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Scratched dome ports

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A lot of my diving involves swimming through small spaces in the dark and I realised early on I was going to have a problem with keeping my dome port scratch-free. I chose an 8" acrylic dome port for my Aquatica because it was big enough for my rectilinear 14mm lens, small enough to fit through holes, and light enough to carry around. Easier to buff out and cheaper to replace were also considerations.

 

After I got my first scratch I went and bought some acrylic polishing paste and polished it mostly out. Dive and repeat...after two years I gave up and bought a second dome port. The idea was to use the pre-scratched one for the difficult dives but since those were the ones I wanted the best photos from, it didn't really work and the second one rapidly ended up scratched. Before Xmas I tried this:

post-26465-0-61720500-1452383466_thumb.jpg

 

Then I went to Truk Lagoon and scratched it again.

 

So.

 

My 5DII is now 6.5 years old and in the next 18 months or so I am looking to replace it. I'm unlikely to stay with an Aquatica housing for the new camera as I haven't been happy with its performance below 60m. Buying a third Aquatica 8" dome port now seems silly.

 

Other options:

1. A glass Aquatica 9.25" port. Drawbacks - bigger, heavier in and out of the water, expensive. Pros - harder to scratch?? Cons - impossible to polish.

2. A non-Aquatica port for forwards compatibility. I couldn't work out whether some of the Zen options can be swapped between different housing brands, and if so, whether adaptors are required.

3. A better dome cover system. My current neoprene cover comes with me on dives but requires two and a half hands to put it on the dome, so I usually leave it off for the whole dive. A cover system that flicked on and off with one hand would be great. Is there anything out there?

4. Polish the least-damaged port again and deal with it...does anyone know how much acrylic you can remove before the depth rating starts to suffer?

 

What would you do?

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Well,

 

I have an Aquatica for my Canon 5D Mark II.

 

If you are in the actual business of photography it pays to have the best port. I have some small scratches on my acrylic port that I have been using for several years and they don't affect the image at all so yours must be pretty deep. I have used a soft cover that I can quickly release to protect it. It takes an additional second or two but it has spared me the issues you have encountered. In a place like Truk I wouldn't have a problem because most of the shots would have been somewhat staged (i.e. had time to set up the shot) and thus not an issue. A place like Palau where pelagics come and go quickly it can be different story unless you are hanging out at a place like Blue Corner and strapped in due to currents with the big fish coming and going. I only get two to three weeks of diving a year so I can't compare what your time under water is but like I said I haven't had the small scratches affect the photos.

 

The acrylic dome tends to cause the dome side to float up and was putting some stress on my wrists until I added weight in a funky kind of arrangement set up by the folks at Cathy Church's dive center. It's a pain but it works. With glass you don't need as much weight if at all but then the glass requires somewhat more float support. The one thing when diving I have done is to have the camera in my right hand with neutral buoyancy and pull the unit behind me to somewhat protect it also (while in more open spaces). The strobe are tucked in tight and easy to flare out when I do this to save a little time. It also cuts down on the drag. In tight spaces I have the unit in front of me since I sometimes use the focusing lights to act as a flashlight as I travel through wrecks or caverns. It gives me better control when the unit is neutral in my opinion.

 

I did have a smaller dome port on my Canon S95 housing and it was made of glass. It scratched to the point it was useless so to use it again would mean buying another.

 

I have bought a second housing and ports on ebay and wet pixel at great prices. You can a lot of times get steep discounts but you have to set the both sites up to flag you when the dome ports pop up on the radar screen because they will go fast. Be patient if this is your strategy since they are not always on sale.

 

The Meltdownman

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http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=8698

 

If the scratches aren't too deep, the headlight repair kits with sandpaper do fine. My friend took a razor to the top and bottom edges on his neoprene dome cover so it would go over more easily and stay on underwater. He just cut a groove to slip over the shade rings.

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I have the same dome and after losing a couple of the tight fitting neoprene covers which cannot be put on UW, I had my wife make a loose fitting cover out of terrycloth. It's oversize both in diameter and width, so it doesn't fit tightly, but once wet, clings to the dome shade pretty well. And it's thick enough to provide protection as I enter and exit the water. I rarely use it any longer as I mostly dive with folks who know how to handle cameras to avoid scratches.

 

I'll be unpacking my photo gear later this week for an upcoming trip and can send a couple photos if interested.

 

Harry

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Hi Liz,

 

my 2c. Given that you're a dedicated Rock and Rust diver :mocking: I think glass is probably a no go as it's only a matter of time before you'd

ruin an expensive dome. Having said that glass is said to be more resistant to scratching.

 

I guess if you went that way then some kind of plastic lid/cap could be useful to protect it when going through tight places. But then

that's an extra bit of stuff to handle UW.

 

RE Zen domes, I believe housing mounts can be interchanged not sure if you need to send back to have done. Best contact the folks

at Reef for info.

 

Cheers,

Jim.

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Hi Liz

 

For travelling, when I travel alone and do not have my wife to share her carry-on luggage, I need to check in some stuff. When that happens, one of the things that I put in the checked in luggage is the dome (the same one you have). I use for protection a “Tupperware-like” plastic container with the “right” size. I use it also when I put the dome in a box for travelling in the car with all the equipment or when the equipment is “resting” at home.

