Camera Reviews

Detailed camera reviews for underwater photo and video, including specs, key features for u/w photography and camera comparisons.
In-depth review of the Sony a7R II with best lenses, comparison with other cameras and underwater housings
By Kelli Dickinson

Sony a7R II Camera Review

Kelli Dickinson
In-depth review of the Sony a7R II with best lenses, comparison with other cameras and underwater housings

Sony wowed the photography world last year with the release of the Sony A7, A7R & A7s cameras. A full frame, 35mm sensor packed into a small mirrorless body. It was the first of it's kind and did not disappoint. With the large sensor and small body, it was easier to travel with, created a lower profile underwater than larger DSLR's and the three different camera bodies gave photographers the ability to choose the one that best fit thier needs without buying a completely separate housing if they wanted to switch between two versions. The biggest downside to this great new Sony camera was the lens choice. 

Flash forward a year and we not only have several great new lens options, but Sony has revamped their A7 line with the release of the A7 II, A7R II and A7S II. Both the A7II and A7S II are great. Choose the A7 II if you want the high detail of the 35mm sensor but without the added expense of the high resolution R version. Choose the A7S II for the best video production, including internal 4K recording - a great new feature. 

For the best of the best though, the A7R II takes the cake. This camera offers high megapixel count on the 35mm sensor creating extremely detailed images and allowing you a little wiggle room to crop photos without losing important resolution.

Quick Links:   Best Lenses   |   a7R II vs. Other Cameras   |   Underwater Images   |   Underwater Housings

 

Garibaldi shot with Sony a7R II

 

Sony a7 II Versions:

  • Sony A7 II - The original. Full Frame 35mm sensor, excellent image detail. 24.4 MP CMOS Sensor - the perfect choice for those wanting a small full frame camera without breaking the bank. 

  • Sony A7R II - R stands for Resolution. This beast features a 42.4 MP back illuminated full frame sensor. Extra wide range of ISO sensitivity and super fast phase detection and contrast detection auto focus. Built in 4K video recording. The A7R II offers the best of all worlds, with the back illuminated sensor improving low light capability, 4K recording mode offering improved video recording ability and high megapixel count priving incredible detail in still images. This is the one to choose when you want the most detail possible and cost is not so much a concern. This camera will be the best choice for most underwater photographers.

  • Sony A7S II - S stands for Sensitive. This low megapixel version improves on the original A7S with high sensitivity in low light. The lower resolution (12.2 MP) means larger pixels which can let in more light creating better low light performance. If you are dedicated to video this is the camera to choose. New internal 4K recording mode offers full pixel readout without pixel binning, resulting in the highest resolution 4K possible. ISO goes up to a mind-boggling ISO 400,000.

 

Sony a7R II for Underwater Use:

I recently had the opportunity to take the Sony A7R II underwater and it did not disappoint. Paired with dual Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes, the resulting images were not only incredibly detailed, but also vibrantly colored and crisp. This is definitely the option to pick if you want the best of everything with this Sony line. 

The biggest problem with the Sony A7 II Cameras, especially the A7R II is that it eats through batteries. Sony continues to use the small NP-FW50 which aids in keeping the overall camera body small, but it means you'll want to change batteries or charge the camera between every 1-2 dives max. One saving grace with the A7R II is that Sony did include a second battery with the camera, so you don't have to buy it, however for us underwater photographers, it does mean opening up the housing more often than you may like.

For Video Shooters: If you want the flexbility of shooting high resolution still images and high quality HD video then the A7R II is the choice for you. This camera also records 4K video internally as the A7S, and offers two crop modes to shoot in. The Super 35 (APS-C) 4K crop mode is specified by Sony to offer the best overall video quality. This mode uses a smaller portion of the sensor but does not use pixel binning, offering you better overall 4K quality than in the Full Frame 4K mode. While I have not yet had a chance to test it, reviews differ on which mode has a worse rolling shutter effect when panning side to side. One really nice aspect of the A7R II due to the innovative back lit sensor is that the low light quality is excellent, a plus for video shooters underwater.

 

Sony a7R II Specs:

  • Full Frame 35mm Back Illuminated Sensor

  • 42.4 Megapixel Resolution

  • Wide ISO range of 100-25,600 (expandable to 50-102,400 for still images)

  • .51" OLED Electronic Viewfinder & Large 2.95" LCD Screen

  • Fast Hybrid Auto Focus (Phase and Contrast Detection AF)

    • 25 Contrast Detection AF Points / 399 Phase Detection AF Points

  • XAVC S/AVCHD / MP4 Video Recording

  • Internal 4K recording supported!

  • Battery Life of approximately 290 Shots (Viewfinder) & 340 shots (LCD Screen)

    • Includes 2nd Battery in Box!

  • Dimensions 4.69" x 2.74" x 1.50"

  • Weight 20.53 oz Solo / 22.05 oz with battery and media card

  • Magnesium Alloy Body with Enginerring Plastic Exterior

Best Lenses for Underwater Use:

Finally Sony stepped up and released some great new lenses that are ideal for underwater photography. The first released FE 16-35mm F4 lens offers nice wide angle, but still left us lacking for that super wide angle of view that can only be obtained with a fisheye lens. In addition there was no macro support, leaving underwater photographers struggling to use a diopter with the kit 28-70mm lens. Now we have support for both Fisheye and Macro, here's the best lenses for underwater use with the A7 II line of cameras. 

Macro:

  • Sony FE 90mm F2.8 Macro - this native lens is great and offers 1:1 magnification

  • Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro with Metabones adapter

Standard / Mid-Range:

  • Sony FE 28-70 F3.5-5.6 - standard kit lens

  • Sony FE 24-70mm F4 - higher end mid range lens

Wide Angle:

  • Sony FE 16-35mm F4

  • Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8 with Metabones adapter

Fisheye:

  • Sony FE 28mm F2 with Sony Fisheye Conversion Lens -while not a true fisheye, this lens and converter combination works excellently, offering the wide field of view in a native Sony lens.

  • Canon EF 8-15mm F4 Fisheye Lens with Metabones adapter

  • Nikonos 15mm Fisheye Lens with Nikonos Adapter (Nauticam) -a good option if you have one of these laying around or can find one, though not as wide as the 28mm + FE Conversion Lens.

Sony a7R II vs. Other Camera Formats:

The Sony A7 series sits somewhat in its own class of camera. Without a mirrorless it can't be considered a DSLR, but it comes equipped with a Full Frame sensor. With the larger sensor it stands apart from other mirrorless cameras like the Sony A6000 and popular Olympus O-MD cameras.

A7R II vs DSLR:

  • Much smaller camera body = smaller housing

  • Full frame sensor, high 42 mp count is better than some DSLRs and on par with Full Frame DSLRS

  • Overal focus speed and responsivness is not quite as quick as high end DSLRS

  • Camera controls and functions all the same as DSLR

  • Battery life is MUCH worse than a DSLR

  • Electronic viewfinder vs optical viewfinder

  • Less variety of lenses

A7R II vs Other Mirrorless:

  • Slightly larger camera body = larger housing. Also lenses are larger than most mirrorless lenses

  • Full frame sensor and high megapixel count means much more detail and resolution

  • Camera controls are similar as many mirrorless have DSLR like controls

  • Battery life is similar, possibly a bit worse than other mirrorless

  • Olympus mirrorless have a better variety of lenses

Sony a7 II Underwater Housings

Both Nauticam and Sea & Sea have released underwater housings for the A7 II line of cameras. Since the only difference between all three cameras is that the A7R II and A7S II have a locking mode dial where as the A7 II does not, we can confirm that all three cameras will work in the same housing. While not an issue for most people, this is excellent for pro shooters who may buy the housing an choose the body they need based on the shoot requirements. 

Sea & Sea a7 II Housing

The Sea & Sea housing combines the sleek, simple engineering of their high quality DSLR housings into a smaller package. You have control over all camera functions with this housing and the controls are further to the left to make them easy to reach. Designed like a miniaturized DSLR, you have included molded grips, stainless steel latches, easy to use shutter release lever and support for the Optical YS TTL Converter. 

 

Sea & Sea Housing Specs:

  • Body: corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy (machined)  / Grip: corrosion-resistant die-cast aluminum alloy

  • Depth rating 100m / 330ft

  • Dimensions (WxHxD) 325 x 160 x 104mm / 12.8 x 6.3 x 4.1 inches

  • Weight Approx. 2,250g / 79.4oz. - Without grips: 1,860g / 65.6oz

The YS Converter is a real selling point for this housing. As one who has been skeptical of the results I get through onboard camera flashes and fiber optic cables I tend to shy away from TTL. However, I tested both in Manual mode and in TTL with this housing and the Sony A7R II and was very impressed at the accuracy. For most wide angle shots it was great (shooting into the sun is always the exception), and when using the macro lens I left it in TTL without even thinking and ended up with great exposure every time. 

Overal I found it intuitive to use the housing, and really liked that Sea & Sea offers quick access to the C1 and C2 buttons through well placed levers on the side. Changing my settings was a breeze and I was able to reach all controls underwater, with my average sized female hands. The overal buoyancy was decent (a little buoyant with the large dome when using the 16-35mm lens and a little bit negative with the 90mm macro). The housing is compatible with both the 45° and 180° viewfinders and includes the hotshoe bulkhead for using sync cords if you do not opt for the Optical Converter. 

There are a few cons to the Sea & Sea housing, the primary one is that they used the same port diameter of about 85mm as they used in previous mirrorless housings like the Sony A6000. The problem with this is that many of the Sony FE lenses have wider diameters that will not fit through that sized port opening so in order to use them you have to put the camera sans lens into the housing, close up the back, then attach the lens to the camera from the front of the housing, then put on the port. It also means that if you want to remove a memory card or swap batteries you'll need to reverse that whole process. 

One saving grace is that Sony also includes a USB charging cable and AC Adapter. It works out perfectly that the mini USB port on the camera is accessible without having to remove the camera body from the housing. Simply remove the back of the housing and plug in the cable. On a one hour surface interval you can regain about 20-30% of your battery life, giving you plenty for the next dive. 

