Best Underwater Settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Camera

Kelli
Best underwater settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera for macro and wide-angle

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Underwater Settings

A look at the best settings for macro and wide-angle underwater photography

By Kelli Dickinson

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is one of the most popular mirrorless cameras used in underwater photography. In this article we discuss our recommended settings for getting the most out of these excellent cameras.

The OM-D line has surpassed my expectations with upgrades from my old PEN E-PL1 camera. The image quality, small size, super fast focusing and ease of use had made it one of the most popular cameras for underwater shooting. The advanced made from the E-M5 to the E-M1 are great with improved auto focus, more customization and a more robust body that feels more professional.

Below I've compiled several good starting camera settings for different shooting situations. Next is a list of the most important, or required, settings that are crucial to change in your OM-D E-M1system when shooting underwater. In addition I take an in depth look at all the menus on the camera so you can fine tune your camera for the best underwater shooting experience.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Underwater Settings

Actual settings will vary based on your diving location and conditions. Take a look at the following suggestions below as a great starting point for shooting with your E-M1 camera.

Settings for Macro with the 45mm or 60mm Macro Lens:

  • Manual mode, F22, 1/320th, ISO 200
  • Auto white balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • TIP: Shoot at lower F stops like F5.6 or F2.8 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background
  • TIP: You'll need to open up your aperture to around F8 when shooting fish; at F22, your strobes won't "reach" very far and the photo will look black
  • ** These settings are also useful with the 12-50mm lens in Macro Mode **

Shallower Focus achieved with an open F-Stop - OM-D E-M1 w/ 60mm, ISO 200, F10, 1/320

 

Settings for Macro using a standard zoom lens (14-42mm / 12-50mm) with a wet diopter:

  • Manual mode, F22, 1/320th, ISO 200
  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • Zoom all the way in
  • Shoot at lower F stops like F8-F11 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background, you can open up to F2.8, but will have a very small depth of field
  • Remember working distance is limited when using a wet diopter, move carefully to avoid spooking your subject and get close. 

Shrimp in Anilao - 60mm Macro

 

Settings for Wide Angle with 8mm Fisheye or 9-18mm lens:

  • Manual mode, F8, 1/125th, ISO 200 
  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • Important: use the shutter speed to control your ambient light (background exposure). A slower shutter speed (e.g. - 1/60th will let in light when shooting in darker waters, a faster shutter speed will allow less light in when shooting in bright conditions).
  • TIP - when the sun is in the photo, set the shutter as fast as possible (1/320th), and you'll need to stop down your aperture to F16 or F22 to avoid blowing out the highlights
  • TIP - for ambient light photography, you may need to open your aperture to F5.6 or F4 and increase the ISO to ISO 400, 800 or 1600 to let in more light.

Note: These settings also are great for starting points for shooting with the kit lens on, and for fish portraits with the 60mm macro lens.

Garibaldi in Catalina, Olympus OMD E-M1, 9-18mm @ 9mm ISO 200, F8, 1/125

 

Olympus Camera Set up for Underwater Use

The OM-D E-M1 camera works well straight out of the box, however there are some important menu and setting changes that you will want to make sure to set for the best underwater shooting experience.

Most Important Settings for Underwater Use:

1) Custom Menu Options - The Custom menu should be turned on by default on the E-M1, if not, follow these instructions to activate it.

Menu -> Set Up Menu (Wrench icon) -> Menu Display and click OK. The Custom Menu is the small cogs icon, hit the right button, and then the down button followed by ok to activate this menu.

2) Live View Boost - this is very important so that you can see your LCD underwater. This mode disables the live view of exposure settings, since underwater shooting with a strobe, usually results in dark settings in the camera. This function will brighten your LCD so it is always at a good viewing brightness. Note: the LCD does not accurately reflect the exposure settings for the camera.

Custom Menu -> D: Disp/PC -> Live View Boost -> On

3) EVF Auto Switch -  The E-M1 has an electronic viewfinder. In order to use the LCD screen underwater you need to turn off the Auto Switch.

Custom Menu -> J: Built-In EVF -> EVF Auto Switch -> OFF.

Note: You lose the ability to display the Super Control Panel in the LCD when using the viewfinder when the "Auto Switch" is turned off. The default is Live Control, which is the same quick menu as previous PEN models. If you prefer the look of the Super Control Panel you can gain access to it by turning off the Live Control and turning on the SCP through the Custom Menu.

Custom Menu -> D: Disp/PC -> Control Settings -> P/A/S/M -> Live Control OFF -> Live SCP ON

The Super Control Panel on the left, and the Live Control View on the right.

4) Flash modes - if you are using a strobe with TTL you will use the single lightning bolt "Fill in Flash" mode on the camera however, if you are planning to use the strobe in manual mode you can save battery life change the flash mode to "Manual Value" through the quick menu. This is also beneficial because using the internal camera flash at a lower power means less recycle time and helps eliminate any delay on being able to take a picture.

OK -> scroll to flash icon -> scroll over to select "Manual Value Flash" -> Press Info to change flash power -> scroll to 1/64th power -> OK to confirm

5) Rear Control Buttons - the default setting on the E-M1 rear arrow key buttons controls only the focus point, limiting the funcationity of those buttons. You can customize two of the buttons instead to gain quick, one-touch access to important features.

Custom Menu -> B: Button/ Dial -> Button Function -> Key Function (option with the four arrow key icon) -> Direct Function -> OK

Now you have access to change the right and down arrow key controls on the back of the camera. (Up gives control of Aperture / Shutter Speed without the dials and Left gives control over the focus point, these are NOT customizable). You have the same options for both customizable buttons, I suggest reviewing each and picking the ones that best suit your needs. For example, I set my camera to have direct access to the flash mode via the right arrow key and direct access to the sequential shot/ timer mode for the down key. (The sequential shot is not something used much underwater but I find i use it alot topside, so it was important to have direct access for me.)

6) Rec View - this sets the length of time an image review is displayed after taking the picture. Default is 0.5 seconds. For underwater use, 2 seconds is usually recommended so you have a chance to quickly gauge that exposure and focus look good before taking another picture. If 2 seconds is too long, set it to what you desire, or simply press the shutter halfway down to cancel the review.

 Set Up Menu -> Rec View

7) Picture Mode - he default is natural, but jpeg shooters may prefer Vivid

NOTE: this does not affect RAW files

Accessible through the SCP / Quick Menu or Shooting Menu 1


E-M1 with 8mm FE, Catalina Reef F8, 1/125th, ISO 200

 

OM-D E-M1 Button & Auto Focus Set Up:

The auto focus set up for the E-M1 is very similar to that of the E-M5, however you get a few more bells & whistles with the E-M1 allowing you to set things in just about any way you want. Setting up a good auto focus system depends on how you assign things based on the housing you are using. 

Set Up for Nauticam & Aquatica Housings:

Nauticam and Aqautica's housing are designed more like a dSLR with great lever controls for shutter release and AEL. Assigning focus to the AEL button (new to the E-M1) allows you to make use of the lever on the Nauticam or Aquatica housing which feels very natural for focusing. To set this up:

Button Functions ( Custom Menu -> B: Button/Dial -> Button Function)

You no longer need assign specific functions to the Fn or Record buttons like you did with the E-M5 as the E-M1 has a dedicated AEL/AFL button. Take the time to look through the custom options available and assign the Fn functions that best work for you and the functions that you need. When I used the camera here is what I selected.

Fn1 - One Touch White Balance (this is useful for video and ambient light shooting and the Fn1 is well placed for easy access).

Fn2 - MF - this allows you to switch quickly between MF and your default focus mode (S-AF is recommended). This is great for using the AEL/AFL feature.

Rec - Leave as record, there are so many other buttons to customize.

1/2 Lever Switch - (Custom Menu -> B: Lever Function) Turn this to Mode 1 (default it is off), this will allow you to quickly switch the lever to be able to adjust White Balance Mode and ISO through the twin control dials

AEL/AFL Settings (Custom Menu -> A: AF/MF -> AEL/AFL)

S-AF - Mode 1 - this will basically keep the camera as standard, half shutter focuses, full shutter takes the picture

C-AF - Mode 3 - this will separate the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can re-focus the camera from the AELbutton and not risk taking a picture

MF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can lock focus and then take as many images as you like without affecting your focus. When you pair focus to the AEL/AFL button this gives you an autofocus option while in manual focus mode, so if you have a focus gear on the lens you can use both manual focus or auto focus quickly and easily without changing any modes.

Now once you have set all of these, you can shoot a picture as standard (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press the Record button to switch to Manual Mode and now the Fn1 button controls auto focus and the shutter release takes the picture. This makes it very easy to have both topside settings and underwater settings created without having to change things in the menus every time you use the camera. Simplifiying the process so you do not forget to reset anything for the next trip.

NOTE: I use all of these settings with the camera in Manual Mode, so I have full control over my exposure settings.

With just these few settings (in addition to the required ones above) you can quickly jump in the water and get some great shots with ease of use of the housing and functions. For more detail, see the menu options listed out below.

Anilao w/ Aquatica housing, ISO 200, F7.1, 1/80th - Panasonic 8mm FE

OM-D E-M1 Set Up For an Olympus Housing:

The Olympus housing a great well designed option if you are on a budget and don't want to spend the money on one of the more expensive aluminum housings. There are a few limitations, but for the most part set up is the same. The biggest difference between the Olympus and Nauticam, is that they do not reposition the AEL/AFL button which means it is not as easy to reach, and therefore not a good option for splitting out focus lock.

Important Olympus Housing Information:

Before taking your rig underwater these things MUST be completed to ensure proper functionality and minimize the risk of a housing flood.

1) Remove the rubber grommet from around the Electronic Viewfinder.

To do this make sure the accessory flash is off the camera, and then simply slide the piece up and off the camera. Remember to replace the flash before putting the camera in the housing.

2) Change the Flash Mode so that the flash will fire even when flipped down.

The PT-EP11 housing was designed to house the camera and flash with the flash flipped down in order to be slightly smaller in size. In order to use the flash you have to activate the "Underwater Mode" on the camera. This mode acts as an "Auto" mode designed for "good" settings underwater. It also allows the camera flash to fire when "closed".

Custom Menu -> B: Button/ Dial -> Button Function -> either Fn1 or Fn2 can be assigned this function. I recommend Fn2. -> Underwater Mode (fish icons).

