Camera Reviews

Detailed camera reviews for underwater photo and video, including specs, key features for u/w photography and camera comparisons.
Newly updated! Features, Wet Lens Options, Underwater Photos, Videos and Housings
By Bryan Chu and Contributors

Sony RX100 V and VA Review

Bryan Chu and Contributors
Newly updated! Features, Wet Lens Options, Underwater Photos, Videos and Housings

The Sony RX100 line of cameras is one of the most popular compact camera options for underwater shooters. A large image sensor, great feature list, and variety of underwater housing options have kept the RX100 cameras a top choice in the compact camera field.

There are a number of significant improvements to this camera including 24 fps burst shooting, double the time shooting at 960 frames per second (very slow motion video) and 4K video with 5K oversampling (for even better quality 4K). Are the improvements to this camera significant enough to consider upgrading your compact rig? How does it compare to other compact options? Read on to find out.

We asked some users of the Sony RX100 V and RX100 VA* in the Underwater Photography Guide community to contribute their best shots and advice for this camera. These photos really show the sensor's dynamic range, crisp and quick auto-focus, and great overall image quality. 

*The Sony RX100 VA is very similar to the RX100 V, with only minor upgrades. Because of this we will be referring to the RX100 VA as the RX100 V throughout the review.

Jump to section:

Sony RX100 V Specs   |  Underwater Photography Features   |   RX100 VA Upgrade   |   Wide Angle Shooting

Macro Shooting   |   Underwater Videography Features   |   Limitations and Downsides

   Underwater Housing Options  |   To Buy or Not To Buy?   |   Conclusion

 

Specs

Key Upgrades from RX100 IV

  • New 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
  • New BIONZ X image processor and front-end LSi (faster camera operation and image processing speed)
  • 315-point phase detection autofocus system
  • Anti Distortion Shutter dramatically reduces rolling shutter effect when recording video 
  • 24 fps RAW burst with AF tracking for up to 150 photos. Wow!
  • New AF-A mode allows camera to switch between single and continuous AF (usually found on DSLR AF systems)

Sony RX100 V Complete Specs

  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
  • 315-point phase detection autofocus system: focuses in 0.05-sec
  • AF-A autofocus mode in addition to AF-S and AF-C
  • New BIONZ X image processor and front-end LSi (faster camera operation and image processing speed)
  • ISO range 125 - 12800
  • 24 fps RAW burst with AF tracking for up to 150 photos. Wow!
  • Anti Distortion Shutter dramatically reduces rolling shutter effect when recording video 
  • ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar® T* 24-70mm, f/1.8 - 2.8 Lens with 10 elements in 9 groups and a 0.17 ft (5 cm) minimum focusing distance
  • Adjustable LCD screen - 2.95 inches (3.0type) (4:3) / 1,228,800 dots
  • 100% coverage viewfinder
  • WiFI and NFC connectivity
  • Dimensions: 4 x 2 3/8 × 1 5/8 inch (101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0 mm)
  • Weight: Approx. 10.5 oz (299 g) (Battery and Memory Stick Duo are included) / Approx. 9.6 oz (272 g) (Body Only)

It’s clear that Sony’s focus with the RX100 V camera was adding technical capabilities, and they have made some impressive additions to the spec list. The high-speed shooting mode can now do 24 fps burst shooting in jpeg and RAW, with full autofocus and autoexposure. The autofocus is incredibly quick; 0.05-seconds with 315 AF points. This is a vast improvement over the RX100 IV. And the 4K video quality has been amped up several notches, with oversampling from 5K footage, reduction in rolling shutter, and the option to shoot extended super slow motion at 960 fps for twice as long as with the RX100 IV.

Sony RX100 VA Upgrades from the RX100 V

  • Image processor updated, which will make an improvement to image quality
  • Shooting in 24 fps burst mode with full AF/AE (auto-focus/auto-exposure), the buffer size has been increased from 150 jpegs to 233 (50% improvement)
  • "My Menu" functionality allowing you to register menu items for instant recall and customize menus. You can also make button assignments for up to 30 functions to retool the camera interface for your shooting preferences.
  • "Zone" added as an option for autofocus area
  • Display lag time in EVF (electronic viewfinder) reduced
  • Proxy movie mode (captures 720p footage alongside 4K capture)
  • Custom button can now control one of 62 camera functions, instead of the previous 44
  • High precision eye autofocus feature (improvement over original)
  • A number of other functionality improvements

 

Implications of RX100 VA upgrade for Underwater Photography

The updated image processor of the RX100 VA, with a potential for improvements to image quality, is of course a nice thing to have. It also means that file storage underwater could be more seamless with less lagtime. 

As far as the burst mode buffer upgrade, unless you tend to shoot fast action in ambient light conditions or with video lights, and run out of buffer with the 150-image size, this change will not affect your underwater photography. It could be useful for topside photography, although 150 images at 24 fps already gives you 6 seconds of continuous burst shooting. But there may be some situations where the extra 3 seconds of continuous burst shooting could help you get the shot you want. And although the reduction in EVF display lag time is nice to have on land, that won't affect underwater shooting as the EVF can't be used underwater.

The changes to menu functionality is another upgrade that is significant for underwater photographers. The ability to customize button assignments should help avoid having to cycle through menus when you have to change settings quickly to adjust for new shots or changing conditions. This will allow for a better shooting experience underwater.

Overall, this update looks more like a firmware update than anything else, and with the exception of the customizable button functionality is not expected to have a noticeable effect on underwater photography functionality. If you are looking to buy an RX100V, this will be the new version available, and there's no reason not to get it. But there might not be much reason to think about upgrading from an existing RX100V - if the advantage of a long lens sounds interesting, it would be better to go for the new Sony RX100 VI.

 

Underwater Photography Features

Lens

The 24-70mm F1.8/2.8 lens is the same as used in the RX100 IV. It is faster (F2.8) at 70mm than the lens on the RX100 / RX100 II, which is beneficial for low-light and indoor shooting. However, for underwater photography, I don't normally shoot with a wide open aperture, especially at the longer range of 70mm. Overall I would prefer the 100mm reach of the RX100 and RX100 II over the RX100 V's speed, as that allows for better photos of shy subjects and better macro shooting. 

Autofocus

The completely redesigned, 315-point phase detection autofocus (AF) system is lightning fast. By combining high-speed phase-detection AF with extremely accurate contrast-detection AF, this hybrid system allows the camera to lock onto and capture moving subjects in merely 0.05 seconds. This improvement is most noticeable when shooting in Continuous AF mode. Note that phase detection autofocus systems are typically found on dSLRs and higher-end mirrorless cameras, but not on compacts (until now).

Sensor and Photo Quality

The DxoMark sensor rating of the Sony RX100 V is 70, very good for a compact camera. The sensor is rated the same as the RX100 IV, slightly better than the RX100 II & III (both got 67), and about equal to the Canon G7X (got a 71). The sensor rating takes color depth, dynamic range, and low-light ISO performance into account. The image quality of this camera is rated by DPReview to be almost identical to that of the RX100 IV. That is to say, the images and video are outstanding; professional level photos and video can be taken with this camera.

Strobes, Flash and TTL Capability

Strobes are external flashes for use underwater. They help make your photos sharper, and more importantly, restore true colors to marine life. (When lit only by ambient light, subjects lose color through all the water between them and the surface, and between them and your lens). Check out this article about strobes for more information.

Through-the-lens (TTL) is a strobe setting where your camera controls your strobe power based on its own light metering. The internal flash trigger is transmitted to your strobes via fiber optic cables, and your strobes fire with a corresponding strength. You can get optical TTL when using fiber optic cables with the Sea & Sea YS-03, YS-01, YS-D1, and YS-D2 strobes. You can also use the Inon Z240, Z330, S2000, or D2000 strobes. TTL works in all modes - P, A, Tv, and manual mode.

One notable downside of the RX100V is that if you are using a strobe, you'll have to wait 1 - 4 seconds for the internal flash to recycle, as there is no way to turn down the internal flash power. (Note: the Canon compact cameras have this option). This may limit you in situations where you want to take multiple exposures quickly. One of our users found that they would have internal flash delays at the tail-end of dives after taking almost 200 photos.  

White Balance Capability

Although the Sony RX100 V does not have "1-touch" custom white balance, the custom white balance is like that of the RX100 IV; good and easy to use. The custom white balance function uses a small circle in the center of the photo to evaluate the white balance, instead of using the entire screen, which is very nice. You can store the white balance setting in 3 different banks. You can't set the white balance in video mode, but you can start and stop video in any of the camera modes so that is not really a big deal in our opinion. 

Wide Angle Shooting

As with all compact cameras, the RX100 V's lens covers somewhat wide-to-mid-range focal lengths. The capabilities can be greatly improved for wide angle shooting by using wet lenses, which connect to the outside of the camera housing and increase the angle of view.

RX100 V Wide-Angle Wet Lenses

A wide-angle wet lens increases the field of view, which means that for shooting a given subject at a certain size in your photo, you have to be quite a bit closer to it. Although this can be a hassle with a skittish subject, what it does mean is that you get less water between the camera and your subject. And less water means a clearer subject, as well as better lighting from video light, photo light or strobe, which means much better colors. A wider angle also allows for more dramatic shots, especially with large subjects like oil rigs, kelp forests and wrecks.

Macro Shooting

The 70mm max focal length of the native lens of the RX100 V does not provide as good reach for macro shooting as the 100mm length of the RX100 and RX100 II. A wet macro lens increases the magnification of the camera lens, allowing you to shoot macro images of much smaller subjects than with just the camera alone.

RX100 V Macro Lenses

The RX-100 at 100mm can take a photo 3 inches across, while the RX-100 V at 70mm can take a photo 4 inches across. When using the Bluewater +7 macro lens, you can take a photo 1.37 inches wide at maximum magnification with the RX-100. With the RX-100 V, you can take a photo 1.78 inches across, and you also have a little less working distance with the RX-100 V. So while you can still get good macro shots, you get more magnification with the first two RX-100 versions than with the later versions.

Underwater Videography Features

The RX100V takes extremely high quality video, which rivals that of significantly more expensive cameras (including those dedicated for video). It has SLog2 gamma and focus peaking, and takes very high quality 1080p HD video (without even getting into the even higher resolution 4K option). Here is a great video taken in the Galapagos by Juan Quinteros, with the RX100 V in HD video mode.

4K Video

If you have the right memory card, the RX100 V can shoot in 4K, at a 100Mbps bit rate. It actually collects about 1.7 times as much information as required for basic 4K movie output, and this oversampling effect results in even higher quality 4K video than that of the RX100 IV. Improvements have also been made to drastically reduce the "rolling shutter" effect from that of the RX100 IV.

Photo Capture function lets you select a moment from a 4K movie in playback and save it in the form of a highly detailed still image file of over 8 megapixels. Likewise, you can create a 2-megapixel still image file from a Full HD movie that has been recorded.

Slow Motion

In slow motion mode, the camera can take ~4 seconds of 960fps footage in quality priority mode (which we recommend, or ~7 seconds in regular mode), that will take 64 seconds to replay at 60fps. A neat feature is that there are two recording modes for slow motion: start trigger and end trigger. Say that you have a sea lion swimming around you and blowing bubbles, and you want to capture in slow motion the moment it opens its mouth and starts letting bubbles out. If you use start trigger, you have to anticipate the action, and hit the MOVIE button before the sea lion opens its mouth. But if you use end trigger, you can keep the sea lion in view while the camera writes to the buffer, and then hit the MOVIE button after the sea lion has blown its bubbles. The camera will then record slow motion video of the 4-6 seconds prior to hitting the MOVIE button, thus capturing in slow motion the exact moment the sea lion first opened its mouth!

Here is a sample slow-motion video taken with the RX100 IV. The slow motion video capabilities of the RX100 V are identical to those of the IV, except for the ability to take slow motion videos that are twice as long.

Filmed by Scott Gietler and Tommy Stylski of Bluewater Photo at 960fps.

Limitations and Downsides

Battery Life

The CIPA rating of 220 shots is a significant reduction from the RX-100 IV (280) and from the competition (265 for the Canon G7X mark II). That’s not to say that you can only get 220 shots from one battery in this camera – testing is done with high flash usage and the LCD screen remaining on after each shot. Especially when shooting in burst mode, you can get quite a few more shots on one battery; the point is that this camera will not get as far on one battery as its predecessor or as its competition. What this means from the standpoint of shooting underwater, and as shared by a couple of users from the community, is that you may want to swap out your battery between each dive to make sure you don't run out of juice underwater (or at least once every second dive). And this could have larger ramifications for those who take lots of underwater video.

Limited 4K Video Shooting Length

There is a 5 minute recording limit when shooting in 4K video mode, to prevent overheating (same as with the RX100 IV).

Size

The RX100 V is the same dimensions as the RX-100 IV, but both are 10% larger and 15% heavier than the original RX-100. So although it is still a small camera, it is best classified as "semi-pocketable" instead of slim and truly pocketable.

Cost

The RX100V is more costly than all the other RX100 models, and significantly costlier than the Canon G7X II. 

Shooting Limitations

As mentioned above, the limited reach of the 24-70mm lens makes it more difficult to take photos of macro subjects or shy subjects. The flash recycle time of 1-4 seconds reduces the ability to take multiple shots quickly while using strobes.

Sony RX100 V Underwater Housings

Since the RX100 V has the same dimensions as the RX100 IV, all housings for the RX100 IV except for the Nauticam version fit the RX100 V. There are six underwater housings available for the Sony RX100 V. Each have different pros and cons, most importantly around pricing and ergonomics, and all offer a wide range of accessories available through Bluewater Photo.

Nauticam RX100 V Underwater Housing

The Nauticam RX100 V housing is milled from a block of solid aluminum, then hard anodized. The result is a rugged and reliable piece of gear that will stand up to saltwater and the daily rigors of diving. Since the housing accesses all of the camera controls, including the front control ring, the user can take advantage of the enhanced programmability in the RX100 V. The housing also has a 67mm port and can support multiple wet wide angle lens options, including the Nauticam WWL-1.

Purchase the Nauticam RX100 V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

As always Recsea housings are made of high quality machined aluminum with excellent controls and full camera functionality. The Recsea housings fit the camera like a glove, offering the smallest housing on the market without losing any functionality. Easy to use, adaptable with many different wet wide angle and macro lenses, and including strobe connections, the Recsea housing is the perfect tool for taking your Sony RX-100 IV or V underwater.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Underwater Housing

Recsea offers a high quality polycarbonate housing for the Sony RX100 IV, which is compatible with the RX100 V. Designed with the same precision engineering as the high quality aluminum RX100 IV Housing the new CW housing comes at a much lower price, great if you are on a budget. The new CW housings come with 67mm threads built in which means you can attach some lenses without an adapter.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Housing

Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

Acquapazza is a high quality aluminum housing made in Japan. Small and easy to use, it allows for full access to the camera features, with split out button and dial controls. Built in 67mm threads allow for easy attachment of wet lenses. Acquapazza housings are available in a number of different anodized colors.

Purchase the Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Housing

Fantasea RX100 V Underwater Housing

The Fantasea Sony RX100 V housing is made of tough plastic, creating a lightweight and sturdy housing. Controls are easy to access and very clearly labeled. The housing is also compatible with flash accessories, plus wide-angle and macro wet lenses and other gear. A cold shoe mount makes it easy to attach a focus light, video light, a GoPro or other accessory. If you are looking for a lower priced housing, this is an excellent choice.

Purchase the Fantasea RX100 V Housing

To Buy or Not To Buy?

The RX100 V/VA is clearly an excellent option for compact shooters, and will allow you to get awesome photos. The question though is whether it's worth the higher price tag than its competitors. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the key comparisons between the RX100V, the RX100IV and the Canon G7X II.

 

RX100 V (VA)

 

RX100 IV

G7X II

MSRP

 

$999

$899

$699

Sensor Rating

 

70

70

71

Lens specs

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-100mm

F1.8-2.8

Autofocus

315-point phase detection (much better)

Contrast detection

Contrast detection

Flash recycle time

Slow

Slow

Quicker

Viewfinder

 

Yes

Yes

No

Video modes

4K/30p with 5K oversampling and reduced rolling shutter

1080/120p

4K/30p

1080/120p

1080/60p

Slow motion video

960 fps for 4-7 seconds

960 fps for 2-4 seconds

No

Battery Life (CIPA)

 

220

280

265

Burst Shooting

 

24 fps

16 fps

8 fps

 

The camera you should choose ultimately depends on what you are looking for and how much you have to spend. 

Consider the RX100 V if:

  • You want the faster autofocus
  • You want the highest quality 4K video possible
  • You want to shoot long slow motion clips 
  • You want to shoot extremely fast bursts (consider the RX100 VA for a nice image buffer and better processing power)
  • You are OK with swapping your battery out more often (potentially every one or two dives, especially if taking lots of video)

Consider the RX100 IV if:

  • You want to shoot 4K video and you are OK with some rolling shutter effect and missing the 5K oversampling
  • You want to shoot slow motion clips and 2-4 seconds is enough for you
  • You want to shoot fast bursts
  • You want a bit longer battery life
  • You want to save some money 

Consider the G7X II if:

  • You want to save a significant amount of money
  • You are fine shooting 1080/60p video without 4K or slow motion
  • You want the extra range of the 100mm lens instead of 70mm for macro or shy subjects
  • You want a faster flash recycle time to use your strobes more quickly on consecutive shots
  • You want more battery life than the RX100 V
  • You are good with having a burst shooting mode of 8 fps

If you already have the RX100 IV, then the only reason to spend the money to upgrade is if you are really wanting the very best 4K video, you have problems with autofocus, or you want to take longer slow motion video clips. The good news if you do decide to upgrade is that most housings for the RX100 IV are fully compatible with the RX100 V.

Remember that whichever compact camera you choose, adding strobes and wet lenses will allow you to make significant improvements in your potential for taking high quality images. And if your choice is between upgrading compact camera or adding a strobe or a wet lens, your money may be better spent adding one of those to your current setup.

You can read our full review of the Canon G7X II here and our full review of the RX100 IV here.

Conclusion

The Sony RX100 V (and VA) boasts fantastic image quality, amazing 4K video quality, and the ability to take phenomenal slow motion video. A wide array of underwater housings and lenses provide a lot of options that cover multiple budgets and intended uses. All of this makes the Sony RX100 V one of the best choices for underwater photographers looking to get the maximum photography and videography options from a compact rig. The specs are so good on this camera that a competent photographer with the right gear can take photos that challenge the quality of those from more expensive and bulkier mirrorless rigs, as can be seen from the sample photos provided from our community throughout this article. The question is not whether this camera is worth the price tag, but whether it is the best way to spend limited money that could potentially be spent elsewhere.

Additional Reading

Additional User Photos

 

 

 

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Sony introduces a macro powerhouse - the Sony RX100 VI
By UWPG Editors

Sony RX100 VI Underwater Camera Review

UWPG Editors
Sony introduces a macro powerhouse - the Sony RX100 VI

Sony has announced the newest model in their premium compact RX100 lineup - the Sony RX100 VI. Along with the fantastic image quality, burst shooting speed, and other impressive specs of the RX100 V, the RX100 VI brings with it a few key upgrades: a telephoto lens, improved autofocus, improved video capabilities, and a touch screen. Although slightly more limited than the Sony RX100 V for choice of shooting macro or wide angle underwater in a given dive, the new 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens lets macro lovers reach new frontiers in super macro photography.

