a line of great ports, that supports 99% of D100 user's port desires. These ports are built spared no expense (If you want prices you can download them off of the Light&Motion website Craig). By this, they are engineered for the lens (how many other manufacturers built a new extension ring for the 12-24?), and are full featured. I don't expect a midrange zoom until the 17-55, and the 10.5 is a challege with the current shade, but a fisheye port may be on the way as well. That leaves the 200 mm, which can be handled with existing extension rings, but a/m is lost. I haven't tested a 70-180, but personally see no need to support a discontinued lens with less than ideal reproduction ratio and max aperture.

 

The electronics will prove themselves. Rod is exatly right, the most reliable control at them moment is a mechanical control. I think the future will unveil a shift, with electronic control's reliability surpassing mechanical. An electronic control won't misalign with pressure, isn't succeptible to corrosion, can be placed in the most ergonomic orientation for the user, and won't flood a housing.

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Hi Gang,

 

I thought breaking off the thread was a smart move on Craig's part. It had split into a commercial discussion of whether the reviewer is qualified or should even be writing the review in the first place. It was no longer about the product being discussed. Once "both sides of the fence" had a chance to reply to that, I closed it - that seems fair and pretty straightforward to me. And I think that most of the members here would support that decision. Folks, if you don't agree, please let us know in the feedback forum.

 

Ryan said:

 

Wow, how about board management, a reply is moved to a new topic, then the thread is closed. That will be easy to follow in future searches, etc.

 

I gotta' hand it to you Craig and James.

 

Since I can't follow up what Rod posted in the thread he was moved to, I'll have to do it here.

 

This thread is still open for the relevant part of the discussion of the pros and cons of the housing and we appreciate your feedback as a TitanD100 user Ryan.

 

Cheers

James

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Light and Motion will be a great dSLR housing mfr in time. The Titan D100 has resolved the handle issues that plagued the Titan E20, and I'm sure their line of domes and ports will grow quickly. It'll be interesting to see whether they house the E1 - a controversial camera but LMI has always housed Olympus. I'm glad to see them shift to Nikon.

 

Back to the flood issue, Subal, Aquatica and Seacam have all modified their port systems in the last 5-10 years. I suspect that LMI's may call for some improvements down the road. But if John's rear door was the source of the leak, I can certainly say that LMI's door latches are fantastic.

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