Happy Holidays!

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Shooting the Sony A6500, bye bye DSLR?

SLS Photography Owner, Stewart L. Sy with the Aquatica housings for the Sony A6500 and the Canon 5Dsr at the beautiful Dive Solana Resort in Batangas

Recent, I was able to make my way to the beautiful Dive Solana resort in Mabini, Batangas Province in the Philippines to shoot the Sony A6500 Mirrorless, Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC for short) and compare it against my Canon 5Dsr.  While this may not sound like a fair comparison, the odds were a lot more even than at first glance!

The Canon 5Dsr is the undisputed resolution king, boasting a whopping 50mp full frame sensor, while the Sony A6500 has a 24MP cropped sensor.  So, if you were to crop a 5Dsr sensor so that it would cover the same area as the Sony, then it would reduce it to about 18MP, thus the Sony actually has the Canon beat by about 6MP. But it’s not all about megapixels.  Would the Sony be able to compete against the famed AF of Canon’s near top of the line DSLR?  How about the ergonomics?  Would the Sony be a viable alternative?  Well, after 6 days of diving both systems side by side, I would say that “Yes” with some caveats, first of all.  A big “THANK YOU” to Rob Skeoch and Sony Canada for lending me the Sony FE90mm and 50mm Macro lenses and another big “THANK YOU” to Aquatica Digital for supplying me with the A6500 housing!

See the 2 near identical images below:

Hairy Frogfish shot with the A6500, Sony FE 90mm Macro, Aquatica A6500 Housing, Dual S&S YS-D1 strobes

Hairy Frogfish shot with the Canon 5Dsr ,EF 100mm f2.8L Macro, Aquatica AD5Dsr  Housing, Dual S&S YS-D2 strobes

Now, for more than 99% of the underwater photographers out there, these images will be displayed for social media purposes, uploading to Facebook, Instagram and the like.  Aside from the colour balance (both at default “As Shot”Smilie: ;) the images are near identical.  The images were shot within a minute of each other.  Even for the remaining shooters, both images would easily hold up to printing up to a 20×30 print, of course the 5Dsr could go higher, but how many of us do?

Pygmy Seahorse taken with the A6500, same setup as above

Pygmy Seahorse, taken with the Canon 5Dsr, same setup as above

Taking a look at the seahorse images above (aside from the body position as that I couldn’t contro), the images are both sharp and pleasing.  Both cameras had a bit of difficulty looking onto such a small animal (the nod going to the Canon for acquiring the critter faster) but the shots were taken and good images were made.

Shaun the Sheep nudibranch.  I didn’t even see the small one!

Now, the above images is where the Sony starts edging ahead of the larger Canon. While I’m sure that the Canon would still have taken a good shot, the extra pixels of the Sony help in the overall crop-ability of this image since I had essentially 6MP more.  The level of magnification is extreme, as the above image is a half of the original frame, so given the use of a +10 Aquatica Close-Up Diopter and that it’s a cropped sensor, this is a 6x magnification of the scene.  The extra depth of field inherent to a crop sensor helped keeping both animals in focus as well.

Suffice to say, image quality is more than adequate.  The Sony FE90mm Macro lens is easily the equal of the Canon EF100mm f2.8L.  I’d be happy to add the images taken by the Sony to my portfolio.   Now, how was the camera and housing in actual use?  Would a long time DSLR shooter find it difficult to switch?  How about a new user?

The Aquatica A6500 housing is a wonder of mechanical linkages, switches and buttons.  Every camera control (and thus function) is accessible from the housing.   The much loved Rear AF button is activated from the housing by an easy thumb lever.  Shutter speed and Aperture controls are easily reached by 2 dials and a simple thumb press on right joystick allows for quick ISO changes.  A nice difference from my DSLR is that the Sony’s video button is always active.  I don’ t have to switch to Live View like on my Canon.  Also, the Sony can take up to 30p, 4K video while my 5Dsr is limited to 30p, 1080.

A user simply needs to get used to the housing layout and it’s no big jump using the A6500 vs using my A5Dsr housing.  The biggest difference was the size and weight of the systems.  After using the DSLR housing, even with 4 x 8″ TLC buoyancy arms, the Sony was much more tossable with half the flotation.  Given the increasingly limited baggage allowances, the Sony is much more travel friendly.

I didn’t get to do much wide angle as I had made a mistake and brought the wrong port extension for the Sony, however I was able to use it with the Sigma MC11 EF to E Mount adapter and the Sigma 15mm Fisheye.


While I would have preferred a slightly faster sync speed than the camera’s 1/160th, it did superbly.  The smaller size made it easier to shoot in tight confines such as the shot with the yellow rhinopia.

