QUICK REVIEW: FANTASEA FA6500 HOUSING FOR SONY A6500 AND A6300

Fantasea FA6500 Housing for Sony A6500Fantasea has recently upped their game and brought various interesting new UW photography items on to the market. The latest addition is their first ever housing for a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The company now enters this increasingly crowded marketplace with a case for Sony’s popular A6300 and A6500 high/medium-end 24MP, 4K capable cameras. The A6300 has been available since the early 2016 and the new slightly updated 6500 model around since Christmas. As Sony does not make a housing for these cameras The AOI designed Fantasea housing is now the only serious non-aluminium case for these camera models.

Sony A6500 Camera features:

Although I have been using the Sony’s RX100 cameras for years now I still sometimes struggle with their user interface. Recently the company has moved towards a more standard menu approach but still I found myself scratching my head with some of the settings. Not my favourite UI by any means. Luckily Sony has left lots of customisation options for the interface so you can adjust it to your liking.

Surprisingly the Sony 6500 features an “Underwater Auto White balance” mode… Sort of a general underwater setting to keep your colours vibrant. So, although Sony did not produce a housing for the Camera, they knew it is going to be popular underwater. Very thoughtful of them.

The A6500 retains the 24MP APS-C size CMOS sensor from the previous model. The noticeable updates are a touch screen and improved autofocus and image stabilisation. The 6500 model is now also weatherproofed so few splashes of water will not instantaneously render the camera as a shot line weight. The 24MP sensor produces stunning still images and you can record 4K (3840 x 2160) movies with 30 frames per second with 100Mbps bitrate.

Fantasea FA6500 Housing Features:

In many ways, the Fantasea FA6500 housing looks like a bigger brother of the Company’s previous compact housings. The new housing retains many features of the smaller housings like the Fantasea Canon FG7XII and the FG9X. What is completely new is the port system. Fantasea introduces their own slightly Nauticam N85-esque port system with 2 ports available currently.

Fantasea A6500 housing controlsAll Fantasea housings and lenses are made by a Chinese company called AOI. AOI is already famous for well-designed and made products and the new A6500 housing is not an exception. Made from polycarbonate the housing looks like a serious contestant. It is extremely easy to insert the camera with lens and rubbery zoom gear into the housing. The housing has controls for all camera features and includes a pre-installed moisture alarm and even an M16 bulkhead for extra accessories/features like an HDMI out cable or vacuum leak check valve (for example Leak Sentinel). The case weighs “only” 980g, which is quite a bit less than the aluminium competitors that are near the 1.5kg mark. The housing comes as ready-to-go for the A6500 model with a conversion kit for the 6300.

Fantasea FA6500 Housing rear viewThe clearly marked housing buttons are easy to use with one small issue; The Sony A6500 camera features a multi-control-push-button rear jog wheel, which always causes grey hairs for housing designers. It is difficult to make a perfectly functioning control knob for a small button/wheel with so many possible movements. As a result, with the Fantasea FA6500, you have to shove the rear wheel buttons quite hard and every now and then when you want to go sideways you end up going up or down and vice versa. I’ve seen this with many housings before and you will just have to learn to live with it.

Fantasea A6500 port systemThere are 2 ports currently offered for the Fantasea housing. The FML34 flat port, which you can see in the images and an A6 acrylic dome port. The FML34 port is designed for the Sony SEL 16-50mm PZ kit lens and for the SEL 30mm macro lens. For the kit lens, there is a zoom gear available and for the macro you can get a focus gear if needed. The A6 port fits the Sony 16mm f2.8 pancake lens and VCL-ECF2 and VCL-ECU2 fisheye and super-wide adapters. Add aa 25mm extension and you can use the Sony 10-18mm f4 OSS super wide zoom with the A6 dome.  Zoom gear is also available for this lens.

Fantasea FA6500 rubber gearThe housing costs £1100.00 and the FML34 port is £369.00 with £89.00 for the gear. The A6 dome port is pricier at £549.00 and then you have to shed another £265.00 for the extension and additional 89 quid for the gear, in case you want to use the 10-18. So, the full example kit with both 30mm macro (with auto focus only, so no gear) and 10-18mm wide-angle options would cost you £2371.00. The same get-up from Nauticam would cost you: £2497.00. That is only £126 more! The Nauticam housing itself is £550 dearer but the high price of the Fantasea ports narrow the price gap down. It’s worth mentioning that if you want to use manual focus with the macro lens, the price difference will be £200 more, as the special manual focus port and gear by Nauti are quite expensive. Note that the Nauticam NA-A6500 model will also come with tray and arms, which is something you have to think about for the Fantasea. This can easily set you back another £150.

Final Words:

It’s good to have some new competition in the Nauticam dominated mirrorless housing market. The Fantasea FA6500 housing is an excellent product all around. At first the Fantasea option also looks quite a bit cheaper. However, when you add all the bits and bobs together the costs of the Nauticam and the Fantasea kit is almost the same. If faced with these two options in the store, how many will pay that tiny bit extra and get the Nauticam? That is my only worry with this housing.

The Fantasea FA6500 housing is now available from www.mikesdivecameras.com 

 

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