Note: The Underwater Mode automatically changes the camera settings including, Mode (P), ISO to 200, Focus to S-AF, White Balance to UW Mode, and on newer lenses like the 12-50mm it will zoom all the way out (3 fish) or all the way in (1 fish). If you keep it in the UW Mode while shooting, you are limited in control of the camera. To exit out of the UW Mode simply hold down the Fn button for a couple seconds and it will restore your original Mode, and settings. As long as the UW Mode is assigned to an Fn button the flash will fire when closed, even if the mode is not "activated" so you can go back to Manual Mode and the flash will still fire in the housing.

The are no changes needed to be made to install the OM-D E-M1 into the Olympus Housing. Simply slide the camera into place with the flash attached and you are good to go.

To set up the EM-1 with the Olympus housing I recommend following the steps above but instead of using the AEL/AFL button for focus, use the Fn1 button. Here are the steps:

Button Functions ( Custom Menu -> B: Button/Dial -> Button Function)

Fn1 - AEL/AFL - the Fn1 button is well placed by the thumb to use as a focus lock on the Olympus housing.

Fn2 - MF - this allows you to switch quickly between MF and your default focus mode (S-AF is recommended). This is great for using the AEL/AFL feature.

Rec - Leave as record, there are so many other buttons to customize.

1/2 Lever Switch - (Custom Menu -> B: Lever Function) Turn this to Mode 1 (default it is off), this will allow you to quickly adjust White Balance Mode and ISO through the twin control dials

AEL/AFL - Since we used Fn1 for AEL/AFL, I would then assign the One Touch White Balance to the AEL/AFL button that way you still have easy access to customizing your white balance.

AEL/AFL Settings (Custom Menu -> A: AF/MF -> AEL/AFL)

S-AF - Mode 1 - this will basically keep the camera as standard, half shutter focuses, full shutter takes the picture

C-AF - Mode 3 - this will separate the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can re-focus the camera from the AELbutton and not risk taking a picture

MF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can lock focus and then take as many images as you like without affecting your focus. In addition this , so if you have a focus gear on the lens you can use both that focus and auto focus quickly and easily without changing any modes.

Now once you have set all of these, you can shoot a picture as standard (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press the Record button to switch to Manual Mode and now the Fn1 button controls auto focus and the shutter release takes the picture. This makes it very easy to have both topside settings and underwater settings created without having to change things in the menus every time you use the camera. Simplifiying the process so you do not forget to reset anything for the next trip.

NOTE: I use all of these settings with the camera in Manual Mode, so I have full control over my exposure settings.

Set Up for a Recsea Housing:

This housing is the same to the Olympus housing, only you do not need to assign the UW Mode to an Fn button, the flash can pop up in the Recsea Housing. 

ISO 200, F13, 1/320th
 

OM-D E-M1 Specific Menu Settings

This info is helpful for fine tuning your camera for the best underwater settings. If a menu item is not listed that is because it does either does not affect shooting pictures or does not affect a setting that would be used underwater. Please note not all options are available with difference cameras, I try to note this as much as possible.

Shooting Menus

These set your cameras defaults, general settings that it will revert to after shutoff.  

Shooting Menu #1 

Picture Mode  - This menu sets the look of your pictures, it is completely a personal choice to change, I prefer Vivid, because it enhances reds & oranges. NOTE: this only affects photos shot as .JPG, RAW images will not be affected.

Picture Quality (pixel icon)  - Sets the default quality mode for the camera. Set this to RAW for still images, default for video is FullHD Fine, leave it there unless you know you want a lower quality. 

*Note: if you do not have software on your computer that can read and edit RAW files then leave it set to .jpg (LF). I highly recommend shooting RAW for the most flexibility with in computer editing. 

Image Aspect - Leave at the default standard image aspect ratio of 4:3 unless otherwise desired.

Digital Teleconverter  Leave at default of OFF.  

Shooting Menu #2 

Burst/ Time Mode - Leave at default of Single Shot Mode, you can change this from the quick menu later for specific shooting instances. 

Image stabilizer - Leave at default, or switch to IS1  - this engages full stabilization in all directions (Default is Auto on E-M1)

Flash RC Mode - Leave at default of OFF

** NOTE - If you are using the Olympus UFL-2 strobes, you can increase your shutter sync speed with the PEN and OMD cameras to 1/500 using the RC feature of the camera and strobes. Check out the strobe manual for this, but it can be very useful for getting great sunbursts in wide angle shots

 

Custom Menu Options

The custom menu offers more detailed camera adjustments, however, these can get overwhelming. When in doubt leave it at the default, unless otherwise noted in the Important Settings section above.

Menu A: AF/MF

AF Mode - I recommend setting this to S-AF (single AF). This is default for still images but not for video. C-AF, continuous auto focus, I find is too slow to accurately catch moving subjects and often hunts more frequently in the low light underwater conditions. You can halfway press the shutter during video to refocus when needed. Note: continuous auto focus has been significantly updated on the E-M1, so it can be a more useful tool with that camera.

Full-time AF - OFF

AEL/AFL -  This is a very handy feature, especially for underwater as it allows you to set focus lock separately from the shutter button, so that you can lock focus and then take several images without refocusing. The set up will vary depending on which housing you use, so please see the Housing Settings section above for specific details. 

Reset Lens - OFF - leaving this ON resets the lens focus of the lens to infinity after the camera is powered off. For most shooting situations this is not a big deal, though when using specific lenses, like the 60mm macro, it can cause initial focus hunting in the beginning. Turning it off will save the last focus distance used in the camera.

MF Assist - ON - very useful with macro - magnifies center of image 10x to aid in focusing 

For E-M1 there are two options, Magnify & Peaking. If you plan to use Manual Focus, turning both on will be extremely useful. The Peaking Option outlines the area of focus to better help you see the focus plane.

AF Set Home - SINGLE- this sets the "home" position for the AF target for each AF mode. It will return to the position selected after power down. Default is full matrix, change this to Single Auto Focus Point for more control. 

AF Illuminator - OFF - this is the small red AF assist light on the camera. It won't shine through the black housing so turn it off to save battery life. If you use the camera both topside and underwater and don't want to hassle with constantly changing it then leave it on, it will not affect picture taking. 

Face Priority - OFF - this automatically focuses the camera when it detects a "face" however underwater it can mis-detect and cause issues, will not detect faces in masks so it is not needed.  

C-AF Lock - OFF - unless you are using the C-AF, this won't be necessary. If you are using that Auto Focus mode, this feature adjusts how sensitive the target activity level of the AF sensor is during continuous AF. Set it to the level you desire if using C-AF.

Menu B: Button / Dial 

Button Function - There are 2 Fn buttons on the OMD and each has a variety of functions you can set. You can also customize the Rec button and assign its own function. Other settings in the Button Function menu allow you to modify the action of that key listed. To gain customization of the up and down arrows you need to change the setting of the four arrows option just below them. I recommend:

Arrow Keys - Direct Function

Right Arrow - Flash Mode

Down Arrow - ISO

For customization of other buttons, check out the Important Settings and Focus Settings Sections above for more detailed information on why I've set these options and how to use them.

Dial Function - This menu allows you to set the functions of the control dials for the camera. Functions are set per shooting mode indivually.

OMD E-M1 -  this is the two control wheels on the top of the camera. For the E-M1 in manual mode you can select which button controls Aperature and which controls Shutter Speed, set to your preference for ease of use. 

Dial Direction - can be set to change which way you turn the dial to increase shutter or F stop. Set to personal preference or leave at default  

Lever Function - MODE 1 - this gives quick access to ISO and White Balance which are two useful settings for underwater

Lever 2 +  - I left this off, as I did not need that additional level of customization, but feel free to explore, or customize for topside use.

Menu C: Release 

Rls Priority S / C - this option allows you to set whether the shutter can be released even when the camera is not in focus. I recommend leaving it at the default of OFF for S-AF to help limit out of focus pictures. (can be set individually for S-AF and C-AF modes) 

Burst FPS H / L - leave a default - this sets the frame rate for each burst mode option 

Burst + IS Off - OFF - allows for image stabilization during sequential shooting when turned OFF  

Halfway Rls with IS - ON - this allows for Image Stabilization to begin when the shutter is pressed halfway.

Menu D: Disp / Beep / PC 

This menu customizes display and sound options. Set these to your preference, they don't affect picture taking, except for a select few.

Camera Control Settings - this gives you options for the display of the quick menus. When the EVF Auto switch is turned off you can only access one of these. Default is the Live Control, Olympus' standard type menu. The other option is the Super Control Panel, the new style for the OM-D that mimics many dSLR cameras. To activate the SCP, turn off the LC and turn on the Live SCP.

Info Settings -  Under this menu is LV-Info. These options allow you to streamline your LCD view information. By turning each on or off you choose which viewing modes you would like to be able to see when you press the INFO button on the camera.

Live View Boost -  This must be turned on to aid in viewing the LCD underwater in dark shooting conditions.

Info Off - The camera automatically hides the basic info from the LCD/ Viewfinder after 10 seconds (half press of the shutter or any button bring it back). This can be changed to be left on all the time by selecting HOLD.

I would also set the SLEEP mode and Auto Power Off modes as desired to save battery life. 

Menu E: Exp / Metering / ISO 

EV Step - leave at Default 1/3EV - this gives access to all "in between" stops, for more fine tuning your picture settings. It controls the size of the increments for shutter speed, aperture, etc. 

NOISE / NOISE FILTER / ISO - leave at defaults

Metering - Default (Digital ESP Metering) - this evaluates the entire image for the best overall exposure. For more specific metering you can choose center weighted or spot.

AEL Metering - Default (AUTO) - if you use the AEL function leave this at the default and it will automatically choose the same metering you are currently using.

ISO / ISO Step / ISO Auto-Set / ISO-Auto leave these options at the default

Bulb / Time Timer, Live Bulb, Live Time - default (this won't be used underwater)

Anti-Shock - Default OFF - this creates a delay between when the shutter is pressed and actually released to aid in limiting camera vibrations. Not needed underwater.

Noise Reduction* - only applies to long exposures, leave a default, won't affect your UW photography

Noise Filter* - Default - this affects the noise reduction when shooting high ISO

F: Flash Custom

X-Sync - Default (1/320 for E-M1, 1/250 for E-M5 and EPL5, 1/160 for earlier PEN models) this sets the fastest default Shutter Speed at which the flash can fire.

Slow Limit - Default (1/60) - You can adjust this lower as desired.

NOTE: These flash settings do not matter for Manual Mode, the flash fires based on the shutter speed selected when in Manual Mode. However 1/250 is the highest option available for the OM-D and EPL5, 1/160 for earlier PEN's.

