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The NA-LX100 Housing is a compact underwater housing designed to allow the user to harness the full potential of this advanced compact camera underwater. Machined from a solid block of aluminum and depth rated to 100M (330 ft), the housing offers full camera controls with innovative engineering to allow access and ease of use for all options.
Read our full LX100 review to lean more about its features and why we love it for underwater photography.
All of the basic functions and ergonomic enhancements that Nauticam users have grown to know and love are incorporated in NA-LX100. The housing is machined from a solid block of aluminum, then hard anodized to seal out corrosive salt water. It is closed via a simple, yet secure locking rotary latch. The right side of the housing is sculpted to fit the palm of the user's hand, and Nauticam's two-stage shutter release lever provides clear differentiation between the half press and full press shutter release positions. All functions are clearly labeled, and an M16 accessory socket allows an optional vacuum valve to be installed.
This housing also includes handle brackets that can be used with the optional Flexitray or Easitray, providing additional stability - important when shooting high resolution video.
The Nauticam leak alarm and vacuum monitoring system is installed as standard equipment. This system provides an audible and visual alert to any water entry in the housing, and when combined with an accessory M16 Vacuum Valve (#25612) the water tight integrity of the system can be tested before ever entering the water and monitored throughout the dive.
The NA-LX100 features the new Nauticam interchangeable port system for compact cameras with long zoom lenses. Called the "N50" mount, it allows optical solutions to be precisely dialed in for maximum performance in water. Ports are attached via a bayonet fitting, and locked securely in place.
The housing ships with the Standard Port (left), perfect for general shooting with full zoom capability.. This port offers a 60 degree angle of view underwater (compared to the standard 85 degrees in air). Accessories like the Flip Holder are available for this port so you can attach the excellent Compact Macro Converter for great macro compositions. Switch over to the mini 3.5" Dome Port for a wider field of view. This port restores the "in-air" field of view while underwater giving you access to the full 85 degree FOV. You maintain full zoom capability with this port, though the best quality will be found fully zoomed out. Lastly, for an extra push of wide angle use the N50 Short Port with 67mm threads to attach a wet wide angle lens. This port utilizes the camera at its widest - no zoom capability here. When paired with select wide angle lenses you gain a wider field of view of 100 degrees or more (specific lenses have yet to be tested).
Great detail and color with the LX100, taken while diving the Red Sea
The LX 100 is a fantastic camera, underwater, as well as on travel, or as a “walk-around” camera to keep on-hand. It has a really nice lens and big sensor (micro 4/3) for a small camera. The lens (designed for Panasonic by Leica) is beautiful – it is fast, with a maximum aperture of F1.7 – 2.8 (depending on focal length), which is really handy in low-light situations, or when you want to isolate your subject with a smooth background blur. The color rendition and image quality are really pleasing, and there is a lot detail, particularly in the shadow areas, which can be recovered in post. The camera shoots 4K video, using the same software engine as the well-regarded Panasonic GH4, and the video quality is superb.
Camera Controls: The camera has great ergonomics, although the style is very “old school” and tactile. The aperture controlled by a ring on the lens, as well as a switch on the top of the lens for aspect ratios (the LX100 has a multi-aspect sensor), and a switch on the side of the lens controlling manual/auto focus. There is a separate dial for the shutter speed and the exposure compensation. I find this intuitive and familiar, since it reminds me of my first camera, a Nikon (film) SLR, which had a similar layout, that I used for 25 years (1980 – 2005). These buttons and control dials are perfectly mapped in the housing to the control knobs and the buttons on the Nauticam housing.
Nauticam LX100 Housing: Mounting the camera into the Nauticam housing is a bit tricky. You have to make sure that the aperture on the camera lens is set to F16, and that the corresponding dial (on the front of the housing) is also set to F16, whenever you are inserting or removing the camera from the housing. Additionally, you have to make sure that the dials for the aspect ratio, and the autofocus selection are set to the same setting on both the camera and the housing (I usually set the aspect ratio to 4:3, and the focus to AF, but the key thing is that these switches on the camera and the housing match up).
