Throughout the years, Ultralight Control Systems has undergone significant transformations, all aimed at enhancing our position as a distinctive business offering camera accessories to both the underwater and cinema industries. What sets us apart is our commitment to manufacturing all our products in the USA, using US materials, and hand assembling and packaging them at our warehouse in Oxnard, CA.

Our journey began with our very first underwater dealer, Backscatter Video & Photo from Monterey, CA, who joined us in mid-1994 and remains our largest dealer to this day. Another key player in our story is Bluewater Photo from Culver City, CA, who joined our family in late 2010. Both have contributed valuable ideas for new products that have been incredibly successful.

Over time, more underwater dealers joined our network, including Reef Photo and Force-E from Florida, Splash Underwater Imaging, and Squires from Manila, among others. Our international reach expanded with dealers like Fisheye Photo from Japan, Cathy Church from Grand Cayman, and Digital Dive from Germany.

The cinema industry became a significant focus for us around the early 2000s, with Filmtools from Burbank, CA, joining us in late 2014 as our first cinema industry dealer. Manios Cine Tools from Greece and other notable dealers, such as the DV Shop from Toronto, Canada, and TSF Cineboutique from France, followed suit.

While the landscape changed with events like the Covid pandemic and the Actors and Writers strike in 2023, Ultralight Camera Solutions, formerly Ultralight Control Systems, has remained resilient and adaptable. Under new ownership since March 2020, we rebranded in May 2023, continuing our legacy with a bright future ahead of us.

We've weathered these challenges by making strategic adjustments, discontinuing some products, redesigning others, and introducing innovative solutions. Our commitment to offering products in various colors reflects our dedication to individualism and ease of identification for camera setups.

If you're a big or small dealer who resonates with our values and vision, we invite you to join our expanding dealer network. Contact us, and let's embark on this journey together toward continued success.

It's safe to say we're all unique in our own ways, and that's what makes life interesting, right? Having choices is key to enjoying what we do, whether it's in diving or any other aspect of life. I mean, imagine if we were all just clones of each other—boring, right?

Speaking of diving, there's a whole spectrum of options out there, especially when it comes to gear. From outerwear like dive skins and wetsuits to innerwear and thermal protection gear, the choices are colorful and diverse. And let's not forget about equipment like buoyancy compensators, masks, and snorkels. Each offers its style and flair, allowing us to express our individuality even underwater.

However, one area where I've noticed a lack of color options is camera equipment and accessories. Sure, there are a few choices, but black seems to dominate the scene. As someone who's been diving for over thirty years and now owns Ultralight Camera Solutions, formerly known as Ultralight Control Systems, I've seen firsthand why some people shy away from too many options.

underwater and cinema camera setup

As consumers, we're all about having options, right? We want manufacturers to give us what we want, even if it means paying extra for those customized choices. But from a manufacturing standpoint, offering a plethora of options can be a logistical challenge. It means more parts, more inventory, and more complexity, which not all dealers are keen on dealing with.

ultralight AC-CSF colored

Since taking over Ultralight, we've expanded our product line to include over 250 parts, with a significant chunk of that growth coming from our colored camera accessories. But with more options comes more responsibility—more inventory to manage and more headaches for our dealers and sometimes for us as well but it's worth it.

There's a whole process involved when it comes to coloring aluminum parts. For black, we use Type III hard anodizing, which provides durability in any environment. But for colored parts, we have to go with Type II anodizing, which isn't as tough as Type III and can wear or scratch more quickly depending on use.

Despite the challenges, we're proud to offer a range of colored accessories, from ball adaptors to knobs, allowing divers and filmmakers to add some personality to their gear. And hey, why not accessorize when you can, especially with a company like Ultralight that's committed to quality and innovation?

At Ultralight Camera Solutions, we're all about pushing the boundaries of underwater imaging technology. We provide high-quality equipment made right here in the US with a lifetime warranty. So go ahead, dive in, and capture those memories in full color.