Flash Exposure + Exposure - Default (OFF)

G: Pixels / Color / WB

WB - Auto (default) - this sets the default WB mode, you can adjust for certain instances through the quick menu

All WB Evaluation - default - this changes the overall WB compensation for all modes except custom WB

WB-Auto Keep Warm Color - default - keeps colors warm for Auto WB mode.

Flash + WB - default (auto)

Color Space - default sRGB (unless you specifically know you want a different color space)

H: Record / Erase

Set these to your preference, they do not affect picture taking

I: Movie

Movie Mode - Default - P - this sets the default mode for movie capture (unless you are doing more video and want a specific mode, such as Manual, Aperture or Shutter to be the default)

Movie Mic - Default - ON - turns mic on or off. Turn off if you do not want to record any sound.

Movie Effect - Default - OFF - disables movie effects

Wind Noise Reduction - Default - OFF - reduces wind noise

Recording Volume - Default - Standard

J: Built in EVF

These do not affect picture setting, adjust as you prefer. The only important setting in this menu is:

EVF Auto Switch - OFF - this disables the automatic switch between the LCD and EVF. This is important for underwater use because the housing will always block the sensor and it will be stuck on the EVF only.

K: Camera Utility

Set as desired, these do not affect picture settings

 

Setup Menu

Set Date / Time, LCD brightness, upgrade your firmware, etc. The most important item on this menu is:

Rec View - this sets the amount of time an image is displayed for review after taking it. Default is .5 seconds, which is very fast. 2 seconds is a good average to set this to so that you can check exposure and focus on the LCD before taking another picture. If you need to take the next shot quickly this review disappears with a 1/2 shutter press.

If you have any further questions on setting up your Olympus camera or any issues with camera functionality, please post a question in our forums.

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver, manager of Bluewater Photo Store and an industry expert on mirrorless cameras and housing options. She has over 100 dives with the Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras. You can reach her by email at kelli@bluewaterphotostore.com

 

 

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Best Underwater Settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Camera

Kelli
Best underwater settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 mirrorless camera for macro and wide-angle

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Underwater Settings

A look at the best settings for macro and wide-angle underwater photography

By Kelli Dickinson

Navigation:

 
 
SHARE THIS STORY

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has become by far the most popular mirrorless camera used in underwater photography. In this article we discuss our recommended settings for getting the most out of this excellent camera.

The OM-D E-M5 has surpassed my expectations with upgrades from my old PEN E-PL1 camera. The image quality, small size, super fast focusing and ease of use had made it one of the most popular cameras for underwater shooting.

Below I've compiled several good starting camera settings for different shooting situations. Following that is a list of the most important, or required, settings that are crucial to change in your PEN or OM-D system when shooting underwater, with specifics based on which housing you are using. In addition I take an in depth look at all the menus on the camera so you can fine tune your camera for the best underwater shooting experience.

Olympus PEN and OM-D Underwater Settings

Actual settings will vary based on your diving location and conditions. Take a look at the following suggestions below as a great starting point for shooting with your Olympus OM-D E-M5

Settings for Macro with the 45mm or 60mm Macro Lens:

  • Manual mode, F22, 1/250th, ISO 200
  • Auto white balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • TIP: Shoot at lower F stops like F5.6 or F2.8 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background
  • TIP: You'll need to open up your aperture to around F8 when shooting fish; at F22, your strobes won't "reach" very far and the photo will look black
  • ** These settings are also useful with the 12-50mm lens in Macro Mode **

Shallow Focus achieved with an open F-stop - Octopus, OM-D E-M5 w/ 45mm, ISO 200, F2.8, 1/250

 

Settings for Macro using the kit lens (14-42mm / 12-50mm) with a wet diopter:

  • Manual mode, F22, 1/250th, ISO 200
  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • Zoom all the way in
  • Shoot at lower F stops like F8-F11 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background, you can open up to F2.8, but will have a very small depth of field
  • Remember working distance is limited when using a wet diopter, move carefully to avoid spooking your subject and get close. 

Tritonia festiva on Red Gorgonian, OM-D E-M5, 14-42mm w/ Dyron +7, ISO 200, F22, 1/250

Christmas tree worm, photo by Jim Lyle. F14, 1/250th, ISO 200, 45mm macro lens

 

Settings for Wide Angle with 8mm Fisheye or 9-18mm lens:

  • Manual mode, F8, 1/125th, ISO 200 
  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL
    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed
    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual  also to save battery life (see below for instructions)
  • Important: use the shutter speed to control your ambient light (background exposure). A slower shutter speed (e.g. - 1/60th will let in light when shooting in darker waters, a faster shutter speed will allow less light in when shooting in bright conditions).
  • TIP - when the sun is in the photo, set the shutter as fast as possible (up to 1/250th), and you'll need to stop down your aperture to F16 or F22 to avoid blowing out the highlights, remember to turn up your strobe power.
  • TIP - for ambient light photography, you may need to open your aperture to F5.6 or F4 and increase the ISO to ISO 400, 800 or 1600 to let in more light.

Note: These settings also are great for starting points for shooting with the kit lens on, and for fish portraits with the 60mm macro lens.

Sheephead & Oil Rigs, Olympus OMD E-M5, 8mm Fisheye ISO 200, F5, 1/80

Olympus Camera Set up for Underwater Use

The OM-D E-M5 camera works well straight out of the box, however there are some important menu and setting changes that you will want to make sure to set for the best underwater shooting experience.

Most Important Settings for Underwater Use:

1) Custom Menu Options - The Custom menu should be turned on by default on the E-M5, if not, follow these instructions to activate it.

Menu -> Set Up Menu (Wrench icon) -> Menu Display and click OK. The Custom Menu is the small cogs icon, hit the right button, and then the down button followed by ok to activate this menu.

2) Live View Boost - this is very important so that you can see your LCD underwater. This mode disables the live view of exposure settings, since underwater shooting with a strobe, usually results in dark settings in the camera. This function will brighten your LCD so it is always at a good viewing brightness. Note: the LCD does not accurately reflect the exposure settings for the camera.

Custom Menu -> D: Disp/PC -> Live View Boost -> On

3) EVF Auto Switch -  The E-M5 has an electronic viewfinder. In order to use the LCD screen underwater you need to turn off the Auto Switch. This prevents it from automatically switching to the EVF when the sensor is blocked, since the back of the housing blocks that sensor.

Custom Menu -> J: Built-In EVF -> EVF Auto Switch -> OFF.

Note: You lose the ability to display the Super Control Panel in the LCD when using the viewfinder when the "Auto Switch" is turned off. The default is Live Control, which is the same quick menu as previous PEN models. If you prefer the look of the Super Control Panel you can gain access to it by turning off the Live Control and turning on the SCP through the Custom Menu.

Custom Menu -> D: Disp/PC -> Control Settings -> P/A/S/M -> Live Control OFF -> Live SCP ON

The Super Control Panel on the left, and the Live Control View on the right.

4) Flash modes - if you are using a strobe with TTL you will use the single lightning bolt "Fill in Flash" mode on the camera. However, if you are planning to use the strobe in manual mode you can save battery life by changing the flash mode to "Manual Value" through the quick menu. This is also beneficial because using the internal camera flash at a lower power means less recycle time and helps eliminate any delay on being able to take a picture.

OK -> scroll to flash icon -> scroll over to select "Manual Value Flash" -> Press Info to change flash power -> scroll to 1/64th power -> OK to confirm

**NOTE: If you are using the Olympus housing, please refer to the "Olympus Housing Set Up Section" for directions on setting the flash so that it will fire in the "down / closed" position. This is required for using the E-M5 with Olympus Housing.**

5) Rear Control Buttons - the default setting on the EM-5 four arrow key rear buttons controls only the focus point, which basically means you are not taking advantage of 3 out of 4 buttons! You can customize 2 of the buttons instead to gain quick, one-touch access to important features.

Custom Menu -> B: Button/ Dial -> Button Function -> Key Function (option with the four arrow key icon) -> Direct Function -> OK

Now you have access to change the right and down arrow key controls on the back of the camera. (Up gives control of Aperture / Shutter Speed without the dials and Left gives control over the focus point, these are NOT customizable). You have the same options for both customizable buttons, I suggest reviewing each and picking the ones that best suit your needs. For example, I set my camera to have direct access to the flash mode via the right arrow key and direct access to the sequential shot/ timer mode for the down key. (The sequential shot is not something used much underwater but I find I use it alot topside, so it was important to have direct access for me.)

6) Rec View - this sets the length of time an image review is displayed after taking the picture. Default is 0.5 seconds. For underwater use, 2 seconds is usually recommended so you have a chance to quickly gauge that exposure and focus look good before taking another picture. If 2 seconds is too long, set it to what you desire, or simply press the shutter halfway down to cancel the review.

 Set Up Menu -> Rec View

7) Picture Mode - the default is natural, but jpeg shooters may prefer Vivid

NOTE: this does not affect RAW files

Accessible through the SCP / Quick Menu or Shooting Menu 1


OM-D, F16, 1/100th, ISO 200

OM-D E-M5 Set Up For an Olympus Housing:

The Olympus housing is a great option if you are on a budget and don't want to spend the money on one of the more expensive aluminum housings. There are a few limitations, but for the most part set up is the same as other housings. The biggest difference between the Olympus and Nauticam, is that they do not reposition the AEL/AFL button which means it is not as easy to reach, and therefore not a good option for splitting out focus lock.

Important Olympus Housing Information:

Before taking your rig underwater these things MUST be completed to ensure proper functionality and minimize the risk of a housing flood.

1) Remove the rubber grommet from around the Electronic Viewfinder.

To do this make sure the accessory flash is off the camera, and then simply slide the piece up and off the camera. Remember to replace the flash before putting the camera in the housing.

2) Change the Flash Mode so that the flash will fire even when flipped down.

The PT-EP08 housing was designed to house the camera and flash with the flash flipped down in order to be slightly smaller in size. In order to use the flash you have to activate the "Underwater Mode" on the camera. This mode acts as an "Auto" mode designed for "good" settings underwater. It also allows the camera flash to fire when "closed".

Custom Menu -> B: Button/ Dial -> Button Function -> either Fn1 or Fn2 can be assigned this function. I recommend Fn2. -> Underwater Mode (fish icons).