Purchase the SEA&SEA a7 II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

 

Nauticam a7R II Housing

The Nauticam A7 II housing continues with the ergonomic design of previous housings offering easy to use controls and a variety of useful accessories. Similar in size to the Sea & Sea housing it is much smaller than any DSLR. All controls are very well labeled and designed to be within easy reach. Just like the DSLR housings, the A7 II housing includes rubberized grips and ball mounts. The shutter release lever is large and sensitive, they offer two rear levers for movie record and AF/MF/AEL control. The two custom function buttons are simply buttons on top of the housing, similar to their placement on the camera. All camera controls are accessible within the housing and it utilizes Nauticam's excellent port release system which uses internal components to lock and unlock the ports allowing you to simply push on and pull off - no twisting, no strap wrench needed. In addition, Nauticam created a new port size with the original A7 line which they continued with this housing. The N100 (100mm) port opening is larger than the standard mirrorless allowing the new larger Sony lenses to be used without having to assemble from the front. 

The housing includes both an M14 and M16 bulkhead allowing you to use a variety of accessories, such as HDMI bulkhead for external monitors, vacuum bulkhead and electronic sync cords if you don't want to use the flash trigger. These accessories are one thing that set's Nauticam apart from other housing options, its easy to add on and create the perfect system for your needs. In addition the Nauticam Enhanced viewfinders are also compatible with the A7 II housing.

 

Nauticam Housing Specs:

  • Depth Rating: 100m

  • Weight: 2.35 kg (including handles and ball mounts)

  • Dimensions including handles: 335mm x 165mm x 110mm

While there is no TTL capability with the Nauticam housing they do offer a nice accessory in their fiber optic flash trigger. This piece slides directly into the hotshoe on the camera and produces light for the fiber optic cables through two small LED's. Since the A7 II cameras do not have any built in flash this is the only way to use fiber optic cables with the Nauticam housing. 

The one small thing to keep an eye on is the locking camera tray. For some reason Nauticam combined both versions of their tray into this housing, so it locks twice. There is the red locking tab that you push in to release the tray and that clicks into place automatically when you insert the tray, but there is also the black locking lever that you open to release the tray and have to also close after inserting the tray. Its a bit redundant and if you forget to close that black lever it will be very difficult to close the housing, and it will prevent the housing from creating a solid seal once you force the housing closed. This will result in a flood.

Purchase the Nauticam a7 II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

Aquatica a7r II Housing

The Aquatica a7R II housing is definitely a fantastic option for the A7RII (or other A7 II cameras). Well built, and ruggedly designed to stand up to challenging ocean conditions, it has the classic Aquatica matte finish and full camera controls available. In fact it is the only housing option that truly offers complete control of the camera due to their innovative dial control on the back of the housing. This control corresponds with the dial on the back of the Sony camera and allows for quicker scrolling through menu and setting options as well as a third custom dial option when setting up the camera. One custom function that can be set is ISO control, which gives the shooter immediate access to adjusting ISO on the fly - something that video shooters may find extremely helpful.

Aquatica also moved the control for the OK button on the camera to a large lever, well positioned by your thumb. They extend a lever for the C1 Function button on the top of the housing as well. I found this nice since they did not reposition the AF/MF button on the housing. Instead of using AF/MF for focus lock I set the C1 button to AF ON which then allows the camera to auto focus when you press the C1 button. This is very useful for macro with the 90mm lens which is not super fast to focus. You can lock focus with the C1 button, turn the AF w/ Shutter control to OFF, and then shoot as many exposures as you like without refocusing which can save time and stress under the water .

All the controls on the Aquatica housing seemed well placed, well designed and easy to use. They function as they should making the overall shooting experience underwater a breeze.

In addition Aquatica has gone one step further than the other housing manufacturers and created a flash trigger for this housing that comes included at no extra cost. This flash trigger is compatible with the Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes and offers the shooter the ability to fire strobes using fiber optic cables on the A7R II camera despite having no pop up flash. You also maintain the faster recycle rate of the UW strobes since you are not relying on an accessory flash or on camera flash. When purchasing you have the option to get the housing with the Fiber Optic ports + flash trigger, with a manual nikonos bulkhead or with a manual Ikelite bulkhead. Just like with the Nauticam housing, there is no TTL option for firing strobes, only Sea & Sea or Ikelite offer TTL when using their own branded strobes.

The A7RII housing utilizes the same port system as the Aquatica DSLR housings. This means that there will be a wide variety of good port options to fit any lens choice, and that there will be no issues with fitting the larger diameter lenses through the port opening on the housing. They have port options for all the Sony FE lens options for underwater as well as Canon lenses with the Metabones adapter giving a wide variety of options for the Sony A7R II camera.

 

Aquatica Housing Specs:

  • Dimensions: 6’’ x 3.75" x 11.2" (with handles attached)

  • Weight: 6.3 lbs (including handles)

  • Depth Rating: 90m or 130m available

Overall I was very impressed with the housing, and found it was easy to get comfortable shooting underwater and controlling the camera from outside the housing. The excellent image quality of the Sony A7R II and the ease of use with the Aquatica housing make this a perfect combination for underwater photography or videography.

Purchase the Aquatica a7 II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

Ikelite A7r II Housing

The Ikelite A7r II Housing was just announced. While we have not yet had a chance to check out the housing, it looks like is has great lens support, and it very well priced. The Ikelite will likely be a bit more bulky than the aluminum options as is the case with other housings. They have a new composite polycarbonate being used that changes the overall look of the housings. No longer complete see through the new Ikelite A7 II series housing features a beige opaque front with the classic clear back so you can still check o-ring seal and housing controls. This new polycarbonate is lighter and stronger.

 

Ikelite Housing Specs:

  • Weight: 5lbs (not including tray with handles)

  • Dimensions: 9.1" x 7.1" x 6.1"

  • Depth Rating: 60m

The A7 II housing utilizes the same port opening as the DSLR housings so you have access to a full line of ports that will fit a variety of lenses including the Sony FE lenses and canon options with the meta bones adapter. Lastly it is one of a few housings that offer TTL control with the A7 II cameras. Using Ikelite strobe and electronic sync cords you can shoot in TTL mode for easy, accurate lighting control.

Once we get this housing in our hands we'll get more information up, but overall it looks like the Ikelite will offer a perfect solution for the underwater photographer that wants the A7 II but can't afford the more expensive aluminum options.

Purchase the Ikelite a7 II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

Conclusion:

Overall both housings are great for the Sony A7 II / A7R II and A7S II. Pick the one that best suits your needs as they both offer a full line of ports. For TTL lovers the obvious choice is the Sea & Sea, but if you want to have a few extra bells and whistles then the Nauticam may be more enticing. The Ikelite is a great value, and the Aquatica housing combined a bulletproof design with great ergonomics.

If your unsure of which A7 II camera to purchase, go with the one that both fits your budget and your shooting needs. Dedicated video shoots will want the A7S II for its high resolution 4K shooting and excellent low light performance. Those wanting the most detail possible will want to pay the extra money for the A7R II, but if that is out of your budget, the original A7 II is still an incredible option. 

Sony A7R II Underwater Images:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver and underwater photographer who shoots primarily on mirrorless cameras. Familiar with a variety of cameras and housings she tries to shoot on as many different options as possible to improve her overall knowledge of underwater camera systems. In addition she is Manager of Bluewater Photo. In her spare time she can be found running, hiking or underwater. 

Connect with her on instagram @kelnkelp or at www.kelnkelp.com

She can be reached via email at kelli@bluewaterphotostore.com.

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Canon 5Ds camera review with 5D Mark III comparison by underwater photographer Ken Kiefer
By Brent Durand with Comparison & Photos by Ken Kiefer

Canon 5Ds Review plus 5D Mark III Comparison

Brent Durand with Comparison & Photos by Ken Kiefer
Canon 5Ds camera review with 5D Mark III comparison by underwater photographer Ken Kiefer

The megapixel war between camera manufacturers has been reignited over the past year, with several mega-megapixel camera bodies entering the market. Canon's entry is the Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R, which pack 50.6 megapixels into the same body frame as the Canon 5D Mark III.

As underwater photo and video shooters, we look to the Canon 5Ds. The 5Ds R cancels the low-pass filter that is built into most DSLRs (including the 5Ds). This produces an ever slightly sharper image, but makes the camera much more susceptible to the effects of moire when shooting things like fabric (i.e. wedding dresses) or architecture. Suffice it to say that the 5Ds is the better choice unless you're well-versed in AF microadjustments on your lenses and advanced post-processing techniques.

The high-resolution of the Canon 5Ds makes it the perfect camera for those who make large photo prints, or for those who need the freedom to make major crops of their images. This very high resolution makes it essential to use high-quality lenses and achieve crisp, sharp focus.

The Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R also have an Intervalometer and a Time-Lapse Movie Mode that provide two different time-lapse options. These are useful for those shooting video who don't already have other time-lapse accessories or software like Magic Lantern, and those shooting time-lapses inside their housings where accessories won't fit.

Quick Links:   5D Mark III Comparison   |   ISO Tests & Comparison   |   Macro Test & Comparison   |   Sensor Ratings   |   Best Lenses   |   Underwater Housings

 

Canon 5Ds Specs

  • 50.6MP CMOS sensor

  • Full frame (35mm sensor)

  • 61-point autofocus system

  • RAW image capture in several aspect ratios

  • Full HD video recording

  • CF and SD (SDHC, SDXC) memory cards

 

 

Canon 5Ds Comparision with 5D Mark III

Through the years, I’ve used a few different setups for capturing images or video underwater.  From a Sea&Sea MX-10 I progressed through some video-only setups, a Nikonos V, and Canon’s early Rebel cameras in my pursuit to show others some of the incredible sights of the underwater world.

In the never-ending march of technological progress, most photographers end up asking themselves every couple of years or so whether enough has changed to make a camera upgrade worthwhile.

Last year, I was trying to decide whether my Canon 5DMark3 had come to the end of its run in favor of the recently released Canon 5Ds.

But it turned out that I didn’t really have to choose. Through a turn of events, one of my friends made me a deal that I could not pass up - to trade my backup 5D3 for a lightly used 5Ds and an unused lens. 

Because Canon uses the same physical frames for both cameras; and basically left all the controls in the same locations, I can fit both cameras in my Ikelite housing without any sacrifice or modification.  All of the buttons and dials work perfectly. 

Finding myself with the decision to choose between the two cameras, I generally grab the 5Ds any time I’m going to shoot underwater. But the reasons that I generally grab this camera aren’t cut and dry.

 

5Ds vs 5D Mark III

Both cameras have basically the same weight, size, screen, controls, etc.  They also produce images that are for most intents and purposes identical. 

