Review of cameras

Canon 7D Mark II Review for Underwater Photography

Brent Durand
UWPG tests the 7D Mark II for wide-angle, macro and video, plus best settings and more


Review: Canon 7D Mark II for Underwater Photography

UWPG tests the Canon 7D Mark II for wide-angle, macro and video, plus best settings and more

By Brent Durand


Canon 7D Mark II body



We're starting to see the first underwater housings for the new Canon 7D Mark II - the perfect time to write our in-depth review of the camera. The long-awaited 7D Mark II is a great camera with some major upgrades over the original 7D. But how will it perform for underwater photo and video?

The Canon 7D Mark II has many upgrades you would expect: a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, faster processers, higher frames per second burst, increased ISO capabilities, intervalometer (finally, Canon!) and even a new battery.

A major upgrade, and perhaps best reason to purchase this camera for underwater use, is the new Dual-Pixel CMOS AF first released in the Canon 70D. This sensor technology allows the camera to use phase detection and contrast detection AF in the Live View mode (most DLRs rely only on contrast in Live View, which is why that AF is slow and unreliable for video, especially underwater). Long story short, the Dual-Pixel AF opens new possibilities for using autofocus when recording video. 

The 7D Mark 2 also makes big improvements for shooting with higher ISOs, as this technology is changing fast in the digital camera world. While not important for underwater photos with strobes, the higher ISO capabilities will be welcome for videographers, who can push the ISO higher before image quality becomes an issue.

We'll explore these 7D Mark II features in this review and compare the camera with other DSLRs in the same class.


Jump to Review Section:



Canon 7D Mark II Key Specifications

  • 20.2MP APS-C Sensor
  • Dual-Pixel CMOS AF
  • Dual Digic 6 Processors
  • 1080p/720p video both with 60fps (30fps with All-I)
  • Servo AF for video shooting
  • 65 Point "All Cross-Type" Autofocus
  • 10 FPS
  • ISO 100-16000
  • CF & SD Card Slots
  • Built-in Flash
  • GPS (no wifi)
  • New, larger capacity battery

MSRP:  $1,799 USD



Highlights for Underwater Use


  • Most advanced autofocus system in its class, including for video
  • Built-in flash allows you to use fiber optic cables instead of sync cords
  • High ISO performance allows for more creativity in shooting underwater video
  • Excellent camera for topside use as well. Use EF-S and EF mount lenses



Body and Controls

The Canon 7D Mark II is a semi-pro DSLR and the magnesium alloy body feels that way in your hands. The button layout is similar to the original 7D but mirrors the Canon 5D Mark III exactly. The only addition in this body is an AF Area Selection Lever built around the Multi-controller pad. This allows you to change the AF area with a flick of the thumb instead of the M-FN button above the shutter button.

I've owned several Canon bodies including the original 7D, and currently take two 5D Mark IIIs on every dive trip. I love the layout of the camera. The grip is deep enough to wrap my fingers around and enough to loosely hold the camera at your side in between topside shots. It has great balance with lens attached.

All the shooting controls are easily accessed with thumb and trigger finger for quick changes, while your left thumb controls the display, image review functions and the menu button that are generally used when the camera is away from your face.

Below are some highlights:

  • The camera/movie switch is located the the right of the viewfinder, so it's out of the way but easy to access.
  • The AF-ON button (used by some for back-button focus) is ergonomically placed for thumb access.
  • The Quick Control button once again provides quick access to settings otherwise reached through the main menu (i.e. exposure compensation and custom controls)


Dual card slots allow you to shoot with either a CF or SD card. You can use both slots to expand capacity, record images onto two cards (backup purposes) or even shoot RAW on one card and JPG on another. Note that when two cards are in the camera, the write speed to the cards will slow down when shooting bursts. Two cards is also nice with Magic Lantern, but note that we don't recommend installing 3rd party software on your camera.

Another upgrade in the Canon 7D Mark 2 is the improved weather sealing. Canon has made this workhorse camera into even more of a "beast" with new seals and gaskets at important points. This is not only important for shooting in the rain, but also for divers traveling to humid climates. I recently had a wave crash over my 5D with no issues. Canon makes tough cameras and the 7D Mark II promises to deliver in this area as well.

We'll be testing housing ergonomics in upcoming reviews.


Canon 7D Mark 2 body back

Canon 7D Mark II body top



Full Frame or Crop Sensor?

Most underwater DSLR shooters will opt for a crop sensor, as the areas in which they excel deliver tangible benefits over full frame sensors. Here's a quick breakdown:


Pros of a Crop Sensor

  • Cheaper than full frame camera body.
  • The standard 1.6 crop factor (1.5 on Nikon DX) essentially magnifies the image, bringing you closer to that shark swimming in the distance or filling the frame with a small nudibranch.
  • You can use a lower aperture to achieve the same depth of field as a higher aperture on a full frame sensor. This is beneficial for three reasons:
    • Most lenses deliver their best image quality in mid-range apertures.
    • Higher apertures become prone to diffraction.
    • Lower apertures allow more light to hit the sensor, which helps bring more vibrant color from video lights (when shooting video), while maintaining necessary depth of field for the shot.


Pros of a Full Frame Sensor

  • Larger sensor is more sensitive to light.
  • Better performance at high ISOs, specifically with electronic noise and color.
  • Less depth of field at the same apertures results in smoother bokeh.



7D Mark II Best Lenses for Underwater Use

The Canon 7D Mark II is a crop sensor (APS-C) and uses Canon's EF-S and EF lenses plus compatible 3rd party lenses. Underwater photography generally falls into two categories, wide-angle and macro. The lenses below are best for shooting in these styles with the Canon 7D Mark II (and all Canon APS-C DSLR bodies).


Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

This lens is the first lens for underwater macro photographers, with a very close focus distance to subjects. The 60mm is also much easier to use than the 100mm mentioned below, making it ideal for those without experience shooting underwater macro with DSLRs.


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This smooth and fast lens should be in every experienced (Canon) underwater photographer's bag. It provides the magnification needed for shooting small macro subjects and the tiniest subjects when combined with a diopter on the outside of the housing port. View some photos shot with this Canon 100mm Macro Lens.


Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X DX Fisheye Zoom

This Tokina fisheye lens is heralded as the best lens for shooting reefscapes, big animals, divers and more. It provides the best image quality on crop sensors. Make sure to get the Canon version and not the Nikon version, as these are different mounts. Read our review of the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens.


Mid-Range Zoom Lenses

Divers who will be shooting sharks, whales or other objects that may be further away with opt for a mid-range zoom lens like the Canon 10-22mm, Sigma 10-20mm or Tokina 11-17mm. Many divers also use the Sigma 17-70mm OSM HSM for it's great flexibility between wide-angle and macro.


7D Mark II Sensor and Image Quality


Performance at High ISO

There is much focus on high ISO performance with DSLRs these days. ISO is the light sensitivity of your digital camera's sensor, and the third element of the image exposure equation. In bright outdoor shooting, a low ISO (i.e. 100) is used, however darker situations (i.e. indoors) require higher ISOs in order to maintain a shutter speed fast enough to minimize camera shake. High ISO performance is important because as the ISO increases, the amount of digital noise, or grain, in the image increases, which decreases the imaze quality.

For underwater photography, we generally use low ISOs since we light the scene with powerful strobes.

For underwater video, however, ISO becomes much more important since your shutter speed is locked and certain apertures need to be maintained for proper depth of field.

Below are sample photos showing the Canon 7D Mark II's high ISO performance.


RAW image.

All crops below are unprocessed except for Lightroom's default sharpening for screen.


ISO 800, 100% crop (note small motion blur from hand-holding 1/160s at 70mm)


ISO 1600, 100% crop


ISO 3200, 100% crop


ISO 6400, 100% crop


ISO 12800, 100% crop



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 and the next section of the review we'll look at sensor measurements for the 7D Mk2.

Canon 7D Mark II

  • Overall Score:  70
    • (Canon 70D: 68, Canon 5DMkIII: 81, Nikon D7100: 83)
  • Portrait (color depth):  22.4 bits
    • (Canon 70D: 22.5 bits, Canon 5DMkIII: 24 bits, Nikon D7100: 24.2 bits)
  • Landscape (dynamic range):  11.8 Evs
    • (Canon 70D: 11.6 Evs, Canon 5DMkIII: 11.7 Evs, Nikon D7100: 13.7 Evs)
  • Sports (low-light ISO):  1082 ISO
    • (Canon 70D: 926 ISO, Canon 5DMkIII: 2293 ISO, Nikon D7100: 1256 ISO)



What Does This Mean for Underwater Photography and Video?


The DxOMark scores above must also 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 7D Mark II is rated as excellent - on par with the 70D and below the 5D MkIII and D7100.
  • Dynamic Range:  A value of 12 Ev is excellent, with differences of 0.5 Ev usually not noticeable. The Canon camp sits less than 0.5 Ev below this mark and so earns the excellent rank, while the D7100 excels. 



This must all be taken with a grain of salt. True, Nikon sensors (actually made by Sony) rank higher in performance with DxOMark, but the sensor is only one small piece of the image-making equation.



Canon 7D Mark II Spec Comparison


  Canon 70D Canon 7D Mk II Canon 5D Mk III Nikon D7100
Sensor 20.2MP APS-C 20.2MP APS-C 22MP Full Frame 24.1MP DX
Processor DIGIC 5+ Dual DIGIC 6 DIGIC 5+ EXPEED 3
AutoFocus 19 point AF, all cross-type dual-pixel 65 point AF, all cross-type dual-pixel, center double-cross 61 point AF, 41 cross-type, center double cross 51 point AF, 15 cross-type
Video AF Phase & contrast hybrid  Phase & contrast hybrid  Contrast detection Contrast detection
Video Framerate 1080p/30, H.264 1080p/30, H.264 1080p/30, H.264 1080p/30, H.264
Max Shutter Sync 1/250s 1/250s 1/200s 1/250s
Bullt-in Flash Yes Yes No Yes
Storage 1 slot: SD, SDHC, SDXC 2 slots: CF, SD, SDHC, SDXC 2 slots: CF, SD, SDHC, SDXC  2 slots: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Weight 755g 910g 950g 765g


Canon 7D Mark II vs:


Canon 70D:

While the sensor measurements are comparable, the 7D Mark II offers slightly better high ISO performance. It also has a much more sophisticated AF system and shoots more frames per second - great for fast action.


Canon 5D Mark III:

The 7D Mark II is the much cheaper option, and offers the benefits of a crop sensor (see Full Frame or Crop Sensor? section above). 


Nikon D7100:

The 7D Mark II offers much better autofocus and FPS than the D7100. AF in movie mode is also superior. And while the D7100's sensor may technically be better, there are many other differences to consider. For example, do you prefer the color recorded Nikon or Canon RAW files? Do you prefer the menus, buttons and ergonomics of the 7D MkII over the D7100?  

Most importantly, can you see the differences between these camera models in photos online, printed in magazines or anywhere else you'll be sharing your images? I'm a Canon shooter, so for me the decision between the 7D Mark II and D7100 is a no-brainer. A Nikon shooter will likely prefer the D7100, hands down.



Wide-Angle Tests Underwater

The Canon 7D Mark II is a great camera for underwater wide-angle photography. I tested it in the Ikelite 7D MkII housing with the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. While conditions were not ideal on the wide-angle dive, I was able to shoot some traditional wide shots as well as some close focus wide-angle, both delivering nice results.

The 7D Mark II's autofocus performs well for wide-angle - tracking and locking onto moving targets like fish and swaying sea palms.


A female sheephead inspects herself in the Ikelite 8" dome port. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


A horn shark poses for a photo on a typical Malibu reef. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


nauticam 7d mark ii underwater photo

Purple hydrocoral and gorgonian at Farnsworth Bank, Catalina Island. Shot on a different day for our review of the Nauticam 7D Mark II housing with the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


nauticam 7d mark ii underwater photo

A garibaldi greets the camera at Eagle's Nest, Catalina Island. Shot on a different day for our review of the Nauticam 7D Mark II housing with the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.



Macro Tests Underwater

I made two macro dives with the 7D Mark II for this review, both with the Ikelite housing and Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens. This camera and lens combo delivers sharp images with nice color and contrast, even at 100% zoom.

