Review of cameras

Canon S100: In-Depth Thoughts And Housing Reviews

Victor Tang
Everything you need to know about the Canon S100 camera and the best housings options on the market.

Canon S100: In-Depth Thoughts And Housing Reviews

Everything you need to know about the Canon S100 camera and the best housing options

By Victor Tang

 

 

 
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As a frequent diver and underwater photographer, lately I have observed that more and more people who go underwater are equipped with some kind of camera. In fact, I'd say it's rare for a diver to go out without one. This might be because of the increasing affordability of the hobby, or perhaps because of the knowledge that the underwater world is deteriorating and the collective desire to archive its current beauty. Naturally, compact cameras make up the bulk of the market, and some premium options even come tantalizingly close to dSLRs in terms of image quality. Canon has always been at the forefront of producing amazing compacts for underwater photographers, and the new S100 model promises to build significantly on the popularity of its predecessor, the S95

 

The S100 is slightly bigger than the S95 but comes with more features and still fits easily in your hand.

 

My first impression of the Canon S100 when I took it for a spin in Tioman Island was very positive. The camera proved to be good at capturing fantastic shots with vivid colors and great detail. While selecting your camera is only half the battle, the next step is finding a housing, which we will discuss in-depth further down in this article. There are many housings on the market for the Canon S100 for different tastes and budgets. Remember that not all housings are created equal, and in this article I will evaluate the differences between the “budget” and “premium” options. I'll specifically be looking at the S100 housings from Ikelite, Fisheye FIX and Recsea.

 

The S100 Familiarized

Many articles have been made available with reviews and technical specifications for the S100, including my own “First Impressions” article here on the Underwater Photography Guide. After having more time to tinker with the camera, here are some important insights to be added:

 

  • For a compact of this size, the ergonomics have proven to be excellent. The dials for aperture and shutter are well placed, allowing single-handed operation should the need arise. Selecting ISO requires a single touch on the RING FUNC button and using the rear dial to achieve the desired setting. 
  • The increase in zoom range from 3.8X to 5X gives a camera of this size greater flexibility than compact users may be used to. Of even greater importance is achieving a field of view of 24mm at its widest setting. Underwater this gives an effective field of view of 30mm, which instead of 35mm of the S95 and G12, allows the photographer to get closer to the subject and illuminate it better when employing strobes
  • Video output from the S100, especially in low light, is excellent due to the wide f2.0 aperture at its widest setting. This is especially helpful for users who are shooting video without using video lights. Coupled with the close focusing distance of 3cm means the S100 is able to take video clips fairly sized (8cm/3inches or bigger) macro subjects without adding external enhancements like macro lenses.
  • ISO settings of up to 400 can be selected without much loss in image quality and fine detail. Having upgraded the S100 from a 10-megapixel sensor to the 12-megapixel one, image detail is more effectively retained. These two qualities are great for newly minted photographers who may not have external strobes to light up their photos. Advanced users taking ambient light photography will also appreciate these attributes. In short, this camera is more forgiving than ever before out of the box.

 

Of course, there are some less favorable things to note:

 

  • The Live View on the S100 can lag very considerably in low light conditions, and it takes awhile for the camera to catch back up once it starts to lag. Adding a focus light, even with is turned on at all times, does nothing to rectify the situation. I had the luxury of having two S100s to work with, and both gave me the same results, so this could be a firmware problem that I hope will be rectified on the upgrade.
  • The lens “breathes” when it's focusing, shifting back and forth to achieve focus. This may result in incorrect framing of the subject when it is in focus, meaning the subject as seen on the LCD could be bigger or smaller than what the photographer intended.
  • The autofocus absolutely rocks… when it works, that is. When the S100 is put through its paces underwater the autofocus takes longer to lock on as compared to on land. When it does lock on, the focus accuracy is perfect only 70% of the time. This issue is exacerbated when deploying macro lenses, so users who are used to focusing “within the ballpark” and relying on the camera’s autofocus to achieve final focus accuracy may find it harder to get the results desired. Even when moving the camera back and forth and relying on your eyes to get focus accuracy, upon half-shutter the autofocus may make the image even more out of focus than before. Using focus check is a must when taking macro subjects. A firmware upgrade may solve these problems, but for now users may have to put more effort into achieving the perfect shot. Of course, it has to be mentioned that when focus accuracy is achieved the contrast and details in the image are excellent.

 

 

What the S100 is capable of. Whip boby taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-110a strobes at ISO 80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s. Subsee +10 macro lens.

 

S100 Housings: which one?

With a slew of underwater housings available, it's easy to get overwhelmed and become unsure which will be right for you. Each will allow for beautiful photos and of course keep your camera dry, but the devil is in the details as each manufacturer has different methods of allowing access to the camera controls.

 

Ikelite S100 Housing.

 

Canon actually markets their own underwater housing for the S100, but most buyers would opt to pay a little more to get the Ikelite offering. With a much tougher polycarbonate shell and better quality buttons and control levels compared to the dinky ones on the Canon housing, the Ikelite option will easily outlast your S100 and another one. Ikelite also manufactures their own accessories like external strobes and add-on lenses that integrate seamlessly with their housings, so there are no shortage of options should you want to take your photography further. With a maximum depth rating of 60 meters, the Ikelite housing is more than capable of operating within recreational dive limits, especially compared to the Canon housing's maximum depth of 40 meters. The Ikelite is a no-frills housing perfect for starting off your underwater photo adventures.

The Ikelite housing fits in the palm of your hand, with easy access to all the control buttons and levers. However, to use the control ring dial on the housing a plastic gear ring has to be installed on the front control ring itself. The gear ring is fairly tight and there have been cases where repeated dismantling and installing causes it to break, so if possible the gear ring should be left on the control ring. Setting the camera into the housing is a simple task of slotting the camera within the space marked out by the pylons and making sure the gear ring on the control ring on the S100 meshes solidly with the control ring dial on the housing. The lens port of the housing conveniently features a 67mm thread to allow the photographer to use “wet” macro and wide-angle lenses. 

 

67mm thread at the front of the lens port. 

 

Of all the controls on an underwater housing, that which activates the shutter button is arguably the most important, for the mechanism has to be tactile enough for the user to feel the “half press” detent on the camera but still offer enough resistance to ensure the shutter is not inadvertently fully depressed. A well-engineered shutter control should allow the photographer to activate half shutter to see if the subject is in focus and also utilize features like focus check for further fine-tuning and take the shot only when the photographer chooses to. Ikelite has opted for the shutter lever where the movement to depressing the shutter is akin to pulling a trigger on a pistol. 

 

How the Ikelite shutter lever depresses the shutter button.

 

Using strobes takes a little extra preparation, as the Ikelite housing does not come equipped with any method to trigger external strobes for both sync cords and fiber optic cable. The easiest way to use strobes with this housing is via fiber optic cable, the common method being to stick on a velcro removable pad embedded with an open fiber optic cable end, right in front of the camera flash unit on the top right hand corner of the housing. A more elegant route is to paste a strobe mask set like those offered by Sea & Sea. The strobe mask set allows you to use dedicated fiber optic cables for underwater strobes and ensures a reliable activation of the strobes when needed. If the photographer has two strobes it is also a simple task to get a rubber bush offered by Inon and slot two open fiber optic cable ends through the bush on the housing.

 

A bit of DIY work but gets the job done.

 

Now that we're prepared let's take the housing underwater!

 

Through the paces

The S100 Ikelite housing with the camera inside feels slightly heavy in the water but not enough to warrant rethinking the weights one uses while diving. When attempting to turn the camera on you will realize how stiff the controls are on the housing. In fact, all the buttons on the housing, save for the shutter lever, are extremely stiff and it takes some effort to use the buttons to access features on the S100. 

Another issue occurs when trying to use the zoom dial. There is no return spring on the level to get the zoom lever back to its neural position after using it. Should the user forget to manually shift the dial back to its original position the zoom lever on the camera stays permanently on the zoom in or out, causing the S100 to freeze up. When the camera “freezes up,” using any control on the housing will illicit a non-response from the camera and the shutter button will not allow any picture to be taken. If this occurs underwater you will need to check your zoom dial.

 

The zoom lever (middle) stuck at zoom-in position. It needs to be rotated back manually.

 

The 67mm female threads are well made and screw in very comfortably. However, at shallow waters (5 meters and shallower) and in good light there is a some glare from the housing that may impede your view of the LCD screen. This problem becomes worse if the photographer is taking macro subjects with macro lenses and manual focusing is needed.

The shutter lever and the front control dial work well underwater with no discernible issues at all. By now the Ikelite user will have realized that there is an omission on the housing that may come to be viewed as a deal breaker for potential buyers: there is no dial on the housing to rotate the rear ring on the S100. This means that the user is not able to easily manipulate both the aperture and shutter speed to get the desired exposure, with the photographer essentially having to have one at a fixed setting and use the front control ring to adjust the other. With these constraints in mind some possible compromises are suggested:

 

  • For the most hassle-free compromise, set the camera to aperture priority or Av mode using the front ring to control the aperture. This allows the camera to decide the correct shutter speed given the size of the aperture you want to shoot to get the right exposure.
  • For more advanced users you can set the front control ring of the S100 to set shutter speed, choosing a fixed aperture before going underwater. Why not set the ring to control aperture instead? This is because shutter speed is a more effective way of controlling ambient light than adjusting the aperture, simply because compacts have a limited range of aperture settings due to the small sensor size. Shutter speed also has the advantage of reducing camera shake and freezing motion. For example, should the photographer want to incorporate a sunburst in the background shutter speeds of up to 1/1000s can be used whereas the maximum aperture on the S100 is only up to f8, so if your shutter speed has been set too slow it is virtually impossible to capture the sunburst effectively. If using strobes shutter speed becomes more important because the photographer will usually set a small aperture for a deeper depth of field and uses the shutter speed to control the amount of ambient light in the background.
  • There actually is a way to use the rear dial to control the aperture or shutter. This involves holding down the ring function button and choosing the settings via the macro button and the flash control button. Unfortunately all the controls are on the right side of the camera, making it extremely difficult to make changes efficiently. A convoluted two-handed position is needed to make changes via the rear dial effectively, and with practice one can make it second nature, but it may take up too much time before the photo opportunity is spurned.

