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Wednesday, August 19, 2009 

Compact DSLR Systems; Comparing the Olympus PT-E06 and Sea & Sea RDX Systems


I get quite a few emails asking about the Olympus PT-E06 and Sea & Sea RDX systems, as they are light, compact and relatively inexpensive. Sea & Sea's RDX housing has a received a recent upgrade for the Canon T1i 500 camera which has video, 15MP, and a lot of other new technology. It also has a more expandable lens base than the Olympus E620 or Nikon D60. Lets look at a comparison, keeping in mind that both are systems and you really need to figure lenses, ports and strobes into the picture.

Both the Sea & Sea and Olympus housings are reasonably small and lightweight, quite neutral in the water, and easy to swim. This is due to their plastic polycarbonate construction. The S&S has a 200’ depth rating, (the Oly is 140’), has metal latches, beefier build quality and controls. The Oly is a bit lighter in build quality and its overall look and feel, but both work well and fit your hands easily. You can substitute a different viewfinder to the Sea & Sea.

The S&S has two hardwire strobe ports in addition to the dual optical sync ports that both feature. You can add a TTL converter and it uses a better, industry standard bulkhead (plug) - more choices on strobes down the line. The Oly has one bulkhead and it is proprietary, only hooks to Oly strobes. Both are easy to load; camera goes on a tray that slides in and locks down.

But most people use fiber optic sync anyway as it is cheaper, easier and the Olympus UFL-2 strobe provides nice TTL, controllable from the camera, but it is a less powerful strobe than the Sea & Sea YS110a (same price for both strobes). In my experience its recycle time is also slower. The YS-110a allows for D-TTL with the fiber optic connection. Some have used this strobe on the Olympus system with good success. There is also the less expensive, manually controlled YS-27DX strobe. It's less powerful, but you can buy two of them for about the price of one YS-110a, and it’s not a bad product.

The ports are quite different. The Oly uses a screw on port. Each lens pretty much requires a different port and they are a bit limited to working with Olympus lenses. The dome port for wide angle is high quality glass, but pricey. Their ports include a focus gear to drive the zoom. There are third party ports that offer different options.

The S&S uses a bayonet mount. The RDX system has a standard port that accommodates the “kit lens” as well as the 60mm macro! You can buy an adapter ring and then you have access to a very extensive array of NX S&S ports. You have choices on dome ports, etc. for various wide angle lenses Third party lenses are supported to an extent. Focus gears are sold separately.

Sea & Sea supports a pretty expansive list of lenses and more are being added all the time. You can piece together different rings and adapters with various ports to work with other lenses, which you can’t do with the Olympus. This also becomes a factor when traveling, as you have to take several ports for the Oly, but maybe only a couple of ports plus adapters for the S&S.

As far as trays and arms, Sea & Sea sells the excellent, but again pricey Grip Stay-L RDX tray that will fit either the Oly or S&S housings. It has pistol grips and lots of adjustment with a cool quick release clamp. However, Optical Ocean sales will be offering a new DSLR tray with taller rubber grip handles for about half the cost of the Sea & Sea offering. It will also fit both housings and is lighter weight but sturdy. It should be available in a couple of weeks.

So overall, the S&S is more expensive going in, by about $7-800 more, but you’ll cover more lenses and get a higher quality, and more flexible, system overall. Like all DSLR systems, you want to put your money into lenses, ports and strobes, as these can be used over and over as you progress with new bodies and housings.

If I was to be buying a system at this level, the S&S RDX-500/Canon t1i 500 with the YS-110a strobe is what I’d get. It’s a better camera than the Nikon D-60 or the Oly E-620, albeit more expensive.

Sea & Sea Links
Here’s a product press release page:
RDX-500D

Here’s the product page for the RDX-450, they are very similar in feature sets.
RDX-450D

Here’s the system port chart to show supported lenses;
RDX-450D system Chart for Canon

Olympus Links
Olympus E620 Accessories

Thanks for the information. I had some questions but you answer most of them.
I have a nikonos sb 105 strobe for my old nx50 housing, is there any way I can use these strobe with the RDX-500D housing?.
Is there a way to sale my nx50 sea and sea housing?

Thanks again!

My address is david@rayosmotoclub.com

You can only use it indirectly as a slaves second strobe. The difficulty is controlling the light output.

Film housings are pretty hard to sell, I guess I'd try Ebay.

Jack

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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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