US retail price: $1,199.99

 


 

 

 

Purchase the Sony RX100 VI at Bluewater Photo

 

 


 

 Key Specs and Upgrades   |   Features   |   Camera Comparison Chart   |   

 

|   Best Lenses   |   Best Housings   |   Sample Photos   |

 

|   Underwater Settings   |   Conclusion   |

 

 


Key Specifications

  • 20.1MP Exmor RS stacked CMOS image sensor with DRAM chip 
  • Upgraded BIONZ X image processing system 
  • Increase magnification which uses 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • Lightning fast AF perfomance (Fast Hybrid AF system)
  • 315-point phase-detection AF points 
  • High speed shooting @ 24fps AF/AE tracking
  • 4K Video
  • Slow motion 

Key Upgrades from the RX100 V

  • 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens (vs 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens)
  • 0.03 sec autofocus (vs 0.05 sec)
  • High Resolution 4K Movie Shooting with full pixel readout and no pixel binning - plus 4K HDR for instant HDR workflow

 

Sony RX100 VI Features

Enhanced Optical Zoom

The key upgrade of the Sony RX100 VI is the new 24-200 mm f/2.8 – 4.5 lens. This has been upgraded from a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens on the previous RX100 V. The zoom and optical quality of this new lens has the capability of producing stunning, detailed macro and super-macro images – especially when paired with a wet lens. However, it comes with its challenges. When zoomed out, the lens extends relatively far – requiring a long port. A long port makes it impossible to add desirable wide-angle accessories such as wide-angle wet lenses. This being said, some housing manufacturers are coming out with multiple port options that can accommodate for both wide-angle and macro shooting by switching ports between dives.

Improved Autofocus

Autofocus speeds have increased to 0.03 second autofocus from 0.05 sec. The RX100 VI also comes with 315-point phase-detection AF points. These autofocus improvements are a huge help to anyone looking to take the RX100 VI to the full extent of its super-macro capability. Good autofocus is imperative for capturing super-macro images where even the slightest movement can drastically change the composition of the shot.

 

High Resolution Video

The Sony RX 100 VI is also proving to be a supermacro powerhouse in the video world. Consistent with Sony’s commitment to improving its video capability in multiple camera lines, the RX100 VI has been upgraded to be able to shoot 4K movies with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. It can also shoot 4K HDR. This video capability is a milestone for video in compact camera set ups as it is ideal for shooting macro and super-macro video. Keep in mind shooting 4K will require an SDXC card.

 

Speed

The Sony RX100 VI’s burst shooting can capture 24 frames per second with continuous autofocus and a buffer of about 100 shots. This capability places the RX100 VI among the fastest compact cameras on the market. Therefore, the RX100 VI is also an ideal camera for quick-action underwater photographers – specifically those shooting waves or quick pelagic animals.

 

Sony Rx100 VI vs The Competition

Is It Worth the Price? 

This brings us to the biggest downside of the RX100 VI - the price tag. At a retail price of $1200, it is significantly more expensive than the $1000 cost of the RX100 V (now marked down to $950 on the Sony website). This pushes it up into the price range of mirrorless cameras, for what may amount to relatively paltry improvements for underwater photography usage. So if you are looking at this camera primarily for underwater use, you will get better value with the RX100 V, RX100 IV or Canon G7X Mark II. But if you are looking for an improved compact camera for heavy topside use, the telephoto lens, autofocus, and touchscreen control could be worth the hefty investment. After all, although this camera is priced like a mirrorless, it is still a premium compact camera which you can fit into a modestly sized jacket pocket. It's also important to consider the amazing macro capability of the RX100 VI. If you are an avid macro and supermacro photographer, it just might be worth the price.

Who Should Consider Purchasing this Camera?

Macro photographers. The RX100 VI is a macro and supermacro powerhouse. The zoom and detail is almost unbeatable when compared to other compact cameras.

As with any upgrade, Sony had a specific market in mind with it's new upgrades - street photography. The significant increase in zoom is perfect for street photographers wishing to remain inconspicuous while taking close photos of their subjects. Although it might detract from wide-angle underwater photos, this camera could be perfect for underwater dive trips with a lot of topside excursions or animal life such as whales, dolphins, and birds. The excellent burst shooting capability will further enhance quick action topside wildlife photos when combined with the telephoto lens. 

Check out the RX100 VI Camera at our sister company, BlueWater Photo!

 

Best Lenses for the Sony RX100 VI

As mentioned, due to the extension of the lens when fully zoomed, different ports are necessary when shooting with macro or wide angle wet lenses and the RX100 VI. This means that the type of wet lens used will need be chosen prior to diving and limits the diver to shooting either macro or wide-angle during a dive – not both.

Macro

Macro wet lenses allow you to get even closer and more detailed photos than the already capable 200 mm zoom on the RX100 VI. A strong diopter such as the Nauticam Super Macro Converter or the Kraken KRL-03 +12 can be a great way to open up the realm of super macro photography. Going for something with a little less magnification such as the Bluewater +7 is an easier option for beginner macro photographers.

Bluewater +7 Macro Lens - The Bluewater +7 is a high-quality two-element macro lens made of optical glass. It is UV-coated and anti-reflective. It offers a much cheaper price point than the Nauticam lenses, although it also offers slightly less magnification. Slightly less magnification is great if you are just starting out in the world of macro photography. The zoom capability of the RX100 VI is very good, so this can be all that you need to take beautiful macro photos. Bluewater +7

Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) - Both Nauticam CMC lenses offer amazing sharpness, with varying strengths of magnification. 4.5 & 2.8 average magnification respectively, it's great to have both within your quiver of lenses for maximum versatility while diving and shooting macro. Nauticam CMC-2 or Nauticam CMC 1. These are the highest quality macro lenses for taking supermacro images with the RX100 VI.

 

Wide Angle

Without a wide angle wet lens, compact cameras tend to struggle in the area of wide angle underwater photography. A wide angle wet lens allows the photographer to take photos with a wider field of view and get closer for more color and detail in the image.

Fantasea UWL-09 Wide Angle Lens - This wide-angle option provides a great 130-degree Field of View, allowing you to switch over to wide angle for reefscapes, large animals coming in close, etc. Image results are sharp from corner to corner with minimal abberations. In addition, the lens will focus through out the zoom range of your camera. 

Kraken Sports KRL-01 - The KRL-01 was designed to work with a variety of cameras at 24mm focal length, and features full zoom through capability. It has a multi-layer BBAR coating for anti-reflection and improved optical clarity. It is even compatible with micro 4/3 and full frame cameras, providing a great choice for anyone who may upgrade in the future. The KRL-01 offers a whopping 145-degree filed of view!  

 

Underwater Housings for the Sony RX100 VI

A wide range of high quality housing are already available for the Sony RX100 VI. Top brands include Nauticam, Recsea, Fantasea, Sea & Sea, and Ikelite. 

Nauticam RX100 VI Housing

Price: $1,100

Nauticam housings are crafted from high quality aluminum, with controls and dials designed for great ergonomics. This housing features the N50 standard port system which allows for a full range of zoom with the lens. This compact port system allows the shooter to change ports like a Mirrorless or DSLR camera, in order to achieve the best quality optics underwater.

Watch our video review of the Nauticam RX100 VI Housing here.

Order Now!

Additional Nauticam Housing Accessories:

 

Nauticam N50 Short Port With Bayonet Mount

Price: $180

The Nauticam N50 Short Port with Bayonet Mount is designed to allow for fast port changes underwater when using a camera housing with the N50 port system and wet lenses such as the WWL-1 and CMC along with the Nauticam bayonet system. A short port is necessary for these wet lenses as the normal N50 port that is included with the housing is long enough for the full range of zoom, but too long for wet wide angle lenses. 

Pre-order Now!

 

Nauticam N50 Original Short Port

Price: $180

The original Nauticam N50 Short Port is great for threading wet wide angle lenses such as the AOI UWL-09 and Kraken KRL-01 onto your RX100 VI Nauticam Housing for amazing wide angle images. The thread is 67mm, and fits with many wet wide angle lenses. A short port is necessary for these wet lenses as the normal N50 port that is included with the housing is long enough for the full range of zoom, but too long for wet wide angle lenses

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Nauticam Flip Diopter Holder

Price: $220

If you're a macro junkie, Nauticam's flip diopter holder will enable you to capture amazing macro photographs with underwater diopters. The diopter screws into a universal 67mm thread and is flipped in front or away from the port at will. 

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Ikelite RX100 VI Housing

Price: $495

This housing is crafted from lightweight, strong ABS Polycarbonate and ready for any in or near water use such as scuba diving, pool photography, surf photography and more.The Sony RX100 VI has an extended zoom lens in addition to many other new features. To make it useable underwater with such a long zoom range, Ikelite has developed a new removeable port for the Ikelite Sony RX100 VI Underwater Housing. 

Watch our in depth review of the Ikelite RX100 VI Housing here.

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Fantasea RX100 VI Housing


Fanstasea offers an excellent underwater housing for the Sony RX100 Mark VI camera.  Fantasea has been known to produce robust, sturdy, and lightweight underwater housings at an affordable price.  They design their underwater housings to have great ergonomics.

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Recsea RX100 VI Housing

Recsea offers high quality polycarbonate housing for the Sony RX100 VI. Designed with the same precision engineering as the high quality aluminum housings, the new CW housing comes at a much lower price, great if you are on a budget.

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Sea & Sea RX100 VI Housing

Sea & Sea has been known to produce high quality aluminum underwater housings. Their build quality is top notch and their housings are durable and sturdy.  The ergonomics of their housins is great and well thought of. 

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Sample Underwater Photos

Mid-Range Photo Capability

 

 

Macro and Super Macro Capability

 

 

 

Underwater Settings for the Sony RX100 VI

Check that these key function are set on your camera menu before diving with the Sony RX100 VI:

  • The most important menu setting is to make sure the AF Illuminator is turned off, otherwise your camera will have trouble focusing once inside the underwater housing.
  • Select Raw & JPEG so that you can easily share JPEGs but also edit RAW files more effectively
  • Select AVCHD for video file setting
  • Set creative style to vivid if you want more reds to come out underwater in your JPEG or neutral if you will be editing all your files
  • Turn on Auto Review if you want to view each photo immediately after capturing it. The suggested time is 2 seconds.
  • Flash mode: fill flash, flash compensation to 0.0
  • Red Eye Reduction: off

Memory Recall Function: Due to the RX100 VI's amazing zoom capability, when in a housing in a standard port, the lens can actually hit the port glass when zoomed in all the way. Using the memory recall function you can set the camera so that it "remembers" specific zoom levels and does not hit the port. This will allow you to easily switch between wide angle and macro on a standard port. In order to use memory recall, put your camera in manual mode. Then zoom in with the camera in the housing, so that the lens does not hit the port glass, but enough to take a macro photo. Go into the menu and go to panel 9 under the camera icon. Click memory and then click a number (at the top of the memory panel) to save your settings. When you need to access your setting in memory recall, switch the dial at the top to MR and your settings will show up. You can set individual settings for shooting wide angle, macro, and mid-range photos as you can save three different memory recall settings. 

Shooting Macro

Remember that apterture controls your depth of field, choosing a larger number aperture will mean more of the image will be in focus. For starting settings on the RX100 VI we recommend at least F8. In addition we always recommend using a focus light when shooting macro in order to help your camera lock focus more quickly and accurately.

Best Macro Settings with a strobe (no wet lens):

  • Manual Mode
  • Auto White Balance
  • F8
  • 1/500s
  • ISO 80

Make sure you are zoomed out all the way for best focusing and image quality. If using a strobe, Auto White Balance delivers accurate color balance - just remember to set the internal flash to forced flash mode and your strobe to TTL (or manual if you're comfortable with more adjustments).

Remember that shooting at an aperture of F8 will allow for much of the subject to be in focus. You can also experiment with opening the aperture down to F2.8 for a shallow depth of field.

Best Super Macro Settings with a strobe (using a wet lens):

When shooting with a macro diopter, you will want to zoom in to create as much magnification as possible of the subject. Because of the increased magnification, stop down the aperture to create more depth of field. Our recommended starting settings are:

  • Manual Mode
  • Auto White Balance
  • F11
  • 1/500s
  • ISO 80 

Shooting Wide Angle

Remember that shutter speed controls the amount of ambient light in the photograph. The faster the shutter speed, the less light in the background. This is important primarily when shooting wide angle with a strobe. Zoom the camera all the way out and get closer to your subject for best lighting. Shooting with a wet wide lens* allows you to get a wider field of view while being very close to your subject and is recommended for the best wide angle shots.

Best Wide Angle Starting Settings, with a Strobe:

  • Manual Mode
  • Auto White Balance
  • F6.3
  • 1/125s
  • ISO 80
  • Camera on Forced Flash (not auto or it may not flash!)
  • Strobe on TTL (auto controls) or Manual with Preflash (adjust power as needed)

*Some wet wide lenses may vignette on the RX100 VI (dark corners), if this is the case zoom in as little as possible until the vignetting is gone.

Use strobe power to control the light on your subject, adjust shutter speed to control the light in the background.

Shooting Wide Angle with Ambient Light:

  • Adjust your aperture and shutter speed from the settings above to properly expose the foreground (ie: let in more light).
  • Shoot with the sun behind you for better colors and less shadows.

For shooting creatie wide-angle such as a sunburst or silhouette, stop down the aperture to F11 and/or increase your shutter speed to 1/1000s or faster. This will decrease the light entering the camera and help freeze the water to capture stunning sun rays.

Conclusion

The release of the RX100 VI presents new and exciting opportunities for the compact underwater photographer in an ever-developing field. Its super macro capability is unparalleled in the macro world, especially when paired with wet macro lenses. Accordingly, improved autofocus makes shooting macro a breeze. And when this AF is paired with the RX100 VI’s burst mode, the camera becomes a formidable tool for quick-action pelagic photography. To top it off, the enhanced 4K video capability is enticing for super-macro video shooters and photographers looking to expand their artform into the real of video.

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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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Olympus introduces new technologies in its updated flagship camera with exciting implications for underwater photography
By Nirupam Nigam

Olympus OM-D E-M1X Camera Announced!

Nirupam Nigam
Olympus introduces new technologies in its updated flagship camera with exciting implications for underwater photography

The rumors are true! After two years of anticipation, Olympus has introduced a major update of their flagship camera with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X – blurring the line between micro four thirds systems and larger professional cameras. This new model introduces a tantalizing glimpse of an array of new photographic technologies that will be increasingly common in years to come. Some of the most innovative of these features include AI-based intelligent subject detection autofocus, handheld ultra-high resolution (50 MP) shooting, 5-axis in-body image stabilization with up to 7.5 shutter speed steps compensation, weatherproofing, live neutral density filter (in-camera), PRO capture electronic shutter, dual battery slots, and dual UHS-II SD card slots. The implications for underwater photography could be tremendous. However, only time and testing will tell. 

Although Olympus has geared the OM-D E-M1X towards sports and wildlife photographers with new features, an increase in physical size and price has rendered the camera almost without a specific niche. This can be a blessing if you’re an avid Olympus user looking to upgrade professionally or a curse if you are looking to purchase a new professional system at this price point.

For underwater photographers, the E-M1X’s upgrades have the potential to significantly expand the artistic horizons of mirrorless users. Improved image stabilization and the in-camera neutral density filters have the potential to improve long-exposure underwater photographs. Handheld ultra-high resolution shooting could yield echelons of detail never before attained by four thirds systems. We can’t wait to get this camera in the water and see what it really can do!

U.S. Retail Price: $2,999.99 - Available February, 2019


 

Purchase the Olympus OM-D E-M1X at Bluewater Photo

 

 


Jump to section:

Key Features     |     Upgrades from the OM-D E-M1 MK II    |   

 In-Depth Look at Features     |    Underwater Photography and Video     | 

   Best Lenses    |    Underwater Housings    |    Conclusion    |   Underwater Photos


Olympus OM-D E-M1X Key Features

  • 20.4 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor

  • TWO TruPic VIII Dual Quad Core Processors 

  • 121 point cross-type (Dual F.A.S.T - Contrast and Phase Detection) autofocus

  • AI-based intelligent subject detection autofocus

  • 5-axis image stabilization with up to 7.5 shutter speed steps compensation

  • 50 MP High-Res Shot Mode (Handheld)

  • ISO range of 64-25600

  • 1/8000 high speed mechanical shutter

  • 1/250 shutter sync for flash

  • 15 fps sequential shooting with mechanical shutter/60 fps sequential shooting with silent electronic shutter

  • PRO Capture Lag-Free Electronic Shutter Mode

  • Focus Bracketing and Stacking

  • 4K Cinema Video (4096x2160) at 24 fps (max rate 237 Mbps)

  • 4K Video (3840x2160) at 30/25/24 fps with OM-Log Mode

  • FHD video up to 1080/120p

  • Dual SD card slots that support UHS-II cards

  • Dual hand-grip battery slots and batteries

  • Vertical grip

  • Extensively weather sealed (Dust, splash, and freezeproof) – IPX1 rating

  • 400,000 shot shutter life

  • 997g/2.2 lb weight (with 2 batteries and 2 memory cards), 144.4mm X 146.8mm X 75.4mm

Olympus OM-D E-MX1 Key Upgrades from OM-D E-M1 Mk II

  • TWO TruPic VIII Dual Quad Core Processors (upgraded from one)

  • TWO SD card slots that support UHS-II cards (upgraded from one)

  • TWO hand-grip battery slots and batteries (upgraded from one)

  • Vertical grip

  • AI-based intelligent subject detection autofocus

  • Live neutral density filter (in-camera) – hand held!

  • 5-axis image stabilization with up to 7.5 EV compensation

  • 50 MP High-Res mode is now hand held!

  • Extensively weather sealed (Dust, splash, and freezeproof) – IPX1 rating

  • 120 fps in full HD video upgraded from 60fps

  • Olympus’s first Log video profile – OM-Log

  • Improved autofocus targeting for video

  • Increased electronic viewfinder magnification

  • Field Sensor System: GPS, barometer, compass, and temperature sensors

An In-Depth Look at these New Features

AI based intelligent subject detection autofocus. OM-Log. Live ND filter. Olympus packed the OM-D E-M1X full of cutting-edge technology (and a few techy buzzwords to go with it).  As an underwater photographer, it is important to break down each of these new features and their implications on underwater photography and videography. Because this camera has yet to be fully released, one can only guess at the full underwater capability of these features. All signs point to even more potential than the OM-D E-M1 Mk II!

 

Who needs one when you can have two?

Olympus clearly seems to think that having two of something is the best solution to a problem. This is most apparent in the E-M1X’s large increase in size. It now has two batteries housed in two hand-grip battery slots. This means lots of battery life which is great, but also almost twice the weight (an increase from 574 g to 997 g). Extra battery life means more time for taking more photos. In order to accommodate for a need for storage space, the E-M1X now has two UHS-II slots. This will be welcomed by sports photographers and wildlife photographers who rely on quick burst shooting and processing. To efficiently process all this data, Olympus decided to add an additional processor to the mix. With double the battery power, storage space, and processing power, the E-M1X has a very sturdy foundation quick-action photographers.

A.I. Autofocus

It looks like artificial intelligence has taken ahold of Olympus mirrorless systems as well. Despite having the same AF, capability as the E-M1 MK II, the E-M1X has had its algorithm updated to detect subjects using machine learning. The E-M1X can use data from the live view and recently captured images to better detect and lock-in on subjects. Although not relevant for underwater photographers – the E-M1X can also track autofocus in automobiles, trains, and planes. We hope that future models will also be able to track people, wildlife, and most importantly – fish! For video, face and eye detection has been significantly improved.

 

Image Stabilization

The E-M1X’s image stabilization is where the Olympus is really pushing the boundaries of photography. With 5-axis stabilization and an improved 7.5 shutter speed stops (up from 6.5) of compensation, taking low-light, hand-held photos could not be easier. This will be particularly useful in underwater photography and video where the 3-dimensional environment is always in motion. The E-M1X’s improved stabilization is also the basis for its ultra-high resolution and neutral density capabilities. 

Live Neutral Density Filters

The Live ND mode is a new feature that allows you to take long exposure images without a ND filter or tripod. To create this effect, the camera compiles multiple frames together to give the impression of a slow shutter speed photograph. This could have very interesting implications for underwater photography. 

 

Ultra High-Resolution (50 MP) Mode

Perhaps the biggest limitation of the E-M1X is its large physical size and small micro four thirds sensor. Olympus tries to make up for this with its 50 megapixel mode where it takes 8 photos and compiles them into a 50 MP photo. This works in both RAW and JPG and can also be used to create a 25 MP photo. With the E-M1 MK II, this could only be done with a tripod. But with improved image stabilization, high-res mode can be done handheld! This means that it may finally be useful underwater. 

