Panasonic GX7 First Test

So time has come for my first video with a micro four third camera the Panasonic GX7. I had only 3 dives in Sharm and conditions on Naama Bay beach were not the best but still good enough to give the set up a good try, this is the resulting video.

I used the Nauticam housing with the Macro 35 port and the M67-LD adapter so that I could use the Inon UWL-H100 wet lens.

As it is not possible to fix the position of the lens I had to take the hood off and therefore I used an Ikelite UR/PRO filter for the 100mm lens. I had to use gaffer tape on the lens and inside the filter or it would be loose but it worked.

The first dive was with the URPRO filter in auto white balance, I was hoping this would give me good results but instead everything came with a strong yellow cast.

From the second dive I used custom white balance and the results were much much better.

To give an idea of the issue this is a shot of a grey card with the UR/PRO filter on land with white balance fixed.

URPRO test card
URPRO test card

You can see what kind of effect the filter bear it is orange in colour.

Other than this I was pretty happy with the GX7 especially because I could use the full zoom with the wide angle lens this is the first time I see it working. The moray eel shot towards the end of the video is an example.

Back home I was not happy at all about the UR/PRO and the inability to work with auto white balance. Probably I could have played with the tint but it did not come to mind. So I got in touch with Peter Rowlands of Magic Filters to see if they had an option that would fit on the Ikelite mount. Peter sent me two sample and they fit perfectly in the ikelite frame, though this is not commercially available I guess you can request those if you are not happy with the ikelite UR/PRO.

This is the same test card with the magic auto filter.

DSC04030

You can see that it looks less orange and also slightly colder.

I did some tests and the UR/PRO is a warmer filter with 2700K temperature whilst the magic auto is 3200K. The magic is however more red and has more magenta tint than the UR/PRO.

For me this means that the magic will work better in auto and will require less custom white balance. However those 500K difference mean you will eventually need to custom white balance once you go below 18-21 meters. I know people say filter work until 21 meters anyway but I have tried with deeproof down to 30 and on a bright day it was still good.

So if you are not happy with the yellow cast of your UR/PRO in auto white balance is definitely worth giving magic filters a go.

The GX7 confirmed all the good features including the ex tele mode

Here the shrimps are shot with a single Inon UCL-165 and then the close up of the head uses ex tele that pushes well over super macro.

Look at the incredible ability to refocus in video mode. See how focus locks on the shrimps when I press the button.

Overall the GX7 can do pretty much everything on a single dive with a wet wide angle lens and a close up lens. You can cover from 100 degrees wide to super macro. The fact you can zoom with the wide angle removes the need to take the lens off at every occasion and in fact in the red sea you barely need to have any other lens.

I was not particularly happy with the lack of hood that the ikelite filter wants removed so I experienced the occasional flare. Still pretty good result.

The clip looks much better at home than it does on youtube where the gap with the RX100 seems much smaller.

So as far as video is concerned if you don’t need 4K the GX7 gives you extremely high quality footage and reasonable cost.

A final note I shot this video in 24p at home I can’t tell the difference with 25p see if you can see it!

UHD 4K not yet a viable option – at least for me

It has been a few months now that I have experimented with my UHD set up and I have been able to draw a few conclusions.

My Tv is a Sony KD-55X8505B and as 4K player I use the Tv itself for Netflix (one of the few places you can find 4K content) I have not tried amazon 4K. In order to play your own files you can either connect your TV to a NAS or use a small box.

Sony KD-55X8505B

I went for the Minix X8H-Plus as a media player to stream from my NAS as the client in the Sony TV is pretty basic.

The minix has hardware accelerated HEVC decoding so it will work as a player for any 4K TV that has no compatible codec. A word of warning though the Netflix and Youtube client in the android box are not 4K compatible.

I have an FTTC connection with 32 mbps speed that is more than the recommended 25 mbps for Netflix UHD so I gave it a go and the results are spectacular, not just the Tv shows (house of cards, better call saul, Marco Polo) but the short features on deserts and flowers are amazing. All of this content is HEVC so 25 mbps or less for 4K UHD.

I then tried tears of steel https://mango.blender.org/

Tears of Steel is a short series shot in 4K using the old school H264 codec as the Panasonic GH4 and LX100 do at 100 mbps, the files encoded at 72 mbps end up with a massive 6.12 GB for just 12 minutes.

