Jump to content
raarsen

Subal or Nauticam?

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I am looking to replace my camera and housing somewhere in the near future. I used Subal over the past 20 years (to my full satisfaction) but I am considering Nauticam, too. Is there anyone here who has used both Subal and Nauticam housings in the field and can elaborate on the major differences -- e.g. ergonomics and the feel and reliability of the controls?

Best regards,

--Rob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all,

I am looking to replace my camera and housing somewhere in the near future. I used Subal over the past 20 years (to my full satisfaction) but I am considering Nauticam, too. Is there anyone here who has used both Subal and Nauticam housings in the field and can elaborate on the major differences -- e.g. ergonomics and the feel and reliability of the controls?

Best regards,

--Rob

I have owned and used both. I had Subal D700 and D200 housings, now have Nauticam D800 and D7000 housings. I think Nauticam really upped the game in housings.

6 months ago I would have come down firmly on the side of Nauticam as I think the precision and feature set of Nauticam housings is a significant improvement on my previous Subal housings. The new Subal housings really appear to have added many of the features introduced by Nauticam with a cleaner less cluttered design. Nauticam has had some quality issues which they appear to have addressed, but their design is a little cluttered on the inside with what would appear to be more parts etc than absolutely necessary. These parts can loosen, come off etc and I make a point of checking and tightening things etc from time to time to minimize this. Subal still lacks a full port and extension locking system which I think is a weakness. Outside of Europe Nauticam has a price advantage, so I'm not sure if that applies to you. Overall, if price were not an issue, with their new housings I would lean toward Subal, but if Nauticam offers a good price advantage I might go with Nauticam.

Edited by loftus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep,

I used to have Subal in the past years (Canon 5D) then I switched to Nauticam 1,5 years ago (Canon 7D).

In terms of difference

 

Subal : more compact and lighter housing, more balanced underwater, better external coating finish. I like the quick lock system for the housing, the housing I owned also had a window above the housing which is convenient for displaying the current settings without having to look at the rear LCD. The DP-FE3 glass dome is great.

For the downsides, I hated the flat handles which start to hurt after a 1 hour. They were also slow to provide optical flash sync on their housings. The flat ports are quite bulky and not so practical to fixe a wet lens. DId I mention I flooded my housing because of absent port locking system (/3 version). And then there's the price, getting parts can be tiringly slow too...

 

Nauticam : inventive ergonomics although a little complicated, the piano keys are a great idea IMO. The port locking system is tops, I also liked that they provide adaptors for any port brand and that they're directly compatible with Zen ports, although I quickly sold my Subal ports (still have the Nauticam/Subal port adaptor for sale, almost unused). Nice flat port system with 67mm thread available. I like the comfortable handles too, fortunately because you have to use them indeed.

They have set one of the best selling network, ensuring you can quickly order and get spare parts, have advise or feedback. They're also on the competitive price side.

For the downsides, I was disappointed with the anodization quality, some parts of my housing were showing oxydation after a few months use. After one year use, the "set" button control wasn't functional anymore, I was recently advised to have my housing serviced (more than 400USD!), which I think is a bit tough for a less than 1,5 year use. If that is the case each year, Subal would have been cheaper altogether...

Also, I clearly don't like the "old style" housing latches, and I find the housing quite heavy compared to the SUbal which was a feather underwater, despite its weird handles.

 

That said you can't go wrong with any of the brands, if price isn't an issue I'd say Subal is maybe ahead in terms of build quality. Nauticam probably has an advantage with the ports system and its selling/aftersale network.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

For the downsides, I was disappointed with the anodization quality, some parts of my housing were showing oxydation after a few months use. After one year use, the "set" button control wasn't functional anymore, I was recently advised to have my housing serviced (more than 400USD!), which I think is a bit tough for a less than 1,5 year use. If that is the case each year, Subal would have been cheaper altogether...

Also, I clearly don't like the "old style" housing latches, and I find the housing quite heavy compared to the SUbal which was a feather underwater, despite its weird handles.

New Nauticam housings have great latches, which are even easier to use than Subal's. One thing I have learned from all my housings, is to coat all threads, interfaces etc on the outside with teflon paste

Edited by loftus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a nauticam housing for my d800e and love it. I used to have Aquatica for my d300s and this is a major step up. I dove with a friend that had a D800e housed in a subal and his rig was slightly smaller on the outside than mine. I felt that mine was a bit more ergonomic and easier to use.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

New Nauticam housings have great latches, which are even easier to use than Subal's. One thing I have learned from all my housings, is to coat all threads, interfaces etc on the outside with teflon paste

Yes, I have seen the new latches, they came up exactly when I was buying my housing and was sorry it wasn't ready yet for the NA7D.

