DEMA 2003 show coverage

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ABSea Photo
Advanced Design Engineering

    Light & Motion
Marine Camera Distributors
Sea & Sea
Underwater Photo-Tech
  - Socializing Photos -


October 11, 2003 - 3:54AM
James Wiseman and I have been here at DEMA for two days now, having spent almost every waking hour talking to all of the manufacturers and vendors who sell digital underwater imaging products. Even moreso than last year, manufacturers are migrating their products toward the digital domain, with numerous new housings and accessories for the current crop of both consumer and SLR digicams. Especially exciting are underwater housings that support the first digital SLR to break the $1,000 price point (the Canon Digital Rebel) and the first production digital SLR to break the 10 megapixel barrier (the Canon EOS 1Ds). Inexpensive, plastic underwater housings for consumer digital cameras have almost become commodities, with multiple manufacturers and camera brands supported. Competition is fierce, and prices are so low that some of the smaller producers are getting out of the market.

Roaming around the show are the usual suspects that we collaborate with: the photo pros who have embraced digital imaging whole-heartedly. Last year, very few of the pros we know had made the switch; now, it seems that very few are not at least planning on going digital soon. Digital is the buzz of the photo-related parts of the show! In fact, the only thing missing now is a way for the knowledgeable early adopters to transfer their wealth of hard-earned lessons about digital imaging to the people who are currently making the transition. Perhaps that is where we, at Wetpixel, will come in.


10Bar [www] [back to top]

Since last year, 10Bar has changed their focus to providing accessories for consumer camera housings. Their booth featured a vast array of trays, strobe arms, lenses, and much more. 10Bar's rigid strobe arms are plastic reinforced with a metal core. They also offer flexible arms, a Canon G5 housing, and are planning to release a Sony V1 housing in approximately one month.

10Bar's booth

ABSea Photo and Oceanhaus [www] [back to top]

We didn't know about ABSea photo before-hand, but happened to walk by their booth randomly. ABSea featured Oceanhaus housings for the following cameras: the super-slim Casio Exilim EX-S3, the Nikon Coolpix 5400 and Coolpix 5700, and the Hasselblad H1, a medium format camera with a digital back. The housings felt extremely solid, were machined out of aluminum, and were painted with all sorts of funky designs. Also available were lens adapters for macro, and wide angle (60° and 105°). The Casio Exilim housing was listed over $500 -- a DEMA special price! With the camera priced much lower than that, one wonders whether it is a good value...

Oceanhaus Casio Exililm EX-S3 housing

Advanced Design Engineering [www] [back to top]

Merlin Phillips, and old friend of Dave Breitigam and Eric Cheng, offers custom underwater housings. He will also house MP3 players like the Apple iPod and just about anything you might want to take underwater. Merlin also said that he would be willing to perform remote pole-cam modifications to existing housings.

Merlin Phillips, of Advanced Design Engineering, and James Wiseman

Amphibico [www] [back to top]

Amphibico primarily provides video housings, and were showcasing a large housing for a high definition camera (the demo footage they were rolling on a plasma television was gorgeous!). They did have on display their Surveyor II housing for the Sony DSC-F717, complete with a magic box on top that detects the flash from the Sony camera and converts it to an electrical signal. The "light sensing device," as they call it, looks larger than it could be and sticks out from the top of the housing. Luckily, the Sony is such a strangely shaped camera that it doesn't look out of place.

Aquatica booth

Amphibico Surveyor II housing for Sony DSC-F717

Amphibico Surveyor II housing for Sony DSC-F717

Aquatica [www] [back to top]

Aquatica featured a new Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing prototype (using the old Nikon F90 housing chassis), a Nikon D100 housing, a Fuji S2 Pro housing, and a Nikon Coolpix 5000 housing that accomodates the removable 19mm wide-angle lens. They also have an extension ring for use with the Nikon 105mm macro lens with the 2X teleconverter. Blake, Jean Bruneau, and Norma were behind the counter to greet us, and it was fun to meet them for the first time, in person. Mauricio Handler was there as well, showing photos he had taken with Nikon's 12-24mm digital lens using Aquatica's 8" dome port and a 15mm extension (with no diopter).

