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Full Article: Sony RX100 V and VA Review

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

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

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

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

Jump to section:

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

Macro Shooting   |   Underwater Videography Features   |   Limitations and Downsides

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

 

Specs

Key Upgrades from RX100 IV

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

Sony RX100 V Complete Specs

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

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

Sony RX100 VA Upgrades from the RX100 V

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

 

Implications of RX100 VA upgrade for Underwater Photography

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

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

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

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

 

Underwater Photography Features

Lens

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

Autofocus

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

Sensor and Photo Quality

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

Strobes, Flash and TTL Capability

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

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

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

White Balance Capability

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

Wide Angle Shooting

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

RX100 V Wide-Angle Wet Lenses

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

Macro Shooting

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

RX100 V Macro Lenses

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

Underwater Videography Features

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

4K Video

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

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

Slow Motion

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

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

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

Limitations and Downsides

Battery Life

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

Limited 4K Video Shooting Length

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

Size

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

Cost

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

Shooting Limitations

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

Sony RX100 V Underwater Housings

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

Nauticam RX100 V Underwater Housing

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

Purchase the Nauticam RX100 V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

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

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Underwater Housing

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

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Housing

Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

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

Purchase the Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Housing

Fantasea RX100 V Underwater Housing

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

Purchase the Fantasea RX100 V Housing

To Buy or Not To Buy?

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

 

RX100 V (VA)

 

RX100 IV

G7X II

MSRP

 

$999

$899

$699

Sensor Rating

 

70

70

71

Lens specs

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-100mm

F1.8-2.8

Autofocus

315-point phase detection (much better)

Contrast detection

Contrast detection

Flash recycle time

Slow

Slow

Quicker

Viewfinder

 

Yes

Yes

No

Video modes

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

1080/120p

4K/30p

1080/120p

1080/60p

Slow motion video

960 fps for 4-7 seconds

960 fps for 2-4 seconds

No

Battery Life (CIPA)

 

220

280

265

Burst Shooting

 

24 fps

16 fps

8 fps

 

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

Consider the RX100 V if:

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

Consider the RX100 IV if:

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

Consider the G7X II if:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Additional Reading

Additional User Photos

 

 

 

Full Article: Sony RX100 VI Underwater Camera Review

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

US retail price: $1,199.99

 


 

 

 

Purchase the Sony RX100 VI at Bluewater Photo

 

 


 

 Key Specs and Upgrades   |   Features   |   Camera Comparison Chart   |   

 

|   Best Lenses   |   Best Housings   |   Sample Photos   |

 

|   Underwater Settings   |   Conclusion   |

 

 


Key Specifications

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

Key Upgrades from the RX100 V

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

 

Sony RX100 VI Features

Enhanced Optical Zoom

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

Improved Autofocus

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

 

High Resolution Video

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

 

Speed

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

 

Sony Rx100 VI vs The Competition

Is It Worth the Price? 

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

Who Should Consider Purchasing this Camera?

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

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

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

 

Best Lenses for the Sony RX100 VI

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

Macro

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

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

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

 

Wide Angle

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

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

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

 

Underwater Housings for the Sony RX100 VI

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

Nauticam RX100 VI Housing

Price: $1,100

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

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

Order Now!

Additional Nauticam Housing Accessories:

 

Nauticam N50 Short Port With Bayonet Mount

Price: $180

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

Pre-order Now!

 

Nauticam N50 Original Short Port

Price: $180

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

Pre-order Now!

 

Nauticam Flip Diopter Holder

Price: $220

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

Pre-order Now!

 

Ikelite RX100 VI Housing

Price: $495

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

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

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Fantasea RX100 VI Housing


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

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Recsea RX100 VI Housing

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

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Sea & Sea RX100 VI Housing

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

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Sample Underwater Photos

Mid-Range Photo Capability

 

 

Macro and Super Macro Capability

 

 

 

Underwater Settings for the Sony RX100 VI

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

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

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

Shooting Macro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting Wide Angle

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

Best Wide Angle Starting Settings, with a Strobe:

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

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

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

Shooting Wide Angle with Ambient Light:

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

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

Conclusion

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

Full Article: Lightroom Tutorial: Custom White Balance

Custom White Balance is an important tool for every underwater photographer when using Lightroom. It does not take very long, but can make a huge difference in your final product. I have put together a demonstration video showing how to use this tool, and three situations where you may find it particularly useful.

To start, here is a video with a brief intro on white balance. If you already know white balance inside out, then skip down the tutorial video below! And don't worry, if you are someone who likes to learn by reading (ie "old school"), I have covered the same material in the Alternate Text If You Don't Watch the Video section.

White Balance Intro Video

Lightroom Custom White Balance Tutorial Video

 

Alternate Text (If You Don't Watch the Videos)

What is White Balance?

The human brain is an amazing thing. One of the many pieces of processing it does is that it compensates for different lighting conditions. Think about a simple white box. Whether you are looking at it outdoors in the bright sunlight, under a tree in the shade, below overcast skies, or inside of your house under an incandescent bulb, you will see basically the same thing; a white box. This is thanks to your brain, because in reality, under these different lighting conditions, the box actually looks different. 

As your camera is a very poor replica of your eye and brain, it cannot just magically render the box white under different lighting conditions. White Balance is your camera's attempt to define "white" through a library of different color compensations, depending on the quality of lighting in your scene. Your camera tries its best to detect the color of light it is "seeing", and then applies a color correction algorithm that corresponds to this lighting.

The White Balance setting is defined by the Temperature, measured in degrees Kelvin. Below is a graphic explaining the white balance scale.

But imagine how much your poor camera can get confused underwater, when there is blue/green, ambient light filtering through water, combined with the sharp artificial light of your strobes. And this all varies based on how far away you are from your subject and the surface!

White Balance Settings In-Camera

As a general rule of thumb - if you are shooting underwater with strobes, use Auto white balance. Although as explained above it can be quite a technical challenge for your camera to get the right white balance, a lot of the time it will do anywhere from a decent job to getting it bang on. And if not, as long as you shoot RAW you can correct in Lightroom with no loss to image quality.

