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Underwater Video Tips: Best video settings for Sony RX100

It is not a mystery that the RX100 is capable of shooting excellent video. In fact in some comparisons with SLRs cameras there is little to no difference in the footage quality. The RX100 has many settings and options so which ones are important for underwater video? I will go and explain those that I find useful.

RX100 Video Behavior

Although the RX100 offers full manual control in video this option is not as useful as it seems. Now that many video editors support AVCHD progressive the 50p or 60p options are the more relevant as the footage can be slowed down to half speed and still offer a standard frame rate (50/60p at half speed is 25/30p).

The RX100 shoots video in program mode with shutter speeds of double the frame rate so 1/100 for PAL and 1/125 for NTSC that is excellent news. The camera will then drop to 1/50 or 1/60 when the max ISO is reached which is still acceptable. In Movie Program mode the camera shoots at the lowest possible ISO for the set shutter speed at the widest required aperture. The RX100 has a minimum ISO in video of 125 and the RX100 has it at 160, which is quite high.

Shooting Wide angle

I shoot all my wide-angle footage with the camera in Program Mode. By that I actually mean Photo Program Mode. Pressing the movie button in P mode results in the same behavior that shooting video in P mode. In order to be able to frame correctly I set the image format to 16:9 also for stills. This is also useful to capture ambient light landscapes. I started shooting in P because this allowed me to white balance quickly however I found out that the custom white balance on the RX100 Mark II is a total disaster and in fact I never use it as it gives weird results. I shoot with a red filter with Auto white balance on until approximately 25/27 meters and then I move to White Balance set to K (colour temperature) 9900K Tint set to M7+Y7. When shooting with lights I also use auto white balance. Generally speaking I only use the movie button and the white balance settings for wide angle.

Deep Wreck in Program Mode
Deep Wreck in Program Mode

Shooting Macro

When shooting with diopter at tiny subjects focus with the RX100 is a challenge. I set my video mode to Aperture priority with an aperture of f/11 and Auto ISO, the camera will always keep a shutter speed of double the frame rate which is ideal. If you light the subject properly the RX100 will always shoot at the lowest ISO maybe at 200 but not more. I use auto white balance for all my macro. I find it convenient to leave the video mode like this so that I only have P for wide angle and Movie – Aperture priority for video. If you prefer you can set those as memory recall 1 and 2 but I find that not as useful except you don’t need to use the control dial.

Frogfish at f/11
Frogfish at f/11

Settings for the Function Buttons

Many features that can be assigned to the function button are not available in video or not useful. I only have 4 settings in the function wheel:

  1. ISO
  2. Metering Mode – Always on evaluative
  3. DRO – I set it to auto
  4. Focus Mode – in video only constant and manual are available

To be perfectly honest I rarely change any of those except for testing the camera exposure. Even the metering mode can be left to evaluative all the time as when you shoot macro the area is so small and evenly illuminated that I have never had an issue with exposure.

Settings for the Control Wheel

I use the following assignments and I find them very useful:

  • Left: White balance
  • Centre: Manual Focus Toggle
  • Right: Exposure Lock

The bottom arrow is always assigned to exposure compensation and can’t be changed I set it to -0.3 eV all the time.

White Balance

The performance of custom white balance with the RX100 Mark II is shocking worse than the original RX100, 9 out of 10 I get a white balance error and the results are usually off with too much magenta. The only occasions where I do not get an error is in 6 meters or water (20 feet) on a sandy bottom. In other conditions it does not matter if you try with sand, tanks, hand, slates the outcome is shocking. The results can be used changing the tint to an M2 or even zero but generally using a filter and auto is just much easier and better. I assign the K setting to 9900K M7 for shooting at depth, This is painful because it means that unless you have a flat lens like an Epoque or Inon you can basically forget shooting video with the RX100 as the custom white balance is erratic at least.

The Inon UWL-H100 has only one red filter that is compatible and is made by deeproof. I find this filter excellent though I prefer plastic to glass I have to say it works a treat.

Results with White Balance Error 9900
Results with White Balance Error 9900 Note the Magenta tinge
Similar scene with auto white balance and red filter
Similar scene with auto white balance and red filter

Focus

The RX100 focus automatically on the center when shooting video and does it very well,. Tracking focus is not as useful and by assigning the center button to manual focus it can be eliminated. When shooting macro it is essential to use peaking. I set it to low with white color. Generally with diopters there is only one focus distance so I move the camera until the peaking shows nice white and then press record trying to be steady. That’s pretty much it.