It's interesting how things unfold over time. Ultralight kickstarted its journey in 1994, manufacturing camera accessories specifically tailored for underwater photographers. In the early days, our focus revolved around creating arms, clamps, strobe adapters, trays, and base adapters compatible with camera and housings from Nikonos, Subal, Nauticam, and Aquatica. While the product lineup has evolved, one thing has stood the test of time, our arms and clamps.

In fact, Ultralight pioneered the design of the arms and clamps that remain integral to our offerings today. A glance at other manufacturers reveals the imitation of our tried-and-true clamps, T-knobs, and arms. Rather than being irked by this, I see it as a compliment. After all, they wouldn't replicate our products if they weren't reliable and effective amidst changes in camera housings, strobes, lights, and other equipment.

Our products boast longevity and resilience in diverse environments. Early on, cinema camera assistants discovered the versatility of our products. Using our AD-1420 or AD-3816 paired with AC-CSF clamps, DB-05 arms, and a monitor mount like our AC-MB allows for superior camera monitor angles compared to alternatives. Interestingly, these parts were initially sourced from our underwater dealers.

These products have become staples for Ultralight, enduring replication by others. We were also trailblazers in introducing O-rings around the center of each ball end. Fast forward to 2010, we innovated further with the AC-CSF clamp featuring a cutout, now known as the AC-CSSK. Dubbed the Sues knuckle, this, along with the triple clamp AC-TCSJK or Jacks Knuckle, was a collaboration with Jack and Sue Drafahl, original owners of Ultralight.

These clamps played a pivotal role in Ultralight's push into the cinema industry while continuing to benefit the underwater industry. The cutout clamps, along with the double cutout clamps we now offer, allowed unprecedented arm positioning, a novelty introduced by Ultralight.

A serendipitous moment occurred with the double cutout clamps. A mistake led to the creation of these clamps such as the AC-CSSK2, initially sitting in a bag until brought to attention in a camera assistant Facebook group. The positive response paved the way for their addition to the Ultralight lineup, and they've since become a success among underwater photographers. Even these double cutout clamps are now imitated by other manufacturers, turning my unintentional mistake into a valuable contribution.

ultralight cutout ball clamps

This blog has been an enjoyable journey, delving into past data, recalling memories, and narrating the story of Ultralight—a story that deserves to be told. We've been at the forefront of many firsts, and our commitment to innovation ensures we're not stopping anytime soon. Like our products, we aim to endure and leave a lasting legacy!

Ultralight Camera Solutions is a leading provider of high-quality underwater photography equipment catering to professionals and enthusiasts alike. Our products are all manufactured, assembled, and packaged in the US with US materials and have a lifetime warranty. With a commitment to innovation and excellence, Ultralight continues to push the boundaries of underwater imaging technology.

Questions for everyone: I understand that many business owners hold college degrees, but what about those like me who do not have one? What are your thoughts on this? Are individuals who attend trade schools missing out on something, or are those with college degrees getting the expected value from their education?

My own background consists of completing high school and trade school to become a heavy equipment mechanic, a profession I worked in for 31 years before retiring and taking over my current company, Ultralight Camera Solutions. The advantage for me was having experience in underwater photography, familiarity with the company's previous owners, and being a people person. I had innovative ideas for enhancing the company and the motivation to keep learning, a trait I believe is somewhat lacking in today's world, but that's a discussion for another time.

While all this sounds promising, it's not enough to sustain a business, both strategically and financially. Running a business involves much more than just improvisation; otherwise, you'll eventually face failure. Of course, there are options to compensate for my areas of weakness, such as online or college courses, seminars, books, and more. However, I'd rather not invest my time and energy in these options, because I'm someone who learns best through hands-on experience after being shown how to do something. Books and classes aren't my strong suit!