Note: The Underwater Mode automatically changes the camera settings including, Mode (P), ISO to 200, Focus to S-AF, White Balance to UW Mode, and on newer lenses like the 12-50mm it will zoom all the way out (3 fish) or all the way in (1 fish). If you keep it in the UW Mode while shooting, you are limited in control of the camera. To exit out of the UW Mode simply hold down the Fn button for a couple seconds and it will restore your original Mode, and settings. As long as the UW Mode is assigned to an Fn button the flash will fire when closed, even if the mode is not "activated" so you can go back to Manual Mode and the flash will still fire in the housing.

The are no changes needed to be made to install the OM-D E-M5 into the Olympus Housing. Simply slide the camera into place with the flash attached and you are good to go.

Olympus Housing Menu & Button Configuration:

To set up the EM-5 with the Olympus housing you can split out the focus using the Fn1 button as your AFL/AEL to lock focus separately from the shutter which is very useful for macro shooting:

Button Functions ( Custom Menu -> B: Button/Dial -> Button Function)

Fn1 - AEL/AFL - the Fn1 button is well placed by the thumb to use as a focus lock on the Olympus housing.

Fn2 - MF - this allows you to switch quickly between MF and your default focus mode (S-AF is recommended). This is great for using the AEL/AFL feature.

Rec - There are two options for this depending on how you want to set it up.

I recommend assigning "MF" to the record button so that you can switch between a "topside" S-AF mode and the underwater "MF" mode which utilizes the Fn-1 as your focus lock. This means you don't have to change settings in the menus when using your camera topside vs underwater.

Alternately you can leave it as record so that you can quickly record video without changing the camera mode.

AEL/AFL Settings (Custom Menu -> A: AF/MF -> AEL/AFL)

Use these settings if you've assigned MF to the Record button. If you did not, then you need to choose if you want your focus as default (Mode 1) or if you want to split focus always. If you want to split focus when using the Record button as record, then assign S-AF to Mode 3. 

S-AF - Mode 1 - this will basically keep the camera as standard, half shutter focuses, full shutter takes the picture, which is how most folks shoot topside, or  for subjects underwater where you want to re-focus each shot.

C-AF - Mode 3 - this will separate the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can re-focus the camera from the assigned AEL button (Fn1) and not risk taking a picture.

MF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can lock focus and then take as many images as you like without affecting your focus. In addition this, Manual Focus is active so if you have a focus gear on the lens you can use both MF and AF quickly and easily without changing any modes.

Shutter Release (Custom Menu -> C: Release -> Rls Priority S)

Rls Priority S - OFF - this prevents the camera from taking a photo unless it is in focus in S-AF mode. If you want to be able to take a photo even if the camera has not locked focus then turn this function ON. (Release Priority C is the same only for the C-AF Mode).

Now once you have set all of these, you can shoot a picture as standard (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press the Record button to switch to Manual Mode and now the Fn1 button controls auto focus and the shutter release takes the picture. This makes it very easy to have both topside settings and underwater settings created without having to change things in the menus every time you use the camera. Simplifiying the process so you do not forget to reset anything for the next trip.

NOTE: I use all of these settings with the camera in Manual Mode, so I have full control over my exposure settings.

Queen Angelfish, OM-D, photo by Jim Lyle, F11, 1/250th, ISO 200

 

OM-D E-M5 Set Up For a Nauticam Housing:

The E-M5 camera and Nauticam housing requires no changes, however the metal strap triangles can cause the camera to stick and not go in smoothly. Make sure these are out of the way of the housing when you slide the camera tray into place, or for best results just remove them.

The OM-D E-M5 comes set up with defaults that work well on land, but might not give you the best possible results underwater. If you have set the options as outlined above, this section will help you streamline the camera for quick and accurate auto focus underwater when using a Nauticam Housing.

One of the biggest benefits to the Nauticam housing over the Olympus is that they set the rear of the housing up differently than the camera. The record button on the camera is actually a small lever on the housing, set right by your thumb. With the advance customization available on the E-M5 you can easily reassign the Record Button to be something different. I prefer to set it as the AEL/AFL setting.

AEL/AFL -  You can assign this to one of the Fn buttons or even the record button. This can be helpful to separate the focus lock from the Shutter Release. Often underwater it is hard to lock focus and with the camera re-focusing everytime you press the shutter half way it might move that focus just enough to mess up your image, especially when shooting macro. Separating these allows you to focus the camera, then take the picture and take multiple pictures without the camera refocusing. This is very helpful for lenses like the 60mm and 45mm Macro that tend to focus hunt often.

Here is how I have my Nauticam E-M5 buttons assigned, I find this the best set up for quick changes to focus mode, so that focus can be achieved quickly, easily and accurately with any situation.

Button Functions ( Custom Menu -> B: Button/Dial -> Button Function)

Fn1 - One Touch White Balance (not related to focus, but it is only available to this button and it is very useful feature when shooting ambient or video). 

Alternately - if you want to be able to record video at the touch of a button (vs changing the actual mode) you can assign the video record to the Fn1 button.

Fn2 - MF - this allows you to switch quickly between MF and your default focus mode (S-AF is recommended). This is great for using the AEL/AFL feature. (Note: this comes into play with the AEL/AFL settings so you can switch quickly between two options).

Rec - AEL/AFL

AEL/AFL Settings (Custom Menu -> A: AF/MF -> AEL/AFL)

S-AF - Mode 1 - this will basically keep the camera as standard, half shutter focuses, full shutter takes the picture

C-AF - Mode 3 - this will separate the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can re-focus the camera from the Rec button and not risk taking a picture

MF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus, so you can lock focus and then take as many images as you like without affecting your focus. When you assign AEL/AFL you get an autofocus option while in manual focus mode, so if you have a focus gear on the lens you can use both manual focus or auto focus quickly and easily without changing any modes.

Shutter Release (Custom Menu -> C: Release -> Rls Priority S)

Rls Priority S - OFF - this prevents the camera from taking a photo unless it is in focus in S-AF mode. If you want to be able to take a photo even if the camera has not locked focus then turn this function ON. (Release Priority C is the same only for the C-AF Mode).

Now once you have set all of these, you can shoot a picture as standard (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press the Fn2 button to switch to Manual Mode and now the Rec button controls auto focus and the shutter release takes the picture. This makes it very easy to have both topside settings and underwater settings created without having to change things in the menus every time you use the camera. Simplifiying the process so you do not forget to reset anything for the next trip.

NOTE: I use all of these settings with the camera in Manual Mode, so I have full control over my exposure settings.

 

OM-D E-M5 Specific Menu Settings

This info is helpful for fine tuning your camera for the best underwater settings. If a menu item is not listed that is because it does either does not affect shooting pictures or does not affect a setting that would be used underwater.

Shooting Menus

These set your cameras defaults, general settings that it will revert to after shutoff.  

Shooting Menu #1 

Picture Mode  - This menu sets the look of your pictures, it is completely a personal choice to change, I prefer Vivid, because it enhances reds & oranges. NOTE: this only affects photos shot as .JPG, RAW images will not be affected.

Picture Quality (pixel icon)  - Sets the default quality mode for the camera. Set this to RAW for still images, default for video is FullHD Fine, leave it there unless you know you want a lower quality. 

*Note: if you do not have software on your computer that can read and edit RAW files then leave it set to .jpg (LF). I highly recommend shooting RAW for the most flexibility with in computer editing. 

Image Aspect - Leave at the default standard image aspect ratio of 4:3 unless otherwise desired.

Digital Teleconverter  Leave at default of OFF.  

Shooting Menu #2 

Burst/ Time Mode - Leave at default of Single Shot Mode, you can change this from the quick menu later for specific shooting instances. 

Image stabilizer - Leave at default  - this engages full stabilization in all directions (Default is IS1 on E-M5)

Exposure Compensation (E-M5)  - Leave set at default of 0 

Flash RC Mode - Leave at default of OFF

** NOTE - If you are using the Olympus UFL-2 strobes, you can increase your shutter sync speed with the PEN and OMD cameras to 1/500 using the RC feature of the camera and strobes. Check out the strobe manual for this, but it can be very useful for getting great sunbursts in wide angle shots.

 

Custom Menu Options

The custom menu offers more detailed camera adjustments, however, these can get overwhelming. When in doubt leave it at the default, unless otherwise noted in the Important Settings section above.

Menu A: AF/MF

AF Mode - I recommend setting this to S-AF (single AF). This is default for still images but not for video. C-AF, continuous auto focus, I find is too slow to accurately catch moving subjects and often hunts more frequently in the low light underwater conditions. You can halfway press the shutter during video to refocus when needed.

Full-time AF - OFF

AEL/AFL -  This is a very handy feature, especially for underwater as it allows you to set focus lock separately from the shutter button, so that you can lock focus and then take several images without refocusing. The set up will vary depending on which housing you use, so please see the Housing Settings section above for specific details. 

Reset Lens - OFF - leaving this ON resets the lens focus of the lens to infinity after the camera is powered off. For most shooting situations this is not a big deal, though when using specific lenses, like the 60mm macro, it can cause initial focus hunting in the beginning. Turning it off will save the last focus distance used in the camera.

MF Assist - ON - very useful with macro - magnifies center of image 10x to aid in focusing 

AF Set Home - SINGLE- this sets the "home" position for the AF target for each AF mode. It will return to the position selected after power down. Default is full matrix, change this to Single Auto Focus Point for more control. 

AF Illuminator - OFF - this is the small red AF assist light on the camera. It won't shine through the housing so turn it off to save battery life. If you use the camera both topside and underwater and don't want to hassle with constantly changing it then leave it on, it will not affect picture taking. 

Face Priority - OFF - this automatically focuses the camera when it detects a "face" however underwater it can mis-detect and cause issues, and the camera will not detect faces in masks so it is not needed.  

Menu B: Button / Dial 

Button Function - There are 2 Fn buttons on the E-M5 and each has a variety of functions you can set. You can also customize the Rec button and assign its own function. Other settings in the Button Function menu allow you to modify the action of that key listed. To gain customization of the up and down arrows you need to change the setting of the four arrows option just below them. I recommend:

Arrow Keys - Direct Function

Right Arrow - Flash Mode*

Down Arrow - ISO*

*Feel Free to choose whichever settings work best for you!

For customization of other buttons, check out the specific Housing Set Up informations sections above for more detailed information on why I've set these options and how to use them.

Dial Function - This menu allows you to set the functions of the control dials for the camera. Functions are set per shooting mode indivually.

This is the two control wheels on the top of the camera. For the E-M5 in manual mode you can select which button controls Aperature and which controls Shutter Speed, set to your preference for ease of use. 