H265 vs H264

On average at similar parameters the same source compressed with H265 results in 65% space saving compared to H264.

Now that is quite a lot so if you think about it your 100 mbps GH4 file could shrink to 35 mbps which is just a little more than AVCHD progressive and less than Sony XAVC 50 Mbps you can still record it with a class 6 card though class 10 would be appropriate.

Cameras and Editors

Today only Samsung NX series can encode HEVC and for editing there are no programs on Mac using HEVC, possibly something exists for windows. But it is fair to say we are a long way away from main stream.

Why is HEVC important? With H264 the files are too bit and if compressed to youtube average of 25-30 mbps they do not look that good you wonder if it is actually worth it.

A large 70 mbps file require a very fast wireless ac router close to the player or simply using a memory card to play your videos locally. This is not user friendly.

I believe it will take at least another year to see HEVC included in cameras and editors if not longer, until then for me it makes no sense to invest in a 4K set up as the file produced are just too large to be shared so remain in the realm of semiprofessional to professional users.

Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 14-42mm with Fisheye Converter DMW-GFC1

The Panasonic 8mm Fisheye lens for micro four third is a clear winner for close focus wide angle however the lack of zoom and the really wide 180º cover mean that there are many subjects that will look tiny in the frame.

The next option in terms of width is the Panasonic 7-14mm wide angle lens however this requires a large dome for optimal performance making the set up expensive.

Is there anything else left if you don’t want to buy a wet lens and you already have the Panasonic PZ 14-42 X Lumix G?

Panasonic produces an add on lens DMW-GFC1 that is declared to provide 10.5mm equivalent and reduce minimum focussing distance to 16 cm all specs can be found here.

This add on lens can be used with the 4.33″ dome for the 8mm fisheye and the 30 extension.

I took a few test shots and the results are pretty good.

This first shot is at f/5 and is very sharp in the centre.

Fisheye Converter f/5

Fisheye Converter f/5

Getting a bit closer and stopping at f/8 the results are pretty good for an adapter that is less than £100 on amazon.

Fisheye Converter f/8
Fisheye Converter f/8

Barrel distortion is contained so this combination may be good for wrecks where the fisheye effect is a bit disturbing.

If you have the Lumix G Vario X PZ 14-42mm you may want to invest in this little accessory before getting the much more expensive 8mm fisheye even if the Nauticam 30 extension is required. Later on the extension can be used with the flat port 35 and the Olympus 60mm for super macro and the 4.33″ dome of course with the 8mm.

I think it is amazing how much can be obtained out of this lens if we consider wet diopters, wet wide angle lenses and this adapter before you need to get a second lens.

This lens could also work for video with the Panasonic GH4 at 4K however zoom is not recommended with it.

100,000 visits – In Depth into Sharing Videos on the Internet

Two years and few months later I am pleased my blog hit 100,000 visits. Considering that there is sponsorship and this is pretty much content produced during free time I am well pleased.

So as commemoration topic I want to put a few considerations that spin off a post on the editing and share section of wet pixel.

Many people spend a lot of money on underwater video rigs and use sharing websites such as youtube and vimeo to host or promote their content. The reason is clear those sites have a huge audience and if you have original content you can get a bit of advertising revenue as well that is never a bad thing.

However most of us have noticed that once you upload a file on those websites it looks worse than the original some time much worst. Why does that happen?

The answer lies in two words video compression.

Video compression is a technical subject and my previous post tried to share some of my finding in regards of the reasons why a camera produces video better than another even if the second produces better still images. It is all in the compression effectiveness and the same issue applies when we share our videos on line.

Unfortunately many people do not really know much about this subject and assume that the video editing program they purchased has all the answers and everything is optimised. Well that is not the case. Video produced off the shelf by such programs with default settings may be watchable but are not great and usually worse than the source clip of a good deal.

Another common misconception is that you need to convert a file produced by your device to another format so you can edit.

Finally many people convert files many times and wonder why the result is far off the original clips, not realising that video compression is lossy so each time you manipulate a clip are you are making things worse.

Obviously am talking consumer and prosumer here not RAW video recording at stellar bitrates.

So what is the best way too produce an underwater clip that looks good without spending too much time on it and that when uploaded on the web looks still decent?

