Top Dawg Underwater Video Housing By Sy Harris & Berkley White
The worlds best "First Video Housing" If you're new to underwater video, we highly recommend you to give the Top Dawg underwater housing a close look. It has great features and an incredibly low price of $899.
As a new underwater videographer, you might want to start out with an inexpensive camera such as a Sony Digital8 or MiniDV camcorder. If you take up underwater video as a serious hobby, you might want to upgrade to a 3-chip camera or something in the HDV format. The Top Dawg will fit all of them. It's unique as it will fit over 100 different Sony cameras. Thus, it could be an investment that lasts for years and many camera upgrades.
If you become completely bitten with the video bug, you might want to move up to a larger 3-chip camera and a housing that features more versatile optics and manual controls. Since the Top Dawg fits so many cameras, it's very easy to sell on the used market and maintains it value much more than other camera specific underwater video housings. Top Dawg housings are so easy to sell used that they are a rare find even on Ebay. The Top Dawg's flexibility and reliability make it the perfect first video housing or industrial rental unit.
Does your camera have L-control (LANC)? Top Dawg underwater housings control the camera electronically through a remote jack known as L-control or LANC (Local Area Network Control). This small jack is standard on most Sony camcorders and a few Canon cameras. If your camera has L-Control or LANC, then the Top Dawg will be able to control all essential camera functions.
You can see which cameras have a LANC with our Topdawg compatibility chart
Is your camera 9'L x 5'W x 5'H or smaller? If your camera has L-control and is within the size specs, (9'x5'x5') then one of the 2 Top Dawg housing sizes will fit your camera. The new MINI Top Dawg is a perfect fit for the new tiny cameras from Sony. The original Top Dawg will also fit the small cameras, but is best suited for the larger cameras that won't fit in your pocket.
Aluminum is better than plastic on location and travel Most underwater video housings under $1000 are made of molded plastic. Some new shooters like the ability to see their camera through a clear plastic housing, but without care they can quickly find their camera overheating on a baking hot day in the sun.
Plastic housings are also more susceptible to lens fogging and "camera sweating". Aluminum is a better heat conductor than plastic, thus making aluminum housings less likely to fog and build condensation on critical camera electronics.
Top Dawg underwater housings are precision machined from tough aircraft grade aluminum and finished with a corrosion-proof anodized coating no cracking plastic or chipping paint.
Double radial bore o-ring seals Unlike most underwater housings, the Top Dawg features a double o-ring seal that doesn't require old school latches. Two independent o-rings make a solid seal on a precision-machined surface inside the housing. The finger friendly Top Dawg latches allow you to seal the housing with a simple rotary latch with a positive and comforting click.... no finger-biting clamps. You don't need both o-rings to keep the water out, but you'll appreciate the ease of use and peace of mind of a Top Dawg closure.
Top Dawg electronics are reliable and ergonomic Electronic housing controls offer the most ergonomic design and allow the engineers to place the controls right at your fingertips. Mechanically controlled underwater housings use clunky arms and levers to press buttons on the camera. These levers make camera installation tricky, add wear and tear on the buttons and require additional holes in the housing.
Since 1994, Top Dawg underwater video housings have been famous for a simple design and proven reliability in the field. The electronics are safely tucked away on the side of the housing and are activated with external magnetic switches. These magnetic controls don't require holes or o-rings and minimize your annual maintenance requirements. You have full control at your fingertips.
Field service support The reliability, flexibility, and easy field service of the Top Dawg housing has made it the most popular rental and institutional use housing around the world. Professional users and remote travelers can correct even the worst field abuse with the optional Field Service Kit. This kit allows the user to quickly change out damaged parts with minimal tools and expertise.
Essential camera control The electro-magnetic controls on the Top Dawg are positioned just inside the handle and are right at your fingertips. Each side of the housing has two switches that can be moved forward or backward to activate the camera controls. The power button is positioned on the front of the housing. Below is a list of the controls available on most Sony cameras.
Power On/Off Power up the camera for initial use or wake it up after a period of inactivity. To save battery power, you can power down the entire system during long swims or rides to the dive site.
Zoom Tele/Wide The zoom button on the housing allows you to control the telephoto lens in your video camera. You can go as wide or as telephoto as your camera will allow.
Record Start/Stop Located at your right thumb, the record button is quickly operated with a press forward to start and another press to stop recording.
Mode Photo/Video A quick flick back with your right thumb will toggle the camera from video to photo mode. Another flick forward will take a picture or begin rolling tape.
Momentary Auto Focus/AF Lock This will quickly become your favorite button. Simply press and hold to allow your camera to capture focus automatically. Once focus is captured, simply release the button to lock the focus. No more auto focus seeking or quirky behavior. Lock focus before each shot and you'll be able to concentrate on composition and other more important techniques.
Fulltime Auto Focus A quick flick of this control will put you back into fulltime auto focus. A good mode to use anytime you are rolling tape during a zoom or shooting tight macro without an underwater tripod.
Manual Focus Near/Far You're not likely to use this control much, but it will come in handy when your shooting on the surface and the camera refuses to auto focus past water drops on the port. Simply force the camera to focus beyond the drops with the manual control. You'll also find it a great tool for setting up the camera for minimum focus macro work. Simply push the lens to minimum focus and move the housing in and out for the tightest shot possible. Customize the Top Dawg for your specific camera model Adjusting the Camera Tray The Top Dawg camera tray is designed to accommodate the various mounting positions of all Sony cameras. You'll need to select the best mounting hole in the tray for your specific camera model.
Start with the camera tray installed and carefully slide your camera into position in the housing. Place the camera as far forward as possible in the housing, but allow at least 1/4 inch space between the lens and front port. Once you've found the sweet spot, slide out the camera and tray together and identify the hole that best matches your current position.
A few comments on camera positioning. When pointed into bring light, the camera might see its reflection in the housing port. Avoid this by placing the camera as far forward as possible, but not so close as to scratch the front port during a bumpy boat ride. You might need to select different positions when you use color filters or wide lenses. Once you've selected the positions, mark your spots for quick assembly.
Plugging in the LANC To plug in the LANC cable, simply find the port that looks like the picture below and plug in the housing cable. Nothing else needs to be done. This will give you access to zoom, focus, on/off, record, and still shot mode.
Monitor Back A major improvement over the camera's viewfinder, the optional active matrix color Monitor Back replaces the standard rear plate window with a 2.5 inch color monitor for exceptional viewing. Connected to your camera's video out jack, the Monitor Back allows you to keep your eye on the action while maintaining precise composition and heads-up display of critical camera settings. Use it once and you'll never go without. Powered by 4 AA batteries for a 2-hour burn time.
Classic Light System If you dive at night, it's easy to understand the need for light, but in daytime, lights serve two critical purposes underwater adding color and filling in shadows. Underwater lighting is essential for detailed macro shooting and lighting up the critters that live in the shadows. The optional Classic Light System is the brightest compact system on the market. It will add little weight and bulk, but will provide a whooping 50-90 minutes of burntime at 3 power levels of output. You'll love the reliability and color you get from this compact dynamo.
Field Service Kit The optional Top Dawg field service kit is an essential accessory for remote travelers, professional users, and rental houses. This kit includes regular consumables such as o-rings, magnetic switches, and main latches, but more importantly includes full electronic back-up boards that are easily replaced in the field without special tools. Consider the Field Service Kit as the ultimate survival kit for heavy use or remote applications.
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