CMT Water Housing Review - CMT vs. SPL

Mahalo for reading my review…please note, I’m a photographer and not a professional blog writer so please excuse any common grammatical mistakes.  While I want to share my knowledge and experience with photography and equipment; I’m much better at spending hours editing images versus words.   This review details my use of both CMT and SPL Housings.  I’m a local photographer on Oahu who focuses on wave and ocean landscapes, and I shoot mainly around the East and North Shores of Oahu.

I just want to state one thing before you read this review – I am not paid by either CMT or SPL, and I have not received any kickbacks for my review.  I pay just like every other customer so please don’t think my opinion is swayed by any type of compensation.  If I have received any type of discounts, it’s because I’m a repeat customer not a paid blogger (I don’t promote misinformation and my reviews are just from my experience).  I switched from SPL to CMT a few years back and I’ve owned a few different housings from CMT.  I first owned a carbon fiber housing for my 7D Mark ii, and now I’m shooting primarily with my Canon 1DX.  Before using CMT, I used an A-Series SPL Housing for my Canon 5D Mark ii.

Weight, Build and Design:

Both CMT and SPL housings are well built but there are some subtle differences which CMT gets my vote over SPL.  First, the weight – it’s bad enough the camera and lens gear add a lot of weight to the housings, but CMT is constructed out strong light weight carbon fiber…not only does it look awesome, it’s also extremely light (I think it’s 1.5 pounds).  SPL is constructed from a heavier welded aluminum material.  The SPL A-SERIES (A for aluminum) are considered SPL’s latest and best design.  From a competitive standpoint, they position aluminum as also very lightweight, and stronger than normal fiberglass housings.  As weight goes, it’s a tank.  At the end of the day, it’s the port glass that is going to break on you if bashed against the reef (in most cases).  I assume if you were taking a sledgehammer to both, metal would outlast the carbon fiber, but I prefer the lighter weight over the heavier material.  Again, both housing frames are extremely strong which is what’s really important.  A lot of people tend to focus on the frames, but again, it’s the port glass that can become the main weakness on the housings.  Or put another way, if you have an aluminum or carbon fiber housing and using a standard dome port, what do you think will shatter or crack first, that thin rounded port glass, or the heavy duty frame?   While the SPL frames are aluminum, the port bodies are heavy duty plastic.  CMT uses carbon fiber for both the housing and the port body leaving only the port glass as the weakest spot.  From the design aspect, with CMT, the camera slides in from the back of the housing with a clear hard thick plastic back-plate secured by metal screws (in addition the ports screw-onto the housing extremely snug).  With SPL housings, the camera slides in from the front, with the lens port as the front plate that lays on the seal.   CMT gives you metal/aluminum screws to secure the back plates, and SPL’s are light weight plastic wing nuts.  

Seals:

I will keep this section simple – CMT seals are a dense foam and run about an inch wide and a quarter inch thick so there is less room for error here compared to SPL.  SPL’s seals are rubber and about the size of a spaghetti string – this is where you need to be careful because literally one grain of sand or hair can cause a leak…and leaks are a no-no in this world.  While I didn’t have an issue with my SPL seals coming off; I felt it could happen easier with SPL since they were so small, leaving less room to glue/secure on the housing.  I always stressed about it with SPL over CMT.   It’s also easier to get your trigger cord caught between the front plate since it needed to be tucked under the base plate, leaving another opportunity for error.  Again, please note - I never had that issue because I’m pretty OCD about it, but I’ve heard flooding horror stories, so always triple check your seals and fit before entering the water (you’ve been warned).   SPL has the same thin seals for the port plate, the trigger handle and the flash outlet, so you will need to beak each of these down after each use to clean the space between the seals (I’m not a fan of this design).   The SPL seals are also rounded so there is more room for sand to get trapped on the edges.  CMT seals are flat and wide so I rarely have to deal with sand buildup.