 

Weather Sealing

As discussed before, the E-M1X is significantly larger than the E-M1 MK II. However, it is also weather sealed to an IPX 1 rating. This mean that drops of water sprinkling for 10 minutes should have no affect on it. In the event of a flood at depth, this could save the camera in the right circumstances. The E-M1X is touted to be splash proof, dust proof, and freeze proof. It even has a super sonic wave filter on the sensor for dust reduction.

 

Video Improvements

Although video is much the same with the E-M1X as it was with the E-M1 Mk II, there have been a couple nice improvements with the system. Full HD (1080 p) can now be shot at 120 fps – great for high-speed videography. The most significant improvement is the addition of Olympus’s new Log profile – OM-Log. This will be great for capturing more detail in shadows and highlights to be brought out in post processing. 

Implications for Underwater Photography

The Olympus OM-D E-M1X has the potential to do great things in the realm of underwater photography. Improvements in autofocus and image stabilization hint at a new beginning for pelagic, lowlight, and long exposure underwater photography. Although artificial intelligent tracking autofocus is relatively limited when it comes to animal subjects, it has been fairly successful with automobiles, planes, and trains. It stands to reason that AI autofocus will soon be expanded to other subjects (hopefully functioning underwater as well). Whether or not a firmware update is available in the future – only time will tell. Similar tracking abilities, however, are already found in competing cameras, so functionally the E-M1X’s autofocus is good but not the greatest. The AF improvement will definitely be welcomed by those who like to photograph quick moving, pelagic subjects such as sharks, rays, sea lions, etc. It is worth noting that increased processing power and storage space will also be welcomed by this type of photographers.

Image stabilization is really where the E-M1X shines. Beyond improvements in general underwater photography and videography, the high-res (50 MP) mode may now be used underwater. This could be great for macro photographer looking to capture minute details and small subjects such as nudibranchs, reef fish, and invertebrates. The live neutral density mode may also be a useful feature underwater. Because this feature can also be hand held, it might be used to capture interesting “long exposure” perspectives of moving subjects and reefs underwater. 

The camera’s build is both a bane and a boon for underwater photographers. For those looking for a small micro four thirds set-up, this is not your camera. However, compact photographers and mirrorless photographers looking to upgrade professionally should definitely consider it. The E-M1X is still smaller than larger Nikon and Canon DSLR systems. The increased battery life and storage space is a nice improvement as it makes it less likely that there will be a need to change out batteries or cards between dives. Weather sealing also helps protect the camera from flooding situations and splashes from waves and wind.

Implications for Underwater Video

Although there are not many improvements in the E-M1X for underwater video, there are still a couple notable changes that could affect underwater videography. An improved in-body image stabilization will certainly improve underwater video quality. Full HD at 120 fps is create for videographers shooting quick subjects. As with other Log profiles, Olympus’s newly introduce OM-Log profile is applied to the color profile before compression. This means in situations of high dynamic range (like underwater), highlights and shadows will retain more details that can be brought out in post processing. 

 

Best Lenses for Underwater Use

The Olympus OM-D E-M1X features a standard Micro 4/3 lens mount, allowing it to use all Olympus 4/3 lenses, plus those from 3rd parties like Panasonic. Below are our recommendations for fisheye, wide-angle and macro lenses.

Fisheye Lenses

There are two choices for fisheye lenses, ideal for capturing reefscapes, big animals, wrecks, close-focus wide-angle and other large underwater scenes. The new Olympus 8mm Pro fisheye offers the best image quality and lightning fast speed of f/1.8. The Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens has long been our go-to lens, delivering great photos with a full 180 degrees of coverage and widest aperture of f/3.5. Both lenses have a very close focusing distance, you can practically focus on the dome port!

If you are unsure about getting a fisheye lens because of its limited topside use, the good news is that Olympus' latest firmware for the E-M1X includes in-body distortion correction for the Olympus Fisheye lens. You can view the effects of the distortion correction in Live View while taking your photos, allowing you to use the fisheye lens as a wide angle lens as well.

Wide-Angle & Versatile Lenses

The E-M1X has many different wide-angle and mid-range zoom lenses to suit every underwater photographer. For wide-angle shooting, helping capture subjects like whales, sharks and sea lions, the newer Olympus 7-14mm Pro lens and the classic Panasonic 7-14mmare your choices. Similar to the fisheye lenses from these brands, the Olympus will deliver slightly better image quality, but at a higher price. Wide-angle shooters will love the Olympus or Panasonic 7-14mm; choose Olympus for the best possible optic quality. The Olympus 9-18mm lens is a great choice for those on a budget who still want a good wide-angle lens.

Kit lenses are an affordable way to get your camera in the water while also providing mid-range focal lengths ideal for shooting models in a pool. The Olympus 12-50mm is a great choice for ocean shooting, with a nice zoom range as well as built-in macro mode for capturing those small subjects.

The Panasonic 12-35mm F/2.8 lens is popular for underwater videographers, as it is a great focal length for underwater video, and the bright F/2.8 aperture is important for video. The Olympus 12-40mm Pro captures high quality images with an F/2.8 aperture and professional level glass and is another great option for underwater videography.

Macro Lens

The best option for shooting macro with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, is the Olympus 60mm macro lens. This lens delivers sharp 1:1 macro images and can be used with wet diopters outside your port in order to magnify your smallest subjects into great supermacro images. If that lens is too much, or you like shooting slightly larger macro, we recommend the Panasonic 45mm macro. This lens is a bit more money than the 60mm, but offers more flexibility in larger subjects. However, it is not ideal for super macro.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1X Underwater Housings

A wide range of housing options for the E-M1X will be available from most major underwater housing manufacturers. Housings will likely be available from Olympus, Sea & Sea, Aquatica, Ikelite, and Nauticam. Natuicam offers the top-of-the-line and most ergonomic option - often coming at a price. Sea & Sea and Aquatica make solid mid-range options. Ikelite and Olympus are excellent choices for photographers looking for a budget housing.  

Compatability

 

The Olympus OM-D E-MX will not be compatible with the E-M1 MK II housings due to differences in body size. 

 

Conclusion

The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is a unique addition to Olympus’s OM-D micro four thirds mirrorless camera line. Its new features have the potential to yield dividends for underwater photographers. With an already wide selection of high-quality micro four thirds lenses, excellent dynamic range and high ISO performance, fast AF, 4K video, and great image stabilization, recent updates make this camera even more enticing. The handheld high-res (50 MP) mode and live ND modes have the potential to transform macro, wide-angle, and long exposure underwater photography. Improved AF, storage space, battery life, and processing power will be cherished by quick pelagic photographers. Olympus’s new OM-Log profile is sure to welcomed by videographers. 

However, an increase in size and price exacerbate what was already a sore spot on the E-M1 MK II. Being significantly larger than the MK II, the E-M1X still has a small sensor relative to its size. The price leaves it competing with low-end DSLR and other high-end mirrorless set ups such as the Sony A7R III and Nikon Z7. But if the size and price can be overlooked, the OM-D E-M1X is a modern camera that could open up new types of photography with the help of cutting-edge technological improvements. 

Underwater Photos (From E-M1 MK II)

Because the Olympus OM-D E-M1X has not yet been released for testing, here are some photos from the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK II:

Sample Wide Angle Photos

A member of the UWPG community, Lynn Wu, shared a selection of fantastic wide angle photos taken with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

Sample Macro Photos

 

The Olympus O-MD E-M1X is available now at Bluewater Photo! 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

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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Sony introduces its next mirrorless Alpha line camera - the a6400
By Nirupam Nigam

Sony a6400 Announced!

Nirupam Nigam
Sony introduces its next mirrorless Alpha line camera - the a6400

Sony has recently announced its newest model of Alpha line APS-C (crop sensor) mirrorless camera – the Sony a6400. The name might cause a little confusion as the Sony a6400 is actually the next camera in line after the Sony a6300 and Sony a6500. However, an in depth look at the specs indicates that the a6400 is more of an upgrade to the a6300 than the a6500 – so the name makes sense.

Among Sony’s wide range of mirrorless systems, the a6400 is a great option for photographers looking to take high-quality photos with high-quality lenses but desire a lighter price point and a more compact system. Being an APS-C mirrorless camera, the a6400 is significantly smaller and cheaper than the popular full-frame mirrorless Sony A7R III. As an E-mount camera, the a6400 is compatible with all the excellent lenses currently available to other E-mount systems such as the a7, a9, and NEX series.

U.S. Retail Price: $899 (for the body only) – Available February, 2019


 

Purchase the Sony a6400 at Bluewater Photo

 


 

Jump to section:

Key Features     |     Upgrades from the a6300    |    For Underwater Photography    |    For Underwater Video

Best Lenses    |    Underwater Housings    |    Conclusion    |   Underwater Photos

 

Sony a6400 Key Features 

  • 24.2 MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor

  • Latest BIONZ X Processor

  • Lightning quick autofocus acquisition of 0.02 sec

  • 425 phase detection contrast-detection AF points covering approximately 84% of image area

  • Real-time Tracking for object tracking

  • High-speed continuous shooting at up to 11 fps

  • Improved buffer size for JPEG and RAW

  • Advanced High-Resolution 4K with Fast Hybrid Autofocus

  • Interval recording for time-lapse videos

  • 180-degree fully tiltable LCD touch screen

* View the full details for each of these highlights on the Sony a6400 website.

 

Sony a6400 Upgrades from the Sony a6300

  • More of a “sports oriented” focus system – better real-time autofocus tracking and better eye detection autofocus

  • Better low-light autofocus – working range of EV -2 to 20 (expanded from -1 to 20)

  • New-generation BONZ X processor

  • Upper ISO limit increased from a default of ISO 25,600 to ISO 32,000

  • Buffer capacity almost doubled – Sony claims 99 extra fine JPEGs, 46 raw files, or 44 raw+JPEG

  • Support for HD proxy video recording 

  • Can now shoot video with Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), S-Log2, or S-Log 3 picture profiles for HDR-ready footage

  • Loss of MP4 file format for video shooters – only XAVCS and AVCHD formats available

  • 180-degree fully tiltable LCD touch screen – great for vlogging (screen flips up, not to side)

Sony a6400 for Underwater Photography

The Sony a6400 is a solid upgrade from the Sony a6300; Each upgrade will have a different implication for underwater photography. With improvements in real-time autofocus tracking, image processing, and buffer capacity, it is clear that Sony intended to build-up the a6400’s “sports photography” capability. This will come as a godsend to any underwater photographer that specializes in shooting large, quick pelagic animals. The better low-light autofocus is an overall improvement that benefit all underwater photographers – especially those shooting in cold-water, low-light conditions. 

Despite these upgrades, there are some real benefits to shooting the Sony a6500 over the a6400. The a6500 has built-in image stabilization (IS) that is not available in the a6400. Built-in IS can significantly improves image quality when taking photos underwater in a 3D environment with a lot of movement. The a6500 also has better support in its housings for external battery packs. The a6300’s batter life is good for a mirrorless camera at 350-400 shots, but not as good as a DSLR. It stands to reason that the a6400’s battery-life will be similar. It would be useful to have external battery packs in the housing so the battery would not need to be changed after every dive or every other dive.

 

Sony a6400 for Underwater Video

The Sony a6400 is a good choice among mirrorless cameras for use in videography. The video capability is not very different from the a6300. The a6400 will be able to shoot up to 4k resolution at 30 frames per second with no pixel binning. 1080p can be shot up to 120fps – great for quick action video. The biggest upgrade will make HDR shooters happy – the a6400 can now shoot video with Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), S-Log2, or S-Log 3 picture profiles. HD proxy video recording is also a new feature that enables videographers to capture lower quality footage for streamlined editing and replace it with full resolution footage during rendering. It is important to note that the a6400 will no longer support an MP4 file format – only XAVCS and AVCHD.

 

Sony a6400 Best Lenses

Macro

Standard / Mid-Range

Wide-Angle

Fisheye

Sony a6400 Underwater Housings

A wide range of housing options for the a6400 will be available from most major underwater housing manufacturers. Housings will likely be available from Aquatica, Fantasea, Ikelite, and Nauticam. Natuicam offers the top-of-the-line and most ergonomic option - often coming at a price. Fantasea and Aquatica make solid mid-range options. Ikelite is an excellent choice for photographers looking for a budget housing.  


 Compatability

The Sony a6400 will likely not be compatible with the a6300 or a6500 housings due to differences in body size. 

 

Conclusion

As with the a6300 and a6500 before it, the Sony a6400 will likely be an excellent APS-C mirrorless camera - smaller than DSLR's and increasingly popular full-frame mirrorless systems, but still yielding excellent image quality and focus speeds. Sony E-mount lenses are becoming more versatile and increasingly excellent in their image quality. If you want most of the quality found in Sony a7 systems but balk at the size and price tag then the Sony a6400 is for you.

Should you upgrade from the Sony a6300? That could go either way. If you tend to shoot large and quick pelagic animals requiring a large buffer and quick focus tracking, then yes - an upgrade is a good idea. However, if you are looking for an all around improvement in image quality, battery life, and video, you still may want to take a look at the Sony a6500 over the Sony a6400. 

Standing alone the Sony a6400 packs a powerful punch. With lightning fast focus, upgraded processing, support for hybrid log gamma, 425 auto-focus points, Sony E-mount lenses, and 24 MP - you really can't go wrong whether you're taking underwater photo or video.

 

Underwater Photos

Because the Sony a6400 has not yet been released for testing, here are some photos from the Sony a6300 and Sony a6500 for comparison:

Sony a6300

Sony a6500

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

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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Nikon enters the mirrorless market with their new Z-series, featuring a full-frame sensor, some great specs and a bold lens mount redesign. This pre-review details the implications for underwater photography.
By Bryan Chu

Nikon Z Series Camera Pre-Review

Bryan Chu
Nikon enters the mirrorless market with their new Z-series, featuring a full-frame sensor, some great specs and a bold lens mount redesign. This pre-review details the implications for underwater photography.

Nikon just announced their first foray into the mirrorless market, with their new Z-series cameras. They are releasing two models, each with the same camera body size and full-frame sensor size, but with different sensor resolutions and other technical specs. The Z7, which Nikon calls "The Perfectionist" is a 45.7 MP beast with a full-frame sensor and "revolutionary autofocus". The Z6, which Nikon calls "The All-Arounder" is a 25.4 MP camera with its own impressive array of specs, and a significantly lower price tag. Both cameras will be available at the end of September.

With Canon nipping at Nikon's heels with its new mirrorless Canon EOS R, and the recent releases of the Sony A7R III and Nikon D850, underwater photographers will have many tough decisions to face in coming months. 

Jump to a Section

New Lens Mount System   |   Lens Options for Underwater Photography

Z6 and Z7 Key Specs  |   Z6 vs High-End Crop Sensor Mirrorless Cameras

Z7 vs Top Full-Frame DSLR/Mirrorless Options  |   Conclusion 

 Underwater Housing Options   |  Where and When Can I Get These?

 

Quick Intro - 4 Amazing Things about the Z6/Z7

There are two things you need to know right off the bat about the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras:

1) They will work with most exisitng Nikon FX lenses (with an adapter), and the auto-focus will be good. This is huge

2) Built-in 5-axis image stabilizaiton. Now all of your lenses are stabilized, and the ones that already has IS built-in are even better. This is a big differentiator from the Canon EOS R mirrorless camera.

3) The new lens mount supports lenses with an aperture of F 0.95, that's a lot of light!

4) The Z7 has auto-focus capability over 90% of the screen, that is a huge improvement over existing dSLRs.

New Lens Mount System

One of the big advantages being touted for this new system is Nikon's new "Z Mount", which has a 17% higher diameter than Nikon's classic full-frame F Mount (55mm vs 47 mm), as well as a shorter flange focal distance (16mm vs 17.5mm). These will allow for Z-series lenses to be wider, letting in more light and allowing a max aperture size of f/0.95. Other benefits include improved edge-to-edge image sharpness and virtually no distortion, even with the aperture wide open. Additionally, it will allow for the lenses to be smaller and more compact than their standard F Mount full-frame lenses.

Note also that Nikon is releasing an FTZ Adaptor which will allow F Mount lenses to be used on the Z6 and Z7 camera bodies, (though of course when using that you will miss out on the advantages of the Z mount). Nikon has announced that the FTZ Adaptor is fully compatible with 90 lenses, and 360 lenses in total can be used with it. (Full AF/AE supported when using FX or DX AF-S Type G/D/E, AF-P type G/E, AF-I type D and AF-S/AF-I Teleconverters). Of course, it remains to be seen how the FTZ adaptor will work with 3rd party F-mount lenses popular for underwater use (eg Sigma, Tokina).

Lens Options for Underwater Photography

As this is a new lens system, Nikon only has a few lenses available. However, they have mapped out their offerings for the next three years, which is quite informative.

As can be seen here, although there are a lot of exciting lenses for topside use, many are prime lenses in mid focal ranges so not well suited to underwater photography. And although there are some nice wide angle zooms(14-30mm f/4 and 14-24mm f/2.8), there is no fisheye lens and no macro lens planned for at least the next couple of years. Additionally, Nikon has not released their Z mount design to 3rd party lens manufacturers, and it may be some time until Z mount lenses are seen from popular underwater photography lens manufacturers like Tokina and Sigma. So that means that, for the time being, much of the underwater use of these Z series cameras may require use of the FTZ lens mount adaptor.

Z6 and Z7 Key Specs

Here's a quick breakdown of key specs for the Z6 and Z7. 

  

Nikon Z6 

Nikon Z7 

Price 

$1,999.95

$3,399.95

Sensor Size

35.9 mm  x 23.9 mm

35.9 mm  x 23.9 mm

Effective Pixels 

24.5 MP

45.7 MP

ISO 

100-51200 (Expands to 50)

64-25600

(Expands to 32)

Image Stabilization 

5 Axis image sensor shift, up to 5 stops

5 Axis image sensor shift, up to 5 stops

Autofocus 

Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist, 273 pts

Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist, 493 pts

Flash Sync Speed 

1/200

1/200

Burst Shooting 

12 fps

9 fps

Movie Modes 

4k @ 30/25/24 fps. 1080 @ 120/100/60/50/30/25/24 fps

4k @ 30/25/24 fps. 1080 @ 120/100/60/50/30/25/24 fps

LCD Screen 

3.2” tilting, 2.1 million dots, touch screen

3.2” tilting, 2.1 million dots, touch screen

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)  

100% coverage, 0.80x magnification, 3.69 mln dots

100% coverage, 0.80x magnification, 3.69 mln dots

Environmentally Sealed 

Yes

Yes

Battery Life (CIPA) 

310

330

Weight (inc batt) 

675 g (1.49 lb / 23.9 oz)

675 g (1.49 lb / 23.9 oz)

Dimensions 

134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm (5.3 x 4 x 2.7″)

134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm (5.3 x 4 x 2.7″)

 

The most important distinctions between the two cameras are the sensor resolution and autofocus - both are markedly better on the Z7. Additionally, the Z7 has a native ISO of 64, expandable down to 32, which is better than the Z6's native ISO of 100 (expandable down to 50). Other than that, the cameras are almost the same, including the same physical dimensions and weights. 

Z6 vs High End Crop-Sensor Mirrorless Options

The Nikon Z6 has very similar specs to the top crop-sensor mirrorless options for underwater shooting, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the Panasonic GH5. (Check out our detailed UWPG reviews of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and Panasonic GH5 for more info). Perhaps the most important distinction is that the Z6 has a full-frame sensor, which makes its price point quite compelling.