To give an idea why a clip like this one shot with a compact camera

Does not look to far off this other clip shot with a semipro camcorder Sony AX100

or a Panasonic GH4

What all 3 clips at 1080p on youtube and honestly evaluate if there price difference is justified you will probably think no and think the second clip is actually a pro.

So why is that?

50% of the problem comes from the editing, I don’t have the details of how the other two clips are done but I know my clip is edited with iMovie, surely not the most advanced tool on the market you would think.

However there are a few tricks of the trade that I will explain to you one at time:

1. Never let your editor convert the files at the import.

Unless your workstation can’t physically process them leave the clips as in. Even think about getting a better computer in the long run if you can’t process files as is.

Many editors convert the files at import, in intermediate formats like prores or Avid that have no temporal compression. Those files unlike the originals have each frame stored like a complete image so that it is easier to edit. If your editor allows you use the original file without any conversion. You can do this in Final Cut using proxy and cheating also in iMovie creating manually event folders and copying mov or mp4 compliant files manually into them.

2. Once you finish your editing use the highest quality option available for export.

This is sometimes a tricky issue as the default options of those programs mention sometimes just a quality option with a slider from low to best. Many programs though, like final cut offer other options and modules for advanced compression.

If you have spent money on the editor spend the extra funds on the advanced codecs as they are worth every penny.

Once you have the advanced codecs (x264 is the one I use and is free plug in for iMovie) use constant quality with factor of 18 and the slowest preset your workstation can bear.

X264 preset go from very fast to placebo, my workstation can tolerate a very slow for 1080p that applies all the most advanced compression settings. This together with quality at 18 gives me an output very similar to the input but much more efficient with a smaller file.

At this point you are nearly there and ready to upload on vimeo and youtube.

Between the two services which one has the best quality?

Vimeo plain and simple, the same file will look better than youtube with less artefacts at the same resolution, however vimeo requires you to have a plus account to upload and share in 1080p whilst youtube is free.

So this is the reason why your files do not look as good as the clips you shot with the camera when you share them.

Now onto the second part why do clips produced with my very expensive equipment look worse than someone with a much cheaper set up and inferior equipment?

This second problem has to do with the way videos are shot.

Many people look on the internet for guidance on how to produce a video clip that looks decent and are tempted by some esoteric terms such as: flat profiles, colour grading, gamma curves etc etc.

They then go into water with their camera set like they have read on the internet and then spend a long time editing their clips, after all that effort the result image is a bit soft and the colors are washed out.  This seems to be quite a common issue especially with pros.

http://www.peterwalker.com/komodo.html

Note that the two videos above are probably two of my favourites of the last few years. However check the difference between the close up shots with lights or the land shots and the wide angle with natural light? Very different

This instead is an example of someone who knows how to work with the limitation of the set up:

Flat profiles and color grading may work very well when the environment is controlled in a studio situation or where there is plenty of light but in water this is seldom the case. So the best help is to get it right first time and if needed use a filter for your ambient light shots.

Many people including me used to be a white balance evangelist but I have to say with years I have lost interest and I think is greatly overrated.

This video from ikelite is my absolute favourite

The best part is at 0:45 comparing filter with auto white balance and filter with manual white balance. The clips says looks at the purple that comes with the manual white balance but actually that is a horrible hue there!

I have spent the entire 2012-2014 trips trying to perform custom white balance with various cameras, with various degree of success. When I was in Raja Ampat I once left the camera in auto and realised the color where the best I ever got. Though this was a mistake but after few months when I reviewed the clips and how they were taken I realised the truth, even since I have never hit the custom white balance button once on my RX100 and I am preparing to do exactly the same on the GX7.

So my five cents into video editing and doing something decent for sharing on the internet is based around the following key principles:

  1. Get the clip right in camera. Use the settings that make the clip look great at the outset, experiment until you are happy of the results. Forget about theory focus on what you like.
  2. Don’t let your editor alter the clips at all and use no or minimum grading or even try to do no correction at all including contrast and exposure any time the editor touches the clip something is damaged.
  3. Export with advanced settings using all the CPU power you have at hand to produce a high quality but as small as possible file

Good luck for your next trip, I am very much looking forward to mine!

 

Demystifying video formats

Youtube now supports double frame rate video 50p and 60p so what?

