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Efficacy of Valves
The neck-seal worked impeccably, provided
I wasn’t rubber-necking while under water.
I can’t say the same of the low-profile Apeks
dump valve, which I had to keep shut, and
open only as and when I needed to during
an ascent.
If I left it in automatic mode, I paid for
the convenience with a very wet arm.
The inflation valve is an Apeks rotating
job. This allows you the freedom to rig the
inflation hose almost any way you like,
and the fact that it has a standard
international connection meant that
when, just before one dive, the small
O-ring in the suit-feed connector failed
(not the one supplied to me by Otter),
I could simply use my redundant BC feed
and not miss the dive.
It did mean that had I wanted to blow
some air into the BC at the surface, for
example, I would have had to resort to
the corrugated hose and its oral-inflation
valve, or swap the hose back.
The upper part of the BC is made using
a woven material, whereas the lower
part appears to be a lightweight
trilaminate. There are reinforcing
patches at the knees.
The legs are finished off with neoprene sockends, for use with heavyweight canvas hiking
These give the benefit of avoiding floaty feet
during a dive, but my size 12s so clad only just
managed to get into a pair of Mares Avanti
Quattros in the largest size.
The upper part of the suit is finished in a
bright red material that looked rather startling
in any underwater photographs.
The Travelite had been specially made for the
New Product Showcase at the London
International Dive Show, so the glue was hardly
dry when I took it away with me.
Some of the smaller Otter labels did fall off
while I was using it, along with some radarreflecting patches, but otherwise the suit held
together well, and withstood the rigours of two
dives a day on a crowded day-boat continuously
for a week.
I was particularly careful only with the sockended feet when not wearing the boots.
The suit looked good and I think I looked
good in it. I’d simply prefer a straightforward
version with less material and a standard
cross-shoulder zip. ■
Whites Fusion £859
pictures than compact digital cameras, because
the sensors are bigger. That said, these sensors
are generally still half the size of a 35mm frame
of film, so lenses have to be of shorter focal
length to give the same angle of view as the
35mm equivalent.
Why not make the sensors as big as a full
frame of film? It’s possible, but as sensors get
bigger they get exponentially more expensive.
Producing a full-frame (FX) camera costs
a bomb.
I’ve been getting stupendously high-quality
results with my DX Nikons, but I was seduced
into getting a full-frame FX Nikon D700, because
it can use all the Nikon lenses I have collected
since 1970, and can be used at very high lightsensitivity settings (such as 1600 ISO instead of,
say, 200 ISO) without any digital noise or grain
showing. Well, that’s the excuse I gave my wife.
Every underwater photographer has flooded
a camera and lens. I’ve done it more than once.
After flooding my first DSLR, I was so scarred
that I would never risk putting my then very
expensive DX Nikon D2x in a housing.
The guys at Hugyfot have convinced me
otherwise, because they’ve done away with that
business of sealing your beloved camera into its
housing and hoping it doesn’t drown when you
dunk it. The Hugycheck system I reviewed
recently (divEr Tests, February) tests the seal by
reducing pressure inside the housing and
seeking out leaks using non-damaging air rather
than destructive water.
It convinced me. I dived into what Gordon
Brown had left of my pension fund for £2500 to
buy a Nikon D700 and 16mm Nikon fish-eye
lens. (By the time you read this, both will
probably be obsolete!)
Superficially, the D700 looks much like my
previous D200 (and the D300 that replaced it)
except that it has an even more marvellous
focusing system, and needs longer focallength lenses.
The 16mm Fish-eye on the FX is much like the
10mm Fish-eye on the DX I had been using, but
all my old lenses work seamlessly (auto-focus
apart, for the manual ones) and I have a huge
choice of prime lenses (from 20m to 105mm)
available for surface use or underwater
macro photography.
Unlike many FX cameras, this is not a bulky
beast, and any housing for it is only a centimetre
or so taller, so this will prove a popular choice ☛
Diver Tests_AUG:Layout 1 01/07/2009 10:15 Page 80
of full-frame camera with underwater
What matters is that I can habitually use small
lens apertures and high shutter speeds, or use
my flashguns on a one-eighth power setting, so
battery charge lasts a lot longer.