If you are shooting without strobes, shoot manual white balance and bring a white slate to meter your white balance. Built-in underwater white balance settings created by camera manufacturers generally don't work well.

 

Using Lightroom's Custom White Balance

There are three main situations where I find using Custom White Balance to be particularly useful:

  1. The background color is not what you want
  2. The whole photo is either too warm or too cold
  3. The subject does not pop as much as you would like it to

I have an example photo for each of these situations, and I walk you through how to use this function to improve each one.

But before we start, let's quickly go over how White Balance works in Lightroom. There are two settings for white balance. The first is the Temperature, in degrees Kelvin, while the second is the Tint, in unspecified units (as an engineer, this bothers me more than it should). 

  • Temperature: increase to make your photo warmer (more yellow/orange), decrease to make it colder (more blue)
  • Tint: increase to make your photo more magenta, decrease to make it more green

1. The Background is Not the Color You Want

Here is a sample photo where the background is, in my opinion, too green. It would look better being more blue, and that would also reflect better the actual conditions encountered while taking this shot. 

My as-shot white balance for this photo was 5350 temp, and +15 tint. To do a custom white balance, select the white balance eye-dropper in the develop tab, and then select a target neutral on your photo. The target neutral is a part of the photo which you want to be either white or grey. Often, I find it is easier to find something grey than white. I also find that I sometimes have to try a few different target neutrals before I get one I like.

My first spot I tried, in the fluffy substrate below the sea dragon, custom white balance gave me a temperature of 8300 and tint of +150. When the custom white balance selects either a very high or very low temperature or tint, this is often a sign that something is a bit off. 

As you can see, this is way too much tint and the photo is much too red/purple. So I tried a different piece of substrate, more towards the bottom left of the photo, and Lightroom corrected to a temp of 6100 and tint of +83.

This is a lot better, but there's still maybe a bit too much of a red/purple tinge in the bottom right of the photo. So if I want to make things a bit less purple-y and more green-y, I just have to adjust the tint downwards. I manually knock 12 off the tint, giving me a final shot with a Temp of 6100 and Tint of +71. 

2. The Whole Photo Is Too Warm or Too Cold

Some strobes emit a warmer light, while others emit a colder light. Adding a diffuser to your strobes makes your light a bit warmer. I shoot with Sea & Sea YS-D1s, with diffusers, and this setup gives me nice and warm light. I often tend to notice this warmth when shooting macro, and it is most pronounced for shots taken at night. Your strobes may be warmer or colder than my setup, but the idea is the same. 

Here's a shot I took of a pyjama squid on a night dive. The as-shot white balance combined with my warm strobes resulted in quite a yellow-y cast to the photo, with a Temperature of 5050 and a Tint of 13. This needed to be fixed, as I don't want my pyjama squid looking like it has jaundice!

Doing a custom white balance, I could either use the white of the squid's tentacle or eye, or the grey of the sand. The squid still gave me too warm of a cast to the shot, so I tried it on a few different pieces of sand. I found a piece of sand which I liked, which adjusted my Temperature down to 3800 and my Tint up to 22. It looks a lot better.

The squid is still a bit yellow-y, but that is because it was turning yellow-brown in response to me approaching it. However, I feel that perhaps I made the shot a bit too cold, so I tweak the temperature up a bit to 4000. It is nice to have a bit of warmth. 

This looks like a good representation of the actual colors of this little guy, as well as the background. Just remember: if your photo looks "off" for some reason, there's a decent chance it's a white balance issue. It never hurts to play around a bit. 

3. The Subject Does Not Pop As Much As You Want it To

I tend to notice this problem when shooting wide angle, with large subjects that are more than a few feet away and against a blue background. It is often due to having a good amount of water between the camera and the subject, and not lighting the subject with enough artificial light. 

This photo of a humpback was taken in ambient light, a few feet from the lens. The as-shot white balance of 5650 Temp and 7 Tint gave a blue cast to the whale, so it didn't pop as much as I wanted. So I did an auto white balance on the whale's white belly, to see what lightroom could do about it. Lightroom basically went crazy, giving me the maximum temperature of 50000 and a tint of 122, as it was trying to compensate for all of the red light lost in the blue water.

So, as usual, the custom white balance went too far. I mean this photo does pop, but in a way that makes it look a bit fake. When I scaled back to a temperature of 15000, and tint of 75, I got a product I was very pleased with.

Three Key Takeaways

The three key things I want you to remember with white balance are:

  1. White balance is very important but often overlooked. Don't forget to try it!
  2. If the color of a photo looks or feels "off" in any way (even after a custom adjustment), play around with the white balance. You have to iterate and try different neutral points
  3. Custom white balance can sometimes over-correct, so check to see what happens if you go somewhere in between the as-shot white balance and the custom white balance. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

It's one thing to watch a video or read an article, but it's always better to apply anything you learned (if you learned anything!). So take a few minutes to look back through some of your old photos. See if you can find three where you want to adjust your background color, the whole photo might be too warm or too cold (ie the colors look a bit "off"), or your subject is a bit blue and you want it to pop better. Play around with custom white balance and see if you can improve any of those photos.

Then, as you move forward with processing your next images, remember to think about Custom White Balance during your editing workflow!

I hope you found this useful. Let me know if you have any questions. And if you have a photo and want some white balance advice, feel free to shoot me an email at bryan@uwphotographyguide.com. Happy shooting!

Full Article: Dancing with Dragons in South Australia

Editor’s note: for those looking for the 5th book of the Game of Throne series, A Dance with Dragons… this is not related to that. Although this piece also involves dragons, they are of a rather more diminutive stature.

The word “dance” usually brings to mind beauty and grace; the classical stylings of a waltz, the smooth and fluid 1-2-3…5-6-7… of the salsa, the sophisticated elegance of the Argentine tango. But “dance” can also refer to when a shy college kid with no moves has a few too many shots of liquid courage and tries to impress the ladies. I will let you decide which definition is more apt here.