Dial Direction - can be set to change which way you turn the dial to increase shutter or F stop. Set to personal preference or leave at default  

Menu C: Release 

Rls Priority S / C - this option allows you to set whether the shutter can be released even when the camera is not in focus. I recommend leaving it at the default of OFF for S-AF to help limit out of focus pictures. (can be set individually for S-AF and C-AF modes) 

Burst FPS H / L - leave a default - this sets the frame rate for each burst mode option 

Burst + IS Off - OFF - allows for image stabilization during sequential shooting when turned OFF  

Halfway Rls with IS - ON - this allows for Image Stabilization to begin when the shutter is pressed halfway.

Menu D: Disp / Beep / PC 

This menu customizes display and sound options. Set these to your preference, they don't affect picture taking, except for a select few.

Camera Control Settings - this gives you options for the display of the quick menus. When the EVF Auto switch is turned off you can only access one of these. Default is the Live Control, Olympus' standard type menu. The other option is the Super Control Panel, the new style for the OM-D that mimics many dSLR cameras. To activate the SCP, turn off the LC and turn on the Live SCP for the mode you plan to shoot in.

Info Settings -  Under this menu is LV-Info. These options allow you to streamline your LCD view information. By turning each on or off you choose which viewing modes you would like to be able to see when you press the INFO button on the camera.

Live View Boost -  This must be turned on to aid in viewing the LCD underwater in dark shooting conditions.

Info Off - The camera automatically hides the basic info from the LCD/ Viewfinder after 10 seconds (half press of the shutter or any button bring it back). This can be changed to be left on all the time by selecting HOLD.

I would also set the SLEEP mode and Auto Power Off modes as desired to save battery life. 

Menu E: Exp / Metering / ISO 

EV Step - leave at Default 1/3EV - this gives access to all "in between" stops, for more fine tuning your picture settings. It controls the size of the increments for shutter speed, aperture, etc. 

NOISE / NOISE FILTER / ISO - leave at defaults

Metering - Default (Digital ESP Metering) - this evaluates the entire image for the best overall exposure. For more specific metering you can choose center weighted or spot.

AEL Metering - Default (AUTO) - if you use the AEL function leave this at the default and it will automatically choose the same metering you are currently using.

ISO / ISO Step / ISO Auto-Set / ISO-Auto - leave options at default.

Bulb / Time Timer, Live Bulb, Live Time - default (this won't be used underwater)

Anti-Shock - Default OFF - this creates a delay between when the shutter is pressed and actually released to aid in limiting camera vibrations. Not needed underwater.

F: Flash Custom

X-Sync - Default (1/250 for E-M5) this sets the fastest default Shutter Speed at which the flash can fire.

Slow Limit - Default (1/60) - You can adjust this lower as desired.

NOTE: These flash settings do not matter for Manual Mode, the flash fires based on the shutter speed selected when in Manual Mode. However 1/250 is the highest option available for the OM-D.

Flash Exposure + Exposure - Default (OFF)

G: Pixels / Color / WB

Noise Reduction - only applies to long exposures, leave a default, won't affect your UW photography

Noise Filter - Default - this affects the noise reduction when shooting high ISO

WB - Auto (default) - this sets the default WB mode, you can adjust for certain instances through the quick menu

All WB Evaluation - default - this changes the overall WB compensation for all modes except custom WB

WB-Auto Keep Warm Color - default - keeps colors warm for Auto WB mode.

Flash + WB - default (auto)

Color Space - default sRGB (unless you specifically know you want a different color space)

H: Record / Erase

Set these to your preference, they do not affect picture taking

I: Movie

Movie Mode - Default - P - this sets the default mode for movie capture (unless you are doing more video and want a specific mode, such as Manual, Aperture or Shutter to be the default)

Movie Mic - Default - ON - turns mic on or off. Turn off if you do not want to record any sound.

Movie Effect - Default - OFF - disables movie effects

Wind Noise Reduction - Default - OFF - reduces wind noise

Recording Volume - Default - Standard

J: Built in EVF (OM-D Cameras)

These do not affect picture setting, adjust as you prefer. The only important setting in this menu is:

EVF Auto Switch - OFF - this disables the automatic switch between the LCD and EVF. This is important for underwater use because the housing will always block the sensor and it will be stuck on the EVF only.

K: Camera Utility (OM-D Cameras)

Set as desired, these do not affect picture settings

 

Setup Menu

Set Date / Time, LCD brightness, upgrade your firmware, etc. The most important item on this menu is:

Rec View - this sets the amount of time an image is displayed for review after taking it. Default is .5 seconds, which is very fast. 2 seconds is a good average to set this to so that you can check exposure and focus on the LCD before taking another picture. If you need to take the next shot quickly this review disappears with a 1/2 shutter press.

If you have any further questions on setting up your Olympus camera or any issues with camera functionality, please post a question in our forums.

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver, manager of Bluewater Photo Store and an industry expert on mirrorless cameras and housing options. She has over 100 dives with the Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras. You can reach her by email at kelli@bluewaterphotostore.com

 

 

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GoPro Underwater Housing and Mount Tips

Brent Durand
An overview of GoPro mounting options on trays, handles and poles, with additional tips on housing maintenance

 

GoPro Underwater Housing and Mount Tips


An overview of GoPro mounting options on trays, handles and poles, with additional tips on housing maintenance

By Brent Durand

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GoPro cameras are becoming more and more prevalent on dive boats around the world, and for good reason - they shoot excellent video in a small, affordable package.

Here at the Underwater Photography Guide, we're continuing our GoPro tutorial series with this installement on GoPro housing use and maintenance, plus all the mount and accessory options to get the most from your camera. GoPro systems are flexible depending on your budget and type of diving, providing a great way to remember those best moments of your trip.

 

The GoPro Underwater Housing

 

GoPro Depth Ratings

GoPro's underwater housings for the HD Hero Original, HD Hero 2 and Hero3 are rated to a depth of 60 meters (197 feet). The Hero3+ and Hero4 standard housing is rated to 40 meters (131ft), while the dive housing is rated to 60 meters (197ft). Note that maximum depths will change when adding the BacPac Backdoor or other Backdoor accessories. Be sure never to dive with the Touch BacPac Backdoor, as that is only rated to 3 meters (10ft).

 

GoPro Housing Maintenance

Like all underwater housings, GoPro housings need some simple maintenance after use. This falls into two steps: one once you're done using the GoPro and one before you close the housing for use.

Ideally you will have the ability to hold the GoPro in a tub of fresh water and push the buttons several times so that no salt or sand builds up around the spring behind each button. If you're not able to do this right away, no problem, just try to soak the camera in luke-warm water later on to dissolve those salt crystals and work the sand away.

The second maintenance area on the GoPro housing is the white o-ring that seals the backdoor to the housing. This o-ring seal is what stops water from through the crack into the housing. If there is dirt or debris blocking a perfect seal, the pressure underwater will force water into the housing, flooding the camera. Maintenace is simple - just keep it clean! Before you close the housing, inspect the o-ring on the backdoor to make sure there is no sand, hairs, lint or any other debris. Make sure to also check the groove on the housing where the o-ring will sit as well. Keep an eye on it while closing and then you're good to go!

 

The o-ring is attached to the GoPro Backdoor and must always be kept clean and free of debris.

 

 

GoPro Mounts, Trays, Handles and Poles

GoPros have become popular not just because of the video quality produced but because they can be mounted virtually anwhere. This versatility is apparent when you start looking at the variety of underwater videos and photos produced with different GoPro mount setups. There are bar mounts, tray mounts, trigger handles, selfie poles, mask mounts, headstraps and all sorts of other ideas to get that unique perspective in your shots.

 

Screengrab of the author recording GoPro Hero3+ video with Light & Motion's Action Camera Tray and Flex Arm plus GoBe light.

 

 

Benefits of GoPro Mounts

Mounting your GoPro to a tray with handles has many benefits. First, it's easier to hold on to, since you can grip one or two handles. Second, your footage will be more stable since the tray and handle setup is less prone to small shakes and movements in the water. Lastly, the handles provide a way to add one of two GoPro video lights to your setup.

 

Mounting your GoPro

There are two ways you can mount the light(s) to your GoPro tray - either through a rigid handle or a flex-connect arm. The rigid handle will allow for a light to be attached directly to that handle, or may be used with arms and clamps so that you have more flexibility in positioning the video light. A flex-connect arm can be flexed and twisted in any direction to postion the light. Choosing one of these options is really a matter of personal preference.

Other great GoPro mounts come in the form of single handles or telescoping selfie poles. The benefit here is that they are easy to hold with a single hand. With a telescoping pole you can hold the GoPro out in front of you to get closer to marine life, or turn the camera around to shoot diving selfies.

 

Finding the Right GoPro Mount

To view a wide-range of GoPro mounting options and get advice on the best mounts and accessories for scuba diving, visit:

Bluewater Photo's GoPro Mounts page

 

 

The author swims through a California kelp forest. Selfie shot with the GoPro Hero4 Silver.

 

 

UWPG's GoPro Tutorial Series

 

Other Recommended Reading

 

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and professional image-maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. View more of Brent's work or follow him through www.BrentDimagery.com.

 

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Tips to Create Striking Ambient Light Photos

Christina and Eusebio Saenz de Santamaria
5 Elements you Must Incorporate into your Ambient Light Photos

 

Tips to Create Striking Ambient Light Photos


5 Elements you Must Incorporate into your Ambient Light Photos

Text and Photos By Christina and Eusebio Saenz de Santamaria

 

Ambient Light Underwater

 

 
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As underwater freedive photographers, we use only ambient light for all our images. At first this was due to practicality, as it is easier to move fluidly in the water without the cumbersome drag of strobes. However, against conventional modes of thought we now prefer to always shoot this way, as using only the natural light available has driven us to be more creative, thoughtful of every frame we capture and has given us a sense of freedom to experiment.

Below are five elements that we consider before every frame we shoot.

 

Contrast

When shooting in ambient light, aim for a strong contrast between your subject, other objects, the background and landscape. There needs to be a strong separation between the subject and the background in order for your image to be striking and for your subject to take center stage and ‘pop’ from your frame. Framing silhouettes against natural backlight is one way to create strong contrast in your images, however it is best to photograph recognizable shapes, such as a person or an animal. Freediving in the cenotes of the Yucatan, Mexico provided us with a dramatic contrast between sharp rays of light and dark shadows, which allowed us to experiment with silhouettes. However we also discovered that the cathedral light created such a dramatic otherworldly mood that we could play with the sense of place, and we could stage our subjects directly in the strong rays of light.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

The silhouette of Christina as she freedives to the depths, her black form contrasted against the light limestone background and strong midday sunlight.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Christina ascending directly into an ethereal beam of sunlight.