 

 

Fisheye FIX S100 Housing

At the other end of the spectrum is the S100 housing from Fisheye FIX. Instead of using clear polycarbonate, this housing is constructed using corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy and can be taken to a depth of 70 meters, which accounts for its heft over Ikelite and a price tag that is almost three times as much. However, FIX sweetens the deal with a few useful add-ons bundled along with the housing, providing not one but two lens adaptors with 52mm and 67mm screw threads, and more importantly for users needing to trigger external strobes, an optical cable adaptor that can be fitted over the flash port on the housing. There is no need to fit a gear ring on the S100’s front control ring, and the camera fits into the housing smoothly and tightly, with very little chance of an improper mount. The direct video record button on the housing is colored red, which is a nice thought from Fisheye as a visual cue to users what that button is expressly used for.

 

The FIX S100 housing. Great build quality at your fingertips.

 

The optical cable adaptor. You do get what you pay for.

 

There are three crucial differences between the Ikelite and FIX housings that deserve special attention: 

 

  • The shutter lever on the FIX, unlike the pullback trigger style of the Ikelite housing, is a vertical lever that mimics the operation of the shutter button on the S100 itself. Having a preference for either design is subjective, and if possible it is best to try out both housings to form your own impressions. The Ikelite shutter level feels more natural with regards to movement of the fingers, although I find it easier to achieve and hold the “half-shutter” position when using the FIX housing.
  • The zoom control lever has a return spring that nudges the zoom lever on the S100.
  • There is a rotary knob on the back of the FIX housing that allows you access to the rear dial. This means that the FIX housing allows you to operate the camera as you would on terra firma. Compared to the Ikelite, the FIX housing has a clear advantage in terms of ergonomics.

 

 

The dreaded red button.

 

The shutter lever operates “naturally."

 

Through the paces

Remarkably the FIX housing with its aluminum-alloy construction weighs slightly less than the Ikelite housing, but it becomes negatively buoyant underwater. Complementing the housing with strobes will almost certainly require you to take off some dive weights. All the control buttons and levers can be accessed with just your right hand and the housing is a breeze to use underwater. All the buttons are easy to press and both front and rear dials move freely, making fine adjustments on the camera quick and painless. Having a return spring on the zoom lever means that the camera never hangs anymore as the zoom lever is never stuck any extreme position.

The lens mount accepted all my wet lenses smoothly, and since both the 52mm and 67mm lens mounts are screwed onto the lens port externally, it is possible to employ both of them underwater. The FIX S100 is actually more compact than the Ikelite offering, which along with its great ergonomics makes this housing a breeze to use. 

The main (and arguably only) pitfall of the FIX S100 housing is how easily the user can inadvertently depress the direct video record while diving. The direct video button is situated just below the thumb rest, which makes it easy for the thumb joint to accidentally depress it. In almost every dive I have inevitably come up a few “candid” videos mixed in with my intended footage. I thought that after some time with the housing I would have learned to avoid the button, but after eleven dives it still occurs.

Recsea Canon S100 housing

recsea s100 underwater housing

 

Although we didn't get a chance to review the Recsea S100, the Recsea S100 is also an excellent choice, allow full control of both aperture and shutter speed. The housing offers a large front control dial, which allows for easy use with heavy gloves, a large rear control dial, and 2 housing o-rings for added security.

The Recsea S100 housing also allows for use of an innovative quick-adapt system, which allows for easy adding and removing of wet lenses.

You can read several Recsea S100 reviews on the Bluewater Photo store website.

 

Conclusion

The Canon S100 is without a doubt a very prudent choice among compact cameras for underwater photography, especially if your main requirements are superb image quality in as diminutive a package as possible. There may be some hiccups while deploying the camera underwater but with some patience there is nothing to stop the photographer from getting amazing pictures.

Now comes the question: which underwater housing should you invest in? The Ikelite housing offers superb value, particularly for divers delving into underwater photography for the first time. Most of these new underwater photographers will probably start off with the camera in auto or aperture priority mode, so not being able to use the rear dial may not be an issue. More experienced users, who do not mind to work the buttons for full manual flexibility and some extra preparations for use with strobes, will also find the Ikelite housing a compelling choice because the quality of the construction offers exceptional value for prolonged and heavy usage. 

The FIX housing and Recsea S100 housings presents what is arguably the last word in underwater housing quality and ergonomics for the S100. The high quality controls allow one-handed operation and with the inclusion of a rear dial rotary knob the housing allows total and easy manual operation. The lofty price tag may deter some buyers, but the conveniences offered by the housing will persuade some that the premium is worth paying for. The Recsea and FIX S100 housings will be greatly appreciated by advanced users needing the full access to manual operation of the S100 and aspiring photographers who have made the decision to use the S100 for the photographic needs for the long term.

 

About the Author

Victor Tang runs a small dive travel company, Wodepigu Water Pixel, that in addition to the usual places like Manado and Bali endeavours to bring divers to some of the more exotic and harder to reach dive locations in Southeast Asia.

 

Further Reading

 

 


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First Impressions: Nikon D800 and Ikelite housing

Michael Zeigler
UWPG editor, Michael Zeigler, got a chance to take the Nikon D800 for a few dives in the new Ikelite D800 underwater housing.

First Impressions: Nikon D800 and Ikelite Underwater Housing

By Michael Zeigler

 

 
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I recently had a request for some really high resolution photos of the kelp forests at Catalina Island, and the files from my 16MP Nikon D7000 weren't quite large enough.  I needed to get my hands on the full-frame Nikon D800.  What perfect timing!

The D800 housing from Ikelite just became available at Bluewater Photo.  At 36.3MP, the D800 sensor has by far the greatest pixel count of any non medium-format dSLR currently on the market, and this was certainly the camera for the job.  Although conditions were less than ideal for what I was trying to capture, I was able to get a feel for the D800 and the Ikelite housing during my three dives at Catalina Island.

Using the D7000, Ikelite and Sea & Sea Housings

Although I have been shooting the Nikon D7000 in the Sea&Sea housing for the past six months, I'm no stranger to Ikelite dSLR housings as I owned one with my Nikon D90.  It was my first go, however, with a full-frame camera.  Here are my first impressions of the D800 and the Ikelite underwater housing.

I managed to get my hands on the camera and the housing the evening before the trip, so I had limited time to get to "know" the camera.  I was, however, able to at least set the menus similarly to my D7000.  All the photos below were captured using a Nikon D800, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, Ikelite housing with 8" dome port, and dual Ikelite strobes.

 

 

Close-focus wide-angle shot of a giant-spined sea star at Catalina Island, California. This sea star was just 2 inches from the dome port.  F10, 1/160, ISO 400.

 

Nikon D800 - Key observations

Intro

Having shot the D7000 for several months now, I was surprised at how even more solid the D800 felt in my hands.  I definitely noticed the weight difference too (900g vs. 780g).  The controls were easy to use, and I especially liked the larger multi-selector pad.  The only control I couldn't get used to was the ISO button being located on the top left side of the camera.  Overall I enjoyed using the D800 for the short time I had it. 

Depth of Field

  • The depth of field is a lot more shallow with a full-frame camera compared to that of a cropped sensor (e.g. the D7000).  The above photo shows the fish in the background are out of focus, even though I'm shooting at F10 with a 15mm fisheye lens (the wider the lens, the deeper the depth of field).  The difference in focus would have been much less dramatic on the D7000 at 10mm with my Tokina 10-17mm fisheye. 10mm on the Tokina with a 1.5x cropped sensor is the equivalent of 15mm on a full-frame sensor.

Big Files

  • Get a fast SD or CF card.  The RAW, uncompressed files are 75MB each (7360 x 4912 pixels).  The card I had for the rented camera wasn't fast enough, and I had to wait a few seconds for the images to appear for review.  You can, obviously, choose to compress the RAW files in the settings, or shoot JPEG.

Other key differences underwater

  • Video is easy to shoot with the D800 via the Live View button, and a dedicated red "record" button near the shutter release.

  • The field of view through the view finder on the D800 is 100%.  No surprises in the corners of your final photograph!

  • The multi-selector pad on the back of the camera allows for diagonal movement of the focus selector, and allows for diagonal movement of the image review.  That makes it really easy to check the corners of the image for sharpness, etc.  This function is not available with the Ikelite housing, but it will be with the Nauticam D800 underwater housing.

  • The light meter was visible in the top LCD screen.  I could see this being nice while using a tripod in a low position.  After framing the shot you wouldn't need to kneel down to adjust the settings using the light meter in the view finder.

  • I found that it focused just as fast as my D7000.

 

Here are some important D800 specifications

  • 36 megapixel, full-frame sensor
  • Offers 15.4 megapixels at a 1.5x crop (you can use your Tokina 10-17mm!)
  • Offers 1080p high def video at 30/24fps, 720p at 60/30fps
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • Takes CF & SD cards
  • Speed limited to 4fps
  • Auto-focuses at F8 like the Nikon D4 does, great for teleconverters!
  • 51 auto focus points, price tag of $2,999
  • Very hard to get right now! There is a long wait

 

 

It took a few minutes of slow approach along the bottom to get this close (one foot) from this bat ray.  F11, 1/250, ISO 400.   Publisher's note - as someone who has shot this scene many times with a D300 & D7000, I'm quite impressed by the detail in the photo, and the range of the blue color in the background! 