That is actually a legitimate question look at this example here which is a short clip from a trip to Barbados in 2013, this was originally shot on a Sony RX100 Mark II in AVCHD progressive 1080@50p 28 Mbps

If you don’t see the 50p option is because your browser operating system does not support it. You need the latest version of browser and operating system and a machine fast enough plus enough bandwidth. So for Mac this means OS X Yosemite and Safari and for Windows you need 8.1 and IE9.

I hope you enjoyed the clip now check this other one which is a instead shot at 25p with the same camera at 24 Mbps/

I think you can see by yourself which one looks better and it is the 25p clip despite an overall lower bitrate.

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Underwater clips do not have a lot of action as you may think so extra frames go a bit to waste
  2. The encoding which is how the clip is first recorded by the camera is not really that different.
  3. The human eye does a great job at interpolating missing frames anyway
  4. There is not really much more data in the 50p file compared to its 30p rendition
  5. The image quality if you look at a still frame is better in the 25p clip.

There are of course benefits in shooting at double frame rate if you want to slow down the footage 50% speed but for what concerns your normal shooting you would say for that clip you could not tell.

Let’s think about it in simple terms if you have a clip shot at 25p with 24 Mbps you would expect something not quite double but a bit more for 50p instead you only have 28 Mbps. To be more precise you have 22 Mbps vs 26 Mbps video which is 18% more in Sony’s case. So that is not really much information more.

What is more interesting is the structure of the data what follows now is a bit technical but bear with me.

GOPStructure
GOP Structure Row 1 and 3 Sony AVCHD 25p and AVDHD progressive 50p

The first and third rows are representation of Sony 25p and 50p clips. The green bar are I frames that you can think of like a JPEG image, the red bars are P frames or prediction the only contain a delta from the previous frame not a full image.

You can see that in the first row there are 12 P red bar between each green I bar. This means that the GOP or group of picture is composed of a sequence IPPPPPPPPPPPP that repeats indefinitely.

On the 3 row there is a representation of a Sony 50p clip you can see that now there are 23 P frames between two I frames.

So the increment in full frame is limited however if we look at the sizes we see that the I frames in the 25p clip are 12% bigger and also the P frames are smaller.

So in short if you look at the image quality the 25p clip has more information in the full frames as well as for the predicted frames whilst the 50p clips has more frames but overall with less quality.

Which means that unless you are shooting something that is really action packed or you want to do slow motion there is no actual benefit but instead a deterioration when you shoot AVCHD progressive underwater.

Note: if instead we were shooting at higher bitrates for the 50p the story would be different but at similar bitrate it goes as above.

You will also have noticed stream 2 and 4 in the image above I repeat them again here

GOPStructure
GOP Structure Panasonic AVCHD 25p and AVCHD progressive 50p

The second and fourth stream are generated by a Panasonic camera and they look different. You will notice now the existence of frames with the tag B and also that some of the P frames have a green slice.

This means that Panasonic AVCHD implementation has two features that Sony does not have:

1. It has B frames which not only predict future frames from the past frames but can also reference future frames in the prediction (sounds crazy but it works basically the frames are stored in memory before past ones are saved)

2. It has slices for images so on one frame there can be an element of prediction from a previous frame and another element completely newly generated for example if the prediction was completely in a part of picture where there was a lot of movement.

H264 encoding has motion compensation so things that do not change are referenced and new parts are predicted or in this case partially created from scratch.

So the Panasonic encoding algorithm is much superior to the Sony one for AVCHD this explains why a small camera like the Panasonic LX7 could produce video to compete with a larger sensor RX100 with almost double number of megapixels.

What makes me laugh is when photography magazines jump to conclusion on the video quality of a camera shooting a static frame!

Of course if there is not movement the camera with the best IQ in still pictures will prevail however when you record motion all of that becomes somewhat less relevant as compression impacts the quality.

So the more effective compression algorithm of Panasonic beats Sony to the point that even a larger sensor size seems not to matter.

This explains why when you take a real life clip Panasonic cameras perform better in video despite a worst image quality in still images.

The difference between the 28 Mbps and 24 Mbps follows pretty much the same trend of the Sony clips there is not enough bitrate to justify the double frame rate unless there is a lot of action in your clip.

So to conclude if you are shooting AVCHD the normal 24/25p more will have better image quality and will be more suitable to scenes with a lot of dynamic range, will give more colour and contrast. If there is really a lot of action or you want to slow down the clip shoot in 50p bearing in mind that image quality will actually drop if you look at a still frame in isolation.

