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About The Aquatica AGH4 Housing
NEW! NEW! NEW!!
To Order this fantastic housing and accessories:
Contact us: Tim Rock – timrock [at] doubleblue [dot] com
The Aquatica AGH4 housing is built with quality materials and craftsmanship, it is designed and machined with the Panasonic LUMIX DMC GH4 in mind from the onset. Taking full advantage of this camera extraordinary video capability was a top priority for our design team.
All of the vital controls that require to be operated while shooting have been conveniently located so as not to restrict your creative flow. This housing is manufactured and carefully studied to insure that the controls are not only accessible, but also comfortable to use, in all kinds of diving conditions.
Aquatica fully understands the requirements involved for shooting high quality video, with the acquisition of Amphibico, the legendary video housing manufacturer, came a wealth of expertise in the field of video capture, it is this knowledge, coupled with over 30 years of manufacturing housings, that is now distilled into this AGH4 housing.
By natural necessity, a housing needs a sound, practical and ergonomic design for video, fiddling around to access controls can easily ruin your important sequence. You need intuitive and precise access these controls.
Buckle up, the future is here! The Panasonic GH4 brings cinematic 4k video performance to your door step, with its Micro 4/3 lens mount, this camera benefits from a very large selection of lenses. In fact, an astounding array of lenses from Panasonic, Leica and Olympus, just to name a few, are offered in this lens mount.
Add the fact that is has 4x times the resolution of HD, one can easily understand why the GH4 will stand out head and shoulders above its competitors. Video shot on Ultra HD 4K is razor sharp and needs to be experienced firsthand to be believed!
Recording video in Ultra HD at resolution of 3840 x 2160 in 30p/24p or 4096 x 2160 in 24p, compared to standard HD which is 1920 x 1080p, the 4k quadruples the standard HD resolution. It is also the only one in its league to record 4K 30p directly to a SD card, this is big news, since there will be no need for a bulky external drive!
If current post production and viewing technology has not yet caught up with the 4K, you need not worry, even scaled down to a 1080p, the footage still looks noticeably sharper, the added resolution offers a generous margin in post processing cropping and stabilization.
The GH4 offer some nifty features in 1080P as well, silky smooth slow motion, less compression and wider latitudes for post processing and editing. Files sizes are surprisingly small, being similar to what pro DSLR will offer in 1080P, managing your footage is and will definitely be easier to manage, obliviously, in order to extract the maximum out of the GH4, only the best and fastest memory card, such as SDXC – UHS – II should be used, slower cards will do fine for still images and lower resolution footages.
The Panasonic GH4 would be an impressive camera, even if meant for shooting stills only! It sure shines in this department with its 16mp sensor, very desirable flash sync speed of 1/250, increased ISO/dynamic range and burst rate of up to 12 frames a seconds even in RAW.
NEW! NEW! NEW!!
To Order this fantastic housing and accessories:
Tim Rock – timrock [at] doubleblue [dot] com
North and South Pacific with the AD7100
Story and Photos by TIM ROCK
I had a busy couple of months planned starting in late August and ending well into October. It would include traveling to Yap in Micronesia for the annual Manta Fest shootout at Manta Ray Bay Hotel. Yap is not only great for it’s famous mantas but has a superb shark venue, lot of big fish schools, dropoffs and some fine macro sites. Then it was on to the South Pacific to spend nearly three weeks on a catamaran with the main focus being humpback whales but we would free dive reefs, snorkel with mantas and also see some other big marine mammals like false orcas.
And I had a couple of new cameras, Nikon D7100s, to play with. So I gave the folks at Aquatica a call to see how the AD7100 housing production was coming. I was told with a little luck and help from FedEx I could get the first one off the line. I got it with two days to spare, gave it a quick test in my home waters of Guam at the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve and then it was off to Yap.
Now I must tell you that I am a DX fan. But I have been waiting for the mythical “Nikon D400” for too many years now. I waited and waited and used all the other Nikon DXs… the D200, D300, D90 and D7000. The “D400” was supposedly going to come out and put the DX world on its ear in September 2012. After that month came and went, I knew I had to start moving on. So after a lot of gnashing of teeth about going full frame to the Nikon D800E, I opted for what is the new DX Nikon flagship camera, the Nikon D7100. To be honest, I was a bit taken aback at the small buffer of the D7100. Didn’t seem like much of a flagship with only a second or two of RAW high speed shooting before the buffer stuffed up.
