DEMA is always a significant event on the dive industry calendar, but when the planet’s largest trade-only dive show comes to the Big Easy, well, it’s always a little extra special. After all, it’s not every day you get to sample some tasty New Orleans gumbo or delicious jambalaya brimming with Creole and Cajun flavors! (Not to mention some epic 12oz steaks with mac and cheese, which were to die for!)
But, putting aside the fine local cuisine for a moment, there was the serious business of checking out the latest in underwater imaging equipment from the world’s leading brands within the gargantuan halls of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in the heart of the New Orleans central business district. As always, DPG had a prime spot near the Imaging Resource Center, which hosted various excellent talks over the four days, and we spent our time working the surrounding booths and catching up with clients and friends.
In the following, we report from the 10 booths most relevant to underwater photographers and videographers, discovering what’s new with Backscatter, SeaLife, Seacam, Nauticam, Keldan, Sea&Sea, Aquatica, Isotta, Kraken Sports, and Bigblue. Plus, not to be left out, we hear from Ikelite—who didn’t attend this year’s show—as they round up their “top 10” products of the year.
As is usually the case at DEMA, Backscatter’s was the biggest of all the imaging equipment booths. Not only had they hauled a mighty selection of cameras, housings, lights and accessories to New Orleans, but they also had an impressive number of TVs strategically positioned around the booth to show off their latest gear. Among the equipment highlights we chatted to Media Producer Robin Dodd about were the new Backscatter Sharp Wide Lens Pro for GoPro, which increases the action camera’s field of view to 140° underwater and can be used with slide-in color filters for color correction; Backscatter’s macro-centric Mini Flash 2 with Optical Snoot, which can also be used with the company’s Macro Wide 4300 video light; and an extensive selection of OM System (Olympus) cameras and housings, including the new TG-7 with PT-059 housing, the OM-1 in the AOI UH-OM1 housing, and the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV in the Backscatter Octo housing—recently reviewed by DPG.
You may have noticed that SeaLife released a flurry of exciting new products just as DEMA launched, and we had the opportunity to chat to Sven Harms about the most important ones. First up, two new lenses for the company’s SportDiver smartphone housing: the Six-Inch Wide Angle Dome Lens, which allows you to shoot over-unders with your phone for the first time, and the 52mm Wide Angle Dome Lens (and Lens Adapter), which increases your camera’s shooting angle by 43%. Next, there’s a new Sea Dragon 3000F photo-video light with Color Boost, which allows you to balance the color better by letting you dial in some warm tones. And finally, there’s the new C-shaped Flex-Connect Ultra Dual Tray, which not only accommodates larger housings, but also allows the user to position the mounted lights in front of the smartphone/camera, or behind it.
The Austrian manufacturer of top-end camera housings, strobes and accessories, Seacam, occupied a perfect little corner diagonally opposite the DPG booth. The big new product in signature silver: their housing for the Nikon Z8. The housing, along similar lines to their formidable housing for the Nikon Z9, works beautifully with strobes like their Seaflash 160D (also on display at the show), providing seamless automatic high-speed sync functionality. We chatted to Esther Böhmer—daughter of Seacam founder Harald Hordorsch—who also showed us a “blackwater setup,” combining their more-compact, lower-powered Seaflash 60D strobes with their Achromat 4.0 and new Achromat 3.0 supermacro close-up lenses.
Visiting the Nauticam booth is never a disappointing experience, as they’ll always have something outrageous to show off, and our chat with Phil Burghard was no exception. Phil walked us through many of their latest offerings, starting with their brand new Fisheye Conversion Port, or FCP, which is designed for use with lenses that are 28mm at their widest, while preserving full zoom-through. Complementing established wet optics like the WACP-1, this new lens promises the same excellent edge-to-edge sharpness. We then moved on to Nauticam’s serious cinema rigs, first the Red V-Raptor housing and then the company’s new ultra-high-end Universal Cinema System, which is compatible with a range of video cameras from RED, ARRI, Sony, Panavision, and more. Phil also showed us some more-modest housings, including the NA-Z8, NA-α1, and NA-FX3, for the Nikon Z8, Sony Alpha 1, and Sony FX3, respectively.
The Swiss manufacturer of über-high-lumen video lights isn’t the kind of company that rests on its laurels. Constantly pushing the envelope, a few years ago Keldan introduced a cutting-edge remote control system, the RC1, that uses ultrasonic technology to control lights from up to 160 feet away—and they have been adding remote-controllable “XR” lights to their range ever since. The latest is the 8XR Ambient, which adds another layer of innovative tech: The 18,000-lumen light features a specially designed LED that emits a light spectrum equivalent to the ambient light at a depth of 20 feet. While the same effect can be achieved using the company’s AF 6 B ambient light filter on one of their standard video lights, the 8XR Ambient is far more powerful, because you’re not losing about half the luminous flux with the use of a filter. Keldan boss Daniel Keller give us the lowdown.