Underwater contrary to what you may expect things do not actually go that fast and most of the movement is in a specific part of the frame or in a limited part of it so AVCHD 24/25p gives better results.

Finally when looking at a camera for video check for real clips do not look at resolution charts designed for still images as they give very little indications on the quality of your videos. Also if there are any tests make sure those are on the JPEG images that share similar processing engine not on RAW files are you are not shooting RAW video. And finally consider that at similar bitrate some manufacturer have a clear edge on others when it comes to real time compression in our example Panasonic produces similar quality to a Sony camera with overall a better sensor but poorer compression.

Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 14-42mm / F3.5 – 5.6 / Power OIS and Nauticam Macro Port 35

The Lumix G X 14-42 Power Zoom lens is designed for video with a silent motor zoom controlled by a slider that is quite effective to use.

The focal range in 4:3 format is 14-42mm which corresponds to 29-87mm in the standard 35mm format (the crop factor is 2.08 36/17.3 and not 2 how commonly thought in the classic 3:2 aspect ratio).

This lens is not exactly a best in class in terms of performance especially considering quite a bit of vignetting at wide end and distortion that anyway gets corrected nicely in camera for most. A detailed review is here http://www.photozone.de/olympus–four-thirds-lens-tests/765_pana14423556hd

You can see that this is lens is quite sharp at 2868 LW/PH to give you an idea the much more expensive Lumix 12-35mm reaches 3110 LW/PH though sharpness drops at corners to around 2100-2200.

Another interesting characteristic is that this lens performs best at f/3.5-f/5.6 which is close to the widest aperture as we will use this lens with the Nauticam flat port 35 this is all good news.

Nauticam Macro Port 35
Nauticam Macro Port 35

The lens fits very nicely inside the port leaving space for small filters and close up lenses but not really a lot.

The lens does not really move much between 14 and 42 mm and reaches his longest at 14mm.

I have tried using a set of Inon diopters to see the degree of magnification you can get.

This shot is with an Inon UCL-165 +6.06 diopter.

Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-165
Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-165

The smallest frame width with this lens is 42mm however in video mode using the ex tele converter option this becomes a much smaller area achieving in fact super macro easily with the added benefit of larger depth of field.

If you are into pixel peeping you can see some chromatic aberration on the edges this is a combination of the lens and the wet diopter.

I also tried stacking an UCL-165 with the UCL-330 this achieves a capture width of 32mm so we are in super macro zone.

Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-165+330 Stacked
Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-165+330 Stacked

Image quality does not get much worse but there are some internal reflections here on the white surface as the Inon lenses are not coated externally.

Finally I wanted to see if the Inon UCL-100 would work and it does achieving super macro without any fringing. If you want to use this lens for pygmy sea horse photography and do not want to get an Olympus 60mm this or the sub see 10 are the close up lenses to get, also the nauticam SMC is in the same range.

Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-100
Lumix G X 14-42 PZ @ 42mm with Inon UCL-100

Now onto what is really good of this lens port combination and this is the versatility as you can attach the Inon UWL-H100 and get a very wide 18mm flat wide angle that is very sharp indeed as per previous images

_1000200
Nauticam 35 Port with Inon UWL-H100 on Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm

Consider that this image is taken at f/3.5 and the ruler is in the corner at ISO 1600 and you can see that sharpness is more than acceptable.

More interesting is that for some reason with this lens you can fully zoom through even down to 42mm without soft corners.

I have no idea how this is possible but it works just fine.

So if you are a video junkie you can cover the whole 100 degrees wide to super macro with this lens the Nauticam 35 Macro Port the Inon UWL-H100 and the UCL-100. For video it gets even cheaper with the UCL-165. You can of course use the flat port to do nice fish portrait in the mid-range of the zoom.

I forgot to mention the zoom gear which is actually pretty expensive because of the complex spring design.

The total cost for the Nauticam 35 with zoom gear is $510 plus of course the lens itself $290 total of $800.

Inon UWL-H100 + LD adapter = $654

Inon UCL-100 = $282

Inon UCL-165 = $205

Wet Lenses Still total = $936

Wet Lenses Video total = $859

Let’s compare to getting an Olympus 9-18mm with 4″ wide angle port and the Olympus 60mm with 30 extension ring total price $2129.