As for the teflon coating, I think it's a disappointing workaround for a 3.000EUR housing whereas I haven't noticed or heard housing brands like Subal, Seacam or Aquatica having this problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you can't afford to make a mistake and flood your camera, maybe you need Hugycheck or something similar. Nauticam's UK agent has said that they are working on it.

Edited by John Bantin
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's a disappointing workaround for a 3.000EUR housing whereas I haven't noticed or heard housing brands like Subal, Seacam or Aquatica having this problem.

You are right about the 3,000 EUR thing, but actually I started using it (recommended by Reef Photo) as I had issues even with my Subal with handle screws etc with the threads binding in the housing, and also my flash synch cord lock nuts etc binding. So I first started using it for this on my Subal not for the Nauticam surface oxidation issue. I think it may help the oxidation issue by insulating the different metals. I'm not advocating smearing this stuff on the actual outside surface as that would be a mess.

Edited by loftus
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can someone elaborate on the Oxidation issue with Nauticam. Is it something that is solved now?

I am sorry for intruding in the Thread...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I use simple silicone grease on the external threads of my NA-7Ds (Mk1 & 2) which has prevented any binding or corrosion in the 2/3 years of ownership. I'd do this with any housing... Neither housing has shown any signs of oxidisation (fitted with sacrificial anodes) and both operate as well as they did on the day of delivery. The UK distributor can return housings to Nauticam for factory servicing for, IIRC correctly, about £200.00 (please chime in Alex). For a little more I know that Nauticam can take a well-used and battered housing and make it like new again...

 

FWIW, my experience of Nauticam's pre and post sales service has been excellent and that they are a Hong Kong / China based company has not been any issue whatsoever.

 

If its any recommendation, to date, I own four housings from Nauticam.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have used both brands extensively in the last few years and recently made the choice between them (and others) when selecting a housing for my D4.

 

Neither would be a poor choice. In fact I believe that they are both in most people's top 3 choices, money no object.

 

In terms of ergonomics (ease of using your camera underwater) I believe that they are strongest two on the market. Nauticam continues to innovate and if you look at the ergonomic features and solutions on their D4 and D800 housings and compare them to any of the Nikon D3 housings on the market (Nauticam didn't make a D3 housing) then the progress is, quite frankly, amazing.

 

The number of controls that have been moved from being push button to being conveniently positioned levers in impressive. As is the Nauticam multi-selector. Plus you've got port lock, great viewfinders, excellent housing latches and a full port and accessory system.

 

The but comes with reliability. And this is a sensitive issue. First because when comparing brands we tend to exaggerate the differences for the sake of comparison. And second because there is a difference between what photographers will say face to face compared with what they will write on a forum. People have even said to me that they dare not speak out against some brands on Wetpixel because they know the dealers are reading!

 

But you would have to live with your head permanently in the sand (or underwater) to not have seen a Nauticam niggles threads. Though it should be stated that there are also a lot of Nauticam's out there now. There is one below this in this forum:

http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=48174

 

That said, I haven't had a problem with a Nauticam that has stopped me shooting. I think that most issues we see are best thought of as housings going out of tune. It is worth budgeting for a service every year or two and you will be insulated from these. Plus the dealers are excellent at staying on top of them. But I have had niggles with the controls on my Nauticams. I have never had a Subal serviced.

 

In the end I chose a Subal for my Nikon D4 (not just over Nauticam - I considered many brands). There were many reasons for this. And yes, it was not as financially attractive as some other brands for me!

 

But one important factor was that I dive and shoot and the Subal's I have owned have been trouble free.

 

Ergonomically, I was attracted to the fact that the Subal D4 had three controls I had not seen on a housing before (Pv, Fn & AF-ON(vert)) all of which are programable. I have written else where on how I can now shoot silhouettes for example with the pull of my right finger. It is a big step on from their D3 housing. And they have focused development on improved ergonomics (moving controls) and improved reliability, beefing up controls that have caused problems in the past and keeping engineering solutions simple. They have also introduced an ISO lever, which was something that Nauticam introduced on their D4 housing.

 

Subal now have a port lock, although this isn't a big issue for me, first I've not had a problem with Subal ports (although have seen others) but also I have a vacuum seal on my housing, which checks for leaks (pre-dive) and holds ports firmly on the housing.

 

I realise that I am not your typical underwater photographer. Shooting a huge amount more than the average. And therefore for me ergonomics and reliability are super important, while for others who dive less regularly all housings are already over engineered for their needs.

