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The Marketplace: Underwater Cameras & Lighting Systems

Posted on 27.04.2004 - 04:19 EDT in INSPECTION NEWS (Subsea) by Rons_ROV_Links

It is a brave, new, technological world. This year will mark the official passing of the torch: sales of digital cameras will overtake those film cameras for the first time in 2004, and you can bet there will be no turning back. To signify the finality of this change of focus, Eastman Kodak recently announced it will stop selling traditional film cameras in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. The digital revolution has been going on in the underwater world for quite some time, and subsea imaging equipment manufacturers, like Kodak, are redefining themselves in an effort to keep pace. Here is a roundup of the latest still and video cameras, lighting, and accessories to help commercial divers and underwater vehicles ply their trade.

DeepSea Power & Light
DeepSea Power & Light has more than 20 years of experience in designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art video and lighting systems for deep and shallow underwater applications. Since 1983, the company has been a recognized leader in the oceanographic industry, providing the quality imaging solutions with a complete range of easy-to-use, high-quality equipment for every budget. DeepSea's latest technological innovations follow this tradition of excellence in order to meet the subsea market's challenging demands.

The Multi SeaLite 3, a rugged, high performance light, is the newest addition to DeepSea's incandescent line of products. The original Multi SeaLite set the standard for cost-effective underwater lighting for a variety of industrial applications, including use on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and by commercial divers. The Multi SeaLite 3 continues and enhances that tradition by providing virtually twice the light output and a wider beam angle while retaining many of the features that made the original Multi SeaLite so popular. The new design is available with lamps ranging up to 1,000 watts and can also be used as a wet/dry light with lamps up to 150 watts.

DeepSea has also released a versatile, new generation of gas discharge lights, the SeaArc 3 Xe. This features a 50-watt high intensity Xenon lamp that is up to five times more efficient (lumens/watt) than comparable tungsten-halogen lamps. Unlike other HID lights, the SeaArc 3 Xe offers an instant restrike capability. With a color temperature of 5,500 degrees K, the white light produced by the gas discharge lamp allows for greater penetration through seawater than incandescent lamps. Engineered with the end-user in mind, the SeaArc 3 Xe is available in a variety of configurations and is an excellent choice for use on ROVs, as well as any application where high efficiency, ruggedness, small size and instant restrike are important.

Adding to their extensive line of imaging equipment, DeepSea has introduced the Multi SeaCam 2060. This premium quality camera is designed to meet any of the rigorous demands it may encounter and has earned the coveted reputation as a leading general-purpose camera system in the diving and ROV community. The new Multi SeaCam 2060 fixed focus color camera has taken all of the best from its predecessor, the Multi SeaCam 2050, and combined them with an extremely low-light sensitive camera module. The contrast in scene illumination is quite remarkable with the older version at 8.0 lux, compared to the enhanced 0.2 lux of the Multi SeaCam 2060. The Multi SeaCam family of products consists of standard black and white (B&W), low-light black and white and the new low-light color camera. Most are available in ultra-bright LED versions to accommodate multiple needs.


JW Fishers
Inspecting the inside of pipes that are more than a few hundred feet in length has always been a problem. Many long pipelines have never been inspected because of the technical difficulties involved. One problem is the potential danger in using divers. Diving in an overhead environment with no quick access to the surface, coupled with possible decompression risks, make liability issues a significant concern of the contractor. In many cases the water flow rates are too great for a diver or ROV to swim against, and it can be expensive or technically unfeasible to shut down the flow.

When inspections can be performed by an ROV, often the vehicle's cable and motors stir up silt, creating a low-visibility environment that make it nearly impossible to videotape the pipe walls. Other problems include the inability of low-cost ROVs to pull long lengths of umbilical into a pipe, the high cost of powerful ROVs that can operate with long cables, and the absence of equipment that can inspect pipelines miles in length.

To solve these problems, JW Fishers developed the patented PIC-1 Pipe Inspection Camera. This autonomous underwater camera is capable of inspecting pipelines of almost any length with savings of thousands of dollars. The original system has completed many long video inspections, including a five-mile pipeline in Cleveland, Ohio.

