Aquashot 3e - First Use
Julie and I had wanted to get out to Hawaii for a decent vacation, but work and conflicting schedules delayed that until the week of Memorial Day. This was just late enough for her to get medical clearance to dive and for me to get my hands on a pre-production Aquashot 3e (thanks to Dave and Ike himself for setting that up).
How did it perform?
First off, I don't see any reason to use disposables anymore. Just get the A3e and forget worrying about the film advance ever again. Instead you hear a nice whirl. If the batteries in the Endeavor are fresh enough, this should allow you to take your next picture quicker and without having to move your hands one bit. Dave told me to be watchful of the batteries, but I didn't see much slowdown after 3 rolls. The one strike against the APS option is that you can't get it developed just anywhere, and it will often cost you more.
You should probably get a second Endeavor, too. Unfortunately, like with the disposables, the camera remains the weak link in the system. The E10 costs $25-40 dollars, and it shows. I'm already unable to completely close the lens shutter on the thing. I was also wary of the APS film format itself due to the smaller negative size. For close images like you'd take in the water, it seems quite adequete. But I found (and others confirmed) that if you take topside pictures in the panaramic setting, the image becomes a bit grainy. Bottom line: don't use this camera for double duty topside.
The accessories (macro lens, strobe, water correcting lens) weren't ready when I went on my trip. For the most part that was ok - the primary target was really my girlfriend as she did her first dives. People are very easy to do, since you need to be a few feet away anyhow (I believe with the APS you need to be 3ft back; the A2 was 4ft with disposables). But because of that minimum distance, it's difficult to get a good image of anything the size of a football or less. I heard that in the last week all accessories were in production, so by all means, get at least the water correcting lens so you can get closer. Because I didn't have the strobe, backscatter was also a problem. I haven't even bothered to take the unit out in Monterey waters until I get the strobe going. You see a little bit of that in my pictures, especially the manta ray ones.
Now for the pictures: Most of them are self explanatory, but be sure to look at the frogfish on the second bank of pics. I also like the moray that seems to be eyeing dinner, though I wish that air bubble hadn't marred it. Like with the A2, you have to keep an eye on the lens portal and get rid of any bubbles. Sometimes I forgot, unfortunately. The night manta ray dive was a special circumstance. There was lots of ambient light from everyone, but there was also a lot of planktom present as the mantas are there to eat. On that dive, I wish I had weighted down the camera a bit. It is highly positive and pulls like a balloon. Tricky on a dive where you are also holding your light above your head. Still, the camera did pretty well even with the basic flash. Other notes: The pics were scanned on a Umax Vista S12 flatbed at 100dpi, and got various alterations within Photoshop. In some I did a lot of color correction, others I left alone.