Fisheye Zoom for Micro Four Thirds

Looking at Nauticam port chart the only option for a fisheye zoom is to combine the Panasonic PZ 14-42 with a fisheye add on lens. This is a solution that is not that popular due to low optical quality.

So micro four thirds users have been left with a prime fisheye lens from Panasonic or Olympus…until now!

Looking at Nauticam port chart we can see that there is an option to use the Speedbooster Metabones adapter and with this you convert your MFT camera to a 1.42x crop allowing you to use Canon EF-M lenses for cropped sensor including the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye. This is certainly an option and can be combined with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter giving you a range of 14.2 to 33.8 mm in full frame equivalent or 7.1 to 16.9 mm in MFT terms fisheye zoom of which the usable range is 8 -16.9 mm after removing vignetting.

A further issue is that the Speedbooster gives you another stop of light limiting the aperture to f/16 while this is generally a bonus for land shooting in low light underwater we want to use all apertures all the way to f/22 for sunbursts even if this means diffraction problems.

Wolfgang Shreibmayer started a trend time ago in WetPixel https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/61629-canon-ef-lenses-on-mft-cameras/ to use full frame lenses and in this post I want to do a deep dive on what is for me the most interesting lens option the Canon 8-15mm fisheye.

This lens on full frame can be used for a circular and diagonal fisheye but Wolfgang has devised a method to use it as an 8-15mm fisheye zoom on MFT.

Part list – missing the zoom gear

What you need are the following:

  • Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye USM
  • Metabones Smart Adapter MB_EF_m43_BT2 or Viltrox EF-M1 Adapter
  • A 3D printed gear extension ring
  • Nauticam C-815Z zoom gear
  • Nauticam 36064 N85 to N120 34.7mm port adapter with knob
  • Nauticam 21130 30mm extension ring with lock
  • Nauticam 18810 N120 140mm optical glass fisheye port

The assembly is quite complicated as the lens won’t fit through the N85 port. It starts with inserting the camera with no lens in the housing.

GH5 body only assembly
Camera in housing without port

The next step is to fit the port adapter

Attach N85 N120 Metabones adapter

Then we need to prepare the lens with the smart adapter once removed the tripod mount part.

Canon 8-15 on Metabones Smart Adapter IV

As the port is designed for the speed booster the lens will be few mm off therefore the gear will not grip. Wolfgang has devised a simple adapter to make it work.

gear extension ring
Zoom gear on lens

This shifts the gear backwards allowing to grip on the knob.

3D design is here

Lens inserted on housing

Looking at nauticam port chart an extension ring of 30mm is recommended for the speedbooster and now we have extra 5mm in length Wolfgang uses a 35mm extension however looking at the lens entrance pupil I have concluded that 30mm will be actually better positioned. Nauticam have confirmed there won’t be performance differences. You need to secure the ring on the dome before final assembly.

Fisheye dome and extension
Full assembly top view
Side front view

The rig looks bigger than the 4.33 dome but the size of the GH5 housing is quite proportionate. It will look bigger on a traditional small size non clam style housing.

The disassembly will be made again in 3 steps.

Disassembly

I am not particularly interested in the 1.4x teleconverter version consider that once zoomed in to 15mm the lens is horizontally narrower than a 12mm native lens so there is no requirement for the teleconverter at all.

This table gives you an idea of the working range compared to a rectilinear lens along the horizontal axis as diagonal is not a fair comparison. The lens is very effective at 8-10mm where any rectilinear would do bad then overlaps with an 8-18mm lens. The choice of lens would be dictated by the need to have or not straight lines. The range from 13mm is particularly useful for sharks and fish that do not come that close.

Focal lengthHorizontalVerticalDiagonalHorizontal Linear EqWidthHeightDiagonal
8130.995.9170.217.31321.64
9114.984.7147.8
10102.575.9131.06.9
1192.668.7117.88.3
1284.562.9107.29.5
1377.757.998.410.8
1472.053.790.911.9
1567.050.184.613.0

Wolfgang has provided me with some shots that illustrate how versatile is this set up.

