Underwater Settings for Sony RX100 II and RX100 III, RX100 IV

Best Settings for Macro and Wide-Angle Underwater Photo and Video
By Brent Durand

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 line of cameras is one of the most popular options for underwater photographers looking for the balance between great photo and video, price, size and ease of use.

The RX100 cameras excel past the compact camera market because of their larger sensors and resulting image quality. Recording Full HD video is easy with the press of a button no matter what still photo mode you're using. Full manual control allows experienced underwater photographers to capture the image they imagine, while auto settings deliver fantastic results for more casual shooters.

In this article we are not reviewing the cameras, but sharing the best settings for the RX100 II, RX100 III & RX100 IV for underwater photo and video.

 

For a detailed reviews and specs, see our articles:

 

sony rx-100 III underwater photos

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

 

Best Macro Settings

The Sony RX100 II, RX100 III & RX100 IV shoot fantastic macro photos. For the best results try shooting in Manual mode:

  • F8

  • 1/500s

  • ISO 80 (100 on RX100 II)

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 experiement with opening the aperture down to F2.8 for a shallow depth of field.

 

Macro Wet Diopter

For shooting very small subject, make sure you have a wet diopter. We recommend the Bluewater +7 macro diopter, as it is lightweight, small and very affordable. It has 67mm threaded mount that will work with all RX100 II and RX100 III / IV underwater housings. It can also be stacked for additional magnification.

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 settings are:

  • F11

  • 1/500s

  • ISO 80 (100 on RX100 II)

We also recommend using a focus light for macro shooting with a diopter. This will allow your camera to lock focus and focus faster in a dark shooting environment (like we have underwater).

 

 

Best Wide-Angle Settings

Wide-angle shooting with the RX100 IV, RX100 III and RX100 II is a lot of fun! We recommend the following settings for Manual mode shooting:

  • F6.3

  • 1/125s

  • ISO 80 (100 on RX100 II)

Make sure you are zoomed out all the way in order to bring as much of the scene into the frame as possible. If your image is too dark or too bright, simply adjust the shutter speed up or down accordingly. 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.

For shooting wide-angle into the sun (as you would for 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.

 

Wide-Angle Wet Lenses

One of the keys to good underwater photography is getting close to your subject. For small macro subjects that's easy, but for large wide-angle subjects you won't be able to fit the subject into the frame. As a result, photographers need to use a fisheye or wide-angle lens.

For the RX100 II, the best results are with the UWL-04 Fisheye Lens.

For the Sony RX100 III and RX100 IV we find the best results with the Bluewater WA-100 Wide-Angle Lens and the Dyron Super Wide-Angle Lens. This is a wet diopter that attaches to the outside of your housing, and expands the field of view so that you can capture great wide-angle perspectives.

The Nauticam Wet Wide Angle Lens WWL-1 is quite expensive, but it is the only wet wide-angle lens to offer zoom-through capability, and is highly recommended for the RX100 III & IV if you have the budget.

 

sony rx-100 III underwater photos

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

 

Sony RX100 II Sample Underwater Photo

Recsea RX100 II with Bluewater WA-110 wide-angle lens. Cenotes, Mexico. Photo: Shingo Ishida

 

Sony RX-100M2 underwater photo

Sony RX100 II, F3.2, 1/160. Shot using UWL-04 Fisheye Lens. Photo: Jeremy Hicks

 

Sony RX-100M2 underwater photo

Sony RX100 II, F4.5, 1/320. Shot using UWL-04 Fisheye Lens. Photo: Jeremy Hicks

 

 

Best Video Settings

The Technical Stuff:

The RX100 III received some serious video upgrades from the RX100 II. In simplest terms, video recorded on the new model is of much higher quality with a faster processor and new codec system (XAVC S). So what's the real difference? Basically you can record more data for a higher image quality, as well as faster frame rates at 1080p, which is very nice for creating slow motion in your videos (sharks, bait balls, sea lions, etc). Note that if you plan to use this XAVC S codec, you will need beefy SDXC memory cards that can handle the data.

Here is some amazing underwater slow-motion video taken with the RX100 IV.

Video Settings:

For the best balance between video quality and frame rate, we recommend the following settings for full HD video.

  • File Format:  AVCHD

    • Set this:  At the bottom of the 1st camera menu.

  • Record Setting:  60p 28M (PS)

    • Set this: At the top of the 2nd camera menu.

 

Another shot from the pool - Sony RX100 III, Recsea RX100 III housing, ambient light.

 

 

Critical Menu Settings

The most important menu setting is to make sure the AF Illuminator is turned off (see Menu 4 below), otherwise your camera will have trouble focusing once inside the underwater housing.

The settings below are in the main camera menu of the RX100 III (1st menu group with camera icon), but are very similar with the RX100 II.

 

 

Menu 1

  • Image Size:  L:20M

    • The highest resolution JPEG setting

  • Aspect Ratio:  3:2

    • Standard film aspect ratio - convenient when you want to print and frame your images in standard-cut mats.

