SEACAM FAQ

  1. Broken registration pins and handle/latch problem?

    Dear Stephen – When I got to Indonesia I couldn’t open the latch on my SEACAM D1X housing, and the black little registration pins inside the housing were broken. I’ll send you the housing when I get home. Help! Jamie.

    Dear Jamie – Received your housing, but as I suspected, the problems were very insignificant. No reason to lose a photo opportunity over something like this.

    1. Latches
    The handles got bent. This is a common problem and you can either remove handles when shipping on airplanes (preferred solution), or bend them out of the way if they happen to get bent. I use the flat handle of a big crescent wrench wrapped in a towel so as not to scratch the housing. Then I simply use the leverage of the wrench to bend the handle back far enough so the latch swings freely. The problem is that the weight of the housing slams against the handle when the case is dropped hard on its end by an airline. So, be prepared to take preventative measures when shipping, or know how to fix on location.

    2. Shear pins
    The delrin pins are meant to break off. It relieves the pressure by eliminating something that can easily be replaced instead of something more serious. Actually, I consider this a very clever solution. SEACAM could have used metal registration posts and this would not happen, but I’ve seen housings fall off a high camera table, with absolutely no problem other than a broken shear pin. By design. You should always have spare shear pins with you when traveling.

    To remove broken shear pin, use a small screw, tap it into the broken off piece remaining in the housing, screw into broken pin (slightly), and then use pliers to pull out the broken piece. Then install the replacement shear pin in the housing. NEVER glue shear pin into place. It is intended as friction fit.

    We will fix both for you, but you need to know how to do this on location. As rough as the airlines now handle our gear, you must be prepared.

  2. What spare parts for travel?

    What spare parts should I carry for my SEACAM housing? Liz

    Dear Liz – Aside from your personal tool kit (which should include at the very least a metric Allen wrench set, jeweler’s screwdrivers, pliers, O-ring picks, small crescent wrench, flashlight, extra O-ring grease, small vise grips, and pocket knife), SEACAM shooters should carry:

    * Delrin shear pins
    * extra mounting screws for D1X housings (or any future housings that have screws rather than mounting knobs as in F100)
    * extra springs for shutter release, monitor/delete switch, and mode functions
    * spare O-ring kit

    Note also it is best to use the SEACAM grease as it is more “sticky” than other brand O-ring grease. This viscosity difference is intentional, and it will help the O-ring lay in the groove more reliably.

  3. Strobe won't fire with digital housing?

    Why won’t my strobe fire with my digital housing? David

    Dear David

    The submersible strobes you have been using with your Nikonos or other housed cameras will not fire in TTL with the D1X. In fact, they may not work at all.

    I’ve tried an Ikelite 200 and standard TTL cord for example, and with it attached the D1X won’t even fire. It will work with a manual synch cord, however. Other strobes may not work either, but you’ll need to do your own testing. For example, an SB105 does fire, but not in TTL. Since the old manual synch cords are no longer in production at with most manufacturers since the world has gone TTL in the latest film era. But Ikelite for one has now created a special synch cord to address this D1X issue. See http://www.ikelite.com/web_pages/sync_cord_d1x.html

    Ike_WiringBut if you are in the field and don’t have the right cord, a simple piece of electrician’s tape over the contact as in the diagram to the right will do the trick.

  4. Insurance for underwater camera gear?

    Hi Steve:
    Last Summer I was on a boat with a person who mentioned that he had gotten an insurance which for a few bucks would cover any accident on the camera, including flooding! I’m soon to go on a diving trip and I’d like to have this type of insurance with me.
    Do you know off hand, where to find this type of insurance?
    Thank you in advance!
    Salvador Cortes

    Salvador – I use DAN insurance for my cameras. https://www.h2oinsurance.com/.
    I haven’t had to use it, but when a whole case full of gear went missing for a day on my last trip, it was a great comfort to know I was insured.

    DAN is reliable and would help you sleep better knowing you are covered.

  5. What’s with all the SEACAM Viewfinder choices?

    Dear Steve – I’ve been researching all I can find about SEACAM housings, but I still don’t have a clear idea of the view finders choices (S180 Vs S45 Vs Pro). With the Swivel-45 it seems like a 45-degree gooseneck that can rotate 360 degrees at the attachment point, but the Sport 180 looks like s straight in view, no matter how the viewfinder swivels. Is this right?

    Also, I have better vision (20/20) than budget. Do I really need the S180 or S45, or can I get by with the Pro viewfinder?

    Thomas

    Hi Thomas – As you note, there are three viewfinders available for the SEACAM Silver housings, although the Nikon F5 also offers the option of using the DA-30 Action Finder. They are: The Pro viewfinder, the S45 (for swivel 45-agree) and the new, S180 (for Sport-180).