But it does have a 24MP sensor and Nikon did a few other things like add 1080P video, extraordinary low light performance and ability to render highlights with excellent detail. Coupled with the excellent range of optics it uses (that I already had in my camera bag) plus the affordable price (I can buy 2 bodies and still have change as opposed to buying just one D800E body). And I shoot a lot of land images and the extra focal length you get with a telephoto lens and the crop sensor has always appealed to me, especially for African safaris and leaping whales.
So in the end, I went with it. I did some reading online. The folks at Nikonians.com are always a responsive bunch and some nature and sports shooters told me the buffer size problem was tackled best by investing in some high speed SD cards. So I got a 128G card with a 95MB write speed and a couple of 64G cards with 95MB write speeds. These have made a world of difference. On Consecutive Low I can click away at 3-4 FPS for quite a while. And even on high it shoots and writes quickly. Of course, underwater with big marine creatures, the camera is only really reading black, white and blue so the camera’s buffer handles free diving situations and shallow diving quite well.
And, I frequently read Thom Hogan. His take on DX vs. FX is pretty much mine, that is, manufacturers make more money selling full frame bodies so they promote them more. Thus, they push them as being better in quality. As Hogan says, “Basically what’s happening right now is that camera makers are preying on your “wants” and not your “needs.” Put another way, if everyone wasn’t so lusting over full frame bodies Nikon would have had to have come out with the crop sensor D400 and some more DX lenses by now.” I have a pretty full range of lenses that work fine with DX, especially underwater, including the Sigma 8-16, Nikkor 10.5mm and 14-24, Tokina 10-17, Sigma 8mm full frame fisheye, a Nikon 10-24 and a few others. With a wide array like that to choose from, FX looked too limiting for my underwater needs. (… and as I write, Nikon has announced yet another new FX-format DSLR called the Nikon Df DSLR… I rest my case.)
So with DX D7100 cameras in hands, it was time to set up the underwater housing. As I said, my go-to wides are the Nikkor 14-24mm and also Tokina 10-17 and Sigma 8-16mm and for macro I like the Sigma 50mm macro and Tokina 100mm macro. I also use the new Aquatica close-up kit a lot. It has been invaluable in shooting macro life around Guam for my new book about the island’s marine preserves.
The Aquatica AD7100 housing is a good looking housing… a bit larger than the AD7000. I like this extra room as, among other things, I can put my car key inside when I go beach diving or snorkeling in Guam. I also like the fact that at night, with Aquatica large macro ports, the Nikon modeling light lets me shoot critters that are shy of a bright spotting lights by using the camera’s on-board focusing light. Aquatica also coats the housings with a baked on, tough as nails, powder coating. I can tell you my AD7100 housing is a jet black and way cool.
Aquatica has always has a high standard of quality. This translates into a housing that goes much deeper than I do. It has a depth rating of 300ft/90 meters, and the AD7100 and others are upgradeable to 425ft/130m. Since I figured the deepest I would be going in the next two months was 30m, I was covered well in the depth department. It also seems a bit heavier, like a D200 housing, which I like for shooting video. Makes it a bit easier to steady the shot.
I’ve been using Aquatica gear for a long time. Thus, I can use every current port I own, so no extra accessory expense is incurred in updating a housing body. Aquatica gets input from underwater photographers, the ultimate end users, and actually puts that feedback into their products. As a result, this housing was thoughtfully designed with a lot of great ideas that I could see immediately while taking it out of the box and unwrapping the swaddling paper. The shooting right side was uncluttered with some redesign that allows very quick and easy access to the controls with a lot of one and two finger controls functions. Large buttons for important functions and different-sized playback and function buttons highlight the right side keys.
The rear button array on the left hand side is angled at 15 degrees for ease of access, and the Multi Controller assembly has been redesigned to feel more natural. This very important control is accessed via 5 individual buttons on the camera body, giving the user an intuitive feel when going through menus or when reviewing images. Frontal controls benefit from newly designed 3 spring arrays, ensuring smooth precise operation of the crucial shutter release, as well as nearby video record and exposure compensation levers. Transmission of the aperture value is now through an accurate belt system.
