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.