While the U.S. company wasn’t in attendance at DEMA this year, as one of the most important players in the underwater imaging industry, Ikelite couldn’t be left out of our roundup of new imaging equipment. We asked them to provide a video about their latest gear, and they obliged with this handy video showcasing the “Top 10” Ikelite products of 2023. These include their housings for the Sony FX3/FX30 cinema cameras, the Canon EOS R100 entry-level APS-C RF-mount camera, the Sony ZV-E1 vlogging camera (which also performs impressively underwater), and of course, the Nikon Z8 full-frame camera. Also featured among the top gear is their DS232 strobe, which combines a 213Ws flash with a powerful 2,500-lumen video light; their Manual Fiber Optic Transmitter, which allows you to fiber-optically trigger strobes such as the Backscatter Mini Flash 2, Sea&Sea YS-D3 II, and Retra Flash Pure; and their super-useful USB-C Bulkhead, which allows you to charge your camera and transfer images without ever having to remove your camera from your housing—awesome.
Over in the Sea&Sea booth, we chatted to Kaz Okada about two of their latest products: their YS-D3 DUO strobe, an evolution of their much-loved top-of-the-range YS-D2, and their MDX-αU universal housing for Sony full-frame cameras. As Kaz explained, the new strobe shares its main specs with the YS-D3 Mark II Lightning strobe but adds the ability to make use of the RC flash protocol of OM System and Olympus cameras, allowing for precise automatic TTL flash exposure. Meanwhile, the impressive MDX-αU universal housing supports a variety of different Sony bodies with the addition of simple conversion kits. Supported cameras include the entry-level a7 IV, video-centric a7S III, high-resolution a7R V, pro sports a9 II, and 8K-capable a1.
If you take a close look at the DEMA booths, you’ll notice that they tell you how many years exhibitors have been attending. Well, at 16 years, we thought we were doing pretty well until we checked out Aquatica, who have been attending for 46 years! That statistic speaks to the pioneering achievements of the Canadian housing maker, and we weren’t surprised to see the latest cameras supported, including the Nikon Z8 and Z9; the latest Sony models, such as the a1 and a7R V; and also the Canon EOS R5. Aquatica’s Norma Olonzo gives us a rundown of the most important new additions to their housing lineup.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, a great option is the signature red gear from Isotta. The family-run Italian company started selling its extensive line of camera housings through Backscatter a few years ago, and they’re keeping up with all the latest camera models. Once again, it’s the Nikon Z8 that is getting all the attention, and Elisa Isotta showed us their brand-new Z8 housing, which comes with a new vacuum system with moisture sensor. Another newly released housing we were shown is for the OM System OM-1. Perhaps the most exciting development, however, is a new port that allows Isotta shooters to make use of Nauticam’s water contact optics, such as the Wide Angle Conversion Port (WACP) and Fisheye Conversion Port (FCP). Elisa also showed us the latest version of their aluminum GoPro housing for the HERO12, which is depth-rated to 650 feet!
Our visit to the Kraken Sports booth was a bit of DPG reunion, as DPG Photo Editor Matt Sullivan came to DEMA with a different hat on—as a representative for Kraken. While they started out selling dive torches, the Canada-based company is now a fully-fledged underwater imaging equipment manufacturer, producing not just video lights but also housings, wet lenses, and accessories. The big new Kraken product, though, is actually a new strobe, which Matt told us is coming out in about a month’s time. Triggerable both electronically and fiber-optically, the strobe features an LCD display that usefully tells you how many flashes you have left at a given power. Matt also showed us a new 5-inch monitor, complementing their existing 7-inch monitor; and their latest TG-PRO housing for the TG-5 through TG-7—which boasts a button that enables the automatic drawing of a vacuum! Genius.
The final major imaging gear manufacturer we visited was Bigblue, another company that specializes in dive and video lights but is gradually branching out. Tyler Hall talked us through several new offerings for 2024. First up was the VTL9000PB, a new video/tech light featuring a 9,000-lumen wide beam and 1,300-lumen spot beam as well as red and blue beams. Next, we saw the TL3800P Supreme Pro, a 3,800-lumen narrow-beam light with a full-power burn time of five hours! Tyler also showed us their new globe filters, which turn a video light into a fill light for illuminating the inside of a wreck or a cave, and also their new adjustable camera tray, which is designed to accommodate even the largest smartphone housings.
When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.
|Isotta Housing for OM System OM-1 I & II
|SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing
|Nauticam Fisheye Conversion Port (FCP)
|Ikelite RC1 TTL Receiver for AOI and Backscatter Octo Housings
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