The Rapid Bay Suite

Adelaide, South Australia - famous for two of Australia’s wonderful, strange and unique underwater critters: the leafy sea dragon, and the striped pyjama squid. We connected with Diving Adelaide, and were hooked up with the best of the local dive scene, rental gear, and some guided dives. We also did some self-guided dives, paying a number of visits to the local leafy sea dragons.

Although Rapid Bay sounds like it should be a very happening place, it is in fact rather dull above water. The highlight is probably the nice public bathroom at the campground. There are two jetties: the new jetty, for fishing, and the old jetty, for diving. To get to the old jetty, you walk to the end of the new jetty and head down a set of stairs to the water. From there you swim across to the old jetty, as that is where the bulk of the sealife is. 

During our first two dives at Rapid Bay, Brendon was our guide. It was a beautiful sunny day, with not a cloud in sight, and a scorching 32 C (90 F) temperature. As the water was about 19-20 C (66 – 68 F), we had to wear 7mm wetsuits. After gearing up in the parking lot, we commenced the first movement of the Rapid Bay Suite: The Sweat Slog

The Sweat Slog: walking 300 m in the scorching sun through the parking lot, along the new jetty, and down the stairs to the water. Your 7mm wetsuit does a great job of trapping heat against your body, resulting in a profusion of sweating. Your weights weigh you down. No matter how much you remind yourself that your camera rig is “so effortless and neutral” underwater, your arms slowly sag under the weight of carrying it all out of water. As you tire from the heat, your steps become smaller, and your grin becomes clenched. You lament ever having passed the age of 30, when everything started to go downhill.


Following the completion of the first movement, relief was found in the shade beneath the jetty. After putting on our fins, we entered the second movement of the Rapid Bay Suite: The Grateful Chilling.

The Grateful Chilling: overheated from the sweat slog, you slide into the water with immense relief, only slightly wincing as the cold 19 C water runs down your back. Temperate water has never felt so great.

Take Me To Your Dragon!

After a short swim over a sandy bottom, we reached the old jetty. Although condemned and falling apart above water, it is beautiful below water. This took us into the third movement of the suite, The Passage of Distractions.

The Passage of Distractions: swimming between pilings covered in life, you admire the abundant schools of fish and the striking patterns of sun rays filtering through the gaps in the jetty planks. Extending from either side of the jetty are swaying beds of seagrass. They promise untold riches of juvenile fish and other exciting subjects for those patient, lucky, or stubborn enough. You want to take photos…but you are here to see the dragons. So you try not to get too distracted, and keep up with the guide.

 

We followed Brendon to an area on the outside of the old jetty very appropriately called “the grid" - an area with steel girders laying on the bottom, forming a grid pattern. Almost as soon as we arrived, he spotted not one, not two, but three leafy sea dragons!

It was a bit of a surprise to see our first dragon. It was about 25-30 cm long, so quite a bit larger than what you might envision on seeing a photo. For lack of a better descriptor, it looked like a seahorse on a major steroid program, combined with a big clump of green seaweed. And although I had expected it to be hiding in the weeds and seagrass, like a seahorse, each one that we saw was just puttering around in the water, hovering slightly above the bottom, with head down and tail up. It was at once strange and beautiful.

I set up my camera, pulling my strobes in close to the port. I knew that I needed to be able to light a dragon right against my port if I got it that close, and took a couple of test shots of a girder to make sure I had my exposure set properly. Not a good setup for backscatter, but I would rather have some backscatter than a half-lit dragon. I then moved in towards a male with eggs (!) hanging out in the grid, beginning the fourth movement of the suite, The Dragon Dance

The Dragon Dance: approaching slowly and calmly, you try to get as close as possible to the dragon. Wanting to shoot upwards to get a nice background, you push your camera down against the bottom. The crafty dragon sees you coming, and slowly turns away from you, keeping its tail pointed at you and head buried in the weeds. You circle to the right; the dragon turns to the left to keep its head away. You circle to the left, and the dragon turns to the right. You go over the dragon, and as you come down in front of it, it is already turning away just a bit too quickly. Although it is cute, you cannot help getting mildly infuriated by the dragon’s continual thwarting of your photo plans. After squeezing off a few rushed shots, taken blind, you stop to give the dragon a break, so as not to stress it out (especially if it is a male carrying eggs). 

I then attemped to photograph the other dragons, but all too soon it was time to head back. Thus began the fifth movement of the suite, The Thermal Inversion.

The Thermal Inversion: for anyone who gets cold easily, you feel the chill as you leave the dragons and swim back along the old jetty. By the time you reach the fishing jetty to get out of the water, you are chilled and looking forward to the heat on the surface. And as you walk back to the parking lot, feeling old and slow, you start to warm back up in. 

Upon returning to the parking lot, the final movement of the suite began: The Dance of Flies. 

The Dance of Flies: you take off your gear at the vehicle, change tanks, have a snack, and drink some water - all the while waving one hand in front of your face to keep the friendly flies off. Rapid Bay has very friendly flies; they don’t bite, but they do want to be your friend, and they express this by walking all over your face. 

For our second dive, we repeated the Rapid Bay Suite. This time, I started off with a non egg-carrying dragon in the sea grass. Not having any barriers or obstacles, this dragon was very successful at keeping its head completely away from my camera. Frustrated, but not letting my frustration carry over into harassing my subject, I went back to the grid to try a different subject. As I approached one by the grid, it did its usual turning away move. But then as it came to a girder in front of it, instead of just staying around the bottom with its head in a corner, it went up and over the big piece of metal! This let me get my camera in to shoot upwards into the blue. Not perfect, but not bad.

After processing the photo, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the color of the background. I realized I had forgotten one of the most important steps – white balance! When shooting with strobes, if my subject is well-lit, then I usually don’t need to worry about modifying white balance from the “as shot” mode. But in some cases, a tweak to the white balance can make a big difference to the photo. This was one of those where, I felt that doing a custom white balance really made a big difference to the final product! 