Furthermore, all these options come with costs. Regardless of the route you choose, there's no avoiding the expense of acquiring the knowledge needed to run your business. This is where the last option I adopted comes into play, and I believe it's the most practical and worthwhile. I stumbled upon a business mentor, Jennifer Shaheen from Technology Therapy, at a seminar during a scuba manufacturing convention, DEMA. I've been working with her for nearly a year now, and she has taught me a great deal about all aspects of running a business, including a complete rebranding of my company. Everything I learn is tailored to my specific business, and I learn by doing, just like writing this post.

Yes, there's a cost involved, but as I was reflecting the other day, it's more cost-effective than obtaining a college degree, complements my trade school background, requires less time than online or evening classes, and all the information is directly applicable to my business. I'm acquiring insights into social media that I never had before, and it's all current and includes new processes to enhance business operations. We've been in business for around 30 years, and I'm determined to see it thrive for many more.

So, what methods have you found to be the most effective in keeping your business running smoothly?

If you haven't heard, we are no longer Ultralight Control Systems. We are now Ultralight Camera Solutions, and of course, that means a new logo and a new website, plus a whole bunch of other goodies. 

We now have lots of different types of kits for both Underwater and Cinema use and in this blog, we're going to do a quick overview of them. Currently, we have six different underwater kits/ packages and for our cinema customers, we have three, making up a total of almost 70 different new kits/packages.

In our Intro video, I briefly went over the new kits and types of kits and when you get time I highly suggest checking that video out. Following up to this we have a series of videos covering each category of kit. 

Why all the different kits/packages you ask? Great question! The short answer is that we listened to our customers to make purchasing our products easier. The long answer is, we have over 200 different products for both underwater and cinema use and many go together or can be mixed and matched to create a setup of one kind or another. For underwater use, you might need clamps, arms, trays, extensions, ball mounts, and more to put together a setup for a camera, housing, strobes, lights, and other accessories. For cinema use, you might need clamps, arms, ball mounts, monitor mounts, etc to set up monitors, and sound systems, and do grip work. With all the products we offer, it can be hard for some to visualize or conceptualize what is needed, and with all the new kits, finding what you need and adding to it later becomes so much easier.

These new kits are not only great because we covered lots of different combinations but there are some that showcase some brand new products we have such as the double caged camera trays and sled setups mainly for larger cameras with big dome ports. 

The new kits we have for underwater are camera arm kits, camera tray kits, caged camera kits, GoPro & video kits, sled kits, and tripod kits. The new kits we have for cinema users are cinema arm kits, Cardellini arm kits, and tripod kits.

Below is some basic information on each category of kit

Underwater kits:

Cinema Kits:

As you can see we have LOTS of cool new kits for all types of environments and applications with some being brand-new products. To see all the new kits, please visit our website and if you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us. 

Face it, Divers have LOTS of stuff. Between their dive gear and personal items there is much to keep track of and misplacing or losing some of these items happens to everyone. It is a problem that will never stop! If you lost or misplaced your dive gear would you like it back? Who doesn’t want their gear back when they lose or misplace it? I know I would and I am sure everyone would want the same but still, the problem persists. Because of it, this blog will cover ways to mark and identify your equipment and personal items in hopes it will be easier to get back when the inevitable happens.

To bring home the point, I’ll tell you a few quick stories and the last one will really kick you in the butt with the reason why things need to be marked.

Story 1

To make a long story short I had a Desert Star dive tracker that my dive buddy ended up with and it dropped overboard. At the time he was not able to retrieve it. I was also not aware of any of this. Then one day, I received a call from a commercial diver who was working off Anacapa Island. He started by letting me know he found something while working and proceeded to describe it. I had no idea what he was talking about because I hadn't lost anything and then a light bulb went off inside my head. How did the commercial diver know who to contact? Easy, because I had my name and telephone number engraved on the dive tracker. After talking to my buddy who lost it turns out it had been in the ocean for about 12 months and it still worked.

Story 2

My buddy and I were on a 2-day dive trip on the Peace anchored for the night in Johnsons Lee, Santa Rosa Island. We did a late afternoon dive and my buddy found a very nice Scubapro speargun. Upon checking, it was not from anyone on the trip we were on and there were no markings on it as to who it belonged to so now for the past 20-plus years I have had a very nice Scubapro spear gun that has been used to catch many fresh fish dinners.

