Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Get the Latest Underwater Photo Gear from Optical Ocean Sales!

Check out our latest E-Mailer for all the best new #underwaterphotography gear! We've got lots of new products from SUBAL Housings, Kraken Sports, SEACAM, SEA&SEA, Saga Dive, Nauticam, i-Divesite and many others. 
All the latest underwater housings, lights and accessories that you're looking for are at Optical Ocean Sales!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Let Loose the Kraken!

Divers and underwater photographers are being inundated with a dizzying array of new and different lights. Some of these have similar features like a single button for both mode and power, single lith-ion batteries instead of more reliable battery packs and chargers. Most less expensive LED arrays that have hotspots. In other words, buying lights strictly on the basis of lumens for dollars doesn’t always yield the best results.

When you're diving at 80’ and trying to remember how many pushes it takes to turn a light up, or if it’s double-press, or single-press-and-hold to switch it to red mode, it can be frustrating and time-consuming. A flooded light, or batteries and chargers that go bad can kill the light altogether.

There are some very high-end lights on the market; Light & Motion's Sola 8000, Keldan, Fisheye Fix and a few others. These have separate chargers, good controls and excellent reliability. But they tend to be larger and expensive.

Doug Taleski with many years of industry experience and founder of Kraken Sports, has seen them all. And decided to create his own line of high-quality Hydra Lights that are fully-featured and easy-to-use.

The new Hydra series of lights come in 2000, 2800, and 5000 lumen powers. All lights have two buttons for ease of use. Simply press both buttons down to unlock the light, then press the left button to change from red or flood, and on the 2800 and 5000 you can change to spot and UV too. While in these modes, you press the right button to ramp the light power up or down.

The Hydras have dual o-rings and are aluminum with a water resistant light head for flood protection. If you flood them, just rinse them out and put in a new battery!

The 2800 and 5000 and are remote control ready. The remote utilizes a fiber optic cord to conveniently connect with the lights when they are extended out on arms, and it can control the mode or turn them up or down independently, or even put them to sleep. It comes with a universal mount for most handles to place it right at your thumb.

All of the lights utilize multi-cell battery packs, with good quality, fast chargers. Recharge time is about 2.5 hours from completely drained.

The lights all have a very smooth, wide output from their COB led for video. The lights all come in a fitted bag, complete with spare o-rings.

The 2000 is meant as more of a focus light with red and flood white modes only. It comes with a YS mount. The 2800 and 5000 lights come with the additional spot white and UV modes. UV is fun to use with filters to see corals and animals with fluorescence at night. They also come with a ball mount, that’s an option on the 2000.

They will soon have out their new Solar Flare 10000 lumen light with a dome port to keep the light wider underwater.  We look forward to using it’s massive output!

We think that the Kraken Hydra lighting products are a great, well thought-out answer to underwater video and photography lighting.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I-Divesite Symbiosis SS-2 Lighting System Review

Over the years many customers have asked for some sort of combination of video light and strobe. With most new cameras also shooting excellent video, this need has increased. However mounting both types of lights at the same type is bulky and heavy.

Underwater photographers want to keep their rigs small and compact to swim with. It’s especially so in these days of limited baggage when traveling. When you add in extra batteries and chargers, lighting starts to take up significant space.

Ikelite first developed the DS-161 strobe with video light, and it met with some popularity as an all-in-one. However the DS-161 is pretty large and heavy, and the low, 500 lumen output of the the “video” light was weak and uneven.

I-Divesite, also known as I-DAS, located in Hong Kong and distributed in Canada by i-Torch, has made underwater lights and arm systems for sometime. Optical Ocean was one of their first dealers and over the years we’ve seen them develop a wide range of creative and practical underwater lighting ideas.

The Symbiosis Lighting System SS-2 and SS-1 are a well thought out implementation of the combination strobe/light idea. But they’ve taken it a long step farther by making the design modular with well-integrated controls and features.