Price gap for stills $393 but you now also have a mid range lens for portraits, personally I don’t really like the Olympus 9-18 behind that port comparing side by side images taken with the 14-42 PZ and Inon lens I am not sure the Olympus is any better and definitely needs diopters due to mushy corners. For macro the 60mm Olympus lens has the advantage of increased working distance but is a very specific lens that you would only use for really small stuff.

For what concerns video you would probably look at the Panasonic 7-14 and forget the Olympus 60mm the combination is worth $1800 which is a difference of $636. Again the issue with rectilinear lenses and dome ports is there and the 7-14 does not take diopters.

So if we were to use the lenses on land no doubt you would need additional glass but in water wet lenses can be quite cost effective especially if you use a micro four third camera for video.

Peter Rowlands uses a Panasonic GX7 with Inon UWL-H100 and dome successfully and I am joining that club now.

Stay tuned for more tests next to come will be the Panasonic Fisheye 8mm with the 4.33″ dome which is another essential buy for the micro four third cameras underwater, obviously for pictures and not video.

 

 

 

Moving to Micro Four Thirds

In a previous post last year I had mentioned that a move to an interchangeable lens camera was unlikely however seeing the latest generation of compact on the market also have a port system it is time to reconsider the options.

During the Christmas holiday Panasonic put up a double cash-back promotion which meant you could get a Panasonic GX7 with kit lens with £100 off the retail effective price.

On the web you could find the GX7 with the 14-42mm G Mega OIS for £449 and combined with the 20mm f/1.7 for £579. The 14-42mm is actually a good lens but knowing I had to get the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm I opted for the 20mm f/1.7 a very bright lens that seemed good for occasional photos.

Butterfly bokeh

 

So I got myself the X Vario PZ 14-42mm and also the Lumix G 12-32mm Mega OIS as I thought I needed something midrange but did not want to spend a lot of money for the 12-35mm Panasonic and especially did not want to entertain a 6″ wide angle port.

Foliage Detail 12-32 mm
Foliage Detail 12-32 mm

I actually think this lens has better IQ than the 12-42mm PZ

14-42mm PZ
14-42mm PZ

The 12-32mm is the kit lens that used to come with the GX1 so is not a massively popular lens. A quick look at the Nauticam Port Chart confirms this lens takes the same macro port 35 of the 14-42 PZ, this port through a 30mm extension can be used to house the Olympus 60mm Macro. So went ahead and contacted Alex at Nauticam UK to get a quote on the housing. It turns out that there are no stocks of the NA-GX7 so had to wait until yesterday to receive mine.

I asked Alex to lend me a Nauticam Wetmate as I thought this could be used on the 35 port with the 12-32mm Panasonic lens in case the Inon UWL-H100 vignettes.

I was not quite sure of the physics of the wet mate so I got myself some close up filters in case there were focus issues.

The 12-32mm won’t focus in water with the wet mate until you add a +1 close up filter.

12-32mm with +1 diopter and wet mate on macro port 35
12-32mm with +1 diopter and wet mate on macro port 35

Once you get focus the image quality seems pretty decent despite being shot at ISO 1250 f/3.5. However this configuration would start having focus problem past 15mm so I put on a + diopter and tried again until 20mm or 40mm in 35 equivalent terms.

12-32mm at 20mm with +2 diopter and wet mate on macro 35 port
12-32mm at 20mm with +2 diopter and wet mate on macro 35 port

Quality is pretty good and the chromatic aberration are probably coming from the cheap diopter more than the wet-mate.

I am quite happy with those results although I have to admit the wet mate with the 67mm thread is a pain to take on and off in water and also is not coated so scratches easily.

Nauticam has still to confirm if the 4.33″ dome port can offer full zoom with the 12-32mm, I suspect it will with the help of a +2 diopter. The alternative is the 20mm extension with the 3.5″ wide angle port, in future perspective this is interesting for wide angle macro photography but not so much right now so will go with the 4.33″ dome.

I also did some tests with the Inon UWL-H100 28LD, once again the Fix M67-LD adapter let me down the screws had melted into the aluminium despite the tender loving care and broken the adapter I could however take some shots without the hood before that happened.

Panasonic 12-32mm with Inon UWL-H100 at 12mm
Panasonic 12-32mm with Inon UWL-H100 at 12mm

There are some dark corners but all in all the result could be acceptable equivalent focal length in 16:9 is 16.5mm which is approximately 105 degrees.