Controls:

The controls are a feature that sets CMT apart.  First, all the control buttons and knobs are on the back plate for CMT (with a few on top).  The entire back plate is made of clear hard polished plastic which makes viewing your images in the view finder extremely clear and easy to see.  SPL’s screen is a really tiny window which is oddly designed and difficult to view anything from the back (especially in low light while swimming in the water).  For CMT, you can see your entire camera from the clear back plate, and you basically have all controls: a button for f/stop, ISO, a shutter knob, a trigger button, playback button, a button for view finder or video, an additional button for a manual setting, etc.  My SPL had the two knobs for shutter and f/stop, and this clunky handle for the upper trigger control.  I also had two back buttons bt they did not line up or work for any controls.  I say it’s like driving in a convertible versus a VW Bug (maybe newer SPL versions have improved but mine didn’t’ so I can only review what I had).     

Port Zoom Feature:

I had a port build for my 24-70 or 24-105 lens from both CMT and SPL – both the port bodies were built pretty durable and the lens fit both with no vignette.  CMT was also carbon fiber (same as the housing body) and SPL’s was made from harden plastic.  The CMT port fit both lens but the SPL only fit the 24-70 so the CMT was a little more universal (the universal fit was due to the gear system).  With that, the major differences were with the gears to control the zoom.  CMT has a durable flexible sleeve that covers the lens, it has grip secured on both sides for traction on both the zoom knob and the lens.  It functions perfectly and I haven’t had any issues with it malfunctioning in the water.  SPL’s gears are designed a little different – SPL has a gear band with hooks that straps around the lens, secured to the lens by a rubber band.  The gear grooves then attach to the gear on the external zoom handle.  You will need to align these gears up as you slide on the port, it takes a little adjustment and perfection.   If it sounds confusing, it is…slightly.  But, that wasn’t a major issue – the real problem occurs in the water as the gears almost always slipped off of each other in the water (which may also be an issue with the camera moving in the housing) – the problem with the gear is that it’s only about a half an inch wide so any slight movement or pump will result in the gear slipping.  The result, it renders the gear inoperable in the water so you’ll be stuck at whatever was the last zoom length before the slip (this is not good, especially if you’re in the water at big Pipeline shooting from the channel).   I actually requested to have a wider zoom gear built from SPL to help reduce the slipping but was told to use a folded dollar bill between the gear and the lens to make a tighter fit (yeah).  So, in conclusion, I felt as if the SPL zoom feature was poorly built and poorly represented by the company, and CMT’s functioned as needed.  CMT was a much better build when it comes to the zoom lens.   

Trigger Handles:

I was a little hesitant at first with CMT’s handle as it’s smooth carbon fiber - my initial concern was slipping or grip but I really don’t notice a difference in the water.  If there was an area of improvement, it could be with adding more grip on the handles.  SPL does have nice form fitting rubber or foam handles (the A-Series handle is rubber grip and form fitted).  SPL has a good handle design but the negative to the design is that you need to break it down after each use and clean the sand and seal so there is room for damage and/or lost screws/parts.  It is also time consuming (but you need to take time to care for your equipment, don’t think I’m lazy…just doing it at 5AM, in your truck, in the dark can be a challenge).  You don’t have to take CMT’s handles apart as it’s built to attach more firmly to the housing.   I guess one could argue that you can remove SPL’s handles if you wanted to be flat on the ground, etc…but I haven’t had that need thus far.  Lastly on the handles, the SPL A-Series has a large metal side handle where you grip the handle, and the CMT has a material velcro strap that locks your hand to the side of the housing.  They are both fine and this is minor, but I prefer the strap because it’s less clunky and I prefer holding the housing versus the handle (plus I’m left handed so I use the handle more anyways).

Customer Service:

I’ve experienced both services on a few occasions either for orders or yearly services - CMT has been very good to me as a customer, they have always responded in a timely manner and the gear is priced competitive in the market.  Just like most places, the more you order, the more they will work with you on pricing.  Jay the owner is a good guy and he’s never tried to price gauge or mislead me in anyway (and please note - you should know what you’re doing and what you are ordering beforehand…don’t wing it…do your research and know your gear and your budgets…and set deadline expectations when ordering).  When I ordered my current 1DX housing, it was a 10-day turn-around (that’s pretty quick).   As a matter of fact, he’s really made every effort to retain me as a customer and has spent a lot of time talking with me for input on his housings.  I’m not going to go in depth on my opinion of SPL’s customer service since I don’t work through them anymore…the owner just runs the sales and orders as more of a business versus with a customer-first focus, so you don’t get as much personal touch as I would have liked (unless of course you’re a sponsored shooter, I assume).  Just dial into the local Hawaii coconut wireless and you’ll get what you’re looking for in regards to the customer service at SPL.   It’s not terrible, it’s just not as personable or as friendly as some would expect when spending that much money.  Lastly, it’s in my opinion that if you’re going to write a review than at least open your review up to comments for ongoing dialogue.  Feel free to leave a comment below.    

