Top Dawg Mini StingRay 111 Sport review by Peter Rowlands

With new video cameras still arriving to the market on a regular basis it makes it difficult for housing manufacturers to keep up with the new models and their changing shapes. Back in the 1970's Ikelite solved this problem by investing in a polycarbonate housing which could be configured to accommodate most popular SLR still cameras.

A decade or so later Berkely White of Backscatter in Monterey commissioned video housing manufacturer Light and Motion to produce a housing to solve the problem of ever changing video cameras. And so the Top Dawg was born - a simple housing which could house a long list of video cameras without any modifications.

There were four main design features which accomplished this.

Firstly the front port was large and flat so it could allow a wide variety of lens positions to be tolerated. Secondly the rear window was similar so that it could cope with the ever changing viewfinder positions and thirdly the remote Lanc connector was used so that the main camera functions could be controlled from fixed positions on the housing using maintenance-free magnetic controls. The final part of the equation was a multi-drilled baseplate to allow a wide range of video cameras to be mounted in the right position.

The result was a perfect solution and led to worldwide sales because, as a new camera appeared, the Top Dawg design could not only accommodate them but could allow them to be handled ergonically.

The aluminium extrusion hull beautifully machined and finished and the fixed handles are well positioned to allow access the the four main control switches.

The rear viewfinder port is large enough to allow for the varying positions of the cameras viewfinders.

The rear plate is double o ring sealed and retained by two very simple but effective rotary closures.

The video market continued to move on apace and miniaturisation breakthroughs led to a new breed of smaller video camera which, funnily enough, were just too small to be used effectively in the original Top Dawg housing.

The baseplate looks like it was in the St Valentines Day Massacre but it allows a wide variety of cameras to be accommodated.

Ever responsive to the needs of the market Backscatter and Light and Motion went back to the drawing board and produced the Top Dawg Mini which Light & Motion also market as the Stingray

There are four main controls, two on each side as well as the Power on button at the front.

The addition of two SunRay Mod lights will add colour and detail to your macro shots

The optional extra 2.5" monitor back is well worth considering as it will improve the quality of your footage/composition.

111 Sport. (I'm going to abbreviate these from now on to TDM and S3S)

The new housing continues with the successful design concept of the original with an additional improvement to the main Power switch which is now provided on the front of the housing.

The best way to sum up the TDM and S3S is simplicity. Load the camera onto the baseplate, set the camera's focus switch to "Auto" and the power switch to "Camera" and plug in the Lanc plug. Slide the baseplate into the housing and close the rearplate with two rotary clips and you're ready to shoot underwater.

The camera is turned on by pressing the silver button on the front and the camera will be ready to respond to commands in 5 seconds. The TDM and S3S has four magnetic controls which are ergonomically positioned next the the two main handles. Back right is 'Stop/start record' (push forward) and 'Power off' (push back and hold for 5

seconds.

Rear left is 'Momentary Autofocus' (forward) and 'Autofocus lock' (back) with 'Focus' at the front left and 'Zoom' on the front right. All of these controls fall very easily to hand and you can operate them without having to take your eye from the viewfinder.

If you are considering one of these housings there are a couple of accessories you should definitely consider.

The first is the PAL/NTSC Monitor back which gives you a 2.5" LCD screen to view your subject from further away. This means you can view the image you are filming but still be able to look over the housing to see how the action is shaping up. The second is the addition of a couple of SunRay Mod lights which will add important colour and detail into your close up shots. If you decide to go for these accessories you will get a Travel Package which includes a fitted Pelican case.

The housing is depth rated to 150 feet and is 9.3"l x 7.2" w x 6" h. It weighs just 5 lbs in air and about 0.25lbs underwater (depending on camera weight.

The TDM and S3S is a very simple package which will accommodate a wide range of cameras. The build quality and design are top class, the ergonomics excellent and its value for money would be difficult to beat.

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