The Backup Dancers

After reviewing my shots from the first couple of dives, I decided I needed to mix up the background. Backgrounds are like the background dancers in a music video. Although they are not the focus, they make the whole video work. It would look very strange to have Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys dancing by themselves. Or, if not strange, then surely not as compelling. The backup dancers make the scene; the high school kids in Baby, One More Time, the assorted mix of zombies, vampires, mummies and high society (?) people dancing in the mansion in Everybody (Back Street’s Back).

I wanted to get a sunball shot and a black background shot. For the sunball shot, we decided to go later in the day. Since it was hard to get a shot of a sea dragon above the bottom, it would have been even harder to include the sun when it was right overhead in the middle of the afternoon. Thus we did our dive around 5 PM, when the sun was lower, so that I could get it into the shot. 

Once we found a friendly leafy, I set up to properly expose the sun, then got down to the dragon dance. As usual, I was shooting blind, but I was able to get a nice shot with the sea dragon facing somewhat towards the camera, and the sun overtop the jetty in the background!

The next dive we did, I focused on getting a shot with a black background. I cranked up my shutter speed and f-stop, got my strobes set by taking some seaweed practice shots, and then went back to the dragon dance. 

Spice Up Your Life Portraits!

Since we had spent so much time just shooting sea dragons, on one of our dive days we decided to do a dive that focused on exploring an area known as the cathedral, with large schools of fish and beautiful light. I found a couple of upwards compositions I was quite happy with. 

Black and white really helped make the light and textures in this photo pop. Leaving this in color, the colors on the pilings and the color of the water were nice, but ultimately distracted from the main draw; the light.

I took a lot of shots with large groups of fish, but really liked this once just for its simplicity, which again emphasized the light. I wish I could have gotten closer to the foreground fish, but they were a bit skittish.

These shots are both great reminders of why I always try to spend some of my time at a site with my strobes set up to shoot portrait mode (one strobe above the housing and one strobe below). That way I am forced to take some portrait shots – it is often surprising what forcing portrait shooting will do for composition!

Stop! Hammer Macro Time!

For my last two days of diving at Rapid Bay, I had dive guide extraordinaire Dan Kinasz. I decided for the first dive that I would put on my macro lens and try to get a head-on face shot of a sea dragon, with a black background.

As we got to the grid and I started looking for the sea dragon, Dan pointed out something very, very small. At first I was not sure what it was, but then I realized that it was in fact a tiny juvenile sea dragon. As Rapid Bay can be surgy at times, so I got one good shot before I lost track of it among the girders and weeds of the grid. And after the fact I learned from a friend of mine that this was actually a juvenile weedy sea dragon, the only one I saw. Very cool! 

I did not spend too long looking for it, as I was still very much focused on getting that head-on face shot. In retrospect, I really should have spent more time trying to re-find this little guy, as he was a much better and more unique subject. Ah well. On to the adult.

I spent a lot of time with my subject, while also being very careful not to stress it out by crowding it, being too aggressive, or taking too many photos. I was only taking one photo every few minutes, and I could only get a good side shot. 

I was very close to a decent snout-on face shot, but could not quite get it lined up. Plus my lighting was kind of wacky.

For the next dive, we went looking for a different adult, with the plan that we would also stop for juveniles. Soon enough Dan had pinpointed a juvenile, and I was able to get a couple of good shots before we decided that I had spent enough time pursuing it and we should let it go.

We then found another adult. I spent a lot of time trying to line up the face shot while taking breaks to back off, so as to minimize the stress. As with most sea dragons this one was a crafty one, and it evaded my efforts.

The Bonus Track: Juvenile on a Black Background

For my last two dives at Rapid Bay, I decided to focus on juveniles only. By this point I had tuned up my skills at shooting moving macro subjects, while learning some things about my auto-focus in the process. Although I had been using continuous autofocus to some level of success, it did not do the job with tracking the always-moving, seaweed-like juveniles. And once I switched over to single auto-focus, I found that holding the shutter halfway would sometimes result in me taking a photo by mistake (thus losing track of the subject and adding stress to it). 

Instead, I switched to a configuration splitting out the auto-focus from the shutter release, so that I could focus using the AEL button, then hold that focus as long as I wanted while taking photos independently with the shutter. This allowed me to follow the sea dragon over the weeds, keeping it in focus by pressing and holding the AEL button (adjusting when needed), and then take my shot when the best composition presented itself. (See Kelli's excellent settings articles for the E-M1 II, E-M1, E-M5 II, and E-M5 on how to set up this configuration). 

I put my settings to 1/160 sec and f/16, so if the opportunity arose I could get a good black background. I already had a good in-focus full-body juvenile shot, so the first thing I went for was a close-up profile shot.

After this, I spent a lot of time following juvenile sea dragons over the sea grass, shooting very few shots - waiting for one to get high enough up for me to shoot it with a black background. As with the adults, the juveniles were continually turning away from me and burying themselves in the grass. Not only did I need to photograph them when they were above the seagrass, but I also needed to get them facing me, or from the side. 

On the second dive of the day, my last at Rapid Bay, I found a sea dragon near a small girder in the sea grass. I tried following it towards the girder, and then swimming around to shoot from the side as it passed over the it. After a couple of tries I was able to get it mostly free of other material, and get the black background shot. It was not perfect, and I did have to remove one piece of seaweed to get the pure black around its face. I was not able to get the whole dragon in the shot either. But it was in focus, had a mostly black background, and had the face. Definitely a fitting end to our time diving with these beautiful, and mildly infuriating fish!

 

Video

We put together a video of our highlights: the plethora of fish beneath the jetty, some "dancing" adult sea dragons, and one juvenile moving over the sea grass. We used the new GoPro Hero 7 Black with its hypersmooth stabilization - yes, it is quite good! And it is always fun to watch those dragons dancing, even if most of the time they hide their face in the grass and turn their tail towards the camera!