Completely self-contained, with no umbilical cable, the system's waterproof housing holds a high-resolution digital video camera, a recorder, lighting, batteries, and a computer system. The PIC-1 uses the natural flow of water through the pipe to provide its propulsion, eliminating the need to shut down the flow. With a water flow rate of two feet per second, a one-mile pipeline can be inspected in less than one hour.

The housing's streamlined design and unique ballast system keep it traveling down the centerline of the pipe while the computer controls on/off times of the camera and lights. The computer's "delayed start" feature allows a pipe of almost any length to be videotaped by performing multiple trips.

The system can traverse pipes with 90 degree turns, and up or down vertical shafts. As it travels through the pipe perfectly aligned with the water flow, the PIC-1 videotapes a clear, well-illuminated picture of the pipe walls, ceiling or floor. The up, down, or straight-ahead viewing angle is operator adjustable. The videotape can be viewed on any TV and still pictures can be produced on a PC for printing or e-mailing. The PIC-1 is a rugged and reliable system backed by Fishers exclusive two-year warranty.

Another JW Fishers offering is the MC-1, a compact underwater camera that transmits live video through an umbilical cable to a topside monitor for viewing and recording. When it was first introduced, the MC-1 was only available with the NTSC format cameras used in the USA. Now the mini camera can be purchased with PAL format cameras required by European operators.

The camera housing can easily be mounted on a diver's helmet, put into a pipe for internal inspections, or attached to a pole handle to view the underside of hulls and seawalls.

Dave Smith, of Gulf Atlantic Pump and Dredge in Lake City, Florida, attached an MC-1 to the front of his dredge along with two of Fishers' powerful 100-watt lights. "We can survey the bottom before and after dredging operations," Smith says. "The camera does a great job for us."

Colombo Engineering in Sri Lanka mounted a mini camera on their diver's helmet. "The top-side dive supervisor can now view the work being performed by the diver," says operations manager Kiran Atapattu. "Any problems can be discussed and resolved while the diver is still in the water."

The basic MC-1 system includes a black and white camera in a 500-foot (152m) depth-rated underwater housing with 150 feet of cable. The housing is constructed of corrosion-proof materials and the cable has an abrasive-resistant urethane jacket. The MC-1 is available with two different lighting options, an internal ring light made of high intensity LEDs, or external 100-watt lights. A variety of options can be purchased with the system, including cable lengths to 1,000 feet, PAL or NTSC color cameras, and black and white or color monitors. The mini camera can be powered by 12 volts DC, 120 volts AC, or 220 volts AC. The complete MC-1 system is covered by a two year warranty.

Visit for more info.

Fantasea Line Housings
Fantasea Line International's new CP-3 underwater housing is designed for the Nikon Coolpix 2100 and 3100 digital cameras. The compact, injection-molded plastic housing fits conveniently in a diver's hands and makes subsea digital photography easy.

The CP-3's features include shutter release, zoom in/out, flash on/off, macro focus, quick review, and restart. Its maximum operating depth is 130 feet (m). Suggested retail is $149.95, including one year of anti-flooding insurance.

Outland Technology
Outland Technology has been serving the commercial diving market for more than 19 years with state-of-the-art underwater video systems and cameras. Outland constantly updates its products to give customers the very best components available at the time of purchase. Owner Buddy Mayfield reports that most of the company's products have recently had price reductions because of high-volume buying and assembly-line production.

All Outland systems of today are still compatible with their first system made in 1984, meaning customers can power new cameras on their old cables and consoles. To control new zoom and pan/tilt cameras on older consoles, an optional digital controller is required.

Outland offers 12 different cameras, three light assemblies, three complete systems, and one ROV. They also have three different types of cables, four types of video overlay systems, and other accessories associated with these systems. The typical Outland system consists of a camera, light, cable, and a console.