Autofocus works nicely here as well, both with static subjects as well as tracking moving subjects like the eyes of passing fish. The 100mm lens delivers nice bokeh with the 7D Mark II.


A spanish shawl nudibranch lays eggs. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


Sharp detail on a California spiny lobster. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


This hermissenda nudibranch stands out even without the use of a black background. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


Corynactis with urchin spines in the foreground. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


Beautiful color and sharp detail in a kelp bass. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


The 7D Mark II's autofocus had no trouble tracking the eye of this passing sheephead. Shot with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.



Underwater Video

Shooting underwater video with the 7D Mark II is a pleasure. Canon's dual-pixel CMOS autofocus is super fast when using Live View. You can tell immediately that phase detection is being used to achieve focus instead of just contrast detection like other DSLR Live View modes (which focus by hunting back and forth).
Older Live View AF systems (like in my Canon 5D Mark III) generally take a long time for focus to shift after you recompose a shot - even with a half depress of the shutter, and especially in low light underwater. With the 7D Mark II, Servo AF quickly shifts to your new subject when recomposing, and is very fast when aiding it with half depress. Depending on your shot, the dual-pixel AF may work well enough for a shifting AF on slow pan shots since it is so much smoother.
The Movie Servo AF has three different modes (L+(face) Tracking, FlexiZone - Multi and FlexiZone - Single) that allow you to fine-tune the autofocus for your shot. The L+ tracking is designed for tracking human faces, so I like to use FlexiZone - Multi for full autofocus (wide scenes) and FlexiZone - Single for shots that have a strong subject, moving the focus point onto that subject. Just remember that using AF for video does give control to the camera, which might not be as creative or anticipative as you. For example, I was drifting over a group of gorgonians and the last one was much taller than the rest. As I passed over it, the AF adjusted for the close gorgonian instead of staying where it had been, and once I passed it into blue water with lots of fish life, they were all out of focus for a second while the camera adjusted back to the longer distance between subject(s) and lens. There went that shot.
Adjusting basic camera settings in video mode (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) will depend on the individual housing ergonomics, but all housings will allow access to the Quick settings menu when shooting in Live View. For underwater video, this is most used for changing the AF Method.

7D Mark II Best Settings and Menu Breakdown

Be sure to read our companion article for wide-angle, macro and video settings, plus a full breakdown of the camera menu:  

Underwater Housing Options


Available at:

Bluewater Photo




Nauticam Canon 7D Mark II Underwater Housing

Nauticam 7D Mk II Housing

The Nauticam housing features great ergonomic controls, quick release port lock system and vacuum pump leak detect system.

See Nauticam Canon 7D Mark II housing recommended lenses and ports on Bluewater Photo.

Read our Nauticam 7D Mark II housing review.


Aquatica Canon 7D Mark II Underwater Housing

Aquatica A7D Mk II Housing

The Aquatica housing is precision-made with performance that lasts , wide range of ports and vacuum pump leak detect system.

See the Aquatica Canon 7D Mark II housing recommended lenses and ports on Bluewater Photo.


Ikelite Canon 7D Mark II Underwater Housing

Ikelite 7D Mk II Housing

The polycarbonate Ikelite housing offers the best performance to dollar ratio for housing the 7D Mark II, with nice controls, great port selection to get every shot and vacuum pump leak detect system.

See the Ikelite Canon 7D Mark II housing recommended lenses and ports on Bluewater Photo.

Read our detailed Ikelite Canon 7D Mark II housing review.


Sea & Sea Canon 7D Mark II Underwater Housing

Sea & Sea 7D Mk II Housing

The Sea & Sea housing is engineered for great housing control, with a great port selection and vacuum pump leak detect system.

See the Sea & Sea Canon 7D Mark II housing recommended lenses and ports on Bluewater Photo.



Third frame shot with the 7D Mark II out of the box.


Subtle pre-dawn color with the 7D Mark II.



Further Reading



About the Author

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


Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


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


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


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




Canon G7X Review

Scott Gietler
Canon G7X review for underwater photography, including macro capability and housings


Canon G7X Review

Review the Canon G7X for underwater photography

By Scott Gietler


The Canon G7X "super compact" enters the scene for underwater photography. For almost 3 years, the Sony RX-100 series has reigned unchallenged as the king of compacts, particularly for underwater photography. Tiny in size, great in image quality - it quickly became a popular choice. Now the Canon G7X is challenging the RX-100 III as a potential choice for aspiring photographers. Find out if it is right for you.

The Canon G7X has a 1-inch sensor, the same sensor as the Sony RX-100 II & III, and is about the same size as those 2 cameras. It is 20% lighter than the Canon G16, and smaller. It is quite a pleasure to hold and operate, and it features the easy to use and understand Canon menu system found in their other compact cameras.

Canon G7X key specs for underwater:

  • 20 Megapixel sensor
  • 24-100mm F1.8-2.8 lens (very bright!)
  • Aperture range F1.8 - F11
  • ISO Range ISO 125 - 12,800
  • 2 inch min. focal distance at wide focal lengths
  • Weight with battery, 304 grams
  • Full manual controls, shoots in RAW
  • Flash power can be set to TTL or manual power level
  • Dimensions 103 x 60 x 40 mm (4.06 x 2.36 x 1.57 inches)
  • Battery life is CIDA rated 210 shots, 310 shots in "eco" mode


Canon G7X - key comparisons for underwater photography

Compared to the Canon G16, the G7X offers almost as good of macro capability, but in addition offers a larger sensor, more megapixels (20 vs 12), and TTL capability with strobes in manual mode, which was definitely missed by many G-series users.

Compared to the Sony RX-100 III, the G7X offers slightly faster shot to shot times when using the flash to trigger the strobes, and better macro capability - while producing the same high quality images.

DxoMark sensor tests give the Canon G7X a score of 71, with color, DR, and low-light coming in at 23bits, 12.7evs, and 556 ISO respectively. This is slightly higher than the RX-100 III score or 67, 22.4, 12.3evs, 495 ISO.


Canon G7X video review

Underwater Photography Guide and Bluewater Photo owner Scott Gietler reviews the Canon G7x on video, along with a couple of underwater housings available for it.



Canon G7X - macro capability

The macro capability is almost as good as the Canon G-series cameras, and noticeably better than the Sony RX-100 III, with or without a macro lens. It is recommended to shoot at F11 for maximum depth of field when using a wet macro lens.

MACRO - with no macro lens, showing the smallest width of a photo the camera can take. A smaller distance is better.

  • Canon G7x - 1.5 inches (you are getting very close to the subject)
  • Canon G16 - 1.5 inches (you are getting very close to the subject)
  • Sony RX-100 III - 3.5 inches


MACRO - with the Bluewater +7 macro lens, showing the smallest width of a photo the camera can take. A smaller distance is better.

  • Canon G7x - 1.2 inches
  • Canon G16 - 1 inch
  • Sony RX-100 III - 1.75 inches

Canon G7X - wide angle wet lenses

Because of the 24-100mm lens, the housing does not work well with many wide-angle lenses that were designed for 28mm cameras. Lenses such as the Dyron Super-Wide lens and the Inon UWL-H100 lens will work but may require zooming in slightly, depending on the housing. Results with both the Recsea and the Recsea CW housing in the pool were quite good, the image was about 2.5 times as wide with the Dyron lens than without. It was necessary to zoom in 2 clicks to eliminate a small amount of vignetting in the corners. Results with a wet lens will be a little wider on the Sony RX-100 III, and even wider on the Sony RX-100 I or II.


Canon G7x Review
Canon G7X, Recsea housing, no wet lens at 24mm


Canon G7X underwater photo wide-angle wet lens
Canon G7X, Recsea housing, Dyron super wide-angle, zoomed in 2 clicks


Canon G7X - auto-focus speed

I tested the auto-focus speed on the Canon G7X in both low-light conditions, and in macro mode. I found the results to be quite good for a compact camera, at least as good as the Sony RX-100 III, or perhaps slightly better. Shooters upgrading from a G-series or S-series Canon compact will definitely notice a difference. However, the camera still does not match the focusing speed of the more recent mirrorless cameras.

Canon G7X - TTL and flash recycle speed

The Canon G7X can do TTL with Sea & Sea and Inon strobes via fiber optics and using its internal flash. The flash setting on the menu must be set to "auto", which is the default. The flash can also be set to manual power, and has a min, medium, and max power setting. 

Flash recycle time is fairly good when the flash is on the minimum power setting, about 1 second in between shots. However, on max power, there is a noticely delay in between shots, about 5 seconds long. 

Canon G7X low light performance

Low light performance is great, better than a regular compact and on par with many mirrorless cameras. Check out the great looking photo I took inside my place at ISO 1600. Extensive "lab" results of high ISO performance can be found on sites such as dpreview.

Canon G7X
"Tree of decals", F4, 1/40th, 24mm, ISO 1600

Canon G7X high iso results
Canon G7X ISO 1600 test - 100% crop taken from the photo above it


Canon G7X underwater housings

Housings are currently available from Ikelite and Recsea, with underwater housings from Nauticam and Fantasea expected soon. The Recsea CW, Fantasea and Ikelite housings are less expensive, polycarbonate housings, while the Recsea aluminum & Nauticam housings are more expensive, finely crafted aluminum underwater housings with precise controls.

We tested both the Recsea G7X housing, and the less expensive polycarbonate Recsea CW GX7 housing, and found both housings excellent in quality and controls, offering great options at two price points and good wet lens options for both macro & wide-angle.

The Nauticam G7X housing will be announced soon, and will feature a changeable port so a "short port" can be added on land.

G7X underwater housings from Ikelite, Nauticam and Fantasea will be tested soon upon arrival.



Recsea G7X housing

This is a well-made aluminum housing.

Purchase the Recsea Canon G7X Housing on Bluewater Photo




Nauticam G7X housing

Another well-made aluminum housing.

Purchase the Nauticam Canon G7X Housing on Bluewater Photo





Purchase the Ikelite Canon G7X Housing on Bluewater Photo





Recsea G7X CW housing

This tiny polycarbonate housing at $550 is a best buy.

Purchase the Recea Canon G7X CW Housing on Bluewater Photo




Fantasea G7X housing

This polycarbonate housing at $499 is a great value.

Purchase the Fantasea Canon G7X Housing on Bluewater Photo


Read Bluewater Photo's Fantasea Canon G7X Housing Review.




The Canon G7X will be a popular choice for photographers who are fans of the G-series or S-series Canon compacts, but are looking for a little better image quality & focus speed, while maintaining a very small setup underwater.

Its main "cons" are a shorter battery life than its competitors, and the lack of ability to use a fisheye lens.

The Canon G7X will excel in macro, fish and ambient light shots, while also being able to take decent wide-angle underwater photos. Overall, we highly recommend you take a serious look at this newcomer in the underwater photography field.


About the Author

Scott Gietler is the owner of the Underwater Photography Guide, Bluewater Photo & Bluewater Travel 


Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


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


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


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




GoPro Hero4 Review for Underwater Video

Brent Durand
Review and guide to underwater video with the GoPro Hero4, including specs, shooting tips, maintenance, filters and accessories.


GoPro Hero4 Review for Underwater Video

Review and guide to underwater video with the GoPro Hero4, including specs, shooting tips, maintenance, filters and accessories for scuba diving.

By:  Brent Durand

GoPro Hero4 Video Review



The GoPro Hero4 is another feature-packed, ultra HD video camera that will be a very popular underwater video camera for scuba diving. The camera boasts several upgrades over the GoPro Hero 3+ and comes in two models: The Hero4 Black and the Hero4 Silver. In short, the black model is 2x as powerful as the Hero 3+, while the new silver model comes with a built-in touch display so that you can better-compose and review your shots.

One of the major upgrades is faster video frame rates for 4K and 2.7K video. Recording video at this resolution is very resource-intensive, and the faster frame rates require even more computer processing power and hard drive storage space. Make sure to read our recommended settings below to make sure you’re using the best settings for your underwater video with the GoPro Hero4.

The GoPro Hero4 also has some big menu / navigation changes, making it much easier to switch modes and change camera settings in the midst of the underwater action.

The experts at Bluewater Photo can also help answer any questions about using your GoPro Hero4 underwater, accessories and much more.


GoPro Hero4 Video Review

Wave shot with the GoPro Hero4 Silver.