Logistics & Timing

First things first: if you are going to dive with and take photos of leafy sea dragons, please follow this code of conduct!

The best sites around Adelaide to see leafy sea dragons are shore dive sites: Rapid Bay jetty and the Bluff at Victor Harbor. The Bluff has the most leafy sea dragons around (and sometimes weedy sea dragons too) but is very exposed. Rapid Bay has less dragons but is a much less exposed dive, with much better underwater scenery. During our time we set aside for diving with sea dragons in Adelaide, the weather forecasts meant that diving at Victor Harbor would be anywhere from uncomfortable and difficult to downright dangerous. So, we did all 10 of our dives at Rapid Bay.

Rapid Bay is a 90 minute drive from Adelaide. I would highly recommend connecting with Diving Adelaide, as they have fantastic dive guides and run full-service two-tank guided dive trips (leaving at 9 and returning around 4 or 5 - great if you don't want to try driving on the "wrong" side of the road). Dan, especially, is a specialist at finding juvenile sea dragons and all things small, tiny, and cool.

We were there in late December/early January, which was best for water temperatures, but was also very hot on land. With the walk at Rapid Bay, 2 dives a day was enough - sure, you could do 3 if you wanted, but it would be utterly exhausting, and personally I don't think it would be worth it unless you only had one day to go. In terms of sea dragons, the timing was great, as there was the male with eggs, as well as some juveniles around. 

The water temperature ranges from 14 C in the winter to 20 C in the summer. It is not warm. The dives are nice and shallow, only going to about 10 m, but even so, we needed a 7mm wetsuit and a hood or hooded vest to keep from getting cold. With a hooded vest though we could do up to 80 minute dives.

Up-to-Date Gear Links

Shoot me an email (bryan@uwphotographyguide.com) if you plan on trying out any of these items or have any questions about the gear I used. My OM-D E-M1 rig is what I learned underwater photography on, and I would love to chat about my experience and what you might be looking for! 

Additional Reading

 

Full Article: Olympus OM-D E-M1X Camera Announced!

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

 


Jump to section:

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

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

   Best Lenses    |    Underwater Housings    |    Conclusion    |   Underwater Photos


Olympus OM-D E-M1X Key Features

  • 20.4 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor

  • TWO TruPic VIII Dual Quad Core Processors 

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

  • AI-based intelligent subject detection autofocus

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

  • 50 MP High-Res Shot Mode (Handheld)

  • ISO range of 64-25600

  • 1/8000 high speed mechanical shutter

  • 1/250 shutter sync for flash

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

  • PRO Capture Lag-Free Electronic Shutter Mode

  • Focus Bracketing and Stacking

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

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

  • FHD video up to 1080/120p

  • Dual SD card slots that support UHS-II cards

  • Dual hand-grip battery slots and batteries

  • Vertical grip

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

  • 400,000 shot shutter life

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

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

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

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

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

  • Vertical grip

  • AI-based intelligent subject detection autofocus

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

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

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

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

  • 120 fps in full HD video upgraded from 60fps

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

  • Improved autofocus targeting for video

  • Increased electronic viewfinder magnification

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

An In-Depth Look at these New Features

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

 

Who needs one when you can have two?

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

A.I. Autofocus

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

 

Image Stabilization

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

Live Neutral Density Filters

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

 

Ultra High-Resolution (50 MP) Mode

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

 

Weather Sealing

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

 

Video Improvements

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

Implications for Underwater Photography

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

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

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

Implications for Underwater Video

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

 

Best Lenses for Underwater Use

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

Fisheye Lenses

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

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

Wide-Angle & Versatile Lenses

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

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

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

Macro Lens

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

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1X Underwater Housings

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

Compatability

 

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

Underwater Photos (From E-M1 MK II)

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

Sample Wide Angle Photos

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

Sample Macro Photos

 

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


Full Article: Sony a6400 Announced!

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

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

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


 

Purchase the Sony a6400 at Bluewater Photo

 


 

Jump to section:

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

Best Lenses    |    Underwater Housings    |    Conclusion    |   Underwater Photos

 

Sony a6400 Key Features 

  • 24.2 MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor

  • Latest BIONZ X Processor

  • Lightning quick autofocus acquisition of 0.02 sec

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

  • Real-time Tracking for object tracking

  • High-speed continuous shooting at up to 11 fps

  • Improved buffer size for JPEG and RAW

  • Advanced High-Resolution 4K with Fast Hybrid Autofocus

  • Interval recording for time-lapse videos

  • 180-degree fully tiltable LCD touch screen

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

 

Sony a6400 Upgrades from the Sony a6300

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

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

  • New-generation BONZ X processor

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

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

  • Support for HD proxy video recording 

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

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

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

Sony a6400 for Underwater Photography

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

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

 

Sony a6400 for Underwater Video

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

 

Sony a6400 Best Lenses

Macro

Standard / Mid-Range

Wide-Angle

Fisheye

Sony a6400 Underwater Housings

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


 Compatability

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

Underwater Photos

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

Sony a6300

Sony a6500

 

Full Article: Ocean Art Photo Competition 2018 Judges Comments

The Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition is one of the most prestigious underwater photo contests in the world, attracting some of the world's most talented photographers. 16 different categories ensure a fun competition for all camera classes and disciplines of underwater photography. 

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the 2018 Ocean Art Contest Winners.

Ocean Art would not be possible without our esteemed judging panel, who have decades of experience and some of the most prestigious awards in diving, photo, and video industries.

Here is what our judges had to say about this year's competition.

 

Marty Snyderman

 

The author of Dive Training magazine's Behind the Lens column, Marty Snyderman has made his living as an underwater photographer, photography instructor, author, and speaker for close to 40 years. He has won many prestigious awards (including an Emmy) and has been featured in many top publications worldwide.

www.martysnyderman.com


I am not sure how many years I have been a judge, but I am sure that every year the entries get better and better. Certainly, this year was no exception!