  

Nikon Z6

Panasonic GH5 

Olympus E-M1 Mark II 

Price 

$1,999.95

$1,999

$1,699

Sensor Size 

35.9 mm  x 23.9 mm

17.3 mm x 13 mm

17.4 mm  x 13 mm

Effective Pixels 

24.5 MP

20 MP

20 MP

Max Resolution 

6048 x 4024

5184 x 3888

5184 x 3888

ISO 

Auto, 100-51200 (Expands to 50)

Auto, 200-25600 (Expands to 100)

Auto, 200-25600

(Expands to 64)

Image Stabilization 

5 Axis, up to 5 stops shake reduction

5 Axis, up to 5 stops with compatible lenses

5 Axis, up to 5.5 stops; 6.5 with compatible lenses

Autofocus 

Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist, 273 pts

Contrast Detection, 225 pts

Contrast & Phase Detection, 121 pts

Flash Sync Speed 

1/200

1/250

1/250

Burst Shooting 

12 fps

12 fps

60 fps electronic / 15 fps mechanical

Movie Modes 

4k @ 30 fps. 1080 @ 120 fps

Cinema 4K @ 24 fps, 4K @ 60 fps, 1080 @ 60 fps

Cinema 4K @ 24 fps, 4K @ 30 fps, 1080 @ 60 fps

LCD Screen Size 

3.2” tilting

3.2” fully articulated

3” fully articulated

Screen Dots 

2,100,000

1,620,000

1,037,000

Touch Screen 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) Coverage 

100% coverage, 0.80x magnification, 3.69 mln dots

100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 3.68 mln dots

100% coverage, 0.74x magnification, 2.36 mln dots

Storage Types 

Single XQD

Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC

Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC

Environmentally Sealed 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery Life 

310

410

440

Weight 

675 g (1.49 lb / 23.9 oz)

725 g (1.60 lb / 25.57 oz)

574 g (1.27 lb / 20.25 oz)

Dimensions 

134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm (5.3 x 4 x 2.7″)

139 x 98 x 87 mm (5.47 x 3.86 x 3.43″)

134 x 91 x 67 mm (5.28 x 3.58 x 2.64″)

Advantages

The main advantages of the Z6 are a much larger sensor size, higher resolution, and faster autofocus.

Although the resolution of the Z6 is somewhat better than that of the GH5 and E-M1 Mark II, the full-frame Z6 sensor is significantly larger. This means it has much larger pixels than either of these competitors, giving it significant advantages in dynamic range and low light performance. The larger sensor also means that for a given f-stop value, the depth of field on the Z6 will be shallower than the GH5 or E-M1 Mark II. This can make shooting macro, where a large depth of field is often desired, more difficult. In order to compensate, the Z6 will have to use a higher aperture to get the same depth of field, making lighting more challenging.

The autofocus will also make the Z6 significantly better at getting action shots and finding focus in low light conditions. The use of an XQD card, instead of an SD card, provides advantages in processing speed and storage size, though some may find it a disadvantage that they can't use their existing SD cards. 

The camera body is almost identical in weight and dimensions to that of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, coming in a bit heavier and a bit thicker, but not by much. 

Limitations

The major downsides to the Nikon Z6 are the relatively poor battery life and the limited lens selection (unless using the FTZ converter). With 310 shots per charge, it has less than 75% of the battery life of the E-M1 Mark II, meaning lots of battery swaps between dives. Although the flash sync speed is slower, the lower minimum ISO makes up for this when wanting to stop down for bright sunball shots. Only having one card slot will be seen by some as a an additional disadvantage. 

Although the Z mount will allow Z series lenses to be smaller than equivalent DSLR lenses, the lenses still have to be made for a full-frame sensor. This means that they will, for the most part, be larger than their mirrorless micro-four-thirds equivalents. For example, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 is a bit larger and heavier than the Olympus Pro 12-40 (24-80mm full frame equivalent) f/2.8 lens, meaning the upcoming Nikkor Z 24-70 f/2.8 lens should be significantly bulkier than its Olympus "equivalent."

 

Z7 vs Top Full Frame Mirrorless/DSLR Options

The Z7 has similar specs to the Nikon D850 and Sony A7RIII, the leading full-frame options for underwater photography. (Check out the UWPG reviews for the Nikon D850 and Sony A7RIII, as well as a head-to-head comparison of the D850 vs the A7RIII). 

  

Nikon Z7

Sony A7RIII 

Nikon D850 

Price 

$3,399.95

$2,999

$3,299.95

Sensor Size 

35.9 mm  x 23.9 mm

35.9 mm x 24 mm

35.9 mm x 23.9 mm

Effective Pixels 

45.7 MP

42.4 MP

45.7 MP

Max Resolution 

8256 x 5504

7952 x 5304

8256 x 5504

ISO 

Auto, 64-25600 (Expands to 32-102400)

Auto, 100-32000 (Expands to 50-102400)

Auto, 64-25600 (Expands to 32-102400)

Image Stabilization 

5 Axis, up to 5 stops shake reduction

5 Axis, up to 5.5 stops shake reduction

No in-body stabilization

Autofocus System 

Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist, 493 pts

399 phase detection /425 contrast detection pts*

153 AF pts (99 of which are cross-type)

Autofocus Working Range

-4EV

-3EV

-4EV

Flash Sync Speed 

1/200

1/250

1/250

Burst Shooting 

9 fps

10 fps

7 fps (9 with battery grip and D5 battery)

Movie Modes 

4k @ 30 fps, 1080 @ 120 fps

4k @ 30 fps, 1080 @ 120 fps

4k @ 30 fps, 1080 @ 120 fps

LCD Screen Size 

3.2” tilting

2.95” tilting

3.2” tilting

Screen Dots 

2,100,000

2,100,000

2,359,000

Touch Screen 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Viewfinder 

Electronic, 100% coverage, 0.80x mag, 3.69 mln dots

Electronic, 100% coverage, 0.78x mag, 3.69 mln dots

SLR, 100% coverage, 0.75x magnification

Storage Types 

Single XQD

Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC (1x UHS-II/I and 1x UHS-I)

Dual (1x SD, 1x XQD) SD/SDHC/SDXC/XQD

Environmentally Sealed 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery Life 

330

530 (VF)/650 (LCD)

1840

Weight 

675 g (1.49 lb / 23.9 oz)

657 g (1.45 lb / 23.2 oz)

1005 g (2.22 lb / 35.45 oz)

Dimensions 

134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm (5.3 x 4 x 2.7″)

126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7 mm (5 x 3.88 x 3”)

146 x 124 x 78.5 mm (5.8 x 4.9 x 3.1”)

 

*Although the specs for the A7RIII look strongest on paper, in testing we found the Nikon D850 autofocus out-performed it.

Advantages

The main advantage of the Nikon Z7 is getting D850 level performance, especially for autofocus, with the smaller size and weight of the A7RIII and smaller lenses than would be found on a DSLR. Additionally, the in-body 5-axis image stabilization will be very useful for shooting video, as compared to the D850's lack of in-body stabilization.

Using the FTZ adaptor gives the Z7 access to most of the great wide angle and macro lenses the D850 can use. Though also note that the A7RIII can use the metabones adaptor to get access to Canon lenses; this means the wide angle lens options should be roughly equivalent between the Z7 and the A7RIII, but the macro options may be better for the Z7.

The use of an XQD card instead of an SD card provides benefits in processing speed and storage size, though some may find it a disadvantage that they can't use their existing SD cards.

Having lenses with wider maximum aperture, that have improved edge-to-edge sharpness even when shooting wide open will be quite useful for underwater photographers shooting in low light conditions, using ambient light shots, or wanting really shallow depth of field. 

Limitations

The battery life of the Z7 is severely lacking when compared to the A7RIII, and especially the D850. It may mean changing the battery out after every dive, which is a pain. Additionally, it will need to be seen if the autofocus system can live up to the specs and outperform the phenomenal AF system of the D850. And the camera having only one card slot, even if it is XQD instead of SD, will be a concern for people who are used to using two cards.

 

Conclusion

The Z series cameras are an exciting development in the world of photography, both for mirrorless and DSLR shooters. Although they don't blow the competition away, they are clearly well placed to be very competitive in the high end crop-sensor mirrorless world and the full frame DSLR/mirrorless world. It will be interesting to see future developments in this space, as the Z mount promises to make better and better full frame image quality available in smaller and smaller mirrorless packages. 

Underwater Housing Options

Housings are currently being released, including the Nauticam Z7 Underwater Housing and the Ikelite Nikon Z7 Underwater Housing. Sea & Sea has also expressed that they will develop a housing. These housings will also work for the Nikon Z6. Ports will be the same ports used for dSLRs, and will support using standard Nikon lenses with the adapter.

 

Nauticam Z7 Underwater Housing

Ikelite Z7 Underwater Housing

Aquatica Z7 Underwater Housing

Sea & Sea Z7 Underwater Housing

 

When and Where Can I Get These?

Check out our sister company Bluewater Photo Store's announcement here. The cameras themselves will be available at the end of September, but stay tuned for what underwater products will be offered on Bluewater Photo. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan is an associate editor for the Underwater Photography Guide. He loves any activity that takes him out into nature, and is especially fond of multi-day hiking trips, road trips to National Parks, and diving. Any kind of diving. He discovered the joy of underwater photography on a Bluewater trip to the Sea of Cortez, and after "trial and erroring" his way to some level of proficiency, has been hooked ever since. He has not done nearly as much diving as he would like, but has so far taken underwater photos in a diverse range of places, including BC, the Sea of Cortez, Greenland/Iceland, Northern Norway, the Galapagos and French Polynesia.

After working as a chemical engineer at a major oil & gas corporation for 9 years, Bryan finally had enough (and it didn't help that he was living in landlocked Edmonton, Canada with frigid winter temperatures and no real diving to speak of). He and his girlfriend decided to pack up their things and travel the world; they started their journey mid-2018 and will visit a number of great dive locations along the way. He is very excited to expand his underwater photography experience and skills while experiencing new cultures and exciting parts of the world. Though he is also a bit worried about the following equation that has so far defined his dive travels: Corporate job ($$) = Dive travel ($) + Underwater Photography ($). Taking away the left side of that equation seems like it might put things a bit out of balance. But as he reasons, what's the point in life if you can't take some big risks and have some fun along the way?

You can find more of his photos on Instagram at @bryandchu and check out his travel and relationship blog at www.bryanandlisa.ca

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

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

 


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.

 


Sony makes updates to the original RX100 V with their new RX100 VA model
By Bryan Chu

Sony RX100 VA (RX100M5A) Announced

Bryan Chu
Sony makes updates to the original RX100 V with their new RX100 VA model

 

See our full Sony RX100 V and RX100 VA review here!

Sony recently announced they are updating the RX100 V camera with a new version called the RX100 VA, which has some impressive upgrades including a new processor. This is not a replacement or upgrade to the RX100 VI, but rather a unique hybrid of the popular RX100 V combined with the new processor, promising the best of both worlds for underwater shooters. It replaces the RX100 V which is no longer available.

Upgrades from the RX100 V

  • Image processor updated, which will make an improvement to image quality
  • Shooting in 24 fps burst mode with full AF/AE (auto-focus/auto-exposure), the buffer size has been increased from 150 jpegs to 233 (50% improvement)
  • "My Menu" functionality allowing you to register menu items for instant recall and customize menus. You can also make button assignments for up to 30 functions to retool the camera interface for your shooting preferences.
  • "Zone" added as an option for autofocus area
  • Display lag time in EVF (electronic viewfinder) reduced
  • Proxy movie mode (captures 720p footage alongside 4K capture)
  • Custom button can now control one of 62 camera functions, instead of the previous 44
  • High precision eye autofocus feature (improvement over original)
  • A number of other functionality improvements

Implications for Underwater Photography

The updated image processor, with a potential for improvements to image quality, is of course a nice thing to have. It also means that file storage underwater could be more seamless with less lagtime. 

As far as the burst mode buffer upgrade, unless you tend to shoot fast action in ambient light conditions or with video lights, and run out of buffer with the 150-image size, this change will not affect your underwater photography. It could be useful for topside photography, although 150 images at 24 fps already gives you 6 seconds of continuous burst shooting. But there may be some situations where the extra 3 seconds of continuous burst shooting could help you get the shot you want. And although the reduction in EVF display lag time is nice to have on land, that won't affect underwater shooting as the EVF can't be used underwater.

The changes to menu functionality is another upgrade that is significant for underwater photographers. The ability to customize button assignments should help avoid having to cycle through menus when you have to change settings quickly to adjust for new shots or changing conditions. This will allow for a better shooting experience underwater.

Overall, this update looks more like a firmware update than anything else, and with the exception of the customizable button functionality is not expected to have a noticeable effect on underwater photography functionality. If you are looking to buy an RX100V, this will be the new version available, and there's no reason not to get it. But there might not be much reason to think about upgrading from an existing RX100V - if the advantage of a long lens sounds interesting, it would be better to go for the new Sony RX100 VI.

You can see our detailed review of the original RX100V for more information about this excellent compact camera!

 

RX100 VA Underwater Housings

Since the RX100 VA is the same size as the RX100 V, it will work in the same housings as the RX100 V.

There are six underwater housings available for the Sony RX100 VA. Each have different pros and cons, most importantly around pricing and ergonomics, and all offer a wide range of accessories available through Bluewater Photo.

Nauticam RX100 V/VA Underwater Housing

The Nauticam RX100 V housing is milled from a block of solid aluminum, then hard anodized. The result is a rugged and reliable piece of gear that will stand up to saltwater and the daily rigors of diving. Since the housing accesses all of the camera controls, including the front control ring, the user can take advantage of the enhanced programmability in the RX100 V. The housing also has a 67mm port and can support multiple wet wide angle lens options, including the Nauticam WWL-1.

Purchase the Nauticam RX100 V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V, VA Underwater Housing

As always Recsea housings are made of high quality machined aluminum with excellent controls and full camera functionality. The Recsea housings fit the camera like a glove, offering the smallest housing on the market without losing any functionality. Easy to use, adaptable with many different wet wide angle and macro lenses, and including strobe connections, the Recsea housing is the perfect tool for taking your Sony RX-100 IV or V underwater.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V, VA CW Underwater Housing

Recsea offers a high quality polycarbonate housing for the Sony RX100 IV, which is compatible with the RX100 V. Designed with the same precision engineering as the high quality aluminum RX100 IV Housing the new CW housing comes at a much lower price, great if you are on a budget. The new CW housings come with 67mm threads built in which means you can attach some lenses without an adapter.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Housing

 

Fantasea RX100 V/VA Underwater Housing

The Fantasea Sony RX100 V housing is made of tough plastic, creating a lightweight and sturdy housing. Controls are easy to access and very clearly labeled. The housing is also compatible with flash accessories, plus wide-angle and macro wet lenses and other gear. A cold shoe mount makes it easy to attach a focus light, video light, a GoPro or other accessory. If you are looking for a lower priced housing, this is an excellent choice.

Purchase the Fantasea RX100 V Housing

 

Check out our full Sony RX100 V and RX100 VA review here

 


 

You can order the RX100 VA Camera at Bluewater Photo!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan is an associate editor for the Underwater Photography Guide. He loves any activity that takes him out into nature, and is especially fond of multi-day hiking trips, road trips to National Parks, and diving. Any kind of diving. He discovered the joy of underwater photography on a Bluewater trip to the Sea of Cortez, and after "trial and erroring" his way to some level of proficiency, has been hooked ever since. He has not done nearly as much diving as he would like, but has so far taken underwater photos in a diverse range of places, including BC, the Sea of Cortez, Greenland/Iceland, Northern Norway, the Galapagos and French Polynesia.

After working as a chemical engineer at a major oil & gas corporation for 9 years, Bryan finally had enough (and it didn't help that he was living in landlocked Edmonton, Canada with frigid winter temperatures and no real diving to speak of). He and his girlfriend decided to pack up their things and travel the world; they started their journey mid-2018 and will visit a number of great dive locations along the way. He is very excited to expand his underwater photography experience and skills while experiencing new cultures and exciting parts of the world. Though he is also a bit worried about the following equation that has so far defined his dive travels: Corporate job ($$) = Dive travel ($) + Underwater Photography ($). Taking away the left side of that equation seems like it might put things a bit out of balance. But as he reasons, what's the point in life if you can't take some big risks and have some fun along the way?

You can find more of his photos on Instagram at @bryandchu and check out his travel and relationship blog at www.bryanandlisa.ca

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

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

 


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.

 


Dissecting the world’s best choices in underwater photography
By Nirupam Nigam

The Nikon D850 vs the Sony A7R III for Underwater Photography

Nirupam Nigam
Dissecting the world’s best choices in underwater photography

If underwater photography is the reason you get out of bed in the morning, then no doubt, by now you have realized that the caliber of your artistry is defined by the images you create and not the equipment you use. That being said, having nice equipment certainly helps. Having the best equipment helps even more. Right now, without a doubt, the best cameras available for underwater photography are the Nikon D850 DSLR and the Sony A7R III Mirrorless full frame cameras. 

As can be expected, both cameras are equipped with top of the line resolution, sensors, processing power, dynamic range, etc. But what is most historic about this comparison of cameras is the comparison itself. For the first time, a mirrorless camera is now a direct competitor with a DSLR for the prize of world’s best underwater camera. This isn’t merely a comparison of brands or specs – it’s a comparison of photographic engineering. 

Jump to a Section

Mirrorless vs DSLR   |   What is Top of the Line?   |   Image Quality

Performance   |   Processing Power   |   Focus

Video   |   Ergonomics   |   Lens and Housing Availability

Recommendations Based on Photographic Style

 

The Nikon D850 and Sony A7R III is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Mirrorless or DSLR

Before the release of the D850 and A7R III, mirrorless cameras had been thought of as the bridge between compact cameras and DSLRs. But the development of mirrorless cameras with full frame sensors (instead of crop sensors) introduces a conundrum for hardcore DSLR users. Mirrorless specs are starting to become indistinguishable from full frame DSLR specs. So wherein lies the difference? Well now it’s mostly physical – mirrorless cameras don’t have a reflex mirror and thus have smaller bodies. They are also more effective when using the LCD than DSLRs. That being said, the autofocus and low light sensitivity tends to be better in DSLRs. 

What constitutes as top of the line?

With light speed advances in camera technology, it can often be difficult to determine what constitutes as “top of the line” camera system engineering. Recent focus by industry giants has made it clear that improved resolution, low-light sensitivity, processing power, and autofocus are the centerpiece of recent efforts to improve photographic and videographic technology. Developments in resolution and low-light sensitivity materialize as improvements in image quality. Whereas, developments in processing power and autofocus materialize as improvements a camera’s performance. The world-class image quality and performance of these cameras ultimately results in a versatile tool that can take on almost any underwater photographic situation.

Image Quality

Winner: Tie*

Sensors for a New Age

Image quality is a direct consequence of the performance of a camera’s sensor. The frontiers of image quality were pushed further into the realm of impossibility when both cameras made history as the first DSLR and mirrorless cameras in their respective categories to achieve a DxOMark sensor rating of 100. 

A backlit full-frame Exmor R CMOS Sensor of the A7R III continues to offer 42.4 megapixels of resolution with a native ISO of 100. The Nikon D850 backlit CMO sensor now offers a whopping 45.7 megapixels of resolution with a native ISO of 64!

What does this mean for underwater photography?

These recent sensor improvements have resulted in two cameras that offer both exceptional dynamic range and resolution. Being able to shoot with a low native ISO enables you to photograph scenes with high dynamic range (contrast), without losing information (details). This means that in an overexposed or underexposed photo, details in shadows and highlights can be extracted more easily during post processing. This is great in situations where you might be shooting directly into the sun (e.g., sunballs), or in particularly low light environments where you might need to bump-up the ISO. A low native ISO also reduces the amount of noise in an image which is again important in low light environments or while taking long exposure photos. 

 

Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the A7R III and D850’s sensors is the ludicrous megapixel count of 42.4 and 45.7 MP respectively. To the average underwater photographer, such large file sizes may not seem necessary. However, I found that shooting at full resolution with both cameras changed my photography style. Macro photography becomes a particularly more forgiving artform. This is because you can crop almost anything while retaining resolution. Diving with the D850 or A7R III is more akin to taking a microscope underwater than a camera. Even the most boring photo of a fish or octopus can become a beautiful depiction of the almost invisible photophores or eye parasites! Because the resolution is so large to begin with, most crops will still be a relatively large file! There is also the added benefit of being able to print high quality prints for professional use. 

*Although the Nikon D850 has a slightly lower native ISO and a slightly higher megapixel count, the image quality of both cameras is comparable in most cases. 