However, there are two factors that help tilt me in the direction of the 5Ds.  First is the fact that it has 50 megapixels.  I don’t print out images 60” and up very often, but every once in a while I do, and several of my customers do as well.  Having such a huge file does make a difference for the really large prints.  And, I never know for sure while taking a shot whether I might love it enough to want the overload of pixels.  The other factor is a little hard to put my finger on.  The images come out of this camera with a little different feel than the ones from the 5D3.  It’s nothing I can point out, and it’s not even possible to see unless I’m working with the full resolution images on my large screen at home.  It could be that the added depth from so much resolution creates a velvety texture.  It’s also possible that it’s all in my head : )

The focus speed on both the 5D3 and 5Ds is superb. In the water and on land, I can detect no difference in subject asquisition or the ability of both cameras to maintain AI Focus on moving subjects.

The 50.6 megapixel files do come with some compromise.  The need to stock up on large/fast memory cards is pretty evident.  I don’t use anything smaller than 64GB and usually prefer 128GB.  Also, working with and storing the files requires some different equipment.  I had to upgrade my external storage.  And, while I was doing that, I went with Thunderbolt connections to speed up the transfer.   

There are times that I choose to load the 5DMark3 in my housing over the 5Ds.  Usually, I choose the 5D3 when I’m going to be shooting all day; either with a swim team or a large fashion shoot.  

To handle processing the larger files, the 5Ds uses more processing power, which takes more battery power.   Depending on how much image review I do, I’ve found approximately 25-30% less shots possible with 5Ds versus 5D3 in similar situations before needing to swap batteries.  And, that is more of an extreme case.  I sometimes take over 2500 shots of a swim team in a day.  Not a normal occurrence for most underwater shooters.

 

ISO Tests and Comparison

The Canon 5Ds and Canon 5D Mark III have excellent performance shooting at higher ISOs. Ken set up some tests with both cameras to evaluate image quality when shooting at the base ISO of 100, as well as ISO 6400, which is useful for subjects like topside wildlife, surfers during the golden hours and indoor shooting.

Below are the original .jpg files followed by 100% crops of the RAW files, exported from Adobe Photoshop as unmodified .jpg files at 100% quality (no optimizing, etc). These photos were all shot with the Canon 85 f/1.2L lens.

 

1) 5D MkIII @ ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/80

2) 5D MkIII @ ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/250

3) 5Ds @ ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/80

4) 5Ds @ ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/250

 

Image left:  Canon 5D MkIII - ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/80
Image right:  Canon 5Ds - ISO 100 f/1.8, 1/80

 

Image left:  Canon  MkIII - ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/250
Image right:  Canon 5Ds - ISO 6400 f/5.6, 1/250

In looking closer at these 100% crops it's easy to see the additional resolution of the Canon 5Ds (which is why you see less of the subject in the frame than the 5D Mk3 photos). It's also apparent that the images shot with the 5Ds are slightly darker than those with the 5D Mk3. This is due to the increased pixel density of the 35mm sensor on the 5Ds, where each pixel picks up slightly less light. 

Both cameras show great IQ at ISO 100, but it's not quite fair to compare the noise and depth of field of each camera at 100% crop for ISO 6400, so I've created a new crop from the 5Ds ISO 6400 image to match the 100% crop of the 5D MkIII image for a fair comparison.

 

With pictures being equal, we can see that the depth of field of each image appears equal (as it should for same-size sensors). We can also see that noise at ISO 6400 is virtually the same.

In conclusion, high ISO noise performance on these cameras is great. What you do see can be easily smoothed out during post-processing. The 5Ds requires slightly more light, so underwater video shooters will need to open the aperture 1/3 stop more (decreasing DOF) or increase their ISO a 1/3 stop to create the equivalent exposure. 

 

Canon 5Ds vs. 5D Mark III Macro Test

For macro testing, Ken was able to set up both camera bodies in his Ikelite housing (one at a time, of course!) with Ikelite DS161 strobes, shooting the below photos with the Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens.


 

Both cameras show excellent quality when set up in a housing. Note that composition and strobe lighting were changed somewhat when switching cameras, so these photos serve only as indicators of image quality. You better believe that those nudibranch rhinophores will be sharp and crisp with either camera.

 

 

DxOMark Sensor Rating

Let's geek out a second. DxOMark is a group that provides independent image quality measurements and comparisons via RAW file. For this section of the review we'll look at sensor measurements for the Canon 5Ds.

Canon 5Ds

  • Overall Score:  87

    • (Nikon D810: 97, Canon 5DMkIII: 81 bits, Sony a7R II: 98)

  • Portrait (color depth):  24.7 bits

    • (Nikon D810: 25.7 bits, Canon 5DMkIII: 24 bits, Sony a7R II: 26 bits )

  • Landscape (dynamic range):  12.4 Evs

    • (Nikon D810: 14.8 Evs, Canon 5DMkIII: 11.7 Evs, Sony a7R II: 13.9 Evs )

  • Sports (low-light ISO):  2381 ISO

    • (Nikon D810: 2853 ISO, Canon 5DMkIII: 2293 ISO, Sony a7R II: 3434 ISO )

Source:  DxOMark.com

 

What Does This Mean for Underwater Photography?

The DxOMark scores above must be interpreted with proper context. Let's go through color depth and dynamic range:

  • Color Depth:  Color sensitivity of 22 bits is excellent, and differences below 1 bit are barely noticeable.  The 5Ds is rated well into "excellent", although ranking below the Nikon D810 and Sony a7R II.

  • Dynamic Range:  A value of 12 Ev is excellent, with differences of 0.5 Ev usually not noticeable. The 5Ds ranked about 12 along with the D810, but the 5D3 and a7R II fell below. 

Source:  DxOMark.com

This must all be taken with a grain of salt. The results above speak for themselves, but it is important to remember that this sensor data is only one small piece of the image-making equation.  Equally important is what the camera does with that information, which is why the debate over best IQ will always continue among pixel-peeping photographers.

 

Best Lenses

Canon full-frame DSLRs benefit from high-quality lenses. This is especially true for the Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R's large resolution. We've listed the most popular lenses for underwater photography below.

 


  • Canon 8-15mm Fisheye Lens Review

    • The fisheye lens of choice for Canon full-frame shooters, offering traditional wide-angle shots at 15mm and circular shots at 8mm.



  • Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

    • An ultra wide-angle lens for Canon full-frame shooters. This lens has excellent image quality, but comes with heavy weight and price tag.

 

 

Related Reviews

 

Canon 5Ds Underwater Housings

The Canon 5DS and 5DS R will fit in housings designed for the Canon 5D Mark III, which is very convenient for those who have both DSLR bodies. Below is Bluewater Photo's selection of housings.

 

The Ikelite Canon 5D Mark III housing (fits the 5DS) is full-featured yet affordable and includes built-in TTL conversion circuitry that puts perfect exposure at you fingertips.

Read our Ikelite Canon 5D Mark III housing review.

For more info and recommended ports and accessories, visit Bluewater Photo's Ikelite Canon 5D Mark III housingpage.

 

The Aquatica Canon 5D Mark III housing (fits the 5DS) is precision built with smooth knob and button operation that will feel like new no matter how much you use it.

Read our Aquatica Canon 5D Mark III housing review.

For more info and recommended ports and accessories, visit Bluewater Photo's Aquatica Canon 5D Mark III housing page.

 

The Nauticam Canon 5D Mark III housing (fits the 5DS) is intricately engineered to re-position camera controls to the most ergonomic and convenient locations on the housing, plus converter for fiber optic cable use.

For more info and recommended ports and accessories, visit Bluewater Photo's Nauticam Canon 5D Mark III housing page.

 

The Sea & Sea Canon 5D Mark III housing (fits the 5DS) is a compact and popular housing. This Version II housing features a built-in converter for fiber optic cable use and TTL shooting.

Fore more info and recommended ports and accessories, visit Bluewater Photo's Sea & Sea Canon 5D Mark III housing page.

 

 

Conclusion

The Canon 5Ds packs a whopping 50.6 megapixels into the body of the Canon 5D Mark III. If you own a 5D Mark III and are considering upgrading, you will not be disappointed.  Just make sure that your computer and hard drives can handle the large amounts of data. 

If you are deciding between the 5D MkIII and the 5Ds, there are pros and cons for each camera. The 5Ds offers greater resolution for large prints or large crops, but battery life is a little less, the files will move slower on your computer and technical aspects of photography, like focus, are critical. The 5D MkIII is a proven workhorse for full frame shooters but doesn't offer you the massive amount of resolution of the 5Ds.

Luckily, both cameras fit in all the 5D Mark III underwater housings, and the nice L glass you buy is compatible with most Canon DSLRs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken Kiefer is an underwater photographer that specializes in big animals and fashion/fitness shoots.  He uses his images of sharks to educate children about the realities of sharks –vs- media portrayal.  

View more of Ken's work at: www.kenkiefer.com.

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The long awaiting D500 finally arrives. Can it do ISO one million? See what the hype is about
By Scott Gietler

Nikon D500 Specs & Pre-review

Scott Gietler
The long awaiting D500 finally arrives. Can it do ISO one million? See what the hype is about

It has been 7 years since the D300s arrived, and many photographers have given up waiting for the D400. Well, Nikon skipped directly to the 20 megapixel D500, and what a powerhouse it is. Let's pre-review the Nikon 500 and how it may fit into your underwater photography or video arsenal. The Nikon D500 body arrives in March for $1,996 USD.

Nikon D500 - 4K Video

  • 4k video captures at 30p
  • 4k video is available only as an additional 1.5x crop, relative to a regular picture taken with the D500. That's a 2.25x crop relative to a full-frame sensor photo taken with the lens.
  • Simultaneous recording to memory card and external reader
  • Active D-lighting can now be applied to video
  • New 3-axis "Electronic VR" feature can stabilize video via software in 1080p mode
  • Create 4K time-lapse movies in-camera
  • Auto-ISO smoothing provides smooth transitions through exposure changes

ISO 51,200, expandable to ISO 1,640,000

We'll have to wait and see how useable the higher ISO ranges are on this camera. Even the Sony a7S II is only expandable up to ISO 400,000. Still, we would be surprised if these higher ISO ranges are actually useable. The native ISO is 100 - 51,200. My own guess is that we'll see 1 stop performace over the D7200, and for higher ISO's you'll want to stick to the ISO 6400 - 25000 range, but we'll see.

