View Full Version : Beginner help

05-13-2007, 08:54 PM
I'm new (as of today) to this forum. I'm looking for a video camera system and don't even know what questions to ask. Not looking for a pro system but something that I can show the members of my family who don't dive. I live in Washington state and dive the Puget Sound most of the time so low light situations (which would have to be lit with video lights?) I would think that image stabilization would be really nice to have, other than that... I have no clue. I am familiar with still photography and have my own darkroom but little digital experience. Thanks in advance.:)

The Publisher
05-14-2007, 12:59 AM
747...first of all, welcome to the ScubaMagazine.net Forum. You're screen name reminds us of lost friend and Patriot, BigJetDiver, who is sorely missed by us and the entire dive community.

Anyway it would help if you had a budget to work with, as well as telling us what your expectations are.

As an example, you can get a standard definition video camera for $500 less than a HiDefinition videocam, but pretty much everyone is going to HD.

There are two basic types of HD videocams in a decent price range-the single CMOS chip videocam where one chip handles all colors, or the 3 CMOS chip camera, which handles colors better but is more expensive.

Compact videocams like Sony's HDR-HC1, HDR-HC5 and HDR-HC7 comes to mind. All these cameras have a really rockin feature called Telemacro. I have seen some macro shots in the Lembeh Straits shot with the Light and Motion housing and the HC1 with lights and it was really impressive.

All these are in the $1K to $1.5K price range.

Stick with housings from the Big 3, which are Amphibico, Light and Motion and Gates. Amphibico and Light & Motion are electronic, such as the Amphibicos which use infrared transmission. Gates is more of a manual housing. There are pros and cons, but so minute it is like Ford v. Chevy.

Anything with an external monitor of any type will be better, although the best monitors are either external HD or the onboard HD monitors that come with the videocams.

As to lights, anything but wide angle far away needs lights, and the brighter, the better. Go with HID's, which compared to incandescents are like a high bypass turbofan compared to a Rotax or a Lancair IV P compared to a Cessna 152. HID lights can be bought later, but for great color up close you WILL need dual lighting.

Make sure you get either a NiMH battery pack or LiIon, as nicads are about as efficient and desirable as a one legged guy in a butt kicking contest.

Amphibico by the way is based in Canada, but considering how fast they've overnighted spares to me for fiddling and modification, their distance has had no impact at all, and they've spent hours on the telephone with us patiently answering our newbie silly questions.

All 3 have a presence at most major dive shows, and they'll all be at the upcoming Long Beach California Scuba Show.

Stay away from the mail order houses that sell video-scameras out of New York and New Jersey. They sell video-scameras with Japanese lettering, no USA warranty, no accessories, and they pad their reviews with phoney management made posts acting like they're the satisfied buyer. If you think you're going to get a full blown videocam for the half price these guys claim then I am the brother of the late Unita leader Jonas Savimbi of Angola and I would like to kindly enlist your help in a most confidential business proposal in releasing $35 million USD of my funds I have hidden in Angola which will go into your bank account where you will receive a 20% commission which is $7 million USD

Try E-Opinions (http://www.epinions.com/), or better, yet, save yourself a lot of headaches, time and trouble, and just deal with one of our members here, Mike Luzansky who owns and operates H2oPhotoPros and has a banner in the lower left of our front page.

I bought a Sony HDR FX1 3 CCD chip videocam, an Amphibico Phenom housing, and external HD monitor and dual 35-50 watt Amphibico HID's from Mike and he gave us a great deal even before he was a member here. No hassles, no scams, no delays and a great package deal. He offers training and training trips too.

Anyway, let me know what your goals are and between myself and maybe some even more seasoned video pros we can steer you in the right direction and make you avoid the sand traps.

05-14-2007, 08:59 AM
G'day and welcome aboard. Any chance of a cheap flight or 2?
Now for the cameras.
Do your research and make sure the camera you get has a compatible housing. No use getting the best camera if there isnt a housing for it. Look around. Everything has a mile of features but they are useless if you either dont want them or dont know what they are. Set a budget for yourself. You will blow it out of the water but who cares its all fun anyway but its a good starting point.
After all that just remember the golden rule: Theres only 2 types of underwater cameramen, Those that have flooded and those that will. Try not to join the second group to quick.

05-14-2007, 10:31 AM
Hi 747,
I'd like to add 2 important points to your quandry. I use a gates housing with single chip dv cam (sony pc120) and edit with Adobe premiere pro.
Point 1 - 2 types of housing - electronic connection or manual control. If your flood a electronic connecting housing, you've broken the camera and the housing. If you flood or break a manual housing, you can fix the housing yourself. This is very handy if you dive in far flug areas with no support.
Point 2 - A housing and camera may be compatible now but in my case, sony don't make obsolete pc120s any more but my housing will last a lifetime. I've had to stockpile pc120s that I buy cheap on ebay. Some companies (topdawg spring to mind) now do housings to hold many different models of camera.

Some people may think my set up is basic (not 3ccd or hd) but bad vis, old tvs,bad encoding and non-perfect eyesight of some viewers can all ruin a dive movie too.
My advice is "Keep It Simple" and cheap, then if it floods it doesnt hurt quite so much.
You can view some of my videos in this forum or on my blog listed below.

06-18-2007, 02:51 AM
I've joined this thread late, but note you're in Puget Sound area. Being in Marysville, 30 mi north of Seattle, I invite you to a Marker Buoy Dive Club meeting. We have over a half dozen video divers with different systems. From basic to pro type. I got a great deal on a HD camera 1.5 yr ago and have 100 u/w tapes now. I just make DVD's of dives and give them away. Just send snail mail detail for some samples. From local wolf eels, octopuses (per Seattle Aquarium, that's correct), to Maui and Mexico (white sharks).