8mm end surface shot
Caves 8mm
15mm end close up
Dolphins at 15mm
Diver close up at 8mm
Snell windows 8mm
Robust ghost pipefish @15mm

As you can see you can even shoot a robust ghost pipefish!

The contrast of the glass dome is great and the optical quality is excellent. On my GH5 body there is uncorrected chromatic aberration that you can remove in one click. Furthermore lens profiles are available to de-fish images and make them rectilinear should you want to do so.

I would like to thank Wolfgang for being available for questions for providing the 3D print and the images that are featured here on this post.

If you can’t print 3D and need an adapter ring I can sell you one for £7 plus shipping contact me for arrangements.

Amazon links UK

Canon EF 8-15 mm f/4 fisheye USM lens

Viltrox EF-M1 Mount Adapter

Note: it is possible to use a Metabones Speed Booster Ultra in combination with a Tokina 10-17mm zoom fisheye and a smaller 4.33″ acrylic dome.

UK Cost of the canon option: £3,076

Uk Cost of the Tokina option: £2,111

However if you add the glass dome back

UK Cost of Tokina with glass dome: £2,615

The gap is £461 and if you go for a Vitrox adapter (would not recommend for the speedbooster) the difference on a comparable basis is £176 which for me does not make sense as the Canon optics are far superior.

So I would say either Tokina in acrylic for the cost conscious or Canon in glass for those looking for the ultimate optical quality.

Using Rectilinear Wide Lenses Underwater

I was checking the technical details of Alex Mustard Underwater Photography Master Class and the majority of wide angle pictures are taken with a fisheye lens. In the section about shooting sharks Alex says that he prefers to shoot sharks with a fisheye otherwise they look ‘skinny’.

If you look online on underwater video forums you frequently see comments on problems with wide angle lenses connected with the use of a rectilinear wide angle lens in a dome.

The two most common complaints are soft corners and distortion.

Soft corners are due to a combination of lens optical issues and dome port optics. In short any lens is to some extent curved and therefore if you shoot a flat surface the image may be sharp in the centre and softer as you move to the corners. Issues with field of curvature are corrected stopping down the lens. The issue with field of curvature happens everywhere not just underwater.

Right now there are four wide angle lens that can be housed for a micro four third camera:

Olympus 9-18mm

This lens has a nice working range that allows to capture 100 degrees diagonal at widest setting and still has a 35mm equivalent at the tele end. This is a pretty little lens at $699 is the most affordable option that can be put in a housing. You will need a wide angle port and the zoom gear. The whole combination for your Nauticam housing comes at $1,399. This lens can also be combined with a glass dome but this will make the whole combination much more expensive and you may want to think about getting a better lens instead.

Olympus 7-14mm

This is an outstanding lens especially on land due to the fast f/2.8 aperture. It is expensive at $1,299.99 and very heavy and bulky. The lens does not fit through the N85 port opening and requires a port adapter this gives the extra benefit of a focus know but with such a wide lens is not really useful due to high depth of field. You will need a 180mm glass dome and the zoom gear for the lens to complete the set up ending at a whopping $3159.99.

Panasonic 7-14mm

I have owned this lens and I have to say that at $799 is the right compromise between wide field of view and price. Furthermore once you get the zoom gear you have the option of a cost effective acrylic dome that will give you a very wide set up for $1589.99. There are reports of poor performance with this lens and it is true that is not as sharp in corners but the results are perfectly acceptable if you stop at f/8 in close shots.

Steering Wheel Truck
Panasonic 7-14mm with acrylic dome 9mm f/8
Exploring the Chrisoula
Panasonic 7-14mm with acrylic dome 7mm f/5

This lens is prone to reflections and flare however once you add the N120 port adapter and the 180mm glass dome this will get you to $2819 at that point you may want to consider the Olympus combination instead.