 

Ikelite Underwater Housing for the D800

The clear, heavy-duty polycarbonate construction of the Ikelite housing made seeing the controls easy, and also allowed me to view the LCD screen on the top of the camera right through the housing.  The electrical bulkhead and TTL circuitry allows for fine-tuning of strobe power via easy-to-control knob on the back of the housing.  Although the housing is larger than most aluminum housings, I found it easy to control underwater.  Just be sure that all the controls and knobs are pulled "out" when putting the camera into the housing, to ensure proper alignment of the controls once the camera is secured in the housing.  Once secured, always be sure to fire at least one test shot (true for ALL housings) to make sure the controls are positioned correctly, the bulkhead connector is hooked up, and to make sure you didn't leave the lens cap on.  Also take a test shot with your strobes on.

  • The housing, 8" glass dome, and two Ikelite strobes were almost perfectly neutrally buoyant with just a few strobe arm floats.

  • I really liked the dedicated AF-ON button on the camera, which I primarily use for focusing when the camera is in a housing. However, this was only available via a button the back of the Ikelite housing.  I was able to program the AE-L/AF-L button for the AF-ON functionality, which was accessible via a lever that I could easily reach with my right thumb while shooting.

  • The top LCD screen was clearly viewable through the housing, which was nice.  I never had to access the "info" button to see the settings on the back of the camera.  As I mentioned above, the light meter was also visible in the top LCD screen.  I found this to be a nice feature while I was cruising through the various light conditions of the kelp forests.  I could easily look down and adjust the settings for the changing ambient light conditions.  This way I could be ready for "the shot," should something interesting decide to visit.

  • I found it a bit cumbersome to switch back and forth between AF and M modes, using the switch on the lower left side of the housing.  Due to the way the camera slides into the housing, the switch is a one-way switch.  In other words, in order to switch back to AF from M, for example, I needed to physically pull the control knob out, look through the housing to see where the mechanism was located, then align it was the other side of the switch.  Once aligned, I could twist the knob and engage the switch to make the change.

  • The ISO of this camera is located on the top left side of the camera body.  This is accessed with the Ikelite housing via button.  I highly suggest that you turn on the "Release button to use dial" setting in the Custom Settings menu of the D800.  This will allow you to press the button, release the button, and adjust the setting using the main dial without having to use both hands at the same time.  My D90 did not have this feature, and it's a great to have with the Ikelite housing.

  • The only control that I did not have access to was the metering mode (i.e. matrix, center-weighted, spot).  It is operated via a small dial, located around the perimeter of the AE-L/AF-L button.  I usually leave my metering mode on center-weighted anyway, but it would be nice to access this, just in case.  Just be sure it's on the setting you want before you close the housing!

 

 

School of blacksmith in the shallow kelp forest of Isthmus Reef at Catalina Island, California.  F11, 1/60, ISO 200.

 

Final thoughts - Nikon D800 underwater

I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to use the D800 above and below the water.  For use topside, the camera had some "nice to have" features that included switch to close the view finder when using a tripod, a dedicated AF-ON button, and a separate button to raise the flash (separate from the button usually used to change the flash settings). 

For use underwater, I still prefer my D7000.  The increased depth of field comes in handy for me, especially when shooting macro or supermacro.  Plus, I love the versitility of the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye, which is not compatible with full-frame cameras.  Personally, I will not consider switching to a full-frame camera unless I find it absolutely necessary to produce massive prints of my work.

All in all, it's a fantastic camera, and worth the investment if you use the camera to its fullest potential.  The Ikelite housing is solid, and a great option if funds play a part in the decision making process.  I am looking forward to getting my hands on the Nauticam D800 and Sea & Sea D800 housings as well.

 

About the Author

 

Michael Zeigler is editor-at-large for the Underwater Photography Guide, trip leader and instructor for Bluewater Photo, and is an AAUS Scientific Diver. Michael's underwater photography and blog can be seen at SeaInFocus.com.

Join Michael as he leads an amazing underwater photography workshop at the famous Wakatobi Dive Resort 11/21/13 - 12/2/13!

 

Futher Reading

 


Where to Buy - Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo and Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

Check out their selection of Nikon D800 underwater housings.


 

First Impressions: Panasonic GX1 Mirrorless Camera

Kelli Dickinson
Review of Panasonic's new mirrorless camera, the GX1, and its performance underwater.

GX1 First Impressions

Panasonic GX1 Mirrorless Camera

Nauticam GX1 housing

By Kelli Dickinson

 
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Panasonic has a new mirrorless camera on the market, the GX1. This camera takes things up a notch from the popular G series cameras that were previously released, the GF1, 2 and 3. Relabeling the camera as GX as opposed to GF is possibly meant to make it clear to consumers that Panasonic has a whole new vision for this model. The GX1 offers a 16MP "live-mos" sensor, 3" LCD screen and ISO sensitivity up to 12,800, in addition to improved auto focus and touch screen capabilities.

 

GX1 Design & custom settings

Overall I was very pleased with the design of the GX1. It fits well in your hands with a grip that is not too large but also not so small as to render it useless. The buttons on the back are arranged in a classic and easy-to-use manner. There is a mode dial on the top of the camera for quick and easy mode selection. The mode dial includes your standard M, A, S, P, Scene and Art Modes, but also has two Custom settings where you can store a favorite camera setting for quick access. 

 

Panasonic's GX1 offers an easy-use mode dial which includes two custom settings, switch on and off and a separate record button for quick video access

 

The GX1 appears to take a step back to more classic design than going with what is trendy with newer cameras who all strive to be the smallest and sleekest with wheels and touch functions rather than standard buttons and dials. The GX1 maintains a nice balance between classic styling and new technologies with an easy-use control dial on the back, a more standard array of buttons as well as touch screen capabilities.

The blocky body design allows room for the standard array of buttons, which is refreshing in an age where sleek design often takes precedence over the quicker function of buttons. A circular array of four buttons with a center main menu button offer quick access to ISO, white balance, single/continuous/timer and auto focus mode settings, while four buttons surround those central ones offer display settings, auto/manual focus selection, a quick menu and a customizable function button. In addition there are two buttons above the LCD, play for picture review and an AF/AE-lock which is also customizable. 

 

The GX1 takes a stand with a more classic design keeping important buttons and dials as well as including new features like touch screen capabilities.

 

As a primarily Olympus camera user, I found the aperture/shutter speed control dial on the GX1 to be fantastic. Similar to dials found in dSLR cameras, it made it very simple to change modes and literally dial in your settings quickly. Unlike the Olympus PEN series mirrorless cameras, which use the up and down and left and right buttons to control shutter speed and aperture respectively, the simple turn of a dial is made for quick and easy setting changes. Be careful though: since there is only one dial for controlling both shutter speed and aperture, you need to press the dial in to switch between the two functions. Move too quickly while changing settings and you may find yourself suddenly changing the shutter speed when you meant to be adjusting aperture. This was also fairly problematic when the camera was in an underwater housing.

One downside to the camera I found was the menu system. The menu takes some getting used to, as the function, or "quick menu," which is usually found in the center of the main buttons on many camera brands, is actually now located as the bottom left button, and the main menu is accessed through that center button. I found this confusing, as my Olympus and many previous compact cameras had trained me for the opposite.

The large 3" LCD screen is clear and bright, making it easy to review and set up shots, even while underwater. The GX1 includes a useful orientation sensor that allows you to easily orient the camera for horizontal, vertical and any diagonal compositions. This is turned on and off through the display button. 

 

GX1 Focus speed & performance

Overall I was impressed with the performance of this camera. The auto focus is extremely fast, making my old Olympus EPL1 feel like a dinosaur. Even underwater, the GX1 would focus just about instantaneously, I even had one moment when a small rockfish darted at me from a black crevasse, and the camera was able to focus and snap a shot as it turned and darted off. Definitely impressive. Paired against the newer Olympus models the auto focus is equivalent, if not even a bit faster.  

 

Not the most stunning shot, but this kelp rockfish surprised me as it darted out of a crevasse and I quickly snapped the shutter - thanks to the fast focus speed I was able to capture him as he darted away.

 

I was able to test the camera with the standard 14-42mm Lumix Vario lens. Overall the lens worked well, with nice optics providing good clear pictures, however focus distance is definitely a limiting factor with this lens. I found the closest focus distance available offered images up to 4 inches across, unlike my Olympus EPL1 14-42mm lens which allows focusing for images up to just two inches across.

 

 

Panasonic 14-42mm PZ lens

Panasonic has also released this camera with their new 14-42 Lumix Vario PZ (Power Zoom) lens. We tested this lens in the store, and it seems very well suited to video, with the power zoom design, and the ability to control how quickly the lens zooms. The lens zooms silently, which is another nice feature. The macro capability is a little bit better than the regular version of the lens.

 

Macro shot of a clown dorid, uncropped using the Dyron 67mm macro lens - for good macro with the GX1 I would recommend using a dedicated macro lens.

 

The plus side to focus limits on the two kit lens options is that Panasonic makes a really nice 45mm macro lens and Olympus is releasing a new 60mm macro lens for the micro four thirds cameras sometime this fall. If you really want great macro, there is no substitute for a dedicated macro lens, and both of these will work well with the GX1. 

I really enjoyed using this camera, and it shows a lot of promise for great underwater use. The easy, functional design, quick auto focus, 16MP sensor and other neat features such as the orientation sensor will all aid in allowing for easy composition, control and capture of great underwater photos. 

