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Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing test/review

by Rico Besserdich

During my last underwater photography workshop in Egypt, I had the opportunity to test the LEO II PRO Video housing for the CANON 7D, designed by the Italian housing manufacturer EASYDIVE ( During 5 full days of diving I took around 3000 shots and did some video, too. Before going into detail I have to say that I was very pleased with that housing.

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

Now, let's take a look inside:
The main difference against all other u/w housings is that the only mechanical control of the LEO II is the zoom-control. Everything else is triggered electronically by using the camera's mini-USB port. The "heart" of the housing is a matchbox-sized electronic unit that connects the camera to button panels that you'll find on the right & left of the housing (as parts of the housing's grips).

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

In times when the big guys of the industry produce at least one new camera model every year, making it necessary to buy a new u/w housing too because of the different bits and pieces (such as button positions), the revolutionary idea of accessing most of all camera functions electronically produces a very pleasing advantage: a multiple camera support.

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

The EASYDIVE LEO II supports all common camera models of CANON & NIKON. In simple terms : one housing fits all. That means, we can now upgradeto a newer camera without the annoying need to buy a new housing.

Supported cameras are, as of December 2012:

CANON : 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 60D, 350D, 450D, 550D, 600D, 650D, 5D Mark II & III, 7D and the new 6D.
NIKON :D40, D50, D60, D70, D80, D3000, D3100, D5000, D5100, D300, D300s, D90, D7000, D600, D700 and the D800.

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

If an Easydive housing owner wants to switch to a different camera, the only items needed to be replaced are the housing's USB electronics and camera mount. This is sold as a bundle for around 165.

This is far cheaper than buying a new housing and indeed the multiple camera support clearly pops up as the main advantage of the LEO II. Besides this, if we want to stick with our preferred brand but we want to move to a newmodel, there is no need to modify the electronics at all. The CANON electronics simply recognise all CANON cameras and can access them. Same counts for NIKON, too. It's as simple as that.

The housing itself comes in a pleasing round-shaped design (quite an attraction on the diveboat I have to say). It's made out of 8 mm thick marine grade aluminium and is depth-rated to 100 metres (150 metres or more on demand). Three stainless-steel fastenings hold the housing's backplate which is double o-ring sealed. And for those who like to go on to u/w photo dives without any o-rings there is a built-in leakage warning device too ;-)

The two ergonomic grips support two bayonet-type strobe arm connectors each, enablingyouto connect four strobes or two strobes and two video/photo lights at the same time. During my tests I've used two Sea&Sea YS-D1 strobes. The single strobe cable connector is a Nikonos 5/6 pin type (switchable). TTL functionality or fiber-optic strobe connection is not yet supported.

Easydive Leo II PRO camera tray

The standard version of the housing comes with a 6-button panel, allowing the user to access 10 functions of the camera; some buttons can be pressed together, acting as a kind of shortcut. The PRO version comes with two button panels giving access to even more functions. I have used the so called Video Version of the housing where the right-hand button panel controls the photo functions and the left hand panel operates the video functions of my 7D. The buttons themselves work magnetically.

Easydive Leo II PRO camera tray

The housing's port connector is also bayonet-style; there are ports available for all commonly used lenses for u/w photography. The port diameter is of 105mm which gives space for lenses(such as some SIGMA zoom lenses) that often do not fit into other housings/ports.

First impression It is a real beauty. More than this, it looks even noble; an Italian jewel of a design at its finest :-)

Getting the LEO II ready for a photo dive :
The housing's USB electronic requires 2 AA size batteries (preferably Sanyo Eneelopes) to run. The battery unit and the electronics themselves are stored inside the housing but can be easilyremoved.
Fully charged batteries supply enough energy for up to 12 hours of operation (actually, during my tests they lasted as long as 16 hours).
Fitting the camera on the camera mount is easy but requires a screwdriver -you cannot mount it by using a coin.

Camera in housing

Once the camera is fitted onto the mount, 3 cables are connected to the camera: a mini USB, remote control and a strobe connector. This is simple and quickand the mounted camera can then be placedinto the housingwhere it fits just perfectly.