I liked the larger body for one reason especially, the use of the 8” dome is now possible without an extension ring. The AD7000 requires a small extension. And on the AD7000, the dome lock release was very hard to get to. Not so on the AD7100. Changing ports is simple and they lock quickly and securely into place. I had to make a quick adjustment on the steps of the whale boat and was able to do this without climbing back on board for a lengthy procedure.
I found my favorite workhorse lens, the Tokina 10-17mm, will fare very well without the 18456 extension. This made for easy handling and nice CFWA images. It helps to be stopped down (f/8 or smaller) to get the corners in line.
Yap’s great Vertigo shark dive sometimes requires some fast exposure changes. You shoot into blue water, into the reef and into the sun depending on how you have positioned yourself. And there are lots of grey reef and blacktip sharks that swim by you, around you and over you. With the AD7100, functions are clearly identified with permanent pad printed paint for quick visual identification. This also eliminates the frustration of searching for relocated controls. I was able to go from shooting into the sun to shooting 6 stops difference at the reef in a couple of finger moves without even moving my eye from the viewfinder. Very handy for these kinds of fast action situations.
Dual optical strobe connectors come standard with the housing, and can fit the popular optical cords available on the market. For the classic strobe connectivity that I prefer with my trusty Ikelites, or those that prefer electrically connected TTL converters, the housing can have a classic Nikonos or Ikelite type connector.
Truth be told, I normally use my housing like a Nikonos, with everything set on manual. So this allowed me set things up for macro at Yap’s Slow & Easy dive site for nudibranchs, leaf fish and wire coral gobies. The housing body has an extra mounting point on top for a focus or video light (or other accessories). I used my L&M Sola for spotting. There are three additional mounting points underneath for various brackets or for attaching a tripod for vids.
Aquatica housings have been available with a lens release for a long time now and there is also a moveable focus knob to move the focus gear away from the lens gear. For something like the monster 14-24, this allows removal of the lens through the front of the housing. But, for the handy 10-17, the controls provide a quick extract of the camera from the rear without removal of the lens. And the camera base mounting plate fits the camera snugly and pops securely into place when inserting the D7100 body.
Viewing on the Aquatica AD7100 is through a Galileo type eyepiece and this was great not only for macro, but also for viewing whales. On one session trying to snorkel like a mad person while trying to keep up with a mother whale and her frolicking, breaching calf, I was able to easily look in to change the F-stop and grab a shot from surface level of the calf just leaving the water. When shooting the big cetaceans, you sometimes have to quickly look away to make sure you’re not getting too close to the whales (as wide angles can distort the reality of how close you really are… sometimes you’re REALLY closer than you thought) and then look back to compose. The Galileo eyepiece was fine in these situations. The housing can come with the Aqua Viewfinder as well.
I tried shooting some shark video in Yap as well as my first whale video in Tonga. I managed to get a small speck of dust on my lens for the whales so the video isn’t perfect, but I had fun with it anyway. (Click here for Tonga on Vimeo) I worked in TV news for many years shooting video and the new 1080P video makes this camera a real tool. I am excited to try more.
But wait, there’s more! Micronesia is not to be left out. Here is the video at Yap’s Vertigo Reef with the grey reef and blacktip sharks. No enhancements, just run straight through iMovie. Not bad looking vid for natural light and no filters.
I think this may be the best designed housing Aquatica has come up with in recent editions. How they keep up with all the various cameras, I don’t know. But this one is truly a winner.
See Gallery of images from Yap and Tonga all shot with Nikon D7100 camera and Aquatica AD7100 Housing:
Pluses and Minuses
This is a very well-designed and thought out housing. I had to really look to find something to dislike.
– Handy and very functional controls for shooting, replay and changing settings
– Solid and compact build
– Easy to get camera in and out of housing
– It is a little hard to get to the metering button
The Nikon D7100 Digital camera is loaded with interesting options in its Custom Setting Menu section, some of them have proven to be very helpful to the underwater photographer. The AE-L/AF-L lever on the rear right hand side of the housing is used to access the AE-L/AF-L button of the camera. It is possible to modify its original function with a wide range of possibilities. The AE-L/AF-L CSM
Menu (f4) offers, amongst others, the following options:
– Isolating the focus lock
– AF activation
– Locking the Flash Value (with optically triggered strobe)
– Blocking the flash from triggering
The AF-ON setting is used for isolating the auto focusing system from the triggering of the camera, focusing is done by pressing the AF-L/AE-L lever which will activate the focus, the camera trigger will have no influence on focusing. This popular method allows the system to be tailored to very specific needs and is it worth exploring along with the multitude of other options available. It proved quite popular with our snorkeling whale photographers.