Pricing:

Let’s get one thing straight…this stuff is not cheap.  You’re going to spend around 2K but SPL has introduced their ‘SPLASH’ housings which are made of hardened plastic bodies versus the A-Series aluminum structuring.  You may see some lower pricing out there but just make sure it’s what you want for the price (and will adequately protect your expensive camera equipment).  Here’s one other thing to consider – from a business perspective, SPL has been around a little longer so you might see more housings in the water because they got there first…with that, competition (and pricing and customer service) in Hawaii wasn’t a major concern since they somewhat owned the market at one point.  But in the last few years, the competitive landscape has changed…especially since wave photography is more popular than ever; there are now more water housing companies in the market.  I think competition is good, it keeps companies honest and hardworking.   For pricing, these are custom housings made to fit specific camera and lenses so it’s hard to give you a price quote, but CMT has always been less expensive than SPL from my experience.  In reference to incremental cost and spending for services and repairs - to sample the cost on a yearly service – I send in my housings each year for servicing.  The comparisons – I have the seals checked, added a foam pads for better fit, a cleaning, and tested the water tightness and handle functions.  SPL charged $125 (and for SPL I had to change a port lens which was an additional $100) so a total of $225 total and CMT charged $35 plus shipping (but I didn’t have a port lens change) for my last servicing.  That really stood out to me, CMT is much cheaper with the accessories and services.  Jay has even sent me new screws so I can have a replacement set, and more seal grease for no charge…he’s a good dude and I really like working with CMT due to pricing and customer service.  They don’t nickel-and-dime you.  

Depth Ratings:

SPL is rated for 15-20 ft max whereas CMT is slightly deeper at around 30ft.  Please note, I only free dive for turtle and dolphin and CMT performs better underwater just due to the depth rating – with my SPL, I had small pressure leaks in the past and it seems to be due to water pushing through the thin seals.  CMT seals are about an inch thick so there is more room for resistance.  Again, both housings are not constructed for deeper water so take this section with a grain of salt.   I just wouldn’t trust SPL with the seals when swimming down on turtle dives, etc.

So there you go, I give CMT the ultimate thumbs up over SPL from my experience and I’m very happy with the overall company, customer service and housings. 

Please leave a comment below if you want some dialogue.  Please also reach out if you want me to compare another water housing…more than happy to get a review going for you.  

Mahalo and Aloha everyone! 

Racing Extinction

The screening for the film "Racing Extinction" showed for the first time on December 2nd on Discovery Channel. This film showed heart breaking and breathtaking footage that exposed the world issue of endangered species, climate change, and mass extinction. Countless endangered animals are being threatened into extinction because of the change in the climate. With all of these tragic problems in our world, we also need to remember that there are solutions.

The preservation for our planet's oceans, rivers, and mountains is an important role we need to play. It is our responsibility to defend and protect the land, ocean, and animals. If we let these beautiful animals become extinct or allow the world to collect with an abundant amount of trash, the future generations to come will never forgive us. 

With the over emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans are producing, the world is changing. The ocean absorbs this CO2 because of microscopic plankton. As more CO2 goes into the ocean, it becomes more acidic. As the atmosphere absorbs the CO2 that the ocean doesn't, it causes our planet to become warmer. When the atmosphere gets warmer, so does the ocean. The extreme change in temperature and acidity causes a negative effect on the marine organisms that live in the ocean.