I attached 2 pictures to show it. One with the neoprene cover and the other without it.

post-7244-0-06871300-1452474315_thumb.jpg

post-7244-0-71512900-1452474343_thumb.jpg

 

With a small DIY project, you can use one like this to make an “hard-shell” to protect you dome when going through the narrow holes…

 

post-7244-0-39952600-1452474350_thumb.jpg

If you make 4 small hole on the side and pass 2 elastic cords, you grant it in place, and make it easy to put it and take it. On red to secure the protection, on green how to place the elastic to take out or put the protection on the dome. You can make 2 small loops/knots on the elastic to make it easier to pull it either with gloves either with the housing (there is not so much space there).

As you can see, the container I have is quite the same size the dome, it will not increase the size of the rig. If needed, you can make small holes near the from corner of the container to help release the water and air, but I would do this only after validating if they are really needed (as every hole you will put there, will reduce the overall strength of the hitec protection for your dome.

 

BR

 

Pedro Alves

 

 

PS - I do not know the brand of the one I use, what I did was to take the dome with me and went to the supermarket and tried on. It took me at least 3 different stores/chains to find this one, but it is a cheap and till the moment effective way to protect it…

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If you are in the actual business of photography it pays to have the best port.

 

Yes. As it stands, neither of my domes would be acceptable for commercial videography. For photography they are ok as long as there is no light pointing into the lens (i.e. fine in dark holes where all models have good lighting manners). Second-hand is a great market but the exchange rate AUD:USD is not great at the moment which is limiting my market.

 

 

If the scratches aren't too deep, the headlight repair kits with sandpaper do fine. My friend took a razor to the top and bottom edges on his neoprene dome cover so it would go over more easily and stay on underwater. He just cut a groove to slip over the shade rings.

 

Maybe it's time to try sandpaper instead of the Novus paste. I do like the orbital sander though - it made polishing heaps quicker! Not sure I'd be game to use it with sandpaper instead of the lambswool buffer.

 

I have already acquired a Nauticam dome cover which has the slits for the dome shade top and bottom and is slightly easier to put on. I like the idea of the terry-towelling. Ideally the dome cover would stay attached to the housing and could be secured so that it doesn't get in the way of photographs. Then I wouldn't have to worry about clipping it off or putting in a pocket. Maybe a secure attachment point on the top of the dome would make it easier to stretch the cover down over the dome...

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Has there been any further commercial progress on Wide Angle conversion ports like the one Alex Mustard was trialing.

 

That would tick all the boxes. Small profile, easy to cap and great optics.

 

Cheers,

Jim.

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"Maybe it's time to try sandpaper instead of the Novus paste. I do like the orbital sander though - it made polishing heaps quicker! Not sure I'd be game to use it with sandpaper instead of the lambswool buffer."


 

They use a handheld Velcro holder for the two grades of abrasive, 1000 and 2000 grit. I usually spend about half an hour carefully and evenly cutting the surface to keep it round before pulling out the drill and supplied buffing wheel and polish. You have to be really even or you'll flatspot the dome. My small dome comes from Bare and I can send it in for a new bubble if it gets really dinged up. He only makes them for Nexus, though, so I had to buy a Sea & Sea adapter for Nexus domes.

Edited by Larry C

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Has there been any further commercial progress on Wide Angle conversion ports like the one Alex Mustard was trialing.

 

That would tick all the boxes. Small profile, easy to cap and great optics.

 

Part of the reason why I'm seriously considering a Sony A7R and Nikonos 15mm wet contact lens for my next rig. Battery life and the fact that the thing is so frigging expensive are the two things holding me back. And if the tiny lens front did end up scratched, another 15mm lens is cheaper than a new dome port. This only works until the limited supply starts to run out though.

 

 

They use a handheld Velcro holder for the two grades of abrasive, 1000 and 2000 grit. I usually spend about half an hour carefully and evenly cutting the surface to keep it round before pulling out the drill and supplied buffing wheel and polish. You have to be really even or you'll flatspot the dome. My small dome comes from Bare and I can send it in for a new bubble if it gets really dinged up. He only makes them for Nexus, though, so I had to buy a Sea & Sea adapter for Nexus domes.

 

This is a good point - sandpaper by hand and then speed up the polishing process with the power tool. Given the dome will be going past 100m, I worry about impacting the depth rating with repeated polishings. Having a dome implode with a bang on one of those dives would be a brown pants moment.

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So I emailed Backscatter and Rob very helpfully told me that the Zen port itself doesn't change mounts. However there is an adaptor from the Aquatica mount to a Nauticam mount (my current thinking on new housing brand) for $240. So I guess I just keep polishing and hold off purchasing as long as possible, then buy another Aquatica dome when needed. If it's still in good nick when the new housing arrives, add $240 to the price to be able to use the old dome.

 

Next time I have a free weekend I will pull some time into constructing alternative dome covers. Meanwhile this weekend I am off doing sump diving exploration. Once the camera comes out of the caving pack it's almost guaranteed to pick up another few scratches. Here's hoping I get some pictures that make it worth the pain.

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