Current Symbiosis models are shipping with either a 1000 or 2000 lumen head. Different light heads can be interchanged, and in the near future there will be a wide selection of lights available including 4000 lumen, narrow beam, UV and more. As lighting technology is changing rapidly, photographers can simply upgrade their lights’ heads and not have to replace the entire thing. Same with batteries. The light head and battery can be combined with a (soon to be released) light adapter for a stand-alone light with a convent socket provided to add a mount or handle. Planned also are an optional dome diffuser and a snoot for a more directed strobe light.

The specifications of the Symbiosis strobe are impressive and competitive with other strobes and lights. The SS-2 features a guide number of 32 and an energy-rating of 108 watt-seconds, and the SS-1 has a guide number of 24 and 54 watt-seconds. Both have a beam angle of 90 or 100 degrees with a diffuser (that cuts down the power by 1 full-stop). Color temperature on either is 5700K. Having a battery pack gives the strobe a fast recycle time; a full dump takes 1.6secs on the SS-2 and only .08 sec on the SS-1. However any smaller power setting or auto will be almost instantaneous.

When used in the focus light mode with the strobe on as well, the video light head is limited to 2600 lumens of output. What’s nice is that is has an auto off/on  trigger so the light won’t show up in your photos. But that can be over-ridden (SS-2 only) and the light be used in fill-in mode as well.

The strobes connect with fiber optical sync only. They do not work in TTL, but have two Auto Flash settings; A1 (.5 to 2 meters) and A2 (.2 to .5 meters). Most impressively they have a very adjustable manual control; the SS-2 has 15 steps and the SS-1 has 8 steps.

Controls are simple; two knobs one for on/off & mode, one for power level, a button to override the light into video or red light. and a test button (something missing from many strobes).

The back display is impressive. There’s a mode/strobe recycle light that changes colors depending on the mode or when the store is recharged and on the SS-2, and an LCD display that does much of the work.

The LCD display is bright, backlit with fairly large numbers and a display that’s easy to read - even in the dark. What’s even cooler is that the display swivels if you turn the strobe upside down - something I almost always do as I move closer to the subject. No need to re-orient to upside down numbers! The display shows mode/power level, battery remaining and a reminder what mode the light is mode in (white/red/video). It’s easy to understand and read, something that’s nice on a busy dive at 80’.

We tested two prototype SS-2 strobes on our Red Sea Photo Expedition this year. They featured a 4000 lumen light head which we found more than adequate for video use with a GH-4 and 7-14 lens. Color temp was fine and the light bright and even. It was very convent to switch between video and strobe/focus light modes at the push of a button. The nicest improvement was the overall size and ease of use of the rigs; no needing to mount a separate light for video if you want to take both stills and footage!

Battery life varies depending on how much, and at what power, you use the LED light. In our testing we found there was more than enough power to use both for a dive or two in mixed usage. If only used as a video light, it lasted one dive. Recharging the battery was easy, just unscrew the battery and plug in the smart charger; it took about an hour and a half in our experience. From a dead state, the specifications say it may take 2.5 hours to fully charge it. I would buy a spare set of batteries and rotate them if you are doing multiple dives.

For stills the strobe performed pretty well. Our prototype had only a 24 GN so it seemed a little under-powered when compared with the YS-D1/D2 strobes we were using, and a diffuser was definitely needed - all issues now improved on the shipping version. Recycle was very fast, we never seemed to be waiting for it.

We weren’t able to try the auto mode out (due to lack of instructions), but to use it you set the strobe to one of the auto modes, then take a test shot and correct the strobe ev output. It will then automatically adjust itself up or down 8 steps depending on the light that is reflected to the strobe head. As long as the camera settings don’t change, you won’t need to adjust the strobe to get the same exposure. Like many TTL or auto modes, it’s probably most useful for macro or closer-in types of shots. For our use we used manual and adjusted as we needed to. The SS-2 strobe was probably the easiest to adjust manual strobe we’ve used, as you can easily see the ramp of 15 1/3 ev steps on the LCD; no switch detents to click through, or tiny labels to read.

The i-Divesite Symbiosis strobes come in a complete kit with both YS and ball mounts, diffuser, smart charger, spare orings and grease, and a well-written manual. The SS-1 is $599 and the SS-2 is $699.

In our evaluation, the $100 difference in price between the SS-1 and SS-2 is well worth it. With the SS-2 you get a more powerful strobe, a much more adjustable output, better features and best of all the LCD display.