DRO

I keep the dynamic range optimizer to Auto. This means the ISO is most of the times set automatically to 200 to preserve dynamic range. When the scene is perfectly lit the ISO is chosen to be 160. I don’t see much difference between ISO 160 and 200 but if this bothers you set the DRO to off which means the camera will mostly shoot at ISO 160 in good light conditions.

ISO and Max ISO

I set the ISO Max to 800, having analysed a lot of my footage I have not found one example where the camera shot at ISO800 yet unless I had a filter and was at 30 meters. However I prefer the camera to drop the shutter speed and keep the ISO to 800 instead of going all the way down to 3200.

Zoom

In video the RX100 activates digital zoom even when you set it to off. This deteriorates the image so you need to pay attention that the middle notch corresponding to 3.6x is not exceeded or you will see artifacts in your footage.

Stabilizer

I use active steady shot thought this reduces the field of view as it does help with shake quite a lot with macro footage.

Other Settings to disable

There are a number of settings that are harmful in video either because they use battery or because they are counter productive I disable them all list includes:

  • Smile / Face Detection
  • Picture effects
  • Audio recording ( I do not like bubble sound)
  • Wind Noise Reduction

The following are only relevant for still but I like them off regardless.

  • AF illuminator
  • Red eye reduction
  • MF Assist
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12 thoughts on “Underwater Video Tips: Best video settings for Sony RX100”

  1. This is a great blog, you provide a lot of great details on camera settings and functions on cameras that the average diver can afford. I plan on getting a sony rx100ii, so it’s nice to have some insight on settings before I hit the water.

    Make sure to check out William Tan (facebook) as he has been making some incredible photos with point and shoot cameras. Of course he has a canon sponsorship. Still both of your blogs are very helpful for the aspiring underwater photographer/video. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Interceptor – it really helps a lot for my video settings –
    got a quick question –
    Below 27m – you need to remove your red filter to adjust white balance?
    “I shoot with a red filter with Auto white balance on until approximately 25/27 meters and then I move to White Balance set to K (colour temperature) 9900K Tint set to M7+Y7.
    Thanks a lot sabrina

    1. I keep the filter on pretty much until the camera drops the shutter speed to 1/50 at that point I take the filter off. Note that this depends on the max ISO settings that I use. Below certain depths there is anyway not much colour left and custom white balance usually goes in error because the max temperature is exceeded

      1. Thanks for your quick reply! I bought the deeproof as suggested… Will try filter and custom wb… As filter is below wide angle I don’t want to remove everything… I have a trip in 1 week that I don’t want to miss (clear blue water, wide angle video shooting) so you definitely suggest red filter correct?

      2. No filter and Auto white balance. Don’t bother doing any custom white balance as it goes always in error.
        The filter is on top of the lens but you need to jump in the water with nothing on and then put filter and lens in the water to eliminate bubbles. Where are you going?

      3. In fact, got the inon dome – so red filter should be on the top of the housing, then I put the lenses! Love doing video editing, got canon s100 before but really disappointed by the over exposure… I am quite a “purist” of custom white balance… First time will use the filter, will to French Polynesia Rangi and Faka 😉

      4. Have a great trip. Personally I do not like shooting videos with domes as the image on the corners is not sharp and I do not like barrel distortion on videos. I prefer a flat lens with hood with a push on filter that gives maximum flexibility. The deeproof filter I use is push on. If I had to choose a filter for another lens or to screw on the port I would get a UR/Pro (Ikelite). Be careful as your Inon dome could flare at wide apertures. To be safe if I were you I would take the allen keys with me and buy a lens hood and the filter to go on the flat lens. You do not need 140 degrees field of view for video

      5. Thanks!! Got what you mean… The dome is to add more flexibility with picture if needed… I will check how I can arrange… Thanks for your help!

      6. Dome with pictures is perfect, but without filter in between. The filter will make the lens vignette more. It is unfortunate that requirements for still and video are different as you effectively need two lens set up! Have a great trip and let me know the youtube or vimeo link when the clip is completed

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