Sample video shot with GoPro HERO4 Silver.


Jump to Review Section:


GoPro Hero4 Video Review



  • 4K, 2.7K, 1440p, 1080p and 720p HD video resolutions
  • 12MB Camera with burst mode up to 30fps, time lapse and more
  • Stunning clarity, low light performance and audio recording
  • New long exposure Night Photo and Night Lapse modes
  • New HiLight Tag feature to tag a moment in your video to find easy during post processing
  • Waterproof to 131 ft (40m) in GoPro housing
  • Protune mode for custom control of settings that allow flexibility in post-processing
  • Record Video + Still Photos
  • WiFi and Bluetooth control


Difference Between GoPro Hero4 Silver and Hero4 Black

The Hero4 Black features faster video frame rates, used primarily for creating incredible slow motion and for pulling sharp still images from the video. The Hero4 Silver features a built-in touch display for easy composition of shots (this is sold as an add-on accessory for the Hero4 Black) and image/video review. Note that you can't touch the screen while inside the housing, but you get the same functionality via button control.


Video:  Bluewater Photo compares the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver


Hero4 Black Tech Specs

  • Video Resolutions & FPS

o   4K (30fps, 25,24), 4K SuperView (24), 2.7K (50, 48, 30, 25, 24), 2.7K SuperView (30, 25), 2.7K 4:3 (30, 25), 1440p (80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24), 1080p (120, 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24), 1080 SuperView (80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24), 960p (120, 60, 50), 720p (120, 60, 50, 30, 25), 720p SuperView (120, 60, 50), WVGA (240)

  • Video Format

o   H.264 codec, .mp4 file format

  • Photo Resolution

o   12MP (default) Wide Field of View: 4,000 x 3,000 pixels

  • Protune Settings

o   Manual control of: White Balance, Color, ISO Limit, Sharpness, Shutter and Exposure Value Compensation

  • Ports

o   Mini USB, Micro HDMI, microSD

  • Storage

o   microSD memory card with Class 10 or UHS-1 rating required

o   Up to 64GB capacity supported

o   Read our 'Guide to Choosing a Memory Card'


Why Upgrade from the Hero 3+ Black?

The Hero4 Black has 2x the performance as the Hero 3+ Black. It has improved image quality, a processor that is 2x faster and faster video frame rates.

The GoPro Hero 4 is also easier to use. The function of the side WiFi button of the Hero 3 and Hero 3+ has been changed. Now you can access camera settings for the camera mode you're using (Video, Photo or Multi-shot) - no need to scroll through the 1st and 2nd menus to make the changes.

The Night Photo and Night Lapse modes are also new, and while not used for underwater video, open up many creative photo possibilities with the Hero4.


GoPro Hero4 Night Review

The Hero4's new Night Photo mode opens up the doors for creative shooting at night. Add in a mobile workflow and you can post great images anytime.

- GoPro Hero 4 Night Photo mode. Protune On (Shutter: Auto, WB: Auto, Color: Flat, ISO: 100, Sharpness: Med, EV Comp: 0)

- Composed and Shot with GoPro App on iPhone 5

- Edited on Lightroom Mobile & ready to share




The GoPro Hero4 defaults to video mode when turned on. For most divers, this is exactly what we want, however the camera can also be changed to turn on in Photo or Multi-shot mode.

The GoPro Hero4 default video setting is 1080 - 30, which is a great setting for underwater video beginners. It delivers a video resolution of 1080p (full HD video), which makes you look like a pro when uploading to Facebook, YouTube, etc.

The Hero4 default camera setting is 12MB. Again, this is perfect for shooting still photos and will only be adjusted by more experienced shooters, who might use the camera in Protune mode (requires post processing) the new night modes, etc.




For most underwater video shooting, we recommend the below settings: 

  • Mode:  Video
  • Resolution:  1080p
  • FPS: 60
  • FOV:  W
  • Low Light:  Off
  • Spot Meter:  Off
  • Protune:  Off


This is depicted as '1080 - 60' on the camera. This resolution/framerate is regarded as a standard digital video setting that balances full HD resolution with ability to process the video and upload/view on sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.

Shooting at 60fps has become the norm for online video (cinema is traditionally 24fps). Shooting at this framerate allows the camera to use a faster shutter speed, which is great for capturing fast action and for pulling still images from your video. 60fps also allows you to create smooth slow motion scenes during post processing. Imagine a shark swimming by or sea lion acrobatics.

If you experience jumpy playback when watching the video clips on your computer (even after a fresh restart) then you will want to reduce framerate and/or resolution... or upgrade computers. A simple switch from 60fps to 30fps will often allow your computer to play the video smoothly.

As you get more comfortable with video workflow from your GoPro Hero4:


Try 120fps. The GoPro Hero4 can shoot 1080p at 120fps.  Experience incredibly smooth slow motion!

Try SuperView.  Shooting in GoPro's Superview mode creates a widescreen effect, stretching the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 by adding pixels to the sides of the frame. There will be some warping on the sides of the image, but for most underwater video use this is acceptable. An easy way to think of it is that SuperView opens the field of view for more "pulled back" shots. Same idea as crop sensor vs. full frame DSLR.

We recommend using SuperView in certain underwater video scenes. The first is anytime you will be close to a very large subject (i.e. whale shark or fast-moving sea lions). With SuperView, you'll be less likely to cut off part of the subject. The second is anytime you're shooting a selfie and want to show the scenery around you. The wider field of view will allow your audience to see more than your beautiful face! Don't forget to shoot underwater selfies with your still setup also.

Try recording in 2.7K. While 4k is quickly increasing in popularity among amateur videographers (most pros are already using 4K video cameras), 2.7k delivers incredible resolution that you will notice when viewing videos on YouTube or Vimeo.




Expirienced video shooters will enjoy shooting 4K video with their GoPro Hero4. While the Hero 3+ Black was limited to 15fps at 4K, the Hero4 can shoot 30fps. This means that 4K is now a very nice option for those who are looking for maximum screen resolution. Combine this with GoPro's Protune custom settings and you're able to fine-tune each shot in-camera while also having more leeway during post processing to match footage shot in different conditions or even with different cameras.

The Hero4 also increased the frame rate at 1080P to 120fps. This will provide even greater slow motion footage at this full HD resolution, which would be very cool with many fast wide-angle subjects.

Lastly, Protune mode is a necessity for manual control of your shots. See below.

*Frame rates listed are NTSC. The Hero4 has comprable PAL fps settings.


**Update 2/4/15:  GoPro has announced NEW features for the GoPro Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver, including faster video frame rates, a longer burst interval and more.

Learn more about the New GoPro Hero4 Features


GoPro Hero4 Video Review




Protune allows you manual control of camera settings. This recording mode is designed for experienced video shooters who have a creative vision for their shot, which is often captured with post-processing adustments in mind.


White Balance:  Adjust the color tone of videos and photos.

Color:  Select the color profile. GoPro Color applies the same color correction you would see with Protune turned off, while Flat is a neutral color profile that allows for more adjustments during post processing.

ISO Limit:  Higher ISOs help deliver brighter video/photos in dark environments, however the higher the ISO, the more graininess to the image. This setting lets you choose how much brightness vs. graininess you would like in your low light shots (i.e. underwater).

Sharpness:  Customize the sharpness of your videos and photos.

Shutter:  Customize the time the shutter is left open (up to 30 seconds) when using Night Photo and Night Lapse modes.

Exposure Value Compensation: Manually adjust exposure by up to 2 stops (up or down) - useful in contrasting lighting conditions when you'd like a different exposure than produced by the camera's metering system. Useful underwater when shooting up.




Housing & Filters:

The GoPro Hero4 uses the same housing as the Hero 3+. This is great news since underwater video filters designed for the 3+ can be used with the 4. Be sure to check out our 'Guide to Filters for GoPro' article.


The GoPro Hero4 has a new battery, so batteries from previous GoPro versions cannot be used.

LCD Display:

The GoPro Hero4 will work with the Hero3+ and Hero3 LCD displays. If you haven't purchased one yet, you may want to wait a couple weeks since GoPro will be releasing a brand new LCD display for the Hero4 in November.


All your mounts from previous GoPro models with work with the Hero4 housing, this includes trays/handles, selfie poles, suction cup mounts and everything else. 




Maintaining your GoPro Hero4 is easy, and will not likely flood if properly cared for. Here are our top maintenance tips:

  • Rinse the GoPro (while still inside sealed housing) in freshwater immediately after use. This will rinse the salt water off before it has a chance to evaporate and leave crystal buildup inside the buttons, making them hard to push.
  • When opening and closing the housing, it is CRITICAL to inspect the white o-ring and the o-ring groove on the opposide side of the housing for debris (hair, lint, sand, etc) before closing. The o-ring must also be properly seated, with no twists, in its groove (with proper use, the o-ring will not fall off).


GoPro Hero4 Video Review




GoPro App:

The GoPro app serves many functions for your GoPro Hero4, however they (obviously) can't be used while underwater. The app allows you to control the camera, view what you're recording, change settings, use the built-in WiFi to transfer photo/video to your device and more.

The GoPro app is perfect for those who find navigating the settings menus difficult - you can adjust the settings via app and then only need to worry about on/off on the camera itself.

I like to use the app in shooting situations where I want to see what the GoPro is seeing. I don't have the LCD so relied on the app to compose the night shot with the pier above.


GoPro App

GoPro App screenshot from iPhone 5


GoPro Studio 2.0:

GoPro Studio 2.0 is GoPro's free video editing software. It's free to download and very easy to use. Workflow is similar to that of Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut, so it's a great way to start editing video before investing in professional software.

Check out our tutorial on Editing Underwater Video with GoPro Studio.


gopro studio

GoPro Studio editing software





Hero4 Setup

While the default photo and video settings out of the box are perfect for new GoPro users, I immediately wanted to dig into the settings for our in-pool test. GoPro has simplified navigation of the menus making it easier and faster to change settings.

There are three main modes (Video, Photo, Multi-shot) accessed through the front button. But instead of scrolling through the main menu to enter the secondary menu for customizing these modes (like in the Hero 3 and 3+ models), you enter the settings for the mode you're on with a push of the side button. Voila. This button still serves to turn WiFi on and off, however it must be held for a couple seconds.

One negative is that the display is small and the settings are abbreviated, so make sure you get to know the camera in a relaxing setting before heading out to film your video. Alternatively, you can adjust all the settings through the GoPro App, which is a much easier interface.


GoPro Hero4 Video Review


The battery compartment door is now spring-loaded and placed on the bottom of the camera. This is nice for three reasons:

  • You can replace batteries without removing the LCD display
  • It's easier to open the compartment and swap batteries
  • It feels cool to open the spring door


GoPro Hero4 Video Review



Hero4 In the Water

Using the GoPro Hero4 in the water is nice. Everything remains the same as previous GoPros, especially the need for a tray/handle setup or selfie pole to help stabilize and hold onto the camera.

GoPro changed the housing buttons on the Hero 3+, and since the Hero4 uses the same housing, it's much easier to push the buttons than on the Hero 3 and older models.

The 32GB Max-Flash MicroSD card handled all the data with no problems, even 4k at 60fps.


GoPro Hero4 Video Review



Video:  Slow Motion:  30fps vs. 120fps

The video below demonstrates how faster frame rates will deliver smoother slow motion in your underwater video. These scenes were shot at 1080p resolution and slowed to 25% of normal speed during post processing.

You can see how the first dive (at 30fps) in the video is choppy while the second dive (at 120fps) is much smoother when slowed down.


Video:  SuperView Comparison Test

SuperView expands the field of view of from the GoPro Hero4 by dynamically stretching (adding pixels) the sides of the frame. The concept is similar to the difference in field of view between a crop sensor and a full frame DSLR, the full frame being SuperView. 

In the video below you'll see that the SuperView shots appear more "pulled back" than the non SuperView shots. See our Recommended Settings above for more details.


Underwater Video:  GoPro HERO4 Silver + Video Lights

Purchase the I-Torch Venom38 video light on Bluewater Photo.





Micro SD Card

GoPro recommends using a Class 10 memory card (or better). For underwater video, we recommend a card with minimum of 32GB, so that you can record video all day (with normal recording) without changing cards. We recommend 64GB of memory. The Max-Flash Micro SD cards come with a SD Card mount so that you can insert the card into your computer or card reader.

