Review of cameras

Olympus E-PL3 and E-PM1 Camera Review

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

Olympus E-PL3 and E-PM1 Camera Review

By Scott Gietler

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Camera Differences

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

Here are the main improvements over the E-PL2:

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

Olympus E-PL3 specs

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

Handling, size, and weight

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

 

Focus Speeds

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

 

Shooting speed - multiple shots

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

 

Macro capability of the 14-42mm kit lens

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

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

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

 

Testing video

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

 

Underwater Housings

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

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

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

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

 

Verdict:

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

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

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

 

Where to Buy

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

 

Further Reading

Guide to Mirrorless Cameras

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

Olympus E-PM1 Underwater Review

 

 

Sony A77 DSLR Pre-review

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

Sony A77 Pre-review

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

By Scott Gietler

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

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

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

sony a77 underwater

Front of the Sony A77 camera

 

Sony A77 and the pellicle mirror

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

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

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

Innovative shutter allows 12 fps

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

New OLED electronic viewfinder

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

24 Megapixels - is it too much?

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

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

Sony A77 in a nutshell

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

sony slt-a77 camera underwater photography

Back of the Sony ALT-77


Key features of the Sony A77:

 

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

 

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

Videos showing the Sony A77

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

 

 

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

 

High ISO Noise

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

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

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

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

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

Online pre-reviews on the Sony A77

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

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

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

Sony SLT-A65

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

Key differences with from the Sony A77:

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

Lenses for the Sony A77

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

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

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

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

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

 

Further Reading

Pixels and Sensor size

Lens basics

Understanding ISO

 

Olympus XZ-1 Review

Scott Gietler
A complete review of the new Olympus XZ-1 compact camera, and its potential for underwater photography

Olympus XZ-1 review

A complete review of the new Olympus XZ-1 compact camera, and its potential for underwater photography

By Scott Gietler

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

The Olympus XZ-1 is clearly a winner in the class of high-end compact cameras, with very few negative aspects. It's excellent F1.8-2.5 lens makes it stand out about the small crowd of competitors. I've been using this camera for several days, and wanted to share my personal thoughts. Here's the Olympus XZ-1 review.

 

Olympus XZ-1 quick specs:

  • Sensor size: 1/1.63 CCD, 10 megapixels, 3648x2739 (4:3). Same equivalent sensor size as Canon S95/G12
  • Focal length: 28mm-112mm
  • F1.8 - F2.5 aperture Zuiko lens
  • Full manual controls, RAW
  • 11 auto-focus points, with moveable focus point
  • shoots in RAW or JPEG at 2fps
  • Built in image stabilization
  • 1280x720 HD video, 30 fps, AVI motion jpeg, auto-focuses in video mode
  • ISO 100-6400, 3 inch LCD with 610,000 dot resolution
  • max shutter speed 1/2000th
  • Has an internal flash and hot shoe, allowing control of remote strobes
  • Built-in 3 stop ND grad filter
  • Long exposures, up to 60 seconds
  • Lithium ion battery, good for 325 shots without flash

Olmypus XZ-1 review

Build quality & handling: Excellent. Unlike other compacts, this camera was simple to figure out how it use it in seconds. Small is size, it is closer in size to the Canon S95 than the Canon G12. Controls are very similar to the S95, except the body is slightly larger and has a dedicated video button. The camera is very comfortable to hold and use, and very intuitive. The body is a combination of aluminum and plastic.

Zuiko F1.8-2.5 lens - superb. This lens is F2.5 when fully zoomed in. Most other compact camera lenses are F5.6 when fully zoomed in. This lens is the highlight of the camera, and is in my opinion a better lens than the 14-42mm kit lens that comes with the Olympus E-Pl2. The large maximum aperture offers some depth of field control, a first for a compact camera. This is the first F1.8 camera from Olympus since the C5050Z, and the first lens to have the Zuiko brand on it. Shooting at 112mm, at F2.5 will actually allow you to slightly blur the background -see the photos below.

olympus xz-1 blurred background

olympus xz-1 camera review

Top photo taken with the Olympus XZ-1 at F2.5, 1/40th at 112mm (fully zoomed in). Bottom photo taken at F5.6, 1/10th. Most compact cameras will shoot at F5.6 at a 112mm focal length. As you can see, the background is somewhat blurred in the first photo - and you can shoot at much faster shutter speeds than at F5.6. Keep in mind that 112mm is not exactly a long zoom, you won't be shooting small birds with it.