That, of course, is good news. But it sure makes having your work recognized and the judging more challenging. 

There were sixteen categories, and all were filled with more than just a few images that caused all of the judges to sit up and take notice. With that thought in mind, one thought I would like to share with everyone that entered is that if your photograph didn’t win or get recognized, that does not mean your image was not a great shot. Please take that comment to heart.

As has been the case in the past, as judges we have our personal biases. As a result, we have our disagreements. But it always seems to be about the placement of a photograph or two, not whether an image is worthy of being recognized. If you have been involved with contests over the years, you have probably heard stories about heated arguments between the judges. But that has yet to be the case with us. Everyone is treated as an equal, and everyone is entitled to their impressions.

With regard to passing along my two cents worth of advice to future entrants: I suggest reading the instructions and category definitions carefully and twice to be sure you enter your photographs in the appropriate categories and within the described parameters. Be sure you enjoy the entire process of image making, not just the final processed image. Have fun! And please do enter again next year. We love seeing everyone’s work. I think I can speak for all the judges when I say we find the images to be inspiring. So, thank you!

 

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy, Safe, Photography-Filled 2019 for All!

Martin Edge

 

Author of "The Underwater Photographer," a best selling book on learning underwater photography.

www.edgeunderwaterphotography.com


This year's Ocean Art Competition had the most entries in the competition to-date.  That is a substantial number of images to judge and critique.  When I sit behind my own desk for the very first round of judging above all else I am looking for the ‘Wow’ factor to hit me straight between my eyes.  Nothing short of amazing, mind blowing and wonderful will stop me in my tracks. Not with so many images to get through.  So, first round images must be immediate.  By that I mean that they have to attract the eye of the judge instantly.  We don’t have time to wander during the first-round process.  We are looking for eye catching, striking, attention grabbing, stunning, dazzling, and astonishing images from the very start.  If you did find yourself in the 2nd round of judging, then congratulations to you all.  You have done remarkably well.

In the 2nd round, once again we make time individually to critique and savor those images which we may have overlooked and which Tony, Marty, Scott and myself may have picked up on.  Likewise, images continue to be discounted for errors in exposure, focus, composition, and the like.  At this stage the quality is exceptionally high, and we don’t go looking for errors as a matter of course. After all, we have championed our own favorites through the process, so small errors tend to find us as we explore round 2 Images yet again.  On the final night, ‘3rd round' we judge together with a ‘Skype Conference Call’ between the four of us.  Not surprisingly, we agreed and we disagreed. However, we were all unanimous for the image voted Best in Show 2018.  I loved this shot from the very first time I set eyes on it sitting in my ‘box room’ in a cold and wet weary day in the UK.  

I’d also like to mention that I believe this year’s quality of entries where collectively the best I have seen in this competition since I have been judging it.   

 

Thanks to Marty, Tony, Scott and Nirupam.  Love judging with you guys!  Long may it last!

Tony Wu

 

Author of a coffee table book entitled Silent Symphony, which received the grand prize for best book of the year at Antibes in 2001. He also won the prestigious Veolia environment wildife photographer of the year award.

www.tonywublog.com


I once again had the distinct pleasure of waking up at 4:00am on a dark, cold, winter morning to argue about photos with Martin, Marty and Scott. For some reason, even after so many years of these conversations, Marty just can’t seem to comprehend that I’m always correct ;)

In all seriousness, we had a great time once again, particularly given the challenge posed by having to reach consensus on some outstanding images.

From a personal perspective, I was delighted to see so many terrific entries in the Marine Life Behavior category. I know I’m not supposed to have favorite subjects/ categories, but I’m flawed. Can’t help it.

As is always the case with the subjective process of judging photographs, we had some things that everyone instantly agreed upon, and other things for which we could find minimal common ground. That is the nature of all judging, which is the reason why people who took the winning and recognized photos should be happy and everyone else should not be terribly upset. There were a lot of great images, which is definitely a good thing, but it also means that making final choices is a difficult process.

If you’re interested, there are a few guiding principles that I tried to adhere to in assessing any given photo (including my own):

1. Originality. If a photograph has been done well already, whether in this contest or others, don’t enter a clone or near-clone and expect to win. Sure, there are probably some contests where the judges are not aware of other winning images, or perhaps aren’t concerned, but I point out clones when I see them, and I’m pretty sure we’re all in agreement on this. Producing a xerox copy is not art.

2. Photography. Um duh, right? This is a photography contest, so photographic qualities, skill, etc. should be important. Amazingly, in many contest results, I see mediocre photos of impressive subjects being rewarded. Big sharks, whales, bait balls, etc. are without a doubt stunning subjects. A mediocre photo of a stunning subject is just that. A mediocre photo. For the judging process in a photography contest, I will always choose a stunning photo of a mundane subject over a ho-hum image of an amazing one.

3. The Litmus Test (extension of point 2). When in doubt, here is a question I ask of myself, and also asked out loud to the others: If this subject were not a rare/ unusual/ intrinsically stunning subject, if it were something that you saw every day and didn’t think twice about as subject matter, would this photograph be a great photograph? This is a tough test to pass, intentionally so.

4. Manipulation/ Harassment. Here is the bottom line. We are not naive. Combined, we have like a million years of diving/ photography experience (i.e., we’re old), and I am a behavior/ biology guy. When we see animals that are totally not in their natural environment (like those placed on surfaces where a soft-bodied animal would be getting zapped by a zillion nematocysts), the photo will be tossed out, with prejudice.

5. Meaning. A beautiful and technically well-executed image that also conveys something important/ valuable rises to the top. “Meaning” can mean many things—something to do with biology/ lifecycle, something to do with the environment, and much more.

Congratulations to the winners, and I hope these points are helpful for future contests, whether this one or others. I look forward to arguing with my fellow judges again.

 

Scott Gietler

 

Owner of the Underwater Photography Guide, Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and founder of the Ocean Art photo competition - Scott has been teaching underwater photography workshops around the world for several years.