 

Alex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't dive nearly as much as Alex, but for me Subal were not completely trouble free - particularly my D700 housing which did not seem to fit my camera with the same precision as my present Nauticam D800. The way this manifested was in the tray seating and some of the controls not engaging properly. Specifically I had niggly problems with the A / M focus lever, the lens release lever, meshing of zoom gears and back buttons from time to time, that required some fiddling and adjustment. Sometimes I could track it back to the tray issue, sometimes back to the individual controls themselves. The Nauticam tray seems to lock the camera in much more securely and precisely, and controls generally seem to mesh more precisely. Subal did have some financial problems a few years back, so I don't know if it was a quality control issue with just my housing or a particular batch of housings.

These niggly issues were part of the reason I changed to Nauticam. Looking at the new Subal housings though, they do look really nice. Alex I really think a port lock without an extension ring lock does not really qualify as a proper port lock. Never flooded mine but came close a few times on some bumpy boat entries, where we both saw others Subal ports twist off and cameras flood.

Edited by loftus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Never flooded mine but came close a few times on some bumpy boat entries, where we both saw others Subal ports twist off and cameras flood.

 

Twice! (In my case)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just got back from a break-in trip to Bonaire for my Subal ND800 with a dive buddy who was also breaking-in his Natuicam D800 housing.

The Subal housing worked flawlessly, I just mounted the body on the tray and slid it into the housing. No problem with accentuating any of the camera functions and no finickiness. I love the way I can feel each click on the command and subcommand dial as I change f stops and speed. The ergonomics make this camera rig easy to handle and a pleasure to dive with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the thread corrosion topic, I would like to note that there will always be corrosion when two dissimilar metals are put together then immersed in saltwater. Every aluminum housing I have ever owned (including most major brands) has had handles and other attachments secured with stainless steel screws, and all of these have shown a tendency to corrode and either disintegrate or weld themselves together over time, in spite of meticulous rinsing and soaking. I have not tried the teflon paste, but I have used a product called Lanicote for years with great success. The trick is to disassemble the housing parts and coat all the threads with whatever type of grease you choose before ever taking the housing into the water. This begs the obvious question: why can't the manufacturers do this? For whatever reason, they don't, and you should. The only other way out is to go with Ikelite, or other non-metal housing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I obviously have some bias here. However, prior to becoming the UK and French distributor of Nauticam, I owned housings from three other brands and I had to get used to working within the mechanical limitations/idiosynchracies/failings of each of them. The inherent difficulty of mechanically operating increasingly complex and small cameras with significant individual tolerances is something faced by all housing manufacturers. I recently too an NEX7 back to the factory which had been purchased in the UK. It was a full mm shorter than the factory working version which had been bought in Hong Kong.

 

It would be disingenuous of any manufacturer, distributor or vendor to claim that their housings never have any issues, we have customers who have moved to us from ALL major brands, many of whom have tales of non-alignment and functionality problems. What makes the difference however is the manufacturer/distributor reaction to these issues.

 

A housing may work 100% when it is first constructed and passes QC perfectly. However, each production housing obviously cannot be tested under the kinds of conditions that Alex uses them before being sold to the end user. Manufacturers therefore rely on feedback from the field surrounding any issues which can be improved into the future.

 

The reason I am so supportive of Nauticam is the seriousness in which they react to such issues. They have recently employed a new recruit with a distinction Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London (a top ten world university specialising in Engineering) who is charged with the responsibility of managing dealer and end user product feedback and acting on this to make any required improvements. As a company, Nauticam are humble enough to welcome and encourage criticism in order that they can make improvements to their products. They have recently opened a number of service centres in their key markets with employees of these having to partake in a rigourous training programme on the assembly line (I was there two weeks ago with the Italian distributor). I think that the responsiveness and seriousness that they deal with any issues is a key factor which has resulted in them being the market force they now are in such a short period.

 

I also think this highlights the importance of buying from a local dealer who can provide support needed if required.

 

That said, if we had issues with every housing we’d sold, I wouldn’t expect our business to have grown as it has and I’d be up to my neck in housings to repair. This is certainly not the case, 95% of our customers have no issues at all.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rob

You don't mention which camera you are buying the housing for. I think that's important since many issues that have been listed may not be an issue in the latest models. I think you should look at the design and reveiws of the latest housings.

I've used the latest Nauticam D800 and 60D (reviewed) relatively extensively (3-4 weeks at a time) and 5D3 and D4. The Nauticam ergonomics is good, and like others have mentioned, it is intricately designed and thus service is more complicated (more man hours needed to do it.) However, I only have 2 major criticisms. The oxidation issue is well documented in the thread and here. My other issue is the zoom and focus gears required the rubber rings of the lens to be removed. I think it is a negative on design and practicality.

Like Alex, none of these issues prevents the housing from working, however, the oxidization in the 60D locked the nut in the handle and prevented me from disassembling the housing for travel in my very limited baggage space, only after 2 weeks of usage.

