Tuesday, October 31, 2006 

Buy a Canon Rebel 350XL or 400xTi & Fantasea Housing?

Mail call:
Recently I have felt "limited" by some of the capabilities of (my digicam) system, and am seriously considering upgrading. The Canon Digital Rebel Xt (with the Canon kit lens 15 - 55?) (350D) looks like something that I can afford, but I am having a hard time picking a housing/port to suit.

The 350XT Rebel and housing is a great set up and is very affordable as the new 400xTi is coming online.

I'd recommend the 580EX strobe housing for Canon's strobe as a great option that includes TTL and in-camera control. The big advantage is that you also have an awesome topside strobe as well.

I sold a complete F350D setup to a lady in Canada and she likes it quite well, except for a few small things and the lack of an optical viewfinder in that housing.

"The housing itself is a joy - small, light, just enough positive buoyancy in salt water with the Canon 580EX in its housing to be no worries.
The three snaps are great, and I can even open and close all at once. The camera slides into the housing beautifully on its plastic base, no fiddling needed. I even found the little gap under the plate useful for stuffing silica (pouches) They also weren't needed - no moisture (from sweating) in the case - whoopie!" — Jennifer R, Ontario Canada

The good news is that Fantasea is greatly improving their housings for current models, like the 350 XT, the new 400 xTi and Nikon D50, D70 & new D80. They will have an embedded optical viewfinder, better port system, improved trigger/shutter control system and many more improvements. All come standard with a port and flood insurance. The standard Canon port fits the kit lens with zoom gear, but also the 60mm macro lens, which would be my first lens choice. The FD50N & FD70N housing with those features is currently in stock. The other housings are going to be available by early January. I'm promised a Nikon D80 housing and will do a no-BS review.

Bottom line advice? For whatever housing line you choose, I would buy a current camera and housing. You will enjoy all the new features and have a better return on your investment when you go to upgrade. The small difference in cost between a Canon 350XT and a 400xTi is well worth the features. The housings cost about the same for most cameras (around $849 on my site). I haven't seen pricing on the new 400 or Nikon D80 housings, but they tell me it's no more than a $50 or so increase.

OR, buy used. Enjoy the depreciation, use and learn the system, spend the extra money on lenses.

Thursday, October 19, 2006 

Ike Compact Housing with LED44 & Port Mount

Having a decent focus light can greatly improve your photography, particularly when shooting macro. The camera locks focus much more quickly and yo can see the critter and frame faster and see your focus point. If you're just using one strobe, then using another arm works fine to hold a light. But if you use two strobes, how can you mount a light, if your housing doesn't have a built-in mount?

Enter Fantasea Line's Port Mount Bracket. Available in three sizes (92, 101 & 104mm) to fit the ports on their DSLR housings, I've adapted it pretty easily to fit my Ikelite Fuji F810/E900 and similar compact housings that use the Ike lens adapter for Inon external lenses. Other housings that have a port with a wider, round shape probably would work as well.

The mount justs fits nicely over the lens mount. You do have to cut it down and re-drill about a 5/16" hole carefully. Clamp the strap down on both sides to a piece of scrap and drill a pilot hole first. Not hard.

The LED44 is a great LED light with a soft, white wide beam. It uses 5 alkaline batteries (I don't recommend rechargeables) and lasts for several days of shooting, like 12-15 dives.

I don't use the Ikelite flash blocker. It is very awkward and falls off. I use a Fantasea optic cable that velcros on the front. Then I just tape off the inside of the housing with tape except for a small area where the cable attaches. You cannot use the internal flash with the lens adapter it results in a big shadow.

There's a few more photos here.
I have the parts for sale as a package:
Fantasea Line LED44 and Port Mount Bracket Package.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 

Big Fish, Little Fish - Gulf Islands, Day 2

Sunday greeted us with wet, cold, but fortunately, moderate winds. We met down at the Cape Able and loaded our gear, and after a short wait for Erin and the tanks, we got underway. Plan A was to do the wall at Turn Point and the then the McKenzie wreck. But as we motored out Erin was checking with his other boat and decided we'd be best to to do the wreck first, right after the other boat.