Outland's best-selling color camera has 480 horizontal lines of resolution, with a sensitivity of .1 lux. A 3.6mm lens is attached to the camera, which gives a viewing angle equal to 12 inches across horizontally, from 12 inches away. The diver generally points the camera and has everything in focus from four inches to infinity. Since most of the work with the camera is done from four to 18 inches, the fixed focus camera works very well.

They also offer zoom, remote focus and pan/tilt, color, and B&W cameras, all compatible with the Outland console with the addition of digital controls. Outland has been building its own lights for several years now, rated to a depth of 3,280 feet (1,000m). For the standard diver-held system, a 150-watt quartz bulb is used in the UWL-200 light. They also offer a 250-watt light and a 35-watt 12 VDC light.

For more, visit

Sub-Atlantic's FlySpy is a unique drop-down camera system that achieves full 360 degrees field of view by means of its continuous pan and 180-degree tilting ability. It also incorporates a unique flywheel system that internally cancels out the torque reaction into the cable when panning, providing a wobble-free picture.

Low-light mono or color cameras can be fitted together with dimmable lighting. It is small and lightweight and can be deployed by a single operator. Various control console options are available, including battery-operated and splash-proof with integral flat screen monitors.

Sub-Atlantic designed the FlySpy to be used in many applications including commercial offshore, inshore, aquaculture, nuclear, homeland security, and search/rescue. The FlySpy is depth-rated to 500 feet (150m) and constructed from high strength, corrosion-resistant plastic.


SeaLife Cameras
After launching the first and only dedicated digital camera designed specifically for underwater photography, SeaLife has taken digital underwater photography to the next level with two new camera systems, the ReefMaster Digital DC300 and DC310 Land & Sea Cameras.

Offering more megapixel power with a variety of Land & Sea exposure modes, the DC300 and DC310 help divers capture sharp, richly colored images. These 3.3 megapixel cameras offer options for every photographer's skill level.

For the experienced diver/photographer who wants more control over the camera functions, the DC310, with Advanced-Dive control system, allows the diver to manipulate resolution, light sensitivity (EV), exposure modes and more while underwater.

The DC300, with its Easy-Dive control system, is the perfect choice for divers seeking a simple underwater photo system still capable of producing breathtaking results.

Built to provide exceptional control and excellent results in any underwater conditions, the DC300 and DC310 are fully rubber-armored with black cushioned grips for soft comfort and ease of handling, and are expandable with all SeaLife accessories. Both digitals are waterproof and rated to a depth of 200 feet (61m).

All ReefMasters can be set to Land or Sea modes, plus two modes that take into account the unique aspects of underwater photography. They feature three underwater external flash modes, allowing for more exposure control.

To compensate for low-light conditions that naturally occur as divers travel below the water's surface, users can set the DC300 and DC310 to Sea Mode. Once set in this mode, the shutter speed and aperture automatically adjust to compensate for these difficult light conditions.

Although the new DC300 and DC310 feature an on-camera flash, they are also compatible with SeaLife's External Flash unit, which allows users to illuminate objects from different angles. Because the External Flash is a slave unit activated via the on-camera flash, no sync cord is necessary. Set the camera to External Flash, and it automatically de-activates the digital pre-flash.

The new ReefMaster DC300 and DC310 also feature three external flash modes that provide more exposure control. For perfectly lit photos in any situation, users can toggle among Macro Flash, Portrait Flash, and Far Flash modes, which adjusts exposure based on camera-to-subject distance.

Surfacing with a perfect set of images is simple with the new Quick-Review feature, which allows divers instant access to all photos shot while underwater. With the Instant Delete function, users can preview captured images on the LCD Monitor and delete those less-than-perfect photos, saving storage space for better shots.

Photos can be composed via a 1.5-inch, color LCD monitor on the back of the camera; or users can frame subjects through a top-mounted SportsFinder.

The ReefMaster Digital DC300 and DC310 are powered by two AA batteries or a 3.3 volt AC-DC Adapter.

