The first Nauticam NA-550D landed in our warehouse a few days ago - it didn't take long before I managed to head to Key West and the Dry Tortugas for a quick dive trip. (So far, the oil from the gulf has not impacted the Dry Tortugas, but it is definitely a worry). I packed some lenses, a couple of Z-240 strobes, arms and also a 7D rig for some Nauticam family photos.
Nauticam NA-550D and big brother NA-7D
Since many T2i's are purchased with the 18-55 kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm IS), I tried this lens first, using a Nauticam Compact Port 15 with the 18-55 zoom gear. This is a versatile combination, 18mm on the wide side is wide enough to get some decent reef scenes, and it will allow a 1:2 reproduction ratio on the 55 end. This combo has a lot of range in a small package, and is very handy for fish portraits. Given the small size of the NA-550D housing and this port, this is a compelling setup for someone who wants to travel light.
Juvenile Blueheads shot with 18-55mm at 55mm
My biggest problem on this trip, aside from the weather being a little rough thanks to a passing tropical wave, was that everyone wanted to try the housing. I only managed to get to use it for about 2 dives. Using the 18-55, my friend who is new to underwater photography, managed to get some nice shots.
Shot with 18-55mm at 18mm
The new latches on the housing proved to be easy to use and very secure. To open, you press the small release button and move the lever in the opposite direction past a mechanical catch, making it virtually impossible to open inadvertently.
Shot with 18-55mm at 55mm
I had the camera's autofocus set to the default setting, such that the autofocus is initiated upon a half press of the shutter release. The NA-550D has a unique new two stage shutter release lever. The increased tactile feel of the two stages allows more control over the half press with less accidental actuation. Though I am more used to a configuration where the autofocus is moved to a different button, I found the default half press autofocus to be easy to use with this housing.
Shot with 18-55mm at 39mm
On the second dive, I traded the 18-55 for a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens plus zoom gear, combined with a Zen 100mm fisheye mini-dome plus Nauticam Locking Extension Ring 20. Trading out the lens is made easy by the new lens release on the NA-550D, and trading out the port is simple and secure thanks to the distinctive Nauticam port release mechanism. One thing I really liked was the lever to access the playback button, which made reviewing photos and video a breeze. I shot some in manual on this dive so I could try out the Av button lever. In what is apparently becoming a Nauticam tradition, I find this lever makes the camera easier to use inside the housing than by itself, i.e. instead of having to hold down the Av button and move the command dial at the same time, I just flipped the switch, then used the command dial to change the aperture, no need to hold anything down.
Shot with 10-17mm at 10mm
I also changed the camera to only autofocus when the * button is pressed. On the housing, the * button is the top button on the rocker button, and easily reached with my hands still on the handles. Since it is different than the 7D, it took a few tries to get used to the placement, but once I did it felt natural. I prefer this style of shooting, but for many people, the two stage shutter release will allow the default autofocus style to be the preferred method.
Shot with 10-17mm at 10mm
While we mostly concentrated on shooting stills this trip, I did shoot some natural light video with the T2i. This video is shot with manual exposure (using the ISO paddle lever to set ISO) and custom white balance, using Tokina 10-17. The video looks great at 1080p... I've uploaded it here to Vimeo, which is 720p and more compressed than I'd like, but not bad.
The NA-550D housings begin shipping June 30th.
NA-550D with 18-55mm in Compact Port 15