 

Time of Day & Angle of Sun

The time of day you choose will depict how strong or soft the sunlight will be and the angle in which it enters the water. On bright sunny days, midday light is strong and provides great contrast. There are many ‘rules’ in photography, with one being to always shoot with the sun to your back. But these ‘rules’ were made to be broken! Experiment and don’t be afraid to shoot into the light source as well as at an angle to the source. The results might positively surprise you. Furthermore, afternoon golden light is soft, dappled and dreamy and can help reate for an ethereal mood, which may suit your subject and the concept for your photo shoot. For example, we found the afternoon September rays in Ibiza, Spain to be meditative and silky.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Shooting into the sunlight as Eusebio ascends from a deep freedive.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Eusebio in the dappled light of ‘Golden Hour’.

 

Don’t Fear Depth

Shooting in ambient light means that you are shooting in low-light conditions and the deeper your dive, the less natural light and therefore color of your subjects you have to work with. However don’t fear depth! Although it is easier to capture ambient light near the water’s surface or while creating over-unders, you can also shoot at depth while taking care of some technical considerations. Limit the ISO on your camera and know the limitations of your camera’s sensor; the higher the ISO, the greater the chance for ‘noise’ in the image. You also need to evaluate the artistic considerations of your photo shoot including the subject, composition and aims that you have by shooting at depth with the available light. It is best to shoot at depth in waters with very good visibility, which we discovered in the blue marine waters of the Caribbean on the island of Roatan, where we could convey a sense of oceanic depth and emphasize the solitude and minuteness we feel as freedivers against the magnitude of the enormous coral drop-offs and endless blue abyss below.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Eusebio descends into the dark depths.

 

Wildlife

Oftentimes when shooting underwater wildlife ambient light is best, as strobes can make animals nervous and skittish. As freedivers we don’t have cumbersome or noisy scuba equipment, which means that we have the advantage of animals approaching us more closely and with greater curiosity. We want to encourage this natural interaction without the distraction of artificial light flashes, which is particularly pertinent when diving with sharks and dolphins. Furthermore without the drag and extra weight of strobes you are more agile in the water and can move more freely with animals who might move at a quick pace.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

A large but shy tiger shark cruises peacefully over Christina in The Bahamas.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

The fast and playful spinner dolphins of Hawaii follow Christina to the surface.

 

Post-Editing

As freediving photographers, we are often taking photos from the surface down to 40 metres depth. For this reason we always white balance in the post-editing process and ensure that we are always shooting in RAW. As a scuba diver you have the time to white balance underwater, however we find that when shooting in ambient light we can white balance, retouch the tones, contrasts and exposures with more ease in post production. Furthermore, in this process you will discover that although some images look good in color, they look more striking in black and white, thus giving you the freedom to be more creative with your images.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Caribbean reef sharks float in unison over the reefs of Roatan.

 

Ambient Light Underwater

Christina descends to the dark depths.

 

 

 

In conclusion, sometimes the less equipment we carry the more creative we become. Our advice is to select some appropriate photo shoots to lose the strobes in order to discover a new sense of freedom and creativity by exploring the endless possibilities of natural ambient light.

 

 

Also by Christina & Eusebio

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

‘One ocean One breath’ is a creative collaboration between professional freedivers, husband and wife duo, Eusebio and Christina Saenz de Santamaria. Eusebio (from Spain) is the co-founder of ‘Apnea Total’, one of the world’s largest freediving education systems, and is one of the few men to have surpassed 100 metres (328 feet) in depth in the self-powered disciplines of freediving. Christina, originally from Australia, holds the record as the deepest Australian female freediver in history with self-powered dives to 85 metres (279 feet) in depth, and sled-dives to 105 metres (345 feet) in depth, which ranks her among the top deepest women in the world.

When not teaching or training on their island home of Koh Tao in Thailand, they are exploring the world’s ocean on one breath with camera in hand, learning and discovering more about their passions for freediving, underwater photography and filming.

For more information, please visit their website:  www.oneoceanonebreath.com

 

 

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Macro Methods: Sharp Eyes and Nice Bokeh

Brent Durand
A Tutorial on Capturing Sharp Eyes and Nice Bokeh in your Underwater Photos

 

Macro Methods: Sharp Eyes and Nice Bokeh


A Tutorial on Capturing Sharp Eyes and Nice Bokeh in your Underwater Photos

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

 

 
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Shooting Macro is the hands-down most popular form of underwater photography these days. And it's no wonder why once you see the detail, colors and character of the subjects we love to shoot.

Dive guides are better than ever, keeping tabs on even the rarest critters at sought-after dive sites (many are talented macro photographers themselves), new cameras and lenses deliver sharp detail with crisp autofocus, and diopters bring an entirely new tiny world into view. In short, it's a great time to be an underwater macro photographer.

But even with the best camera and talented guide finding the perfect shot (obviously without moving, touching or otherwise harassing the critter), there are essential techniques to bring home those WOW images. Here are two major apects of your macro photography to think about on your next dive trip.

 

Capturing Sharp Eyes

Capturing sharp eyes in your macro shots is very important, as the eyes establish a connection between the viewer and the subject. If the eyes are out of focus, then that connection is lost because a) the viewer's eyes are instead attracted to the point of focus in the image or b) the critter is out of focus.

There are a number of techniques to get the eyes of your subject in focus. Different photographers will prefer different techniques for achieving focus, so there is no right or wrong method as long as the end result is the same. I might even use all the methods below on a single dive if the subjects, compositions and behaviors warrant it.

  • Lock your autofocus point on the eye and pull the shutter.
  • Lock focus on the eye of the subject and then recompose before pulling the shutter.
  • Manually focus and then rock back and forth ever so slightly (move the camera a milimeter closer or further from the subject) until focus is crisp on the eye(s).

 

A Hippocampus bargibanti pygmy seahorse hangs near the edge of a sea fan in Tulamben, Bali. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

A skeleton shrimp on feather hydroid in Tulamben, Bali. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

Candy crab in Manado, Indonesia. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

 

Creating Nice Bokeh

Bokeh is a Japanese word used in photography to describe the out-of-focus part of a composition. In underwater macro, this part of the composition generally falls behind the primary subject.

The bokeh is dependent on two main factors: the aperture selected and distance from the front of the lens to the subject. The circular quality of the bokeh is another conversation entirely, as it results from a relationship between lens blades and aperture.

Underwater macro photography uses many different depths of field / apertures to capture different styles of shot, and many of these styles can be used interchangeably on the same subject. For example, you might have a photo of a fish where the mouth is out of focus, the eyes are in focus and the body goes back to out of focus. Or you can stop down your aperture and shoot that same fish from the same distance, but capture detail from teeth to tail.

The decision is up to you as a photographer. You never want to shoot a second frame unless you know what you are changing from the frame prior, so make sure to consider bokeh in composing your images.

Tip:  Note that if you stop down to a higher aperture to achieve more depth of field, less light will be able to hit the sensor and you will need to increase strobe power.

 

 

A blue-ringed octopus in Manado, Indonesia. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

A coconut octopus in the Lembeh Strait, IndonesiaCanon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

A goby models for the camera in Indonesia's Lembeh Strait. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

A wonderpus octopus moves across the sand in Indonesia's Lembeh Strait. Canon 5D Mark III, Aquatica housing.

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. Follow Brent on Instagram, Twitter and his Adventure Blog through www.brentdimagery.com.

 

 

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It's All in the Flash

Mike Bartick
How to Capture Fast-Action Flashing & Attention-Drawing Behavior Underwater

 

It's All in the Flash


How to Capture Fast-Action Flashing & Attention-Drawing Behavior Underwater

Text and Photos By Mike Bartick

 

 

 
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Birds do it, fish do it, and even humans beings do it. If you’re trying to attract a mate, sometimes it’s just impossible to find the right words, so body language has to do all the work. In the animal kingdom, the body language of your subject might be just a quick movement, subtle and even undetected to the human eye, while others flash gaudy and unmistakable displays (such as a peacock), which can be seen from deep space.

The best underwater photo strategy is always to take your time and observe your subject prior to attempting to photograph them. By doing this you will soon realize that it’s all about the flash!

Shooting animal behavior underwater is not unlike topside photography, where lens choice is critical for getting close enough to the subject without scaring them. Proper buoyancy, your hunting technique and stalking your subject play heavily into the end result, which is allowing the subject enough space to act naturally.

Different signals mean different things too, but I don’t speak blenny very well so deciphering their language is best left to the true experts. Regardless of what they are saying, the action and form of their communication is the action that you want to try and capture in your image. “Stop action photography” and “Peak of the action” are two phrases that I like to focus on when discussing this style of photography.

 

Remember this simple 3 step approach when preparing for your next outing Lights-Camera-Action!

 

Lights

Strobe lighting is very important for capturing well-lit action images. Don’t be afraid to adjust your strobe positioning at any time, and remember to increase your ISO and to turn down the strobe power to increase your recycle times. With faster flash recycle times, you can shoot a burst of images during peak action.

 

Camera

Camera settings cannot be overlooked for stop action photography or you will miss the shot. Shutter speeds must be fast enough to keep your image sharp and eliminate ambient light but still allow you to capture a strong, well-lit image. Your F-stop will vary depending on the depth of field you envision for the shot, as well as the distance light has to travel from strobe to subject back to camera.

Tip: Move your strobes closer to the subject so that the light has less distance to travel.

 

Action

Wait for it! Your subject will soon relax if your movements are minimized. If your subject becomes relaxed enough, it will begin its natural behavior. This is when you shoot, since capturing this behavior has the potential to become an award winning shot!

 

 

Techniques to Capture the Flashes

 

Sailfin Blennies (Emblemaria hypacanthus) are easily mistaken as a common blenny if the diver approaches quickly, as they tend to be on the skittish side. But when a diver approaches slowly and quietly, allowing the fish to relax, it will then begin to quickly raise and lower itself from its hidey hole, flashing its beautiful fin at the same time. It's best to watch and study the movements for a few moments before blasting away, as careless strobe flashes can and will scare the blennies back into the safety of their hole, resulting in a long waiting game.

 

 

In full regale - a Sailfin blenny will sit in the peak-a-boo position staring out of its hole for a very long time before it feels relaxed enough to expose itself. When it finally decides it is safe enough to begin signaling it will quickly emerge from its hole, extending its sailfin, and begin bobbing up and down rapidy. Remember: Lights, Camera, Action… be ready as this could be your only oportunity to get the shot!