Max-Flash 64GB Micro SD Card

Max-Flash 32GB Micro SD Card


Spare Battery

GoPro Hero4 Battery

The battery in your GoPro Hero4 will last about one dive. If using accessories like the LCD screen (with Hero4 Black) it will last even less time. Buying one or two extra batteries allows to you change it out during your surface intervals.

 GoPro Hero4 Spare Battery



Dual Battery Charger

GoPro Hero4 Dual Battery Charger

You can charge your batteries in the camera (one at a time) or use the dual battery charger to charge two batteries at once while still being able to use the camera.

GoPro Hero4 Dual Battery Charger



SeaLife Aquapod

SeaLife Aquapod

Capture your best selfie yet with the extendable Aquapod. Made by SeaLife, the Aquapod is designed for underwater use. Not only can you capture that selfie, but you can get the camera closer to your subject, whether it is something small or something skittish that you can't approach.

SeaLife Aquapod



GoPro Multigrip Handle

GoPro Multigrip Handle

Adding a handle like the Beneath the Surface Multigrip handle adds stability and is an easy way to hold your GoPro while diving, or any other activity. Often, if handholding your GoPro, you'll see your fingers wrap around into the picture. This problem is solved with the handle.

GoPro Multigrip Handle



GoPro Tray and Handles

GoPro Handles and Tray

Attaching your GoPro Hero4 to a tray and handles will make the camera easier to hold on to and much, much more stable underwater. In addition, the handles serve as a mounting point for video lights. Below are a few of our favorities:

Ultralight Tray & Handles for GoPro

R Innovations Tray & Handles for GoPro

Beneath the Surface Angled Double GoPro Tray



GoPro Underwater Filters

Polar Pro Switchblade Filter for GoPro

Read our detailed filter guide, which explains why you need to use filters, which colors to use in different types of water and different models available, including PolarPro's popular SwitchBlade filter.

Detailed Article:  'Guide to Filters for Underwater Video'



Video Lights

i-torch fishlite video light

Bring color back into the picture with use of video lights. Even a high-powered light will only illuminate a subject a few feet in front of you, so these are most useful for macro and close focus wide-angle video. Adding a video light to your GoPro setup will allow you to shoot professional-quality video on your next dive! Below are a few of our favorites: 

I-Torch Fishlite V24

Light & Motion Sola 500

FIX Neo 1200 DX

Be sure to visit Bluewater Photo to learn about more high-powered video lights.



GoPro Tutorial Series and Reviews





About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and professional image-maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. View more of Brent's work at and some of his GoPro videos at



Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photog 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.




Olympus E-PL7 first impressions review

Scott Gietler
Initial impressions of the Olympus E-PL7 camera, and comparison to the E-PL5 & E-M10

Olympus E-PL7 Review

By Scott Gietler & Kelli Dickinson



The Olympus E-PL5 mirrorless camera, with it fast-focusing and great image quality, has been a very popular camera for underwater photography, especially when combined with the economical Olympus E-PL5 underwater housing.

The E-PL6 was released in Japan, but some of the other distributors balked at releasing the E-PL6 in their country because the differences between the E-PL5 were so minor.

Now the Olympus E-PL7 has been announced. None of the upgrades are earth-shattering, they are all very minor but they do help make it a slightly better camera versus the E-PL5. Let's take a look at the key upgrades:


Olympus E-PL7 Features:

  • 16MP Sensor (Same as E-PL5)
  • Improved TruPic VII Processor (better than E-PL5, same as the OM-D E-M10)
  • 1/250th sync speed (same as E-PL5, better than the OM-D E-M1)
  • ISO LOW for ISO 100 support  - the E-PL5 lowest ISO was ISO 200
  • Improved Tilting LCD screen (flips down 180 degrees)
  • 3 axis image stabilization (vs E-PL5 dual-axis - which is also now used for video)
  • 24Mbps bit rate for video, vs 20Mbps on E-PL5
  • 81 auto-focus points vs 35 auto focus points on E-PL5
  • Wireless support


Be sure to check out Bluewater Photo's Best Settings & Shooting Guide for the Olympus E-PL7.


Olympus E-PL7 for wide-angle sunballs

The new changes on the E-PL7 means that we can now photograph sunballs at F22, 1/250th, ISO 100. This is a nice improvement for photographers who want to do serious underwater wide-angle photography.


Olympus E-PL7 versus OM-D E-M10

The E-PL7 and the E-M10 actually have very similar specifications, with the biggest differences between that the slightly more expensive E-M10 has an electronic viewfinder and a built-flash, both of which are nice features. I recommend getting the E-PL7 if you want to get the money-saving Olympus brand underwater housing, and the E-M10 if you want to use the much better quality Nauticam E-M10 housing.


Olympus E-PL7 PT-EP12 underwater housing - BIG CHANGES!

The Olympus PT-EP12 underwater housing is available in the US for $750, buy it here. Olympus surprised everyone by making some big changes to the PT-EP12 housing.

The new housing is definitely smaller, easier to hold and has a larger shutter release. Buttons are tired and labeled nicely as they have been in the past, and a new control knob on the front of the housing corresponds to the new control dial on the top of the camera making exposure changes quick and easy.

New Standard Port

The most apparent change is that they've redesigned the front port. No longer does the housing include the large standard port which worked with the 14-42mm II R, 9-18mm and 60mm macro lenses. Olympus ignored the usefulness of these lenses and redesigned the port for the newer, smaller 14-42mm EZ lens. As always they continue to stand behind the idea that this port is "not removeable" and thus will not be offering the older standard port as an option to purchase for the housing. This is a huge disappointment for many people.

In addition, in the USA the E-PL7 is only being sold as a kit with the original 14-42mm II lens or body only. So users who buy this kit and the housing will be disappointed. To use the camera in the housing users will also have to purchase the 14-42mm EZ lens which is being sold separately for a whopping $350 USD.

Using Third Party Lens Ports

Luckily Olympus did not change everything on this housing. The new port maintains the same diameter and design as the original standard port, which means that all third party ports will still work great with the PT-EP12 housing. What we recommend is to purchase the E-PL7 camera as body only, then purchase the lenses you plan to use underwater, such as the Olympus 60mm Macro, the Olympus 9-18mm or Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. You can get third party ports for all these lenses and they work great with the E-PL7 underwater.

Wide Angle Port Options

For the Olympus 9-18mm and Panasonic 8mm domes from Precision and Zen already exist allowing for perfect, sharp results. Use the Precision or the Zen 4" dome for the 8mm Fisheye Lens. For the 9-18mm, 12-50mm or standard 14-42mm II kit lens the Zen WA-100-EP dome is perfect. Tests with the housing confirm that the zoom gear for 14-42mm / 9-18mm still work perfectly.

Olympus E-PL7, Panasonic 8mm FE ISO200, F4, 1/60

Macro Port Options

To use the Olympus 60mm underwater with great results you'll want to purchase two pieces from Zen. You'll need the FP-100 port designed for the 45mm macro lens and the ER-EP-25 Extension Ring, which extends the FP-100 port so it works with the Olympus 60mm Macro. You can also use the 12-50mm lens behind the flat port. Olympus' UW mode controls allows you to shoot at Wide and Tele, not full zoom control or the dedicated macro mode.

Using the 14-42mm EZ Lens

From tests with the housing the 14-42mm EZ lens would only be recommended if you are looking for a very easy to use, simple, single lens set up with the housing. Olympus is not making a zoom gear to function with this lens. This means that you are limited to shooting at 14mm or 42mm by utilizing Olympus' built in Underwater WIDE and Underwater TELE controls, which automatically zooms the lens with a touch of a button on the camera. Unfortunately this also presets the camera to P Mode, Underwater White Balance, Flash at Fill-In and ISO Auto. You can override these settings to any others in a matter of seconds, but it does get annoying, and does not allow for quick changes at a moments notice.

In addition, the smaller flat port with the 14-42mm EZ lens does allow for the use of some wet lenses for both wide angle and marco. This makes the camera set up more similar to a compact camera, where you can change from wide to macro underwater with the use of wet lenses, like the UWL-04. However you are still limited to shooting full wide or full zoom, so do not hav the flexibility of intermediate zoom ranges for portrait type shots. Stay tuned for wet lens tests.

E-PL7 lens selection for underwater

For underwater, most people will end up using the following lenses:

  • Panasonic 8mm fisheye - for ultra-wide angle
  • Olympus 9-18mm fisheye, for general wide-angle and sharks
  • Olympus 14-42mm EZ lens - for those wanting a simple single lens system
  • Olympus 60mm lens - for small fish, macro, supermacro

For more details and lens choices, visit our guide to the best mirrorless lenses for underwater.



Olympus E-PL7 Settings & Shooting Guide

Visit Bluewater Photo to view our detailed Settings & Shooting Guide for the Olympus E-PL7.


Olympus E-PL7 conclusions

The Olympus E-PL5 has been an extremely popular and recommended camera for underwater photography, and the E-PL7 will follow in its footsteps nicely, especially when paired with the economical Olympus brand housing.

We recommend this camera for those wanting the great quality of the micro-four thirds sensors and interchangeable lenses. It works best with the lenses recommended above. Alternately this is a great option for folks looking for a higher quality single lens system as an upgrade from a compact camera, planning to shoot mostly auto mode.

Users who want a better quality housing and more port choices will want to either go for the Nauticam OM-D E-M10, or the high-end Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 4 OM-D E-M1 underwater housing choices.

The camera is available now. In the USA it will be $599 body only, or $699 with the 14-42mm kit lens.


Further Reading



Where to buy your photo gear

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!


Let us book your dive travel

Book through our sister company, Bluewater Travel

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by booking your next dive trip through Bluewater Travel. It will never cost you more, and often less. Email them any dive travel question, or call at (310) 915-6677 for expert advice!


Sony RX-100 III Review for Underwater Photos

Scott Gietler
Pros and cons of the new Sony RX-100 III and its new 24-70mm lens


Sony RX100 III Review

Focusing on Underwater Photography and Video

By Scott Gietler




History of the Sony RX100 III

When the Sony RX100 was released in June of 2012, it had a huge impact in the underwater photography field. It packed a huge sensor it a tiny size (very pocketable), it did great video, it could do TTL in manual mode, and it worked great with all wide-angle lenses, inlcuding my favorite lens, the UWL-04 fisheye lens.


The RX-100 II came out in June/July of last year, but offered little in terms of new features.  It claimed a new "back-lit" sensor, although I noticed little difference in underwater photos.

Now less than a year later, Sony has announced the RX-100 III. Although it adds a better video bit-rate and adds an electronic viewfinder, it also changes the lens from a 28-100mm lens to a 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 lens, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you want to use the camera for.


With a wet macro lens, a longer focal length will always give you more working distance and more magnification, so you will see astep back in these areas. In addition, we have generally seen 24mm lenses not work as a well with wide-angle wet lenses as 28mm lenses do. We tested this in the pool, and you can see our summary of the results below.


sony RX-100 III review for underwater photography



Sony RX100 III pros and cons for underwater photography


Sony RX100 III Pros:

Increased bit rate for video

  • The bit rate for video increased from 28Mbps to 50Mpbs, if you use the new XAVC format. However, the Sony RX-100 and RX-100 II already took very good video, so I'm not sure if the majority of shooters will utilize the higher bit-rate offered. There is also a new 120fps mode (120fps in Europe) that can be slowed down in an editor for slow-motion video.

New electronic viewfinder included

  • Electronic viewfinder is now included. The EVF 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 brighter at the long end

  • New 24-70mm F1.8/2.8 lens is brighter (F2.8) at 70mm than the old lens on the RX-100 / RX-100 II. This wil 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.

3-stop ND filter included

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

Great Focus Speed

  • The Sony RX-100 III 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 III for underwater

Slightly Larger and less pocketable

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


  • The RX-100 III is more costly than the RX-100

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 II 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 III, I can take a photo 1.78 inches across. also have a little less working distance with the RX-100 III. So while you can still get good macro shots, you get more magnificaiton with the older 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.



Kelp forest with Fantasea Sony RX-100 III housing.



Sony RX100 III underwater housings

The Ikelite RX-100 III housing, the Recsea RX-100 III housing, and the Nauticam RX-100 III housing are all currently on the market.