Carry your essential camera gear in the lightweight, body-conforming, medium TurnStyle 10. Designed for urbanite photographers, it’s ideal for a casual day of shooting. This body-conforming bag converts from a sling bag to a beltpack, enabling you to move and shoot freely while providing rapid access, flexibility and convenience.
The customizable interior enables you to configure the bag for each job, with designated pockets for a DSLR, one to three lenses, a small tablet and small accessories. Besides the tough, water-resistant fabric, a rain cover is included for heavy downpours.
Easy rotation for rapid access to gear and accessories
Converts from a sling bag to a beltpack for increased comfort and flexibility
Padded velour pocket fits a small tablet
Fits a standard DSLR with one to three lenses plus a small tablet. The front organizer pocket holds chargers, memory cards and other small accessories.
Nikon D800 with 24-70 f/2.8 attached + 50mm f/1.4 hoods reversed
Canon 5DMIII with 50mm f/1.2 attached + 16 – 35mm f/2.8 hoods reversed
Note that the product tapers significantly and dimensions are taken at largest point.
Interior Dimensions: 7.1” W x 12.6” H x 4.8” D (18 x 32 x 12.2 cm)
Exterior Dimensions: 8.3” W x 15.4” H x 5.2” D (21 x 39 x 13.2 cm)
Small tablet compartment: 6.3” x 8.7” x 0.4” (16 x 22 x 1 cm)
Maximum weight (with all accessories): 1.0lb (0.4kg)
Exterior: All fabric exterior treated with a durable water resistant coating, plus fabric underside is coated with polyurethane for superior water resistance, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 250D shadow rip-stop nylon, 3D air mesh, Y-Buckle, double gate keeper, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Interior: Removable high density closed cell foam dividers, 210D silver-toned nylon, polyurethane backed velex liner, Phthalate-free PVC (meets REACH standard) clear mesh pockets, 2x polyurethane coated 210T seam-sealed taffeta rain cover, Nylon binding tape, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
No Rhetoric Warranty Policy
Pictured above: Asri the ocean sunfish
I.D and Name Your Sunny
Asri the Sunfish
Story by James Michael
All photos copyright Tim Rock
In the mid-1990s, the phenomenon of ocean sunfish visiting the Indonesian islands of Bali and nearby Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida was largely a rumour. Occasionally spotted by surfers at Nusa Lembongan’s famous “Shipwreck Reef” break, they were thought to be were very large sharks. That is, until Aquaquest Micronesia TV Series producer Tim Rock, on his way back through Bali from filming in Komodo, tracked down an up-and-coming Bali-based dive operator from Western Australia, named Michael Cortenbach. Rock is also an author and having authored Bali’s first diving guide book in the 1980s with TT Yan of Gloria Maris Dive Shop, already knew the quality and diversity of Bali’s diving better than most. Rock expressed interest in doing a full TV show about Bali’s best dives and Cortenbach enthusiastically told Rock about Mola-mola (ocean sunfish).
Cortenbach also highlighted the recent discovery of a world class Manta Ray Interaction by the now defunct Bali Dive Club in the same region and the fledgling reef restoration work of Biorock in Pemuteran North Bali (now recognised as the world’s most successful community managed Reef restoration project). Further enhanced by the draw of the USS Liberty submerged shipwreck in Tulamben, Bali, and Bali’s vibrant and colourful culture, it was not difficult for Rock to put a convincing case together to motivate Aquaquest to produce the first and, to this date only, TV segment that covered all of Bali’s best diving attractions. A crew of five travelled Bali for two weeks diving, shooting video and taking stills. This turned out to be the first time the Mola mola aggregation was captured for television. It lead to many other high profile presenters and productions seeking out Cortenbach and Bali Diving Academy to record this phenomena for Natural History and Adventure Travel segments.