Nauticam GX1 Housing

Nauticam GX1 housing

The Nauticam GX1 housing is very small and well built. It felt designed to fit in your hand very well. The shutter button is sensitive and easy to get to, and half-press focus is easy to achieve. Ports are available for all lenses you would want to use, including the 8mm fisheye, 7-14mm, 9-18mm, both Panasonic 14-42mm lenses, and the 45mm macro lens. The 14-42mm PZ lens zoom gear has not been released by Nauticam yet, but hopefully it will soon.

The port release system worked very well, no twisting of the port was necessary and changing ports could be done quickly. All buttons were easy to press while holding the housing, and the knob for changing aperture / shutter speed was easy to use even with 5mm gloves on. One dial changes both aperture and shutter speed. To switch from one to the other, you simply press the dial. The only downside of this design is if you change your aperture or shutter speed too quickly, you may find that it switches from one to the other inadvertently. 

Priced at $1,200 - we find that this is the best deal on the market for an aluminum housing for a mirrorless camera. Competing with the GX1 is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in a Nauticam housing. The camera and housing costs more, but it is a slightly higher end camera that we will be reviewing very soon.

GX1 Camera and Housing feedback from Swee Sin Eng

Swee used the camera and Nauticam GX1 housing on a recent trip to Komodo, Indonesia. Here is some of his feedback:

Using the GX1 and 45mm macro lens:

Surprisingly the 45mm macro lens was quite responsive and accurate. I had no problem using it in day time, and it auto-focused great. For night dives, i used it with Sola 600 light and it work perfectly. The only problem, was when the red focus light was on, the screen become completely red and it was hard to see the subject. The macro lens can take a photo 18mm across at 1:1 magnification, which is really nice!

The macro port does come with a 67mm thread, but using a wet diopter with this lens means the focus distance is very, very close to the port. I did put a wet lens on the port, and the camera did hunt a lot when trying to focus.

Using the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens

The Panasonic 8mm fisheye is a very sharp and wide lens, and allows you to create dramatic photos. However, it show vignetting in the normal 4:3 mode. I had to switch it to 16:9 mode to get rid of the shadow causing by the dome shade. The flash sync speed is locked at 1/160th, similar to other mirrorless cameras, which means it is quite difficult to shoot a sunburst shot.

Additional Panasonic GX1 underwater photos

Taken in Komodo, Indonesia.

Photos taken with Panasonic GX1, Leica 45mm macro lens

panasonic gx1 review

panasonic gx1 review

panasonic gx1 with 45mm macro lens

 

Photos taken with GX1, Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens

 

 

Further Reading

 


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First Impressions: Using The Olympus E-PM1 Underwater

Kelli Dickinson
Photographer Kelli Dickinson takes Olympus' latest camera out for a few dives to test its underwater performance.

First Impressions: Using The Olympus E-PM1 Underwater

By Kelli Dickinson

 
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I recently got the opportunity to take the new Olympus Pen "Mini" camera, the E-PM1, out for a couple of test dives. The Pen "Mini" is a slimmed-down version of the previous model in the line, the E-PL3. I own and have been shooting with the E-PL1, which was the first Pen series camera to have an underwater housing, and I absolutely love it. To avoid confusion, I will just refer to the E-PM1 as the "Mini" from here on out.  

 

 

Right off the bat I noticed several differences between the standard Pen series cameras and the Mini. Namely, the camera has been slimmed down, with Olympus doing away with the mode dial on the top of the camera, some of the buttons on the back and the internal "pop-up" flash. The flash is now a snap-on accessory to the hot-shoe for both the Mini and the E-PL3. The Mini is menu-driven for changing modes and several other functions. While this could seem like a negative at first, I found that it was not an issue. The menu is organized well - with one push of a button all the modes show up on the screen and you just have to scroll over to the desired mode. I found it easy to change modes underwater when I needed to. All other functions, such as adjusting shutter, aperture and white balance are done in the same way as all the other Olympus Pen series cameras.

The housing for the Mini has the same design, build quality and size as the housings for the other Pen series cameras. Olympus' durable polycarbonate housing has not changed its design throughout the different camera models, with the exception of adding a focus light option in the E-PL3 and Mini housings. The focus lights are not overly bright, and in my opinion you are better off going for the housing without lights. This housing will accept the dome port for the 8mm fisheye, after an easy customization, and costs less. Just like the previous housings, the housing for the Mini has tiered buttons, making it easy to use even while wearing thick gloves. All of the buttons are labeled, which I have always loved, making it easy to remember which button does what.

I took a customized housing out on a dive trip to Anacapa Island with the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens and Precision Dome Port with a Sea & Sea YS-110a strobe.

 

Playful harbor seal in the shallows at Anacapa Island, Olympus E-PM1 with Panasonic 8mm Fisheye at ISO 200, 1/125, F/5.6

 

In the housing the Mini functions just like the other Pen series cameras, changing your aperture or shutter speed, adjusting the flash mode or white balance are easy and are done exactly the same way. Like the previous models, aperture and shutter are controlled by the four buttons on the back of the camera, and ISO and white balance are contolled through the function menu, activated by the "OK" button in the middle of the button clusters. All of these features are accessible inside the Olympus housing. Other than the housing missing a couple of buttons, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in operation between the Mini and any other Pen series camera.*

This little camera functions wonderfully. The focus is much faster than my old EPL-1, and equivalent to the more expensive E-PL3. I fell in love with the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens immediately. The 180* field of view is fantastic, except for those times when you happen to capture the edge of your strobe in the photograph. The lens is clear and bright, and paired with the larger micro 4/3rd's sensor this set-up offers great quality that is very affordable for wide-angle shooting.

 

Close focus wide-angle of a red Gorgonian at Anacapa Island. Olympus E-PM1, Panasonic 8mm Fisheye at ISO 200, 1/160, F/16

 

Battery life on the Pen Mini is excellent, it easily lasted three long dives in the chilly California waters without an issue. All in all I was very happy with this new simplified Pen camera. It works as well as the other Pen models, for less money and without all the extras getting in the way.

 

Wide-angle shot of a red Gorgonian at Anacapa Island. Olympus E-PM1, Panasonic 8mm Fisheye at ISO 200, 1/160, F/16

 

Silhouette of diver, taken with Olympus E-PM1 and Panasonic 8mm Fisheye at ISO 200, 1/125, F20

 

*The only downside I encountered is that the loss of a few buttons meant that there is no way to review all of your pictures while in the housing. The camera relies on the scroll wheel to move back through your images, and there is no access to that wheel through the housing. You can still easily review the last image shot, as well as zoom in on that image to check focus.

 

Further Reading

 


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Canon S100 First Impressions

Victor Tang
A diver's first impressions using the Canon S100 underwater.

Canon S100 First Impressions

A diver's first impressions using the Canon S100 underwater

By Victor Tang

 

 
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Canon recently unveiled its latest compact camera, the Canon S100, successor to the S95. The S95 proved to be a wildly popular camera of choice for underwater photography, especially for new underwater photographers and serious enthusiasts who prefer a compact set-up when diving. The S100 promises to be a very compelling new choice for compact underwater photographers by making improvements on the S95, namely:

  • Increasing the zoom range. This has increased from 24-120mm to 28-105mm. This means that the S100 has a wider field of view that gives greater flexibility when taking wide-angle shots. At the same time the longer focal length when the camera is fully zoomed promises to give better magnification for taking macro subjects.
  • Closest focus distance when fully zoomed out has decreased from 5cm to 3cm. This allows the user to get closer to macro subjects and still keep them in focus.
  • A brand new image sensor with a higher pixel count at 12.1 megapixels with improved ISO range. This promises better picture resolution and better light collecting capabilities in the images it produces.
  • A new Digic 5 image processor, which promises better image quality with less noise or “fuzziness.”
  • Full HD videos with the addition of allowing optical zoom during recording.

I had the opportunity to try out the S100 for a dive while on a weekend dive trip to Tioman Island.

My set-up is as follows:

  • Canon S100 in FIX S100 housing. This is very similar to the Recsea housing and both are the only housings on the market that allow full access to all the controls on the camera.

  • Twin Sea & Sea YS-110a strobes.

  • Inon UWL-100 wide-angle conversion lens.

  • Dyron +7 and Subsee +10 macro lenses.

 

Ergonomics

The S100 allows the photographer to easily adjust the shutter speed and aperture via the rear dial and front control ring respectively. When housed in the FIX housing both functions are easily accessible by dials that can be easily rotated by the thumb and index fingers, which makes it easier to use manual mode underwater than on land with the camera alone. Operating a camera on land versus underwater are two totally different propositions, and there are some points to note when operating the S100 underwater:

  • Because of its size, the S100 does not have a dedicated button for ISO. Only the “ring function” button can access the ISO, along with the custom white balance function which I use very often with the G12. This means that unlike the G12, the user can only access one of these functions at the expense of the other. In such a situation, I advocate setting the ring function button to control ISO and leave the white balance to auto.
  • While using the S100 underwater I often find myself inadvertently depressing the direct movie recording button as it is next to the ring function button. It may take some time to “learn” how to avoid the direct movie recording button when accessing the ring function button.

 


Wide-Angle Photography

The new fixed lens on the S100 is wider than that of the Canon G12, which from my previous article has proven to be a competent camera for wide-angle shots on it’s own without the use of wide-angle conversion lenses. With an effective field of view of 30mm (24mm x 1.25 to account for the refraction index of water) the S100 truly has wide-angle capability out of the box. Upon initial observations, it’s apparent that image quality is impressive with crisp clear images. At 100% crop the resulting images still give great detail, which could be the result of a higher pixel count and the new Digic 5 processor.