Ikelite RX-100III Housing


Ikelite RX100 III underwater housing

The Ikelite housing is acrylic and less expensive, while the other brands are made of aluminum with more highly-designed controls.



Recsea RX100 III housing

Recsea RX100 III underwater housing $900

Recsea RX-100 III CW underwater housing $530

I used the aluminum Recsea RX100 III underwater housing in the pool, and I found the housing easy to use and the controls well made. The was a diagram showing the function of the controls, which made it easy to find the menu and play buttons when I needed them.

The Recsea "CW" RX100 III housing is a less expensive, polycarbonate version of their RX100 III housing. Like the aluminum housing, it is tiny and easy to use - a great value.

Read our detailed review and specs for the the Recsea RX-100 III Housing.


Nauticam RX100 III Housing


Nauticam RX100 III underwater housing $995

I also briefly used the Nauticam housing in the pool. The housing is small and very well made, with a leak detector and well-labeled controls. The control dials worked well when I needed to adjust the aperture and the shutter speed. I also did some wide-angle wet lens tests that I'll be publishing this week. The Dyron super-wide angle lens worked the best, with sharp, ultra-results. The Bluewater WA-100 wide-angle lens and the Inon UWL-100 lens gave similar, less wide results (but still very sharp and much wide with no wide-angle lens).

Read our detailed review and specs for the the Nauticam RX-100 III Housing.


Fantasea RX100 III Housing

Fantasea RX100 III Underwater Housing $500

The FRX100 III housing introduces high standards of function, style and durability. Fantasea has several popular compact camera housings, and the RX100 III lives up to this reputation. At $499, it is the least expensive housing.



Fantasea RX100 III Housing

Acquapazza RX100 III Underwater Housing $765

The Acquapazza RX100 III housing is a very stylish, small aluminum housing with a high build quality and full control over all of the camera functionality. At $799, it is one of the best values of all of the aluminum housings. You have a choice of several colors.







Sony RX100 III underwater photos

I managed to jump in the pool and take some photos with the RX-100 III, I really enjoyed using the small setup. I was very impressed by the sharpness, color and low-noise levels.

sony rx-100 III underwater photos

In the pool with a water gun. Sony RX-100 III, Recsea RX-100 III housing, ambient light. F8, 1/400th, ISO 400. Photo: Scott Gietler.

View more underwater photos from my Sony RX-100 III underwater pool session.



Additional Underwater Photos

Up through the kelp with the Fantasea Sony RX100 III housing.


Juvenile garibaldi shot with the Fantasea Sony RX100 III housing.


sony rx-100 III underwater photos

Shark in St. Maarten. Sony RX100 III, Nauticam RX100 III housing, SeaLife Sea Dragon strobe on automatic, F4, 1/250. Photo: Caryn Bing


sony rx-100 III underwater photos

Puffer in St. Maarten. Sony RX100 III, Nauticam RX100 III housing, SeaLife Sea Dragon strobe on automatic, F2.8, 1/30. Photo: Caryn Bing


sony rx-100 III underwater photos

Turtle & diver in St. Maarten. Sony RX100 III, Nauticam RX100 III housing, SeaLife Sea Dragon strobe on automatic, F4, 1/80. Photo: Caryn Bing


sony rx-100 III underwater photos

Wreck & open water background in St. Maarten. Sony RX100 III, Nauticam RX100 III housing, SeaLife Sea Dragon strobe on automatic, F2.8, 1/40. Photo: Caryn Bing



Sony RX-100 III Conclusions

We will be testing this underwater further to update our initial thoughts. If you are doing professional-level video, or using the camera extensively for creative indoor and outdoor photos, you may be interested in the RX-100 III. I recommend sticking with the RX-100 or RX-100 II if you are solely focusing on underwater photography. You can always speak with the experts at Bluewater Photo for detailed advice.



Further Reading



Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


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


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


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




Canon 70D Review for Underwater Video

Brent Durand
Lighting-Fast Autofocus, Smart AF Modes and Other Cool Features


Canon 70D Review for Underwater Video

Lighting-Fast Autofocus, Smart AF Modes and Other Cool Features

By Brent Durand



When Canon first announced the 70D, it seemed like a standard upgrade with minor improvements from the 60D but with one difference – the new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. I was excited to learn that the new sensor would allow the use of phase detection autofocus in live view mode instead of the contrast detection system currently in use. Not only is this is a huge advantage for videographers who use live view, but also an improvement on the camera’s autofocus for still shooters.

So what does this mean for underwater photographers and videographers? Keep reading to see why this camera rocks, and why I expect it to be a prelude to what we’ll being seeing in future Canon DSLRs (7D Mk II, etc). 


Key Features

  • 20.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+
  • 19 point cross-type AF System and 7 fps shooting
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology
  • Instant sharing and remote control with Wi-Fi
  • ISO 12800 (H:25600)
  • Vari-angle 7.7cm ClearView II LCD touch screen
  • Intelligent viewfinder
  • Full-HD movies
  • *UHS-I card required for maximum burst duration
  • Full range of underwater housings, ports & accessories



Autofocus Basics

Modern DSLRs use an advanced phase detection autofocus system when shooting through the viewfinder, which provides fast and accurate focus at many different AF points. When light enters the lens it is bounced off a mirror and through two sensors on opposite sides of the lens before meeting on the image sensor. This happens for each AF point! The photo is in focus when both of the images are precisely overlaid. If the images do not match up, the camera knows exactly how far front focused or back focused it is and immediately adjusts the lens in one smooth movement. Voila, fast autofocus.

Before the Canon 70D, DSLR video shooters (who use live view) did not benefit from phase detection autofocus, since DSLR LCD displays use a simpler contrast detection AF system. With this system, the camera detects contrast to focus, and adjusts the lens back and forth until the correct position (focus) is achieved. This is much slower than phase-detect autofocus.

The Canon 70D is the first camera to use the fast phase detection AF in live view mode. Videographers can now happily rely on fast, accurate and smooth autofocus when shooting video!


Lightning-Fast Autofocus

Autofocus on the Canon 70D is extremely fast when shooting stills. After diving the 70D with my Canon 100mm 2.8L macro lens on the 70D followed by the same lens on my 5D Mk III, I could see the difference. The autofocus is simply faster and the focusing is smoother, even in darker underwater shooting conditions.

The 70D’s fast autofocus can be attributed to Canon’s Dual-Pixel CMOS sensor, which delivers fast sensor-based autofocus. The new sensor has two photodiodes on each pixel that are read independently for phase detection autofocus and then together to produce the final image. This creates highly accurate AF without compromising on image quality. To quote Canon’s website:

Unlike other methods of sensor-based autofocus, which allocate either autofocus or imaging functions to pixels on the sensor, the pixels on the EOS 70D’s CMOS sensor can be used as imaging pixels and phase detection AF pixels. As a result, no additional imaging processing is required around pixels dedicated for AF, which ensures both quick acquisition of focus and maximum image quality.*

Cool? Definitely!



Filming Underwater Video

The Canon 70D offers a variety of recording sizes for underwater video. Amateurs will generally want to shoot at a recording size of 1280x720 (HD) in order to save memory space, create ease of editing and easily upload to sites like Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. Advanced shooters with powerful computers will want to try out the 1920x1080 (Full HD) recording along with All-I compression for best editing and post production.

Autofocus is where the 70D excels when shooting underwater video. The phase detection autofocus in live view delivers reliable focusing even in low light. When combined with the proper autofocus mode (+Tracking, Flexi-Zone – Multi and Flexi-Zone – Single) the diver can guide the AF to keep sharp focus on the right part of the frame. The record start / stop button is conveniently placed, however the button or lever will be different depending on the underwater housing.


Canon 70D Sample Underwater Video:


Underwater Housings



Ikelite 70D Housing Details

Buy Ikelite 70D Housing




Nauticam NA-70D Housing Details

Buy Nauticam NA-70D Housing






Buy Recsea Housing for Canon 70D






The Canon 70D is a great mid-range DSLR for those interested in Canon. The camera has many cool features like WiFi, vari-angle touch screen, and a 20.2 megapixel sensor, but the real selling point is the fast and reliable autofocus for video. This enables beginner videographers to capture high-quality shots without relying on manual focus. This technology is a game-changer and even with the older autofocus sensor of the 7D (only 19 AF points), the camera is a fantastic option for underwater shooters.


* Reference:


About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

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 OM-D E-M1 In Depth Review

Kelli Dickinson
E-M5 Comparison, Underwater Image Tests & Housing Options


Olympus OM-D E-M1 In Depth Review

with E-M5 Comparison and Underwater Image Tests

Text & Photos by Kelli Dickinson




Last September Olympus announced the next release in the OM-D line of micro four-thirds cameras. The first camera, the OM-D E-M5, was released in March 2012 and surpassed all expectations, becoming one of their most popular cameras to date. The E-M5 works wonderfully underwater, providing high quality images and dSLR-like controls in a smaller, compact body.

The new E-M1 was designed with the professional shooter in mind. This camera strives to further blur the line between mirrorless and dSLR cameras. This new body is not a replacement for the E-M5, but a new flagship mirrorless camera for Olympus. It offers improvements across the board including a more SLR-like body style, a "buttons for everything" approach, improved processor and even more flexibility for customization.


OM-D E-M1 Quick Specs


  • 16 Megapixels

  • Micro 4/3 Lens Mount

  • Flash Sync Speed: 1/320s

  • Max ISO:  25,800

  • Max Shutter Speed:  1/8000


The new E-M1 has the same micro four-thirds sensor as the E-M5, with an effective 16 mega pixels. It has been improved though, with the new TruePic VII processor giving better image processing and improving quality overall.

The big change with this camera comes with the innovative new auto focusing modes. The new "Dual Fast AF" utilizes both Phase and Contrast detection auto focus depending on what AF mode and what type of lens is on the camera. For most shooters this means that when using the native Micro Four-Thirds lenses, you have improved contrast detection autofocus in S-AF mode. In C-AF, the camera uses both contrast and phase detection allowing for faster continuous focusing and focus tracking at 6.5fps burst mode. With Phase detection, the camera also focuses much more quickly with the original Olympus Four-Thirds lenses from their dSLR line. The contrast detection grid has been increased to 81 focus points that are smaller and cover more of the total image. When using phase detection there are 37 AF points.

Olympus has brought back the ISO100 that was available in the original PEN E-PL1. They list it in the camera as ISO LOW, and the E-M1 can shoot up to ISO 25,600. It has an increased max shutter speed of 1/8000th, and most exciting, a new increased flash sync speed of 1/320th.

The overall body style has changed significantly, moving away from the slim look of the E-M5 and other PEN models. The E-M1 looks and handles much more like a dSLR camera with a large grip and more buttons for easy control and customization of the camera functions.

A new larger electronic viewfinder with more magnification makes composing your images even easier. This viewfinder is as close to an optical viewfinder as I have seen in any mirrorless camera. The camera body is weather sealed - dust proof, water resistant and freeze proof - making it a very versitle and rugged set up. Olympus is also beginning to release the PRO line of micro four-thirds lenses that will offer new and better options than the current line available.


For a complete look at the specifications check out our E-M1 Initial Thoughts article.


Real Time Use

I have been shooting the E-M5 for the past year and a half, so I'm already familiar with Olympus' menu set up and controls. This made it was a breeze to switch to using the new E-M1. The main improvement I found topside is the change in body style, allowing a much better grip (without having to puchase the optional extended grip). Overall, the two cameras feel very similar. The biggest change is the addition of more customizable buttons. Taking a "buttons for everything" approach with this camera Olympus is providing the shooter with the ability to create a setup for extremely streamlined shooting - provided you take the time to set the functions where you want them and can remember what button controls which function. Underwater I see this as being extremely useful since no one wants to spend extra time scrolling through menus to find and change settings, provided access for all of these buttons is available with the UW housings.

Just like with the E-M5, the two top dial controls make it easy to adjust settings. The buttons on the camera are well placed for easy access and the overall layout of the system makes sense. The 2 x 2 control system is neat, allowing for quick changes. Simply switch the lever between 1 and 2 and the two control dials change from operating the Aperture and Shutter Speed to controlling ISO and White Balance (and of course, these options can be customized).