    Both the S45 and S180 offer magnified 1:1 viewing and +/- 3 diopter correction for customizing to the shooter’s personal vision. The S180 views straight into the camera’s viewfinder, effectively functioning much like a DA-30 action finder on an F5. I like the pro viewfinder for quickly moving subjects like sharks and dolphins. For those with 20/20 vision, like you, maybe this is good enough.

    However, the elegant magnified viewfinders are a significant innovation with SEACAM housings, and many buy the systems specifically for this advantage. The S45 is my choice for over/unders since it allows me to shoot without actually putting my head underwater or wearing a dive mask. However, it was actually designed for macro shooters who wanted to work close to the bottom without craning their necks all the time. Some very skilled shooters prefer the S45 as their primary viewfinder, while I use it more as a specialty tool. Clearly it is a personal preference, but in either case, the bright, enlarged view is an incredible advantage over any other housing viewing system.

    All viewfinders are equipped with double O rings and are held in place by a delrin split-ring. No tools are required for installation. Simply slip the retaining ring off from inside the housing and push out to remove. The S45 and S180 viewfinders come with a small spring loaded bearing that fits in an indent on the housing. This in turn engages one of four indents on the viewfinder to give confirmation of the 90/180/270/360-degree position. This is for convenience only and is not a necessary part of the viewfinder. (Actually I misplaced the spring on my N90S housing and used it for several years without bothering to replace it.) The spring is for the S45/S180 is not to be used with the pro viewfinder.

    You should fine-tune the S45 or S180 for your personal vision. To do so, mount the S45 or S180 on the housing and pick a lens that will demonstrate fine focus (like a 60 or 105mm macro lens). You could use a wide angle, but small deviance in precise focus may not show up as easily. Focus the lens (manually or AF) on a stationary subject like a soda can. Obviously the housing has to be stationary as well. Now remove the black knurled end-cap on the viewfinder by turning counterclockwise. You’ll see this is a threaded delrin piece with an O ring seal. Inside you’ll see the viewfinder optic, which you can adjust by gripping the black aluminum bezel around the glass and turning right or left. If you run it all the way through the range you’ll achieve a +3 to -3 diopter correction. Make sure it is exactly focused for you, but remember to hold your eye far enough away from the glass to simulate wearing a facemask. Screw the end-cap back on and you’re ready to shoot. By the way, you’ll notice that the glass viewfinder wobbles inside once the end-cap is off. This is normal. When you put the end-cap back in place it will be held firmly in position.

    E_Diopter_adjust_S180

    Note on S45 for over/unders – The S45 is terrific for over/unders because it allows you to keep your head above the water and you won’t even need a facemask. I’ve used this while laying on my belly on the swim platform to shoot white sharks in South Africa, while kneeling on the shallow sand for photographing stingrays at Grand Cayman’s Sandbar, and for shooting fashion over/unders for the Victoria’s Secret swimwear catalog. It is a very productive weapon in your creative arsenal, especially when used in conjunction with the 9″ Superdome.

    As an aside, the Superdome spreads any surface chop over a wider area, thereby making over/unders possible in rougher seas than is possible with a 6″ or 8″ dome from other manufacturers. Also, water sheets off glass quicker than Plexiglas, so those annoying water droplets on the topside portion of the frame are less likely to appear.

    Note on S45 for fish photography – Warning … The first few times you try the S45 for moving fish you probably won’t like it. Your instincts of aiming will need to be relearned. You will have spent years shooting through a SLR with what is essentially a straight-on viewing system. The eyepiece might be a few millimeters above the lens, but you are essentially looking through the camera with your eye and your subject on the same plane. With the S45 you need to bend your head forward slightly and look into the viewfinder. If you keep your head upright and bring the viewfinder to your eye, you’ll probably instinctively aim above your subject. In my experience it will take three or four dives for this to feel right. With greater familiarity the S45 will become instinctive as well, and you’ll come to appreciate the magnified field of view and precise focus.

    Preferences:

    S45 – In my opinion, the S45 is perfect for macro, fish photography, wide-angle reef scenics, and over/unders. I don’t like it for open water pelagic work, as it is not as instantly intuitive as the Pro or S180 viewfinders.

    S180 – All-purpose viewfinder. Great field of vision, nicely magnified. If you loved your Action-Finder on your Nikon F3/F4/F5, you’ll love the S180.

    Pro – The Pro viewfinder has the advantages of ergonomic streamlining and economy. For shooters with good vision or a corrected facemask, this may be all you need. Both the S45 and S180 will add weight and bulk to the SEACAM housing package. There is a lot of glass to make the magnified optics accurate, and no substantial air pocket inside to provide buoyancy. This might be a small concern when shooting in the open sea, or breath-hold diving with spotted dolphins or humpbacks for example. The S45 and S180 can also obscure a bit of the LCD screen with digital cameras where the LCD is directly adjacent to the viewfinder. So far the Nikon D100 is the only camera where I’ve seen that to be a problem, and in this case about the top 20% of the LCD screen is blocked.

