View Full Version : Gates HFS-11 Housing Report

01-11-2010, 06:50 PM
Hi, I very recently got the Gates/HFS-11 combo with the GP32 lens. After dropping the housing minus camera to 200' for my own piece of mind, I've spent 3 dives in crappy weather with bottom swells just doing a lot of testing on it. Translation: I'd never use any of the shots, but I was able to play with almost everything the system will do.

Ease of control of w/b, focusing, shutter and aperture control, low light capability, an in general, the feel of the system stability wise. I've previously had an amphibico/a1u system and prior to that an LMI/TRV-950 system.

I was going to say the Gates is a non-electronic housing, but that's not really true when I think about it. A lot of the control of the camera is done with the remote control slid into the housing and controlled by buttons on the top. The handle offset design of the housing is VERY comfortable and you can tell a lot of thought went into this housing before they released it. All of the primary controls are right by your fingers and, with the exception of the left side control, can be operated while recording without noticing any camera shake. Maybe someone else can use this control without movement, but I haven't mastered this yet.

You can customize and the front left control to choose between focusing, w/b or other options. I selected this to control the manual/auto focus. The w/b is controlled by one finger and two "pushes" on the remote buttons. Very easy.

The camera manually white balances (white slate) to at least 80', and after recording video in each of the white bal settings, there was very little noticeable difference between the 'auto wb' and the manually controlled 'custom' setting in both the lcd and monitor. I don't mean that the w/b didn't operate well, it did. I think that Canon has just engineered the auto w/b to work better that other cameras I've used.

I'll still use the manual setting, but it's nice to know I can rely on the auto setting if I forget it.

The lcd viewfinder is easy to see even though my eyesite is bad. I also opted to get the EM-43 monitor and I've got three words for it. Expensive and Superb. So far the 8 AA batteries have lasted thru 3 dives, and the manual claims up to 9 hours before ya gotta change them. The monitor is very easy to adjust and the resolution is sharp. It slides into the top of the housing and is adjustable (about 2 inches) to allow for weight distribution. It's also vertically adjustable to allow 90 degree look down viewing.

One of my main concerns was horizontal stability while swimming. You know, the slight or moderate rocking of the housing with your kicking. So far it's been damned near perfectly flat and I think the "wide design" of the housing with low vertical height and handle configuration plays a big part of this. Frog kicking also helps a lot.

The hfs-11 fits very snugly in the housing. There's a definite order to how you slide it in, but it's all in the very well done manual. Coming from all tape based systems I LOVE the ability to choose whether I want to record on the SDHC card or the internal memory. I chose the card (bought 3 16gb ones) for the video and the internal for the stills.

You don't have to slide the camera all the way out to get the card out -or- to change the battery. You DO have to tilt the lcd downward to get it out, but once you find this out it's simple to do by just pushing on the card slot and it'll release. You have to take the camera out to connect the usb cord if you use the internal memory because it's on the other side and these no room. The housing also takes the biggest battery they make so you don't have to worry about it lasting for a couple of dives.

The GP32 port focuses very sharply to within 1" of the lens. I didn't try it any closer. There's not much zoom through, I'd say less than 20%. I just received the flat port and haven't tested it yet, but will tomorrow. The specs say you can add up to 3 diopters filters on the camera and this makes macro stuff a helluva lot easier.

Overall evaluation of the entire system? Really, really (let me say this again) really good. Can't say great yet, but damned close for my purposes, which is shooting for a tv show. It's overall footprint is small and compact which is very good for anyone traveling, and the weight factor is much less than most other housings.

When I get more video in our usual Guam clear waters I'll add another post on the macro lens.

Hope this helps for those that are considering this combo. And no, I have no affiliation with Gates. Bought it from Mike at H20 Photo Pros.

01-12-2010, 04:16 PM
Nice review. I am so glad you are enjoying your new toy.

Can't wait to see some of your videos!