  • Quality:  RAW & JPEG

    • This is Scott Gietler's favorite setting, since you can get the JPG files online asap but also have RAW files for editing.

  • File Format:  AVCHD

    • This is for video only.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 2

  • Record Setting:  60p 28M(PS)

    • This is for video only.

  • Dual Video REC:  Off

    • This is practical for those interested in sharing video via WiFi.

  • Drive Mode:  Single Shooting

    • The only time you would use Continuos shooting would be fast action without any strobes/flash.

  • Flash Mode:  Fill-flash

    • This fires the flash at a low power level, allowing it to recycle faster for the next shot and also save camera battery.

  • Flash Comp:  +0.0

    • This can be reduced (-1, -2 or -3) as long as your strobes are still triggered by the flash output. This will allow the flash to recyle faster for the next shot and also save camera battery.

  • Red Eye Reduction:  Off

    • This is not needed underwater.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 3

  • Focus Mode:  Continuous AF

    • The focus will constantly evaluate itself, adjusting to movements of the camera and/or subject.

  • Focus Area:  Flexible Spot

    • Allows full movement of the focus point, which is ideal for focusing on an eye or nudibranch rhinophore.

  • AF Illuminator:  Off

    • This must be turned off or it may interfere with camera focusing inside the housing.

  • Exposure Comp:  +0.0

    • Used to adjust the camera's metering when shooting in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes.

  • ISO:  80

    • Higher ISOs result in more noise, or grain, in the images, so it's good practice to keep ISO as low as possible.

  • ND Filter:  Off

    • This is not used except in some advanced underwater shooting techniques.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 4

  • Metering Mode:  Center

    • This is generally where your subject will lie. For vast wide-angle scenes this can be changed to Multi.

  • White Balance:  Auto

    • AWB works great, especially with strobes and/or video lights.

  • DRO / Auto HDR:  Off

    • This is not used underwater.

  • Creative Style:  Standard

    • This setting delivers standard color balance, saturation, etc in your JPEG files.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 5

  • Long Exposure NR:  On

    • This setting is used or exposures over 1/3s, so leave it on since it won't affect underwater images since you're using a faster shutter speed.

  • High ISO NR:  Normal

    • This reduces the graininess in an image when shooting at a high ISO.

  • Center Lock-on AF:  On

    • Tracks a subject as it moves through the frame.

  • Smile / Face Detect.:  Off

    • This is not needed underwater.

  • Soft Skin Effect:  Off

    • This is not needed underwater.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 6

  • SteadyShot:  On

    • Helps eliminate camera shake.

  • SteadyShot:  Active

    • Helps eliminate camera shake.

  • Color Space:  sRGB

    • Unless you plan to edit RAW files in software that allows you to record/edit in AdobeRGB then export as sRGB, leave this as sRGB. Learn more about Color Space.

  • Auto Slow Shut.:  On

    • When shooting in Manual mode, this will not be affected as you control the shutter speed. The only time you will want to turn this off is shooting fast-moving subjects in low light.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Menu 7

  • Audio Recording:  On

    • We like sound in video!

  • Micref Level:  Normal

    • This setting is only changed for specific situations (i.e. sound at loud concerts).

  • Wind Noise Reduct.:  Off

    • This is not needed underwater.

 

Sony RX-100 III Menu Settings

 

Other Menus

In the Settings menu (icon of a wheel), we prefer a 2 second Focus Magnification Time and 2 second auto Review time.

 

Having fun swimming - Sony RX100 III, Recsea RX100 III housing, ambient light.

 

 

Recommended Memory Card

We recommend a memory card that is Class 10 or higher. For those who want to use the highest quality video, be sure to use an SDXC card.

Bluewater Photo sells a number of Delkin SD Memory Cards.

 

 

Underwater Housings

The quality of the Sony RX100 III and RX100 II is matched with high quality housings that allow access to all the important camera controls. 

Choosing the perfect housing for your style of diving and budget can be a daunting task, but made inifinitely easier by speaking to experts who have used all the housings. Contact the team at Bluewater Photo for expert advice on choosing the right housing for you.

Also, check out the reviews and Bluewater Photo product pages below:

 

Recsea

The smallest housing on the market

 

Nauticam

Includes great labels, 2 bulkheads and 67mm threads

 

Acquapazza

The only housing that comes in amazing colors

 

Ikelite

Clear design lets you see inside for peace of mind. Made of Polycarbonate.

 

Fantasea

Best value on the market, polycarbonate housing. The Fantasea RX100 IV housing works with the RX100 III and RX100 V.

 

 

RENT the RX100 III & RX100 II with HOUSING:

Bluewater Photo offers RX100 III and RX100 II camera and housing rentals. Email them or call at +1 (310) 633-5052.

 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is a writer for the Underwater Photography Guide, an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

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

 


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

 

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