Performance

Processing power and autofocus performance are two important metrics for underwater camera performance. Because of constant improvements in photo resolution, modern camera systems must have comparable processing power to write information onto a storage device. Otherwise, a camera will slow down and need to buffer while the photographer risks missing photo opportunities. This is particularly important when photographing underwater pelagics or other high-speed scenes in burst mode. 

Likewise, fast and accurate autofocus is essential to underwater photography as manual focus modes are not always accessible. Particularly with moving subjects in both wide angle and macro photography. Almost all underwater photographers have experienced the frustration of watching a small fish or crustacean disappear out of frame as the lens continues to hunt. Who knows, in a few years this might soon be a thing of the past!

Processing Power

Winner: Sony A7R III (But the Sony A9 is the real winner)

The Sony A7R III has an updated BIONZ X image processor that is 1.8 times faster than previous versions of the A7R series. This enables the camera to shoot continuously at 10 frames per second with a 76 RAW image buffer up from 5 fps with a 23 image buffer! However, if shooting sports or quick pelagics is the core focus of your photography, consider the Sony A9. The A9 has the fastest shooting speed of any full frame camera on the market at 20 fps and a 241 image buffer.

The Nikon D850 is only slightly slower than the A7R III with 7 frames per second burst mode and a 51 image buffer. But don’t be quick to rule it out when comparing it to the A7R III as processing power is not the only metric of performance. 

It is worth noting that the benefits excellent processing power can only be reaped with a highest performance SD cards.

Focus

Winner: Nikon D850

The autofocus of the Nikon D850 is unbeatable. The Multi-CAM 20K autofocus module is Nikon’s best. It includes 153 focus point – 99 of them being cross sensor types and 55 being user selectable. Cross type sensors increase accuracy and minimize focusing errors resulting in an almost magical ability to track focal points. The dedicated autofocus engine also helps the camera process autofocus calculations at a quicker rate. With the ability to focus down to -4 EV, the lowlight AF performance is great for underwater photographer – especially macro photographers who wish to do away with their focus light in the presence of shy subjects. The combination of these capabilities results in focus modes that just might change how underwater photos are taken. For instance, the 3D-tracking AF mode will focus on a single point and intelligently follow that point as the subject moves around the frame. This mode changed my shooting experience completely. I stopped having to worry about the timing and placement of my focus points and began to completely focus my attention on composition – letting the camera take care of focus. Macro photographers in particular will benefit from this ability, especially when shooting small subjects that move around a lot. I except that we will be seeing many more photo of non-stationary macro subjects in the next few years as the underwater photography community adapts to these advances in AF.

One of the Sony A7R III’s strongest improvements was in its autofocus. It has 399 phase-detection AF points and 425 contrast AF points – 400 more contracts points than the A7R II. This has resulted in AF significantly quicker than the A7R II. However, the A7R III cannot match the AF speed of the Nikon D850 by any means. When shooting wide-angle, the A7R III’s AF speed is sufficient and you won’t see a considerable difference in performance from the Nikon D850. Macro photography is where the A7R III’s AF performance cannot match the D850s. When shooting macro, I found the A7R III could spend a considerable time hunting for focus points – especially in low light situations. 

Video 

Winner: Sony A7R III

One of the pride and joys of Sony’s mirrorless cameras are their video capability. The video performance of the A7R III is something to behold. The A7R III offers 4K resolution, 5-axis stabilization (reducing wobbles in hand-held videography), 120 fps @ 1080p, hybrid log gamma compatibility, a Super 35 mode, among other upgrades. Combined with increased battery life, the Sony A7R III is a formidable tool for underwater videographers. Check out our underwater video test where we were particularly impressed by the A7R III’s capability. 

 

The Nikon D850 should be commended for its 4K video with improved underwater white balance. However, Nikon has never had quite the reputation for video as compared with Sony. And Sony went all out for the A7R III.

Ergonomics and Handling 

Winner: Tie

When it comes to ergonomics and handling, both cameras have their pros and cons. One of the most obvious benefits of mirrorless cameras over DSLRs is their size. The Sony A7R III is 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. (127 x 96 x 73.7 mm) and 1.45 lb (657 g) vs the Nikon D850 clocking in at 5.75 x 4.88 x 3.11 in. (146 x 124 x 79 mm) and 2.22 lb (1005 g). Although weight varies based on lenses, housings, ports, and accessories; generally, I found the Nikon D850 to be heavier both above and underwater. While I did not use float arms when testing the cameras, I think it’s possible to use the Sony A7R III without floats. On the other hand, using the Nikon D850 without floats was fatiguing to the point where it affected my shooting ability. The underwater drag of the of the Nikon D850 is also slightly more than the Sony A7R III. This makes it easier to dive off the shore, in current, and in surge with the A7R III. However, the A7R III is still a large camera for a mirrorless camera. If size is a real factor in your camera decisions, I would consider the Olympus OM-D EM-1 MK II for a smaller but high-quality mirrorless camera. 

Navigability, on the other hand, is superior in the Nikon D850 over the Sony A7R III. The A7R III’s menu system remains confusing when compared to the D850’s, making it more difficult to change settings on the A7R III. It is also necessary to make a few essential, but difficult to find setting changes before taking the A7R III underwater (e.g., automatic photo replay after capturing and image). 

It is important to note that the view finder on the D850 functions much better than shooting in live view, whereas live view is best on the A7R III. One camera is not better than the other – it is a merely a matter of preference.

Lens Availability

Winner: Nikon D850

Nikon has a strong legacy of excellent quality and availability of full frame lenses. This is particularly notable in the wide-angle category when compared to the options for the A7R III. Wide angle photographers should know that there is no dedicated fisheye for the A7R III. However, the 28mm prime lens can be coupled with the fisheye conversion lens to give the widest possible angle of view. 

Check out our full reviews of the Nikon D850 and Sony A7R III for a full list of lens recommendations. 

Housing Availability 

Winner: Tie


There is no lack of high quality, functional, underwater housing for both cameras! Housings are available by leading brands such as Nauticam, Ikelite, Acquapazza, Aquatica, and Sea & Sea. 

Check out our full reviews of the Nikon D850 and Sony A7R III for a full list of housing recommendations.

Final Verdict? It Depends on You

When comparing cameras, there can never be a winner or loser. Cameras are tools. Different tools are made for different tasks. So the best question to ask is not what camera is better, but instead, what type of underwater photographer are you? If you can answer that question then you can better understand what camera would be suited for your needs as a photographer. 

For the Wide-Angle Photographer: Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III with a Metabones adapter 

Because image quality and autofocus in wide angle are so similar with both cameras, the Nikon D850 is the choice camera for wide-angle photographers due to lens availability. The Nikon 8-15mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Nikon 16mm 2.8 fisheye, Nikon 16-35mm 4.0, Nikon 20mm 1.8G and Sigma 15mm 2.8 fisheye lenses are all excellent wide-angle choices for the D850. Nikon’s low light focus performance is also better which can benefit in limited-visibility wide-angle photography. 

The A7R III is limited to a fisheye conversion lens with the Sony 28mm prime lens, the Sony 16-35 mm f4, and wide angle wet lenses. However, when using the Metabones adapter with Canon lenses, more high-quality lens options open-up. This can make the A7R III rival the D850. 

For the Macro Photographer: Nikon D850

Photographers looking to take split second macro photos with difficult lighting situations and tough subjects will want to consider the Nikon D850. As it can be difficult to take macro photos with full-frame cameras, I was surprised with how exceptional and effective the D850 was. The focus is the quickest and most effective we have seen for a macro set up! Combined with 3D-AF tracking, this camera will do all the worrying about focus for you. All you need to do is compose your image. The D850’s effective low-light sensitivity means quick focus without a focus light if you’re shooting sensitive macro subjects. 

But what was most apparent was that the Sony A7R III has not yet broken some of the last remain shackles of mirrorless cameras. The Sony 90 mm macro lens is a great lens, but the camera will hunt for focus. It is noticeably slower than the D850. 

Regardless, what is most noticeable about these two cameras when shooting macro is the resolution. One could argue that the resolution itself adds 100 mm of focal length to any lens you shoot with as you can still pull high quality images from extreme crops. The details captured by these cameras will astound you.

For the Pelagic/Action Photographer: Sony A7R III/Sony A9

When a speedy tuna or shark makes a quick pass at your camera, the one thing that can make or break your encounter is the frame rate in burst mode on your camera. Although the A7R III shoots 2 fps higher than the Nikon D850, the Sony A9 is the real winner here. 20 fps is just astounding. The A9 was developed specifically for this purpose. It’s amazing processing power enables you to take hundreds of shots before the camera needs to stop to load files. 

For those worried about the A7R III’s autofocus – the autofocus is much more effective shooting wide than macro. In most pelagic situation there is a good amount of light so the AF will function like the D850.

For the Underwater Videographer: Sony A7R III

As mentioned before, the A7R III’s video capability is exceptional. Underwater videographers will want to consider this camera if they are looking for something with great 4K capability, but would also like the ability to shoot excellent, top of the line images. 

For the Casual Photographer: Sony A7R III

Both cameras require completely different diving styles entirely. The A7R III is the least intensive of the two cameras to shoot. Because everything is composed using the LCD screen, I found that I had ample opportunity to watch my subjects without needing to spend all my time looking through a viewfinder. In fact, when compared to shooting with the Nikon D850, I felt like I could actually experience the dive and take photos at the same time. The D850 requires a lot of concentration on looking through the view finder and eats up your ability to just enjoy the dive. The A7R III is lighter and slightly more streamlined which makes for a better swimming experience. 

For the Beach Diver: Sony A7R III

Aforementioned, the Sony A7R III is lighter and slightly more streamlined than the Nikon D850. I found it easier to beach dive with and get through surf.  

For the Fashion Photographer: Nikon D850

Fashion photographers often can manipulate conditions to their desire and need the crème de la crème of tools to worth with. The Nikon D850 is going to be the camera of choice due to low light performance, lens availability, and image quality. Areas where the A7R III excels, such as burst shooting, video, and physical size, are not as much of a priority in a studio. 

The Nikon D850 and Sony A7R III is available now at Bluewater Photo!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

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Specs, features, thoughts from the UWPG community, sample underwater photos, and comparisons to the competition for the Olympus TG-5 compact camera
By Bryan Chu and Contributors

Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera Review

Bryan Chu and Contributors
Specs, features, thoughts from the UWPG community, sample underwater photos, and comparisons to the competition for the Olympus TG-5 compact camera

The Olympus Tough TG-5 is an award-winning camera known for its versatility, ruggedness, fantastic macro capabilities and high performance-to-cost ratio. Beginners will love the combination of simplicity, functionality and image quality this camera provides. Intermediate users will love the semi-manual aperture priority shooting mode, being able to add on a wet wide angle lens for excellent wide angle shooting, and taking amazing close-up shots of tiny subjects using the camera's native microscope mode. Advanced users with large and expensive underwater rigs may find this camera is the perfect companion to complement their large and bulky setup, both underwater and topside, or may find that some dives they just want a small and simple rig which can switch from ultra wide angle to macro in about 10 seconds.

As the latest camera from a brand that actively considers underwater shooters when designing its products, this camera is packed full of features useful to underwater photo and video shooters. Not only is the camera waterproof down to 50ft (15m), but it is designed with the Olympus PT-058 UW housing rated to 147ft (45m). This housing is the most affordable TG-5 housing on the market and accepts most popular underwater photo accessories.

The Olympus TG-5 also packs RAW photo recording for wide latitude when editing (including white balance), 4K video recording, 1080p video recording at 120fps (4x slow motion!), a super macro mode with minimum focus distance of 1cm, and automatic TTL flash control with Olympus and/or 3rd party underwater strobes.

For this review, we engaged a number of members from the Underwater Photography Guide community, both for their great photos and their advice about the camera. Along with contributing to this article, we have a number of feature articles written by TG-5 users that provide lots of great additional information. They are listed in the TG-5 User Feature Articles section at the bottom of this review.

U.S.A Retail Price TG-5:  $449.99

U.S.A. Retail Price Olympus TG-5 Housing:  $299.99


Bluewater Photo TG-5 Packages:

Olympus TG-5 Camera

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Housing PT-058

Olympus TG-5 and Housing Bundle

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and YS-03 Strobe Package

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and Kraken Ring Light Package

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and Kraken 3500 Video Light Package


 

Jump to a Section

TG-5 Specs   |   Body & Build, Controls, WiFi   |   Underwater Photography Features

Shooting Modes   |   Sensor & Image Quality   |   Sequential Shooting & Pro Capture

Shooting RAW   |   Microscope Mode   |   Lighting   |   Macro Shooting

Wide Angle Shooting   |  Videography   |   Compared with Other Cameras

Underwater Housing Options  |   Conclusion   |   TG-5 User Feature Articles

Olympus TG-5 Camera Specifications

Key Upgrades from TG-4

  • 12MP 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor optimized for low light (4000x3000 image resolution) **see sensor section below for further information**
  • Olympus TruePic VIII image processor 
  • Control dial added to top of camera
  • 4K @30p video recording (approx. 102 Mbps bit rate)
  • High Speed Movie mode with 1920x1080@120fps / 1280x720@240 fps / 640x360@480fps 
  • Pro Capture mode for 20fps image capture

TG-5 Complete Specs

  • 12MP 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor optimized for low light (4000x3000 image resolution)
  • Olympus TruePic VIII image processor
  • Waterproof (50ft without housing), shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof
  • Fast f/2.0-4.9 lens with 4.5mm - 18mm focal length (equivalent to 25mm - 100mm)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization (up to 2.5 stops)
  • Minimum working distance 1cm (in super macro mode)
  • ISO range 100 - 12,800
  • 25 autofocus points with Single AF and Tracking
  • 4K@30p video recording (approx. 102 Mbps bit rate)
  • High Speed Movie mode with 1920x1080@120fps / 1280x720@240 fps / 640x360@480fps 
  • 4K timelapse video
  • Pro Capture mode for 20fps image capture
  • Shutter speed 4 sec to 1/2000 sec
  • Custom white balance (4 slots)
  • Built-in flash
  • SD storage (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
  • RAW and jpeg shooting
  • WiFi capabilities, including camera control via smartphone
  • Action track sensors record location, temperature, direction and altitude data 
  • Weight (approx): 250g / 8.72oz with battery & memory card 
  • Dimensions: 113mm x 66mm x 31.9mm (4.43in x 2.6in x 1.23in)
  • Battery life (CIPA): 340

Significant improvements have been made with image quality, video quality, burst shooting, and controllability, making the TG-5 a noticeable step-up from the TG-4.

 

Body & Build

The Olympus TG-5 body is very similar to that of the TG-4, with basically identical weight and dimensions (it weighs 3 grams more, and has 1 extra mm for length and width). At a weight of just over half a pound, and width of only 1.23 inches, this compact body fits comfortably in the “pocketable” category. 

The camera retains the ruggedness of its predecessor; it is waterproof to 50 ft, freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C, crushproof to 220 lbf / 100 kgf, and shockproof from 7 ft / 2.1 m.

It does have one important upgrade, which is that the lens cover glass is now anti-fog dual pane, which is designed to prevent lens fogging when the camera is put through significant temperature changes (as can happen when taking it underwater).

Controls

Most of the controls are the same as on the TG-4, but there is one major upgrade. A control dial has been added to the top of the TG-5! This makes it much easier to make important adjustments on the fly, for example changing aperture or exposure compensation. This is an important upgrade for TG-5 functionality. However, with different control configurations the TG-5 does not fit into TG-4 housings.

 

WiFi and Tracking

The TG-5's WiFi ability makes it easy to send your images to a tablet or mobile phone (via the Olympus Share app) for editing and posting to your social networks - no need to lug a heavy computer around with you. There is also built-in GPS, compass, temperature sensor and manometer (for altitude and depth) to allow the camera to automatically keep track of your adventure. Use the free Olympus Image Track app on a smart device to view and store your tracking data, synced with your photos. Easily export stills and videos with the extra data to relive and share your adventures. 

Underwater Photography Features

Shooting Modes

The TG-5 offers plenty of automatic modes, including P (which is full auto). Users wanting some manual control can shoot in aperture priority mode (A), which allows you to adjust the aperture setting you want, with the camera providing the corresponding shutter speed to get the right exposure. In both of these modes, as well as others, you can adjust exposure compensation, to give a level of artistic control over how your shots are exposed. 

The TG-5 does not have full manual mode. For users who don't use strobes, this will not be a problem or limitation in most situations. However, it may limit the ability to take particularly creative shots underwater. For users shooting with strobes, the lack of full manual mode will make it much harder to dial in their settings for more dramatic shots, like wide angle or macro photos where the subject is fully lit up but the background is black. 

Sensor and Image Quality

The Olympus TG-5 uses the same size 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor as the TG-4, although the TG-5 pixel count was reduced down to 12MP, from the TG-4’s pixel count of 16MP. Smaller pixels allow a sensor to capture more detail in a photo, which is why a higher megapixel count is often thought to correlate with higher image quality. So why did Olympus reduce the megapixels? This is for two main reasons. 

Firstly, less megapixels in the same sized sensor means each individual pixel is larger. Larger pixels create less signal noise than smaller pixels. This means that the larger pixels of the TG-5 result in better low light sensitivity; TG-5 images have less noise in the dark areas and shadows than TG-4 images. This improvement is amplified by the upgraded TruePic VIII image processor (the same as in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, though without the E-M1 Mark II's dual quad core), which also does a better job at reducing noise than its predecessor. This effect is most noticeable when shooting at ISO levels above base ISO, which is especially relevant for shooting ambient light wide angle photography, and underwater video.

Secondly, less megapixels means less data, which leads to faster image processing - essential when recording 4K video and high-fps bursts. The TG-5 does have an upgraded image processor, but the lower megapixel count probably makes a bigger difference in processing speeds.

Larger pixels can also have higher dynamic range than smaller pixels. Higher dynamic range allows for better capture of high-contrast scenes (think: underwater reef scene with a sunball).

Also keep in mind that Olympus has a wide-range of nice OM-D mirrorless cameras. Shooters who are looking strictly for megapixel count will likely shop the mirrorless options, since they are more advanced cameras with better image quality. Check out our detailed reviews of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D E-M5 Mark II for more information.

Lens

The lens has a great focal length range of 4.5mm - 18mm (equivalent to 25mm - 100mm on a full-frame camera). This is better than the Sony RX-100V (24mm - 70mm equivalent), and about the same as that of the Canon G7X Mark II (24mm - 100mm equivalent). The aperture is relatively fast, with an aperture of f/2.0-4.9. This is a bit slower than the RX100V and G7X Mark II, both of which have apertures of f/1.8-2.8, but is still pretty decent.

Compared to the SeaLife DC2000, which has an 11.6mm fixed focal length lens (31 mm full frame equivalent) the TG-5 lens provides a lot more flexibility. It is wider angle when shooting wide angle, and the added zoom allows it to work better with diopters for macro shooting. However, the TG-5 has an even bigger advantage for macro shooting, and that is with its microscope mode (see below). Also note the TG-5's versatile zoom range makes it a much more functional camera for topside use.

Sequential Shooting and Pro Capture Mode

The sequential shooting speed for the TG-5 is an impressive 20 fps, up significantly from the TG-4's top speed of 5 fps. This allows for much better capturing of that precise action moment. Aiding in capturing precise actions moments is Pro Capture Mode. The way Pro Capture Mode works is that, once the mode is selected, the camera will start recording images into the buffer as soon as you depress the shutter button halfway. Then, once you press the shutter button down all the way, it will record the 4 most recent images from the buffer, and then record images going forward from that point, all at the speedy frame rate of 10 fps. This means that even if you are a bit late hitting the shutter button when trying to get that precise action moment you want, you can still capture it using Pro Capture Mode.

 

Shooting RAW and Effects on Sequential Shooting

As with the TG-4, the TG-5 can shoot in RAW format as well as in jpeg. The standard image format used in compact cameras is jpeg, which is a compressed image file. When you take a jpeg photo, the camera takes in all of the raw data from the sensor, processes it by applying some standard adjustments, and then outputs a compressed image. During the compression process, some of the raw information from the image is lost, and cannot be retrieved. A RAW file, on the other hand, is an uncompressed file in which all of the raw data from the sensor is kept. This gives you a much better ability to make post-processing adjustments after taking your photos (for example with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, or even with the free Olympus app). 

