Vaquita First Impressions

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woollybully

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I used my new Vaquita in Cozumel for a few dives and here's my first impressions. I am moving from a Hero 3 to this camera. I am not an avid photographer, so my primary motivation was getting something I could "set and forget" to capture highlights of our dives to share with family and friends.

I haven't gone through all the footage yet so this will mostly be ease of use, etc. Overall, the camera works ok, but there's definitely both design and implementation problems to overcome in a "Vaquita 2" before I could recommend it.

Good:
  • The mask mount works very well. I had no issues with it coming loose and only one time did it twist when trying to re-secure my mask after a back roll. It was pretty easy to get it straightened back out. At first, I reached up many times to make sure it was still there. After a while, I basically forgot about it altogether as it had no noticeable drag, etc. This was one of my primary reasons for choosing Paralenz over a new GoPro and I was mildly pleased. However, there are definitely cons to the mask mount...see below.
  • The build quality is very good. It definitely feels like a high-quality piece of gear designed for diving.
  • The camera is easy to use. I was not using gloves, but I could definitely see this being useable even with very heavy gloves.
  • The auto-record function works very well.
  • The camera records both a low-res and high-res video. The low-res video is the full length of the dive and also includes a low-res still when the recording starts. Very handy for downloading to the phone or sending via text message from the app (when it works).
  • I turned on the depth/temp overlay and it is stamped into the video. Only the high-res video will have the stamp. The low-res and any jpg will not.
  • Dynamic Color Correction works extremely well. However, be aware that anything you shine a light on will be discolored. If you use a light keep that in mind. There is ample documentation in the manual advising to turn off DCC when using lights.
  • Like my Gopro, the Vauqita has the ability to auto-snap images while recording video which is very convenient.
  • The app looks good (but, see below).
Bad:
  • GPS does NOT work. It takes absolutely forever to get position and many times it would power down before ever finding GPS (I have idle timer set to 20 minutes). The manual says only the first time should be slow, but that is not the case. Then, even when GPS is found, rotating the ring to video seems to turn off GPS as none of my dives have any GPS positioning, although I was able to get a GPS fix just before starting the video. If you were hoping to pinpoint your start and exit points, you will be highly disappointed. Maybe this can be fixed via firmware but not sure.
  • The included rubber strap for mounting gets in the way of the button. If you are using the snaphsot/video setting then you must move the strap back a bit to an "unnatural" position. I don't think this would affect the performance of the mount as the strap seems to be secondary in case you improperly mount the camera.
  • While the mask mount works and is very secure, it does have downsides. First, exhaust gases will make it shake so you may need some modifications to your regulator. I use an Atomic B2. I think I will order the wide deflector kit and see if that helps. Second, as it was on my head it moves as much as my head, which means lots of movement instead of the more graceful, deliberate moves when holding a camera.
  • There is NO external audio if the end cap is on. With the GoPro the audio is muffled but this thing captures nothing but some sloshing sounds. You can't capture any before/after dive audio. Audio recording works fine with the protective cap off but not at all when it is on. This is a major downside that should have been addressed. I don't think this can be fixed via firmware.
  • Each dive is saved as a "log." The dive log names are horrible. Instead of naming them with date/time, they are named 1, 2, 3 etc. If you swap SD cards or format, then they get renamed the same log name. This needs to be fixed via firmware.
  • The app is complete garbage.
    • You can only download a single complete "log" and in "high-res" or "low-res" which does not seem to correlate with the high-res or low-res videos on the camera itself. It seems as if the camera is transcoding to low-res on the fly as you download.
    • I could not get a single dive to fully download to an Iphone 12 pro max, an Iphone XS Max and a Samsung tablet in low-res mode. Every single dive would abruptly exit before finishing the download. As I don't have any interest in editing video on a phone, I only want the low-res versions on the app.
    • You can't view anything on the camera itself without fully downloading the dive to the app.
    • There are no options on the app for camera settings, camera controls, etc.
    • The android version was definitely designed for a phone, so using it on a tablet is a horrible experience. I don't have an ipad so can't comment on that version.
    • If you don't create an account, then your dives won't even save locally. It took several tries (hours) to figure that out.
    • There's a map with a bunch of dive spots, but they are not from your dive log.
    • Hopefully, they hire an app developer that can address the issues.
  • You can't view media on the camera itself, contrary to the documentation. They must have removed the feature as I am on the latest firmware. I don't see this a a major issue as the screen is too small anyway.
  • When connecting the camera directly to a PC/Mac, it will disconnect after the idle timeout. It also disconnects even faster if you don't turn the camera on. Pull the MicroSD to download instead. This needs to be fixed via firmware.
  • Auto-record needs to be an option for Custom1 & Custom 2. This needs to be fixed via firmware.
  • You cannot change the wifi password. Anybody in the hotel room next door can connect to your camera using the password 1234567890. This needs to be fixed via firmware.
  • I'm not sold on the sliding shutter button. I think if this camera was mounted on a tray, it would be very inconvenient. I used it handheld for one dive and it was not very comfortable. I had to hold my hand a bit unnaturally to keep the camera straight when using it single-handed.
  • Charging via USB-C to USB-C is buggy. Normally, the USB-C cable is reversible, but not on the Vaquta. This is not a cable/charger issue as the same cable/charger combos works flawlessly on my Macbooks, Surface and Androids.
  • Battery life will be a problem for anything more than a typical 2-tank rec dive.
  • It needs more accessories.
    • It needs a macro lens.
    • It needs an optional end cap with a magnifying lens for us old folks.
    • It needs an option end cap that plugs into the USB-C port. This could provide numerous things like external battery, remote shutter button, strobe, etc.

For me, the biggest two problems are the lack of audio and the broken GPS functionality. Unless these can be fixed via firmware I would NOT recommend this camera for the average vacation diver.
 

woollybully

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One other item I forgot to mention that is probably a con:

I apparently did not insert the MicroSD card into the camera all the way and broke it in half when installing the end cap. Unfortunately, I lost an entire days worth of video and did not bring a second card with me so lost a day of shooting as well.
 

Wibble

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Not trash, but there’s plenty of issues.

As a Paralenz user, it’s "OK" but not great to use.

However they are reliable especially on deep dives, are small and have excellent battery life. I think they’ve fallen for the trap of adding new features rather than fixing the existing issues. Their idea of using it as a dive log is a non starter— we have dive computers for that

I don’t like the ring as you can’t tell which mode is selected in the dark — or if it’s on a helmet. It really needs a 'blob' on the ring so you can feel which position it’s in.
Also needs an in-water lens cap, even a neoprene sleeve would work.

I persist with mine as I want it to film mermaids— if I come across one, or the Loch Ness Monster, I need some evidence! I.e. I want one like we use the cameras on our phones where it’s always with us.
 

Glenn Williams

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If you are expecting to get a “GPS” signal underwater, that will not happen. GPS signals can only be obtained above water.

Glenn
 

happy-diver

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I did not realise it was legal for a company to misappropriate your hard earned money

by sending you experimental crap
 

Wibble

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DON'T waste your money on that useless overpriced tat.

It comes in the Paralenz spares kit. The stupid thing has nowhere to put some form of clip when it's not on the camera. So you leave it in the boat. Then loose it as it rolls around. Why do I know that; for the 10 minutes I used one before it disappeared.

The Paralenz needs a larger neoprene cover which is effectively two caps on a single bungee loop, which can go over the lens and the back window. The bungee loop can be clipped off (chest D-ring) when you're using the camera and put back on the camera whilst still in the water so it's not damaged when you climb out.
 

happy-diver

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https://www.shearwater.com/products/perdix-ai/

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