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Gear Notes - Canon T3i/600D, NEX-5N, and NEX-7

Our demo gear in Little Cayman also included systems for the Canon T3i (also called 600D), Sony NEX-5N, and NEX-7. Though I personally didn't get to dive any of these at the shootout (they were booked solid!), I've used all of them in the past, and I did assemble, disassemble, change batteries and cards, lenses and port, strobes and lights numerous times during the course of the week. Here are my thoughts on each just from the demo:

Canon T3i: The T3i, officially called the Canon EOS Rebel T3i in the US, is known as the Canon EOS 600D elsewhere. The Nauticam housing for it is called NA-600D. Now that we have the name straight, let's talk about this camera from a demo perspective. In my GX1 Gear Note, I talked about how we try to give people a quick tutorial on the camera and housing before we send them out into the blue to dive with it, and how sometimes that process is rushed. The thing that struck me the most about the T3i is how simple it is to explain, and how easy it is to use, both on land and inside the housing. In fact, I think it is actually easier to use inside the housing than out, with the use of the Av switch on the housing that holds down the Av button.

Shutter Release, ISO, *, Video Start/Stop, AV +/-, and the camera’s front command wheel are all accessible via levers or dials under the right handle. Pushbuttons on the back of the housing access Focus Area Selector, Quick Control Menu, White Balance, Autofocus Mode, Drive, Playback, Delete, and Set. An accessory Zoom Gear Control Knob and pushbuttons for Menu and Info are available from the left handle. The two-stage shutter release lever enhances tactile feel of the half press and full press positions of the shutter release button, allowing precise focus control, and less accidental shutter actuation.

When shooting in manual exposure mode, the Av switch assigns the function of the command wheel to shutter speed or f-stop, and when in Av or Tv modes enables exposure compensation. The lever is large enough to be operated by feel, allowing the photographer to keep their eye in the viewfinder while operating this function and making exposure changes on the fly. The fingertip ISO lever makes it easy to change ISO – allowing quick video exposure changes right from the handle.

The T3i might be the younger brother of the 7D and 60D, but is boasts the same 18 megapixel sensor in a smaller package. Given the excellent image quality, 1080p 30fps video, and ease of use, the T3i is a compelling bargain.

Special Note: Canon has announced the successor to the T3i, called, not surprisingly, the T4i. We like the T3i so much, it is a good bet that we'll do a housing for T4i. Stayed tuned for that!

Sony NEX-5N: The Sony NEX-5N is the follow-on to the very successful NEX-5. The NEX-5 was Nauticam's first housing for a mirrorless camera, and caught the world by surprise with it's success. Sony improved the NEX-5 in several ways with the NEX-5N, including a new 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and a first curtain electronic shutter designed to substantially reduce shutter lag which also helps to raise the still shooting rate to 10 frames per second in speed-priority-continuous mode. For video shooters, the NEX-5N shoots 1080p at 60fps. Additional new features include expanded ISO range, in camera lens correction, and touch screen menus and camera control.

The NEX-5N did very well in demo... many people like the simple, single command dial menu driven interface. The user interface features a help system to facilitate learning the camera with less reading of a manual. It turns out that we managed to forget the popup flash for our NEX-5N (we had 7 cases of gear - it's amazing we didn't forget more!); but not to worry: we took advantage of the excellent higher ISO performance and equipped the camera with two Sola 1200 lights. I was amazed at how well this combination worked for people. While I won't give up my strobes any time soon, it is easy to see the advantage of shooting like this - what you see (in the LCD) is what you get (on your image).

Sony NEX-7:

The Sony NEX-7 is the big brother to the NEX-5N. Sure, it has a new 24 Megapixel CMOS APS-C sized sensor, sports ultra fast performance, does focus peaking, shoots 1080p 60fps HD video using AVCHD, has a ton of cool features like HDR and sweep panorama, but the two things that really stand out with the NEX7? The awesome electronic viewfinder (EVF), and the three command dial interface.

First, the 3 command dial interface - when shooting in manual mode, one dial is devoted to shutter speed, one to aperture, and one to ISO. No need to click a button or go to a menu, just direct quick access to the three fundamental components of exposure. Very easy to explain!

The EVF is a 2.4M dot electronic OLED display, which translates to mean that it is bright, has excellent contrast, and the resolution is high enough that you won't see lines, even when using an magnifying viewfinder like the Nauticam 180º Enhanced Viewfinder or the Nauticam 45º Enhanced Viewfinder. An external viewfinder on a compact camera? Yes, you read that right. With an optional upgraded back, the NEX-7 and use the viewfinders originally designed for our SLR's. Imagine shooting video through a 45º viewfinder - it is now possible