There seems to be some variability and some times I would get black corners more. Considering I will switch to the Nauticam LD adapter that vignettes more this at the end is not so interesting. The image is also a bit distorted.

With the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario  PZ 14-42mm instead there are no issues of vignette even in 4:3 aspect ratio.

Panasonic 14-42 PZ with Inon UWL-H100
Panasonic 14-42 PZ with Inon UWL-H100

The camera focuses literally on the glass.

What is even more interesting is that the camera lens combination keeps sharp focus all across the zoom range all the way to 42mm or 84mm equivalent.

Pamasonic 14-42mma t 42mm with Inon UWL-H100
Pamasonic 14-42mma t 42mm with Inon UWL-H100

Fringing is contained and generally the image is sharp across the frame considering we are at ISO 3200.

I also did a test with the UCL-330 and using the Extended Teleconverter function available in video I could achieve 32mm width frame with the 12-32mm lens!!!

The other positive note is that this is a 1″1 pixel read without artefacts and moire so generally quality is very high.

I think the PZ 14-42mm with the Inon UWL-H100 and a single UCL-165 makes a fine combination to shoot all purpose stills wide and macro in one dive. For video I will have to determine if the UCL-330 is a better choice considering the extended tele converter feature.

A few other features of the GX7 that really make this camera a video machine include the flicker free video recording that allows you to fix the shutter speed if you had to press the video record button when you are taking stills. Normally the camera would work in P more and not respect any shutter rule, with this feature you are telling the camera to shoot in shutter priority.

The GX7 has also the capability of altering the gamma curve for contrast which is great and a number of picture style presets of which I recommend the Scenery one for underwater use if you white balance.

I did some low light comparisons with the Sony RX100 and despite two full f/stops advantage for the RX100 lens the GX7 still resolved more detail at ISO 3200 versus the RX100 ISO 800 which was a bit surprising.

The AVCHD implementation at 24 Mbps will be my favourite underwater mode unless I am shooting macro and is a full IPB codec unlike the IP only with no B frames that Sony provides. That must be reason why the image quality in video is better even at two stop higher ISO.

In case you are looking for the holy grail for Nauticam micro four thirds camera to do a bit of everything the Macro Port 35 and the Panasonic G X Vario 14-42mm Power Zoom are highly recommended. Probably the image quality is not as good as the Panasonic 7-14mm although in my opinion with the Inon lens the results are very similar to the Olympus 90-18mm with 4″ wide angle port. Macro again is acceptable but not amazing with wet lenses. I will have to test more I am concerned the UCL-100 may not work with this port. For a mid range lens the 12-32mm costs one third of the 12-35mm Power OIS and once I receive the 4.33′ dome I will do more tests, meanwhile an option is to use the wet mate that works until 20mm before you have to take it off. The 4/33″ dome should have better image quality but maybe I will be surprised there too.

Finally with the 30 extension you can transform the macro 35 into a 55 port ready for some serious macro with the Olympus 60mm so I think having only one flat port, an extension ring and one dome to cover fisheye photography, portraits, wide angle, close up and macro is not bad at all. And for video most likely is the only port you will ever need together with the Inon UWL-H100 which is expensive but every flexible indeed.

I will post more images of the rig once I have nailed all options in terms of lenses and arms.

The end of advanced compact cameras for underwater photography

With the arrival of the new Nauticam N50 port system for advanced compacts I believe we say goodbye to using a large sensor compact underwater.

We already saw some signs when Sony released the RX100 Mark III with a 24-70mm equivalent lens, this effectively killed any use of the camera for macro. The new Panasonic LX100 has a similar problem with a 24-75mm lens but on top it has the new N50 port system in the nauticam housing or a severely limited functionality in the Ikelite version. It is obvious that the Panasonic LX100 will have similar sever limitations for macro but also with only 10 Megapixels really not be a strong competitor.

The last kid on the block is the Canon G7X, this camera looks very similar to the Sony RX100 Mark II and has a 24-100 zoom range that on land is very useful with an aperture of f/2.8 at tele end that is really interesting for land use. However this camera in the Nauticam version has the same port system N50.

So why has Nauticam introduced this? Both the Canon G7X and the Panasonic LX100 have fairly long lenses in terms of physical size and the zoom mechanism is such that the lens is retracted at wide end. This means that there is quite a gap between the lens and the port and wet lenses in those conditions have issues of both corner softness and chromatic aberrations. So Nauticam has introduced a short port with zoom blocked so that wet lenses can be used.