Aquatica Nikon D100 housing

Aquatica Nikon D100 housing
Aquatica Fuji S2 Pro housing

Aquatica Fuji S2 Pro housing

Blake, of Aquatica, with their Canon Digital Rebel prototype

Aquatica's Canon Digital Rebel housing prototype

Aquatica's Canon Digital Rebel housing prototype

Aquatica Coolpix 5000 housing

Aquatica Nikon Coolpix 5000 housing

Backscatter [www] [back to top]

Berkley White showed us a selection of the Backscatter line-up, which included Athena glass dome ports compatible with Sea & Sea and Nexus housings, a Top Dawg housing for the Sony PC330 digital camcorder (which can take 3.3MP still images), and photos of the Zillion housing line. The Athena dome ports were very nice (glass and aluminum), and are much less reflective inside than acrylic domes are because their dome is made from coated optical glass. The 7" Athena dome is approximately $799 w/shade. Zillion is offering a ZAP-1D/1Ds plastic housing (with a sparkly, metallic finish that makes it look like metal) compatible with Inon ports. It is supposedly shipping already, and costs approximately $4,000. Backscatter sells Sea & Sea, Light & Motion, Olympus, Ultralight, Subal, Nexus, Zillion, and more.

Backscatter's booth

Berkley White, of Backscatter, with 6.5" Athena dome port

Berkley White shows Athena ports to Andy Sallmon and ? from Stuart's Cove
Zillion digital product line-up (check out the Canon EOS 1Ds housing!)

Fantasea [www] [back to top]

Fantasea housings are inexpensive and are very well suited for dive shop rentals because they have "sport" versions available that limit the feature set you can access on the enclosed digicams (renters won't be able to change camera settings). They offer Nikon Coolpix 2100 and 3100 housings (in sport version only), and Coolpix 885 and 4300 housings (in both sport and "pro" versions, which provide access to most buttons). A Coolpix 5400 housing is coming soon -- perhaps in 2 months.

Nikon Coolpix 885, 4300 (same housing), and 2100, 3100 (same housing), by Fantasea

Nikon Coolpix 2100, 3100 (same housing), and 885, 4300 (same housing), by Fantasea

Gates Underwater Housings [www] [back to top]

Gates primarily makes video housings, but they have a Sony DSC-F717 housing and a Sony PC330 housing (that 3MP digital camcorder we have talked about already).

Perry Armor, at the Gates booth

Gates Sony PC330 camcorder housing. The Sony PC330 can also take 3.3MP still images.

Perry Armor and Eric Cheng

Ikelite [www] [back to top]

Like last year, Ikelite had a large booth featuring their complete line-up of consumer and professional underwater housings. New products included a Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing prototype (which should be shipping very soon, but is still undergoing testing and modification), a JVC HD camcorder housing, a Sony V1 housing, and new line of dive lights. Also displayed were Olympus Stylus 300, 400, D230, C50, and C5050 housings, Nikon 2100, 3100, and 5000 housings, Canon G3 and G5 housings, Sony DSC-F717 housing, and assorted accessories. Ike Brigham (who still refuses to let us publish his photo) and Larry Ostendorf (strobe guru) chatted with us for a long, long time. We know all their secrets now, but we'd have to kill you if we told you. While we were at the booth, Dave Haas, Laz Ruda, Carl Fritz, Doug Ebersole (and his daughter) stopped by to have a Wetpixel bonding moment.

Not featured at DEMA was the rumored 10D housing.

Larry O., Ikelite engineer, and James Wiseman

Larry O.: "FEEL THE POWER!" (Ikelite Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing)

David Haas thinks he is taking the Digital Rebel housing out for a test shoot after DEMA...