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Underwater Photography Guide, I still enjoy judging these amazing images more than ever. This year was "year of the behavior", as the bar in the marine behavior categories was higher than ever. As always, the different perspectives of other 3 Marty, Martin and Tony were appreciated. In addition to incredible behavior photos, this year saw a lot of Humpback Whales and Crocodiles. Both must be in abundance around the world! Kudos to the participants for following the rules, and not being afraid to think outside the box. We appreciate everyone who took the time to enter, and wanted to call out the growing number of entries from Asia, signified by a larger number of category winners and placers call the Asian continent their home base. We look forward to seeing all of you next year.

Back to the Ocean Art 2018 Winners page

 

Full Article: IG Contest: Win a Trip on the Solomons PNG Master!

One lucky diver will win a 7 night trip aboard the Solomons PNG Master!

Trip valued at $3,440!

Compete in our Instagram competition for a chance to win! 

All you need to do is:

- Follow @bluewaterphototravel and @uwphotographyguide

- Post a scuba related photo

- #bwscubadeals in the post

- tag your dive buddies

 

About the Prize:

Solomons PNG Master (previously known as MV Taka) is a custom designed diving vessel with 12 cabins accommodating up to 20 guests and a crew of 12 including your dive team, skipper, boat crew, and chefs. See more details on the Solomons PNG Master liveaboard.

Solomon Islands is THE destination for the real diving fan looking for a change of scenery, completely off the beaten track. You will also find: wrecks, caverns, wide-angle reefs and large sea fans. PNG dive sites are so pristine and remote that new marine species are still being discovered. Pretty much anything can be spotted here: hammerheads, whale sharks, mantas, dolphins, and pilot whales.

 

Terms & Conditions:

Drawing will be held June 1st, 2019

The winner must be a certified diver, 18 years of age or older

Full Article: Ocean Art 2018 Winners Announced!

7th Annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest Winners Announced

Ocean Art Contest Announces the Best Underwater Photos of the Year 

Culver City, CA – January 15, 2019 – The prestigious Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition, organized by the Underwater Photography Guide, has announced its 2018 winners. The 7th annual competition attracted a very high caliber of photos from waters around the world and showcases the best underwater photographs of the year. 2018 was the most competitive year to date. 

Winning photos can be seen on the Underwater Photography Guide at:

 http://www.uwphotographyguide.com/2018-ocean-art-contest-winners 

The Best of Show is a graceful photo of three Giant Devil Rays performing a “ballet”, which uses soft, ambient light to accentuate the movements of elegant giants, shot by Duncan Murrell. Other exceptional images include some astonishing fish and marine life shots, rarely seen animal behavior, innovative shooting techniques, stunning portraits, seals, ocean adventure, whales and some dramatic moments between humans and marine life. The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 70 countries before selecting the final set of images as Ocean Art winners. 

Ocean Art 2018 judges included prestigious underwater photographers Tony Wu, Martin Edge, and Marty Snyderman, accompanied by Underwater Photography Guide publisher Scott Gietler. 

Over $80,000 in prizes will be awarded, making the Ocean Art prize value among the highest in the world. 

The most lucrative prizes included a luxury liveaboard trip on the Socorro Vortex, Indonesia liveaboard trips (and 50% off a companion) on the S.M.Y. Ondina and M.Y. Oceanic, a 7 night Palau liveaboard trip with Solitude Liveaboards, a 7 nights Solomon Islands liveaboard trip on the Solomon PNG Master, a 7 nights Solomon Islands liveaboard trip with Bilikiki Cruises, a 7 night dive package at Villa Markisa Resort in Bali, Indonesia, a 9 night Passport to Paradise dive package at three Indonesian destinations with Critters@Lembeh and Murex Dive Resorts, and a variety of gift certificates from Bluewater Photo. Premium travel prizes are provided by VoliVoli Beach Resort (Fiji), Siladen Resort & Spa (Indonesia), two packages with Solitude Liveaboards (Komodo, Indonesia, and Lembeh Straits, Indonesia), Atlantis Dive Resort (Philippines), Manta Ray Bay (Micronesia), Spirit of Freedom Liveaboard (Australia), Atmosphere Resort & Spa (Philippines), Aiyanar Dive Resort (Philippines), Crystal Blue Resort (Philippines), Blackbeard’s Cruises (Bahamas), El Galleon Beach Resort (Philippines), Aquamarine Diving and the Watergarden Hotel (Bali, Indonesia), Eco Divers Lembeh (Indonesia), Scuba Club Cozumel (Mexico), and premier scuba travel agency Bluewater Travel. Premium gear prizes are provided by Bluewater Photo, SEA&SEA, Ikelite, and ThinkTANK Photo. 

See our list of full prize descriptions for more details.

Sixteen different categories ensure a competitive contest for all levels and disciplines of underwater photography, including compact, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras. There is also a new category called “Underwater Art.”

The quality of image submissions was incredible this year, making judging very difficult but also proving that these photos are the best in the world. Bluewater Photo and Travel owner and Underwater Photography Guide publisher, Scott Gietler comments, “This year’s outstanding underwater images in the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition continue to raise the bar for underwater photographers. Myself and the other 3 judges were honored to be viewing such amazing results of the dedication and drive of the human spirit.” 