The video below explains the change in coral reefs and why::

For example, the algae that lives in the coral's structure uses photosynthesis to feed it and keep it alive. When coral gets stressed out (from warm water levels or high acidity levels), it kicks out the algae that live in it. If the coral stays without algae long enough, it will die. When coral dies it disorders the whole food chain. Coral is a main food source for 25% of marine life in the ocean. That marine life feeds carnivorous fish and us. When there is an unbalance in the food chain in the ocean, it also affects us by causing a decrease in fish and jobs.

It is important to keep our ecosystem balanced and not let the mass extinction and killing of any type of animal because every living thing on this planet acts as a web. We are connected. If you take out one thing, the whole web starts to fail. The massive extinction in our oceans from overfishing and illegal trade of endangered species are causing vast amounts of deaths in our oceans and will soon cause life to decline everywhere.

The video below shows a little information about the trade of sharks and the result that may come out of it::

The motto of the film is #StartWith1Thing. This hashtag challenges you to change one thing in your everyday life that can help better the world. This includes the way you live, eat, and drive.  Little things that we can change includes not eating meat for one meal of the day, drinking tap water instead of bottled water, or not using your car for a day. If we come together as one with small actions, we could make a huge impact on the Earth. This impact may save our planet from losing it's precious animals.

To learn more about how you can help, go to racingextinction.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stickers are In..!!!

Aloha, please check out our stickers and hats store - stickers for the Keep Hawaii Clean project are in, please support the cause..!  $5 and portions of the proceeds go to our fundraising efforts for the Keep Hawaii Clean Project. 

Please follow Ciara's blog as she works hard to raise funds and awareness for this great project (and for the protection of our precious coastlines)! 

We will be launching our hat sales next week!  Mahalo for your continued support! 

Team Decentsea! 

 

 

West Oahu Adventure

Living on the Windward side caused me to spend most of my time in town and on the south and east shores of Oahu. I'm often called a "townie". Traveling to the other side of the island is always a treat for me since I hardly go there. 

On October 11, Greg Champion and his friends took me out west. We planned to find some dolphins. A fisherman that slept over at the beach said that he saw the dolphins at 6 in the morning. Since we were all there, we hopped in the water anyways, hoping they would come back our way.

We spent about 20 minutes diving and blowing rings in the crystal clear water while waiting for the dolphins. The clarity of the water was unreal. It was an amazing sight to see the green mountains and the deep blue water. Despite the fact that there were hardly any fish, there was a stingray patrolling the ocean floor. We dove down to it, keeping our distance as it hovered above the sand. After we swam with it, we decided to go back to shore. In need of more adventure, we drove down the road to Makaha Beach. 

From the surfers shredding glass to the mellow movements of the fish under the water, Makaha always has a sensational atmosphere (above and below the surface of the water). Swimming out about 2 minutes I come across a spotted eagle ray. It was my first time seeing one in the wild and up close. It felt amazing to be swimming side by side as it glided through the water. I was so distracted by it's gracefulness that I almost forgot to press the record button on my GoPro.

When I caught up with the group, we started to swim together towards the tour boats. The deeper it got, the clearer the water became. Schools of fish surrounded us and coral reefs started to cover the ocean floor. I was happy to see the abundant amount of fish because that meant the reef was healthy. 

These coral reefs didn't only provide food for the fish, but also for the sea turtles also known as "honus". A bunch of honus would cruise around one huge piece of coral. That gave us the perfect opportunity to get some awesome pictures.

I hope I will be able to spend more time on the west side of Oahu. It was a very amazing adventure that made me appreciate and respect our island even more. 


International Coastal Cleanup Day

September 19, 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of International Coastal Cleanup Day. People all over the world devote their day to picking up trash on their local coastlines.

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I did my part that day by participating in Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii’s beach cleanup. Dozens of volunteers helped pick up trash and debris on the west shores of Oahu. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii hosted a two day clean up. September 19th was the first day of the cleanup. On that Saturday, 4 thousand pounds of trash was collected. I helped clean up the coasts of Makaha, Makua, and Yokohama beach on the following day. 

 

 

After the cleanup, I went with my parents to Makaha Beach. Since I didn't have my surfboard, I decided to snorkel. There was an overcast that day, so the water wasn't as clear. But it was still beautiful. During my dive, I found a plastic zip lock bag and a plastic pipe. Right away, I picked it up so that I was able to dispose of it outside of the water. 