Ikelite Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing

Ikelite Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing

Ikelite Digital Rebel housing

Ikelite Canon EOS Digital Rebel housing

Ikelite's Fuji S2 Pro housing, with DS-125 strobe

Ikelite Fuji S2 Pro housing

Ikelite's Nikon D100 housing with DS-125 strobe

Ikelite Nikon D100 housing

Ikelite consumer digicam housings

Ikelite's Canon G3/G5 housing, Nikon Coolpix 5000 housing

Ikelite's Sony DSC-F717 and DSC-V1 housing

Ikelite's Sony DSC-F717 and Sony DSC-V1 housing

Ikelite Olympus C-5050 housing

Ikelite's Olympus Stylus 300, 400, and D230 housing

Ikelite's Nikon Coolpix 2100 & 3100 housing, and Olympus C50 housing

Inon [www] [back to top]

Inon showed off their popular D-180 and Z-220 strobes and their array of lens adapters and lens converters (wide angle and macro). Mark Rupert talked about the features that set their strobes apart from the rest. Here are a couple: 1) when a button on the back of the D-180 is depressed, a modeling light turns on for 8 seconds. when the camera's shutter is tripped, the modeling light turns off for half a second. 2) the Inon strobes fire a preflash with the camera in order to lower the power of the camera's internal flash (because the camera looks for the preflash to reflect back in order to set its internal flash power).

Jason Schaller and Mark Rupert of INON America

Mark shows off the Inon Z220 strobes

Olympus PT-015 with wide angle lens, and dual Inon D180 strobes

Olympus PT-018 housing with Inon wide angle adapter and Canon S400 housing with Inon lens adapter

Olympus PT-018 housing with Inon wide angle adapter and Canon S400 housing with Inon lens adapter

Inon Z-220S and Z-220 strobes
Laz Ruda and Mark Rupert, at Inon

Light & Motion [www] [back to top]

Light & Motion had a huge, well-designed booth (as usual) featuring many video housings, the Tetra Olympus C-5050 housing, and the Nikon D100 housing that they debuted last year.

Light & Motion's large booth

Light & Motion Tetra housing for Olympus C-5050

Light & Motion's Titan D100 housing, with dome port and mod light
Light & Motion's Titan D100 housing

Marine Camera Distributors, and Inon, Epoque, Nexus (WETPIXEL SPONSOR) [back to top]
[www] [epoque japan] [nexus]

MCD had many items to show this year. Featured prominently were the Inon Z-220 and D-180 (digital) strobes, which have received a lot of attention this year (as "grassroots" as underwater gear can get) for their quality of light, beam coverage, and feature set. Rumored to exist is a D-180s strobe, which only functions as an optical slave. An Epoque Nikon 5400 housing graced their table, sitting next to a large, box-shaped Canon EOS 1Ds housing, designed by MCD but manufactured by Gates. The 1Ds housing is not quite ready, but hopefully they will be able to price it attractively.

A Inon "Optical Converter" was also on display on Wednesday and Thursday, which converts a TTL signal from a Nikonos-style bulkhead to an optical signal, which can run along a fiber cable to a slaved strobe. The fiber connector can be removed underwater, and the cord itself is extremely low profile. On Friday, the converter had mysteriously disappeared off of the housing. More news about this will become public soon, I'm sure.

Tom Harmon, at the Marine Camera Distributors booth (Wetpixel sponsor!)

MCD Prototype 1Ds housing, designed by MCD and manufactured by Gates

MCD Prototype 1Ds housing

MCD Prototype 1Ds housing

MCD Prototype 1Ds housing
Nexus D100 housing with Inon optical converter (converts wired TTL signal to optical signal)

Nexus D100 housing with Inon optical converter (converts wired TTL signal to optical signal)

Epoque Nikon Coolpix 5400 housing

Epoque Coolpix 5400 housing (top), and ... a generic digital housing on the bottom.

Nexus Nikon D100 housing, with Nexus' strobe/modeling light holder on the port

Olympus [www] [back to top]

Oympus' booth was staffed by a single diver surrounded by an army of non-divers. We did talk to our lone diving buddy, however, and he showed us the ins and outs of the new Olympus C-5060. Instead of using AA batteries like the C-5050 does, it uses a proprietary BLM-1 battery, which the upcoming Olympus E-1 digital SLR also uses. They will also release a vertical battery grip that can hold two batteries at once. Announced in Japan only (the Olympus USA reps knew nothing about this until they arrived at DEMA) were a wide angle converter, a PT-020 housing for the C-5060, a PPO-02 wide angle port adapter, and a PFL-01 strobe housing, which holds the FL-20 strobe.