 

 

Cephalopods are well known for signaling and flashing their colors as a danger signal or to mate with a prospective partner. The cranberry colors of the hunting cuttlefish might be showing a passive coloration to fool their prey or might be a warning for me to step back.

 

 

Hunting Blue Ring –There’s no mistaking the vibrant flash of the Blue-Ringed Octopus. When at rest the blue ring looks much like an ordinary octopus but once they become agitated or excited, the blue rings glow with blue indigo intensity. Their venomous bite is legendary and could also explain what their flashing signals are all about.

Octopus and other cephalopods have the unique ability to flash simultaneous messages showing aggression on one side (right) and a passive side on the other( left).

In this image the Blue Ring was hunting and moving from right to left, its leading side is lighter in coloration indicating a more passive coloration while the aggressive colors on the right protect it from a predator moving in from behind. This is commonly seen with mating where 2 males are attempting to mate with a single female.

 

 

Agitated by my strobe flashes, this blue ring flushes with a golden hue while its blue rings are vibrant and apparent. This octopus was actually hanging upside down under a coral head resting, until my modeling light disrupted it.  

 

 

The Matote Blue Ring changes from a brownish sedate color that closely resembles the sand to a brilliant striped and nearly yellow coloration. The single blue ring on each side of its body also glows with Indigo-blue intensity.

 

 

Perhaps one of the most under photographed critters on all of the reefs is the flasher wrasse. They are extremely addictive to photograph once the subject is seen actually flashing. The fast movements are highlighted when they extend their pinnate dorsal spine and anal fins. Flasher wrasse become active in the late afternoons when the ambient light begins to fade, adding to the difficulty capturing a good shot, along with the fact that they don’t appreciate modeling lights.

 

 

The common lionfish makes for a brilliant image when they flash their spines and open up. This is a typical behavioral image documenting how lionfish use their fins to corral their prey or to signal each other.

 

 

Magnificent Shrimp Gobies (Flabellagobius sp.) use their fins for several reasons. One is of course to signal their buddy, but I have watched them actually cover the shrimp as they move up and down, cleaning out their hole, providing camouflage for their little buddy.

 

 

Lights-Camera-Action!

Remember to prepare before setting out to hunt these amazing creatures and others.Take your time and allow them to relax before blasting away with your strobes. Quantity doesn't mean quality when it comes to flashing behavior shots. Keep your eye in the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter release as the fast action never waits... it is always a surprise!

Even the most mundane creature can give you a big surprise, since its all in the flash!

Special thanks to Crystal Blue Resort

 

Gear:

Nikon D7100 in Sea & Sea MDX-D7100 housing

Nikon 105mm macro lens

BTS long flex arms

Dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Mike BartikMike Bartick is an avid and experienced scuba diver and Marine Wildlife Photographer. He has an insatiable love for nudibranchs, frogfish and other underwater critters, and is the official critter expert for the Underwater Photography Guide. Mike is also one of the UWPG trip leaders. See more of his work at www.saltwaterphoto.com.

 

 

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Must-Have GoPro Accessories

Underwater Photography Guide
All the Essentials you Need for Underwater Video with your GoPro

 

Must-Have GoPro Accessories


All the Essentials you Need for Underwater Video with your GoPro

By the Underwater Photography Guide

 

 

 
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Bluewater Photo has put together a great video discussing all the different options available to scuba and freedivers for their GoPro cameras. Browsing through all the accessories can be intimindating, especially if you're a new video shooter and not familiar with what these accessories do.

This is exactly why Bluewater Photo put this video together. It's been on their YouTube channel for a few weeks, but we're publishing it here on UWPG for everything looking at those last-minute accessories before the holidays.

Enjoy!

 

Must-Have GoPro Accessories

 

More info on:

 

 

 

Other GoPro Resources

 

Further Reading

 

 

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Shooting with a Dive Model

Brent Durand
Tips on how to Shoot Photos with a Dive Model or Dive Buddy in the Scene

 

Shooting with a Dive Model


Tips on how to Shoot Photos with a Dive Model or Dive Buddy in Scene

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

 

 
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Shooting photos of your dive buddy is a fun way to include them in your dive photo world because let's face it; if you're holding a camera you're probably not paying as much attention to them as you should.

Not only does shooting your dive buddy allow you to give them great shots in-action underwater, but it repays them for all those hours spent watching you motionless on the bottom waiting to take that single macro behavior frame.

Simple, right? Well there's a bit more to consider for these shots. Adding a dive model to the background of your shots will help create depth by adding another point of interest into the scene. So by modeling, your dive buddy is also helping you to create a more dynamic composition.

So how do we shoot dive model photos?

 

My dive buddy passes by vibrant soft coral. Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

 

GEAR (used in all photos in this article):

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye lens

Aquatica A5D Mk III housing

 

 

Tips for Shooting Dive Model Photos

 

1)  Talk Before the Dive

It's essential to have an agreed-upon plan with your dive buddy before the dive begins. This is fairly easy if you're familiar with the dive site and what to expect, but if you're on a trip to a new dive destination, make sure to ask your dive guide for advice. Your guide will be able to tell you if the site is a wall dive, features small hard corals, huge sea fans and barrel sponges, schools of fish or passing sharks.

Once you have an idea of the type of shot you would like, discuss this with your dive buddy. Let them know what you're looking for so that if they see you evaluating a wide-angle scene or starting to compose a shot, they will stay close by, ready to model.

 

My dive buddy pauses to admire a candy crab on soft coral. Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea.

 

 

2)  Establish and Use Hand Signals

Now that your dive buddy is ready to model for you underwater, you'll need to help them get into position for the photo. Hand signals that you can easily perform with a single hand are best for this, since you'll be holding your camera rig with the other hand.

Hand signals should be discussed prior to the dive as well. You'll want to make sure your dive buddy will know to move up, move down, come closer, back up, pivot right and pivot left. Be careful though, because making a fist with your thumb pointed up is the universal signal for "let's surface", so you do not want to use that gesture for directing your buddy.

You hand signals can also cover things like "look at the subject" and "keep your legs straight and together" which are common for dive model photos.

Once you both have a hand signal language in place, you'll be setting up perfect dive model photos quickly every time!

 

My dive buddy forms a silhouette above this vibrantly colored reef. Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

 

 

3)  Hold A Light

Want to enhance your dive buddy shots? By asking them to hold a dive light, you'll add another interesting element to your composition.

The best lights for dive model photography are not standard focus and video lights. You'll want a standard spot beam light for your model, as that will pierce the water with a stronger beam. Since the beam angle is narrower than focus or video lights, it will result in less backscatter in the photo when pointed towards your camera.

 

My dive buddy uses a flashlight to bring out the incredible colors of big fans and corals. Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

 

Bonus Tip!

Be realistic. Even with a detailed photo plan and hand signals discussed before the dive, there may be other elements at play that won't allow your dive buddy to be in the perfect position. Maybe there's a current and they have to keep swimming to stay in place. Maybe you're shooting with a moving subject and your buddy just can't get into position in time. Maybe their mask has gotten a bit foggy at the edges. We can't control these things, but a good photographer sees these conditions and then uses them in their photo instead of trying to fight them or become upset with their buddy.

Keep a nice, fun attitude because after all, you're underwater scuba diving!

 

When you find a giant frogfish perched high on a sponge, tell your dive buddy.  Bali, Indonesia.

 

A quiet moment along one of Bunaken's massive walls.  Bunaken Marine Park, Indonesia.

 

My dive buddy demonstrates keeping your hands trim for photos.  Bali, Indonesia.

 

Studying and anticipating marine life behavior has its rewards.  Bunaken, Indonesia.

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. Follow Brent on Instagram, Twitter and his Adventure Blog through www.brentdimagery.com.

 

 

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Shooting Stills with the Panasonic GH4

Xander Water
The GH4 is known for 4K Video, but Let's Look at its Still Photo Capabilities

 

Shooting Stills with the Panasonic GH4


The GH4 is known for 4K Video, but Let's Look at its Still Photo Capabilities

Text and Photos By Xander Water

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater photo

Pink "tiger snout" Seahorse, shot with GH4 & 2x strobes while snorkeling in Western Australia.

 

 
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The Panasonic GH4 is mostly known for being the first affordable camera that can shoot 4K (Ultra HD) video. Many people are discussing the video capabilities, and the photographic side of the camera is easily overlooked. In this report I am going to focus on using this camera for stills underwater.

If you haven't yet, you can view some GH4 4K underwater video footage and learn the best settings for underwater use on the Bluewater Photo blog.

 

Panasonic GH4 Specs

  •             16.05 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
  •             DCI 4K 4096x2160 at 24p
  •             UHD 4K 3840x2160 at 30p/24p
  •             Full HD up to 60p
  •             3.0" 1,036k-Dot OLED Touchscreen Monitor
  •             2,359K-Dot OLED Live View Finder
  •             Support for 59.94p, 23.98p, 50p, & 24p
  •             4:2:2 8-Bit or 10-Bit HDMI Output
  •             High-Speed 49-Point Autofocus
  •             Magnesium Alloy, Weather-Sealed Body

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

The Olympus 60mm lens with open aperture provides nice soft backgrounds.

60mm macro lens, 1/250, F3.2, ISO100, slight crop

 

When I first had a play with the camera I was really enjoying how the camera feels in my hand. The make quality is very solid, and the buttons feel good and are laid out well. The menu is easy to navigate. I have never been convinced by the need of touch screens on cameras, but I am finding it often useful when using the camera on land. For example: tapping the screen to pinpoint focus is super quick, and saves some menu navigation for example. Although I do not use any ‘intelligent auto’ functions, I was surprised that when my girlfriend was photographing her food, the camera automatically selected the ‘food mode’. That is pretty intelligent!

I come from a compact camera background, and after using the Canon G9, Canon S95 and RX100 I wanted to upgrade to an interchangeable lens system. Although I was giving up the small size, light weight of a compact setup and versatility with wet-lenses, I am thoroughly enjoying the benefits the GH4 offers. This camera feels like a state of the art piece of equipment: the focus is fast and accurate, the camera works smoothly and he functions are precise. The viewfinder is very bright and clear. The size and weight feels like it is only about half of my Nikon D7000 dSLR.

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

An often shy Leafy Filefish (aka Prickly Leather Jacket) looking into my 3.5" mini dome.