 

Media Contact 

Nirupam Nigam

Managing Editor, UWPG

info@uwphotographyguide.com 

 

Complete list of winners: 

 


Best of Show 

“Courting Devil Ray Ballet” by Duncan Murrell

 

Wide-Angle

1st François Baelen 

2nd Grant Thomas

3rd Celia Kujala

4th Geo Cloete

5th Edwar Herreno

6th Daniel Flormann

HM Steve Kopp

HM Wu Yung Sen

 

Macro 

1st Jeff Milisen

2nd Chun Zhou

3rd Fabio Iardino

4th Jinggong Zhang

5th Tianhong Wang

6th Stefano Proakis

HM Shane Gross

HM Dennis Corpuz

 

Marine Life Behavior

1st Duncan Murrell

2nd Anders Nyberg

3rd François Baelen 

4th Richard Barnden

5th Flavio Vailati

6th Liang Fu

7th Mei Hing Sin

HM Doris Vierkötter

HM Richard Barnden

HM Els Van Den Borre

 

Portrait 

1st Claudio Zori

2nd Christina Barringer

3rd Doris Vierkötter

4th Shane Keena

5th Mirko Zanni

HM Jinggong Zhang

HM Matteo Visconti

HM Kyler Badten

 

Coldwater

 1st Greg Lecoeur

2nd Tyler Schiffman

3rd Claudio Zori

4th Rémi Masson

5th Eiko Jones

HM Henley Spiers

HM Simon Lorenz

HM Adam Martin

 

Nudibranchs 

1st Flavio Vailati

2nd Fredrik Ehrenström

3rd Bettina Balnis

4th Giacomo Giovannini

HM Chun Ho Tam

 

Supermacro 

1st Edison So

2nd Wayne Jones

3rd Ludovic Galko-Rundgren

4th Leon Zhao

5th Gaetano Gargiulo

HM Iyad Suleyman

 

Reefscapes

1st Yen-Yi Lee

2nd Tobias Friedrich

3rd Alex Lindbloom

4th Renee Capozzola

HM Fred Bavendam

HM Brett M Garner

 

Novice dSLR 

1st Alvin Cheung

2nd Antonio Pastrana

3rd Marie Charlotte

4th Steven Walsh

5th Alvin Cheung

 

Mirrorless Wide-Angle 

1st Eugene Kitsios

2nd Pier Mane

3rd Pier Mane

4th Max Holba

HM Fabrice Dudenhofer

HM Pier Mane

 

Mirrorless Macro 

1st Steven Walsh

2nd Owen Yen

3rd Younghun Kan

4th Enrico Somogyi

HM Rafi Amar

 

Mirrorless Behavior

1st Fabrice Dudenhofer

2nd Debbie Wallace

3rd Yeh Hung Wei

4th Lorenzo Terraneo

5th Tiffany Poon

HM Pier Mane

 

Compact Wide-Angle 

1st Melody Chuang

2nd Andrea Falcomatà

3rd Alessandro Raho

4th Andreas Schmid

HM Jon Anderson

HM Miguel Ramirez

 

Compact Macro

1st Sejung Jang

2nd Kate Tinson

3rd Matteo Pighi

4th Sunbong Jung

HM Jim Chen

 

Compact Marine Life Behavior 

1st PT Hirschfield

2nd Miguel Ramirez

3rd Jin Woo Lee

4th Danny Van Belle

HM Dennis Corpuz

HM Jack Berthomier

 

Underwater Art 

1st Bruno Van Saen

2nd Jordan Robins

3rd Guillaume Néry

4th Dennis Vandermeersch

HM Alexandre St-Jean

HM Thomas Heckmann

 

The Underwater Photography Guide is the #1 destination for all things underwater photography. Featuring highly-regarded tutorials, technique tips, in-depth gear reviews, amazing international workshops and breaking u/w photo news, UWPG is here to help divers around the world achieve their photo and video goals. For more information, please visit http://www.uwphotographyguide.com 

 

Media Contact 

Nirupam Nigam

Managing Editor, UWPG

info@uwphotographyguide.com 

Full Article: Beautiful Underwater Photos from Anilao

Every December, Bluewater Photo and Travel returns to the macro photography paradise of Anilao, Philippines for their annual winter underwater photography workshop. The December, 2018 photo workshop was led by Craig Dietrich, Helen Brierley, Crystal Blue Resort’s Mike Bartick and Bluewater CEO, Scott Gietler. Guests enjoyed a rigorous underwater photographic routine involving 4 dives per day, a daily image review, and daily presentations on different aspects of underwater photography – the perfect recipe for sharp photographers.

The Macro Photographer’s Sacred Site

Anilao is undoubtedly a niche destination. If you’re looking for your standard tropical beach vacation, there are undeniably better options. If you’re looking for expansive underwater reefscapes to bask in – there are better places to be. If you’re looking for big pelagic, sharks, rays, and whales – go to Socorro. But if you’re looking for freaks, oddities, aliens of the deeps, and sea slugs Anilao is the place to be. In an almost sacred sense, Anilao is the global pilgrimage destination for macro photographers on their quest to find tiny but coveted marine life – much of it unbeknownst to the public eye. 

Trip Critters

These creatures are as odd as their names sounds - frogfish (hairy, warty, giant, and painted – and yes, there are that many types), pygmy seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, rhinopias, nudibranchs, Lembeh sea dragons, mimic octopus, and blackwater “aliens” can all be readily found in Anilao. Why travel halfway around the world to see these creatures? Every dive in Anilao is an underwater saga of life, death, violence, and love. The behavior of these animals and their inherent natural beauty is unlike anything on this planet. These photos from our trip leaders speak for themselves.

 

Photos from our Trip Leaders

 

Helen Brierley

“One of the highlights for me was the blackwater dives, which I did every other night (alternating with night dives).  I photographed dozens of different tiny critters and saw some very unexpected larger ones  - a sea snake surfacing as we drifted over a sea mount and a massive mola mola, spooked by the lights, that sped up the line of our rope to the surface right next to us.”

 

Craig Dietrich

 

 

Scott Gietler

 

 

Join Bluewater Photo in April, May, and December 2018 for the annual Anilao workshops, and some amazing reef and critter diving at Crystal Blue Resort.

 

April 25 - May 5, 2019 (10 Nights)

May 5 - May 12, 2019 (7 Nights)*

 

December 1-8, 2019 (7 Nights)

 

10 Nights: $2,299 Shared Room, $2,849 Private Room
7 Nights: $1,699 Shared Room, $2,199 Private Room

*We will hold some rooms from May 12-15, and December 8-11 so guests can stay for 10 nights