No one would let us touch an E-1, but one of the reps told James that he would probably sell his Fuji S2 Pro after he used one. James was not convinced.

The C-5060 will be available in limited supply at the end of October, and supply will ramp up after the new year. Olympus reps told us that the best way to get one would be to place a pre-order with your local retailer, or to go to a national retailer.

Olympus brought in a housing tank

Eric Cheng, with Olympus C-5060 and C-5050 digital cameras

Oly rep with Olympus E-1 camera

Sea & Sea [www] [back to top]

Our good friend Andy Sallmon, a Sea & Sea rep and professional marine photographer, held our hands as we toured the Sea & Sea booth. New products included the DX-D10 Canon EOS 10D housing, which is a dramatic departure from their normal "box" housings. It's a bit more streamlined than other Sea & Sea digital SLR housings traditionally have been, and features a new 6-pin bulkhead connection for their new SLH-C220 speedlight housing, which holds a Canon 220EX speedlight for E-TTL-compatible underwater shooting! The new connector is backward-compatible with the older 5-pin cables (but E-TTL will not work if you use a 5-pin cable), and the SLH-C220 housing has a removable diffuser.

Also on display was a prototype Canon EOS 1Ds housing, which is machined out of a solid block of aluminum. It will be built-to-order, with extremely limited availability (and demand, probably). It also will feature a 6-pin strobe connector. It is bright red, and if you decide to put down the money for one, it will have your name engraved on a little plaque on the back. Its projected price point is around the same ballpack as existing housings like the current Seacam housing, but this could change -- and will have to change in order to make this an attractive housing.

A new Nikon Coolpix 5400 housing was on display with a fisheye port made to accomodate the Nikon Fisheye Lens FC-E9. The fisheye port is a modified Sea & Sea compact dome port.

Also displayed (announced last year): the Fuji S2 Pro housing and the Nikon D100 housing. For some reason, the Fuji housing is priced (MSRP) $500 USD higher than the D100, D60, and 10D housings. We're not sure that this makes the price point competitive with other available housings.

Sea & Sea booth

Andy Sallmon, Sea & Sea Rep. Extraordinaire, with Sea & Sea 10D housing

Sea & Sea's new Canon 10D housing

Sea & Sea's new Canon 10D housing

Sea & Sea's new Canon 10D housing

Sea & Sea's new 6-pin connector, with a 5-pin cable (which also fits in the bulkhead)

Sea & Sea's Canon 1Ds housing

Sea & Sea's prototype Canon 1Ds housing

Sea & Sea's prototype Canon 1Ds housing

Sea & Sea's prototype Canon 1Ds housing

Sea & Sea's Canon 1Ds housing

If you can afford this housing, we will etch your name on the back of it!

Sea & Sea Coolpix 5400 housing

Sea & Sea's Nikon Coolpix 5400 housing, with dome port for the FC-E9 fisheye converter lens

Sea & Sea Coolpix 5400 housing

Sea & Sea's Nikon Coolpix 5400 housing

Sea & Sea's new SLH-C220 speedlight housing

Sea & Sea's new SLH-C220 speedlight housing (houses a Canon 220EX speedlight)

Sea & Sea's new SLH-C220 speedlight housing

Sea & Sea's new SLH-C220 speedlight housing

Sea & Sea's new SLH-C220 speedlight housing

Sea & Sea's Aquapix - "The First Amphibious Digital Camera."

Jim Watt, preparing his lecture at the Sea & Sea booth

Seacam [www] [back to top]

Stephen Frink and manager Liz showed us Seacam housings for the Canon EOS 1D/1Ds, the Nikon D1/D1x, the Nikon D100, and the Fuji S2 Pro. As expected, they were of excellent quality, and the S-180 viewfinder was to die for (as is reflected in the price!).