153 Auto-Focus points

  • 99 cross-type sensors
  • 55 user selectable points
  • 15 of the auto-focus points will operate at -4 EV for what we expect to be exceptional low-light performance

We have high expectations for the auto focus capabilities of this camera, for underwater, birds, behavior, sports and wildlife.

Dual card slot - XQD / SDXC

Switching away from compact flash, the new XQD cards can read & write at over 350MB/s, faster than any CF card. XQD cards are not cheap, a 64GB XQD card will run you over $200 USD, plus $35 - $45 for the reader.

10 fps for 200 frames

10 frames per second in the Nikon D500's high speed shooting mode is quite fast, but sometimes it is the number of frames you can shoot that really counts. With a XQD card, you can shoot 200 frames of 14 bit lossless compressed RAW files - that is huge! This buffer size blows away other cameras, and means you can shoot at 10fps for 20 seconds.

Bluetooth - always on

The camera has an always-on bluetooth connection called SnapBridge for fast and simple transfer of images to smart devices.

Pro Body

The pro body of the D500 is more like the Nikon D810 than the semi-pro D7200 body, which will allow greater stabilization in the hands of more experienced shooters. This body has the same weather sealing as the D810. Most of the body is made from magnesium alloy, with the front reinforced with carbon fiber.

Control via WT-7A Wireless Transmitter

The new WT-7A wireless transmitter ($799 USD) allows high-speed transfer of images over a range of 650 feet, if you have line of sight of the camera. The data transfer rate is 130Mbps, and the WT-7A can then transfer images to a computer or FTP server over ethernet. Users can also take complete control of the camera remotely using this device. Image comments and copyright info can be edited remotely on the fly.

Other notable features

  • 100% circular viewfinder, with 1.0x magnification - very nice!
  • 20.9 megapixel sensor
  • No built-in flash
  • PC sync socket and 10-pin port for connectivity
  • No low-pass filter for better sharpness
  • CIPA battery rating is excellent - 1,240 shots
  • Has a new "advanced scene recognition" system that we look forward to testing out
  • Single hand ISO changes are finally possible!
  • Dedicated joystick on the rear of the camera for easier moving of focus points
  • Optional battery pack / grip is available
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 actuations

NIkon D500 Underwater Housings

We expect this camera to be popular for underwater photography & underwater video, and there is no doubt that we'll see underwater housings from several - look for the Ikelite D500 housing, Sea & Sea D500 housing, Nauticam D500 housing, Aquatica D500 housing, and one from Subal. Exactly when is anyone's guess, the companies will have to get their hands on the camera first, but Ikelite and Nauticam are usually pretty fast to market.

Since there is no pop-up flash, we will expect to see flash triggers from most manufacturers. Nauticam, Sea & Sea, and Aquatica have all demonstrated the ability to make flash triggers, S&S has one embedded in their optical TTL converters, so we don't expect this to be an issue. 

Recommended Lenses for Underwater

Recommended lenses for underwater photography with the Nikon D500 include the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye for wide-angle, the Nikon 10-24mm wide-angle lens for sharks & pelagics, the Sigma 17-70mm for a mid-range lens, and the Nikon 60mm and 105mm VR lenses for macro. For wildlife, I'd go with the NIkon 100-400mm VR, or for more serious shooters the Nikon 200-400mm F4 VR. For underwater video, we like the Tokina 11-16mm F2.8, or the Nikon 17-55mm F2.8.

Conclusion

The specs on the new Nikon D500 look amazing, I think it will definitely be worth the wait. We'll update this page with our actual tests once we get our hands on the camera. - Scott

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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Features, Housings, Wet Lens tests, Underwater photos, plus slow motion video demo
By Scott Gietler

Sony RX100 IV Review

Scott Gietler
Features, Housings, Wet Lens tests, Underwater photos, plus slow motion video demo

Sony RX100 IV - a 3 Trick Pony

Slow motion video, fast shutter speeds, 16fps high-speed shooting

The Sony RX100 IV has some amazing tricks up its sleeve. Aside from its amazing image quality and easy to use menu, it boasts 3 amazing features unmatched by most other cameras -  960fps slow-motion video, 16fps high-speed shooting, and 1/32,000th shutter speed.

Although the 960fps slow-motion video has some limitations, the quality is fairly good and it will allow you to capture footage that no other underwater rig can capture, as you can see in our underwater video down below.

The 16fps high-speed shooting is easy to use by changing the drive mode, and is so fast you have to experience it yourself to believe it. It sounds like a futuristic high-speed Gatling gun, and after using it the first time you want to run around seeking high-speed scenarios to shoot with this mode.

The 1/32,000th shutter speed (that is not a typo - it really is that fast) does not need any special mode to access, the shutter speed just keeps going faster and faster. This opens up a whole new world of wide-open aperture scenarios in bright light.

Intro

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

The Sony RX100 IV brings new technology to the series, with a new Exmor RS CMOS sensor. This sensor is stacked with a lightning-fast DRAM memory chip, which reads image data 5 times faster than the older Exmor R sensor. The result is extremely fast electronic shutter capability, which allows for a 16fps burst and video recording at up to 960 frames per second (this means very, very slow motion!). The sensor also records video at resolutions up to 4K.

Bluewater Photo store manager, Kelli Dickinson shared the camera with me on a couple dives to create the underwater photos below. We hope these photos show the sensor's dynamic range, camera's nice auto-focus and great overall image quality.

Sony RX100 IV review

Sony RX100 IV pros and cons for underwater photography

Sony RX100 IV Pros:

Slow motion, 4K, Increased bit rate for video

  • If you have the right memory card, the RX100 IV can shoot in 4K, at a 100Mpbs bit rate. In addition, it can also take 2 seconds of 960fps footage in quality priority mode (which we recommend, or 4 seconds in regular mode), that will take 32 seconds to replay at 60fps. 

Electronic viewfinder included, better than the RX100 III

  • An electronic viewfinder is included. This 2.36 megapixel OLED EVF (compared to 1.44 meg in the RX100 III) can be useful in very bright-light conditions. However, the underwater housings do not support the EVF, so this feature is not useful for underwater photos. On land, I've tried the EVF and it is bright and fairly sharp, and will be a welcome addition for certain shooting conditions.

Lens is very bright at the long end

  • New 24-70mm F1.8/2.8 lens is brighter (F2.8) at 70mm than the lens on the RX-100 / RX-100 II. This will be beneficial for low-light shooting indoors, but for underwater photography I actually prefer the longer lens of the RX-100 and RX-100 II. Also, I don't find myself shooting wide-open very often underwater anyways when I zoom in, but on land I do.

3-stop ND filter included

  • If you are using your camera for shooting creative waterfall shots, or in extremely bright conditions, then this feature will be quite useful.

Great Focus Speed

  • The Sony RX-100 IV focuses very fast, must better than most other compact cameras

Awesome photos and video

  • The image quality of the images and video is outstanding, professional level photos and video can be taken with this camera

Cons of the RX100 IV for underwater

Slightly Larger and less pocketable

  • 10% larger and 15% heavier than the RX-100. When holding the 2, the RX-100 IV is slightly heavier. Although it is still a small camera, I would consider it "semi-pocketable", instead of slim and truly pocketable like the original RX-100

Cost

  • The RX-100 IV is more costly than all the other RX100 models.

Less macro capability

  • The 24-70mm lens will not give as much magnification as the 28-100mm lens will. The RX-100 can take a photo 3 inches across, the RX-100 IV can take a photo 4 inches across. When using the Bluewater +7 macro lens, I am able to take a photo 1.37 inches wide at maximum magnification with the RX-100. With the RX-100 IV, I can take a photo 1.78 inches across, and I also have a little less working distance with the RX-100 IIV. So while you can still get good macro shots, you get more magnification with the first two RX-100 versions.

Less reach for shy subjects

  • 24-70mm lens gives less working distance for shy subjects. For gobies, mantis shrimp, jawfish, etc. I like to zoom in to at least 100mm, preferable 120 - 140mm. Of course, you can always just crop the photo.

Not the fastest flash recycle time

  • If you are using a strobe, you'll have to wait 1 - 4 seconds for the internal flash to recycle, there is no way to turn down the internal flash power like the Canon compact cameras have.

TTL Capability

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, S2000, or D2000 strobes. TTL works in all modes - P, A, Tv, and manual mode.

Sensor Ratings

The DxoMark sensor rating of the Sony RX100 IV is 70, very good for a compact camera. The sensor is rated slightly better than the RX100 II & III, and about equal to the Canon G7X. The sensor rating takes color depth, dynamic range, and low-light ISO performance into account.

White Balance Capability

Although the Sony RX100 IV does not have "1-touch" custom white balance, I did find the custom white balance very 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.

Compared to RX100 II, Canon G7X

The RX100 II and the G7X both have a lens that goes to 100mm, which gives slightly more magnification for macro photos. The RX100 II supports the UWL-04 fisheye lens, which can produce more dramatic wide-angle and close-focus wide-angle shots than other wide-angle lenses. Still, the RX100 IV is our preferred choice for wide-angle over the G7X, as the G7X only has good wide-angle options when using certain housings and a special short port. 

Sony RX100 IV Underwater Housings

There are four housings available for taking the Sony RX100 IV underwater. Each features a different pricepoint and ergonomics, while all offer a wide range of accessories available through Bluewater Photo.

Nauticam RX100 IV Underwater Housing

The Nauticam Sony RX100 IV housing is an ergonomic 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 IV. The housing is compatible with a wide range of wide-angle and macro wet lenses and accessories. It includes a leak detector and supports an optional vacuum check system. It also has an additional bulkhead port for HDMI output. It has a 67mm port and can support the Nauticam WWL lens.

Purchase the Nauticam RX100 IV Housing.

 

Recsea RX100 IV Underwater Housing

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 underwater.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV Housing.

 

Fantasea RX100 IV Underwater Housing

The Fantasea Sony RX100 IV housing is made of tough plastic, creating a lightweight and sturdy housing. Controls are easy to access and very clearly labled. 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 IV Housing.

 

 

Ikelite RX100 IV Underwater Housing

The Ikelite Sony RX100 IV underwater housing is just-right-sized to hold comfortably in your hand, although it is slightly larger than the Fantasea housing. Controls are provided for all important camera functions including the rear dial. The camera's versatile front control ring is gear driven to place the control within easy reach. A sensitive shutter lever makes it easy to half-depress the trigger for focusing and metering. Works with wide-range of lens and strobe accessories. The housing is clear, so you can see inside to check for leaks.