After switching the camera on, I activated the housing's USB electronics; there is a tiny switch for it. Three LED's indicate the status of the unit. A green light indicates "everything ready to go" , yellow means "battery low" and red means "out of order/malfunction". The self-test takes only few seconds and the red light never blinked at me.

The same three control LED's are mounted in the button units as well and are easy to be monitored underwater. As the housing does not have a top window to read the camera's settings, it is advisable to turn the camera on before getting in the water. De-activate the "auto off" function and set the camera's LCD to "info" so that it displays the camera's settings such as ISO, aperture, shutter etc.
If you forget this step you would then be shootingblind. And as there is no button to switch the camera on or off, it might be a good idea not to forget to switch the camera on before finally closing the housing and hopping in the water.

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

During my tests, every day I was out diving for 8 hours and after returning back to the hotel, the camera battery powerwas still at 25%, still enough to transfer all my pictures to my computer.

Some photographers prefer to shut down their cameras between dives to save energy. This necessitates opening the housing. I did that too (being on a huge diveboat witha largedry area) and, as the LEO II is self-drying within minutes, it wasn't really a big deal to open the housingbetween dives. Of course, doing this while sitting on a small RIB, rocking and rolling, in bad weather conditions, it would be a different story.

Easydive Leo II PRO underwater housing

Mounting the backplate to the housing was quick and easy as was mounting the port to the housing. The bayonet-style port mount gives a good and safe feeling of "locked & tight". When using zoom lenses (during my tests I used a Tokina 10-17mm and a Sigma 10-20mm), assembling the zoom gear was easy but, as with all kinds of zoom gears, it required a proper double check.

A huge variety of flatports, extension rings and domeports are available and all look very solid and well designed.

Shooting with the LEO II underwater

All set up for wide-angle photography (Tokina 10-17mm lens, domeport, Easydive carbon strobe-arms plus 2 Sea&Sea YS-D1 strobes) the housing turned out to be neutrally buoyant underwater.

It is very ergonomically designed and energy-saving to be with it underwater and I never experienced any wrist ache. While swimming around and watching my students, I've held the housing often with one finger only ;-). The two grips are very ergonomic and you just need your thumb(s) to access the control buttons and take your shots. Looking through the housing˜s viewfinder to achieve a first shot comes as a bit of a surprise: there is no viewfinder ! The housing's backplate holds one huge window (polycarbonate) and you are looking directly through the camera's viewfinder. Although very suspicious at the beginning, Ihave to say that it worked just great.

For some camera models, the manufacturer offers mini-viewfinders that replace the one on the camera, providing a larger field of view.
Although, the EasyFinder is not available for the Canon 7D, I didn't miss it. I am used to shooting in full manual mode only, so accessing shutter speeds, aperture and ISO is basically all I need, doing it "old school style".

And this is the way of shooting the LEO II is designed for. It took me only a few minutes to use the housing "blindfolded" as the buttonsto access shutter speed and aperture are easy to locate without looking at the button unit itself.

Changing ISO requires you to push two buttons at the same time, which sounds logical as I am not changing the ISO for every shot I do.
Pressing the "photo" button initiates focus and takes the shot. As I very often work with a half pressed shutter button on my camera(for composing pics or just to follow shy marine animals with the autofocus) I was pleased to see that the housing provides a special "shortcut" for this:

Pressing the "photo" button for around 10 seconds changes its function : in the pressed state it then acts like a half-pressed shutter button, releasing it takes the shot. This comes handy with faster moving fishes. For non-moving subjects (such as wrecks...they don't move much, do they ?) a second "Pre-Photo" button exists. Once pressed, the camera does the focussing, calculates exposure and provides you with all other nessessary information.

Changing shutter speed and aperture can be done quickly; I haven't sensed any delay caused by the USB electronics. To review a picture after shooting it(I don't do this after every shot, but sometimes I like to have a quick look) it is a good idea to set the camera to "display last image until any button is pressed" .

However, this was the way I did it. If you are used to reviewingall your pictures while doing your safety dive stop, you might find it disappointing that such an option is not provided by the housing as it is not provided by the camera's remote-controllable operations.

