Aquatica A5000 Housing User Testimonial
In July, I had the opportunity to test out a prototype Aquatica A5000 housing (retail price, $1049 USD), and I was impressed with more than just its value. The housing I received was machined from block aluminum and had a paint job that many others on the bahamas trip envied. The finish (a beautiful shiny-silver finish which, if used correctly, could lure marine life a little closer) rivaled the finish on most cars. It certainly looks good on the outside -- but does it perform?
When you make a decision to buy a camera, you are looking for VALUE. In the end it all comes down to a cost/benefit analysis [can you tell that Todd is an accountant?? -ed], and I found that the Aquatica A5000 housing performed very well for its price.
The housing allows for the use of all camera functions except for the on/off button. All of the controlswere easy to manipulate, and you can see the back of the camera through a clear window on the back of the housing. The inability to turn the camera on or off was not a major concern as I always had a spare battery charged. You can also adjust the Coolpix's automatic shut-off to a value as low as 30 seconds to save battery life. I did not find the battery life to be a problem on any of the dives, although it did sometimes did read as low at the end of a dive (the longest dive I took it on lasted for 79 minutes).
The externally mounted wide-angle lens worked very well and can be removed while underwater for macro opportunities. Blake, from Aquatica, says that adjustments have already been made to the port to allow for full wide-angle (the pre-production model I had didn't allow for full wide-angle). A dome port is also available for the internally mounted 19mm lens.
The A5000 housing has a front window to allow for accurate metering. Also, the housing comes with an LCD hood to make it easier to see, in bright conditions. I did find the LCD to be dark, at times, but this might have been because of the default LCD settings (you may want to adjust these). The top of the housing has a threaded hole, which can be used to mount a spotting light (very useful for night dives!), and the housing I used had a moisture monitor installed to allow for some added comfort. The back plate is hinged on the left side and has a single closure that seals with a satisfying click.
I really enjoyed the tray and handles that Aquatica supplied. My setup included two strobes, and the handles allowed for plenty of flexibility in adjustment. I should mention that the handles I used do not come with the stock set up; I recommend ordering a set with your housing.
I had read of Aquatica service problems in the past, but I found their service to be excellent. A new owner bought the company roughly a year and a half ago, and he has been working very hard to dispel these past ghosts. Blake kept me updated on the progress of the housing's development with both photographs and phone calls, and was more than willing to answer all of my questions. Aquatica's service quality exceeded my expectations.
Lastly, the housing is compact, which was very nice when diving in current and trying the get close to sharks and dolphins. It also made it possible to carry my entire set-up -- camera, strobes, housing, arms and lenses -- in my allotted carry-on space! Be prepared to have it searched, though, as it may look strange to security screeners.
If you are looking for a housing that offers value, aesthetics, and functionality, and a company with top-notch service, then this is the housing for you and your Coolpix 5000 Nikon camera.
Comments from other users:
From wetpixel forum member arosner:
Just returned from a 3 wk trip to the BVI. Have had good experiences. Easy handling and button accessibility- the on-camera ikons are clearly visible through the plexiglas. The built-on external shade is indispensible for bright lite photograhy. Solidly built, easy to assemble and slightly negative buoyant. The Aquatica's articulated arm(extra $) was a breeze to manipulate U/W in any position.The Aquatica's screw-on U/W 19 mm lenses is fantastic- in fact most of my pics were taken with this lense(see pic attached next to HMS Rhone). When not needed I just unscrewed it and placed it in my BCD. One note is to remember to sparingly add a zinc based lubricant on the stainless steel screws to avoid ionic bonding to the aluminium housing. Apart from that this housing is great for pros and students alike ( I am somewhere in-between).
From wetpixel forum member subh2o:
A few more comments about the Aquatica 5000 housing from a coldwater perspective...
After using 3.3 MP Olympus cameras underwater for more than two years both for work and for fun, I got tempted by higher resolutions. I sold everything and got myself a Coolpix 5000 (Nikon) to use exclusively underwater. Choosing the housing was relatively easy since my main system was already an Aquatica-90 (F90x/N90s). Aquatica (formerly Aqua-Vision) of Montreal offers a nice aluminum housing for the CP5000.
Since there was no Aquatica re-seller in my area, I purchased the housing directly from the company. Two days later, the housing arrived. For the first few dives, I exclusively shot macro, using one or two Ikelite DS-50 strobes. The CP5000 in the Aquatica housing is simply an amazing camera for macro without the need for an add-on lens.
Next, I ordered the Nikon wide-angle (19mm eq.) lens and Aquatica's port for that lens. Again, the optical performance was very good with no vigneting. Winter and ice in my area put a stop to my ocean dives but I continued to experiment in a pool, learning to use the system to its full capabilities.
A word about the housing: it is surprisingly small, with very little wasted space around the camera. Construction quality is identical to their recent 35mm housings and it's rated to 100 meters, which means I will take it along on trimix dives. Almost all camera controls can be accessed from the outside, with a few exceptions like the on/off switch. The back buttons are grouped tightly together. Operating the tiny buttons with drysuit gloves is a challenge but the fact that the buttons have different heights helps a lot. The housing has a standard Nikonos strobe connector that connects to the hot shoe on the CP5000 and gives "near-TTL" capabilities to the system. After some tuning, strobe photography became as easy as with the F90x. The housing has a side handle that is adequate for a single small strobe but for bigger strobes such as twin Ikelite 100a, I use a bottom bracket with two TLC arms. Overall, the housing has a very solid feel to it and is well balanced.
Compared to my previous systems, I see fewer limitations with the CP5000/Aquatica system. The arms and strobes are compatible with the rest of my gear and I don't need an expensive digital-compatible TTL sensor to use an external strobe. There are, however, a few things that the camera could do better: the viewing screen is often very dark, even with the recent firmware update. Also, compared to Olympus cameras, the LCD becomes completely dark if viewed from above. Although not related to the housing itself, underwater these problems are even worse and it takes some time to get used to.
Overall, I am extremely happy with Aquatica's housing and feel that this digital system will no longer be my "for fun only" system. This is a serious photo tool that gives impressive results and is as rugged as any other professional housing. It also has a lot of potential as a true working tool in marine biology (my line of work), mostly because of its great macro capabilities.