My previous Nauticam housing had a tray to mount the camera, and slide it in place in the housing, which honestly is a bit easier system. However, Nauticam has to accommodate a lot of dials and buttons on a very small housing, which I assume was a design tradeoff. In return, this housing has an optional vacuum pump, which I strongly recommend as it provides real peace-of-mind/assurance that the housing will not leak.
Setup Tips and Tricks: The camera is infinitely customizable, with three function buttons, and a Q menu button, all of which can be tailored to your liking. It is definitely worth spending some time experimenting and trying out different customization options, because they can really make your shooting experience (for both videos and still photos) very fluid and flexible.
One feature, which is definitely useful to divers, is the ability to set up to 3 custom modes (C1, C2, and C3), in which you can store different feature set options. I mapped the custom modes to a function button on the back. I set up C1 for shooting still photos, and C2, with some different selections geared towards shooting video. While diving, I would just hit the function button, and it made it very fast and easy to change my choices, depending upon the situation.
Custom White Balance: The LX100 has a reliable custom white balance. On my previous camera, I used a magic filter (a gel on the back of the lens) in order to get my colors correct underwater. I brought the magic filters with me on this dive trip with my LX100, but I never used them. I was able to get a good white balance pretty much at any depth (I don’t generally shoot past about 75 feet) – and the camera can bank up to 4 custom white balance settings, which can definitely speed up changing your balance, as you change depth in your dive.
Autofocus: Like other recent Panasonic cameras, the LX100 has contrast detect “depth from defocus” technology, which I found very fast reliable, even in low light conditions. I used the AE/AF Lock button on the back, as a back button autofocus, as opposed to focusing through a half press of the shutter button. I found particularly useful to composing both still and video shots.
However, there seems to be a particular focusing quirk when using the LX100 with the Nauticam mini-dome port. The autofocus appears only to work when the camera lens is zoomed out, at the wide end (24mm for stills, 26mm for 4k video). This quirk may be related to the location of the virtual image created when using the mini-dome port – it is pretty close to the camera. The LX100’s lens is very close focusing at the wide end, particularly when the lens is set AF macro mode (the switch on the side of the lens). At a 24mm focal length, the lens can focus on a subject that is about 1.5 inches from the lens (definitely a useful feature). It appears that as you zoom out, the minimum focus distance increases, beyond the location of the virtual image, hence causing the autofocus to fail. This problem does not arise when using standard rectangular flat port – the autofocus is reliable at all focal lengths, since the camera is focusing on the actual image, vs the virtual image created by the mini-dome.
In practice, this wasn’t much of a handicap; as I am generally prefer to shoot close-focus, wide angle shots (particularly with the dome port, which restores the field of view to about 85 degrees, underwater). However, there were a few shots, where I would have liked to zoom in, and just could not do so with the mini-dome port.
Lessons using the strobe: As with the camera’s other features, you can turn off the LX100’s autofocus assist lamp (page 3 in the custom menu). I was advised to turn off the camera’s autofocus assist lamp (the pre-flash), to help ensure that my strobe (Sea & Sea YS-D1) fires correctly. The pre-flash is effectively blocked when the camera is mounted in the Nauticam housing.
The YS-D1 has 3 settings on the back – TTL, and two manual settings (with one arrow/lightening bolt, or 2 arrows/lightening bolts).
I (mistakenly) set the strobe to two “lightening bolts” or arrows – which synchs the strobe to fire a “pre-flash” of its own first, followed by the main strobe flash illuminating the subject. Since my camera was not firing a pre-flash, the strobe was interpreting the camera’s flash as a pre-flash, and only firing a weak pre-flash of its own as a consequence (awaiting a non-existent second flash from my camera to fire the main flash from the strobe). As a result, my pictures were usually underexposed, with a small weak halo of light. Fortunately, a more skilled friend helped diagnose the error. I then set the strobe to TTL, and the camera white balance to auto white balance. The TTL mode (slave-TTL) on the YS-D1 seemed to work really well with the LX100 – the pictures were well illuminated. A few were a touch overexposed but this was easily corrected in post, as I shoot still photos in raw.
Alternatively I could have set the strobe on manual, you should set it the strobe to one “lightening bolt” or arrow – synching the strobe to fire a single main flash with the camera’s flash. I was so pleased with the results in TTL mode that I chose not to use the manual mode on the strobe. I’ll explore both on the next dive trip!
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