It was an eyesore to see so many cigarette butts, diapers, tires, beer bottles, and plastic bags scattered all over these beautiful beaches. Also to see trash in the ocean where our marine life can easily get hurt by or ingest these items. Hopefully I will be able to participate on more cleanups on shore and in the water.

I wish International Coastal Cleanup Day was everyday! It was very refreshing to see people of all ages lending a hand to keep our beaches clean, healthy, and beautiful.

 


The Keep Hawaii Clean Project, Salty Ciara

Gofundme Account Profile: gofund.me/t83vq554

Aloha, my name is Ciara and I’m a 15-year-old student from Oahu, Hawaii.  I need your help – Hawaii needs your help!

Being born and raised in Hawaii allowed me to develop a strong respect and connection for nature and the outdoors. I especially grew a love and passion for the ocean. I believe that the ocean is one of the most amazing things that this Earth has to offer us. It is also the most magnificent thing in my eyes. I hope others can see the ocean for all of its beauty as well. But we must remember that we must preserve it for the future generations of Hawaii.

I have been selected as a Youth Contributor for a Hawaii based organization called Decentsea (www.decentsea.com) who mentors young adults as they work hard to develop special seasonal projects focused on driving awareness for Hawaii's ocean and coastal sustainability.  I want to be a part of the next generation of young ambassadors who work to protect our precious Hawaiian coastlands! 

We want our beaches clean, our waters clear, and our honu and monk seals happy!  It's at the core of my character and who I am..! 

Just as Aloha is at the core of our culture – when it comes to nature and the ocean, there is a deeper meaning of give and take.  Just as nature and the ocean give itself to us; we must give back to nature and the ocean.

I will be working to raise awareness and donations for two key non-profit organizations this summer, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii (www.sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org) and the Kaiwi Coastline Organization (www.hawaiikaihui.org).

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is a grassroots, local nonprofit organization run by a small team of dedicated staff and supported by passionate volunteers. They inspire local communities to care for their coastlines through fun, hands-on beach cleanups. They also coordinate educational programs, public awareness campaigns, and help others run their own beach cleanups (which I also hope to do)!

The Kaiwi Coastline Organization has worked with local groups to help preserve the Ka Iwi shoreline since the 1970s.  Sandy’s Beach is my home and my heart; it’s a part of who I am and I will do everything I can to help protect this precious coastline.  Funds raised through my efforts will support conservation and cultural planning for the site, which is home to Native Hawaiian species and cultural sites. 

Decentsea has provided me with a new GoPro Camera and an initial donation of $250 to help me get started.  The GoPro gives me the ability to film and document my journey.  I will also have the responsibility of running a blog on the website so you can also follow my journey and learnings (http://www.decentsea.com/saltyciara/).

My plan is simple – create a compelling environmental effort campaign through the sales of bumper stickers and hats to raise money and awareness for my select non-profits!  The $250 Decentsea donation will help to fund a portion of the printing cost of my stickers and hats, but $250 is not enough..! 

I am asking for your collective help – a donation of any kind is never too small.  A donation of $20 and you will receive one of my stickers.  A donation of $50 you will receive a sticker and hat!  A donation of $100 or more and you will receive a sticker and a free 12 x 16 canvas print from decentsea.com’s wave photography collection!

Like Decentsea’s mission statement – I come to you with no shame, no holding back, and total pride!  Mahalo for reading this and many mahalos for your support as I begin my journey!

Salty Ciara

Stay tuned for our newest contributor as we follow Ciara's summer and her passion for the ocean...

Ciara will be working with the Decentsea team this summer on developing her own project to focus on the protection of Hawaii's delicate and unique coastlines.  She will be working hard with a non-profit of her choice, and helping to raise funds and awareness for this special organization.  

She is taking on a unique project, and we'll soon be sharing the details via her blog.  Please be sure to follow her journey as she takes the next step in her life to become a driving force for Hawaii's important environmental and coastal sustainability efforts! 

Welcome to the team Ciara!