 

Startup time: almost instant

Control dial: A front contol dial changes either the aperture or shutter speed in aperture or shutter priority mode. In manual mode, the rear control dial changes shutter speed.

Menus: easy and intuitive to use. However - some functionality, like setting macro for example, takes more button presses than on other cameras.

Focusing speed: consistently good, not as quick as the E-PL2 but a little faster and more consistent than most other compacts

Image quality: Great, comparable to other high-end compacts

olympus xz-1 review, image quality test

olympus xz-1 image quality test

This outdoor photo from the Olympus XZ-1 is a 100% crop of the above photo. F4, 1/500th, ISO 100, zoomed in to 35mm. Detail looks great!

 

Internal flash: Good, even coverage that lights an entire room without a problem.

Olympus XZ-1 Video performance: The Olympus XZ-1 does 720/30p Motion JPEG AVI video. Clip lengths are limited to 7 minutes. This camera has a nice one-touch video button, which means you don't have to change modes to do video. Also, it auto-focuses in video mode, unlike many other compacts. The auto-focus is slow, but it does work. Large exposure changes are dealt with quickly. Zooming is slow, like in other compacts. Overall, a thumbs up!

Macro & Supermacro functionality: Fair in macro mode. In supermacro mode, the camera can focus right on the lens port. However, the camera is stuck at 28mm focal length, which limits the effectiveness of supermacro due to the tiny working distance. Also, the flash will not fire in supermacro mode. In macro mode, the camera will take a photo 4.25 inches wide at 28mm, 3.75 inches wide at 112mm. In supemacro mode, because of the short working distance, taking a photo less than 1.5 inches wide is quite difficult. At these distances, you will also lose 1-2 stops of light.

olympus xz-1 review supermacro

Shooting supermacro at an angle. Here I am too close to the subject.

 

High ISO performance: photos are great up to ISO 400, good at ISO 800, and quite useable at ISO 1600. At 100% crop, you can notice loss of detail at ISO 800 due to the built-in noise reduction. At ISO 1600, you can notice the loss of detail when viewing the photo full screen. ISO 3200 shows significant noise. This performance is comparable to other higher-end compact cameras. However, the ultra-fast F1.8/F2.5 lens means that a lower ISO is needed than other compact cameras.

olympus xz-1 review, test photo at ISO 100

XZ-1 photo, hair of one of Raphael Sanzio's angels. ISO 100, 100% crop

olympus xz-1 review, test photo at ISO 400

XZ-1 photo,ISO 400

olympus xz-1 review, test photo at ISO 800

XZ-1 photo,ISO 800

olympus xz-1 review, test photo at ISO 1600

XZ-1 photo,ISO 1600

olympus xz-1 review, test photo at ISO 3200

XZ-1 photo,ISO 3200

 

Overall comments: The Olympus XZ-1 has all the features you would expect in a high-end compact - scene modes, art modes, high-speed USB interface, RAW file format, AF illuminator light, full manual controls. The one-touch video capability, USB charging, auto-focus tracking mode and the 3-stop neutral-density filter are nice touches. The ND filter means that the shallower depth of field of F1.8 can be used in brighter light. An optional electronic viewfinder, microphone, or macro light can be added via an accessory port - basically any accessory the E-PL2 can take. It also has custom modes.

Cons to the Olympus XZ-1: Macro capability not great, unless you are using supermacro mode, which is stuck at 28mm & no internal flash. Use macro mode and a diopter to get around this.

The rear control wheel is a little clunky and takes some getting used to. In manual mode, the LCD is dark when the settings are underexposed, like when using an external strobe for underwater photography. I prefer an LCD to always be bright. 