So, why not just shoot RAW all the time? RAW files are significantly larger than jpegs, which means that when shooting at high sequential shooting rates, RAW capture can limit the speed and overall amount of photos captured. RAW files also take up more space on your memory card, and on your computer. Additionally, RAW images without any post-processing tend to look flat, so shooting in RAW requires some level of commitment to post-processing.

Note that with the TG-5, RAW capture does limit the overall amount of photos that can be captured in one burst of high sequential shooting.

  • When shooting RAW at 20 fps, the camera can capture about 20 shots at 20 fps, but then slows down to a rate of a few fps.
  • When shooting in jpeg mode, the TG-5 can continue to shoot at 20 fps until the SD card runs out of space.
  • When shooting RAW at 5 fps, the TG-5 can shoot 40 images before filling the buffer and slowing down, which should be more than enough to capture an action sequence. 

However, in some cameras, shooting in RAW can slow the camera down much more significantly. In the case of the SeaLife DC2000, shooting in RAW has been reported to slow sequential shooting down to one shot every few seconds.

Microscope Mode

Microscope Mode is a camera setting which allows you to get really close to very small subjects. In normal shooting mode, you cannot focus on a subject that is closer than 10 cm from the camera. However, in Microscope Mode, you can focus on a subject as close as 1 cm!

Using the camera's optical zoom in Microscope Mode allows you to take a photo with up to 7x magnification (35 mm equivalent), which really enables some amazing macro shooting of very small subjects. For comparison, the standard for micro-four-thirds macro shooting, the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens (used with a mirrorless camera like the OM-D E-M1 or E-M5), has a maximum 2.0x magnification (35 mm equivalent). So the 7x magnification of the TG-5 is absolutely phenomenal. Additional use of the digital zoom allows overall magnification of up to 28x, although at a significant cost to image quality.

With the Focus Stacking function, available in microscope mode, the camera shoots a number of images, automatically shifting the focus in each image. It then combines these photos into a composite image with a large depth of field, so that the image is in focus all the way through. 

Focus stacking is a nice function for using on land, when you can keep your camera and subject totally still. Underwater, there are likely very few situations where it would be particularly usable, if at all. None of the great macro photos shared in this review by UWPG members were taken using focus stacking.

With Focus Bracketing, the camera will automatically shoot a series of images, with each image having a shifted focus point. You can set up to 30 shots for bracketing use. This function could be more applicable underwater, especially for photographers using video lights for their lighting, rather than strobes.

To learn more about macro shooting with the TG-5 underwater, see the macro section below.

Lighting

Strobes, Flashes and TTL Capability

Strobes are external flashes for use underwater. They help make your photos sharper, and more importantly, restore true colors to marine life. (When lit only by ambient light, subjects lose color through all the water between them and the surface, and between them and your lens). Check out this article about strobes for more information.

Through-the-lens (TTL) is a strobe setting where your camera controls your strobe power based on its own light metering. The internal flash trigger is transmitted to your strobes via fiber optic cables, and your strobes fire with a corresponding strength. You can get optical TTL when using fiber optic cables with the Sea & Sea YS-03 (also see TG-5 package with YS-03), YS-01, YS-D1, and YS-D2 strobes. You can also use the Inon Z240, Z330, S2000, or D2000 strobes. TTL works in all modes - P, A and auto modes.

One notable downside of the TG-5 when using with strobes, is that on max power the internal flash recycle time is about 4 seconds (meaning you will have to wait that long in between taking photos with the strobe). Often the flash should not be firing at max power though, meaning typically less time between shots. There is also an option to turn down the power of the internal flash using the flash compensation function, which will reduce the flash recycle time further, meaning even less down-time between shots. UWPG community member Travis McElveen was able to reduce the recycle time down to about 2-3 seconds between shots when reducing the flash power to 1/1.3 and 1/1.6 flash compensation. So, compensation makes it significantly better, but it may still limit you in situations where you want to take multiple exposures quickly. 

UWPG community member Travis McElveen also shared his experience using two Sea & Sea YS-03 strobes in concert with a wet wide angle lens. He found the YS-03 strobes to be nice starter strobes for using TTL and shooting the camera in auto. However, as he started using a wet wide angle lens, learned more about strobe positioning, and needed more light, he decided that he needed more powerful strobes, and also ones with manual control options. He is now considering a set of Inon Z-240s or Inon Z-330s, to get more power and more manual control.

To learn more about strobe options, check out some recent strobe reviews on UWPG:

Focus and Video Lights

Many UWPG community members opted for the simpler (and often cheaper) setup of using constant lighting from a focus or video light. 

From Bruce Scarbrough: The video light I used was the Sola 3000, which I purchased from BlueWater Photo as part of a package deal. I found the light to work quite well when shooting within a reasonably close distance (e.g, 5 feet or less) from the subject. I did not use a wet lens or other camera accessories (e.g., filters, etc).  All pictures and video were shot with TG-5 camera/housing/light package assembled straight out of the box. I would like to eventually purchase a wide angle wet lens for the camera.


From Charles Rawlings: I typically use a housed Nikon but have found that the Olympus TG-5 compliments my art when used in Microscope mode. For lighting I use a video light – the Light and Motion SOLA 1200 – easier to aim for these close up small subjects. I use the housing for the TG 5 plus base and one strobe arm for the video light.

I love my housed Nikon with dual strobes but many of these shells are the size of a pea or smaller and live in delicate soft corals and gorgonians. My housed rig would be exceedingly difficult to maneuver into place without disturbing the coral animals – in other words they would retract. The Olympus is much more maneuverable and causes much less of a disturbance plus allowing close-ups comparable to housing rigs with diopters.

What I do when shooting is get close and hold very steady to allow the auto focus to work. I typically shoot vertical with the light tucked into the camera just over the lens so as to fully light the subject and not so much the background. The one big drawback for me in using the light is the difficulty if not impossibility of achieving a black background like you can with strobes.

 

Check out our focus and video light article for more info about the many options out there.

Macro Shooting

With other compact cameras, the only real way to take great macro photos of small subjects is to use a wet macro lens (also known as a wet diopter). However, with the TG-5's amazing Microscope Mode, macro shooting can be done without using any wet wide angle lens. As mentioned in the above section on Microscope Mode, the TG-5 can focus on a subject only 1 cm away, and by using the optical zoom can get a magnification of 7x without using the added digital zoom capabilities. 

If you want to get even more macro functionality, to shoot super-macro, the Bluewater +7 macro lens gives very good results. We recommend stacking 2 of these lenses for supermacro.

As mentioned by UWPG community user Charles Rawlings, who does a lot of macro shooting with a housed Nikon rig with two strobes (you can see his work here: www.livingmollusks.com and www.livingshells.com), he uses the TG-5 to complement his much more expensive Nikon rig when shooting pea-sized subjects because "the Olympus is much more maneuverable and causes much less of a disturbance, plus it allows close-ups comparable to housing rigs with diopters."

 

Wide Angle Shooting

As with all compact cameras, the TG-5's lens covers somewhat wide-to-mid-range focal lengths. The capabilities can be greatly improved for wide angle shooting by using wet lenses, which connect to the outside of the camera housing (or, for some options, to the camera body itself if not using a housing) and increase the angle of view. However, that's not to say that this camera cannot take nice wide angle photos without a wet wide angle lens. Here's another nice example from UWPG community member Bruce Scarbrough, taken without a wet wide angle lens.

TG-5 Wide-Angle Wet Lenses

A wide-angle wet lens increases the field of view, which means that for shooting a given subject at a certain size in your photo, you have to be quite a bit closer to it. Although this can be a hassle with a skittish subject, what it does mean is that you get less water between the camera and your subject. And less water means a clearer subject, as well as better lighting from video light, photo light or strobe, which means much better colors. A wider angle also allows for more dramatic shots, especially with large subjects like oil rigs, kelp forests, large animals, reefscapes and wrecks.

We recommend using the UWL-04 fisheye lens, which with its 165 degree wide angle of view will allow you to create stunning wide-angle shots. Other great options to consider are the Kraken KRL-01 and KRL-02 wet wide angle lenses, which provide 145 and 150 degree angles of view, respectively. Olympus also offers a wet wide angle lens, the PTWC-01, which provides a 100 degree angle of view. Note that a step-up ring (52mm > 67mm) is necessary to be able to use the Olympus and Kraken KRL-01 wet lenses with the Olympus TG-5 housing.

UWPG community member Tom Caruso shared his in-depth experience using the UWL-04 fisheye lens. 

My new favorite piece of equipment is hands down the UWL-04 wet-lens dome port.  As a photographer I use following mantra: Expose the unseen. Now that everyone seems to have an underwater camera these days, I try to focus on the shot that others aren’t. I actually enjoy the complexity of trying to get a good over-under shot. The lighting has to be just right, you need a subject out of the water AND you need a subject under the water (although it should be very near the surface).  The flexibility to go from super wide to super macro in 10 seconds is the greatest reason in the world to use this lens. 

UWPG community member Travis McElveen shared his extensive experience using a Kraken KRL-02 wet wide angle lens with his TG-5 rig.

The most noticeable benefit I've noticed from the Kraken is that I'm much more able to capture the scope of wide angle scenes underwater. Whether it's fissure cracks or rolling "hills" of coralheads or vertical walls, the wide angle lens really allows you to step back, so to speak, and take in more of an underwater landscape. Another much appreciated benefit, is the ease with which it makes composing wide angle shots. Without the wide angle lens, you really have to work at getting multiple subjects in one shot: a sunball, diver, interesting coralhead, fish, etc. The wet wide angle lens allows more flexibility in positioning those subjects and opens up the possibilities since you don't have to have your subjects so tightly grouped or inline. 

Wide Angle Shooting while Freediving

UWPG community member Pavol Ivanov is a freediving instructor who is getting a lot of use out of his TG-5! Here is what he has to say.

In freediving use, we mostly use the wide angle option to really capture the perspective of space and movement underwater. Based on a recommendation from Bluewater Photo, I use the UWL-04 wet wide angle lens, which offers a very wide fish angle view of up to 165 degrees. Although I found some blurry edges in some occasions, in general it works quite well. The UWL-04 offers super wide angle and lets you come really close to the subject, offering great photo quality, and the lens in manufactured to perfection.

The Olympus housing PT-058 works really well, it is not heavy, but yet feels sturdy and well made, and it allows access to all functions of the camera very easily, even the GPS logging function. The UWL-04 lens can be screwed on directly on the housing without any extra ring.

Videography

The video options of the TG-5 got a serious upgrade from the TG-4. For top quality video, the TG-5 offers ultra HD 4K video (3840x2160) recording at 30 fps (approx. 102 Mbps bit rate) or 25 fps. Note that when shooting in Microscope Mode, resolution is limited to 1080p at 60fps. For making neat timelapse videos, the quality options are 4K 3840x2160 or 1280x720. 

UWPG community member and photography instructor Tom Caruso took a neat video of a sea turtle when snorkeling in Hawaii. He left his TG-5 on the bottom by a sea turtle, which got interested in its own reflection in the UWL-04 wet wide angle lens dome.

Video of sea turtle checking out UWL-04 wet wide angle dome. Olympus TG-5 with UWL-04 wet wide angle lens, in high speed movie mode, shot at 720p. 

The TG-5 also offers high speed movie mode, allowing you to shoot 1920x1080@120fps (equivalent to 4x slow motion). At lower resolutions you can shoot higher fps rates: 1280x720@240 fps, and 640x360@480fps.

UWPG community member and free-diving expert Pavol Ivanov took a very cool slow motion video of a bubble ring rising through the water column. 

Slow motion video of bubble ring rising through the water column. Olympus TG-5 with UWL-04 wet wide angle lens, in high speed movie mode, shot at 1280x720@240 fps. 

Tom Caruso also took a nice slow motion video of an eagle grabbing a fish out of the water. This is a good example of using high speed mode to capture wildlife behavior. Here is what he shared.

While in Alaska I was able to capture super slow motion video of a bald eagle pulling a fish out of the water at 480 frames per second. It turned a 3 second event into a 38 second video. The 4K video is equally impressive, but takes up lots of memory so I travel with 2 extra chips and a 2 TB hard drive.

Slow motion video of eagle grabbing fish. Olympus TG-5 in high speed movie mode, shot at 640x360@480 fps. 


Camera Comparison

Should you Upgrade from the TG-4?

The TG-4 became extremely popular with its semi-manual shooting modes, RAW image capture, image stabilization and (especially important for underwater photo/video shooters) microscope mode for super macro. The camera can shoot a crisp image of the back of the lens cap! The Tough TG-5 builds on this strong foundation with upgrades that follow the trends of high-ISO shooting performance, low light performance, 4K video recording and burst recording. So if you have a TG-4 and those are important functions to you, especially for video, then it's certainly worth considering upgrading to the TG-5. However, if you are quite happy with the performance of your TG-4, then it may not be worth the expense of getting a new camera and housing.

Compared to Sony RX100V and Canon G7X Mark II

When compared to other popular compact rigs like the Canon G7X Mark II or Sony RX100V, the TG-5 falls short on many of the specs, including sensor size and image quality. However, it has clear advantages in cost, as the TG-5 camera/housing bundle it is significantly cheaper than G7X Mark II bundles and less than half the cost of RX100V bundles. It also stands out for its simplicity and macro shooting, with the outstanding microscope mode allowing great macro shooting without wet macro lenses. This further helps to keep things simple and low cost.

The TG-5 also has the huge advantage of the camera itself being waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof, and splashproof, allowing it to be used in any environment without a housing (as long as you don't take it too deep underwater). Finally, don't forget the options to attach Olympus' add-on fisheye and telephoto lenses directly to the camera body. 

Compared to SeaLife DC2000

On price point and functionality, the TG-5 competes most directly with the SeaLife DC2000, which features a larger 1" sensor and simple piano key control, at the same price point (camera + housing). However, the DC2000 also has a set focal length of 11.6 mm (31 mm full frame equivalent), with no zoom capabilities. This does not limit it too much underwater, as wet lenses can be used to provide macro and wide angle functionality, though that does add to the cost and complexity. Topside, it is a significant limitation when compared to the 25-100mm full frame equivalent zoom range of the TG-5 (not to mention the TG-5's availability of add-on telephoto lenses). So if you are wanting the cheapest available option to take great macro and decent wide angle photos underwater, without adding wet lenses, the TG-5 has the upper hand. Same goes for having the camera for topside use. 

UWPG community member Katy Kulakowski did a lot of research before choosing to purchase a TG-5 instead of the SeaLife DC2000. Here is her thought process:

With a lot of research, both cameras seem great and it was a very difficult call, especially since I was also looking at higher end cameras. As a brand new photographer (coming from camera phone and go pro), I wanted a camera that would give me the most options for my life. It needed to work well below freezing, and stand up to the heat of wherever I choose to travel. 

Olympus, as a company, has a good reputation in the business rather than only going after a niche market. Overall image quality on dry land and u/w was said to be great and many people would beam about the TG-5's macro capabilities without using a macro lens. Above land, the TG-5 offers not only zoom functioning, but also the availability of an add-on telephoto lens. I really liked how versatile this camera was and that it didn't come with the feeling of buying into a brand; maybe the telephoto lenses will be Olympus specific but I can choose any accessories I want for my dive housing. The camera itself gives the user enough options to take the first steps into controlling their camera, but without task-loading the user too much. Manual mode would have been great but, for all I have going on, it would have been more frustrating since I just don't have time to really learn how to use that feature.

This camera does not disappoint! I took photos of elephants and landscapes, then stuck it in a river to snap a picture of fish before quickly going back to landscapes. Two days later, it was used for dives and sunsets, and the colors before using any editing software were incredible. 

Compared to Mirrorless Options

If you are thinking about mirrorless options, be prepared for a significantly higher price tag. That will get you improvements in many areas, including sensor size, image quality, low light performance, improved autofocus, and getting to use dedicated fisheye and macro lenses, to name a few. However, it also comes with a number of drawbacks other than cost: size, weight, and a loss of the ability to switch between wide angle and macro shooting in a matter of 10 seconds or less while underwater. Check out our reviews of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II for a couple of the more popular options out there.

Tom Caruso shared his thoughts on why he switched from a large underwater rig to a TG-1, and has stuck with the TG cameras all the way through to the TG-5. 

I must confess that I no longer have a desire to travel with a large DSLR/mirrorless camera in a housing. As with any camera, the price you pay is not always commensurate with the quality of photos you get.  Only when a photographer knows how to get the most out of their rig will they consistently take good photographs.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Housings

Unfortunately, the Olympus TG-5 does not fit in the older TG-3 and TG-4 underwater housings. The camera body sizes are very similar, but the TG-5 has a larger finger grip and the new control dial on top.

Below are some great housing choices from our sister company, Bluewater Photo. Check out the housings and be sure to reach out for the best recommendations on accessories like macro and wide-angle lenses, lights and strobes.

Olympus PT-058 TG-5 Housing 

The Olympus underwater housing is compact and lightweight, with great ergonomics. It is rated to a depth of 45m (147 ft), and all camera controls can be accessed from the housing with ease. It can accept a variety of wet lenses for both wide angle and macro shooting, and most importantly, it is very affordable!

UWPG community member and TG camera expert Tom Caruso shared his thoughts on the housing: 

The PT-058 housing is a superior design over the flawed PT-056 model. Specifically, the zoom control on the housing worked in reverse of the camera zoom control lever.  This was very frustrating, so I’m glad to see that fixed. Since I shoot in Aperture Priority mode it is nice to have a distinct knob on the housing for this feature. The optical cable adapter now allows for two cables to be attached. Previous models required a splitter if you were using dual strobes.

Purchase the Olympus TG-5 housing

 

Ikelite HousingIkelite TG-5 Housing

Ikelite housings are made from an ABS polycarbonate blend, making it both lightweight and strong. This durable housing is rates for depths of 60m (200 ft). It features a side-mounted shutter release and a new zoom control, for easy operation. The housing port has a 67mm thread, making it compatible with multiple wet lens options, both wide angle and macro. Along with the Olympus housing, this is the most affordable TG-5 housing available.

Purchase the Ikelite TG-5 housing

 

RecSea Aluminum Housing

Recsea TG-5 Aluminum Housing

The RecSea aluminum TG5 housing is a high-quality housing. The aluminum construction provides additional strength and durability, increasing the depth rating to 100m (330 ft). However, this added strength comes at a cost; this housing is significantly heavier and more expensive than the previous composite material options. Dimension-wise, it is compact, with great ergonomics; all camera controls are easily accessible from the housing. Additionally, it has a 67mm port thread to accept a variety of wet lens options (wide angle or macro).

Purchase the RecSea TG-5 Aluminum housing

 

Nauticam housing

Nauticam TG-5 Housing

The Nauticam TG-5 housing, constructed from milled aluminum, was designed with a focus on ergonomics. It offers features found in their high end DSLR housings. 

  • All controls are clearly labeled, with an easy-to-identify bright red video recording button.
  • The patented rotary lock system is used, facilitating easy opening and closing, while still providing a secure latch system that will not accidentally be disengaged
  • Sculpted thumb grip and shutter lever make it comfortable to hold and use underwater
  • Depth rating of 100m (330 ft)

The housing includes a 52mm threaded port, allowing addition of different wet lenses (macro and wide angle) to expand your underwater shooting ability. In addition both a cold shoe and M10 mount offer multiple mounting points for additional accessories. Dual Fiber Optic Connections are included, with holes that fit the standard Sea & Sea style plug or bare ended fiber optic cables.

Purchase the Nauticam TG-5 housing

Conclusion

The Olympus TG-5 is a great compact camera for underwater shooters who want a simple system on a budget. The camera is the perfect topside adventure companion, making it a smart purchase for the dive boat even if you already have a big camera system. It's even a nice companion to have underwater alongside your big camera rig, as you never know when you'll be shooting wide angle on your main rig and come across an awesome macro subject like a seahorse or nudibranch. The TG-5's upgrades in low light performance deliver better image quality, with less noise than the popular TG-4 when shooting underwater video and ambient light wide-angle, both of which often require shooting with ISOs above the base 100.