So, in conclusion, for the new UW Photographer looking to upgrade from a GoPro or Advanced Point & Shoot, the Sony A6500 and Aquatica A6500 Housing will easily handle all of their needs, even up to producing professional level images and will do so at a price that is much more appealing to the bank account and/or significant other.  As a long time DSLR shooter, I was incredibly impressed with the performace of the A6500 and loved the familiar ergonomics of the Aquatica A6500 housing and would not hesitate in using the system again in the future.  The small size certainly makes the setup attractive to the travelling photographer.

While I’m not quite ready to give up my DSLR, especially for topside shooting, I still prefer the ergonomics of my DSLR for this, the A6500 certainly has me started me thinking about a smaller, travel friendly underwater setup.

See more images from the trip below:


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$5 discount coupon for the 2018 SCUBA & Watersports Expo

Hi Folks,


It’s that time again!  Print the coupon below and get $5 off your admission to the 2018 Scuba & Watersports Expo at the Tacoma Convention Center!  We will have a booth there and Stewart will be giving a talk how to get better underwater images!  We will have show specials for all our items as well as our 2019 Anilao Photo Workshop!



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See you January 27th and 28th at the Vancouver Aquarium for Diver’s Weekend 2018!

This year’s theme is “Training” and SLS Photo will be presenting a workshop on how to improve your underwater photography.  Our booth will have some of the latest housings from Aquatica Digital, the new S&S YS-D2J strobe, our fantastic Fiber Optic Ring Light and many more toys…errr Tools!

Diver’s Weekend Page at the Vanaqua.org website

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Now available, Made in Japan! Sea & Sea YS-D2J

Sea and Sea has brought the production of it’s popular YS-D2 strobe back to Japan! Reverting back to the traditional yellow colour of the original S&S strobes, this version is expected to maintain the quality and reliability synonymous to the S&S Brand!

Contact us for pricing and availability!

Posted in Lighting

Eclipse 2017 over SLS Photo HQ! LOL

Well, Eclipse 2017 has come and gone.  We had about 86% totality where our offices were.  IMHO, the first image was the best as the clouds were wispy and added drama.  Even the glare of my cheap mylar filter seemed to add a nice balance of cold light to the shot.

Equipment used: Sony Alpha A6500, Sigma 150-600 Contemporary with MC-11 Adapter. Mefoto Traveller Tripod. Meike Grip extension for the A6500.  Mylar Solar Filter. All shots wide open at f6.3, ISO 400, Aperture Priority


About halfway through…

Totality at 85-86%

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Winners of the first Aquatica/SLS Photo Anilao Workshop:

Our bad! We’ve announced the details for next year’s trip but haven’t announced the winners of this past workshop!

Grand Prize, Leslie Blickenstaff, Sparring Soft Coral Crabs

Best Macro: Dennis Cloutier

Best Wide Angle: Norris Colby

Additional Winners:

Macro First Runner Up: Nick Lawlor

Macro 2nd Runner Up: Mario Robillard

Macro Honorable Mention: Teresa Cordoni

Wide Angle First Runner Up: Marc Damant

All images are the property and copyright of the photographers mentioned.

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Join us 2nd Annual Aquatica/SLS Photo UW Worshop in Anilao!

Our 2017 trip was a resounding success with 18 attendees (14 Aquatica Shooters!) have a great time at the Beautiful Dive Solana Resort.  So we just have to go back.  Details below or click this link: TRIP FLYER

Posted in Trips

The first Aquatica/SLS Photo Anilao UW Workshop was a success!

This gallery contains 121 photos.

The first ever underwater photography workshop by Aquatica and SLS Photography was a resounding success! We gathered 14 Aquatica shooters and had a great time at the beautiful Dive Solana Resort in Batangas.  Surrounded by a very “Target Rich” environment, … Continue reading

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The New A6500 housing for the Sony A6500 E-mount camera is now available!

Retail: $1,650.00 USD includes Housing, built in leak sensor, handles,hand strap, tray brackets, grip brackets and more! The Aquatica A6500 is a housing designed to be small, compact and easily handled just like the camera that it is designed for. With 24.2 MP stills and 4K video capabilities coming in at a retail cost of $1,399.00 USD the SONY Alpha6500 is a great camera for the beginner and professional Underwater Photographer alike.

OUR INNOVATIONS: This camera is a powerhouse of technology just like its predecessor, the A6300. We have made our Power saddle also available for this housing to allow the user to fully enjoy the system underwater.

New Lever to enable Back Button AF!  This is a big leap in the usability of this housing, allowing the shooter to keep the camera in AF-C then on demand freeze the AF when needed.

Power Saddle: The Aquatica Digital Power Saddleincorporates an optional rechargeable battery pack that plugs into the camera’s micro usb port and attaches magnetically to the camera’s mounting plate. This option can be purchased with the housing or purchased later as an add-on. Purchasing the Power Saddle will allow both still and video shooters to have the equivalent of two extra batteries in their housing, allowing the extra power they need to fuel their creative visions.