On the show floor, the 1Ds housing did not offer one-handed access to the * button, which is what 1Ds shooters (and D60/10D shooters) use to lock autofocus, and sometimes use to focus. Seacam worked with me, Marty Snyderman, and Canon's pro rep to come up with a suitable solution, which was to swap out one lever, making the button accessible using the thumb of the right hand. It can be adjusted so the throw is very, very short, and along with the greater mechanical advantage offered by the longer lever, it is relatively easy to depress. Seacam will offer a retrofit service for the 15-20 existing housings.

Stephen Frink, with the Wetpixel guys

Seacam Nikon D100 housing, Fuji S2 Pro housing, and Canon 1Ds housing

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing, with S180 viewfinder

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing, with S180 viewfinder

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing, with S180 viewfinder

Seacam Canon EOS 1Ds housing, with S180 viewfinder

Seacam Nikon D100 housing

Stephen Frink, with the Seacam S2 Pro housing

Eric demonstrates one-handed operation of the shutter lever and focus lock lever on the Seacam S2 Pro housing.

Seacam S2 Pro housing

Seacam S2 Pro housing

Seacam S2 Pro housing with S-45 viewfinder

Seacam S2 Pro housing with S-45 viewfinder

Seacam 1Ds housing * button modification (longer lever, on bottom)

"What's the serial number again?"
Harald, proud maker of Seacam housings

Sealife [www] [back to top]

Sealife was showing their DC250 (2.1MP), DC 300 (3.3MP), and DC310 (3.3MP, with "advanced" features) digital underwater cameras. It seems to be designed as a scuba accessory rather than a fully-featured underwater camera. (But we haven't tried one, so we may be wrong.)

Sealife's DC300 digital camera (DC250, DC310 also available)

Subal [www] [back to top]

Subal had an impressive display on their counter, with all of their housings lined up for easy perusal. Displayed were: Canon EOS 1Ds housing, Canon 10D housing, Nikon D100 housing, Fuji S2 Pro housing, Nikon Coolpix 5000 and 5400 housings, Canon Powershot G5 housing, Nikon SB80 flash housing, and Canon 550 EX strobe housing (in production, which will require a S6 plug). All of the housings were impressive and featured natural-feeling ergonomics. Each lever depressed with a very short throw, producing a satisfying, dull click when pressed.

One-handed access to the * button on the Canon 10D housing is not currenty supported, but Subal plans to address the problem soon.

Subal's prototype Canon 1Ds housing

Subal's prototype Canon 1Ds housing

Suba's Canon EOS 10D housing

Subal Fuji S2 Pro housing

Subal's Nikon D100 housing

Subal's Nikon Coolpix 5000 housing

Subal's Nikon Coolpix 5000 housing

Subal's Nikon SB80 strobe case, with modeling light

Subal's Nikon SB80 strobe case, with modeling light

Ultralight [www] [back to top]

Ultralight was showing its entire array of trays, arms, modeling light holders, etc. A new tray and handle are now available for many of the digital housings on the market, especially the Olympus housings. It will also work on the Canon, Minolta, and Sony digital housings. The new tray solves the old problem of housings rotating while attached to the tray. Also shown was the new taller version of the ball adapter for Ikelite's quick release handle. This will allow the photographer to use Ikelite's manual sensor at the base of their Ultralight arm. Pivots for the digital market will also be shown. These were introduced at the last DEMA; but have grown in popularity since then. They can be used on Light and Motion's Tetra housings, Sea and Sea cameras, or many of the polycarbonate housings. This pivot allows the photographer to go from horizontal to vertical in less time than it takes the strobes to recycle. Also available was a new strobe adapter for the Ikelite DS-125 strobe, the Inon strobes and the Epoque strobes.

ULCS' booth

Dave Reid of ULCS shows off their new digital tray

Underwater Photo-Tech [www] [jonah korea] [back to top]

Fred Dion of Underwater Photo-Tech was showing a Jonah Canon EOS 10D housing. Fred will be the East Coast dealer for Jonah, while Wetpixel sponsor's Ocean Brite covers the West.

Like the Seacam, Subal, and Ikelite prototype housings, the Jonah 10D housing does not currently address one-handed operation of the * button. (however, their D100 housing does address this).

Fred Dion, of Underwater Photo-Tech, with a Jonah 10D housing

Jonah 10D housing

Jonah 10D housing