Nauticam, via their UK supplier, Underwater Visions, supplied the second housing for this review. The NA-NEX5N is immediately obvious as a close relative of Nauticam’s SLR housings and is constructed of black anodized aluminum with a bayonet fitting for a variety of different ports.
The housing provides access to almost all camera controls and buttons with the exception of the lens release. On the left hand side of the housing body, a knob provided access to zoom control with the 18-55mm lens, provided the appropriate lens ring is fitted. There is no provision for manual focus.
Just below the zoom knob is the port release and locking system, which has a two-stage push and turn lock. The next control is the flash raise/lower control, which simply flips the NEX-5n’s flash up or down.
Moving around onto the rear of the housing, Nauticam provide an audible/visual leak alarm as standard, and the window for its visual indicator is located bottom left. The housing has a large window to view the camera’s LCD screen. The screen can be tilted within the housing to allow a better viewing angle.
At the top of the left hand side rear is a rocker switch that activates image review or video functions.
Below this is a ribbed thumb groove, to enable the camera to be held without a tray and handles. Below this are the controls for the control wheel. This presents a challenge for housing manufacturers, and Nauticam have resolved this in a typically user-friendly fashion. Their control consists of individual buttons for the top and bottom soft control buttons, and then five buttons in a “cross” pattern, which give access to center, top, bottom and side presses of the control wheel. Lastly, the scrolling functions of the wheel are accessed via a dial on the bottom left of the housing. This is set on the edge, so despite being recessed, has an exposed rim.
With practice, this combination of buttons and dial can be as easy to use as the original wheel. One of the reviewers commented that he actually found the camera easier to use in the housing than out of it. Some of the buttons are very close together, and this can present an issue when wearing big gloves.
The housing’s closure is the standard Nauticam push button and turn, and is situated on the left hand side. The housing seals with a single O ring.
On the left hand upper is the on/off switch, and a threaded mounting point for strobes or focus lights.
On the front on the housing is the shutter release. This is sculpted to integrate into the housing and is sensitive enough to give control of AF and shutter release.
The flash housing has a removable plate that accommodates type L fiber optic cables. If the plate is removed, a clear window allows the use of the internal flash.
Internally, the camera mounts onto a saddle that will be familiar to most SLR users. This mounting is much more secure than the foam pad option in the 10 Bar housing, and this means that control function reliability is increased.
The control wheel is manipulated via a gear and a rubber contact surface. This allows the use of both the revolving and push controls.
The control wheel controls are fairly close together.
As mentioned above, Nauticam provide port support for the Sony 18-55mm, 16mm pancake, 16mm pancake + FE adapter, and the 16mm pancake + WA adapter and Sony 30mm macro lenses. There is a 4.3” dome available as well as a flat port, macro port and a pancake port.
On the bottom of the housing are dual threaded attachment holes. These are designed to allow the attachment of the company’s Flexitray which has two handles, to which can be attached 1” balls or other mounting options.
For those used to SLR housings, it is inevitable that this housing feels very compact. Perhaps for those coming from a compact camera background, it may feel a little bulkier. The engineering and design of the NA-NEX5N owes much to Nauticam’s background in bigger housings and I think that it benefits greatly from this. Internal camera positioning and hence control reliability is an important criteria, there is nothing more frustrating than control becoming misaligned during a dive and hence useless. The camera is held securely
The control wheel’s design challenges have been met. The combination of push buttons and a rotary control work very well.
The whole of the camera’s LCD can be viewed, and the ability to tilt it within the housing makes for a very ergonomic viewing angle.
The controls are a little closer together than I would choose, but are acceptable. The rotary control is very cleverly positioned with a side cut-out, meaning that it can be accessed with gloves. The review/record rocker switch falls readily to hand, and moving it off the back of the housing helps to spread the controls better. The shutter release is also easily to operate, large and sensitive.
When using the dome port, with a single Inon Z240 strobe, 1 Stix foam buoyancy arm segment was needed, and with two arms and strobes, this doubled. Macro and flat ports will need proportionally more buoyancy.
The NA-NEX5N housing has a retail price of around $1,650 (about £1,224.95) for the housing only. Ports will cost at least another $270-$480 (£209.95-£392.95) depending on the lens combination in use.
For this though, you get many SLR housing features in a compact and portable size. This is not an upgraded compact housing, but a “shrunken” SLR one. I think that this will give it the potential to grow as your creative goals change, or to become a second camera system for a dedicated SLR shooter that needs a lightweight alternative for travel or portability reasons.
FTC disclosure: As mentioned above, the Nauticam NA-NEX5N housing and ports was loaned by Underwater Visions for the review. Many thanks to Alex Tattersall and Edward Lai of Nauticam for their help in providing the products for the review.
Page 1: Introduction.
Page 2: 10 Bar housing.
Page 3: Nauticam NA-NEX5N housing.
Page 4: Aquatica AN-5N housing.