Finally I got the chance to test BMPCC 6k on the Nauticam Housing.

The moment I laid my hands on the housing, there was some disappointment – there is no access to touch screen: no buttons (like on Nauticam housings for the Atomos monitors / recorders), or Black Magic previous models; no gel screen (like on many Iphone housings).

Nauticam isn’t clear on their website whether there is touchscreen control (some photos seem to show buttons, others don’t). Also there is no written information on that. Having owned two Nauticam housings already (NA-D7100 / NA-D810), I assumed that this one (like the others) would provide access to most, if not all, camera’s controls and functions.

This is absolutely NOT the case with NA-BMPCC6k. Once you close the housing there is nothing you can no with the menus (despite the existence of a “menu” button). You cannot format cards or hard-disk, you cannot change codec (meaning, from Raw to ProRes), compression, access the presets… So make sure you set it all beforehand and program the 3 assignable buttons to what you may need to change (within their limitations). Mine are programmed to change frame rates.

I was seriously tempted to return the housing and sell the camera, and I didn’t just because I already had invested in lenses, focus / zoom rings, batteries (you’ll need 4 18650 3.7 V batteries, plus the charger), SSD external disks (Nauticam has a cradle for Samsung T5, though Sandisk Extreme can be fitted with no cradle and a special Tilta 90º cable)…

All you need to shoot underwater macro (except the lights): BMPCC6k, Canon 100mm macro lens, with Nauticam focus ring /mandatory for any serious work), Sandisk Extreme SSD 1 TB, Tilta 90º USB3 Cable (the plug that goes in the camera is shaved, so the screw is removed), and battery pack.
Nauticam battery pack (batteries not included) half way through its place inside the housing – notice the locks on both sides.

Besides, there was no other system that I was really interested in, right now, for the kind of shooting I’m doing.

I wasn’t overly excited to try it under those limitations, and I’m still trying to get used to it, so here are my first impressions:

It’s rainy season in Bali, the visibility isn’t great, there are many thermoclines, so I decided to go for macro. BMPCC 6K works with Canon EF lenses, and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro was the way to go. I would prefer to have the options to go for 40 or 60mm, but, if buying just one macro lens, (and using it with the external wet lenses I already use for stills) this is the one that makes more sense.

For light sources I picked two DivePro Vision Pro + (look at the review in here) These are excellent video torches but have a wide beam, so I coupled them with the optical element of Saga optical Snoots to narrow it.

15.000 lumen may seem too much for macro, but believe me: they’re not! Even shooting at 1250 base ISO, the apertures you need to get some decent Depth of Field require all the light you can get, specially if you intend to do slow motions, shooting at 50 fps. I found myself shooting in the range of F/14 with the lens alone and up to F/19, with AOI UCL-09 lens attached.

The torches light temperature (4000K, announced) is just too warm for macro shooting (but then again, they weren’t made for that purpose). Next time, I’ll bring a pair of blue filters.

I’ll go deeper into the shooting experience once I do a few more dives and try different setups and combinations, but for now, here are some things I liked and didn’t like:

The good things:

  • The housing ergonomics is up to Nauticam standards.
  • The housing is not overly negative, and it’s manageable even under strong currents.
  • The focus knob is smooth and precise enough.
  • The monitor is sharp and bright enough to allow manual focus (with focus peaking enabled).
  • Autofocus did work surprisingly well, even on challenging circumstances. (Though I only used it for testing and for locking focus. Forget if you want some kind of tracking.)
  • The battery pack lasted two dives, and would last considerably more.

The challenging ones:

  • No access to touchscreen can potentially ruin your diving day, if you forget some settings (specially if you have been using it for land shooting).
  • There is no battery indication. BMPCC 6k assumes you’re connecting it to a charger and only display the information of the internal battery being charged.
  • Plugging the charging and the USB 3 cables (assuming you’re not using CFast internal card option) is not the easiest task, specially if you have big hands. I recommend installing the battery pack first, then sliding the camera half way through, connecting the power cable first, then the USB3 cable, sliding the camera the rest of the way an last, pushing the cables inside, making sure they are neither under stress not touching anything important.
The camera inside the housing: notice the USB3 and power cables on the left.
Here is my first experience. Enjoy!

I’ll update this post with new information and illustrative images as I get them. Stay tuned!

Update: I was curious to try the 2.8K / 120 Fps option to get additional stability and slow motion, so I went for a ladybug (amphipod) shooting session. These tiny little folks (under 3mm in length) move quite a bit and aren’t too fond of strong torches. Besides, they live on a sponge, 30 metres deep, which doesn’t help, as the bottom time is limited in each dive. After two dives, here are the best shots:

I found that the 2.8 K announced has smaller dimensions than the UHD preset on DaVinci Resolve or the GoPro 2.7k, therefore requiring some zooming to match the project settings. Some images were noticeably soft and noisier, which still shows up, despite the noise reduction and sharpening on post. Nonetheless, the rig is a useful tool, allowing the capture of unseen behaviours, so another positive point for BMPCC 6K underwater.