We think the i-Divesite Symbiosis strobes are a creative new underwater lighting product that has a well-engineered combination of features, controls, power with future modular upgrade-ability that make it a great value for photographers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Subal Underwater Photo Systems Now Available at Optical Ocean Sales!

We're now a Subal dealer!

Subal has made some of the finest quality underwater housings available since 1954, and we're proud to now be a stocking dealer for them! Stop in and see Austrian-quality, hand-crafted housings, ports, gears and accessories for the Canon 5DS/r, and Olympus E-M1.

We'll soon have one of the first Subal ND500 housings available for the Nikon D500 DSLR in stock!

Congratulations to Kona Underwater Photography Shootout Winners!

1st Place overall and 1st Place Wide AngleBo Pardau
We were happy to be a sponsor of the 1st Kona Underwater Photo Shootout along with Kona Honu Divers and other leading manufacturers! Some great photos and good fun! Congratulations to the winners!

3rd Place Wide AngleDeron Verbeck
and a $100 gift certificate from
Optical Ocean Sales.
The results of the 2016 Kona Underwater Shootout are in! A big THANK YOU to our sponsors for this year's event; SEA&SEA Underwater Imaging, Waterproof USA, Optical Ocean Sales, Light and Motion Dive, TUSA, Cressi, MARES - just add water.

Twelve contestants gathered from Oahu, California and Kona at the headquarters of Kona Honu Divers on Friday May 20th to celebrate the start of the competition. The contestants had 2 days to shoot wherever and whatever they wanted, as long as the images were uploaded by midnight on Sunday the 22nd

By the end judges, Doug Perrine and Jeff Milisen, had the difficult choice of trying to determine which images deserved top honors. With such varied subjects as models, baitballs, moray eels, blackwater critters and even minute brittlestars, the choices weren't easy to make. Nonetheless, the winning images emerged in each category and with an overall combined score the winning photographers picked their prize out of a pile of gifts ranging from wetsuits, dive computers, gift certificates, light, strobes, regulators, masks, dive bags and lots of other goodies.

Honorable Mention Macro by Tim Ewing and a $100 gift certificate from Optical Ocean Sales!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nauticam Sony NA-6300 Underwater Housing: First Look Review

We just received our first Nauticam NA-6300 housing for the Sony a6300 camera. We noticed quite a few refinements and small additions over their older NA-6000 housing that we thought we’d report on.

The size and weight is about the same as the older housing, and a bit more rounded and tapered on the top. There are many small changes like larger more robust knobs present throughout.

The first thing we saw was that there are now two bulkhead ports to accommodate both M14 and M16 bulkheads, or the new push button vacuum release valve. It works with the included leak detection electronics of the housing to quickly let you know if you have a pressure leak before it becomes a water intrusion. Having dual bulkhead ports was first introduced on larger SLRs, then on the small Sony NA-RX100IV housing. It gives you the ability to add the vacuum valve and either an external monitor like the SmallHD 502, or an electrical bulkhead for strobes.

Speaking of strobes, we also noticed that Nauticam has slightly canted the optical port cover to allow for a little less strain on sync cords and better passage of light.

One of the main control improvements is with the shutter release. It’s now a little longer and sleeker, with a more tapered design at a slight angle to allow easier usage. But one of the coolest improvements over the a6000 housing, is the included external shutter release trigger and brackets.

When mounted under the brackets with Nauticam’s adjustable FlexiTray, it allows you to adjust the trigger to be directly under your fingertips and to adjust the amount of “pull” you like to obtain a half-press for AF and release the shutter. Introduced last year, this external trigger has also had some small tweaks. The brackets now have the little black plastic shims locked into place and thumbscrews are now provided, which makes this much easier to assemble.

Having these extras included along with the usual complete set of extra brings, grease and tools, shows the attention to detail that Nauticam brings to their products.

That detail also shows when moving to the inside of the housing. Keeping the housing small and moving controls to a logical position, they are ergonomically laid out so they are comfortable to access. All the usual Nauticam innovations are present such as the locking, movable “foolproof” bayonet port system and interchangeable eyepiece for the viewfinder. Noticeably, the lens release has been moved to the lower left via a long lever to a much better position. The electronics for the leak detain system are now also sealed, except for the battery.