 

Blue spotted stingray. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/100s. ISO at 80.

 

Blue spotted stingray at 100% crop.

 

As you would expect from a Canon, colors on images are warm and vivid with great detail. Low contrast detail is well preserved and there are no appreciable increases in noise levels as the ISO is increased up to 400.  
 

 

Table coral. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/160s. ISO at 80.

 

Candy coral. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/60s. ISO at 80.

 

Adding a wide-angle conversion lens will help to increase the angle of view for more effective wide angle shots. However, the vignette issues that plagued the G12, where the lens port itself obscures part of the image after the wide-angle lens is installed, has resurfaced. Many wide-angle conversion lenses currently on the market have no such vignette issues with the S95, which leads me to conclude that this is due to the increase in wideness on the S100. Zooming in the lens slightly will eliminate the vignette, but a penalty is incurred with a slight loss of wideness. The usual problem of blurring at the edges continues to persist. Fisheye lenses made by Dyron may be able to resolve issues with blurred edges in the image.

 

Sea fan. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/100s.ISO at 200. Inon UWL-100.

 

 

Macro Photography

Taking macro subjects is where the S100 truly shines. The higher pixel count and noise reduction features really come into play here, resulting in details that are truly impressive for a compact camera. Considering that the output is in JPEG, image quality should improve even more when shot in RAW.

 

Nudibranch. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/200s. ISO at 80.

 

100% crop.

 

Using underwater macro lenses is a breeze because almost all third party housings, including Ikelite, come with 67mm threads at the front of their lens ports.

 

Nudibranch. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/250s. ISO at 200. Dyron +7 macro lens.

 

200% Crop.

 

Barncale. Shot with manual mode at f8 and 1/250s. ISO at 200. Subsee +10 macro lens.

 

100% Crop.

 

First Impressions

Having now experienced the S100 underwater, I returned the camera to its owner but cannot help but be impressed by its amazing capabilities. There are no big differences ergonomics wise with the S95, and the old problems with wide-angle lenses remain, so the S100 did not re-invent the wheel. The leap forward in image quality due to improvements in the lens, image sensor and the Digic 5 image processor make it a very desirable camera to take under the waves. If you desire a small, unobtrusive package where you can capture great snapshots of your diving adventures, with room to accommodate add-ons like strobes and lenses to take your photography further, then the S100 is the camera for you.

 

About the Author

Victor Tang runs a small dive travel company, Wodepigu Water Pixel, that in addition to the usual places like Manado and Bali endeavours to bring divers to some of the more exotic and harder to reach dive locations in Southeast Asia.

 

Further Reading

 


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Canon G1X Review

Scott Gietler
Review of the Canon G1x for underwater photography, including auto-focus speed and macro tests

Canon G1X Review

Review for underwater photography

by Scott Gietler

 

 
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The Canon G1X is Canon's first attempt to put a larger size sensor in a compact camera body, with a fixed lens. The camera appears to be designed for G-series enthusiasts who may want better image quality and low-light performance. The controls and menus are very similar to a G12, but in a slightly larger body. Let's see how it performs topside, and underwater - and how it compares to the Canon G12.

 

Canon G1X key specs

  • 18.7 x 14mm sensor, 14.2MP. 4352x3264 jpegs; sensor is slightly larger than a micro-four thirds sensor
  • Fixed lens, 4x zoom, 28-112mm, F2.8-F.5.3 lens
  • Aperture range F2.8 - F16
  • Video - 1080p @ 24fps, optical zoom during video
  • Shoots RAW, has image stabilization, full manual controls
  • No GPS, no 3D. Includes an HDR shooting mode
  • Battery rated for 250 shots (without flash), not great
  • Articulated 3-inch LCD screen
  • $799 retail price
  • Weight with battery about 1.17lb (531gr), versus around .87lb (395gr) for a G12

 

Handling & Body

The G1X handles very similar to the G12. It has a swivel 3-inch LCD screen, which is slightly larger than the 2.8 inch LCD screen on the G12. The G1X does have a viewfinder but it's just ok - it doesn't show the entire image you are about to take, so it is not very useful for composing photos.

 

Canon G1x review for underwater photography

 

Canon G1x and G12

 

Canon G1X is on the left, Canon G12 is on the right. The Canon G1X has added a popup flash, and did away with the ISO dial. The exposure compensation dial is now under the mode dial. Other than that, the controls are pretty much the same, with a couple minor changes.

The build quality feels very good, and all of the controls worked flawlessly. The menu was very familiar, almost identical to the G12 menu system.

 

Image Tests

Here we see a 100% crop of an outdoor photo of a mural, taken with a G1X and a G12 at two different ISO's. The images look almost identical at ISO 200, but at ISO 1600 you can see quite a difference - the G1X is much better at higher ISO's.

 

Canon G12 with ISO 200, 100% crop

 

Canon G1X with ISO 200, almost 100% crop

 

 

Canon G12 with ISO 1600, 100% crop

 

 

Canon G1X with ISO 1600, almost 100% crop

 

 

The folks at DxoMark have already tested the sensor of the G1X and the G12. In their results, the G1X does much better in the high-ISO tests, but surprisingly does not do better in the dynamic range test. We'll post our own dynamic range test here shortly to see if we can replicate these results.

 

Canon G1X Macro Tests

 

Macro tests - no diopter

The Canon G1X does not have any true macro capability. Zoomed out at 28mm, I could only take a photo 8.5 inches wide. The G12, on the other hand, allows you to get as close as you want to the subject. Using the G12, I could easily take a photo 2 inches wide, although at that point I am very, very close to the subject. If you want more magnification that that, it is best to use a diopter (macro lens) and zoom in, so you can get some more working distance.

 

G12 - smallest photo widths

Macro mode, zoomed out: 2 inches or less, if i want to get really, really close
Macro mode, zoomed in: 4 inches

G1X - smallest photo widths

Macro mode, zoomed out: 8.5 inches (disappointing)
Macro mode, zoomed out: 13 inches

G1X focus distances

Macro mode, zoomed out: 6.0 - 40 inches
Macro mode, zoomed in: 46 inches - 72 inches
Normal mode, zoomed out: 12 inches - infinity

G12 focus distances

Macro mode, zoomed out: .5 inches - infinity
Normal mode, zoomed out: 2.0 inches - infinity

 

Macro tests - with a diopter

We tested the Canon G1X and the Canon G12 with a Dyron +7 macro lens, with the camera zoomed in all the way. With the G1X, we could take a photo 1 5/16th inches across. With the G12, it was 1 1/16th inch across, noticeable better macro performance. So you can get good macro performance with the G1X, but use of an external macro lens is essential.

When using a diopter, the focus range is extremely limited, so getting the magnification you desire may not be easy. Zooming the camera back out allows you to reduce the magnification to some degree.

 

Canon G1X and Wide-angle wet lenses

It can be quite difficult to use wide-angle wet lenses with the Canon G12, and the G1X will be no different. Placing a fisheye lens up against the G1X showed slight vignetting in the corners, but there was no vignetting with the G12. This means the lens element in the G1X appears to be back just slightly more than the G12 lens. This does bode well for the use of wide-angle lenses with potential housings, but of course we must wait and see what the innovative lens designers and housing manufacturers come up with.

 

Canon G1X shutter speed tests

The Canon G12 can shoot at 1/2000th at F2.8, and 1/4000th at F6.3 - F8.0. The Canon G1X shoots at 1/1600th at F2.8, 1/2500th at F6.3, and 1/4000th at F11 - F16.

The G1X can take an exposure as long as 60 seconds, this is an improvement over the 15 second limit on the G12.

 

Canon G1X Video mode 

The Canon G1X will shoot 1080p video at 24fps. This is an improvement over the 720p video that the G12 takes. You can optically zoom during video, and re-focus, but you do not have any control over exposure.

 

Canon G1X Auto-Focus Tests

For our auto-focus tests, we tested the G1X against the Canon G12, and a few mirrorless cameras, in low-light conditions. The shutter was pressed on 2 cameras at the exact same time, without pre-focusing the camera. We did 4 tests at 4 different focusing distances - taking a photo of a stopwatch running on an iPhone. Results are cropped.

 

Canon G12

 

Canon G1X, both shutters pressed at the same time.

 

 

 

Canon G12

 

Canon G1X

 

 

 

Canon G12

 

Canon G1X

 

 

 

Canon G12

 

Canon G1X

 

The Canon G12 beat the G1X in 3 out of our 4 low-light auto-focus tests, but just by a small margin. I'd say for practical purposed, they are pretty equivalent in auto-focus speeds. Mirrorless cameras like the Olympus E-PM1, E-PL3, Panasonic GF2 & GX1, and Sony Nex-5N and Nex-7 focus noticeably faster.

 

Canon G1X

 

Olympus E-PM1

 

The Olympus E-PM1 beat the G1X by almost a second, and the performance of other mirrorless cameras was similar.

 

Conclusions

With poor macro capability without a diopter, and no huge  auto-focusing improvements over the G12, there are probably better options available for underwater photography at $799.95 (not including the cost of a housing).

Although I have no doubt that the G1X is capable of taking some incredible underwater photos, at this price point I'd probably look at a faster-focusing mirrorless camera like an Olympus Pen E-PM1 / E-PL3, Panasonic GX1 / GF2 or Sony NEX-5N, or sticking with the Canon G12 and put the cost savings towards a good housing, strobe, wet lens, or focus light.

 

Further Reading:

 


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SeaLife DC1400 Review

Scott Gietler
A look at the new SeaLife DC1400 underwater camera and housing.