8mm Fisheye, 1/250, F10, ISO200, slight crop

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Housing

To take this camera underwater I bought the Nauticam GH4 housing with vacuum system. The Nauticam housing is a dream to use and the added vacuum system offers great peace of mind. Strobewise I am using 2 INON S2000’s on small size UltraLight arms. Underwater the setup is slightly negatively buoyant, but it does not need float arms in my opinion. I removed one handle of of the housing, mounting one of my strobe arms to the M5 mounting point on the housing. I do not use the left hand handle and this way I can position the camera lower to the sea bed when taking portrait style photos. This often makes just the difference in getting a better perspective or background. Also, my setup weighs a little bit less and is smaller. I can just fit my whole setup in a 8 litre air tight food storage container.

 

GH4 Wide-Angle Photography

For wide-angle underwater I choose the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye with 4.33” and 3.5” Nauticam ports. I love to shoot Close-Focus Wide-Angle, and this lens is perfect for that with its close focus distance. 

The lens is very sharp, including the corners, and both ports provide excellent image quality. The benefit of the larger 4.33” dome port is the corner sharpness. The smaller 3.5” mini dome port is less good for general wide-angle shooting, but the small size lets you get that little bit closer to a CFWA subject for a dramatic perspective.

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Weed beds and sea grass meadows on Garden Island.

8mm Fisheye with 4.33" dome, 1/125, F6.3, ISO100

 

GH4 Macro Photography

The Olympus 60mm lens and Nauticam 65 port is my choice for macro. Results are sharp and there is no chromatic aberration. 

 

About the Photos

All photos in this article were shot with the GH4 in full manual mode with 2x strobes on manual. All photos taken on snorkel in max 2 meters of water in the Swan River Estuary and Garden Island in Western Australia.

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Natural light in .5 meter of water, natually "snooted" by exactly one little ray of sunlight coming through a jetty.

60mm Macro lens, 1/100, F2.8, ISO250

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Floating sargassum weed at Garden Island.

8mm Fisheye lens with 4.33" dome, 1/250, F10, ISO160

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Sea horse swimming under a boat house.

60mm Macro lens, 1/250, F5, ISO400

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Tiger snout seahorse under a jetty in 1 meter of water.

60mm Macro lens, 1/250, F2.8, ISO200

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Photo

Panasonic GH4 with Nauticam housing and flat macro port for Olympus 60mm macro.

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Xander (1983) is an underwater photographer living and working in Perth, Western Australia. Aside from diving trips, most of his photos are taken around where he lives, in the indian ocean and Swan Estuary system.

 

 

Support the Underwater Photography Guide:


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Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


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Underwater Settings for the Canon 5D Mark III

Brent Durand
Settings for shooting wide-angle and macro with the Canon 5D Mark III camera, plus recommended lenses & more

 

Underwater Settings for the Canon 5D Mark III


Settings for Shooting Wide-Angle and Macro with the Canon 5D Mark III DSLR

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 settings

 

 
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The Canon 5D Mark III is about two and half years old now. Some of us waited a long time for the camera before pre-ordering it, while some may have just picked it up as a first underwater camera. Either way, it's one of the best full frame prosumer DSLRs on the market.

The Canon 5D Mark III blends the beautiful image quality of Canon's 22.3MB CMOS sensor with a 61-point autofocus system, advanced light metering system, 6 frames per second burst, high ISO capabilities and full HD video with two compression settings (there's also a 3rd party hack for RAW video recording).

These elements add up to make one of the best all-around cameras out there, which is what appeals to my style of photography - underwater, landscapes, sports, portraits, night scenes, etc. The 5D Mk 3 shoots all of it very well. That said, if birds and long telephoto shots are your thing, you're better off looking at the new Canon 7D Mark II as a prosumer DSLR.

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 underwater photo

Mid-range reef scene shot with the Canon 5D Mark III in Aquatica housing.

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 settings

Our recommended menu settings are generally the same for macro & wide-angle shooting, however do depend on the conditions and subject being photographed.

 

 

5D Mark III General Underwater Settings

Before looking at specific settings for shooting wide-angle and macro underwater, let's look at some essential menu settings for the Canon 5D Mark III. These settings will work for any housing, but keep in mind that they do have a level of personal preference.

 

  • Shoot in RAW.  If you're shooting the 5D Mark III, you probably shoot in RAW already. If not, suffice it to say that RAW format records more data and allows more flexibility during post processing than compressing the file into a JPG format in-camera.
  • Use both CF and SD Cards.  This creates more space for memory in case you don't want to open your housing during the day and doesn't create any noticable slowdown in writing or buffering. Just make sure to use fast memory cards.
  • Set Picture Style or Standard or Neutral.  This setting will not affect the data in the image file if you're shooting RAW, however by setting the style to Standard, the LCD will apply some sharpening to the preview, resulting in an image truer to what you'll create in post-processing. Neutral is nice because it doesn't apply any changes, so the LCD shows an image more true to what you'll see in the un-edited RAW file.
    • Video:  Neutral is also nice for video because there is no sharpening applied in-camera, allowing for more customization during post.
  • Auto White Balance.  Canon's auto white balance does very well underwater for both macro and wide-angle, but also depends on the color temperature of your strobes. For my Sea & Sea YS-D1s, I rarely adjust color temperature during post.
    • Video:  Auto white balance works well for casual video shooters. Serious video shooters will manually adjust white balance before every shot, generally depending on depth and sun angle for wide-angle and video light color temperature for macro.
  • Pro Tip:  Turn off the beeping! No need to button beeps and autofocus lock beeps underwater.
  • Pro Tip:  Turn off the info screen on back of the camera during night dives. All the glowing from those numbers takes away from your night vision and ability to compose a shot when using a red light (shrimp, cephalopods, etc). You can remember your settings and adjust accordingly before composing a shot with a new subject, or half depress the shutter and use the numbers inside the viewfinder.

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 settings

 

Wide-Angle Settings for Canon 5D Mark III

Wide-angle settings on the Canon 5D Mark III will vary depending on whether you're shooting sharks, reefscapes or sunbursts, as well as depth, angle of sun and clarity of the water. A great starting point for wide-angle with the 5D Mark III is:

  • ISO: 160
  • Aperture:  F11
    • To create a blurred background, try opening up the aperture more
    • To shoot towards the sun, try stopping down the aperture. Also see our tutorial 'Shooting Underwater Sunbursts'
  • Shutter speed:  1/125s

 

Lenses:

There are two types of lenses available for shooting wide-angle: fisheye and recilinear wide-angle lenes. Fisheye lenses are great all-around underwater lenses while wide-angle lenses are best for shooting subjects that are further away, like sharks and schools of fish. Video shooters will often select their wide-angle lens over the fisheye for tighter framing in their shots.

I use the Tokina 10-17mm and Canon 17-40mm, however the other lenses have some nice features for those investing a bit more. Keep in mind that there's a lot that goes into choosing the right lens, especially if you also plan to use it topside. Some of these include: price, weight, filter sizes (77mm vs. 82mm) & vignetting properties with your favorite filters, as well as lens speed (for bokeh or low light use).

Bluewater Photo's top recommendations for underwater shooters are the Canon 8-15mm fisheye and the Canon 16-35mm - you'll be very satisfied with both!

 

Useful Reviews & Comparisons:

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 underwater photo

A female sea lion swoons at the Canon 5D Mark III & Tokina 10-17mm behind the dome port.

 

Macro Settings for Canon 5D Mark III

The Canon 5D Mark III shoots great macro shots, especially when paired with the Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens. That said, many prefer shooting APS-C (crop) sensors because of the extra reach, which essentially magnifies the subject. But if you're not trying to shoot nudibranchs the size of sand grains, the 5D Mark 3 will do just fine.

Like wide-angle, there are no right or wrong macro settings; the settings will change depending on the subject and style of shot you're after.

Recommended settings for macro:

  • ISO:  160
  • Aperture:  f18  (*increase this to f/25 or f/32 with a +10 diopter)
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160s (*increase this to 1/200s to help create a black background)

 

Diopters:

  • There are two diopters that Bluewater Photo recommends the most for the Canon 5D Mark III and 100mm f2.8 macro lens. I use the SubSee +10 as I've had it for years, but the newer Nauticam SMC has become a popular choice for those buying new.

 

Useful Reviews & Comparisons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video Settings for Canon 5D Mark III

The general rule for shooting video is to select a shutter speed roughly double the frames per second you're shooting. So for 30fps, you should be using a shutter speed of 1/60. Since this is fixed, the variables that control exposure become aperture and ISO.

 

Aperture:

The Canon 5D Mark 3's full frame sensor is larger than APS-C sensors and requires the shooter to stop down more to achieve the same depth of field. But stopping down limits the ambient light hitting the sensor (i.e. what is illuminated by your video lights). So, in addition to buying powerful video lights like the I-Torch Venom38, you must compose your image to balance a higher f-stop and richer color from your lights with a lower f-stop for depth of field. This is dynamic and settings really depend on each shot composition.

ISO:

The easiest setting is to leave your ISO on auto. You can also limit the ISO range through the 5D MkIII's menu, setting an upward limit of 6400 (for example). This is nice if you're panning or looking for quick shots. Advanced video shooters will opt for manual ISO control to make sure the exposure doesn't change mid-shot if the camera meters the scene differently.

Pro Tip:

Shoot All-I and not IPB. These files are not compressed as much and deliver higher-quality video. That said, make sure you have a fast memory card to support more data being written to your card.

 

5D Mark III Sample Underwater Video

Aquatica A5D Mk III Housing  -  I-Torch Venom38 Video Lights

Filmed by Brent Durand.  Edited by Anastasia Laity for Bluewater Travel.

 

Canon 5D Mark III Underwater Housings

 

Aquatica

aquatica canon 5d mark iii underwater housing

 

Review:  Aquatica A5D Mk III Housing Review

Purchase:  Aquatica A5D Mk III Housing

 

 

Ikelite

Ikelite canon 5d mark iii underwater housing

 

Review:  Ikelite 5D Mk III Housing Review

Purchase:  Ikelite 5D Mk III Housing

 

 

Sea & Sea

Sea & Sea canon 5d mark iii underwater housing

 

 

Purchase:  Sea & Sea 5D Mk III Housing

 
 
 
Nauticam

nauticam canon 5d mark iii underwater housing

 

 

Purchase:  Nauticam 5D Mk III Housing

 

 

 

Canon 5D Mark 3 underwater photo

Soft Corals grow on a wall in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

 

 

 

Learn More - Join our Workshops

Interested in learning more about shooting reefscapes?  Bluewater Photo hosts underwater photo workshops worldwide for learning from the best in the business!

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. Follow Brent on Instagram, Twitter & his adventure blog through www.brentdimagery.com.

 

 

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The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


 

 
 
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