Purchase the Ikelite RX100 IV Housing.

Wet Lens tests

RX100 IV wide-angle lenses

  • Fantasea Bigeye Dome - decent wide-angle option for the Fantasea Housing, restores the original angle of view

  • Nauticam Wetmate Dome - decent wide-angle option for the Nauticam Housing, restores the original angle of view

  • Dyron Super Wide Lens -  good wide-angle option for all housings

Sony RX100 IV wide-angle wet lens underwater

Nauticam Wet Wide Angle Lens - very good wide-angle option for the Nauticam housing

RX100 IV macro lenses

Bluewater +7 Macro Lens - a sharp, small lightweight, stackable macro lens

Nauticam Compact Macro Converter (CMC) - a sharp macro lens with very good magnification, albeit at a high price

 

Macro lens tests

 These tests were done on land with natural light / auto-white balance, and are designed to show magnification differences between various wet lenses / diopters. We used a postcard as a subject.

Sony RX100 IV review for underwater photography

 

Sony RX100 IV wet lens tests

 

Sony RX100 IV macro lens tests

 

Sony RX100 IV Nauticam CMC tests

 

Sony RX100 IV review for underwater photography

 

Sony RX100 IV review for underwater photography

 

Sony RX100 IV Specs

  • 20.1MP 1.0-type Exmor RS CMOS Sensor
  • ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens (f/1.8 - f/2.8) with focal length 8.8 - 25.7mm
  • Lens minimum focus distance: 0.17ft
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Super Slow Motion Video (maximum of 40x)
  • 4K Video Recording
  • 16 frames per second burst shooting
  • Front control ring (great for underwater settings adjustments
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • 180 degree tiltable LCD screen

Sony RX100 IV Underwater Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony RX100 IV Slow Motion Underwater Video

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

 

Conclusion

With stunning image quality, amazing high-speed capabilities and a wide-selection of underwater housings & lenses, the Sony RX100 IV is on of the top choices for underwater photographers looking to do great things in a tiny package. 

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We test the SeaLife Micro HD+ with photos & video of fast sea lions in La Paz
By Brent Durand

Sea Lions with the SeaLife Micro HD+

Brent Durand
We test the SeaLife Micro HD+ with photos & video of fast sea lions in La Paz

Shooting great video and photos doesn't always require a big, heavy and expensive camera system. It doesn't need to require hours of work building and cleaning housings, plus the stress of wondering whether the expensive gear will flood and break. It also doesn't require complicated menus, memorizing AP, SP, CMOS, DOF, IA SERVO and a host of other acryonms.

This is the realm of the SeaLife Micro HD underwater camera. I took the Micro HD+ (32gb version of the camera) down to La Paz for a small group photo trip and decided to test it out with subjects that are deceptively difficult to shoot: sea lions.

The photos and video below were shot in ambient light in very shallow water.

 

About the SeaLife Micro HD+

Below are the benefits as I see them:

  • Small and compact.

  • Fully sealed. No flooding. No o-rings to worry about. Charge the battery and transfer photos with a wet USB mount - very cool.

  • Piano Key Operation. Don't stress over all the buttons on compact housings. The shutter release button is on top, and there are rear piano key buttons for: Video record, Menu and Playback.  Easy!

  • Shoot Photo or Video Instantly. No need to change modes, you just push the shutter for a still photo or video key to start/stop video recording.

  • Compatibility with the SeaLife Sea Dragon tray and handle, plus Sea Dragon video lights, providing color to your video or macro photos.

  • WiFi. Instantly transfer photo and video to your device for quick sharing.

 


Purchase the SeaLife Micro HD+ from Bluewater Photo


 

SeaLife Micro HD+ Underwater Photos

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 

La Paz Sea Lion at Los Islotes

 


Book Your Trip to La Paz

Bluewater Travel can help you plan and book the perfect La Paz & Sea of Cortez dive trip.

 

Email bookings@bluewaterdivetravel.com for more info.

 

 

SeaLife Micro HD+ Underwater Video 

 

 

Small and Powerful - the SeaLife Micro HD+

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

Author's Gear Profile

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image-maker from California.
BrentDimagery.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is the editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. He is leading several dive trips in 2016, linked below.  Email Brent at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

Cenotes & Sailfish (Feb '16)  |  Bali & Lembeh (Sept '16)  |  Bimini Spotted Dolphins (Jun '16)  |  La Paz (Oct '16)  |  Kimbe Bay, PNG (Nov '16)

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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Olympus brings advanced 5-axis stabilization to their entry level mirrorless E-M10 camera
By UWPG News

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Announced

UWPG News
Olympus brings advanced 5-axis stabilization to their entry level mirrorless E-M10 camera

Olympus has just announced the brand new OM-D E-M10 Mark II mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The previous E-M10 is Olympus' entry-level interchangeable lens camera, and the E-M10 Mark II brings some new features from more sophisticated models down into this more budget-friendly camera.

Olympus mirrorless cameras have become extremely popular with underwater photo and video shooters by delivering high-quality images in a compact size, and the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is sure to create further appeal. Several housing brands are available to suit different budgets, while a range of kit and pro lenses ensure the right compositions, whether topside, in the pool or in the ocean.

 

New for the O-MD E-M10 Mark II

The most important update for the E-M10 Mark II is the upgrade to the Olympus 5-axis image stabilization system (previously only available in high-end OM-D cameras). This in-camera stabilization technology allows for less camera shake at slow shutter speeds as well as smoother video.

The OM-D E-M10 Mark II kit also comes with a new kit lens - the Olympus 14-42mm EZ lens.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Specs

  • 16.1 Megapixel sensor

  • RAW file recording

  • Full HD video recording

  • 5-axis image stabilization

  • New Large OLED electronic viewfinder

  • LCD screen touch autofocus

  • 8.5 fps burst mode

  • Compatibility with M. Zuiko Pro lenses

 

E-M10 Mark II Underwater Housings

We expect to see several underwater housings for the OM-D E-M10 Mark II, including housings from Olympus, Ikelite and Nauticam.

We'll be updating this announcement page as housing details are announced.

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

The NEW Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a surprisingly sophisticated camera that’s a joy to use. Whether you’re a novice just snapping shots of your everyday life or a photo enthusiast looking to maximize your creativity, the E-M10 Mark II delivers perfection with every shot.

 

MOST SOPHISTICATED FORM OF IMAGE STABILIZATION ON THE MARKET 


The OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the first entry-level interchangeable lens camera with the 5-Axis Image Stabilization made popular in Olympus' critically acclaimed high-end OM-D models.

 

 

FAST SHOOTING FUNCTIONS FOR CAPTURING SHARP IMAGES 


The OM-D E-M10 Mark II’s high-speed sequential burst shooting function has a maximum speed of 8.5 shots per second, allowing even a fast moving subject to be rendered in a series of sharply detailed images. The E-M10 Mark II is also equipped with Touch AF, with which you are able to focus and release the shutter simply by tapping the area of the screen you want to zero in on, with virtually no time lag.

 

BEST-IN-CLASS, BUILT-IN WI-FI 


The OM-D E-M10 Mark II offers best-in-class Wi-Fi connectivity and the free Olympus Image Share app to help you send your best shots directly into cyberspace, all of which you can control remotely from you phone.

 

CREATIVE FEATURES FOR HIGHLY-SHAREABLE CONTENT 


The E-M10 Mark II is equipped with 14 Art Filters, Photo Story and Live View allowing you full creative control over your shooting experience.

 

 

UNCOMPROMISING DESIGN & EXPANSIVE LENS LINEUP 


The E-M10 Mark II sports a sophisticated metal body with a prominent thumb pad for firm grip and comfortable handheld shooting. The E-M10 Mark II is the perfect match for the 20 and growing M.Zuiko digital lenses allowing you to find the best lens for every shooting style and budget.

 

 

###

 

 

Further Reading

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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Detailed impressions using the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera underwater
By Kelli Dickinson

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Camera Review

Kelli Dickinson
Detailed impressions using the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera underwater

The newest release for Olympus' popular OM-D line of mirrorless cameras is the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Instead of continuing the tradition of adding a new model number to the line up, Olympus has returned to the original, ground breaking OM-D E-M5 and updated it, creating the Mark II version. While this may seem confusing it is a very common practice, and helps to keep the different classes of OM-D camera organized.

The biggest change in the new E-M5 Mark II is the improved image stabilization and increased movie recording frame rates. This puts the camera in better competition with the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras. Sony has always included a choice of frame rate with thier cameras and finally Olympus has stepped up to the plate. In addition the shutter has been improved to work more quietly and it also features a full silent operation mode like the high quality Panasonic GH4, an excellent choice for video, to eliminate excess noise from the camera.

 

E-M5 Mark II Quick Specs:

  • 16 Megapixels

  • Micro 4/3 Lens Mount

  • Flash Sync Speed: 1/250th

  • Max ISO: 25,600

  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/8000

  • 81 Auto Focus Points

  • New FL-LM3 Flash included, ability to control flash intensity down to 1/64th power

  • Video recording at 1080 / 60p, 30p, 24p and up to 77Mbps bitrate

  • Improved 5-Axis, Sensor Shift Image Stabilization

  • Dust, Splash & Freezeproof Construction

 

E-M5 Mark II vs. E-M1:

The E-M5 Mark II has a variety of upgrades from the original OM-D E-M5, and even puts some competition on the OM-D E-M1 (the top of the line for the OM-D cameras). In general the body styling, deeper buffer and higher flash sync of 1/320th are the biggest benefits to choosing the E-M1.

The E-M5 Mark II has the same increased level of customization, including the very useful 1/2 switch. While you lose a couple of physical buttons from the E-M1 (ie: the dedicated viewfinder button and a dedicated AEL/AFL button) I found that all the needed controls can be programmed to one of the four Fn buttons, the record button and even the Preview button the front of the camera body.

A return to the original slim body styling keep the E-M5 Mark II body smaller, although the new FL-LM3 accessory flash is much larger, making the overall camera size taller. The control dials have been redesigned making them a very easy to turn. In addition the E-M5 Mark II adopted the larger electronic viewfinder from the E-M1.