Aquatica OM-D E-M1 Housing

The Aquatica housing construction is excellent. The finished aluminum housing is anodized and painted with a rough matte black finish designed to stand up to salt water use over time. Spring tension in the buttons and controls feels strong. All the controls worked great and the camera was easy to install in the housing with a tray that slides onto two rails and locks in place.

Aquatica includes high quality molded grips the feel great and are positioned well from the housing. On a side note these grips are also easy to remove which makes packing for travel a breeze! Similar to other aluminum housings they have moved the control for the AEL/AFL button from the back of the housing to the side and made that control a lever vs a standard button. This makes it ideal to use for splitting out the focus lock, a popular camera set up for macro.

The shutter lever is large and sensitive, making it easy to lock focus using the half shutter press method. The two main dials - typically used for shutter speed and aperture control are easy to turn making settings changes a breeze. All camera functions are accessible and fiber optic cables easily plug directly into the holes on the top of the housing. On the left of the housing the zoom control knob is large and easy to manipulate allowing for quick and smooth zooming.

Nauticam OM-D E-M1 Housing

Nauticam has released the NA-EM1 housing for the new E-M1 camera. They took a new approach with this camera in treating it more like a dSLR. The housing includes built-in handles, a dSLR style port release, improved camera tray, nicer zoom knob and of course, well thought out placement of controls to make using it underwater a breeze. The shutter release has been redesigned to work smoothly when holding on to the handles, and (just like the dSLR housings) it is a larger lever style. In addition, Nauticam made the AEL/AFL control a lever to take advantage of customizing features like focus lock using that control.

The control dials are well placed for easy use and shooting one handed is not difficult. Overall buoyancy of just the camera and housing (with 60mm macro lens & port) is just slightly negative, but not bad.

With the E-M5 housing, I would hold on directly to the housing (vs the right handle), so I found it took a little adjusting to holding onto the handles and being able to easily control everything. With the new handle design the rear buttons for accessing the menu are slightly further away, making it necessary to have both hands on the rig when doing any menu changes. However, for shooting and composition, everything that is needed can be accessed with one hand (if programmed to specific buttons).

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Housing

The Olympus housing is designed exactly like the E-M5 underwater housing, with the black polycarbonate body and red front on the port. One big improvement is an updated port system which allows for easy port changing. Similar to other E-M1 housings the port is not included with the housing. There are a variety of options available for ports, many of which require an adapter. Olympus offers an adapter to use their original dSLR ports with the OMD housing and Zen offers an adapter to use their PEN ports with the OMD housing giving a variety of options.

The shutter lever is sensitive and easy to lock focus. They tier the buttons making them easier to manipulate without accidentally pressing the wrong one. Zoom control is easy to use, however the positioning of the two main control dials is not great, making it more difficult to make fast settings changes with one hand. The housing is designed to be used with the flash in the "down" position, so you do have to assign the UW mode to one of the Fn buttons to engage this, luckily with the E-M1 there are alot of Fn buttons to choose from!


E-M1 Camera Compared to the E-M5 with Image Tests

Tech Specs:

I took both cameras in housings into the pool and also did several tests topside to flush out the real differences in performance between the E-M5 and E-M1. While the E-M1 has definite improvements over the E-M5, the E-M5 still held its own, and wins on overall size and affordability.


Image Quality

Dynamic Range - The E-M1 has a greater dynamic range than the E-M5, with slightly more detail in both highlights and shadows before they clip to white or black. Notice the ability to shoot up to 1/320th with the EM-1 can allow for more flexibility in gaining those nice sunbursts from bright clear water.


E-M5 @ ISO200 F22 1/250th

E-M1 @ ISO200 F22 1/320th


Flash Sync Speed

The E-M1 also holds an advantage over the E-M5 with the increased flash sync shutter speed of 1/320th vs the 1/250th. While 1/250th works great for most things, in bright clear water the additional speed really helps for creating better sunballs. I tested this in the pool with the 8mm Panasonic Fisheye Lens. While the E-M5 still does a good job, there is slightly more detail in the E-M1 sunball thanks to the faster sync shutter speed.

100% Crop of Sunburst from E-M1 wide shot above (1/320th)

100% Crop of Sunburst from E-M5 wide shot above (1/250th)


ISO Range

The E-M1 promised improvements in the overal quality of higher ISOs and it delivers. Paired against the E-M5 you can see that it retains more detail and slightly less grain as the ISO count rises. The differences are slight, however. Both cameras still produce a lot of noise after ISO 800 and the image quality degrades quickly as the ISO increases.


Below: 100% Crop of EM1 (top) & E-M5 (bottom) @ ISO200


Below: 100% Crop of EM1 (top) & E-M5 (bottom) @ ISO800


Below: 100% Crop of EM1 (top) & E-M5 (bottom) @ ISO1600


Below: 100% Crop of EM1 (top) & E-M5 (bottom) @ ISO6400


Focus Speed

Low Light Focus - Macro

The new E-M1 definitely focuses faster than the E-M5. I tested the focusing with the 14-42mm kit lens topside and also did some tests with the 60mm Macro lens. The 60mm lens often has the more trouble focusing, especially when changing focus from a very close subject to something further away. Underwater I tested the focus in a shadowed area of the pool on a monochromatic drain with the hopes of providing a more difficult-to-focus-on subject. While both cameras sometimes experienced focus hunt when doing this, the E-M1 was able to lock focus much quicker, often with zero hunting. During topside tests in a dark room the EM-1 locked focus on average 1/10th of a second faster than the EM-5.


Tracking Focus

A big improvement that Olympus states with the E-M1 stems from the new on-chip phase detection AF. When using any native Micro Four-Thirds lens with the camera in continuous AF mode, the E-M1 utilizes both Phase and Contrast detection AF, allowing the camera to maintain focus on a moving subject. This only works with the Low burst mode on the camera, which shoots at about 6fps. Just like the E-M5, the High rate burst mode locks focus on the first frame and does not adjust for subsequent images. I tested the continuous focus on cyclists down the beach path as they rode by me. My first impression was that there is still room for improvement with the continuous focus overall. The camera kept refocusing prior to me pushing the shutter down completely, often locking focus then going out of focus before I was ready to take the photo and resulting in my set of exposures being completely out of focus. The typical results I saw were that several of the series would be out of focus and several would be in focus. However, compared to the E-M5, which locks focus and does not refocus at all, this is a big improvement. Below is the main image of one of the cyclists, followed by 100% crops of the key frames where focus was best.


Cyclist riding by, I tracked focus on her face as best as possible (ISO200 F8, 1/320th)


Frame 1 of the series


Frame 4 of the series


Frame 6 of the series



Physical Differences: E-M1 vs. E-M5


Front view of OMD comparision. E-M1 (left) is slightly taller than E-M5 (right)


Immediately it's easy to see that the E-M1 is bigger than the E-M5. It is still much smaller than a dSLR, however. It is slightly taller but the most noticeable size difference is the width. This is due to the included molded grip that comes standard on the camera. The E-M1 is .16 lbs (2.54 oz) heavier than the E-M5. When shooting topside these size differences are not that noticeable, however it does translate to a larger housing underwater.


Nauticam size comparison (left to right) E-M5, E-M1, D7100


From the picture above you can easily see that the Nauticam housings for the E-M1 and E-M5 are similar in size (when not counting the handles). Both housings are significantly smaller than your average dSLR - like the Nikon D7100 housing pictured.


Control Placement

The control placements, dials and buttons are very similar with a few major changes. Both cameras utilize the dual control dial set up, allowing the user to easily change both aperture and shutter speed with a single dial. The E-M5 goes a step further integrating a 2x2 system which allows those two control dials to change to difference functions at the flip of a switch.


Top view of OMD comparision. E-M1 (left) is roughly the same length as the E-M5 (right) but is thicker overall - mostly due to the larger molded grip.


The mode dial on the E-M1 has been moved to the right side of the viewfinder and now includes a mode lock like many dSLRs. On the left side where the mode dial is on the E-M5 we now have the On/Off switch and direct controls for the HDR and shooting drive modes as well as the AF and metering modes. Push either of these buttons and the two controls dials can now scroll through those settings.



Bigger Buttons

One major complaint about the E-M5 buttons is how tiny they are. Olympus has rectified this issue. Buttons on the E-M1 are about twice as large on the E-M1 and better placement makes them easier to use accurately. For example, Olympus moved the Playback button down below the multi-controller and away from the Fn1 button so there is no longer issue of accidentally engaging playback when trying to use the Fn1. Additional buttons allow you to assign more direct functions to the camera controls, which improve the overall flow of using the camera.




The E-M5 definitely wins in price over the more expensive EM-1. Currently the E-M1 is being sold body only at $1399. The EM-5 comes body only for only $899, and with your choice of 14-42mm kit lens for $1099, or 12-50mm kit lens for $1299 - still less than E-M1 body.



Overall, this looks to be a great camera for both topside and underwater use. Quick focusing, high quality images with a wealth of customization ability and being backed by a large selection of lenses make the whole system a great choice.


VS. the E-M5

If you are torn between which of the two OM-D versions to choose, or thinking about upgrading from your current E-M5 it can be a tough choice. If size and budget are not an issue look at going with the E-M1, you'll gain some image quality and focus speed as well more customization options. That said, the E-M5 still offers impressive results for a fraction of the cost in a smaller size.



Additional E-M1 Resources



Further Reading



About the Author

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver, manager of Bluewater Photo Store and an industry expert on mirrorless cameras and housing options. You can reach her by email at 


Where to Buy

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!


Nikon D600 / Sea & Sea Housing Review - Macro

Victor Tang
Detailed Reviews of the Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea MDX-D600 Housing for Macro

Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea Housing Review


Detailed Reviews of the Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea MDX-D600 Housing

Part II: Macro

(Jump to Part I)

Text and Photos By Victor Tang




The Nikon D600 has proved to to be an amazing tool for capturing wide-angle stills. In some ways this is not surprising, for the benefits of having a full frame (FX) sensor have been extolled since the Nikon D3 was first launched. The D600 undoubtedly proved its mettle behind a dome port, but what about a macro one?



Preparing The D600 For Macro

The Sea & Sea MDX housing requires two port components in order to have full lens functionality (including focus gears).

  • A Port Base. The Base attaches to your housing and accommodates up to half the length of your macro lens.
  • The actual Macro Port. This is the business end that the front element of your lens peers through.

Sea & Sea DX Macro Port Base.

Sea & Sea DX Macro Port 50 II


The Macro Port is screwed onto the Port Base via screw threads on the base of the Macro Port. This arrangement means that there is another potential flood point, and it proved so when I did a leak test for the first time and discovered water seeping though right where Port Base meets Macro Port. Thus the first lesson shooting macro with Sea and Sea housings has been learnt: do not over-tighten the Macro Port to the Port Base, as the O-ring will get distorted and water will enter. The build quality of the Base and Port is superb, however. Their aluminum alloy construction gives the system a solid feel - an assurance that the lenses are well-protected.

On my DX macro setup I employed two lenses: The Nikon 105mmVR and the Tamron 60mm macro. The Tamron is designed for DX cameras, so I chose to house the 105. The 105 also provides a similar field of view as the 60mm would give on my DX setup, which is a good starting point.


Shooting Macro

After commencing the first dive the immediate task was to familiarize myself with the focus point selector buttons, as I shift focus points frequently when shooting macro. I was not able to access the selector buttons when my right hand was on the housing handles, but by moving my hand into the space between the housing and handle the buttons were easy to reach. I really love the feel of the buttons on the Sea & Sea Housing, as they provide very tactile, reliable feedback. Every button also has a unique shape so it is easy to choose by feel. 


Solar Powered Nudibranch. Nikon 105VR. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F13, 1/250s.


Juvenile Common Seahorse. Nikon 105VR. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F25, 1/250s.


After firing a few test shots and reviewing them it became clear that compared to shooting with a DX crop sensor I would have to adjust my default settings slightly. Foremost is the difference in depth of field (DOF) between FX and DX. Shooting on an FX sensor with the same aperture setting as the DX counterpart will result in images with a depth of field (DOF) shallower than with a DX sensor. The result is that you have to shoot with a smaller aperture if you want the same DOF as in DX cameras when shooting with an FX sensor. Why is that? The math is complicated and of no practical use when actually shooting underwater so here is my “for dummies” explanation:

  • A FX sensor is one-third larger than a DX sensor, which means that to frame the same subject identically as in a DX camera, a FX shooter will have to move closer to the subject, making the DOF shallower. When moving closer, we need a smaller aperture to get a deeper DOF.