SeaLife DC1400 Review

A look at the underwater camera that replaced the popular DC1200

By Scott Gietler

 
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The SeaLife DC1400 upgrades the popular DC1200 camera, with additional features for beginner and intermediate level photographers. The price is right, at $499 USD for the camera + housing, $829 with a strobe. Read on to find out what exciting new features this camera has.

 

 

DC1400 Overview

The camera and housing are designed to be easy to use. There's not too many dials on the camera. You have the following controls:

  • The mode button switched between video and still modes. On the housing, this is called "video".
  • The play button lets you review images
  • The menu button is for the menu.

Taking photos, reviewing photos and changing modes is all fairly easy.

 

SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing specs

  • Housing depth rated to 200ft / 60 meters
  • Housing has a single standard-size tripod mount (same size as Canon & Olympus housings)

 

 

Front view of the SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing.

 

Rear view of the SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing, showing the "piano key" design.

 

 

SeaLife DC1400 camera specs

  • 14 megapixel camera, 4288x3216, 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 26mm -130mm lens, F2.8-F6.5
  • 720p HD video (1280x720) at 30fps
  • 1/2.33" CCD sensor, about 2/3rds the area of a Canon S95/G12 sensor
  • 3 inch LCD, 230K pixels
  • Takes SD memory cards
  • Camera has built-in image stabilization

 

Front view of the SeaLife DC1400 camera.

 

Rear view of the SeaLife DC1400 camera.

 

What's in the DC1400 box?

Lots of good stuff. You get the standard cables and well-written manuals, along with a couple desciccants, a lens cloth, cleaning brush, international plug adapters, a diffuser for the internal flash, and an adapter for adding a strobe. Nice job, SeaLife!

 

Focusing Modes

The SeaLife DC1400 has several focusing modes, including 2 "macro" modes. Which mode you use effects the allowed focusing distance, and how quickly the camera can focus.

Here's the modes to use underwater:

  • Infinity mode - very fast focusing, basically there is only shutter lag. But subject should be at least 3ft away. Best when shooting sharks, pelagics, or anything that won't come too close.
  • Auto - pretty fast focusing, but won't focus closer than 1ft - which will be frustrating if your subjects gets closer than 1ft. Good for fish swimming nearby.
  • Macro - the camera focuses a little slower in this mode, but it is best mode to use for static subjects 4 inches to 1.5ft away
  • Supermacro - focusing can be slow, but it allows you to get as close as you possibly can. Zoom is disabled

 

Scene Modes

There are 33 scene modes, but you really only need a couple of them.

Dive and Snorkel mode both seem to add the same amount of red back into the photo, for ambient light underwater photography. However, it's best to learn how to use a white dive slate and manual white balance.

When using a strobe, external flash manual mode is the way to go.

When using the internal flash, none of the modes seemed to give me control over my settings, and some of them wouldn't even let me set the ISO. Av and Tv mode gave strange ISO or shutter speed settings.  "P" mode seemed just as good as any, defauting to F2.8, 1/60th -  not ideal for underwater though.

 

DC1400 Macro capability

I like to measure the smallest area width a camera can photograph. Here are the measurements:

Macro mode, zoomed out: 11.5cm (4 1/2 inches)
Macro mode, zoomed in: 8 cm (3 1/4 inches)
Macro mode, zoomed in 2/3rds of the way:   6.5cm (2 1/2 inches). Not sure why, but this is the "sweet spot" in macro mode.

Supermacro mode (zoom is locked to 1/3 of the way in supermacro mode): The DC1400 can photograph an area as small as 2.5cm (1 inch) across, but you will be very, very close to the subject - which means your working distance is tiny, and you may have a hard time lighting the subject. Taking a photo 3cm (1 1/4 inches) across gives you a little bit of working distance. One thing to note - in this mode you can't fire the internal flash unless you are in external flash mode.

 

Sealife Wide-angle lens options

There is a nice fisheye lens available for this housing, and also for the DC1200. While not a super-wide lens, it is much better than not having one, and at $280 it is an excellent value. Look for sample photos coming soon!

 

SeaLife DC1400 Quick Start Guide

  • Understand that inside the housing, you'll use the zoom control to move left and right in the menus, and the shutter release instead of the "select" button. If you don't know this, using the camera in the housing will be very frustrating!
  • Go into the menu and change "ISO" from AUTO to ISO 100
  • Change image stabilization on "ON"
  • Go to 2nd menu, turn "AUTO-OFF" to "OFF"

 

SeaLife DC1400 Pros

  • Rugged, durable easy to use housing
  • Several underwater modes make it easy for beginners to start taking shots underwater
  • Fast focusing in infinity and auto modes
  • Good price point, add a SeaLife strobe and you are at a great price point
  • Great macro capability in supermacro mode 
  • HD Video support
  • "Full manual" mode allows for adjustment of aperture & shutter speed, this is very nice. Shutter speed can be adjusted in one-stop increments, from 1 second to 1/2000th. Aperture can be set to 2 different values, which are 3 stops apart.

 

SeaLife DC1400 Cons

I don't consider any of these issues to be show-stoppers for the beginner underwater photographer. They are just minor issues that I felt were worth pointing out.

  • Only 2 levels for aperture, for example F2.8 and F7.9 when the lens is wide open
  • No threads on port for adding external lenses
  • No zooming in on images during image review
  • No zooming in/out during video
  • No access to exposure compensation via the housing
  • ISO and focus modes are sometimes set back to the auto settings, especially when the camera is turned off in some modes, or you switch modes.
  • No RAW support

 

Conclusions

For beginner underwater photographers who want a good quality housing at a good price, the SeaLife DC1400 is a good value. The ability to change aperture and shutter speed means that photographers who want to take their photography to the next level can do so, especially when the wide-angle lens comes out. The supermacro capability, and the fast-shooting infinity focus mode gives it some advantages over camera/ housing combinatons that cost much more. The SeaLife strobe is highly recommended when getting this camera.

Further Reading

Great underwater photos without a strobe

Sony RX-100 underwater review

 


Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice! Here is their Sealife DC1400 page.


 

 

Nikon D7000 Review & Settings

Scott Gietler
Nikon D7000 review inlcuding settings, sample photos, and reasons to upgrade.

Nikon D7000 Review

A great camera for underwater photographers to consider

Settings, sample photos, and reasons to upgrade

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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I really like the Nikon D7000. The ergonomics top-side are great, the body is fairly light, and it has incredible high-ISO performance, great dynamic range and great colors. If you want to get top-notch underwater photos, seriously consider the Nikon D7000. Of course,  now the Nikon D7100 has just come out, which I'll probably upgrade to.

 

 

 

Nikon D7000 impressions

To start off with - the battery life is amazing, even with using the internal flash to fire the strobes, the battery lasts at least a couple of days of 4 dives a day.  I also like the dual-card slots, although compact flash cards are considered superior to the SD slots the D7000 has.

 

 

New sensor

The new 16 megapixel sensor was great, and I noticed even more detail in my macro photos. Still, if you are just displaying photos online, I think you will be hard pressed to notice differences between a new dSLR and a body a few years old. Subject selection, composition, and lighting will still make the different between a good shot and a great shot. The Nikon D7000 has more megapixels than any other Nikon dSLR except for the D3x, not a bad thing.

 

Changes from the D300

In changing from the Nikon D300 to the D7000, I lost some focusing points, I only have 39 instead of the 51 on my D300. More is definitely better, I like to move my single focus point around. The max sync speed remains the same as the D300 at 1/320th, the best of any current dSLR out there. Having a fast sync speed is nice when you are shooting into the sun, to help you gain a little bit more control over all that ambient light and not blow-out the photo.

 

ISO on the D7000

The ISO on this camera goes up to ISO 25,600. I hardly notice any noise at ISO 3200 if the image is properly exposed, which is quite remarkable. DPReview says in their review that the D7000 may have the best high ISO performance of any current APS-C dSLR. The base ISO on this camera is ISO 100, which is a change from the ISO 200 base that the D300 & D300s had.

The Nikon D7000, like other Nikon models, has an amazing auto ISO function - which is great when shooting ambient light. The ISO will automatically be adjusted, if a certain minimum shutter speed is not reached, up to a max ISO that you set. A very nice feature! The values are set in the shooting menu, and it is pretty self explanatory. I highly recommed turning auto-ISO off when using strobes.

 

Shooting Video

Having the option for video underwater is really nice. Although they claim the camera can auto-focus while taking video, don't expect it to be very useable, especially underwater - it is a little clunky. The underwater video is best taken with a wide-angle lens, using a larger depth of field (if you have enough of light) to get the entire image in focus. I've posted a sample video from a blue-water dive further down.

In summary, in terms of images - I'd say this may be the best cropped-sensor camera out there right now. The Canon 7D and Nikon D300/D300s bodies still have more of a "pro feel" to them, and slightly more controls. But Nikon has really upped their game with this camera - you can't go wrong. Right now it costs $1199 in the USA.

 

Using the Sea & Sea housing

The beauty of the Sea & Sea D7000 housing is that it just works great out of the box. Aperture and shutter dials worked perfectly, and it was easy to get a half shutter press - Sea & Sea housings are known for having the best shutter-release controls on the market. I often change ISO, and the ISO control was quick and easy to use.

My ports bayonetted on and off the housing easily, and I didn't have to do anything special to insert the camera into the housing. Sea & Sea designs their controls to be ergonomic, but not convoluted - so that they will work now, and years from now, which to me is very important in a housing.

Using this camera underwater, it just worked flawlessly. The entire setup is lighter than my S&S D300 setup. With a couple Stix floats and a couple ULCS buoyancy arms, the entire setup is just slightly negative in my hands.