I can get more than 200 RAW files recorded
on a 4Mb CF memory card. I should be able to
leave the camera sealed in its housing all day or
maybe longer on a dive trip.
The Hugyfot housing exudes good quality in
the way it is manufactured from aluminium.
Open it up and you’ll see a lot of electrical
components that enable it to be set up with
different makes of flashgun in TTL mode.
It is slightly tedious to open, because
a hexagonal wrench is needed. It won’t get
unlatched accidentally in the freshwater rinse
tank, but you will need to search for the right
tool each time.
The camera slips onto its mounting-plate to
be held in place by a conventional tripod screw
and a second screw-in locating pin.
You have to ensure that the camera and
housing switches are in the “On” position, and
that some other rotating switches are
corresponding, camera to housing.
You then connect the flash lead to the hot
shoe, being careful not to damage the two little
LEDs of the Hugycheck system. With the battery
previously installed under the camera
mounting-plate, these will be flashing red.
The back of the housing is then dropped
onto the front half of the clamshell case so that
the two hexagonal-ended bolts locate.
The O-ring that makes the seal looks skinny
but the Hugycheck leak-testing system provides
peace of mind.
I did notice that it was possible to tighten up
the two bolts further once it was under water,
but you would need to have that hexagonal
wrench with you.
You then check that all the controls function
properly, the camera’s design dictating the
position of the camera controls.
The Hugyfot housing uses very nice-looking
buttons, but I have a couple of reservations.
With many functions, you need to press in a
particular button and, at the same time, rotate
the command dial, which translates into a
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From left: Two flash synchs and one Hugycheck bulkhead connector; shutter release and f/stop control
rotating knob at the back of the housing.
However, as with many other housings, this is
very difficult to do while holding it under water.
Another camera housing I have allows you to
lock in the main button, then use the same
hand to rotate the command knob while you
take the weight of your rig, complete with
flashguns, in the other hand.
Not so this Hugyfot. The designer has made
the housing very anatomically, but then added
the necessary handles. I think they need to be
about a centimetre closer to the housing to
allow easy use of the controls.
The wheel for the lens-aperture control
sticks out some distance away from the housing
on a long stalk. It’s as if the designer was
uncompromisingly pursuing a nicely rounded
housing, with this as an afterthought.
On the other hand, the shutter-release has
been designed to merge with the line of the
housing to such an extent that I often missed
a shot while fumbling around for it after
adjusting the aperture wheel. This might be less
of a problem without the right-side handle.
The camera and housing did feel a little
negatively buoyant in the water, and that was
enough to make my arms feel tired once I
started to get cold.
Having two bulkhead connections for the flash
is very useful, though I tended to link my second
flashgun by photocell slave, rather than have
an extra wire.
I was hoisted on my own petard when one of
my flashguns decided to cease working from its
cell. The problem was solved before the next
dive, by making the other the slave and
swapping the cable around.
I liked the way my flash-arms mounted
directly to any of three ball-mounting points,
including one on the optional extra handle.
I used the 16mm Nikon fish-eye and a 20mm
Nikon rectilinear wide-angle lens behind the
Hugyfot acrylic fish-eye dome port.
Ports are mounted using a bayonet system,
but there was no tendency for the big dome to
rotate undone by accident.
I can’t say it was a good test of sharpness,
because I was working in quite poor conditions
of visibility, in very cold water in which
thermoclines caused some refraction.
When it’s time to retrieve the camera, the
Hugycheck valve is unscrewed, accompanied by
a satisfying inrush of air. The LED lights up red.
occurred at Zagreb airport, where the security
people, unperturbed by cameras and diving
equipment, spotted the Hugycheck pump and
its 9V battery by X-ray in my luggage.
“Vot eez zees?” they asked.
Be careful how you say the word “pump” to
airport security people. It can so easily sound
like a B-word!
Whatever my criticisms of the Hugyfot
housing, I wouldn’t risk such an expensive
camera and lens in one that didn’t have a nondestructive leak test system – so I’ll have to learn
how to use it. ■
PRICE8FX Nikon D700 with 16mm Fish-eye
lens, around £2500; Hugyfot housing with
fish-eye dome port and Hugycheck system
for around 3000 euros
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