As I delved further into shooting more macro subjects one of the D600's flaws kept glaring at me through the viewfinder: the puny autofocus (AF) coverage. The AF points have been transplanted from the DX sensor D7000, and with the larger sensor of the D600 the spread of focus points is all clumped towards the center of the frame. Having been very used to having a far wider AF point spread, this presents an inconvenience since I often have to use the nearest point to focus and then recompose the shot. The AF-C 3D Tracking focusing mode is often helpful in this situation.

Even with these two nuances between the sensor sizes, the photo results are absolutely glorious! Colors are vibrant, there is better contrast, and the amount of detail that is recorded will satisfy any pixel peepers. In fact such fine details allow the versatility of cropping your photos more dramatically than without a noticeable degradation in image quality.


Pink Skunk Clownfish. Nikon 105VR. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F25, 1/250s.



Using the DX Mode Option

The D600 allows the user to specify how much of the sensor will be used to record images, which in this case means FX or DX mode, where a box will appear on your viewfinder telling you the boundaries of the image. Switching to DX mode allows you to recreate the same field of view as you would on a DX camera, allowing the photographer to achieve a tighter framing that may not have been possible if using the whole sensor. The downside is that instead of 24 megapixel resolution, DX mode drops it down to 10.5 megapixels and the maximum printable size of the photo will be smaller. Many may scoff at this and prefer to stick to FX mode, but in my view there are certain reasons why DX mode is still a viable option in some macro scenarios for the underwater photographer:

  • Although DX mode gives you only 10.5 megapixels, those pixels can still deliver outstanding quality. Bear in mind that the minimum needed to print in A4 is about 6 megapixels, and that your masterpieces taken in DX mode can still be featured in dive magazines or any internet screen. The smaller file sizes are also more manageable than large RAW files.
  • For photographers with ambitions to win competitions, cropping is usually frowned upon and will cost you points. Shooting in DX mode may give you the framing that you need without further cropping for that winning shot, and with the RAW file looking the same as the JPEG, there will be no penalty in the eyes of the judges.

Shooting in DX mode I have seen no discernible difference in image quality, in fact I would be hard pressed to tell them apart viewing them on LCD screens. Using DX mode on a FX camera is definitely an option to consider when all others have been exhausted, but if the situation calls for it you will not be upset. Examples below:


Chromodoris Magnifica in FX. Nikon 105VR. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F22, 1/250s.


Chromodoris Magnifica in DX Mode. Do you see any difference? Nikon 105VR. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F22, 1/250s.



Another way to have a tighter field of view on FX cameras is to use teleconverters. Using a 1.4x teleconverter on any macro lens almost fully recreates the field of view that you would have on a DX camera. In order to accommodate a teleconverter in your macro setup you would need to get an extension ring to elongate the macro port. For 1.4x teleconverters like Kenko and Tamron, a Sea & Sea SX Extension Ring would suffice.

Shooting with a teleconverters does have its downsides, namely that your maximum (widest) aperture becomes smaller and the view through the viewfinder will be dimmer. However out in the field I have found this to be barely noticeable, and certainly not a hindrance. Autofocus is still quick and accurate and you would be hard pressed to see any degradation in image quality.


Goniobranchus Kuniei. Nikon 105VR and Kenko 1.4X Teleconverter. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, ISO100, F25, 1/250s.


Bicolor Blenny. Nikon 105VR and Kenko 1.4X Teleconverter. 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO100, F20, 1/250s.


Final Thoughts

Capturing macro subjects with the D600 has inspired me to further hone my shooting technique and to consider more factors before taking the shot. The shallower DOF inherent in a FX sensor makes getting subjects in focus slightly more challenging, but it brings with it new possibilities. When the patience pays off, however, the image quality, detail and color reproduction of the D600 will simply take your breath away.


Go to:

Part I:  D600 & MDX D600 for Wide-Angle



About the Author

Victor Tang is the founder of Wodepigu Water Pixel, an adventure dive company and photography consultancy with a nose for off the beaten track dive destinations.  When not stranded on shore with other pursuits as a musician and TV producer, Victor is on the prowl around Southeast Asia searching for new pristine waters to explore. His sister will always tease him for taking an oath never to take a camera underwater again after his first try in Malapascua, but lately he carries a camera anywhere he goes.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

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 OM-D E-M1 Initial Thoughts

Kelli Dickinson
First Impressions of Olympus' New Mirrorless Camera

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Initial Thoughts

First Impressions of Olympus' New Mirrorless Camera

Text by Kelli Dickinson


Olympus OMD EM1 Camera



Olympus recently announced the next installment in the super popular OM-D line of cameras. The first camera, the OM-D E-M5, was released in March 2012 and surpassed all expectations, becoming one of their most popular cameras to date. The E-M5 works wonderfully underwater, providing high quality images and dSLR-like controls in a smaller, compact body.

A few weeks ago Olympus announced the new E-M1, designed with the professional shooter in mind. This camera strives to further blur the line between mirrorless and dSLR cameras. This new body is not a replacement for the E-M5, but a new flagship mirrorless camera for Olympus.



Super Fast and Accurate


One of the biggest differences in mirrorless vs. dSLR cameras is the autofocus system. dSLR's use a phase detection system whereas compact and mirrorless cameras focus using contrast detection. The E-M1 offers both, the first mirrorless camera to offer phase detection focusing.

Phase Detection is available when using 4/3rds lens with adapter or with Micro 4/3rd lens in Continuous AF mode.

This should really improve the continuous autofocus capability of the E-M1 over previous models, something that has always been fairly slow and unreliable in Mirrorless cameras. The C-AF will utilize both contrast and phase detection focus when using a micro 4/3rds lens, allowing up to 6.5 frames per second on burst mode with continuous focus. Autofocus vs. the E-M5 in low light is significantly faster based on tests from Olympus.

Look for our image tests once we get one of the cameras in-house.


Olympus OMD EM1 Camera



Sharper Images with More Detail


The E-M1 uses a new 16 megapixel Live MOS sensor with the True Pix VII image processor for excellent image quality. Here are some of the new features this camera offers:

  • Low Pass and anti-aliasing filters removed from the sensor, which should allow for sharper images, meaning improving image quality.
  • Chromatic aberration removal based on the attached lens is included.
  • The new sensor is designed to provide optimal resolution across a range of apertures.



Professional Controls and Improved High ISO Performance


One big feature of the E-M1 is the ability to shoot up to 1/8000th shutter speed. Flash sync is up to 1/250th as with the E-M5 (up to 1/320th with some Olympus strobes). High ISO performance has been improved over the E-M5, offering less noise in low light situations when shooting at a higher ISO.



Most Accurate Scene Depiction in an Electronic Viewfinder


In order to attempt to compete with the larger dSLR cameras that offer sharp, clear optical viewfinders, Olympus has worked hard to create the best Electronic Viewfinder available in the new E-M1. This viewfinder, larger than any previous Olympus camera, offers a clean, sharp image and uses improved LCD technology to dim and brighten the image. This immediately offers a more natural and accurate depiction of the scene in front of your lens. In addition, lag time on the viewfinder has been improved to beyond what the human eye can perceive at only 29 milliseconds, meaning the image appears and moves exactly as you would perceive without the camera - no delays.


Olympus OMD EM1 Camera



Smaller than dSLR, Comfortable Grip and Advanced Weatherproofing


The EM1 keeps the small size of popular mirrorless cameras. It is slightly taller and longer than the EM5 and the most noticeable difference is the built-in grip, which makes the camera body noticeably thicker. Important features of the new E-M1 body include:

  • Magnesium Alloy body
  • The E-M1 leans more towards the look and styling of dSLR cameras with a larger built in grip and multiple dial control.
  • 2 x 2 dial control, just like the E-M5 but with a new feature. A selection lever allows for quick and easy control of multiple functions. With just the switch of the lever you can switch from standard control of aperture / shutter speed to the two dials controlling white balance and ISO. (Hopefully housing manufacturers will build in control for that lever!)
  • Mode Dial Lock. Olympus has built in a mode dial lock with the E-M1, something common to dSLR cameras. This lock is made so that multiple finger control is not required, simply push down and the button remains locked, pushed again and the lock is disengaged.
  • The camera body is significantly weather proofed and designed to be freeze proof, offering full functionality down to -10 degrees Celsius.



Olympus OMD EM1 CameraOlympus OMD EM1 Camera














Built in wi-fi, in-Camera HDR and Advanced Interval/Time-Lapse


The E-M1 is jam-packed with some other nice features, most of which won't come into play for underwater use. They will, however, add to the camera’s value topside.

  • Built in WIFI - allows for control of the camera through an app on your android or apple phone. Improved control allows a multitude of functions, including live bulb preview allowing you to see results of a long exposure before the bulb ends, so you know if you like the results without having to wait for the processing.
  • In camera HDR - able to merge up to four frames in camera for instant HDR photos.
  • Interval and Time-Lapse shooting - the camera can shoot up to 999 frames of time lapse with interval shooting able to be set from 1 sec to 24 hrs
  • Improved art and scene filters.


Olympus OMD EM1 Camera



Better controls on the EM-1

Yesterday i got the chance to check out one of the pre-production versions of the new OM-D EM-1. The camera felt great in my hands, nicely weighted, small, but with a really comfortable hand grip. The first thing that stuck out to me was the redesign of controls and buttons. One of my biggest complaints about the E-M5 was the super small buttons. As a gal with average sized hands it was never a deal breaker, but for many of our customers the small buttons were a real pain. The new E-M1 has larger buttons, well placed for ease of use. In addition they've changed the style of the dials. The new dials look much more sturdy (not going to pop off the camera like so many of us had happen on the E-M5).

Faster focusing with the E-M1

This camera was a preproduction model, so the firmware wasn't completely updated, however you could tell that the camera was focusing fast - it will be interesting to test speeds against the E-M5 once we get the new ones in. I tested out the S-AF with standard contrast focus which seemed slightly faster than I'm used to with my OM-D, and then switched into the C-AF (continuous) mode where the new on chip phase detection focus can take effect. In a decently lit room the focus speed increased dramatically compared to what I am used to with the E-M5. The 60mm macro lens focused quickly and accurately between near and far subjects with little or no hunting. Of course the real test will come with the actual finalized camera in a low light focus test, but so far its looking pretty good.

Better high ISO on the E-M1

Running through a quick range of ISO changes, I noticed that the new E-M1 seems to handle high ISO much better with noticeable noise appearing around ISO 1600-3200, and it wasn't until 12800 that the grain really became too much for my tastes (again, full ISO tests against the full production release E-M1 and the original E-M5 to come soon!)

E-M1 electronic viewfinder changes

Lastly I switched between the LCD view and the electronic viewfinder to see the changes made there. I definitely noticed the improvements in terms of a high quality electronic viewfinder designed to look as close to what the eye would perceive as possible. Quick panning movements look fluid and natural and the image on the viewfinder is crisp and colors were accurate. Once I have some more time with the E-M1 I plan to do some in depth comparison's against the E-M5 and other cameras to really see how the viewfinder holds up.


More Pro Features that Advanced Shooters Look For.


The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera looks to have the makings of a great new flagship camera from Olympus for Mirrorless shooters. It will bring the mirrorless line of cameras one step closer to truly competing with larger dSLR cameras and offers professional controls in a small sized body. It looks to be just as good, if not better for underwater than the E-M5, with improved high ISO performance, button controls and processing power. Will it live up to these specs? The cameras are planned to start shipping late October or early November, and as soon as we can get for an extended period of time we'll put it through the full range of tests to see how it compares.

All in all my first hands on time with the camera didn't disappoint. If it holds up to focus speed and ISO tests, I know this will make a great step in the right direction of the mirrorless line, letting us take one more step towards the line that separates the larger dSLR cameras and our small mirrorless ones.

About the Author

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


Further Reading


Where to Buy

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!



Nikon D600 / Sea & Sea Housing Review - Wide-Angle

Victor Tang
Detailed Reviews of the Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea MDX-D600 Housing for Wide-Angle

Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea Housing Review

Detailed Reviews of the Nikon D600 and Sea & Sea MDX-D600 Housing

Part I: Wide-Angle

Text & Photos by Victor Tang



"Swirling" Taken at ISO1000 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F10 and 1/1000s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.