Microscope mode allows for fantastic up-close macro shots, without requiring the use of any wet lenses. Adding a wet wide angle lens to the equation allows for ultra-wide fisheye shots with excellent quality. RAW image capture is an essential feature for photographers who really want to edit their photos. Although the TG-5 does not have full manual mode, it does have aperture priority mode and exposure compensation, which still provide significant artistic freedom. As a bonus, the added control dial on top of the camera makes it that much easier to make quick adjustments to aperture and exposure compensation on the fly. 4K video (at 30fps) is available for those that really want the resolution, and 120fps (at 1920x1080) is available for those that are more interested in slow motion effects. 

This camera is the top choice for anyone looking to get into underwater photography and take some great photos, without spending a huge amount of money or having a large, complex rig to carry around. The combination of specs, features, add-on options and ruggedness, for the low price of camera and housing, make the TG-5 stand out from its competition.

TG-5 User Feature Articles

We have a number of feature articles written by contributors to this article which talk more about their specific experiences with the camera. There is lots of great additional info in each of them!


Bluewater Photo TG-5 Packages:

Olympus TG-5 Camera

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Housing PT-058

Olympus TG-5 and Housing Bundle

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and YS-03 Strobe Package

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and Kraken Ring Light Package

Olympus TG-5 Camera, Housing, and Kraken 3500 Video Light Package


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan is an associate editor for the Underwater Photography Guide. He loves any activity that takes him out into nature, and is especially fond of multi-day hiking trips, road trips to National Parks, and diving. Any kind of diving. He discovered the joy of underwater photography on a Bluewater trip to the Sea of Cortez, and after "trial and erroring" his way to some level of proficiency, has been hooked ever since. He has not done nearly as much diving as he would like, but has so far taken underwater photos in a diverse range of places, including BC, the Sea of Cortez, Greenland/Iceland, Northern Norway, the Galapagos and French Polynesia.

After working as a chemical engineer at a major oil & gas corporation for 9 years, Bryan finally had enough (and it didn't help that he was living in landlocked Edmonton, Canada with frigid winter temperatures and no real diving to speak of). He and his girlfriend decided to pack up their things and travel the world; they started their journey mid-2018 and will visit a number of great dive locations along the way. He is very excited to expand his underwater photography experience and skills while experiencing new cultures and exciting parts of the world. Though he is also a bit worried about the following equation that has so far defined his dive travels: Corporate job ($$) = Dive travel ($) + Underwater Photography ($). Taking away the left side of that equation seems like it might put things a bit out of balance. But as he reasons, what's the point in life if you can't take some big risks and have some fun along the way?

You can find more of his photos on Instagram at @bryandchu and check out his travel and relationship blog at www.bryanandlisa.ca

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Full, in-depth review of Nikon's full frame camera - the D850 - covering new features, video, and recommended lenses and housings
By Aaron Halstead

Nikon D850 Review

Aaron Halstead
Full, in-depth review of Nikon's full frame camera - the D850 - covering new features, video, and recommended lenses and housings

While working on this Nikon D850 review, I thought - what a fantastic time to be an underwater photographer. The days of having to sacrifice and compromise are nearing an end, and here to usher in this new era is the Nikon D850. Read on to learn more about what is arguably the best camera for underwater photography on the market.....

 

Jump to a Section

Key Features  |  Full Specs  |  Overview

Autofocus  |  Autofocus Modes  |  Video Features

Compared to D810  |  Pros and Cons  | Should I upgrade 

Recommended Lenses   |   Dome Port Optics   |   Recommended Housings

Conclusion   |  Additional Images 

Nikon D850 Key Features

  • High resolution
    • 45.7 megapixel full-frame BSI (back-side illuminated) sensor
  • Exceptional autofocus 
    • Shares the AF system as the Nikon D5
    • 153 AF points, 99 cross-type sensors and a dedicated AF processor that can focus down to -4 EV 
  • Speed
    • 7 fps shooting with a 51 shot buffer
  • Incredible image quality 
    • Great dynamic range and ISO Performance
  • Video
    • This camera easily boasts the best feature set of any Nikon DSLR camera. 
    • True full frame 4K 30fps video and 1080p 120fps slow-mo

NIkon D850 Full Specs

  • 45.7 megapixel, backside illuminated full-frame sensor  
  • 7 frames per second and a 51 shot buffer
  • ISO 64-25600 (expandable to 32-102,400)
  • 4K UHD video 3840 x 2160 at 30/25/24p
  • 1/8000 to 30 second shutter speeds
  • Flash sync speed of 1/250 
  • 4K and 8K timelapse 
  • 120 fps slow-motion 
  • Focus peaking
  • Zebra stripe highlight detection 
  • Focus stacking
  • Wireless connectivity 
  • Rugged body with weather and dust sealing 
  • TTL exposuring metering using RGB sensor with 180k pixels 
    • Matrix
    • Center-weighted
    • Spot
    • Highlight-weighted 
  • Same autofocus sensor module as the D5/D500
  • 153 AF points, 99 cross-type sensors 
  • Dedicated AF processor that can focus down to -4 EV 
  • Autofocus fine tuning
  • Full-frame 4K UHD video 
  • Great dynamic range and ISO Performance
  • Great battery life
    • Up to 1840 stills or 70 minutes of video per charge
  • Silent shooting modes
  • Tilting touch screen monitor 
  • Dual XQD/SD card slots
  • Bluetooth

The Nikon D850 is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Overview

With specs like these, you might ask yourself, what’s the catch.  To be honest, there really isn’t one. The Nikon D850 delivers.  A combination of resolution, dynamic range, ISO performance, exceptional autofocus and a speedy 7 frames per second is nothing short of spectacular.

With improvements across the board, you are getting more tools to help you nail your shots, whatever they may be.  By combining the sensor’s exceptional dynamic range with a base ISO of 64, you get more control to balance vivid reefscapes with the brightest sunballs, while maintaining exceptional colors and detail throughout.  When the diving isn’t all clear skies, sunshine and great viz, you get plenty of room to bump the ISO to capture more detail and light in the darkest of wrecks, caverns, and caves. The amount of detail able to be pulled up from shadows is quite astonishing.

 The NIkon D850 handles combining the smallest of critters and strongest macro diopters with ease, and does so effortlessly with it’s incredibly fast and accurate autofocus even dim, fading light.  Not only is the autofocus extremely accurate, it’s also remarkably fast, absolutely one of the best autofocus systems available, matched only by the D500 and D5 in the Nikon world.

For the fast-paced, high intensity action you get 7 frames per second coupled with an array of autofocus and auto-iso options; letting the camera do some of the heavy lifting for you allowing you to focus on the rare encounters you traveled halfway around the world to experience. The 51 image buffer is pretty amazing considering each image is 45.7 megapixels! The buffer ensures that there will be no slowdown in your photo taking for image processing. The lag between taking burst shots and reviewing them is greatly reduced as compared to the D810. 

For the cases when, despite your best efforts and practice, you couldn’t quite nail the shot with absolute perfection, you still have one remaining tool at your disposal:  a hefty 45.7 megapixel raw file. In addition to being able to print massive images, this extra resolution can come in handy in some other situations too.  

  • Did you forget to change your strobe batteries and are now forced to shoot natural light, far above your standard ISO, as a one in a lifetime event unfolds in front of you?  

  • Did you jump the gun on that sea lion as it buzzed by, leaving the subject smaller in the frame than you wanted?  

  • Did your subject flee as you were inching closer before you were able to fill the frame?  

This much resolution gives you room to touch up in post, cropping and reframing as needed. In the event that you need to shoot with an ultra-high ISO (such as a dead strobe), the camera can still produce stunning images if you don’t need the absolute, full resolution. Downsampling the image will easily eliminate a lot of the noise with resolution to spare, rendering a useable image. Accepting a “less than full resolution” image where you would otherwise end up with nothing is a tradeoff I would make every day. Even at half resolution, you still have an incredible 20 megapixel images to work with!  

 

 

 

 

Autofocus 

There are a few things worth digging deeper into with regards to the autofocus of the D850.  This camera has the same autofocus system as the flagship Nikon D5. This high-performance sensor module (the Multi-CAM 20K) combines 153 focus points, of which 99 are cross type sensors, with a dedicated AF engine.  Of these 153 focus points, 55 are user selectable.

Cross type sensors are more accurate and help to minimize focusing errors, while having more sensors helps the camera track focus in the different autofocus modes. When you combine these focus points with the dedicated AF engine, the camera is able to speed up the autofocus calculations - much like a current computer gets faster with more CPU cores or threads. The end result is faster and more accurate focusing and tracking, essential for both fast-moving and high speed shooting.

It’s also worth noting the low-light performance of the autofocus, as we often shoot in dim underwater conditions. The D850 is able to focus in the center point down to -4 EV, and -3 EV at all the other AF points. This is roughly the equivalent of a dark moonlit night, with the light given off during a full moon being around -2 to -3 EV. Although we recommend using a focus light, it’s nice to have that extra flexibility to not use one when you’re shooting shy subjects.

 

 

D850 Autofocus modes 

  • Auto-area AF
    • The camera will detect subjects and focus on them accordingly.  
    • Letting the camera choose very critical settings is not recommended, though your results may vary. 
  • Single-point AF
    • The camera focuses on a single point selected by the photographer.  
    • Best used when you want very specific control over what is in focus, such as macro or super macro, when your subjects are fairly still.
  • Group-area AF 
    • The camera uses all the points in a group to determine focus.  
    • Like single-point, this is useful for still subjects such as macro and super macro, and is useful when camera is having a hard time getting focus with single point. Priority is spread across multiple points, so the camera does its best to keep them all in focus.
  • Dynamic-area AF
    • The camera focuses around a single point, using 9, 25, 72, or 153 of the neighboring points to continuously maintain focus. 
    • Great for fish and other moving subjects, allowing you to frame the image and still allow for some movement.  Priority is weighted toward a single focus point so this relies on you keeping the AF points over your subject.
  • 3D-tracking AF
    • The camera focuses on a single point, and attempts to intelligently follow the subject as it moves across the frame using all 153 focus points.
    • Great for fish and erratically moving subjects.  This mode allows you to lock focus and follow the subject as it moves throughout frame.  This is really powerful and allows flexibility to quickly adjust your framing without having move the focus points on the camera, potentially missing the shot.  

Although the focusing is very accurate, often able to snap and lock on very quickly, the camera will still occasionally hunt.  As underwater photographers, there is going to be particulate floating in the water so it’s not uncommon for the autofocus to get confused.  With the latest Nikon glass, such as the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G or Nikon 60mm f/2.8G lenses, when the camera does need to hunt to focus, it’s able to do so much faster than the previous generation lenses and cameras* - so it’s worth noting that there is a lens component to the autofocus performance as well.   

*From my experience with the D850/D500 (which shares the same AF engine) and an older D90, although the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G could be able to hunt for focus as fast on an older body (since the AF motor is built into the lens), it doesn’t. The details are not 100% clear, but the speed of hunting is 3-5 times faster on the D850/D500 - so if you are upgrading from a couple generations old camera, you’ll be getting much faster autofocus speeds (in addition to much more accurate focus) with the same lenses.

Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is an exciting new feature offered by the Nikon D850 - though limited in terms of underwater use. It will automatically take up to 300 shots at different focal points, and the photos can then be combined in post into one photo where the complete subject is in focus. It can be very useful for macro / supermacro photography.

Native ISO

The native ISO range of the Nikon D850 is now 25,600 ISO, an increase of the 12,800 ISO of the D810. The D850 uses a new back-lit sensor which offers better low-light performance. 

On the low end, ISO 64 is a welcome option for shooting in bright conditions, which is also available with the Nikon D810 but not the D800. ISO 64 is gorgeous and the detail, color, and dynamic range at that ISO allow for better image quality than any other system underwater.

However, shooting at ISO 25,600 is not necessary underwater. The D850 does improve on the high ISO performance from the D810, which is impressive considering the bump in resolution. While the dynamic range does suffer as it does on any system, it is still quite nice.

Video features

The D850 is the first Nikon camera to offer full-frame 4K video, something few other cameras support.  Previous Nikon cameras would only use subset of the sensor resulting in a crop factor while the D850 is able to use the full width of the sensor.  This means you aren’t losing any FOV, which is great for wide angle video while options are still there to enable the DX crop of 1.5x for macro to allow for tighter framing.

  • Best underwater white balance performance of any Nikon DSLR. If underwater video performance was keeping you from switching to Nikon, be prepared to reconsider your options!
  • 4K 30 fps full frame video with a bitrate of 144Mbit
    • Full frame or DX crop
  • 1080p 120 fps
    • This automatically uses a DX crop
  • Video compression using H.264/MPEG-4
    • More manageable file sizes over M-JPEG
  • Flat color profile (unfortunately, no log gamma profile for better tonal reproduction)
  • Separate video settings in the camera allow easy switching from video to stills
  • Video frame size and rate
    • 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD); 30p (progressive), 25p, 24p
    • 1920 x 1080; 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
    • 1280 x 720; 60p, 50p
    • 1920 x 1080 (slow-mo); 30p x4, 25p x4, 24p x5
  • Improved settings allow easily setting white balance using the Live View

 

Compared to D810

The Nikon D850 improves upon the Nikon D810 in almost every way, making it the best camera on the market for underwater photography. Most importantly, the increase in resolution does not result in a compromise of dynamic range! The D850 does this with its new backlit CMOS sensor expanding the megapixels from 36.3 MP to 45.7 MP. The higher resolution is welcome, although only people who are shooting very close subjects underwater with the best lenses at the optimal apertures will notice the difference. The image dimensions change from 7360x4912 pixels on the D810, to 8256x5504. Ultimately you need to decide if you really need additional megapixels – not everyone does. In DX mode, the sensor will crop down nicely to 20 megapixels, perfect for using the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, or for greater reach with long/macro lenses. Of course you can always crop in post, but some photographers may prefer to compose in camera at the final resolution.

D810

  • 36.3 megapixels
  • 51 AF points, 15 cross-type 
  • 5 fps 
  • 28 shot buffer
  • Up to 1200 still images per charge 
  • -2 EV to +19 EV detection range for AF 

D850

  • 45.7 megapixels 
  • 153 AF points, 99 cross-type, dedicated AF engine 
  • 7 fps (or 9 fps topside, with a battery pack)
  • 51 shot buffer 
  • Up to 1840 still images per charge 
  • -4 EV to +20 EV detection range for AF 
  • Improved low and high ISO performance
  • Improved dynamic range
  • Larger viewfinder  
  • Many video upgrades
    • Full frame 4k video
    • 120 fps slow-mo video in 1080p
    • Focus peaking
    • Zebra exposure stripes

 

Nikon D850 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Across the board, the D850 improves on the already very capable D810
  • Massive resolution
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Great dynamic range and ISO performance
  • Improved weather-resistance capability
  • Best video features of any Nikon DSLR

 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large travel size
  • Need larger dome ports (or corrector ports) and high quality lenses to best make use of the high resolution
  • No pop-up flash. This was removed to increase weather-resistance, but it takes away the possibility of shooting with strobes and fiber optic cables in case your sync cords flood or your flash trigger stops working.
  • Overall, this is Nikon’s best video setup, but probably not “the best” setup for full time video.  There are several limitations to combining video settings, such as not being able to use zebra stripes and focus peaking together and not having focus peaking in 4K.



 

Should I upgrade?

 This is a fantastic camera all around, but this may not be the perfect fit for everyone.  The best approach to determine if this is a good fit for you is to fully understand what you are looking to do with it.  Do you shoot with available light?  Do you rely heavily on your autofocus?  Do you shoot colorful reefscapes? Wrecks?  Macro or supermacro?  Do you print your images? Do you need high frame rates to capture rare interactions or behavior?  Do you shoot a variety of stills and video?   Do you travel, and are you willing to do so with a bulkier ports to capture the highest quality images you can?  If you answer yes to just a few of these, the D850 won’t disappoint.Compact and mirrorless users will need to make sure they are ready to make the jump to a full DSLR setup.  If you do, however, prepare to be blown away.  With the exception of the Nikon D5,  or with Cannon, the 5D Mark IV/Canon 5DSR, there are very, very few rivals to this camera - this is about as good as it gets!  

Nikon D850 Lens Recommendations 

While those 45.7 MP images can be amazingly detailed, giving you some extra flexibility in post, it’s going to be more challenging to fully utilize them. To take full advantage of the D850's resolution, you need great optics throughout both lenses and ports. If your ports or glass are limiting your image quality, it doesn’t matter how many megapixels your camera has.In general, the lens reccomendations follow the D810 with the Nikon 8-15mm being a notable addtion to that list.

Macro:

  • Nikon 60mm 2.8G Macro
  • Nikon 105mm 2.8G VR Macro
    • Great for small and shy subjects, giving you more working room than the 60mm and essential for super macro
  • Nauticam Super Macro Converter
    • The nauticam super macro converter (SMC-1) is a wet diopter perfect for taking sharp super macro images. In fact, it is the strongest, sharpest diopter on the market. For the best super macro results, use it with the Nikon 105 mm 2.8G VR lens.

Wide Angle Fisheye:

Wide Angle Rectilinear

  • Nikon 16-35mm 4.0
    • Great for large animals and extremely sharp lens, but requires a larger dome to get sharp images
  • Nikon 20mm 1.8G
    • Small, compact, sharp, doesn't need as big a dome as the 16-35 mm

Dome port and water contact optics

With a little background in optics and understanding of how lenses and ports work underwater, or more specifically, what happens to light as it travels from one medium to another, it starts to become clear that dome ports are not the solution for everything.  

To get sharp images with a dome port and wide-angle rectilinear lenses you generally need a big dome, and enough light to shoot at a higher f-stop to get sharp corners.  The alternative is to use optics that were designed to be used in water.  These corrector ports, or water contact optics, are designed for this air to water barrier in mind, and as a result give some of the best quality currently possible.  This allows you to shoot wider apertures while maintaining image sharpness in the corners. 

Nauticam has been aggressively exploring this area and with their latest offering, the Wide Angle Conversion Port or WACP,  is able to deliver sharper images where dome ports struggle.  Although this is extremely sharp, it’s limited to a 130 degree FOV, so it’s not a replacement for a fisheye lens.  

Underwater Housing Options

 Aquatica D850 Housing


Aquatica has recently announced their housing for the new flagship camera from Nikon, the D850. They have truly taken steps in the right direction with this model. The housing itself is 12% lighter than the previous D800 and D810 models, but continues to boasts the same depth rating and ergonomic controls.
The Aquatica D850 housing is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Nauticam D850 Housing

Nauticam is known for producing functional, ergonomic, customizable, and durable housings. The new Nauticam D850 is no exception. All the levers, buttons, and wheels on the aluminum housing are clearly labeled so there is no guessing as to what button you are pushing or wheel you are spinning.The NA-D850 features the patented Nauticam bayonet port lock mechanism and the electro-optical converter like the one found on the D500 and the D5 housings. This allows the use of fiber optic cables on a camera that doesn't have a pop up flash. There is also a new lever that falls under the left middle finger that makes toggling between the autofocus modes very quick and easy.

The Nauticam D850 housing is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Sea & Sea D850 Housing

The Sea & Sea Nikon D850 Housing is the smallest aluminum housing, with easy to reach controls, bulkheads for sync cords, and an optional vacuum check system and internal TTL converter. It is 11% lighter than the Sea & Sea D810 housing, which was already a very light housing. One of our favorite features of the housing is that all of the controls now have a spring to prevent slip of the controls, even if they wear over time or if the camera dimensions vary slightly. Lenses can be changed without taking the camera out of the housing.
 

The Sea & Sea D850 housing is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Ikelite D850 Housing


Several excellent housings are now available for the D850, but most will cost you more than the price of the camera, even without a port. Thankfully for those on a budget, longtime U.S. housing manufacturer Ikelite now offers a very affordable alternative that still offers high quality and supports a wide range of lenses and accessories. And, it boasts their new, much improved “dry lock” port system, making it easier than ever to change ports, along with a new vacuum check system, both of which are designed to protect your delicate camera like never before. 