Story 3

Now that I run dive trips for my business, Channel Islands Dive Adventures I usually take home any personal items that are left on the boat. On a trip I had to West Santa Cruz there was a BC (nice one) left behind so I brought it home, rinsed it, and proceeded to look for some identifying mark or name of which I found nothing. This BC also had a small knife and wrench in one of the pockets. I emailed everyone I could think of and mentioned it to the boat owner just in case they got a call. As you can guess no one claimed it. I finally donated it to another deserving diver.

Story 4

This is the kick yourself in the butt story. I was diving one of my favorite wrecks off the coast of California, The Gosford. Somehow during the dive, my titanium dive knife fell out of the sheath. I had my camera with me so I was probably too focused to notice till I got back to the boat. The following year I was back diving the wreck without my camera and I found a knife up towards the bow in a section with chunks of coal. The knife was incrusted with stuff but I am always picking up things for good yard art. After getting back to the boat a crew member was looking at the knife and realized it had my name on it. Turns out I found my own knife! Because it was made out of titanium it cleaned up looking like new and I still use it today.

So now I ask the original question, when you lose or misplace your dive gear-do you want it back?  If you do then what do the 4 stories have in common which is not really all that common? They are marked with a name, telephone number, and /or special marking like a branding image. The commercial diver told me he finds stuff all the time but how is he going to find the owner when there is just a name (usually only the first name or initials) on it? So now you know the secret.

You more than likely heard already that you will lose dive gear and if you haven’t yet your turn is coming and I can tell you from experience that it will happen. On a 2-day trip, there were 2 wetsuits that had been left behind. Had they had a name and number marked inside I would have called the owners immediately helping them to avoid a trip back to the boat or some extra shipping charges.

What items should be labeled?

You don't need to mark every single item and this is where a little thought is best. Think about what items you could lose while diving especially if doing beach dives. It's easy to lose masks, fins, snorkels, or anything that is not attached to you. Maybe after the dive, think about things you could leave behind like towels, chairs, coolers, dive computers, tanks, regulator setups, and so on. On boat trips and vacations, it's very easy to leave things behind or get your items mixed up with others because things get scattered all over. Items to think about would be jackets, clothing, phones, charging cables, laptops, batteries, chargers, GoPro's, cameras, and so on. Basically, mark anything that is important to you. Just remember that marking things doesn't always mean you will get them back but the chances are much higher that you will.

What is the best way to label or mark something?

What is the best way to mark stuff permanently? For me, my first choice is to make a small sticker using my Brother P-Touch label maker. Because you can use the label maker for so many things and the stickers will attach and stay on a smooth solid surface for years this is the best choice. These labels are excellent for camera gear, strobes, GoPro's, lights, dive computers, and more.

My second choice is to use a yellow or black paint marker which you can buy at any hardware store. The paint markers are usually best for larger lettering and numbering. It is very hard to write small details with one. A paint marker works great on fins, snorkels, wetsuits and accessories, buoyancy compensators, etc. My third choice is to use an engraver. This is best for hard plastic, metal, and surfaces where a sticker will not stick. After engraving, I usually mark over the area with the paint marker and wipe off the top so the paint is in the engraved area. I use this method for my regulators, knives, BC plates, mask skirt, and more. I even have engraved the hard plastic skirt around my mask, knife holders, regulators, and BC back plate.

The main idea is it doesn’t have to be visibly large, just noticeable enough for someone looking for the owner and wanting to do the right thing!

Here at Ultralight Camera Solutions, we pride ourselves in manufacturing quality underwater photography and cinematography parts, all USA made with USA materials. Our assembly and packaging are done in-house as well at our warehouse in Oxnard but occasionally there are some problems. 