I used fiber optic cables with my Ys-110a strobes, and they worked great. By setting my flash power to 1/100th, the internal flash had instant recycle time, and I could shoot as quickly as I wanted to. It was nice not to have electrical sync cords that I had to worry about flooding or corroding.

 

Video going over the Sea & Sea MDX-D7000 housing

 

Nikon D7000 compared to other dSLRs

 
  Nikon D7000

Nikon D300s

Canon 7D Canon T3i
Megapixels 16 12 18 18
Focus points 39 51 19 9
Sync speed 1/320th 1/320th 1/250th 1/200th
shooting speed 6fps 7fps 8fps 4fps
Price (USD) $1,200 $1,500 $1,600 $700
Storage SD card (dual) CF card (dual) CF card SD card
Shutter rating 150K 150K 150K 50-100K
Dxo Sensor Score 80 70 66 62
2 Control Wheels yes yes yes no
Weight with battery 780g 925g 860g 570g
RAW Buffer size 10 17 15 5

 

Nikon D7000 underwater settings

 

Initial Settings for the beginner dSLR underwater photographer

Aperture (F-stop): For macro, you can start at F16, and adjust for the depth of field you want.  But see what happens when you forget to "dial down" in this thread. For wide-angle, I start at F8, but I can shoot at F11 or F16 if I'm doing close-focus wide-angle and want the background to be sharp.

Shutter Speed: 1/320th. Check your E1 custom menu setting, see the bottom of this article. For wide-angle, slow down your shutter speed until you get the ambient light looking correct.

ISO: I like to set it to ISO 100 or ISO 200 for macro, or bright wide-angle shots. But in darker water this can perform great at ISO 400 or ISO 800, no problem.

Strobe power: Set it manually for best results. It's easy, and you'll quickly learn how to vary the power differently on your 2 strobes for best results.

Understanding the finer points of adjusting Aperture, Shutter-speed and ISO are best covered in an in-person underwater photography class. But we will talk about changing these settings in a future article.

 

Quality:   I like to shoot in RAW + small fine JPEG, on a Delkin or SanDisk Extreme memory card. This doesn't take up much more space than shooting only in RAW, but I have a jpeg ready for a quick posting. Read about choosing raw or jpeg

 

Nikon D7000 focus mode:

Press the AF-mode button on the side of the camera; rotate the main command dial
choose AF-S (single-servo) or AF-C focus mode (continuous mode).

 

Nikon D7000 focus-area:

Press the AF-mode button on the side of the camera; rotate the sub-command dial
choose “single-point AF” or “auto-area AF.”


Shooting menu:

  • Role played by 2nd card - your choice
  • NEF (Raw) bit depth - 12 or 14bit, your choice
  • active D-lighting - off if shooting raw, on if shooting jpegs
  • shooting menu, ISO sensitivity settings, set AUTO ISO control to on to get auto-ISO exposure (note this does not work in movie mode)
  • movie settings - movie quality - set it to what you want
  • microphone - you may want to turn this off
  • manual movie settings - turn “on” to be able to set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yourself
  • destination - pick the correct card
  • white balance - auto
  • RAW/JPEG - I like to shoot in RAW + small fine jpeg; YMMV

Playback mode

  • image review  - ON
  • rotate tall - you may want this ON

 

Nikon D7000 Custom settings:

A4* - on
A5* - wrap
A7* - off
A8*  auto-focus area for movie mode - wide area or normal area
D1 - beep - change volume to your preference
D2 - turn on grid if you prefer
D6 - continuos low shooting speed - change to your preference
E1 - flash sync speed 1/320th
E3 - flash control, set to manual flash power, 1/100th if you want to use your strobes on manual power
F6 - reverse command dials - you may want shutter and aperture controls to be reversed, this is a personal preference.

 

Setup menu

LCD brightness - you may want to make the LCD a little brighter

 

Nikon D7000 Underwater Photos

All photos processed only in Adobe Lightroom

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Yellowchin Fringehead, "Bad Hair Day". F20, 1/320th, ISO 100

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Shallow kelp scene in the Channel Islands. F8, 1/125th, ISO 200 @12mm with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Salp on a blue-water dive. F8, 1/250th, ISO 160 @12mm

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Starfish close-focus wide-angle. F16, ISO 200, 1/320th @10mm. By shooting at F16, I was able to get the entire photo sharp. Focus point placed on the starfish. I just started using YS-110a strobes and I really like the color that I get out of them.

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Black-eyed Goby. F13, 1/320th, ISO 250

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Sea lions, F8, 1/320th, ISO 400 @12mm

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Porter's chromodorid. F18, 1/250th, ISO 200. Nikon 60mm + 1.4x teleconverter. Focus point placed on the rhinophores.

 

nikon d7000 underwater

Cabezon hiding in a sea fan. F11, 1/60th, ISO 400. See next image for 100% crop. Focus point placed on the eyes.

 

nikon d7000 underwater

100% crop of the Cabezon's eye, showing nice detail in the photo

 

Nikon D7000 sample underwater video

This is from a bluewater dive off the coast of Los Angeles, California. 

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

 


Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 

Olympus E-PL3 and E-PM1 Camera Review

Scott Gietler
Scott compares the Olympus E-PL2 with two of the new Olympus models: the E-PL3 and the less expensive E-PM1, aka “the mini."

Olympus E-PL3 and E-PM1 Camera Review

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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My friendly Olympus rep stopped into Bluewater Photo today, bringing with him some new cameras. Between the two of us, we had 5 different Olympus micro-four thirds models on the counter. You know what means - time for some testing!

 

I compared the Olympus E-PL2 with two of the new Olympus models, the E-PL3 and the less expensive E-PM1, aka “the Mini”. I also tested out the new Olympus 45mm F1.8 micro-four thirds lens. There is also a more expensive E-PL3, but there is no Olympus underwater housing for it.

 

Carmen, our friendly Olympus rep. Here are the backs of the Olympus E-PL2, E-PL3 and the E-PM1.

 

Fronts of the E-PM1, E-PL3 and E-PL2. All are similar in size. The E-PM1 and E-PL3 come with a small external flash that easily slides on top of the camera.

 

Back of the Olympus E-PL3. It's similar to the E-PL2 back, with the buttons slightly re-arranged.

 

Back of the Olympus E-PL2. I find the Olympus cameras quite easy to learn in just a few minutes.

 

Back of the Olympus E-PM1. The "mini" lacks many buttons, which means you have to use the menu to do things like change modes. But it is cheaper.

 

Photo taken with the 45mm F1.8 lens. The F1.8 lens produced a nice creamy bokeh in the background. The lens was small, but not tiny, certainly not a "pancake" lens.

 

Photo taken with the F1.8 lens, my meager attempt to blur the background. The background is blurred, but not as much as it would be with my dSLR.

 

Camera Differences

The E-PL3 is very similar to the E-PL2. Images taken with both cameras will look the same. The E-PL3 focuses more quickly than the E-PL2, and adds an auto-focus assist light, and a new tilting LCD screen.

Here are the main improvements over the E-PL2:

  • New sensor, claiming better high ISO performance
  • 35 auto-focus points instead of 11
  • 1080p video instead of 720p
  • Faster shooting speed
  • Faster focusing
  • AF assist light
  • Built-in Flash changed to a removable flash
  • E-PM1 has 3D capability

Olympus E-PL3 specs

  • 12 megapixel four-thirds sensor. View sensor sizes here.
  • In-body image stabilization
  • 1080p HD video
  • RAW + full manual controls supported
  • 35 auto-focus points
  • Sync speed 1/160th
  • max shutter speed 1/4000th
  • capable of 4fps with IS on, 5fps with image stabilization off
  • ISO range 200-12800, but I wouldn't go over ISO 1600
  •  

Handling, size, and weight

All 3 cameras felt about the same size and weight. The E-PM1 was difficult to hold single handedly due to the lack of a good grip. The memory card / battery compartment of the E-PL3 and E-PM1 is a pain to use - E-PL2 users will be longing for the old design for sure.

 

Focus Speeds

I tested the E-PL2 against the new E-PL3 and E-PM1 in bright light and in low light. In bright light the new models focused significantly faster, it was quite a noticeable improvement. In very low light all models struggled, but with the AF-assist light the E-PL3 and E-PM1 could quickly achieve focus.

 

Shooting speed - multiple shots

I tested all 3 models in single shot mode, with the flash on a fixed 1/16th power, similar to how the camera might be configured in an underwater housing. I was able to take 5 shots with the newer models, in the time it took to take 3 shots with the E-PL2, it was a noticeable difference.

 

Macro capability of the 14-42mm kit lens

Olympus has come out with a 3rd version of the 14-42mm kit lens. The first version, which shipped with the E-PL1, could take photos of images as small as 2 inches wide. The 2nd and 3rd versions lost some macro capability, and can take photos only 3 inches wide.

The most recent version of the 14-42mm lens has a silver, almost metal look to it, but it is still a plastic lens.

We tested all 3 lenses with and without the Dyron +7 macro lens, and the results were similar. Using the macro lens gave almost triple the magnification, allowing a photo 1.125 inches across to be photographed. I'd expect similar improvements with the Subsee +5 or +10 diopters.

 

Testing video

Video performance was similar between all models. The newer models improves the video resolution from 720p to 1080p.

 

Underwater Housings

Olympus will not be making a housing for the more expensive E-P3. The E-PL3 and E-PM1 housings will be similar to the E-PL1 and E-PL2 housings, but slightly more expensive at $799.95 USD. 

The housing costs more than the E-PL2 housing because it comes with a target/focus light built into the port. This is a nice feature which can help improve focusing speeds, although the light is not very strong.

