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FANTASEA FG16 UNDERWATER HOUSING REVIEW

By Nigel Marsh and Helen Rose

 

The Canon Powershot G series has for a long time been one of the most popular compact digital cameras with underwater photographers. However housing this range of cameras has always been a bit of a headache with the choice between the cheap Canon housing or paying over a thousand dollars for professional housing. Fortunately Fantasea have released housings for both the Canon G15 and G16 that have all the features of an expensive housing but without the hefty price tag.

 

One of the first underwater housings we purchased for a compact digital camera was a Fantasea model. The company had only just appeared on the market and the housing, and the camera, were both very clunky and only really good for snap shots, and very poor snap shots at that (a camera not a housing issue). This camera setup was used for less than a year before being replaced with a superior camera and a more versatile housing.

 

A decade later, and quite a few compact cameras and housings in between, and Helen was looking for a new camera and the Canon Powershot G16 was exactly what she was after – 12MP, great macro, almost no shutter delay and all for under $500 (if you shopped around). Camera selected, that was the easy part, now we had to look for an underwater housing to suit, especially one that would allow Helen to use her existing Inon D2000 strobe and hopefully her existing baseplate and arm.

 

We first looked at the Canon housing, but there had been no improvement in this housing since the last time we looked at it. It’s okay for snap shots, but if you are serious about your underwater photography and you want to build up a system with an external strobe and add on lenses, this housing will limit you completely. We then looked at the professional housings made by Ikelite, Recsea and Nauticam. These are all excellent housings and had all the features that Helen wanted, but at two to three times the camera price they are a big investment.

 

We then noticed that Fantasea was making a housing for the Canon G16 at a very affordable price. With memories of our first Fantasea housing we almost dismissed this housing until we had a closer look, then it started to sound very interesting. For a start the Fantasea FG16 looked very stylish, a smooth black finish and nice lines, but looking closer at the specifications it suited the bill in every department – depth rated to 60m, full access to all camera controls, light weight, compact and it even has a special mount for a fibre optic cable connection. Plus the housing also came with a built-in moisture detector and Fantasea make a wide angle and macro lens to fit the housing. This housing had everything that Helen required and at a price that was half that of other professional housings.

 

We placed an order for the Fantasea FG16 housing with Underwater Australasia, the Australian Agents, and had the housing in our hands only a few days later.

 

First impression of the Fantasea FG16 housing was ‘wow, what a stylish unit.’ The polycarbonate constructed housing is black on the front and clear at the back, which is a nice feature so you can check on the camera at all times for minor leaks (even though the moisture detector should pick these up quickly). The housing feels comfortable and light in the hand, and only weighs 1.1kg with the camera installed, another bonus for travelling with the camera gear in your hand luggage. Another feature that quickly stood out was that all the buttons and dials are labelled, so you know what each one is doing, great for when you are still getting familiar with a new camera.

 

The housing comes with a hot shoe, always handy for adding a torch or other accessories, and includes a hand strap and padded port cover. The base has three screw holes that gives you great flexibility for connection to a baseplate (it allowed connection to our existing baseplate; we just had make up a thin plate to span a recess in the old baseplate).

 

Opening the housing we found it had a good locking mechanism, so it can’t get accidently opened, and uses a double o-ring seal. The camera fits very snuggly into the housing and all the controls align perfectly. Fantasea provide a getting started guide on their website which gives recommended camera settings, this proved invaluable for getting great photos from the very first dive, without having to experiment with different settings.

 

We quickly had the camera in the housing and then put it through its paces in the lounge room, just to see how easy it was to reach all the buttons and take photos. On land everything was very simple to use and we quickly discovered its best feature – the fibre optic cable connection. Helen has been using an Inon D2000 strobe for the last decade with a fibre optic cable connection on two other camera systems. Both worked well, but required you to put a black film over the camera flash, which you had to constantly take off if you wanted to use the camera on land, a very messy setup. The designers at Fantasea must have also felt this was messy as they have created a compartment for the lens, so separating the lens and flash, and a plate that slides in front of the housing flash window with two outlets for the fibre optic cable (so allowing two strobes to be connected). A simple solution that works perfectly. If you don’t have an external strobe (let’s just say you are mad if you don’t) you just replace this plate with the flash diffuser that comes with the housing.

 

For in water tests we took the Fantasea FG16 housing to Indonesia to do some great muck and reef diving at Sekotong on the island of Lombok with Odyssea Divers and Cocotinos Resort. Helen did almost a dozen dives with the Fantasea FG16 housing and found it wonderful to use from the first dive. The housing, camera and strobe worked perfectly together and Helen captured some wonderful images during our stay at this little known but great dive destination.

 

The housing is slightly buoyant, which ended up being a bonus as Helen found it easier to hold for hour long dives without tiring her hand, her previous housing was slightly negative which often left her with a sore hand after a long dive. The ergonomic design of the housing also contributed to the comfort of use underwater, with Helen finding it easy to hold in one hand and simple to position when framing images. All the buttons were simple to use underwater, with gloves on, especially the shutter release, which has quite a smooth action. Helen also loved the image review dial, a quick way to review images after the dive or while underwater.

 

The Fantasea FG16 housing worked brilliantly, we couldn’t find a fault with it, Helen actually had more problems getting use to the new camera, over exposing some images, but with a bit more trial and error this issue will be eliminated.

 

The Fantasea FG16 is an excellent housing for the Canon Powershot G16, a combination of good engineering and wonderful styling at an affordable price, it is one of the nicest housings we have ever used.

 

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