Other very minor cons that don't bother me but I should mention- the camera has no dedicated ISO dial, no noise reduction settings, no ability to customize controls (although it does have custom modes), no highlights flashing in the image playback, no AEL/AFL button (you can press the shutter halfway and recompose), no grip, and no 24fps video (only 30fps).

Olympus XZ-1 versus Canon S95:  The image sensor, video capability, high ISO noise, and control dials are comparable. If you don't consider the supermacro mode, the macro on the XZ-1 is not as good as the macro on the S95. The F1.8-2.5 lens of the Olympus XZ-1 is much better, and the moveable focus points is nice. At 112mm, the XZ-1 is almost 2 stops brighter than the Canon S95. The fact that supermacro won't fire the flash means a strobe can't be fired via fiber optics, a drawback.

The XZ-1 consistently focused and took the shot slightly faster than the S95 in my low-light tests, at all ranges. But remember - it's still at compact speed, not "dSLR" instant. The internal flash of the XZ-1 has wider, more consistent coverage than the S95 internal flash. For live view, I prefered the LCD screen of the S95, I thought it showed better color and more detail. The Canon S95 does not have a hot shoe for external flashes. The XZ-1 is bigger and more expensive. The mode dial is much easier to turn on the XZ-1, and the video on the XZ-1 autofocuses (it does not on the S95), and responds to exposure changes more quickly.

Looking carefully at DPReview's image tests, the XZ-1 to me looks slightly sharper than the S95, with a little bit more detail, but a little noisier at higher ISO's.

Compared to the Olympus E-Pl2: The XZ-1 clearly has a better lens (than the 14-42mm kit lens), allowing you to use faster shutter speeds and having a longer zoom range. The E-PL2 has much better high-ISO performance, and a much larger sensor, which will correspond to less noise and greater dynamic range. You can change the lenses of the E-PL2, which can be a benefit (more lenses), or a drawback (more money).

I think the macro capability of the E-PL2 lens is a little better, being able to take a photo 2.8 inches wide at 42mm (84mm equivalent), with use of the internal flash. In my "focus shootoff" tests, the E-PL2 focused slightly faster than than the XZ-1 all the time, although the XZ-1 was never too far behind. The XZ-1 LCD seems to be sharper with more color and contrast.

Other competitors: Panasonic LX5, Samsung EX1.

 

Implications for underwater photography with the XZ-1:

This camera is sure to be popular in underwater photography, with a sharp, fast-focusing lens, full manual controls, raw, the ability to slightly blur the background, and an excellent image quality. TTL in full manual mode is supported, unlike the Canon S95 or G12.

Cons include poor macro performance in normal macro mode, a supermacro mode that does not support zooming or use of the internal flash, and an LCD screen that is a little dark when the manual settings underexposure the image. Keep in mind that for supermacro mode, you can't fire strobes via a fiber optic cable. However, I don't consider this a huge issue, because you can simply shoot in regular macro mode, and use a 67mm threaded diopter on the housing, which will allow for closer focusing and more magnification. Also - on the plus side, the Olympus underwater housing will support the control dials.

Wet Lens support: 

For good macro, this camera will benefit from one or two strong diopters, such as the Dyron 67mm dual-element diopter. 

The fact that this camera has a similar zoom range to the Canon S95 implies there is very good chance wide-angle lenses, such as ones made by Dyron and Inon, will be supported, depending on how the housing is built. The lens travel distance on the camera is fairly short. The PT-050 underwater housing does have a 67mm threaded port for wet lenses. I've been told the housing supports both control wheels, but I haven't yet got my hands on the housing.

If the underwater housings do not support a fisheye lens, then the Canon S95 + Recsea housing will most likely still hold the edge for preferred underwater compact camera setup.

XZ-1 Underwater modes

The XZ-1 has 2 underwater scene modes, and one underwater white-balance mode. These modes appear to have no effect on settings or white balance, so I'm not sure what they do. I'll do some further testing though.

 

A close look at the Olympus PT-050 underwater housing

 

 

Where to purchase the Olympus XZ-1 & PT-050 housing:

The camera can be purchased for just $439 from our sister site Bluewater Photo & Video, with free shipping. They also carry the housing, macro and wide-angle wet lenses.