The housing for the E-PL3 is the PT-EP05L housing, and the one for the E-PM1 is the PT-EP06L housing. There is also a Olympus PT-EP06 E-PM1 housing that does not have any lights, which costs $200 less than the EP06L housing. I'd go for the housing without the lights, unless you want to use a wide-angle wet lens, in which case you'll need the version with the lights because it also has a threaded port. However the version with lights will not support the 60mm macro lens, which is a drawback.

There is also a great Nauticam E-PL3 housing, which is very small and made out of aluminum. Port changing is much easier with this housing. This housing is more expensive though.

 

Verdict:

The E-PL3 is a nice replacement for the E-PL2. You get faster focusing, although at higher price.

Getting the Olympus E-PM1 saves you up to $200. It is pretty much the same camera, although you need to use the menu instead of controls for changing modes and lose 3 of the buttons. You also lose the flip-LCD.

The E-PL3 is $800 in the USA, the E-PM1 is $600.

 

Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your cameras or underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 

Further Reading

Guide to Mirrorless Cameras

Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens review on the Olympus E-PL2

Olympus E-PM1 Underwater Review

 

 

Sony A77 DSLR Pre-review

Scott Gietler
A look at the Sony A77 24mp DSLR camera, with a translucent mirror, phase-detection focusing and high-speed shooting at 12fps

Sony A77 Pre-review

A new type of DSLR, Sony's SLT-A77

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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Sony has decided to compete with the big boys - the Canon 7D and Nikon D7000, with a new type of dSLR, the Sony A77. Technically it does not have the "R" in DSLR, the reflex, but most people are calling it a DSLR. 

By using a translucent mirror instead of a conventional mirror, the Sony A77 is able to use faster phase-detection focusing in conjunction with live-view mode, as opposed to the slower contrast-detection focusing. It offers a 24 megapixel sensor, and offers high-speeding shooting at a shockingly fast 12 frames per second. All these exciting features are creating a lot of buzz around this camera.

sony a77 underwater

Front of the Sony A77 camera

 

Sony A77 and the pellicle mirror

The translucent mirror in the Sony A77 is called a pellicle mirror. A pellicle mirror does not flip up and down like a conventional mirror. It is translucent and remains in place, with 70% of the light going to the sensor, and 30% going to the electronic viewfinder. This makes the camera almost vibration free, which is ideal for macro and long telephoto photography. Pellicle mirrors have actually been around since the 1960's, and one was used in the Sony SLT-A55. You can read more about pellicle mirrors here and here.

Although it sounds like a lot, losing 30% of the light going to the sensor is not that big of a deal, it is just 1/3 of a stop, which you can easily get back by adjusting your ISO, shutter speed or aperture 1/3 of a stop.

By implementing a pellicle mirror, the Sony A77 can use the superior phase-detection method of focus during high-speed shooting, live view and video, unlike most other DSLRs which must switch to the slower contract-detection, currently used by compact cameras.

Innovative shutter allows 12 fps

By implementing an electronic first-curtain in the shutter, the Sony A77 can acheive shooting speeds of 12 frames per second, and a shutter lag of only 50 milliseconds. Most dSLR cameras shoot at 4-8 frames per second in the high-speed shooting mode, and have a shutter lag of 45 - 85 milliseconds.

New OLED electronic viewfinder

The new OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) electronic viewfinder in this camera sure has people talking. It offers a 100% view, and is considereably larger than optical viewfinders on competing cameras. Electronic viewfinders do have nuances that make them different from optical viewfinders, and I highly suggest you try it out for yourself to see how you adjust to it.

24 Megapixels - is it too much?

Some people think 24 megapixels is a lot to cram onto an APS-C sized sensor. One thing for sure, that many megapixels may test the resolving power of some lenses. Diffraction will limit the resolving power also if you use smaller apertures. Stick to high-quality F2.8 lenses to get the best resolutions.

One thing to remember, 24 megapxiels is only a 22% increase over the 16 megapixels in the D7000, and a 16% increase over the 18 megapixels in the Canon 7D, looking along one axis. Not as big of a jump as it seems.

Sony A77 in a nutshell

The Sony A77 offers live view + a high-quality electronic viewfinder, very fast focusing using phase-detection (even during video), an amazing 12fps shooting, 24 megapixel sensor, and continuous autofocus during video.

sony slt-a77 camera underwater photography

Back of the Sony ALT-77


Key features of the Sony A77:

 

  • $1400 USD for the body, available Oct 2011. $2000 with a 16-50mm F2.8 kit lens.
  • 24 megapixel APS CMOS sensor, same crop factor as NIkon D300s / Nikon D7000; 6000 pixels x 4000 pixels. This is a lot of megapixels, and it is not clear if most users will need this many megapixels. In comparison, even the Canon 7D is only 18 megapixels.
  • 2.4 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The big question is - is this as good as a optical viewfinder? Probably not, but the verdict so far is that it is fairly close, and better than any other viewfinder out there. This is very high resolution for an EVF. Users report the EVF as “big” compared to a standard DSLR optical viewfinder
  • Live view, shown via a 921,000 dot articulating LCD, which is reported to be good in bright light & low light. The tilt-and-swivel feature of the LCD allows you to take photos and videos from many different angles.  This is a really nice tool for both video and live-view photography.
  •  ISO 50 - 16,000, which is quite a good range.
  • 12 frames per second still shooting (one of the fastest cameras out there), RAW buffer size of only 13 photos (not good). So after taking 13 shots, you must wait for the buffer to empty to the SD card
  • Phase detection focusing during video & stills. Phase-detection focusing is much faster than contrast-detection focusing, which is what compact and micro-four thirds cameras use. In video, this is ONLY in “P” mode; when taking video in P mode, and FYI the lens aperture is usually kept wide-open
  • Full 1080p video at 60fps in  the AVCHD 2.0 format, with continuous autofocus, but only in P mode. 28Mbps data rate for video, comparable to the Nikon D7000, but less than the 48Mbps data rate for the Canon 7D.
  • 19 auto-focus points
  • Max shutter speed 1/8000 sec shutter speed, 1/250 sec flash sync
  • Built in GPS. Great feature, but I hope it can be turned off.
  • Built in image stabilization, 2.5 to 4 stops supposedly gained
  • Only a single slot for SD memory cards is supported. Compact flash cards are faster.

 

Here is a size comparison with D300, D7000, Canon 7D. As you can see, it is slightly larger than the D7000, slightly smaller than the Nikon D300 & Canon 7D

Videos showing the Sony A77

If you ignore all the acronyms and hyped-up Sony marketing terms, this video gives a nice overview of the Sony A77. They even pour water over the camera in the video.

 

 

In this short video below, you can see the articulated LCD of the Sony A77:

 

High ISO Noise

I downloaded the full-size ISO 6400 sample from DPReview, and it looked quite good to me at 100% magnification. Other technical reviews reported the high ISO performance to be close to, but not as good as, the high-ISO performance of the Canon 7D and Nikon D7000.

Here's a photo at ISO 6400, 1/40th, F8. There's a link at the bottom of the page for a full-res version you can zoom in on.

Can Sony cram 24 megapixels on an APS-C sensor and not have excessive noise? They appear to have used generous noise reduction. As of now, the jury is out regarding how acceptable the noise is on this sensor. Sony tends to use fairly heavy noise reduction in their jpegs.

The sensor is only getting 70% of the incoming light, because the translucent mirror is reflecting the other 30%.

One thing for sure - the amount of noise in a photo is in the eye of the viewer.

Online pre-reviews on the Sony A77

DPReview also reports that the image is cropped even further in movie mode. This sounds a little strange to me. Rumor has it the battery only lasts for about 450 shots, which isn’t great. Comments on the DPReview test images are mixed, so check them out for yourself.

There is an in-depth review on Imaging Resource, who says "Making a major leap in the camera market, the Sony A77 reaches into pro territory, able to capture 12 frames per second with a 24.3-megapixel camera that feels great and handles like your typical enthusiast digital SLR. Its optional 16-50mm kit lens also delivers excellent quality for the money".

Luminous landscape says "This along with the fact that the A77 has continuous Live View, and no moving mirror because of its Translucent Mirror technology, means that the A77 will likely be one of the most vibration free cameras ever made. This will make it ideal for macro, microscope, long telephoto and telescope work."

Sony SLT-A65

Sony also introduced the SLT-65, which we are not a huge fan of, due to the 1/160th sync speed, making wide-angle shots into sun more difficult. However, some people may be attracted to the $900 price for the body.

Key differences with from the Sony A77:

  • Plastic body. and missing weather seals
  • Shoots at 10fps
  • 15 auto-focus points instead of 19
  • 1 control dial instead of 2
  • 1/4000th shutter speed instead of 1/8000th
  • Sync speed of 1/160th instead of 1/250th

Lenses for the Sony A77

A complete list of lenses for the Sony A77 can be found here. There is a fairly complete set of lenses available for underwater photography.

Sigma, Minolta and Tamron all make a wide-range of lenses, including macro, wide-angle, and fisheye lenses. Lenses like the Sigma 10-20mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 10mm fisheye and Sigma 15mm fisheye will work well for underwater photography.

For macro photography, you have the Sigma 70mm F2.8 macro, and the Sony 100mm F2.8 macro as good choices, that are full-frame lenses with autofocus motors built-in.

However, there is no Sony mount for the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.

For wildlife and sports photography, Sigma makes a consumer grade 120mm-400mm F4.5-5.6 lens, and Tamron, Sony and Sigma all make 300mm F2.8 prime lenses. There are also a couple discountinued 400mm, 500mm and 600mm prime lenses for those with larger budgets.

 

Further Reading

Pixels and Sensor size

Lens basics

Understanding ISO

 

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