DSLRs with Full Frame (FX) sensors have been all the rage in the photography world, with no less than 4 new offerings from the 2 heavyweights (Canon and Nikon) in the past 18 months. Nikon stunned the world with its revolutionary 36-megapixel FX sensor in the D800, which has proven to be the tipping point for many underwater photographers who rationalize the D800 as a “future-proof” investment with a sensor on the verge of medium format image quality. The party did not end there, for in the same year that the D800 was launched Nikon came up with another FX offering: the D600. The D600 is essentially a D7000 on steroids, but with a FX sensor shoehorned in.


Nikon D600

Nikon D600


Nikon D600 Introduction

Billed as an “Enthusiast” instead of “Professional” camera, Nikon was betting that a hybrid of the ergonomics of the D7000 that proved so popular, coupled with a brand new FX senor would make an irresistible entry level FX offering. They were spot on, and in fact, may have been too successful. The technical tests and user reviews in the months after its launch proved that the D600 was so close to the D800 in image quality and noise levels that, at least on terra firma, serious hobbyists and pros who could live without some of the added features were migrating to the D600 as their primary body, utilizing the savings on possible lens investments instead. An analysis of the headline features of the D600 seems to support their choice:

  • 24.3-megapixel sensor. This is 2/3 the pixel density of the D800, which translates to smaller RAW files. The D600 has the highest pixel density of all other FX models on the market (aside from the D800).
  • Great Video Output of 1080p at 30fps. Same as the D800, with its associated smaller output files.
  • 2 SD Card Slots. SD cards are much cheaper than CF cards of similar memory size, and I have not experienced any card failures with SD. CF cards have died on me before.
  • Native ISO Range 100-6400. Identical to the D800, with tests proving that the D600 has a slight edge in noise levels at the higher spectrum.
  • 5.5fps with buffer rate at 22 files at 12 bit. The D800 gives 4fps with the 21-file buffer. However the smaller output size of the D600 means a faster and more reliable write capability (at least on paper).

The last 2 aspects are significant, for they mean that it might be possible to achieve photographic results that were once the preserve of really expensive cameras like the D3S and D4: high ISOs at the camera’s maximum shooting speed – good for shooting fast-moving subjects in ambient light. I made a decision to get a FX setup for underwater wide angle photography and since I was already using a D600 for above water applications, in a moment of pure boyishness I decided to go for it.


Sea & Sea D600

The Sea & Sea D600 Housing


The Sea & Sea D600 Housing

Once I decided to house my D600 it was time to select a housing. With a bewildering array of choices to suit every taste and budget, I tried as many housings as I could and it was down to either the Nauticam or Sea & Sea.


PROS:  My ultimate choice in the Sea & Sea turned out to be user specific and personal:

  • I really liked the way I can easily reach both command dial gears with my Asian-sized fingers to adjust aperture and shutter speed.
  • I can still easily reach the ISO button at the bottom left of the housing with my left thumb.
  • I can still use my Sea & Sea L-type cables from my other setup, so I do not have to get new ones.
  • Should I choose to go into video there is a convenient bulkhead just to right of the flash enclosure to install a monitor screen
  • The multi-controller pad buttons are in their “classic” position directly on top of the camera’s, its buttons are very easy to operate and I can differentiate it by feel. The focal point is often positioned in the center of the frame for wide-angle photography, so its placement on the housing was not that significant for me. I may rue this when I use it for macro work.
  • The port locking system has been tried and tested and felt extremely secure. It turns out that it takes more effort to change ports in between dives as it gets really tight, but somehow it gave me a better sense of security.
  • I could get one almost brand new at a good price, and the bluish color looked really cool.


CONS:  No housing is perfect however, and I found the housing lacking in some aspects:

  • As mentioned, certain buttons on the D600 cannot be accessed when using the housing, so if ever a need arises to change from FX to DX mode it would be changed through the menus.
  • There is no lever to actuate the lens release buttons on the camera, so changing lenses in between surface intervals requires at least a cotton bud to reach into the housing to release the lens. This also means that extra vigilance must be on hand to make sure hands are as dry as possible. I am glad to say Sea & Sea has solved this issue for newer housing models and I hope a retro-upgrade is available in the future.
  • There is no way to see the top screen showing the camera settings, which I have grown accustomed to with previous setups. This means pressing the info button more often or constantly peering through the viewfinder.
  • Sea & Sea recommends a plate be installed where the optical sockets are when using the pop-up flash, which prevents internal reflections from showing up in the photos. Using this plate means the pop-up flash will have to be constantly deployed throughout the dive, which would rob me of any ambient light shots, should the situation arise. I chose not to use the plate and so far have not encountered any of the issues Sea & Sea has forewarned.


Wide-Angle Settings

The sardine school has thankfully returned to Pescador Island (Philippines) and with hunting by pelagic fish already in full swing it was the perfect place to see if the D600’s capabilities would allow me capture good fish action. It was daunting yet exciting at the same time since I have not done this kind of shooting before, so I decided to place it safe and keep to certain settings:

  • Aperture between F7.1 to F9 as much as possible.
  • Stick to ISO settings at 800, 1600 and 3200. To be able to shoot at ISO3200 in non-pro cameras is revolutionary enough, so I set that as my limit. This is also when the U1 and U2 modes became handy.
  • Taking ambient light photos allows me to use shutter speeds as high as 1/1000 or higher to freeze action. This would really give the ISO capabilities of the D600 a good workout.

With my final choice set, it was time to bring my setup to where it belongs: underwater!



Out in the Field


Shooting Fast Action

Taking the housing underwater for the first time, with no strobes attached and with a Zen 200mm dome, I was slightly surprised by how neutrally buoyant this configuration was. Previous setups I have used, albeit with a 170mm dome and floats installed felt like they were striving to drag me down to the depths. One of the great joys of shooting FX is the bigger and brighter viewfinder, but the housing comes equipped with a viewfinder that actually reduces the view. I installed an Inon 45 degree viewfinder on the housing, and though claimed to only work on cropped sensor cameras, the resulting view was a complete picture end to end with the settings at the bottom seen clearly. No need to get another  “FX compatible” viewfinder if you are upgrading!

The first 5 minutes of the first dive was spent familiarizing myself with the controls, and it soon became clear that assumptions made when handling the housing on land do not fully translate to use underwater. My extensive use of the D600 above water made for a shorter acclimatizing period but there were still a few hiccups, the primary one being the increased difficulty of accessing the ISO button. But after a few practice runs it became second nature. The command dial levers are large and the grooves deep enough to afford traction for the thickest of gloves, its operation so smooth that I have accidentally shifted the settings more than I intended. The shutter lever was a dream to use, its feedback so supple that you definitely know when you have achieve half-shutter position.

Before entering the thick of the action I elected to do a few test shots at ISO 800 and the results were very clean with no discernable noise penalty even when reviewing at pixel level. Being able to use higher shutter speeds also helps to freeze motion and mitigate any motion or camera blurs.


Oops! Taken at ISO 800 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/200s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 14mm (notice the vignetting).


100% crop reveals low noise levels.


At this juncture I would like to say that the Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens works really well and produces crisp sharp images. However, because this lens is meant for cropped sensors it has to be vigilantly kept at the 15mm focal length and above to eliminate vignettes at the corners. This must be constantly reaffirmed during the dive, for the zoom knob may be inadvertently shifted during the dive. To be safe it may be best to start off the dive with the lens at 16mm, the difference in field of view not dramatic enough to be a hindrance. All in all the Tokina is a wonderful lens for wide-angle photography for FX without a doubt. Just be careful.

At ISO 1600 noise does start to creep in but still very respectable, and at the pixel level possibly equivalent to my trusty D300 at ISO 640! I would be hard pressed to see the noise on pictures posted on the web and that also means prints up to A3 are still definitely possible.







Photo Left:  Taken at ISO 1600 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/800s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.

Above: 100% Crop. All is still fine!






Shooting at ISO 3200, noise levels are predictably present at the pixel level but the amount of detail retained is still very impressive.


Coming through! Taken at ISO 3200 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/4000s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.








Photo Left:  Recovering from the onslaught. Taken at ISO 3200 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/4000s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.

Above:  At 100%. Still very usable




Being able to shoot at a higher FPS means that the photographer may be able to capture unique school formations that one might not be able to capture otherwise. Photo opportunities occur in a blink of an eye with fast-moving subjects, and it’s often worth it to keep the camera facing the general direction of the action and shooting from the hip if there’s quick action, hoping for the best. This is where a camera like the D600 may help you capture a special moment that passed all too quickly. If the behaviors of the subject can be anticipated, frame up the shot and just pull back the shutter lever and leave the rest to the camera - chances are high that the shot you hoped is in the bag. To top it off, the autofocus was spot on almost on every shot, my single out of focus shot was when I somehow managed to switch the camera to manual focus, which is a testament to the frantic pace of the sardine school between six to twenty meters deep.














Photo Left: Its raining sardines. Taken at ISO 3200 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F10 and 1/4000s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.

Photo Right: Doughnut Formation. Taken at ISO 800 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/500s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.


Throughout my experience with the sardines there was a constant need to adjust settings, especially shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, and by the second dive I was able to feel around the housing and change the settings I desired while also trying to observe the unfolding action. This says a lot about the ergonomic design of the housing. All the controls were very responsive and easy to activate underwater. One control I always had trouble to find out of sight was the lever to close the pop-up flash and disengage the strobes, and I wished that Sea & Sea could have made the lever a little bigger to facilitate the change from flash to ambient light photography.


Sardine Terra Cotta. Taken at ISO800 in ambient light. Manual Mode at F8 and 1/500s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.


Using Strobes

Turning my attention to close focus wide-angle photography using strobes to light up the foreground, the sensor sensitivity was dialed down to ISO100. The images produced were simply superb. The Tokina fisheye had more than enough sharpness to do the image sensor justice. Just looking through the D600’s LCD screen upon playback the vast improvement over my previous setups in sharpness and detail is very obvious. In fact it seems that the LCD screen at times could not effectively display the sharpness and detail the sensor is capable of, and on first glance its seemed that the image was blurry and out of focus. Only upon zooming in does the splendor of the image become apparent, the amount of detail captured on a whole new level. Just that took me a while to fully comprehend and appreciate.














Photo Left: Hanging on. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO100 Manual Mode at F13 and 1/250s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 16mm.

Photo Right: Reef Scene. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO100 Manual Mode at F18and 1/250s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.


There were grumbles that the relatively slow maximum flash sync speed, at 1/200sec, would be a major flaw of the camera especially when taming sun balls. There is an option to bump that up to 1/250sec in line with most DSLRs, and although flash power is reduced it is more than adequate to activate your strobes optically. One quirk that happened was that the camera seemed to lag noticeably when shooting single stills, which left me in bewilderment as this lag was not present when shooting at high speed with the sardine school or topside.














Photo Left: Wonderful contrast and detail. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO100 Manual Mode at F7.1 and 1/250s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.

Photo Right: Feather Star. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO100 Manual Mode at F7.1 and 1/250s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye at 17mm.



The Nikon D600 is a phenomenal tool for wide-angle underwater photography. The images that it produces are simply breathtaking and would be more than ample for most photographers (except possibly for those that need the absolute highest resolution to make very large prints). All aspects of the camera work in tandem to ensure an enjoyable shooting experience.

A great camera is useless underwater unless there is a great housing system to complement it, and with the Sea & Sea D600 housing a very able partnership can be established. The ergonomics are well thought out, and with a depth rating of 100m the housing is robust enough for any dive plan you can throw at it. This is a combination that will give you many years of service churning out one great photo after the next.


Go to:

Part II:  D600 & MDX D600 for Macro



About the Author

Victor Tang is the founder of Wodepigu Water Pixel, an adventure dive company and photography consultancy with a nose for off the beaten track dive destinations.  When not stranded on shore with other pursuits as a musician and TV producer, Victor is on the prowl around Southeast Asia searching for new pristine waters to explore. His sister will always tease him for taking an oath never to take a camera underwater again after his first try in Malapascua, but lately he carries a camera anywhere he goes.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

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!


Syndicate content