The NA-6300 works well with the rest of the Nauticam optics system. They support a very wide array of ports for consumer and pro E-mount lenses. Although the Sony 16-50mm power zoom lens is not as highly regarded as the other Zeiss models, Nauticam has developed a high-quality versatile solution for this “kit” lens with their WWL-1 Wide Angle Lens and CMC-1 Compact Macro Converter. This allows for a “one lens” solution to cover everything from macro to 130° FOV wide angle shots and is perfect for video with the electronic zoom capabilities of the lens. (See our earlier report here for photos using a similar Olympus solution).

We think the Sony a6300 is a winner with 4K video and 24 MP stills and much improved AF and metal body construction. It has has a lot of great improvements that make it a strong successor to the Sony line-up. Nauticam has taken that baton and carried it across the finish line with their elegant NA-6300 underwater housing.

Red Sea Expedition Video on Nauticam GH4

Optical Ocean's Margo Cavis has finished up her Red Sea Aggressor Trip Video! We spent a week on this great liveaboard on the southern route to St. John's Reef.

She's done an outstanding job with her Nauticam GH4 and Olympus 7-14mm lens set up. Thanks also to Light & Motion for the use of their great Sola 8000 Video Lights.

This was a group effort with many customers adding in stills as well!

Don't miss out! Join us on the next OOS Photo Expedition to Dive into Lembeh Resort next fall!

Monday, April 11, 2016

A New User's Observations on the Nauticam Panasonic LX100

Rick Williams recently purchased a complete Nauticam NA-LX100 system from us and we thought his story was one that many new underwater photographers would enjoy, no matter what camera they are using.


I wanted to let you know how pleased I am with the Panasonic Lumix LX100 and Nauticam system and I wanted to send you some of my best shots to show results.

Buying the full kit was a way of challenging myself and to overcome the frustration that I couldn't tell the camera what I wanted it to do.  That said, now I had the kit that would listen but was I really ready to know what I wanted?

Answer, yes, but it took a bit of time.  The first outing was a week to Bonaire in the Caribbean.  A bit of shore diving, a bit of boat diving and lots of opportunity for morning and evening dives.  This being my first real dive series, the camera, housing and strobes makes one very disciplined but it all made it to the hotel and putting it together finally was quite a thrill.  A few tests to ensure the fiber optic link to the strobe was working and I was ready.  But a lesson to the intrepid diver.  Don't change too many things at the same time.  For me, a new 5 mil wetsuit, new BC, new mask and new camera it was a frustrating couple of days where the buoyancy and getting to know where things should be took away the focus on photography.   I ended up with no flotation disks on the camera - it is about 2 pounds negatively buoyant but keeps both hands occupied so longs swims can be a chore.  Shore diving with the camera was difficult.  I'm getting older and stiffer so getting out in the surge and putting on fins was a challenge with only one hand.  I've seen a set up with two straps holding the camera by the handles and connecting to the BC so I recommend that if you do shore dives.

First two dives showed me that I needed to have two modes ready - one without flash and one with.  So I experimented with the custom settings but ended up relying on the iA setting for shots without flash.  That gives the all-blue coloration but can be adjusted to reasonable degree in RAW.  With flash I was not happy with the first series as the view in the finder wasn't helping me compose and focus.  So I shifted to the center single focus point with the picture in picture setting and zoomed in post-shot display.  OK - now I can see what I'm getting (at least what shows in the display).  I was using RAW (with large JPEG so I could see the results each evening).  My settings were aperture priority F8 or F16 with auto ISO and auto speed.  Not great results as the camera in AUTO mode is not really your friend.  It took me a few days to figure out that I needed to take more direct control so I set shutter speed to 200 (yes I know it is 1/200) so the shutter sync limit of 250 wouldn't hurt.  Tried that for a few dives and again, I was getting too much burn on many shots.  Then I finally got it better and took off the AUTO ISO and just set it for 200 fixed.  Now things were cooking.  You said that you would be providing a recommended slate of LX100 settings so I would love to see that.