    Here are examples of the Pro and S180 viewfinders, mounted on a D100 to illustrate the view of the LCD:

    E_D100_ProViewfinder
    E_D100_Sport180

    The fact that viewfinders can easily be changed before the dive, on the boat, without any tools of any kind, is one of the beauties of the SEACAM system. Of course, alternative viewfinders can be added at any time as your personal imaging needs change.

  6. What’s up with the black lining/flocking?

    Dear Steve – What’s the point of the black fuzzy cloth-like material all around the inside of my housing. Is that just to keep light from bouncing?
    Julie

    Dear Julie – Allow me to tell you a SEACAM “hero” story. I was on a commercial shoot in the Turks and Caicos with my SEACAM Canon EOS1DMKII housing. There was a lot of time and money invested in me to get underwater product shots of dive gear. On a remote shipwreck, more than an hour from shore, I heard the unsettling sound of a “beep/beep/beep”. Everyone checked their computers and miscellaneous gear to find out the source … it didn’t even occur to me it could be coming from my housing. But sure enough, I soon determined it was my housing’s moisture alarm!

    I swam back to the boat with the housing in an upright position to keep whatever water trapped on the bottom and away from the camera. Once I opened the back I saw there was water, about the equivalent of a mouthful. But that black flocked material you speak of absorbed the water and wicked it towards the moisture alarm (both audible and visual alarm by the way). Of course I then found a black hair lying across the green O-ring of the port extension.

    Clearly user error. Even SEACAM housings are susceptible to carelessness on the part of the operator!

    I used a scuba tank to blow dry the inside of the housing and was back working 10
    minutes later. Contrast that with my Nikonos RS that suffered a pinched O-ring on the main door and took a total flood the next day. The SEACAM housing is so much more robust and forgiving than anything else on the market, and that black flocked material has saved my butt more than once.

    There is nothing quick or easy about applying that material, which is why other housings probably don’t do it. It is cut by hand for each housing and painstakingly glued into place. Yet, it is one more remarkable advantage to this housing. To answer your question, yes it does prevent light from bouncing around the inside of the housing, but the ability to trap moisture and pass it to the alarm sensor by osmosis is the benefit.

  7. Does it matter which brand of o-ring grease I use?

    Dear Steve – It seems every camera manufacturer wants you to use their own very special O-ring grease. With the Nikonos RS I had to use Nikonos grease, my Sea and Sea strobes required the Sea and Sea grease with the BLUE cap, and then when I went to Ikelite strobes I had to use their grease. Now I bought a SEACAM housing and have yet another tube of grease to have to keep track of. Do I have to use SEACAM grease on my SEACAM O-rings? Help!
    Jose

    Dear Jose – I realize it seems a conspiracy designed to force you to buy OEM branded O-ring grease, but there is a method to the various madness. If you use a silcone-based grease on the orange Nikonos RS O-rings they can swell up and get pinched outside the groove when the camera door shuts. These specific O-rings are designed to be used with a petroleum-based grease like the standard Nikonos issue. Likewise, use the wrong grease on an Ikelite 200 and the O-ring will, over time, expand and no longer seat efficiently.

    However, using the wrong kind of grease on the SEACAM O-ring will not necessarily cause issues like this. These are very robust O-rings, don’t tend to absorb the grease, and consequently hold their shape for a long time. However, there is something very special about the SEACAM grease that justifies its use. It is sticky. This particular grease helps keep the O-ring in the groove.

    This is not so much an issue on the ports, where it is a bore seal and all the O-ring grease has to do is facilitate lubrication of the O-ring as it slides into place. But the main O-ring on the housing has to stay securely in place until the housing back is latched down. While this might seem a small issue, using the relatively slippery Nikonos grease, for example, might allow the O-ring to pop out of the groove and extrude outside the housing. This can mean a calamitous flood that even a moisture alarm and black-flocked water absorbent material can’t forestall.

    Actually, this happened to me once long ago with my first N90S SEACAM housing. I used whatever O-ring grease happened to be on the camera table, and was in a hurry to get back in the water. Just by luck, I put the housing in the fresh water rinse on the way to the back of the boat and the screaming moisture alarm immediately got my attention! Sure enough, the O-ring was protruding from the bottom of the housing. That’s where it will most likely pop out, and that’s where you are least likely to notice it.

    Fortunately no water got to the camera and I was able to blow out the inside of the housing with a scuba tank and quickly get back in the water to finish the shoot. But, it taught me several lessons:

    1. Only use SEACAM grease on SEACAM O-rings.
    2. Do a 360-degreee check of housing before getting in water to make sure all looks right.
    3. SEACAMs are easier to pull back from user-error than my Nikonos’ ever were.
    4. Carry a spare set of O-rings, for if I crimp or dent the main O-ring by accidentally closing the housing with it outside the groove, I’d like the security of replacing with a new one.

    All housings come with a spare set of O-rings and additional SEACAM grease by the way.

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