I found when using the cameras on a recent trip to the Sea of Cortez that the E-M5 Mark II focused extremely quickly, possibly even a little better than the E-M1 with the Olympus 60mm Macro lens, a lens that is often slow to lock on focus, or prone to hunting. I had little to no focus hunting with the E-M5 Mark II, a huge improvment from the original E-M5.

In general - for underwater shooting choose the E-M1 for the higher flash sync speed, better for getting those great sunbursts, or if you like to shoot rapid fire since the E-M1 has a deeper buffer. Go with the E-M5 Mark II for improved video performance and improved image stabilization.

 

 

Recommended Lenses for E-M5 Mark II:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II features a standard Micro 4/3 lens mount, allowing it to use lenses from all popular brands in this category. In addition to the popular Olympus and Panasonic lenses, Olympus has recently released several new lenses, which give underwater photo and video shooters more professional options for capturing wide-angle and macro shots. Below are our recommendations.

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 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!

 

Macro Lens

The best option for shooting macro with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 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.

 

Wide-Angle & Versatile Lenses

The E-M5 Mark II 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 new Olympus 7-14mm Pro lens and the classic Panasonic 7-14mm are 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 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 Olympus 12-40mm Pro captures nice images with a f/2.8 aperture and professional level glass.

 

 

First Impressions Overall Use:

I was impressed with the general functionality of the E-M5 Mark II. The camera performed excellent underwater. It was extremely easy to set up the camera for underwater as with previous Olympus OM-D models. The variety of customizable functions is nearly limitless.

81 auto focus points allowed me to easily dial in my focus based on the composition, and even underwater without a focus light when shooting with a 60mm Macro lens focus was quick and accurate.

The LCD on the back is bright and displays movement extremely smoothly, an improvement over the LCD on previous OM-D cameras which still showed a bit of jitter when panning. In addition just like the E-M1 the improved electronic viewfinder gives 100% view and includes dioptric adjustment so you can perfect it for your eye.

Video quality is excellent, with the image stabilization working really well, even underwater. I was able to handhold the camera while shooting a nudibranch with very limited camera shake that you often encounter when trying to shoot video on a macro lens without a tripod. The one downside I have not been able to sort out is not being able to refocus in the middle of a video shot. With the E-M1 using S-AF focus, I can press the shutter half way to refocus while the camera is recording. This was not possible with the E-M5 Mark II (at least that I have been able to discover so far). You can utilize the C-AF (Continuous Auto Focus) which will refocus automatically during video recording, but I found it too slow, and sometimes it would refocus when it should not have which would mess up a shot.

Shot with the E-M5 Mark II and Nauticam Housing, lit with a single Sola 800 Photo

The one issue I had when shooting underwater was with the new accessory flash. I found on occaison it would disconnect, possibly it was slightly jarred from bouncing on the little panga, and I would be unable to use my flash, despite positive test shots prior to getting on the boat. I have never had this happen with previous OM-D cameras, and was unable to get it to work without opening the housing and jiggling the flash attachment. Out of 19 dives on the trip it failed on 2 of them.

 

Underwater Housings

So far both Olympus and Nauticam have produced underwater housings for the E-M5 Mark II, here are our thoughts on the use and design of these housings.

 

Olympus

Brent Durand recently had the opportunity to use the Olympus PT-EP13 housing for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II on a trip to Key Largo. Here are his thoughts on the overall use of the Olympus housing:
 

The Olympus E-M5 Mark II housing (PT-EP13) is a pleasure to use underwater. It is very lightweight and all the buttons are wide and clearly labeled. Button and knob locations are well-placed for intuitive use of the camera in the housing by those who are familiar with controls on the camera body itself. A coldshoe mount on top of the housing lets you attach a focus light or other accessory, while mounts on bottom let you set up the housing with an Olympus or third party tray/handles (for strobe or video light attachment). The port mount supports a wide range of ports from Olympus and Zen, allowing you to use all the best lenses for underwater photo and video.

 

Overall, the PT-EP13 has really nice value for the money spent.

 

The biggest change for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II housing is that they reverted the housing style back to the PEN housings. The orginal E-M5 housing (PT-EP08) offered a new port release system which is much nicer than the PEN housings. It allowed for much easier port changes and expanded the line of ports and compatible lenses available for the E-M5 camera. We are not sure why Olympus reverted to the PEN style for the E-M5 Mark II camera, but it's definitely a disapointment for Olympus housing users, especially anyone wanting to upgrade from the E-M5 to the E-M5 Mark II.

 

Other than that the housing is very similar to all other Olympus housings. Contructed of polycarbonate plastic, it is rated to 60m / 130ft. It offers full camera control, however buttons are not shifted as in other housings, so single handed operation is difficult.

 

In summary this is an excellent option for photographers with a budget, you still get the same incredible quality from the E-M5 Mark II camera without as big an expense as the aluminum housings.

Purchase the OLYMPUS E-M5 Mk II HOUSING.

 

 

Nauticam

The Nauticam housing is machined from aluminum and depth rated to 100m / 330ft. The design is very similar to the original E-M5 design, and ships without built in handles like the E-M1. 

Since the E-M5 Mark II does not have a dedicated AEL/AFL button like the E-M1 does, Nauticam did not move or redesign the housing to create a new lever for those of us who prefer to split out our Auto Focus Lock. However, just like with the original E-M5, they official movie record button has been turned into a lever, located perfectly at the back of the housing. It is very easy to reassign the movie record button to AEL/AFL and use that lever as your focus lock. I found, especially when holding onto the housing directly that this was very comfortable and a great way to shoot, especially for macro.

Shutter speed and Aperture control dials are easy to manipulate, and when well balanced for bouyancy, single handed operation is not difficult. The zoom control is the new style, larger and fully rubberized making it easy to control as well. As always the housing layout is ergonmically designed with tiered buttons placed within reach (when holding directly to the housing).

Nauticam now includes the nice silver handle brackets that incorporate with their Flexitray system and also allows for easy lanyard attachment. These brackets add stability to the handles when using strobes or larger video lights. I did appreciate the added stability, however the initial set up and subsequent tray adjustments can be time consuming. The Nauticam Flexitry utilizes multiple small screws for all its adjustable parts, so plan to set this up on a well lit, clear table.

I found when using the housing, that is was more comfortable to hold directly to the housing, versus holding onto the right handle. This is also nice for those looking to keep the housing small and streamlined, as you can attach the Nauticam handstrap to the right side to add comfort when holding the housing in this manner and not using a right handle.

On the left, holding directly onto the camera body put my fingertips right at the controls and made changing settings much easier than shooting while holding onto the handle as shown on the right.

Port changes are easy with the improved DSLR style port release lever, and with Nauticam's straightforward push on system there is very little risk of pinching or twisting an oring. The housing latch is the same as all previous mirrorless and compact latches, a large rectangle which you spin backwards to open.

Added accessories for the Nauticam add to the enjoyable user experience, such as the vacuum check system, which gives you a second security check that you o-rings are properly sealed and includes visual and audible monitoring throughout the dive with the included leak detector alarm. Flip adapters for the macro ports make adding a diopter for super macro a breeze. There is also an option to upgrade the rear LCD window to allow for the attachment of Nauticam's impressive external viewfinders.

In summary I would definitely recommend the Nauticam housing for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, it makes using the camera underwater practically seamless compared to using it topside. With full functionality and well thought through design, in addition to the high quality aluminum construction and a full line of ports and accessories, this housing performs excellently.

Purchase the NAUTICAM E-M5 Mk II HOUSING.

 

 

SEA&SEA

The Sea & Sea housing offers a high quality, yet compact housing designed to fit the E-M5 Mark II perfectly. With a specific Mirrorless line of ports, and compatible with just about any Sea & Sea accessory this housing is a great choice for any underwater photographer.

Learn more and purchase the SEA&SEA E-M5 Mk II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

Ikelite

Ikelite housings have always been high quality polycarbonate, and the new mirrorless line is no exception. Controls are put right at your fingertips for all important camera functions. Control symbols that are laser engraved into the back of the housing will never peel off or fade even with years of use.

Learn more and purchase the Ikelite E-M5 Mk II Housing on Bluewater Photo.

 

Sample Images from the Sea of Cortez:

 

 

Sample Images from Key Largo, Florida:

 
 
Reef scene shot with Olympus 9-18mm. Photo: Brent Durand
 
 
 
Reef scene shot with Olympus 9-18mm. Photo: Brent Durand
 
 
 
Reef scene shot with Olympus 9-18mm. Photo: Brent Durand

 

Reef scene shot with Olympus 9-18mm. Photo: Brent Durand

 

 

Featured Articles

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver and underwater photographer who shoots primarily on mirrorless cameras. Familiar with a variety of cameras and housings she tries to shoot on as many different options as possible to improve her overall knowledge of underwater camera systems. In addition she is Manager of Bluewater Photo. In her spare time she can be found running, hiking or underwater. 

Connect with her on instagram @kelnkelp or at www.kelnkelp.com

She can be reached via email at kelli@bluewaterphotostore.com.

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A review of the TG-4 and housing for underwater photo and video, including new RAW recording and Microscope Mode
By Brent Durand

Olympus Tough TG-4 Review

Brent Durand
A review of the TG-4 and housing for underwater photo and video, including new RAW recording and Microscope Mode

The Olympus Tough TG-4 compact camera sits in a class by itself. The 16MP camera is waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof and dustproof.... oh, and it even has a dive housing for serious underwater photography. This combination makes the Olympus TG-4 a great camera for those who put their cameras through demanding topside and underwater use but don't want the bulk and expense of larger systems. Highlights include microscope mode, which lets you shoot scary-close to your tiny subject, and RAW image recording for complete post-processing control.

 

Jump to Review Section:

 


Purchase the Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera & Housing Bundle

on SALE at Bluewater Photo


 

Goliath Grouper. TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter. Lit with Sola 2000.

 

Olympus TG-4 Camera Specs

  • Waterproof:  Down to 50 ft / 15 m

  • Crushproof:  Up to 220 lbf / 100 kgf

  • Shockproof:  Up to 7 ft / 2.1 m

  • Freezeproof:  Down to 14°F / -10°C

  • Dustproof:  Yes

  • Sensor:  16 MP BSI CMOS Sensor with RAW capability

  • Lens:  Fast f/2.0 lens - great for low light shooting underwater

  • Fisheye converter and tele converter for TG-4 body

  • Underwater housing (PT-056) rated to 150ft (45m)

    • For use scuba diving, attaching tray/handles for strobes and/or video lights, as well as macro and wide-angle wet lenses.