This also lead to a collaboration and friendship that has spanned twenty years and countless editorial pieces by Rock that were pivotal in Bali’s ultimate recognition as a world class diving destination and cemented the Mola mola amongst the big 5 of charismatic megafauna, rocketing it to fame in the diving world.
Both Cortenbach and Rock fondly remember a week of diving culminating in an evening on one of Lembongan’s beaches surrounded by some of the world’s leading scientists such as Tierney Thys, on site to tag a Mola mola with a satellite tag, film makers such as the BBC’s Peter Schoones shooting for Blue Planet and leaders of conservationist groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, who were there to provide a platform for the protection of the area and unique opportunity to dive with these huge fish.
The energy, enthusiasm and excitement pouring from the lamp lit tables and infecting other visitors with the desire to listen to impromptu explanations and view ad-libbed slide shows from leaders in their fields, remains embedded in the memories of these mola pioneers. What transpired in the coming years with Cortenbach and Rock led to a series of television shows, books, magazine articles, scientific expeditions and exploratory trips mainly designed to find out more about seasonal visits to the reefs of Lembongan, Penida and Bali of Mola-molas.
Another memorable moment in 2003 occurred when Rock was participating in creating a book about Bali’s beauty with a corps of international photographers. The book was to benefit the 2002 Bali bombing victims and reassure people that Bali was a safe and gentle place. On his last dive of a three-week shoot supported by Cortenbach and Bali Diving Academy, he was 30 meters down and nearing the end of his dive when he saw movement in the distance. He slowly approached and saw a host of fish including angelfish, wrasses and bannerfish all at a cleaning station preening a beautiful, large mola. He watched for a while and then captured our poster image. Rock has named that sunfish Asri for its beauty and harmony with nature. It is also the name of his granddaughter.
Now, you too can name your Indonesian ocean sunfish through a new research project.
The photos will be used for scientific research, as part of a PhD project by marine biologist Marianne Nyegaard at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. Identification of individuals from photos is well established for other marine mega fauna, such as whale sharks and manta rays, but has not previously been attempted for sunfish. Identifying individual Nusa Penida sunfish by their prominent skin patterns, Marianne hopes to estimate how many sunfish visit the island each season, how long they stay, and if the same individuals come back year after year.
Marianne will be based on Lembongan for the Molas some part of the 2013 Mola season. She will be hosted by the locally based Coral Triangle Center. She will employ various research methods in order to learn as much a possible about the Mola on Indonesia. In order to gather as much data as possible, Marianne is extending a photo appeal from new to old photos. Images, particularly those with digital data and time data, supported by a dive log that recognizes the location, depth and water temperature if recorded, can literally allow Marianne to research “back in time”. So if anyone has holiday shots of sunfish from previous years Marianne is very keen for a copy of these, along with any new photos to be taken in the upcoming sunfish season.
And of course Rock (see website) will be back in Bali sometime this season seeking to add to his already considerable collection of Mola mola images, ably supported by Cortenbach and Bali Diving Academy, who continue to bring this unique experience to divers and photographers alike.
For photo submission, please email your sunfish photos to:
Please send along with the date and time taken, approximate depth and dive site. And, if your Mola has not been spotted before, you get to name it so make sure you send along your favourite mola name!
All copyrights will be respected, and submitted photos will never be reproduced or circulated. They will be used for scientific research only. Nyegaard is hoping for worldwide submissions of sunfish taken anywhere in Indonesia, not only Bali. Hi resoluation images are preferred to make identifying the mola easier with the software she is using.
Want to know more about Bali? Get this new e-book for IOS devices by Tim Rock & Simon Pridmore
Here’s a preview of our new Bali Diving and Snorkeling Guide book. Available as an e-book:
We’re just back from West Papua on both Damai 1 and Damai 2. Here’s a look at what we found:
We head back to Raja Ampat and Triton Bay next year. One space left!!!
Have a good read and let us know if you can come!!
Just in time for summer travel, we are announcing a special offer for travelling photographers. This one is a big deal!
When you order a ThinkTank Airport roller this month, you can add one of the Artificial Intelligence laptop sleeves ($59 value) to the order for FREE!!!!.
Click on this photo to get to ThinkTank’s DEAL!!!
I love the ThinkTank equipment and I have used it for years. You can’t go wrong with these products.