If you've purchased a rig, let us know. There's always tweaking and tips. Once camera is purchased, you can get housing and light system from $1,300 to many thousands. If you haven't yet purchased a camera, please reply before you do.

I'm a value type guy, so I still use Halogen lights, and like their slightly red tone. I'm on my 4th camera and 3rd housing now.

Jim McGauhey
Washington State

08-24-2007, 01:01 PM
so purple,
i'm just about to set up my own business doing uw vid... I used to work for another guy, but he has moved on... so opportunity knocks and all that...

I'm trying to decide between the L&M HC7 housing & a Seatool HC7. I want to get an aluminium body cos the ikelite acts like a greenhouse in the humid tropics and fogs up the lens... very frustrating... also you cant get "boat" shots without a alu housing...

Have you experience with either of these? I'll be in C. Am. so a certian level of support seems good, but the idea that Saetool dont have it now that Reef, H2O etc. stock these in the US.

Also, can you get insurance for your housing/camera? I used to work in oz as a photgrapher (2000+ camera dives) and to date (touch wood) i havent flooded a camera, but i dont want to wave good bye to US$3000!?

Cheers for advice from any and all on the forum

09-30-2007, 04:01 AM
Another option for your HC7 would be Ocean Images. An aluminum housing, great prices, great service, annual service only about $50. They don't sell through dealers that I know of, only direct, based in Florida. Not a bad connection from C America. I've used mine for almost 2 years. I like the fact they have optional controls that utilize the touch screen on the monitor. Deco?? Just review your footage on the monitor. Not many housings allow you to do that. Last dive I forgot from prior use and had the camera set on manual exposure. Hard to change underwater. and the variations every minute were just too much to keep changing. I just went into the on-screen menu and changed to auto exposure. Plus, the unit is small enough to fit into a backpack for airline carryon. I carry housing, camera, batteries, tapes, and chargers; so nothing critical can get lost in baggage. I shoot a HVR-A1U Sony HDV camcorder. This is my 3rd housing and 4th camera.

09-30-2007, 06:06 AM
Great info Jim!

09-30-2007, 07:33 PM
First, 747 and Jim.. You're making me long for being back in Seattle... I miss it.

OK, Here is what I use:
SONY HDR-HC3 housed in a GATES using Nite-Rider lighting.
Here is a link to some screen shots from HD Videos I just made in August
Granted, the pics are "Screen Shots" so quality is not what I was looking for in the picture, just the picture..
Note the SONY takes both Video and Picture and you may switch between the
two while diving, or you may snap pictures while filming.
I highly recommend the Nite-Rider lights.. I use the dual (4 lights) on the
unit I carry and may independently turn on/off any combination of lights I feel I need,
angle them in any direction, so forth.. but most of all, the support from Nite-Rider.
Twice a screwed up my lighting and twice they over nighted me a replacement.
There are, as mentioned in other posts, other good equipment to consider for
all the reasons mentioned.

Good luck and boy I sure do miss the NW...

Papa Bear
09-30-2007, 08:31 PM
I don't know if you have done something by now, but here is my 2 cents! You didn't say what you wanted to spend? That makes a world of difference! SD or HD? If you want in on the bottom or the top of the last generation of SD cameras. Again price makes the difference! You can get a lot of bang for your buck if you go SD, but you have to look at the world is going HD, so either way you go has its pit falls! You can check with Ikelite they put some great packages to with camera, housing, and lights. Their Products travel well being light and compact. They both SD and HD packages, but are leaning towards HD more. HDR-HC7 is a great camera. Ikelite uses Canon Cameras that are at the top of the heap for sure! So what is you want to spend and do? And don't forget the time factor of editing and the expense of the editing program. Even on the bottom end this can get pricey be aware! Everyone is giving you some great advice, but nothing replaces hands on if you can do it? Maybe rent something first it will help the learning curve.

10-01-2007, 06:13 AM
Very true on $$. The HC7 is one of the best cameras out there, certainly competition for the Canon HV20, which also has great reviews. Interesting that lars2923 uses the HC3 camera, the forerunner to HC5 and HC7. I just purchased a HC3 as B-roll to have a second camera for surface work (got it used in a great deal). The still images are great. Better if not taken during video recording. Can do it either way, but the quality is better. If anyone is near Seattle area, there are 3 of us taking video who are going to do a sharing seminar in the next month or so. I'm sort of leading it, but plan not to teach as in class, but more share. We do have an outline and a good LCD projector to see video on a large screen. If anyone doesn't have a system, I'd be glad to dive with you and let you use this system to try it out. I'm leading a group of 12 to Maui in January and we hope to sharpen our skills before then. We'll also go over computers, editing systems, burning, best codecs for websites, etc. I'm a value guy so like to do things on a tight budget; Gates is great and used by many pros, but out of my $$. Same with Nite Rider lights, mine do great and the pair cost only $315 new, a fraction of all other lights. Another e.g. the Maui trip is $1,400 with lodging, car rental, unlimited air fills, all rental gear, boat dives, and including airfare from Seattle. I certainly envy those with more to invest in video and trips, but I get along. Now I'm recording HD-DVD's on regular $0.35 media. Looking for the next bargain ... Jim

10-05-2007, 11:19 PM
Another option for your HC7 would be Ocean Images. An aluminum housing...Ocean Images housings are Poly not Aluminum. From their website:
Our video camera underwater housing body is precision molded from a high strength polymer.
They do have an aluminum port mounting option so that may be where the confusion lies...
Wide angle/Machined aluminum port system

Just wanted to clarify that due to the differences in depth ratings for poly vs. aluminum housings...+/- 150' vs. over 300' for Amphibico, L&M & Gates.