My Subal experience of late has been testing the D800 and D4 for myself. Both housings work well and with the port lock, my dislike of the 1/4 turn lock port system is squashed although like Loftus says, use of extension rings means the rings are locked and not the port for T3 (I believe T4 ports can do that)! There was an issue with the AF button but it was fixed in less than 20 minutes by dis/re assembly with adjustments. The Subal seems easier to do field repairs due to the less cluttered design.

I have to agree somewhat with Doug. No housing brand is immune to quality issues. I've also had oxidization issues with many brands, except my Seacam 1Ds housing which is still going strong. However, it's really the percentage of production that has quality issues that is more important in distinguishing whether the brand has QC issues. The real issue is which issues you are willing to contend with. We have people putting coatings on parts, duct tape for moving ports and all sorts of work arounds. What are you comfortable with?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there are some good parallels in the car industry. Some hand-made so-called exotic cars give their owners nothing but trouble but the Porsche 911, thanks to its very long production run and constant deveopment proves really reliable. The more you make, the more chance you have of perfecting a product. Blame the digital camera manufacturers for the short production runs engaged in by housing manufacturers! It's almost as if every one is a prototype.

Edited by John Bantin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Car analogies have started! LOL

 

You're right John. I'd like to see the day when manufacturers consult with each other like Porsche did with Toyota, Lamborghini with Audi etc etc. Of course, we don't want a Chrysler with Daimler Benz! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the thread corrosion topic, I would like to note that there will always be corrosion when two dissimilar metals are put together then immersed in saltwater. Every aluminum housing I have ever owned (including most major brands) has had handles and other attachments secured with stainless steel screws, and all of these have shown a tendency to corrode and either disintegrate or weld themselves together over time, in spite of meticulous rinsing and soaking. I have not tried the teflon paste, but I have used a product called Lanicote for years with great success. The trick is to disassemble the housing parts and coat all the threads with whatever type of grease you choose before ever taking the housing into the water. This begs the obvious question: why can't the manufacturers do this? For whatever reason, they don't, and you should. The only other way out is to go with Ikelite, or other non-metal housing.

 

All the connecting holes in Subal housings are not directly threaded. The holes for the handles, tripods and top mount are filled with Helicoil systems (a self thread made in aluminium filled into the hole by the Helicoil technology). This way a stainlees steel screew does not get directly into contact with the aluminium housing and will not corrode. Just a little example of the quality in technology of a Subal housing. Can't really say anything about the Nauticam, except that when I checked the current Nauticam D4 against the one from Subal in a recent dive fair, I felt that the Nauticam was more bulky and less ergonomically than the new ND4. But cerntainly just a personal impression on a high level of both housings.

 

And the inmprovements Subal made over the last few housings are really impressive, as Alex already mentioned. In addition, if using all ports and extension rings with latest type 4 style, then also a full port lock of port and extension ring is available (not in my case since I am still using type 3 ports and extension rings on the type 4 housing,connecting both port adapters). I also noticed recently when testing the leak warning that sound and sight is now effective (a sound beep in former N3 housing was not given, I believe). So for me a change in brands was never a question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only have 2 major criticisms. The oxidation issue is well documented in the thread and here. My other issue is the zoom and focus gears required the rubber rings of the lens to be removed. I think it is a negative on design and practicality.

On the rubber ring thing, I actually like the fact that the ring is removed as this the reason that the zoom gear fits and meshes so well. It can only fit in one precise position, so no adjustment needed or slipping occurs requiring readjustment. I have never taken a zoom ring off a lens once I put it on, and I just keep the ring in the original lens box in case I ever want to put it back on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Despite my destructive habits, I have had a Nauticam survive long enough to service, which was done with accuracy and efficiency. I value the benfits of a supportive Nauticam network. I once had enough money to buy a Subal housing, but at that time support was a bit erratic...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the rubber ring thing, I actually like the fact that the ring is removed as this the reason that the zoom gear fits and meshes so well. It can only fit in one precise position, so no adjustment needed or slipping occurs requiring readjustment. I have never taken a zoom ring off a lens once I put it on, and I just keep the ring in the original lens box in case I ever want to put it back on.

In my years of using screw/slip in gears, I've never had it slip once installed properly. It's an unnecessary step in my opinion. As I said, it's not a big deal... unless one uses their lenses with other focus and zoom rings (for eg. topside video). or borrow/rent glass to test. We're all different in needs and usage, what works for one person doesn't work for others. It doesn't mean the product is inferior, unless there are known QC issues (and obviously it depends on what the QC issues are!).

We all know there are manufacturing tolerances in cameras and housings. Misalignment can easily occur with a few mm discrepancy. Stuff like that is somewhat fixable in the field. Manufacturing defects like dome ports popping off etc etc, while obviously not a common occurrence, are trip ending.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...