Sunday, November 27, 2016

2016 DEMA Underwater Photography Report

These are some new underwater photo products and some of my good industry friends from the 2016 DEMA dive show. Many of the products featured are prototypes and will be shipping in 2017. Look to Optical Ocean Sales​ to always have the latest underwater imaging products!

Probably one of the most innovative products is the new Saga Dive​ Trio macro lens. It allows you to use the basic lens, then flip levers to +5, +10 or +15 powers - all in one unit! We will have a pre-production unit in the store in a couple of weeks. Shipping in early January, cost around $775.

SagaDive Trio Macro System
Myself and José Sánchez Garrido from Saga Dive​ from Spain.
Saga makes innovative underwater photo ports,
optics and lighting products.
Stephen Frink​ and I are your North American SEACAM​ dealers. SEACAM is the premium pro choice for underwater imaging. We now are offering their new 5DMKIV and Nikon D500 housings. A new strobe is in the works to ship in December.

Besides their new light line-up (reviewed here and amazine Solar Flare Max) Kraken Sports​ has a new LED ring light unit coming soon. It will have a 67mm threaded mount, 1000 lumen power and integrated battery. It can work with almost any housing with port adapters. I think it will be perfect for a small macro setup. They are also starting to ship a new underwater universal phone housing. This rugged housing is made from anodized aluminum, has a vacuum leak detection valve included and uses bluetooth to connect with an app to nearly all phones made, except ones made with a really thick case.

Stephen Frink​ and Ryan Canon​ discussing
some of the new Nauticam USA​ products.
New Nauticam NA-6500 for the new Sony a6500 housing (at right) will soon be in stock at Optical Ocean Sales. This new housing for the update to the a6300 now includes an integrated tray. With lots of port options available and the unique WWL lens, this is a less expensive contender to the Sony a7II. This display shows of the port solution for using the Tokina 10-17 lens for those wanting to move from a Canon DX DSLR.

Also new is the Nauticam RX-100V (right). The new Sony RX-100V will fit a modified RX-100IV, but will require an upgrade.

Nauticam G7XMKII housing (left). This is a great consumer gamer with a 1” sensor and easy-to-use menus. AF speed, battery capacity and other features have been addressed in this new MKII version.

My good friends at SUBAL Underwater Camera Housings​ have many new camera housings with greatly improved features coming out. Beside Nikon and Canon they also support pro cameras like Leica and consumer cameras from Panasonic.

New features include easy to open locks, a small fiber optical TTL trigger for Canon and Nikon, vacuum check system and improved, lighter weight and balance. They have over 50 years of experience and produce some of the finest housings available. With the lower euro, their prices are very competitive! Optical Ocean Sales​ is very excited to be one of their stocking dealers!

New SEA&SEA MDX-80D for the Canon 80D DSLR, now available in a bronze-red color. New SEA&SEA​ Sony MDX-a6300, also available in bronze color, similar to the a6000 with some updates, including glow-in-the dark controls and rinse weap holes around buttons, new knobs and more. They will not be making an a6500 housing as far as they know.

New SEA&SEA​ MDX-5DMKIV DSLR housing. This is a small and capable 5DMKIV housings and has an optional TTL optical fiber optic converter. They will be coming out soon with a leak detection valve system.

Besides the ground-breaking Symbiosis SS-2 strobe/light that i-DAS/i-Torch​ produces, they've come up with an unusual new LED macro lighting system with adjustable arms. There will be snoot adapters available for it. Each head produces 2000 lumens. This is a prototype, probably available mid-year.

Light and Motion has reved some of their lights with the same pricing! This is the more powerful new Sola 9600 Video Pro and Sola 3800F video lights. We reviewed the Sola 8000 earlier this year and really liked them. There is also a new dome port shown that can fit their smaller lights to spread the light to 105 degrees.

Myself and John Bingham from Ikelite Underwater Systems​. Ikelite has been hard at work revising and creating new housing products.

Ikelite Underwater Systems​ new D500 housing with their redesigned port system. The dome port and housing is much lighter that it used to be.
Ikelite Underwater Systems​ now has an improved port system that is more positively sealed and very secure.

Ikelite Underwater Systems​ has a new mix and match lighter housing and back system. You can buy a surf housing that is light and easy to handle and upgrade it to a dive housing later.

Ikelite Underwater Systems​ has also improved their knobs, and now have shutter release extensions and other options available. With these additions, you can create a custom fit and featured underwater housing system.

CineBags has created a new line of innovative and well thought-out underwater photo soft carrying cases, backpacks, port and tool cases and others. They are made from very heavy, durable materials and designed from their many years in making professional photography bags. At left is their new CB 70 Square Grouper.