  • WiFi (and GPS) that can be paited with the Olympus Share app

 

 

Olympus TG-4 Key Upgrades (from the TG-3)

  • RAW photo capture allows for the highest resolution capture and maximum creative control

  • New Microscope feature allows you to focus with the lens virtually on the subject.

  • New Underwater HDR shooting mode (when not using strobe)

 

Sea Fan polyps. TG-4, no housing using macro mode. Lit with Sola 2000. Camera was about an inch from the sea fan in order to light, with no zoom.

 

Jet ski split-shot. TG-4, no housing using the fisheye converter. Yes, the Olympus Tough is... tough.

 

A great snorkeling/freediving camera. TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter.

 

Olympus TG-4 Underwater Housing

The Olympus TG-4 underwater housing (PT-056) can be purchased with is sold separately from the TG-4 camera, and we highly recommend it for anyone planning to take the TG-4 scuba diving. The housing is small, lightweight and a great value. And although the TG-4 is technically waterproof to 50ft, the housing will allow divers to use strobes, more wet lenses for wide-angle and macro, handles and other accessories in shallow water or much deeper depths.

 

TG-4 Housing Specs

  • Depth Rating:  45m

  • Filter Thread Size:  52mm

  • Weight:  Approx 1 lb (430 g)

  • Includes:  O-ring, silica gel, silicone grease, LCD hood, lens cap optical cable adapter, anti-reflective ring

Olympus TG-4 Underwater housing

Thoughts from the Lab

In reviewing the specs of the new TG-4 compact camera, we think it will be a nice camera for those who want a compact, versatile camera that takes high-quality images. Take the camera on your dive trip and bring it in the pool, in the river on your hike, toss it in your daypack and then put it in the Olympus housing with a strobe or a video light before your scuba dives. This is some great versatility.

The Olympus TG-4 is also much more desireable now that it shoots 16 MP RAW images. Recording images in RAW format saves more data, allowing for custom post-processing in your computer photo software.

Underwater shooters will be very interested in the new Microscope Mode. How close is the minimum focus distance?  I don’t know – the camera focuses on the lens cap… can’t get closer than that!

The TG-4's WiFi ability also 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 for keeping track of your adventure.

Simple camera controls make the TG-4 easy to use. You can record video with a press of the red button on back of the camera, which is indented so that it doesn’t start recording unintentionally. All other controls are positioned for easy access with your right thumb.

The housing is actually the same as the TG-3 housing, which is great for those who would like to upgrade for RAW and Microscope Mode. Housing controls are clearly labeled and easy to press. Replace the pop-up flash diffuser with a flash mask when using a strobe(s). One of the best housing features is the cold shoe mount on top, which allows you to mount a video and/or focus light on top of the housing, which is a great solution for bringing light to your photos without investing in a tray/handles and strobe(s).

Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera back

 

Preparing to dive. TG-4, no housing using the fisheye converter.

 

 

Thoughts from the Water

I tested the OlympusTG-4 on one exciting scuba dive and one snorkel, using the camera without the housing (the dives were shallow). These are the underwater photos and video you see in this review, with details included in each caption.

The TG-4 was really fun to use. Normally I shoot with at least one strobe, but the TG-4 produced some great photos using only a video light. I handheld the light, however the light could also be mounted to the housing cold shoe, creating a very compact system – it’s really all you need.

Underwater, the TG-4 was very intuitive to use. I shot in Aperture Priority mode, allowing you to shoot f/2, f/2.8 or f/8. For those without a firm grasp of aperture, you can shoot in P mode, which is full automatic.

While the camera isn’t fully manual (good for entry-level photographers), it does allow more experienced users to get the shot. Reviewing images was easy when working on precise lighting, and when I wanted to shoot quick action while swimming, I turned off the preview (after each shot), enabling me to shoot a rapid sequence.  (note that I shot each frame – there are also high-speed shooting modes that capture many frames per second, but this delivers jpg files, not RAW).

The Olympus TG-4 housing allows use of wide-angle and macro wet lenses, but there is also a fisheye (wide-angle converter) wet lens for the camera itself, which I used to capture the split shots in this review.

Switching from photo to video is super easy: push the shutter to shoot photos, and push the red record button for video. This is great for those who enjoy shooting photos and videos.

You can read about recommended lights, wet lenses, and filters here.

 

Eagle Ray. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

Grouper. Olympus TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter. Lit with Sola 2000.

 

Nurse shark. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

 

 

Olympus Tough TG-4 Underwater Video

Filmed with TG-4 without housing, ambient light only, except for Goliath Grouper scene (using handheld Sola 2000).

 

 

 

Additional Olympus Tough TG-4 Photos

Ready for adventure with the TG-4. Photo from a burst mode sequence.

 

Snorkeling. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

 


Purchase the Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera & Housing Bundle

on SALE at Bluewater Photo


 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image-maker from California.
BrentDimagery.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is the editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. He is leading several dive trips in 2016, linked below.  Email Brent at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

Cenotes & Sailfish (Feb '16)  |  Bali & Lembeh (Sept '16)  |  Bimini Spotted Dolphins (Jun '16)  |  La Paz (Oct '16)  |  Kimbe Bay, PNG (Nov '16)

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!

 


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.

 


UWPG & Bluewater Photo owner Scott Gietler looks at the best cameras of Summer 2015 Including the Sony RX100 IV, Olympus TG-4, Canon 5DS R, Sony a7R II, Nikon D7200 & Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
By Scott Gietler

Best Cameras of Summer 2015

Scott Gietler
UWPG & Bluewater Photo owner Scott Gietler looks at the best cameras of Summer 2015 Including the Sony RX100 IV, Olympus TG-4, Canon 5DS R, Sony a7R II, Nikon D7200 & Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Underwater photographers looking to get a new setup this summer have several excellent options that are either coming out soon, or already on the market.

In this article we take a look at some of the newest cameras out there that excel for underwater photography.

UWPG top picks - Cameras marked with a ** are top UWPG picks.

 

 

** Olympus TG-4

Specs: 16meg, 25-100mm lens

 

Pros: Good macro, works with the UWL-04 fisheye lens, shoots in RAW, the Olympus TG-4 housing is also well-priced

 

Cons: No manual controls, small sensor, slower auto-focus

 

Summary: Top choice for a budget setup, $650 for camera + housing is a steal, and as a bonus it works well with wet lenses. The camera does not need the housing for snorkeling, but we do highly recommend the housing for diving. See recommended TG-4 housings, lenses & strobes here.

 

 

 

Sony RX100 IV

Specs: 20 meg, 24-70mm lens, 1-inch sensor

 

Pros: Decent size sensor in a tiny camera, should fit in the same housing as the RX-100 III, 4K video, super slow-motion video, high-speed shooting with the new stacked CMOS sensor

 

Cons: Sony RX-100 II has better macro & wide-angle options, the camera is pricey at $950

Summary: A solid camera that may attract users who want to shoot high-quality video + stills; Still shooters who love wet lenses may still gravitate towards the Sony RX-100 II - which works well with a fisheye lens. People who only do macro might go for a Canon G7X housing, and dedicated video shooters may go for a Panasonic LX100 - especially since the LX100 has a sensor twice the size, and also shoots excellent 4K video.

Housings Links:

 

 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

Specs: 16 meg, 14-42mm or 12-50mm kit lenses, micro-four thirds sensor

 

Pros: Excellent lens selection, almost dSLR-like image quality in a smaller package, 5-axis image stabilizaiton

 

Cons: LCD / Viewfinder not as crisp as a dSLR, less dynamic range than a dSLR; competes with similar bodies such as the E-M10 and E-M1; Olympus E-M5 II housing doesn’t have the easy port change system that the E-M5 housing has

Summary: The E-M5 Mark II produces excellent pro-level images with the right lens. It excels for users really looking to take advantage of the improved video functions and mode options over the E-M5, however users really into video may choose the more advanced Panasonic GH4, which also shoots 4K video. Those more interested in shooting still images might not see as many improvements over the popular E-M1, so they may choose the E-M1 because of the additional customizable controls, as well as better quality housings available for the E-M1. Those on a budget will find the E-M10 camera a great option at nearly half the cost, and when money really matters the special Olympus Housing, Port and Camera bundle for the original E-M5 is an excellent choice.

Housing Links:

 

 

** Sony a7R II

Specs: 42 meg, full-frame sensor, 4K video

 

Pros: Huge sensor, amazing resolution, very good high ISO performance, 5-axis image stabilization, great stills & video

 

Cons: Pricey at $3,200 USD, lens selection still needs improvement

Summary: Pros will flock to this “super-camera”, which boasts a large number of technological capabilities and features. The camera is not out yet, but Sony claims to deliver faster shooting speeds and better high ISO performance than other high-resolution cameras, due to its innovative sensor. The a7R II is also rumored to have better auto-focusing with Canon lenses, which makes the 8-15mm fisheye lens a viable option. The dimensions are exactly the same as the a7 II, so fingers crossed that it fits in the Nauticam a7 II underwater housing.

 

 

** Nikon D7200

Specs: 24 meg, 1.5x crop sensor

 

Pros: Amazing camera at its price point, great dynamic range

 

Cons: It is not a D810 - meaning you only have the "center" area of an image the D810 would take; housings noticeably larger than E-M1 housings

Summary: This is Nikon's flagship cropped sensor dSLR, and for many serious underwater photographers, this is the camera for them, with great controls, excellent lens selection, and an improved sensor over the D7100. It has a higher DxoMark sensor rating then any other cropped sensor dSLR camera, and has very good focus in low-light. Some consider the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye on a cropped sensor camera the perfect wide-angle lens, and the Nikon 105mm VR the perfect macro lens. There is also a great selection of Nikon D7200 underwater housings.

 

 

Canon 7D Mark II

Specs: 20 meg, 1.6x crop sensor

 

Pros: Improved auto-focus for both stills and video over previous Canon models

 

Cons: Lags behind Nikon in sensor ratings

Summary: A serious choice for Canon lens owners who don’t feel the need to go full-frame - it offers improved auto-focusing over the T6i or 70D. However, many people will find that the less expensive 70D meets their needs, or for $700 more they can get the 5D Mark III. There is a great selection of housings for the 7D Mark II.