Our customer service is extremally important to us and we are ALWAYS happy to help. Owner Ken Kollwitz has been on the other end as a customer and fully believes in the Golden Rule, "do to others what you would have them do to you". For such a simple idea it seems many companies have forgotten. Here at Ultralight, this is one of our main goals, to offer the BEST customer service possible.

This also carries forward to our warranty and Terms of Service. We believe in making products that last, no matter what type of environment they are used in and because of this, we offer a lifetime warranty on all our products. As we all know, there's always the possibility of a problem, whether it is a malfunction of a product, missing parts, or a customer issue. No matter what the issue is, email us at info@ulvs.com or give us a call at (805) 485-0233 and we will be happy to help

One important thing to remember is that Ultralight is a small company. It's not like calling a big company which can be very hard to get a hold of somebody who can help. You won't go through one of those automated phone systems that take forever and totally frustrate you. Call us and more than likely you will get Ken, the owner of Ultralight. We stand behind everything that we manufacture, and we're here to help. Also, one more very important thing is that we are ALWAYS happy to hear your feedback, good or bad because we can't make needed changes if we do not know where those changes are needed.

In the beginning

Ultralight Control Systems started in 1995 by Terry Schuller and Dave Reid and has grown much since then. Along the way there has been some changes and in March 2020 the business was sold to a longtime employee, Ken Kollwitz whose passion is Scuba diving, travel, camping and travel. Ken’s made many changes and improvements in the past 3 years with the biggest one being a total rebranding of the company and changing the name to Ultralight Camera Solutions. The rebranding was done to overcome some growing struggles Ultralight was having and to align itself more with the growing underwater cinema photography industry. Also, the new name gave more meaning to what Ultralight is all about which is helping to solve problems for the underwater and cinema communities with solutions and new ideas to better enjoy their passion or to do their job.

First a little history on the start and growth of Ultralight. Most people are not aware but Ultralight Control Systems was started in 1995 by Terry Schuller and Dave Reid out of their house, first in Oxnard, CA and then later in Camarillo, CA. Terry and Dave started out small, manufacturing products for the underwater industry and mainly known for their camera arms, clamps, trays and strobe adapters. In 2005, the cinema industry took notice of Ultralight arms and clamps and the business grew from there. In June of 2013, Ken Kollwitz was hired after working 31 years as a Heavy Equipment Mechanic for the County of Ventura, CA. He worked hard and learned all the aspects of the business. In March 2020, Ken purchased Ultralight Control Systems, turned it into an S-Corp and added the Inc. to the name along with moving the business to a warehouse in Oxnard, CA.

Growth, Gumption and a Dream

Some would think buying a business during the beginning of Covid would be the worst thing you could do and it was for many but actually it turned out to be one of the best things that could happen for the new start of Ultralight Control Systems Inc. For this reason, there was much more time to make some needed changes and prep the new warehouse. As time went by, the trademark for Ultralight was acquired, new products were introduced and new contacts with people in the underwater and cinema industry were made. At the same time, Ken realized Ultralight was lagging behind in some areas, specifically presences for both the company and products, website, product packaging and the need to streamline processes.

After many months thinking about what could be done, discussions with customers, and the vision Ken had for where Ultralight should be in the next few years a plan was formed and this meant a total rebranding of the company. Rebranding a company from top to bottom is not an easy or quick task nor is it inexpensive but if you want to run with the top dogs you have to make changes. Ken always says “change can be good” and “think outside the box”. After some searching Ken found an excellent company, OCG Creative with Jill Rutherford and her team to create an excitingly new persona for Ultralight starting with the logo and moving on to the website which is extremely innovative and fresh looking. While at DEMA in Orlando, FL in November 2022, Ken was at a presentation given by Jennifer Shaheen, owner of the company Technology Therapy, Jennifer touched on many things Ken had been thinking about that was needed for Ultralight to succeed. After DEMA, Jennifer was hired as a business mentor to help guide Ken through everything that is needed to help make a business successful and it was the best money ever spent.

WELCOME to the new Ultralight Camera Solutions!

To learn more about Ultralight Camera Solutions contact us today!

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