Wednesday, November 11, 2015

DEMA Underwater Photography Equipment Highlights

Speakers like Amos Nachoum shared astounding images and stories at DEMA.

Every year the Diving Equipment & Manufacturers Association has their annual tradeshow with lots of new products being introduced. It has become the best worldwide meeting spot for all industry people, with a large contingent of underwater photography folks and companies present. I look forward to going each year and seeing with present vendors and meeting new and old friends.

This year it was held in Orlando, Florida and it seemed to many of us to be a year with many improvements and product line expansions, but with few earthshaking photo product introductions. Nevertheless, there are many new products that will be coming available soon or in the first quarter of next year.

I talked with Edward Li and Ryan Canon from Nauticam for quite a while about their new Wet Wide Lens 1 that was recently introduced. It is a wet wide angle lens that can be added to many cameras including compacts, micro-four thirds and even the A7II series. It is used with the shorter normal focus lenses to extend their field of view to 120-130° with very sharp corners, unlike many lens solutions available currently. For compacts like the RX100 series with a 24mm lens it does require you to zoom in a bit. However it now provides full zoom-through which is important for video and previously only available on very high-end Fathom lenses for video cameras. For micro-four thirds when combined with the small 14-42EZ lens in  short port it can be used in conjunction with the CMC to switch from wide angle to macro on a single dive. For full-frame mirrorless cameras like the A7II, it provides a more reasonably cost-efficient, very high-quality and physically smaller wide angle solution, than current mid-range zooms.

New also is their rugged and easy-to-use bayonet mounting system for 67mm lenses like the WWL-1, CMC and SMC macro closeup lenses. I’ve used the Inon bayonets in the past and while they worked pretty well, the Nauticam adapter handles large lenses like the WWL-1 with ease and it’s larger knurled mounting ring and red release lever make mounting simple and more secure. They will also have a arm mount in single and double configurations so that you can park the lenses while not in use.

Nauticam has also just released their new Panasonic GX8 and Olympus E-M10II housings. Funny how they were almost an afterthought to the WWL optics. Both will work well with it.

Sea & Sea
Sea & Sea continues to improve and create it’s underwater photo line up. They were showing off their new and improved YS-D2 strobe and MDX-EM5MKII housing for the Olympus EM5MKII, as well as their new A7II housing. These products are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but really shows their attention to detail and dedication to the market. They also support and extend Sea & Sea’s unique optical sync technology with their TTL controllers available for most of the MDX line-up.

Ikelite has been very busy rethinking and redesigning their housing line up. Coming into the new year they will have a new port locking system based on their successful micro four-thirds port system. Now there is a locking collar on the ports that fits over an o-ring on a sleave on the housing. It seems to be a better, yet simple method that doesn't require that port latches are moved into position and secured. You simply tighten 3 screws on the port collar, like changing a light shade with the o-ring remaining in place.

Also new is that they will be making a housing with a new lighter weight, opaque grey material. They are combining this into a simpler, “splash” surf-type housing line up. The housings will have fewer controls and strobe support and are much lighter and a little less-expensive. This will be the perfect type of housing for those wanting to do shallow water photography while snorkeling, surfing, or in the pool. Backs and fronts of the dive and surf housings will be interchangeable as well.

I really like the out-of-the-box thinking that this approach is showing and look forward to the additional new line-up.

From Austria, Keldan was there with a huge new 24,000 light. Mainly directed to commercial photographers, to have this amount of high-quality lighting in one light is amazing. They have thought through the 100-watt li-Ion battery restriction by breaking the battery packs into three 100 watt  sections that are assembled into one pack.

He also has been hard at work on a new line of filters for both cameras and lights to provide a daylight balanced lighting solution thats much more natural. Kelvin first showed this approach with it’s Cyan head, balanced for an average depth in blue tropical water. Balancing the artificial light with ambient light removes many weird color balance shifts as the underwater lights play along with the surface lighting and make it much easier to shoot more natural video.

Keldan has now extended this by taking a colorimeter underwater and measuring the color temperature at different depths. He then has created 3 filters that can be added to Keldan lights to balanced their color temperature at those depths. He also has done the same with 3 filters for camera lenses which will be available in a few sizes to mount internally.

Big Blue Lights
Big Blue now has a huge line up of lights; with some 16 variations available. Most of their popular models like the Black Molly remain, but now also have an additional “warmer” mode available that mixes the red light with the white to lower the “blue” color of most LEDS from 5500K to 4500K. This results in better flesh tones and blue water white shooting video.

They also have reduced the size and made even higher output lights. Their large 15000 lumen light from last year now is a much smaller unit and is also a third less expensive. Taking the old larger form factor they have come out with outrageous 25,0000 and 30,000 lumen lights. These lights will be great for wreck and cave photography.


Kelvin Lee at iTorch has been busy creating a cool new product; a combination strobe and video light! The new Symbiosis Lighting System has a 1000 lumen video light grated onto a strobe! The strobe has a very powerful guide number of 32 with a 90x80° beam angle, or by using a diffuser, a guide number of 24 with a 100x100° beam angle. With the standard two manual modes it has a highly adjustable 15 level output. It uses an interesting auto mode that learns when you shoot it. For example, if you shoot it at f/5.6 and approve that output, it will then automatically adjust it’s output to different apertures while you shoot. it uses a rechargeable battery pack that should last for 400 flashes at high - enough for the day for many people. The light can be upgraded to 2500 or even 4000 lumens! It can also be used as a stand alone with an adapter. There are plans for a smaller unit (Symbiosis-1) with a guide number of 24 - 16 with diffuser. The unique all-in-one solution should be very popular with many divers. It should be available in late Spring of 2016.

They also have a new light that is shipping now and have lowered their pricing on others. The new Fish-Lite Green Star light has 2400 lumens and a small form factor with two rechargeable batteries. The nice thing about this light is that it has two buttons; one to control the mode from white or red, the other to turn it’s intensity up and down.

I met with several of my travel vendors and saw my friend Alberto from Dive Damai again. He “twisted” my arm into a new booking for Indonesia in November of 2018; from Ambon to Kupang - this would take us through the Forgotten Islands and the rarely dove areas in the south of Alor, finishing in Kupang.

Aggressor Fleet has a new boat for Sri Lanka (think wrecks, whales and all sorts of great adventures) that we have also booked for 2 weeks in the Spring of 2018! I have also booked several other exciting new trips for 2016 and 2017 - look for some announcements and details shortly!

The above are just a few personal highlights. I also met with my friends from Saga Dive, 10Bar, Fantasea, Xit404 among many others. Many of them have many other new and improved products coming out in the near horizon, but I was sworn to secrecy!