Breakthrough Technology At A Budget Price

There's no question that underwater photography is an expensive passion. This has been particularly true when setting up a housed camera. In an attempt to cut costs some companies have promoted low cost camera/ housing combinations that, ultimately, have failed to deliver or have quickly forced the user to compromise their photography or upgrade at further expense. Often these combos have had a limited shelf life and essential aftersales has quickly been withdrawn. Optics has been forthright in stating that if you want to really exploit the benefits of a housed camera you should not skimp.

Cheap combos save money by utilising entry level cameras. These are cameras priced similarly to a high spec compact and designed to sway less committed photographers into using SLRs. Camera manufacturers hope they'll upgrade to more expensive SLRs over time. Housing prices are usually similar whether you house a budget SLR or a semi pro camera. So savings often amount to no more than a couple of hundred pounds -negligible when compared to the overall costs of buying a system and travelling abroad to use it.

Now a new budget priced SLR looks poised to rock the staus quo. The Nikon F80 has replaced the underated but highly efficient F70. The F80 is simple to use for getting started but offers many outstanding features that will appeal to the serious user. The lightweight camera draws heavily on technology first seen on the flagship Nikon F5 and pro level F100. This includes a five point autofocus selector allowing the photographer to choose off centre autofocusing to aid composition. This is an especially valuable feature for

half and half shots which fool centre spot autofocus. Responsive command and sub command dials allow fast shutter speed and aperture selection, spot, centre weighted and matrix metering are easily selected and the camera also has an auto bracket feature. Extremely useful are independent exposure compensator controls for adjusting either background or flash power from the camera. Thoughtfully Nikon have even incorporated a

dial in archtectural screen to aid composition. Street price is just £330.00 - one third of the price the classic F90X started off at.

Complementing the F80 is the new N80 housing from Subal. Closely following the sleek design of the F5 Procase, co -developed with Kurt Amsler, this new housing has all the hallmarks that have made Subal the UKs leading brand. The aluminium body sculpts around the camera reducing dead space to a minimum. The shutter release is the smooth action paddle type seen on the F5 and F100 cases which reduces blurry images from camera shake, oversized dials link to command and sub command camera controls and push buttons select autofocus area, operate the viewfinder and top screen illuminator and let you choose bracketing, sunlight or strobe compensation and flash modes. Exposure mode, metering pattern, manual and autofocus choices can all be made underwater. Lenses can be removed in seconds through the housing front using the lens release lever. Complete with hand grips, Nikonos TTL socket and leak detector the body sells for £1399.00. Naturally routine servicing is provided in house.

Steve, Andrew and A.J. have all been using the F80 underwater and have been impressed. As always with Subal supplies of the new housing are trickling through and forward ordering is advised at present. The system will be on display at Visions 2001.

Steve Warren

"a workmanlike, professional production, and worth viewing"

John Bantin, Diver magazine

The wreck of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow is a designated war grave and all diving is prohibited but in 2000 a special permission was granted for the wreck to be filmed as a moving tribute to all those who lost their lives.

This new professionally produced 50 minute video includes underwater images of the wreck which have never been seen before and there are interviews with survivors and Orcadian Sandy Robertson who was the first diver to go on the wreck the day after she sank. Also included is coverage of another unique event when the ashes of Dorothy Golding, wife of Bandsman Arthur Golding, who went down with the ship, were taken down by her grandson, Christopher Kilford, and placed in the wreck to reunite the couple.

The finale is the unfurling of a battle ensign on the upturned hull by a Royal Navy diver on the anniversary of her sinking and the final credits include the names of all those who died in the tradgedy.

Running time 50 minutes. Narrated by Tom Fleming. Produced by Ocean Optics Ltd. Directed by Peter Rowlands The video costs £16.95 (+£2.50 UK postage). Total £19.45. Please send cheques payable to Peter Rowlands and send them to: Royal Oak Video, 13 Langley Avenue, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 6QN. Credit card tel & fax 020 8399 5709

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