My pal Alberto Reija Gracia​ from DIVE Damai​. We have several upcoming trips on their luxurious liveaboards. We have room on all these great trips, see our Travel section. We just booked a new Banda Sea to Raja Ampat trip on the Damai 1 in April of 2019, details soon!

Pam Mazey Mertz and John Ellerbrock from Gates Underwater Products. Gates​ has a new PRO Action housing. This housing is purpose built to be a compact, travelable, run and gun system, depth rated to 150 feet.  It has a smaller set of controls – on/off, record, zoom, focus, user and assignables.  It can be pole mounted and is good for surf and free diving. Best of all it can be carried on an airplane!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kraken Solar Flare Max Video Light Review

My first impression when seeing the Kraken 10,000 lumen Solar Flare Max underwater video light was how nicely crafted they are. The light is incredibly durable with metal construction and a strong glass dome for the LED lights that spreads the light underwater. It also comes with a neoprene cover for the dome  and nice soft carrying case - similar to a camera bag. I was on a "roughing it" type live-aboard with no accommodations for camera gear. So having such large and heavy lights along was challenging. But the Solar Flare lights provided such beautiful illumination that it was worth the struggles.

The Kraken Solar Flare Max has a burn time of 55 minutes at 100%. To charge the light you need to open it up and insert the plug directly into the battery. I found this process very easy. The light just has one dial/button combo for power and settings. To turn the power on, just hold the button until you see the logo appear on the LCD. Press the button twice to turn light on (mode and light percentage will be at the last setting used).

The high-contrast display is very bright and easy to read. Light brightness settings are adjustable in 5% increments, adjusted by turning the knob/button on the back of the light. The brightness setting stays on the display while the light is on, telling you what percentage of the 10,000 lumens you are using. The display also tells you how much battery time remaining you have at that power. I love this feature! Push the power button to change the mode from wide beam to narrow beam - a picture of the mode shows up briefly - then disappears. When the battery is almost dead, the light will only allow 10% brightness for 10 min. The only thing I would change about the display is - I would like some sort of Mode indication to stay on the light display at all times. Since it only stays on for a second - mistakes can happen during quick action shots - if it accidentally gets in the wrong mode and you aren’t in a place where it would be immediately obvious - like out in the blue.

The 160° ultra wide and powerful beam has five COB LEDs in a wide array and the dome port compensates for refraction and spreads the light. Since the beam is so wide and my diving situation was less than ideal, I decided to only use one light for most of my dives. I usually prefer two lights for more even coverage. However this light is so smooth and wide, that I was able to get good coverage by using only one light positioned as shown to the right - to try to emulate natural sunlight.

I attempted different light positions with one light, but that did not work because the weight of the lights made my rig too lopsided and hard to hold. The couple of dives where I did use two lights were actually easier due to a more balanced rig - but it was very negatively buoyant and hard to handle on the surface.

I also had problems with the weight of the light putting so much tension on my housing handles of  that I had to tighten the screws on them a couple of times during the week.

The weight of the light is rated at 3.8 pounds above water and about 2 pounds underwater. But it seemed more negative in the water than that to me. I was using one float arm segment - with added additional floats and that didn’t seem to make any difference. Hopefully, Kraken can come up with a float collar, or another solution to allow the lights to be easier to handle underwater.

Despite all the problems with the weight of the lights, the actual quality of the light is far superior to any other light I have tried. It produces a beautiful wide, white natural beam. The fall-off is extremely gradual, further adding to the natural look.  I would really love to try these lights again, because the quality is undeniable.

Great for Still Photos Too

Being a Fine Artist that moved to video several years ago, one thing I really missed was having quality photos that I could print and show in galleries, along with my paintings. Since my diving, as well as my photography is a huge inspiration for my paintings, that element had gone missing, partly due to the limitations of cameras - but also due to the limitations of video lights. I really like that my GH4 offers both high quality still photos and video. As cameras have gotten better, video lights have also improved. The Kraken Solar Flare Max underwater light is powerful enough - with a wide enough beam, to capture beautiful photos in addition to video. Even a plain old reef scene comes alive with color when using the light.

Kraken Remote Control

First, be aware that the remote won’t power lights on, you need to start with the power on by pressing the power button on the back of the light.

Pressing power button on the remote can change modes the same as pressing the button on the light. Holding the power button turns the lights to 0% - or on. The up and down button changes the lights in 5% increments (holding the up or down buttons does not make the power change faster - you must push for each 5% change.)

I had problems with the remote, and ended up using the lights manually. Initially it worked well. But after I used the remote to turn the lights off (or to 0% - you cannot turn them on or off with the remote), the remote only worked for one light. Taking the battery out and letting the remote reset seemed to cure it temporarily, but the problem repeated itself. I'm sure Kraken will sort this issue out soon.
 — Margo Cavis