Housing Links

 

 

** Canon 5DS / 5DS R

Specs: 50 meg, full-frame sensor

 

Pros: Offers unsurpassed resolution, great macro and wide-angle capability for a Canon shooter, and excellent video quality

 

Cons: Lags behind Nikon D810 in sensor ratings

Summary: Many owners of Canon lenses will be tempted by the abiltity to have 50 megapixel images to work with; we recommend the 5DS R for underwater photography, for maximum resolution. The 5DS and 5DS R will work with the existing Canon 5D Mark III underwater housings.

 

 

** Nikon D810 (editor's pick)

Specs: 36 meg, full frame sensor

 

Pros: Excellent auto-focus, resolution and image quality. Great image quality at higher ISO's than a D7200, and the ability to significantly crop and/or make very large prints.

 

Cons: One of the larger, heavier setups you can get; auto-focus during video not on par with Sony or Canon

Summary: For the serious photographer focusing on stills, the D810 does everything a D7100/D7200 can do and so much more, it is the ultimate choice. For details, read our complete Nikon D810 review, and then check out the D810 underwater housings.

 

Learning how to use your new camera

What to learn how to use your new underwater setup? Join one of our photo trips, which are perfect for people with their first underwater setup, their first GoPro, or a new underwater setup.

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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!

 


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.

 


A look at macro, wide-angle, lenses, focus & more
By Scott Gietler

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography

Scott Gietler
A look at macro, wide-angle, lenses, focus & more

With 36 megapixels, lightning fast auto-focus, and one of the best sensors on the market, the Nikon D810 is a formidable camera. How does it stack up for underwater use? Pretty darn good! I've shot the camera on about 30 dives these last 2 weeks during my 5th annual Anilao underwater photo workshop for Bluewater Photo / Underwater Photography Guide, and I'm in love with the camera.

All of the following photos had minimal processing in Lightroom, usually adjustments in contrast, clarity, blacks, cropping, etc.

All photos were taken with either the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, or the Nikon 105mm VR lens.

This review covers:

  • NIkon D810 wide-angle performace

  • Focusing speed

  • Macro

  • Supermacro

  • Nikon D810 colors underwater

  • Nikon D810 bokeh

  • Cropping with the D810

  • File sizes

  • Info for cropped sensor upgraders

  • Nikon D810 underwater lens selection

  • Nikon D810 underwater housings

 

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Ribbon Eel, F10, 1/250th, ISO 100, Nikon 105mm VR lens

 

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Cuttlefish, F14, 1/250th, ISO 125


100% crop of above cuttlefish photo, with part of the eye in the lower left corner

Nikon D810 - exceptional wide-angle underwater

Using the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens and the small 4-inch Zen glass dome port, I found the image quality & sharpness to be exceptional, and getting close for close-focus wide-angle was a breeze. I just left the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 15mm.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Starfish & sun, F16, 1/320th, ISO 100, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens

 

NIkon D810 review with lenses, auto-focus, underwater housings
Crinoid & sun F18, 1/320th, ISO 100


100% crop of Crinoid/Sun photo above

 

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Lionfish & boat, F14, 1/320th, ISO 100

Nikon D810 review
Clownfish & sun, F16, 1/320th, ISO 100

 


Trumpetfish, photo by Helen Brierley

 

Nikon D810 - wonderful auto-focus for behavior

The auto-focus on the D810 was nothing short of a miracle. Huge improvement over my NIkon D7000. None of my wide-angle photos were ever out of focus, for wide-angle I never had to think about auto-focus.

Using the Nikon 105mm VR lens, endless hunting was mostly a thing of the past. Even squid floating by at night were easily focused on - and I remember my lens hunting endlessly with my D7000.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Cardinal fish with eggs brooding in mouth F10, 1/250th, ISO 200

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Coral banded pipefish, focus on eye F16, 1/250th, ISO 200

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Cardinal fish with eggs brooding in mouth F14, 1/250th, ISO 250

 

Nikon D810 underwater macro - a brave new world

Using the 105mm VR lens on the D810 is like using both the 60mm and 105mm lenses at the same time on the D7200. Use the entire image to get the angle of view you would have with the Nikon 60mm lens on a D7100/D7200, or crop to get the image you would have had with the D7200 + 105mm VR lens with absolutely no loss of pixels or image quality.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Phyllodesmium nudibranch F18, 1/250th, ISO 200

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Tiny pink-eyed goby F14, 1/250th, ISO 160

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Crinoid shrimp F22, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Gobies on tunicates feeding in current F16, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 - Supermacro and beyond

Supermacro with the Subsee +10 or the Nauticam SMC was a breeze, just flip, move the lens forward, aim and shoot. Detail and sharpness was incredible - no, mind blowing.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
X-mas tree worm closeup, F22, 1/250th, ISO 320

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Face of shrimp on anemone F29, 1/250th, ISO 160

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Mantis shrimp eyes, slightly cropped, taken with the Nauticam SMC diopter F20, 1/250th, ISO 320

 

Nikon D810 - great colors underwater

Using my dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, I got great colors with the D810 as long as I was close to the subject and not shooting through too much water. Since I like to keep my subjects just a few inches away, this was generally not a problem. Increasing the vibrance in lightroom often resulted in a more pleasing image without additional noise, unlike using the slider with my D7000.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
X-mas tree worm closeup F13, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Soft coral crab F25, 1/250th, ISO 200

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Janolus nudibranch F14, 1/250th, ISO 125

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Parrotfish, photo by Helen Brierley

 

NIkon D810 - great bokeh underwater

The shallower depth of field of a full-frame camera means you can get great "bokeh", or background blur, in your underwater images.

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Jawfish with eggs switching holes F13, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Small goby F16, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Male Anthias fish F9, 1/250th, ISO 100

 

Nikon D810 underwater - crop until you drop

Cropping is almost mandatory with the D810. With 36 megapixel images, 40 megapixel RAW files, and JPEG 7360 pixels wide - you have a lot of data. Unless you are Ansel Adams, you probably don't need it all. You can crop without fear, without shame, without losing detail.

Nikon D810 review for underwater photography
Hairy squat lobster, heavily cropped to 1/4 the original image size, but this image is still 1800 pixels wide and very sharp when viewed at 1:1.
F20, 1/250th, ISO 160

 

Nikon D810 file sizes

At first, I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the large file sizes of the D810. However, I quickly found out that a single 32 GIG card easily held a full day of 4-dive shooting in 14-bit RAW + small JPEG for myself, and loading RAW images into lightroom was not any slower.

Regarding storage, I don't have the need to store thousands of images I never look at, each day I scan my jpegs, select 10 - 20 of the best images, load the RAW files into lightroom and delete the rest.

 

Info for D200 / D300 / D7000 / D7100 upgraders

Can I use my lenses?

Yes you can, including the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye, 60mm macro, 105mm VR macro. However, "DX" lenses like the Nikon 10-24mm, 12-24mm, or Sigma 17-70mm will put the camera in "DX mode' which will only (ha ha) give you 15.4 megapixels. However, you will dislike the smaller viewfinder image that DX mode gives you.

How will macro be different?

It will be better, totally awesome. When I use the 105mm on the D810, I have almost the same angle of view of the 60mm on a D7000, but with 36 megapixels instead of 16 megapixels.

I also have the exact same image as a D7000 shooter using the Nikon 105mm lens (if I were to crop the center of my larger image), but I also have all these extra pixels they don't have around that image, which gives me extra compositional options. So in effect, it is like I was shooting with the 60mm and 105mm macro lenses at the same time.

Can I use my existing ports?

Absolutely! Please note that wide-angle images will be slightly softer in the corners at the same aperture. You can either stop down more, or use a slightly larger dome port.

How will the viewfinder be different?

The viewfinder on a Nikon D800 / D810 is larger than the viewfinder on a cropped sensor camera. How much larger? I will try to quantify this an update this section shortly.

 

Compared with the Nikon D800

Images taken with the Nikon D800 and Nikon D810 are going to be very similar. The D180 does have many advantages -  differences are in the better video capability, improved auto-focus speeds, faster shooting speeds (5 fps vs 4 fps), expanded ISO range (64 - 12,800 vs 100 - 6,400), longer battery life (33% better), much larger buffer capacity (up to double the size), quieter shutter and better LCD resolution (33% higher resolution).

With regards to sharpness, at 100% crops the D810 will be slightly sharper than the D800, although differences between the D810 and the D800E will be harder to detect.

If you don't own either camera, the D810 is the clear choice - especially for people like myself who will also use it for wildlife and therefore will take advantage of many of the improvements. But like I said - no perceivable differences in image quality.

 

Nikon D810 underwater lens selection

Wide Angle

  • Tokina 10-17mm fisheye - excellent choice - all wide-angle photos in this article were taken with the Tokina 10-17mm lens

  • Sigma 15mm fisheye - excellent choice

  • Nikon 16-35mm F4 - good choice, esp. for sharks, whales, dolphins

  • Sigma 12-24mm - good choice, esp. for sharks, whales, dolphins

Pool work

  • NIkon 24-70mm - good mid-range option

Macro

  • NIkon 105mm VR - awesome! All macro shots in this article were taken with the Nikon 105mm VR lens

  • Nikon 60mm - will work great, but I never feel the need to use it, the 105mm worked well for all my macro/fish shooting

 

Nikon D810 underwater housings

There are several excellent underwater housings for the Nikon D810. All of the housings are excellent, as the housing manufacturers have really stepped up their game in recent years.

Ikelite D810 underwater housing

Polycarbonate housing, includes built-in TTL converter for Ikelite strobes, great value. See recommended lenses, ports and strobes

Aquatica D810 underwater housing

Aluminum housing, holds up excellent in extreme conditions. See recommended ports, lenses & strobes

Sea & Sea D810 underwater housing

Aluminum housing, optional internal TTL converter, smaller size. See recommended ports, lenses, & strobes.

Nauticam D810 underwater housing

Aluminum housing, optional flash trigger for faster shooting, great ergonomics. See recommended ports, lenses & strobes.

 

Nikon D810 for underwater - conclusions

I had several concerns about moving to full-frame - I would lose the flexibility of the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye; I would have less ability to do supermacro; fill sizes would be unwieldly. It turns out none of these concerns were valid - I can do equal or better supermacro as a cropped sensor camera, and I still have the same flexibility with wide-angle as cropped sensor users - just via cropping instead of zooming, but with no less resolution. File sizes were not more difficult to store/process.

Although the Nikon D810 costs more, and the setup is slightly heavier, the pros are huge and I give it a huge 2 thumbs up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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