Check out the Ikelite underwater housing for the XZ-1

 

Further Reading

Review: Olympus EPM-1 Underwater

 

 


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!


 

 

DX 2G Conclusions

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

Conclusions about the sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

 

Front iew of the DX-2G

Front view of the DX-2G

 

 

With all of the great advanced point and shoot cameras and underwater housings available on the market now it is hard to say that any one system or combination of camera and housing is right or better for everyone. All that I can say about the Sea & Sea DX-2G is that I have been very happy with the results and functionality of the system and would have no problem recommending it or suggesting it is heavily considered by anyone in the market for getting into underwater photography, upgrading a beginner system or looking for a smaller, lighter alternative to a DSLR system.

 

Key points:

  • Great wide-angle capability with the FIX UWL-04 fisheye lens
  • Great macro ability without a wet lens, compared to other compacts. Optional wet lens makes it even better
  • RAW, full manual controls
  • Ricoh Gx200 is a great camera with RAW, full manual controls, and a wide 24mm lens. Only negative is noise - don't try bumping up the ISO on this camera.

Comparison to Canon S90, G11 - by Scott Gietler

Although the Canon S90 and G11 have a reputation as the best compact choices out there, Shawn's photos with the FIX wide-angle fisheye lens clearly shows this camera can produce great photos. In addition, it's macro capability out of the box is much better than the Canon cameras with respect to close-focus. 

 

 

Sea & Sea DX 2G main review page

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

Some technical features on the sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

DX-2G Wide Angle & Macro capability

Sea & Sea DX 2G underwater photos

 

Best place to purchase the Sea & Sea DX-2G

You can get purchase ths camera from our sister company, Bluewater Photo. The staff at Bluewater know this camera and its accessories inside out!

 

 

Underwater photos

Sea & Sea DX-2G underwater photos

Part of the Sea & Sea DX 2G review

All photos copyright Shawn Rener, all rights reserved.

 

Great quality images with the DX-2G

Great quality images with the DX-2G

 

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater photos

Arrow Crab from Cozumel

 

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater photos

Barrel sponge in Cozumel, using the fisheye lens

 

 

Great backlit shot with the DX-2G

A versatile lightweight camera capable of great shots

 

 

A close shot with the DX-2G by Sea&Sea

A colorfish fish underwater photo by the Sea & Sea DX-2G

 

 

A closeup with the DX-2G

A closeup wide-angle shot well taken with the DX-2G

 

Sea & Sea DX-2G review intro

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

Some technical features on the sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

DX-2G Wide Angle & Macro capability

 

 

 

DX-2G Macro capability

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

DX-2G Macro capability

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G has the ability to focus a 1cm (1/2”) to capture small subjects making this a great camera for macro and super macro photography, with the optional Sea & Sea 125 coated glass multi element close up lens you have the ability to capture the really small opportunities at almost a 2:1 magnification or to really focus in close on a subject to isolate it from a background. The 125 close up lens requires a ring adapter that cost extra to mount to the front of the DX 2G housing.

The focus distance is so small that you may need to back off of your subject and use the cameras zoom to give your self enough distance to position your strobes to light your subject. If using the cameras onboard flash Sea & Sea makes a macro diffuser that attaches to the front of the camera but you still need to allow enough space for lighting or you will get a shadow form the barrel of the lens.

 

Topside Photography

The actual camera that is used in the Sea & Sea DX 2G system is manufactured a Ricoh (GX 200). This is a fantastic and fun camera for topside photography when you find that you can’t be in the water. Ricoh has available add on lenses, a 19mm ultra wide conversion lens DW-6 and a 135mm telephoto conversion lens TC-1, you will need the HA-2 adapter to use either of these options.
 

DX 2G review intro

Who would buy this camera?

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

Some technical features on the sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

DX-2G Wide Angle capability

 

Sea & Sea DX-2G Macro & Wide Angle options

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

Macro & Wide-Angle capability

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G has a wider lens (24mm) than most other advanced compact cameras on the market and with the available Sea & Sea bayonet mount wide angle (19mm) conversion wet lens you have the ability to get very capture larger subjects at closer distance allowing for better color and detail and scenic reef and wreck photographs. If wide angle is important to you the DX 2G gives you fantastic wide angle capability, other comparable camera systems can only offer 24mm even with the addition of accessory lenses.

