AquaBotix AquaLens, eye's on
It's hard not play Panbo hooky during this superfine Spring in Maine, but I have been doing some testing even as I get Gizmo ready for a full season of it. You may recall my September entry about the new underwater cam company AquaBotix; well, above is their AquaLens boat hook cam at work in Camden Harbor. Click on the thumbnail above for a better look at the running gear of the able work and passenger vessel Harvest Moon. With the little LCD screen strapped to my wrist and the cam/LED control box clipped to my belt, I could move around and handle the boat hook fairly easily (as long as I didn't trip on the cable). And, while the water isn't always this clear here, I was able to inspect the hull pretty thoroughly, and even found a foot-long section of missing bottom paint, or worse, that Capt. Rob didn't know about...
I also tried the AquaLens inside Gizmo, and the shot below shows the aft lower end of her transmission, a spot that's very hard to see with your eyes (unless maybe you hang upside down). Note that the camera auto focused pretty well even on a serial number about six inches close (better than photographed actually). You can also see the camera's field of view and focusing abilities in these AquaBotix videos. By the way, I now know where a certain large screw driver lurks under Gizmo's engine pan, which will hopefully make the magnet retrieval process easier. If Lilliputians actually existed, they could find plenty of work in the marine industry!
The AquaLens design is a little bulky for interior inspection work, especially compared to somewhat similar rigs like the AquaCam from Australia and the the Scubar series from the UK. But then again it's more easily found here the States, and it now has a retail price of $475, which is quite a cut from when my friend Bill Pike recently tested it. (And it's less on Amazon). The needed boat hook with the appropriate threaded tip, like a Davis 12 footer, is reasonable but the camera is a bit heavy out of the water and I found I could 'skip' the threads when tightening it. A little sticky goo may be necessary.
And though AquaBotix has a nice CEO Guarantee, I'd like more warranty details. I put the AquaLens underwater several times, almost to 12 feet, without any problem and I like the simple twist-on lens with O ring, but is it guaranteed for a certain time period? In the lens-off shot below you can see the 8 rechargeable AA battery pack (with its retaining plate partially open) and other things that might not survive a saltwater bath.
Note too that the camera itself seems to be a color/night model with its own IR illumination. This is isn't discussed in the product literature, but I saw that it was useful at least when peering around Gizmo's dank bilges. The LED illumination worked better for some views while the IR did better at others. But there is a little problem in certain inbetween light conditions when the camera is uncertain of which mode to use and flicks back and forth. A restart generally helped, and maybe AquaBotix can tweak the camera to be more stable in darkish situations. But they're also busy preparing the HydroView iPad-operated underwater vehicle for shipping and while that remains a seriously expensive gizmo, I sure look forward to trying one.