The PRO version of the housing comes with 6 more buttons on the left side.
Which camera functions are accessible through those buttons depends simply on the USB protocol of the camera and on what you want. The USB unit of the housing is programmable,by the manufacturer,which gives users the opportunity to create their own customized setup. There is a list of accessible camera controls,depending on camera model, and you can choose which function you would like to access with which button.

The USB protocol of NIKON is a bit better than that of CANON. For NIKON, the selection of focus pointsworks with the LEO II, but regrettably it does not for CANON. But Easydive have announced a new electronic systemcoming out in February 2013 which will make more camera functions (especially for the 7D, 6D & 5D Mark III) accessible through their LEO II housings.

But despite the disadvantage of not being able to change autofocus points of my 7D (often I had it set to middle focus spot only), I've found the housing extremly easy and ergonomic to use while shooting underwater.

Shooting video
I am not a videographer but as the "Video" version of the housing was given to me,of course I took the opportunity to try it. The left button panel of the housing accesses the video functions of the camera.
Live View on/off, recording on/off, white balance(presets), autofocus + manual focus controls are provided. The right side button panel provides magnification and ISO control when shooting in video mode. I've shot around 40 minutes of video in several takes and havn't spotted any problems. For a short while I even gave my camera to one of my workshop students(whilst underwater) and she shot some videos without knowing the housing and without knowing my camera. I think that's proof enough : it is really easy with Easydive ;-)

After the dive
I happenedto open the housing between dives, for turning the camera off, changing the lens .trying my luck..whatever. Due to its special paint-finish, the LEO II is almost "self-drying" - Just few minutes after the dive a small (very small !) towel was enough to get rid of the last remaining waterdrops and open the housing safely.As there are no mechanical controls there is, of course, also less risk of waterdrops damaging your camera after opening the housing. Taking the camera out of the housing was as easy as putting it in. After I got used to the housing it took me usually 10 minutes to re-assemble the unit (getting it ready for a photo dive) and 3 minutes to completely disassemble it.

Conclusion :
An Easydive housing is like a Ferrari : If you know how to handle it, it is an incredibly powerful tool ;-). The Easydive LEO II PRO is a very well designed and high quality piece of kit for the advanced underwater photographer,with easy access to the main important functions of his/her camera underwater.
Digital SLRs of the newer generations come with an overwhelming array of functions and buttons(some of them very confusing), but in the end what makes a shot is still havingan eye for photography.
The Easydive housing incorporates several functions, however the LEO II can't access allthe options of your camera. It never will. So, if you prefer to play with buttons, wheels and magic sticks instead of taking photos underwater this might not be the right housing for you. The question is : do you really need more ?
Having one housing that can host several different cameras comes in very handy and inexpensive and the USB electronics, and therefore the accessible customized controls havea value which speaks for itself.

For CANON cameras it would be nice to have access to select the focus points/areas in future and maybe just a single switch on the housing for turning the camera on or off would be useful as well.
To sum up, as a professional underwater photographer, I can highly recommend this housing. I own one myself now.

Tech Specs :


Price :

Standard Version(housing body, USB electronic, 2 grips, 1 Nikonos strobe connector, backplate, camera slay, zoom control, 1 button unit with 6 buttons)1,390.

PRO Version :(including another button unit with six more buttons)

Optional EASYDIVE accessories:

Carbon strobe arms and clamps , acrylic and glass domeports (different sizes/dimensions), extra viewfinders, customized backplates (with mechanical controls to access more camera functions), uw photo and video lights, flatports, extension rings, tripods, wired remote controls (with up to 100 meter long cable) and external monitors.

Height: 177 mm.
Width with handles: 340 mm.
Length: 120 mm.
Port Diameter: 105mm.

Weight and Depth:
Weight: 2,8 Kg.
Max operating depth: 100mï(up to 200 metres by request).

Accessible camera controls, depending on camera model:

Shutter, aperture, ISO, drive mode, meaturing mode, AF mode, AV/TV/M/C1/C2/C3/P/AUTO switch, focus mode, pre shutter, live view, video, white balance (presets) , EV exposure compensation, focus point selection( Nikon only), picture style, bracketing, white balance(Kelvin).

Warranty : Lifetime warranty

For more information :

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