 

Wide Angle Third Party Options

The best option that I have found so far to increase the wide angle ability (the camera lens WA is 24mm) for the DX 2G to a super wide 16mm is the addition of the FIX UWL-04 Fisheye lens. The only way to use other manufacture's lenses is to make an adapter because the DX 2G housing have a priority bayonet system designed to fit their products. When using the FIX UWL-04 I had to bump the cameras zoom 1x to get rid of the dark corners (vignetting) though but the results are still make a major difference over the Sea & Sea 19mm wide angle wet lens.

By using the adapter ring for the Sea & Sea 125 close-up lens with a 62mm-52mm step-down ring I was able to create lens custom adapter that allowed a Sea & Sea bayonet mount to be added to the FIX UWL-04 Fisheye wet lens. Because of the bayonet mount the lens is easily removed or added underwater as needed. A Sea & Sea lens caddy attached to the systems tray or arms keeps lens safe and out of the way when not attached to the housing.
 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G with Fisheye lens attached

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G with no wet lens attached

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G with Sea & Sea wide-angle lens attached

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G with Fisheye lens attached - best option!

 

Sea & Sea DX-2G Macro capability

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G has the ability to focus a 1cm (1/2”) to capture small subjects making this a great camera for macro and super macro photography, with the optional Sea & Sea 125 coated glass multi element close up lens you have the ability to capture the really small opportunities at almost a 2:1 magnification or to really focus in close on a subject to isolate it from a background. The 125 close up lens requires a ring adapter that cost extra to mount to the front of the DX 2G housing.

The focus distance is so small that you may need to back off of your subject and use the cameras zoom to give your self enough distance to position your strobes to light your subject. If using the cameras onboard flash Sea & Sea makes a macro diffuser that attaches to the front of the camera but you still need to allow enough space for lighting or you will get a shadow form the barrel of the lens.

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G at closest focus distance, zoomed out

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G macro, closest focus, zoomed in 2x

 

sea sea dx-2g underwater camera with fisheye lens

Sea & Sea DX-2G macro test, closest focus, zoomed in 4x. These tests results are great, much better close-focus capability when zoomed in than the Canon compacts - good when you need extra working distance.

 

Topside Photography

The actual camera that is used in the Sea & Sea DX 2G system is manufactured a Ricoh (GX 200). This is a fantastic and fun camera for topside photography when you find that you can’t be in the water. Ricoh has available add on lenses, a 19mm ultra wide conversion lens DW-6 and a 135mm telephoto conversion lens TC-1, you will need the HA-2 adapter to use either of these options.
 

DX 2G review intro

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

Some technical features on the sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

 

 

Sea & Sea DX 2G Technical specs

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

Some technical features

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G shoots in RAW including 3:2 and 1:1 and RAW/JPEG bracketing and multiple JPEG modes, JPEG mode for those who want smaller files and have simpler post processing needs, RAW mode for those who want more control and prefer advanced options for post processing. The cameras RAW mode uses Adobe’s DNG standard format, which is nice - it means you don't need to wait until your RAW editor supports the Ricoh standard.

 

A closeup pof the DX 2G

A powerful but light weight camera

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G review screen offers highlight warning feature that will blink in the overexposed areas giving the photographer a warning so corrections can be made and a live histogram display to help advanced photographers determine their correct exposure and make any adjustments. The histogram is simply a bar graph of the tones in the image and provides feedback to help you to make the exposure as bright as possible without loosing too much detail in the highlights.