Effectively this is like diving with a fixed 18mm lens on your camera behind a dome with no zoom capability, taking the wet lens off results in horrible pincushion distortion so not really appealing.

Pincushion Distortion at 24mm with flat port
Pincushion Distortion at 24mm with flat port

The dome port does not allow the use of the full zoom at least without a diopter, so this is of limited use too for video.

Cost wise the new housing with the port system are around $1,200 in the US with additional $350 for the dome and $180 for the flat wide port. We are approaching the low end of Micro 4/3 Nauticam housing prices and are more expensive than Olympus OEM options but without the same flexibility and quality in terms of lenses.

It is clear that the Sony RX100 Mark I and II will remain one of a kind and this is the reason why they remain popular few years after launch.

Sony RX100 Mark II Rig June 2014 Front
Sony RX100 Mark II Rig June 2014 Front

 

Nauticam NA-LX100 Pricing Confirmed

It is official now the prices of the NA-LX100 are confirmed

in US $1,200 for the housing with flat port, $180 for the wide short port and $350 for the 3.5″ acrylic dome.

In UK £920 for the housing and flat port, £150 for the wide short port and most likely £290 for the dome.

Which means we can now update the GH4 comparisons for 4K

Super Wide

Panasonic LX100  $899 NA-LX100 $1,200 with Short Port $180 and Wet lens Inon UWL-H100 $522

Panasonic GH4 with 7-14mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port only plus camera and lens $2,399

The max field of view of the two options is almost the same however you can’t zoom the LX100 due to the zoom lock on the housing.

LX100 $2,801

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,348

Mid range

Panasonic LX100 $899 housing $1,200  3.5″ dome circa $350

Panasonic GH4 with 12-35mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port Camera and Lens $2,399

The LX100 is wider in 4K at 26-81mm vs 28-81mm of the GH4

LX100 $2,449

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,700

Close Up

Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 rectangular port $2,099

Panasonic GH4 with 14-42 and 35 macro port $1,815 housing and port $2,680

The GH4 will have more magnification due to the longer focal length with the same diopter.

LX100 $2,099

GH4 $4,495

Price Difference $2,396

The gap is still significant even with the price increase ranging between $2348 and $2700.

I still have some concerns on the 3.5″ acrylic dome for the LX100 as I am not sure about focus distance. If this port works with the full zoom it is definitely the most appealing for video but we will need to check this out.

 

 

Nauticam NA-LX100 Released

On Christmas day Nauticam has released the NA-LX100 housing for the Panasonic DMC-LX100. It is priced at ¥168,000 which is 50,000 more expensive than the last NA-RX100 III.

If this translates correctly in $ and UK prices it means $1,399 plus tax or £895 including VAT for UK.

Here is the original link in Japanese on the fisheye homepage

http://www.fisheye-jp.com/products/compact/na_lx100.html

NA-LX100 with flat rectangular port
NA-LX100 Rear View

 

Prices for the short port for wet lenses and the dome port have not yet been announced but we know that the dome can use the camera at full zoom and that the short port. The US price of the flip diopter for the rectangular port is known and is $220.

Which means we can now update the GH4 comparisons for 4K

Super Wide

Panasonic LX100  $899 NA-LX100 with Short Port and Wet lens $2,000 circa

Panasonic GH4 with 7-14mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port only plus camera and lens $2,399

The max field of view of the two options is almost the same however you can’t zoom the LX100 due to the zoom lock on the housing.

LX100 $2,899

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,250

Mid range

Panasonic LX100 $899 with 3.5″ dome circa $1,699

Panasonic GH4 with 12-35mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port Camera and Lens $2,399

The LX100 is wider in 4K at 26-81mm vs 28-81mm of the GH4

LX100 $2,599

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,550

Close Up

Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 rectangular port $2,299

Panasonic GH4 with 14-42 and 35 macro port $1,815 housing and port $2,680

The GH4 will have more magnification due to the longer focal length with the same diopter.

LX100 $2,299

GH4 $4,495

Price Difference $2,195

The gap is still significant even with the price increase ranging between $2200 and $2500.

There is still an option to use the GH4 with wet lenses although this has only been tried with diopters to date it is technically possible to use a wet wide angle lens.

 

Tip & Tricks for Compact Cameras Users

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 88 other followers