Light & Motion
Light & Motion continues to move forward in underwater digital photography with the introduction of the Titan D100 Digital SLR Photo Housing. Titan is a professional grade housing that is designed specifically for the Nikon D100 6.1 mega-pixel digital SLR. The D100 supports Compact Flash and Microdrive, which provide massive storage capabilities that enable the user to save hundreds of high-resolution images.

The Titan D100 Housing includes fingertip access to most camera controls using both mechanical interfaces, as well as infrared through the newly designed Smart Grips.

The Titan D100 is sold as a housing body only, with a variety of lens options. Light & Motion accessory lenses include a Macro Port as well as a Wide Angle Dome to support Nikon lenses. Other conversion rings allow the diver to use domes from other manufacturers such as Subal, Aquatica, and Sea & Sea.

Titan includes the revolutionary ROC Strobe controller, which allows the user to obtain up to 12 manual power levels on most TTL compatible strobes. Dual strobe output control and housing shutter release are conveniently located at the diver's fingertips, enabling a seamless transition between the user and housing. The housing can be purchased as a stand-alone or as a complete Travel Package system featuring one or two strobes, wetlink flash connectors, accessories and custom case.

Light & Motion has also introduced the Mako video housing for Sony's latest Mini DV, the DCRPC120. Mako is a super compact housing that includes the Zoom Macro lens, underwater microphone, and underwater accessible color correction flip filter. The housing provides access to all camcorder functions via infrared controls and allows the user to switch from video mode to still mode underwater. This means you can capture a higher resolution image of any subject that seems worthy.

The housing can be purchased alone or as part of a complete Travel Package. Available accessories include a Super Wide-Angle lens that increases the angle of coverage and a 2.5-inch color Monitor Back, which allows the user to view a color image of what the camera sees along with all camera data normally viewed on the camera's flip screen.

Light & Motion has a complete line of underwater digital video and digital still housings, lights and packages.

An optional waterproof case makes Pentax USA's tiny new Optio S4i digital camera ideal for commercial divers who must document their underwater work. With four effective megapixels and a 3X optical zoom, this latest Optio digital camera features the first Pentax digital cradle-style lithium ion recharge base unit. The diver simply sets the camera in the recharge base until it ready to use again.

Featuring the legendary smc Pentax lens and the unique Pentax Sliding Lens system that allows the lens to retract fully when the camera is off lens, the Optio S4i is sleek and compact enough to carry everywhere. For optimal underwater results, the Optio S4i now features both Marine Picture and Marine Movie modes.

Equipped with PictBridge, a new direct-print standard released by the Camera and Imaging Products Association, the Optio S4i connects directly to your printer so you may print images without the need for a personal computer. The Optio S4i also includes an ACDSee software package designed exclusively for Pentax digital cameras. Valued at $150, the package includes ACDSee 5.1, FotoSlate, FotoCanvas, and Photostitcher, making it easy to retrieve, view, manage, print, and enhance underwater digital photos.

Pacific Commercial Diving Supply
With ISO9001-2000 System Certification, Australia's Pacific Commercial Diving Supply (PCDS) is now the supplier of choice for New Zealand defense forces, police, and many commercial contractors in New Zealand; Navies from Tonga, Oman, and Korea; and commercial diving contractors in the USA, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Hong Kong.

To support their customers with specialized technical and manufacturing requirements, PCDS now represents most major international companies involved in the research, development and supply of commercial, technical and military diving and associated products. Further to this, Pacific Commercial Diving Supply is continually building business relationships with Australasian suppliers on product development and export market exposure and opportunities.

A product created through this process is PCDS's underwater camera and lighting technology, the Fly-Away Subsea CCTV System. This system, as with all PCDS products, can be personalized to individual customer needs.

The Fly-Away CCTV unit was specifically designed to meet the varied and harsh demands of the subsea environment and is a small, lightweight and robust unit ideal for survey work. The system can easily interface to most existing subsea cameras. The high resolution TFT screen allows for quality viewing. Recording, audio and video editing facilities are available with a built-in mini DV unit. The light control unit allows for varying light wattages and umbilical lengths. The unit is fully protected by core balanced residual current devices for added safety.