 

Camera (Ricoh GX200)

 

  • 12.1 million effective pixels in a 1/1.7" primary color CCD
  • With the enlarge buffer you can capture 5 consecutive images with a 3 sec write time in RAW mode.
  • 1/2" close up photography possible without an accessory lens.
  • The Sea & Sea DX2G Underwater Digital Camera offers 24-72mm optical zoom
  • Sea & Sea white balance mode provides color correction when shooting available light
  • Built-in electronic level allows you to verify that the camera is level for landscape photography
  • Dual fiber-optic cable connector sockets
  • Comes with an LCD monitor hood to improve LCD
  • Shutter: 180-1/2000 sec
  • Aperture: F2.5 - F4.4
  • Exposure Modes: Auto shooting mode, Program shift mode, Aperture priority mode, Manual exposure mode
  • Zoom: 3x Optical Zoom Plus 4x Digital Zoom
  • Memory Card: SD and SDHC up to 16GB
  • Internal Memory: 54MB
  • Lithium-Ion rechargeable or 2x AAA Batteries
  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.3 x 1"
  • Weight: 7.3 oz
  • DX-2G Housing
  • [Construction]Polycarbonate
  • [Depth rating]55m / 180ft
  • [Dimensions (WxHxD)]158x109x109mm / 6.3x4.4x4.4inch
  • [Weight]Approx. 530g / 18.6oz (excluding hand strap)
  • [Underwater weight]Approx. -110g / -3.9oz
     

DX 2G review intro

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Photos

 

DX 2G Main characteristics

 Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

Who Would Buy This Camera?

The Sea & Sea DX 2G is an advanced compact point & shoot housing and camera system that is best suited for the earnest beginner who wants easy to use preset options but has the ability to learn and expand to more manual control. It is also good for the advanced user needing full creative control with easy to access manual controls.

 

Some details on the DX-2G

A close-up of the DX-2G, with a fisheye lens attached

 

So tell us about the camera inside the housing!

When you buy the Sea & Sea DX-2G, you are purchasing an underwater housing and a point and shoot camera together.

Ricoh GX200 inside

The DX-2G is actually a rebranded Ricoh GX200. The Ricoh GX200, which is quite a compact camera, features a 12.1mp high resolution sensor, a sharp F 2.5-F4.4 24mm-72mm lens with a 3X optical zoom, a 2.7” bright high resolution LCD screen, with 460,000 pixels. The sensor size is the same as the sensor in a Canon S90 or G11.

The camera offers a very little shutter lag, full manual control as well as program exposure modes. You have complete control of balancing the available light to strobe light, which is important in an underwater camera.

The GX200 replaces the Ricoh GX100, which was the Sea & Sea DX-1G underwater camera. The biggest change in the GX200 is a fast improvement in the raw write speed, and the LCD screen is also larger.

 

Main characteristics of the Sea & Sea DX 2G Underwater Camera

 

The Sea & Sea DX 2G housing is well made and laid out giving you easy access to all controls, it is rated to 180 feet and features a bayonet mounting system, two built in fiber optic mounts. The shutter is accessed by button/dial on the back top right side of the housing, if pressed this button give you access to 4 user pre-set settings (AF, AF/MF, WB, Exp Comp, Flash Comp, ect) including the ability to move the focus area to anywhere inside the frame.

 

Some Technical Details on the DX-2G

DX-2G 24-72mm optical zoom

 

The aperture is accessed by a button/dial on the front right side of the housing directly below the shutter release lever. There is a third button on the left top side the can be pre assigned for another function if wanted. I have this set for manual focus for use with macro. There is an accessory shoe located on the top of the housing that can be used for attaching a single strobe or focus light that is helpful for low light and macro focusing situations.

 

DX 2G review intro

 

 

Who would buy this camera

Sea & Sea DX-2G Underwater Camera Review

Who Would Buy This Camera?

The Sea & Sea DX 2G is an advanced compact point & shoot housing and camera system that is best suited for the earnest beginner wanting easy to use preset options but having the ability to learn and expand to more manual control to the advanced user needing full creative control with easy to access manual settings.

 

Some details on the DX-2G

A close-up of the DX-2G

 

The camera features a 12.1mp high resolution sensor, a sharp F 2.5-F4.4 24mm-72mm lens with a 3X optical zoom, a 2.7” bright high resolution LCD screen. The camera offers a very little shutter lag, full manual control as well as program exposure modes you have complete control of balancing the available light to strobe light.

 

DX 2G review intro

 

Syndicate content