Note from editor: This is a guest blog post send in by Nauticam customer Bent Christensen. We're publishing it here, un-edited.
As many other underwater dslr-photographers, I have on a regular basis bought new gizmos in the hope that my pictures would get that last little bit better, getting me up in the ranks of the “how in the world did you do that?” shooter rather than “nice pics, I especially like the sharp one of the turtle” shooter. Of course, as most of you that has been shooting dslrs for some years, almost always in vain. Most of the stuff I have bought have been good to have (an extra strobe, new strobe arms, buoyancy arms, a new focus light, an extra port and so on), making shooting easier and more fun, but not giving any marked difference for the end result. However, with the recent purchase of the Nauticam viewfinder, I find that this piece of equipment certainly has the potential to increase the quality of my pictures.
But why should anyone buy an additional viewfinder to housing? After all, all housings already have a viewfinder, and the additional viewfinders are by no means cheap. I use Ikelite housings, which comes with a “Super-Eye magnifier” which I, to be honest, find neither super nor magnifying. I have been annoyed for years with this viewfinder, which not only shows only part of the camera viewfinder, but also is very hard to judge critical focusing with. Furthermore, being flush with the housing, in order to see at least some of the cameras viewfinder, the Ikelite viewfinder requires the mask to be crammed onto to the back of the housing, with all the disadvantages associated with that (leaking mask for one!).
So, another viewfinder could be the solution to all this and I researched the options. The Nauticam viewfinder had just been released and came out as one of the more reasonably priced (in the context of viewfinders that is!), got good, but few, reviews, and, which sealed the deal for me, is available with adapters for several different housings.
So what do you get for your cash? First of all, the Nauticam viewfinder is a very rugged piece of equipment. It seems to be very well built. It is heavy, which is quite nice, as it indicates that there is quite some glass in it. It also has a protruding diopter adjustment knob on its right side, allowing easy dioptre adjustment under water. The viewfinder comes with a well built adapter for the specific housing it is intended for and probably a manual as well.
The installation in an Ikelite housing is very straight forward. As I bought the viewfinder pretty early, the manual for Ikelite housings wasn´t yet available, so I had to install the viewfinder by using my technical talents. Sadly enough those talents are really limited! However, I actually succeeded in installing the viewfinder correctly without any major problems on my first try! I received the manual a week after my installation, and could confirm that I had done it correctly. The major part of the installation is to attach the adapter to the housing. First of all, the standard (“Super-eye magnifying”) viewfinder is removed, which is really easy. The Nauticam adapter is a sturdy tube, which with the help of a supplied tool is screwed into the threads where the standard viewfinder was positioned. The adapter tube is sealed with an o-ring to the back of the housing, essentially in the same way the standard viewfinder is sealed. Then an index ring is placed on the adapter tube and secured with a retaining ring. The index ring orients the viewfinder, and prevents the viewfinder from rotating freely. The viewfinder, which has a tube on the housing side of it, is then pressed into the adapter, where the viewfinder is sealed with two o-rings. Finally, the viewfinder is secured to the housing with a retaining o-ring on the inside of the housing back plate.
So does it work? The answer to that is a whooping YES! To say that the difference is like looking through a key hole compared to a window might be exaggerating somewhat. However, the difference between the standard Ikelite viewfinder and the Nauticam viewfinder is amazing! The Nauticam covers 100% of the picture, is far brighter, seems to be sharper, and it is possible to read the lcd-strip information at the bottom of the camera viewfinder. When it comes to critical composition of scenes, it is really wonderful to be able to see the corners of the frame. Also, doing macro, I can actually tell where the focus is before taking the picture. With supermacro, using the Subsee diopter, it is an even bigger deal to be able to exactly see where focus is. So in conclusion, I actually expect this piece of equipment to be able to assist me in getting at least some great shots in the near future.
Pros: Great image in viewfinder, bright, allows critical composition, covers 100% of the camera viewfinder, it is possible to read the lcd in the camera viewfinder, excellent viewfinder build quality, adaptable to different housings, reasonable pricing, easy installation, very easy to remove when travelling, easy diopter adjustment
Cons: heavy, housing cannot be left on its back, hard to leave in place when travelling, sometimes too easy diopter adjustment
Who am I: Bent Christensen, underwater photographer for the last seven years. Presently I use Canon 5DM2 in an Ikelite housing with miscellaneous gizmos attached to it. I have a PhD in ecology, and work as an associate professor in a university in Sweden, where I teach university level tropical ecology courses. I also teach live aboard courses in coral reef ecology. I do research on Cymothoa parasites on anemone fish and I also deliver stock footage to a photo agency. Furthermore, I give a number of public talks on tropical ecology and reef ecology. For all this I use my under water pictures, so high quality pictures are fundamental to me.