 

The Ikelite D850 housing is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Conclusion

The D850 manages to add to the success of the D810, giving you improvements to all the tools you use as an underwater photographer. While this comes at the cost associated with a top-of-the line system, this is a versatile and extremely capable system. The combination of image quality, resolution, and autofocus performance leaves little to be desired.  

With the D850, you really are in the best position possible to capture anything thrown at you, and to capture that in the highest quality possible. As it is always best to get it right in camera, with the D850, you get the best tools available to maximize your chances of capturing those special moments. A lot of photography is understanding trade offs, and with the D850, you simply have more to work with all around.   

Questions?

Give us an email (info@uwphotographyguide.com) - we’re happy to help answer any questions you have! For sales questions, be sure to email the friendly staff at sales@bluewaterphotostore.com.


Additional Images

Special thanks to Liz Garcia  for sharing some of the amazing images she's captured with her D850.  Be sure to stop by her Instagram page to check out more of her images! 

 

Sample Wide Angle Images 

Sample Macro Images 

 

 

... while still keeping a great amount of detail in the image. (Another 100% crop of the images above)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Halstead is an avid diver, critter enthusiast and underwater photographer living in Southern California. He is pretty addicted, send help.

More work can be found on his InstagramWebsite, or Facebook page.

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In-depth review of Sony's next full frame mirrorless camera - the A7R III - covering new features, test video, and recommended lenses and housings
By Nirupam Nigam

Sony A7R III Camera Review

Nirupam Nigam
In-depth review of Sony's next full frame mirrorless camera - the A7R III - covering new features, test video, and recommended lenses and housings

With the release of the Sony A7R III, now is the time to be a mirrorless photographer. In fact, one could argue that we have entered a new photographic era – the mirrorless era. In 2015 the flood gates of mirrorless technology were fully released with Sony’s new models of mirrorless cameras featuring full frame sensors – the Sony A7, A7R, and A7S lines. These cameras offered the chance to shoot with a high-quality, DSLR-sized sensor and the advantages of a smaller, mirrorless body. Sony decided to give consumers the option to pick the body that was right for their shooting situation with the A7 being touted as an all-around camera, the A7R being geared towards high resolution, and the A7S featuring good light sensitivity (great for video shooters). In 2016, these initial introductions were finetuned in the A7 II models which had a wider variety of available lenses and better overall specifications. Then came the Sony A7R III....

Jump to a Section

Full Specifications   |   A9 vs. A7R III   |   Upgrades from the A7R II      

Full List of Upgrades   |   Pixel Shift Feature   |   Photographic Performance

Auto Focus   |  Photo Pros and Cons   |   Recommended Photo Settings

Video Performance   |   4K Video Test Footage   |   Should I Upgrade?

Recommended Lenses   |   Recommended Housings   |   Conclusions

More Sample Underwater Images

 

Sony A7R III Full Specifications

42 MP Back-Illuminated Full-Frame Exmor R CMOS Sensor

Updated BIONZ X Image Processor

Gapless On-Chip design

Anti-reflective Sensor Coating

UHD 4K30p Video with HLG, S-Log2 and S-Log3 Gammas

5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Sensor-Shift Stabilization

399 Phase-Detect Auto-focus Points

425 Contrast AF points (400 more contrast point than a7R II)

0.5" 3.69M-Dot Quad-VGA OLED Electronic View Finder (EVF)

3.0" 1.44M-Dot Touchscreen Tilting LCD Monitor

Shoot up to ISO 102,400

Silent Shutter Mode

New Low Vibration Shutter Design

Weather-sealed body to resist dust and moisture

Anti-Flicker function 

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Bluetooth connectivity 

Type C USB Port

Resolution: 42.40 Megapixels

Sensor size: 35mm (35.9mm x 24.0mm)

Viewfinder: EVF / LCD

Dual SD card slots 

No internal flash

Native ISO: 100 - 32,000

Extended ISO: 50 - 102,400

Shutter speed: 1/8000 - 30 seconds

Dimensions: 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. (127 x 96 x 73.7 mm)

Weight: 657g

 

 

The Sony A7R III is available now at Bluewater Photo!

 

New Releases: The Sony A9 vs. the Sony A7R III

In 2017, Sony took a different strategy entirely – they decided it was time to beat the DSLR giants out of their own market. It was time to prove once and for all that mirrorless cameras truly are the future of photography. They did this with the release of the Sony A9 and the Sony A7R III. With the fastest shooting speed of any full frame camera (20 frames per second and 241 shot image buffer), the Sony A9 is Sony’s direct response to the Nikon D5, Canon 1DX II and other quick shooting DSLR’s. The catch in the A9 is the steep, DSLR-level price of $4499.99. The Sony A9 is very much a niche camera – sports photographers and underwater photographers who specialize in shooting quick pelagics should definitely consider it. 

The Sony A7R III, on the other hand, is the best choice for the all-around underwater photographer looking for unbeatable full frame resolution and image quality. The 42 MP back-illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS Sensor cannot be beat! Not to mention a much cheaper price point of $3198.00. Moreover, the A7RIII boasts improved auto focus and processing power. The updated sensor can process 1.8 times faster than previous versions of the A7R series. 

Sony A7R III Upgrades from the Sony A7R II 

Although the A7R III is not vastly different than the A7R II, its release fixes many of the small issues that needed improvement in the A7R II. Perhaps the two most significant improvements for divers are the much longer battery life and the improved auto focus. With the A7R III a diver can now shoot approximately 650 shots a full battery – up from 290. The Hybrid AF has been updated to include 399-point focal-plane phase-detection AF as well as 425-point contrast detection. That’s 400 more contrast detection points than the Sony A7R II. Other nice additions include a 2nd memory slot, faster continuous shooting (10 fps instead of 5 fps), and true slow-motion video in full HD. 

The Sony A7R III has a new front-end LSI (large scale integrated) processor and a faster BIONZ processor, allowing many aspects of the camera to work faster. The sensor is the same as in the A7R II – but this is certainly nothing to complain about! In terms of image quality between the two cameras, you’re not going to find much of a noticeable difference. 

Overall Sony A7R III Upgrades:

Battery life almost doubled (a much-needed upgrade!)

2nd SD card slot added. One slot is UHS-I, one slot is UHS-II

Continuous shooting now 10fps instead of 5fps

120fps video supported in 1080p mode versus 720p mode in the A7r II

EVF resolution increased from 2.4M to 3.69M

425 Contrast AF points (400 more contrast point than a7R II)

Max ISO 32000 instead of 25600

RAW buffer 76 images instead of 23 images

5 axis stabilization rated to 5.5 stops from 4.5 stops

Low light auto-focus rated to -3EV from -2EV

New Hybrid Log Gamma profile for 4K video (useful for new 4K HDR TVs)

New S-Log3 profile which allows 14 stops of dynamic range

New Pixel shift mode for improved sharpness & dynamic range for still landscape shots on a tripod

Bluetooth support added

Same sensor! And still 42.4 megapixels. 4K video is still 30p

Improved ergonomics: Larger 1280 X 960 viewfinder, touch control on the rear screen, and most importantly for topside shooting – an AF point joystick

Pixel Shift Feature

One interesting new feature with the Sony A7R III is the pixel shift feature. In this feature, the camera takes two photos, 1 second apart, and shifts the pixels by 1 for the second photo. Then it combines the results for approximately four times the resolution in your image. This is certainly a cool new feature for still photography, but since subjects must be completely stationary, there is little use of this feature for underwater photographers. 

 

Sony A7R III Underwater Performance

Photographic Performance

Over the past few months, the staff at the Underwater Photography Guide has been able to take the Sony A7R III underwater in Southern California to test whether it truly lives up to expectations. Verdict? It lives up to the name. In fact, the most notable aspect of this camera is in the name – R stands for resolution. The 42.4 megapixel resolution, while not different than the A7R II, quite literally adds another dimension to underwater photography. Photos can be cropped with almost no consideration for loss in quality! A simple photo of an octopus or headshot of a Garibaldi can be cropped into abstract works of art (see examples below). The caveat is that a lot of storage space will be needed to work with RAW files if you are an avid photographer. Likewise, make sure that you have a high speed/high performance SD card when shooting. Large RAW files will require this or your camera will take a significant time to buffer and you’ll miss that shark swimming right past you! Raw buffer has been increased to 76 images from 23 images, which should help ease the pain of having to wait for images to write on the card before taking your next shot. 

 

 

Auto focus

Although auto focus speeds have certainly been improved with the A7R III, it does not quite live up to high-end DSLR models like the Nikon D850. That being said, it is still faster than many other mirrorless models and compact models. When shooting with the A7R III, I preferred to use single autofocus (AF-S) as it enabled me to focus on a point and move the camera to compose my shot.

Pros and Cons

Pros

As with any camera in the Sony A7 lineup, the overall advantage of the Sony A7R III is having all the size and functionality benefits of a mirrorless system with the image quality of a full frame DSLR. One of my favorite things about shooting mirrorless systems is not having to look through viewfinders all the time. Using an LCD leads to increased awareness during the dive which can really help you compose a shot. Now that the battery life has been doubled, even some of the mirrorless drawbacks are being upgraded into non-issues. The addition of 400 more contrast detection AF point makes composing much more versatile. 

Cons

For a mirrorless system, the Sony A7R III is a relatively bulky set up underwater. Though a far cry from the size of a high end DSLR, it can still take some work to maneuver around while diving. However, I still had no issues taking it beach diving and through the surf. One issue that we were surprised about was that the white balance seemed to appear particularly warm and purple when shooting underwater. This can be corrected by shooting in RAW and changing the white balance in post processing. However, I found one or two of my images to be difficult to work with when I tried to modify the white balance. 

Recommended Settings for Underwater Photography

The Sony A7R III should not be taken underwater straight out of the box. You will need to modify certain settings first. Make sure that auto review is on for long enough for you to review your photo after you have taken it. This is essential for seeing whether you need to recompose the next shot or move on. 

Perhaps the most important setting to change is the live view setting. The default live view setting will display what the actual photo exposure should look like at current exposure settings, without strobes. For the most part, this results in a black screen while taking underwater photos and you’re left guessing about your composition. Turning the live view display off will brighten the screen regardless of actual lighting conditions and allow you to see what you are composing underwater in low light. 

For a full list of recommended settings, please see our recommendations for the Sony A7R II until we release and updated set of recommendations for the Sony A7R III. Due to similarities between the cameras, the recommendations for the A7R II should be sufficient for the time being. 

 

Sony A7R III Video Performance 

For divers who value a camera that can deliver both still images and videos, the A7R III is a dream. Shooting in video mode offers great low-light performance, 4K video, focus peaking, and easy custom white balance.

For people shooting only professional video, you may be better served by the not yet released Sony A7S III, which will have better low-light capabilities and hopefully better bitrates, codecs, and the potential 4K at 60p. The A7R III only supports 8-bit codecs, while cameras like the GH5 support 10 bit codecs which allow for a billion color combinations vs 16 million for an 8-bit codec. Unfortunately, the A7R III doesn’t offer 4K video at 60p.

Other nice features include the improved 5-axis image stabilization, which does a great job of reducing the jitters and wobbles of hand-held videography. As most underwater videographers know, good image stabilization is essential to getting underwater video that doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a washing machine as swell and current are conditions topside videographers don’t have to deal with.

Like the A7R II, the A7R III can output uncompressed 8-bit 4K video to an external recording over HDMI, like the Atmos Shogun. 8MP screen grabs can be captured while recording 4K video.

You can shoot slow motion 120 frames per second video in full HD mode now (1080p). The A7R II limits you to 720p.

If you are experienced with more advanced video editing, the new Hybrid Log Gamma compatibility means that playback on new HDR televisions is more easily supported, without having to color grade. The Sony A7R III also supports both S-Log 2 and S-Log 3. If you are not familiar with S-Log profiles, it is like shooting stills in "Raw format", except for video - the video output looks flat and needs editing to bring out the full colors and dynamic range, but offers the potential for much greater dynamic range.

The A7R III also has a couple of 4K video modes; it can take 4K video in either full-frame mode or Super 35 mode. In Super 35 mode, an 18 megapixel crop of the sensor is used, resulting in sharper images and video with less aliasing and moiré. Lenses like the Canon 8-15mm fisheye are the equivalent of using a 12-22.5mm lens in Super 35 mode. Super 35 mode can also give better high ISO performance, particularly above ISO 3200.

So far, we have not noticed any rolling shutter or over-heating issues. The increased battery life was a much-needed improvement for underwater video. 

 

Underwater 4K Video Test

In January 2018, I took the A7R III underwater for a 4K video test in Redondo Beach, CA.  I had the opportunity to take some beautiful footage of mating squid and other creatures that were around to feed on them. Overall, I found the 4K video to be phenomenal with excellent dynamic range and detail, especially in low light environments like a night dive. Taking video is very intuitive, especially in the new Nauticam housing for the A7R III. Keeping the video shutter separate from the photo shutter makes switching between the two very intuitive.

The Sony A7R III is perfect for compact and mirrorless users thinking about upgrading to take better video. The camera offers much more control over video than a compact set up with the ability to change exposure and aperture (depth of field) while taking video. For amateur video editors the file format is particularly easy to work with as video files are stored in an .mp4 format. The A7R III has proven to take very accurate color while shooting video; to illustrate this fact, the color and white balance have not been corrected in the video below.

 

This video was captured with the Sony A7R III in a Nauticam housing with a Sony 28mm lensKraken KRL-01 wet wide-angle lens, and a single Kraken Hydra 2500 Macro light. For more information behind our 4K video test read our full article.

 

Should I Upgrade…

From a Compact Camera?

Compact camera users have a very difficult choice when it comes to thinking about upgrades from their set up. There are many nice lines of higher end compacts, more traditional mirrorless cameras, and low to high end DSLRs. Higher end compacts, such as the Sony RX 100 series, result in nice, quality image but they compromise on lack of control or choice of lens. Mirrorless cameras other than the Sony A7 series, like the Olympus OMD and PEN lines, are generally much cheaper than the A7R III and with image quality that is much better than compact series cameras. Olympus has a great selection of micro four-thirds lenses. However, the A7R III’s 35mm full frame sensor is a far cry better than sensors in other mirrorless cameras. A DSLR is also something to consider if you want the best image quality, versatility, and options money can buy. But that comes at a price and size. I would consider the A7R III if: 

You do not want to compromise on image or video quality

You are not too price sensitive

You want to shoot video

You don't want to lug a full size DSLR system around

 

From a Mirrorless Camera?

Photographers using a micro-four thirds or Sony Nex or A6000 series mirrorless camera will be pleasantly surprised by their upgrade to the A7R III. In return for a slightly larger setup, they will experience a noticeable improvement in image quality, video quality, responsiveness and focus speed. The bokeh / background blur from the full-frame sensor will also give an entirely new element to their creative photos and videos. I would consider the A7R IIII if:

You want higher resolution images that you can crop down to almost any size

You don’t like using DSLR viewfinders underwater

You want a little more AF speed

You want to focus on shooting more video

 

From a DSLR?

Is your DSLR feeling a little bulky? Have you been thinking about looking for a new camera that shoots 4K? Consider the A7R III. The body and housing are smaller, although some of the lenses and dome ports are not necessarily smaller than the DSLR equivalents. The Sony setup will not necessarily be much less expensive either. I would consider the A7R III if:

You’re tired of looking through a viewfinder underwater

You want to shoot nice, professional 4K video

You’re thinking of moving from a cropped sensor DSLR to a full frame

You want higher resolution images that you can crop down to almost any size

 

Best Lenses for Underwater Use

Recent releases of lenses for the Sony A7 series has made the repertoire of underwater lenses much more versatile. Sony A7R III users have an excellent set of choices for shooting macro, wide, mid-range, and fisheye. 

 

Wide-Angle Lenses

The Sony 16-35mm F4 lens is the top wide-angle lens choice for photo and video. If you’re looking for something even wider to get nice close-focus wide-angle (CFWA) shots of reefs there are a couple of options for shooting fish-eye. The 28mm prime lens with a fisheye conversion lens will give the widest possible angle of view. The fisheye conversion lens can be used behind a large or small dome port, while the Sony 16-35 mm F4 les is recommended for use with an 8-inch dome or larger.

Wet wide-angle lenses are a great option with this camera. We recommend the Nauticam wet wide-angle lens or the Kraken KRL-01 wet wide-angle lens with the 28mm prime lens. All of these options are very sharp and will result in stunning wide-angle photos. 

 

 

Mid-Range Lenses

The Sony 24-70mm F 4 or the Sony 28-70mm F3.5-F5.6 are good choices along with the 35mm F2.8 portrait lens.

 

Macro Lenses

For underwater photography, the Sony 90mm macro prime lens is the best choice for small fish and macro subjects. It is exceptionally sharp and produces high quality images. A 50mm macro lens is available, but probably not the best option for underwater photography.

Canon Lenses

Canon lenses can be attached to the Sony A7R III with the Metabones or Photodiox adapters, but auto-focus is generally better with Sony lenses. Lenses like the Canon 8-15mm, 16-35mm, and 17-40mm work well. The Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens is recommended when shooting video using Super 35 crop mode. You can also use the Canon 100mm lenses.

 

Lenses for Underwater Video

When in Super 35 mode we recommend the Sony 16-35mm F4 lens or the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens. For closer shots use the Sony 24-70mm or the 28-70mm zoom lens. 

 

Underwater Housings for the Sony A7R III

 

Does it fit the A7R II Housings?

In order to accommodate for a larger body and more ergonomic controls, the A7RIII is fitted with a 74mm depth body rather than 60mm in the A7R II. Unfortunately, the A7R III is not compatible with A7R II housings.

 

Nauticam A7R III Housing

In Stock -  $2,850

Nauticam is leading the pack with their excellent Nauticam Sony A7R III housing. A wide range of lenses and ports are supported, but you pay a premium to get this maximum flexibility. Use of the metabones adapter is supported. Along with previous versions of the Nauticam A7 housings, the new housing also supports the use of several Nikonos lenses. Overall, we found the Nauticam housing to be sturdy, safe, and intuitive. All controls are within finger distance of the grips - including rotating dials for aperture and shutter speed adjustment. The housing includes a moisture alarm and can be modified to include a vacuum seal as added protection against a flood. 

Order Now!

 

In Stock - 1,695

The Ikelite Sony A7R III housing, made of polycarbonate, is a great value at a significantly lower price point than its competitors. Most common lenses are supported as well as the use of the metabones adapter.

Order Now!

 

Acquapazza A7R III Underwater Housing

We anticipate an ergonomic and well-designed housing for the Sony A7R III by Acquapazza. It will feature a double o-ring seal for the back door, an optional angled LCD viewing window, adjustable vari-anlge grips, M14 and M16 accessory ports, a trigger type shutter lever, a zoom/focus knob, and 16 colors to choose from.

 

Aquatica A7R III and Sea & Sea A7R III Housing

Aquatica and Sea & Sea both make smaller machined aluminum housings, and we expect the Aquatica to be at a particularly sweet point in price for a light-weight aluminum housing. The Sea & Sea A7R II housing supported an optional TTL converter. The Aquatica housing is expected to include a flash trigger. Both housings will support using the metabones adapter.

We'll update this article as release dates for the housings are better known.

Conclusion

The Sony A7R III is an amalgamation of all that is good in modern photographic technology. By making constant changes and improvements to their A7 line cameras, Sony has managed to create a multifaceted super-camera that truly has it all. There is no other company in the world that could offer you a mirrorless sized camera with a full frame sensor yielding 42.4 megapixel images! With the addition of longer battery life, 120 fps full HD and 4K video, the Hybrid Log Gamma profile, 400 more contrast AF points, faster AF, and 5 axis stabilization, the Sony A7R III is sitting at the top of its market. Whether or not it can make waves in the DSLRs markets, only time will tell. As far as underwater photography goes, it will be some time before enough kinks get worked out that the Sony A7R III will have a seat at the table with the true full frame DSLR hard-hitters. Regardless, the Sony A7R III is an all-around excellent camera with exceptional video capabilities that is sure to satisfy any customer looking for the best in what mirrorless technology has to offer.

More Sample Underwater Images

Macro Underwater Images

Wide-Angle Underwater Images

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

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