Interchangeable View Finders: Aquatica Digital is proud to announce the support of our Aqua View Finders. The A6500 will come standard with our Aquatica eyepiece and the housing allows the user to switch between our Aqua View 45 and our Aqua View 180 Finders without having to change the LCD window of the housing. Upgrading to these Finders gives the user a 1.2 magnified view of the electronic viewfinder, allowing for improved underwater viewing. These finders are among the best finders available on the market.

Adjustable Hand Grip Support: Aquatica is world famousfor having the most comfortable hand grips on the market and we are excited to announce that these grips have been adapted for the A6500’s smaller size. We have been able to include these grips as part of the A6500 package in the form of highly modular tray to mount either strobes or video lights to the top of the grips. Thetrayit self can be moved left and right for added comfort. Furthermore, the tray bracketscan be independently adjustedto a forward,mid and back positionwhile the grip brackets can be adjustedto an inward, centered and outward position from the housing, thusallowing for you to have industry’s most ergonomic control access available. Additionally; an adjustable Aquatica nylon hand strap is included at no extra cost allowing for the avid freediver, or available light shooter to streamline their profile by removing the handles.


The A6500can be used with or without grips. The right side of the housing has been designed so that you can comfortably hold and operate the housing with your right hand with the shutter button positioned to naturally rest under your index finger. Additionally,at the rear of the housing, we have provided access to many of the camera’s functions. The controls can be easily reached by simply moving your thumb, thus allowing you to never have to remove your hand from the shutter lever. Primarily among these controls is the record button which has been given a large red oversized button for ease of use. For those that prefer a steady hold on the housing, the Aquatica grips and shutter extended trigger are available, allowing for a more traditional hold of the housing underwater. We have ergonomically placed the control dial at the rear of the housing so that it gives you quick and easy access to shutter speeds, aperture, white balance and the ISO of the camera.

THE HOUSING: At the core of the design is the shell, machined on a state of the art 5 axis CNC machine from a solid block of 6061 T6 aluminum alloy. The shell is then anodized and painted with a black polyester powder coating. This type of finish is capable of handling the toughest conditions a professional photographer can throw at it. We are immensely proud of how often our clients at rental dealerships praise our trademark crinkle powder coat finish being as “tough as nails”. What is often noted is that housings that only have an anodized finish do not stand up to the abuse rental housings are exposed to, therefore making Aquatica housings the ideal choice. Our control shafts and push buttons are made from the finest grade of stainless steel available rather than plastic or less expensive metals. This ensures the most reliable performance on the market. The housing shell has two entry points for connecting strobes plus two others for adapting various accessories. The housing is sealed with our signature rotary closure made popular on our Amphibicocinema housings. There is also a large 16mm diameter access point on the left hand side which is ideal for connecting a video monitor. Located on the left hand side is a standard 1/2” diameter access point for the optional Surveyor vacuum valve to ensure a water tight seal prior to your dive, thus giving the shooter watertight piece of mind. Page 4 of 4 Every underwater shooter’s needs are different, as such we offer a full complement of flash triggering options to suit those needs. Whether you use basic fiber optic connections or the hard wired flash connections with which to fire your strobes independently, we have you covered with our impressive line up of available flash connectors.

The Aquatica Digital A6500 will have three options for flash connection:

  • #37000-OPT Fiber optic version will feature our industry standard L-type fiber optic cable connectors
  • #37000-NK Nikonos type connector with universal hot shoe
  • #37000-IKE Ikelite type connector with universal hot shoe

PORT SELECTION: We felt that a camera like the Sony a6500 needs to support the best lenses for the best optical results possible. We have created a full line of extension rings and adapters for both our mirrorless ports as well as our standard port line up. Our support will cover the unbeatable Zeiss Touit 12mm 2.8 rectilinear wide angle lens as well as the ultra-sharp Zeiss Touit 50mm 2.8 macro lens. This is followed by the stellar Sony 90mm 2.8 macro with manual focus support, and of course the industry’s favorite Tokina 10-17mm fisheye Canon mount with Metabones adapter. Last but not least we support the Sony 10- 18mm and 16-50mm “kit” zoom lenses and by popular demand both the Sony 16mmand 18-55mm lenses.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX: Anodized 6061-T6 Aluminium Housing Crinkle Powder Coating Best Grips in the Industry (Left and Right) Two Fiberoptic Ports Extended Trigger adapter Extra main sealing O-Ring Extra Port O-Ring Aquatica Standard Eye Piece Choice of Strobe Connectors Built in Leak Sensor Aquatica Nylon Hand Strap Adjustible Tray (left and right) 2Adjustible Tray Brackets 2 Adjustible Grip Brackets 2 Zinc Anodes

SPECIFICATIONS: Housing (only) weight: 4.5lb/2.04kg Housing (only) dimensions: W 21.59cm x H 15.24cm x D 10.48cm/W 8.5” x H 6” x 4.125” RETAIL PRICE STARTING AT $ 1,650.00 USD

Posted in Housings, News