To complement the underwater video camera, PCDS offer a high-quality submersible light for helmet or pistol-grip mounting. The lights are available in either 650-foot (200m) or 3,280-foot (1,000m) versions for ROV or deep diving applications. The lights are manufactured from anodized aluminium and fitted as standard with a three-pin bulkhead, RMG-type connector.

Remote Ocean Systems
The Zoom Navigator from San Diego's Remote Ocean Systems (ROS) is the perfect underwater camera for low-light-level, long-range viewing. With a 15:1 zoom lens coupled to a state-of-the-art, low-light-level CCD camera, it provides the ability to observe detail in harsh viewing conditions or for close-up inspection with restricted access.

The high performance Zoom Navigator incorporates the latest .5-inch interline transfer CCD sensing device, providing both high resolution (570 TVL) and exceptional low-light-level sensitivity (3.4 x 10-4 lux faceplate). The camera can operate in extremely low-light levels and high intensity sunlight without incurring any damage. Using the latest advancements in digital video processing, the camera achieves a high signal to noise ration of 46 dB.

Depth-rated to 10,000 feet (3,000m), the Zoom Navigator housing is made from the highest quality corrosion-resistant 6AL4V titanium. It is available in four different remote control formats. Select from one of the following options: Bipolar + 12 VDC inputs, Differential 12 VDC input, Unipolar 12 VDC input, or RS-232 input (9600 Baud).

Ocean Imaging Systems
Ocean Imaging Systems now offers a 4.1 Mpixel digital still camera for use in ROV, AUV, towed, and bottom contact applications. The model DSC4400 camera is capable of storing in excess of 500 images in its internal memory. A real-time video output makes image framing and camera control (via RS-232/485 link) easy. Image data is then offloaded via the externally accessible USB port.

Through-the-lens (TTL) light sensing permits the camera to be interfaced to flash units like the Model 3883 Auto-Exposure strobe. The TTL sensor determines when the camera has received sufficient light, and then commands the strobe unit to shut down for optimal image illumination.

Special power management circuitry makes the camera suitable for extended deployments. The camera can be programmed to go to sleep, yet be triggered quickly by external switch closure or by its internal timer. It also has power control capability for the Model 3883 companion strobe.

Optionally, lasers create a two-inch-square target under software control for image measurement and scaling. Housing selections include aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium, with depth ratings to 22,960 feet (7,000m).

Ocean Imaging Systems is a division of Marine Systems Technology (Massachusetts), which purchased the Benthos camera line in February 2002 and continues to provide support to former Benthos customers in addition to providing design and development services to the oceanographic community.

Shark Marine Technologies
Canada's Shark Marine Technologies is celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of the leading innovators in underwater camera technology. The first production camera the company built, the SV-5000, is still in use today, and their camera line has grown to include many types and sizes.

Shark Marine's smallest cameras, the SV-16 (color) and the SV14R2 (B&W), measure only 1.5 inches in diameter. Its SV-DSP-LL003 extreme low-light model sees without additional light in hundreds of feet of water.

Shark's high-resolution SV-DVP2002 cameras have been used extensively by well-known film and video producers. If you watch underwater television features or documentaries you have likely already seen the quality of these cameras. They are also the first choice of many commercial diving firms who demand top quality video. Shark Marine's true 3D camera, the SV-DSP-3D, provides the operator with "remote reality," which matches the perception of the human eye. The SV-DSP-3D has been mounted to ROVs and used for research, and its 3D video can be recorded by any standard VCR or DVR. Viewing is accomplished with either head-mounted displays for true immersion, or special glasses to provide high quality color images on any TV or large screen.

Over the years Shark Marine has produced many specialized camera systems, from down-hole to Plankton counters. For more information, visit

UnderWater Magazine Article reprint: March/April 2004
"The Marketplace: Underwater Cameras & Lighting Systems"
By: Daron Jones

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