We all got in, and dropped on the 366' destroyer in almost no current, descending on the wheelhouse in the middle. Viz was pretty good, maybe 40', at least until the crowd got it silted up.

The wreck is covered in barnacles and white plumose annenomes and although impressive, I couldn't find much to shoot except him in a few poses, so he became the Cosmo Girl for the dive; Ed on the bow, Ed on the guns, etc. I wanted to shoot some available light, but couldn't seem to get the ISO on the camera to change (#@*&%!) and with the silt, it was hard to get much except backscatter.

We poked around, with Paul zooming by us on my scooter having a good time circling the wreck. I shot a few on the accumulations of tube worms and right when we were about to go up a large Cabazon swam by and conveniently lay down next to the rail so i could shoot him from underneath and I got some good shots of the monster. We managed to get back up to the surface of, even with the moderate surface currents that had kicked in.

The second dive was supposed to be the 500' deep wall at Turn Point on Stuart island, back just over the US border, but when got there Erin asked if we'd just as soon do the north side. I took a vote and nobody had any feelings one way or the other so i opted to do the easier dive, being that we were a bit tired. With 20-20 hindsight I wish now we'd done the wall as it is spectacular, but as it turned out several of us had great dives among the ridges and smaller wall on that side, some seeing basket stars, octos, nudibranchs and more. Definitely more photo-friendly.

I was shooting some of the D. albus nudis in several shades of coloration and spotted Greg shooting something below me that looked like a barnacle with fins. Aha, a juvenile Grunt Sculphin, and one fish I haven't shot much, as they are very reclusive. He was all of an inch long soaking wet. My Sulawesi macro diving kicked in, and after a few shots with one macro lens, I stacked another, lay down on the bottom and took some great shots of just his head. Did you know they have bright green eyes?

We motored back to Sidney as the weather finally started clearing off, packed up and took the ferry back to Vancouver enjoying the beauty of the typical PNW "wait-a-minute" weather.

A great weekend with my club dive buddies, and I think we'll do more Gulf Island Getaways next year.

View slideshow

Sunday, October 15, 2006 

Gulf Islands Getaway - Day 1

So I'm back in the hotel room after along day and dinner. Just did a quick pass through the pics, batteries charging, tired and full of pizza.

Doc Kay is snoring up a storm and I have the Dixie Chicks on my headphones drowning him out.

The day went well, despite missing summer by a day. It's been beautiful for the last 2 weeks, sunny, crisp and clear. Of course today it was thick fog, then wind and rain tonight. More of the same for tomorrow. Ah well, typical PNW weather, we're at home in it.

The boat is excellent and Ogden Pt Dive Centre is doing their usual superb job - by far and away one of the best operators and shops in the area. Erin, the owner, knows these waters well and always is easy to solve a problem, or come up with options. And a really nice guy to boot.

The Cape Able is 45' steel re-designed for diving completely, including a ramp entry, huge stern grate and two easy ladders. A bit snug for 12, but no huge problem once we got organized. Full galley, with a small dinette and propane fireplace, but the wheelhouse is where most of us spent the day watching the scenery (ok - gray water) slip by swapping stories. Comfy, cozy and powerful, everything you want around here.

Dive 1 was at Race Point in Portier Pass, quite a nice wall, we were a bit late getting in and fought the current a bit, but no big deal. Covered with all the usual PNW invertebrates from top to bottom.

Dive 2 was to the SE entrance to Active Pass, Grace Point and this one is going in my log for a place to dive even when a good ebb is running, as even with 4-5 knots out in the pass, we were in an eddy and enjoyed little current and lots of small stuff, capped by a whole herd of Puget Sound King Crabs.

Hope to do the King Kong wall at Turn Point thats 300' deep and the wreck of the HMCS McKenzie, an artificial reef destroyer tomorrow.

Day 2

View slideshow

About Jack

  • Adventurer, diver, sailor, photographer, writer and sometimes graphic designer. Proprietor of Optical Ocean Sales, LLC. Enjoy the blog, check back and please leave comments!
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