Panasonic Leica 8-18mm

This is my favourite lens is sharp does not suffer from field of curvature issues and has a very useful zoom range 16-35mm in 35mm equivalent. The zoom gear and the 7″ acrylic dome will take you to 1889.99 that is an excellent price point. The lens is not prone to reflection or flare and as the 7″ dome has the same curvature radius than the 180mm dome it will produce very similar results.

Encircled
Panasonic 8-18mm in 7 acrylic dome f/8
Sunset Neat
Panasonic 8-18mm at 8mm f/10

The significant size of the acrylic port and the fact it floats make it ideal for split shots and this is the lens that gives me the best results.

This lens can also take port adapter that allows you to use the 180mm glass dome. This adds up to $2919.99 if you experience bad reflections and shoot frequently in the sun it may be worth it but I have not had any issue so far with this lens probably because of its nano coating.

I have found the 7mm focal length too problematic for dome ports and the amount of perspective distortion excessive generally it would be preferred to shoot at 9mm and narrower however this maybe insufficient for wreck interiors if you want a rectilinear look.

Perspective Distortion

One of the regular complaints of video shooters especially in wrecks or caves is that the edges look horrible and distorted and that there is an issue with the corners pulling. This is in fact not an issue but a problem with perspective as you shoot very wide angle. The following test shots will illustrate that the issue happens on land and has nothing to do with dome ports.

Shot at f/2.8 with Panasonic 8-18mm at 8mm shows sharp corners
Image with objects in edges at 8mm

As we can see the football looks like an oval and the chair is pulled. This is due to a perspective issue and is not a lens problem. When you shoot underwater video the objects on the edges of the frame change shape creating this pull effect that most people dislike.

Same scene at 9mm

At 9mm the amount of perspective distortion is reduced and this is the reason why 18mm on 35mm equivalent is one of the favourite focal length for rectilinear video and the maximum angle that should be used in small spaces to avoid the pulling edges.

One of the reason why a lens like the Nauticam WWL-1 is preferred for video is because the corners look sharp but is that really true?

Not really let’s apply some barrel distortion to simulate the WWL-1 to the image that looked badly distorted.

Barrel distortion applied -60 8mm

Now the football looks circular as we have applied -60 barrel distortion, obviously the rest of the image is now bent but this seems not to be of a concern to most people!

Barrel distortion -30 9mm

It needs much less correction to bring the 9mm shot into shape and for sure between the 8mm and 9mm the 9mm is the dimension that produces the most acceptable results.

It has to be said that in video with 16:9 aspect ratio most of the issue will be cropped away at the edges but the distortion in the middle of the frame will remain. For the same reason the 9mm image will appear practically rectilinear with no issues

16:9 crop still showing the edge ‘pulling’ at 8mm

16:9 crop looks straight at 9mm

I hope this post was useful there are four options for micro four thirds shooters to use rectilinear lenses I have settled for the Panasonic 8-18mm as in most cases it is still possible to control the perspective issue, I found this impossible at 7mm.

Bike on Hold 2
Bike in hold 2 on SS Thistlegorm Panasonic 8-18 at 8mm
Bubbling Bike
Shot at 7mm showing the front tyre pulling outside the frame

Obviously if you shoot in the blue this problem will not be visible however rectilinear lenses are popular with wreck shooters and I think this posts gives an idea of the challenges at play.

Finally I would discourage the use of the 7-8mm focal length range for video to those that want to have a rectilinear look.

From this post I started supporting Bluewater Photo in US for my links because it still provides multi brand and choice and because I learnt a lot from Scott Gietler Underwater photography guide back in the days where there was no internet resource to learn from.

CREATIVE strobe filters for wide angle

When people think about creating lighting technique for underwater photography a few things come to mind and usually it is about tools. Snoots for example have become very popular and help the underwater photographer to increase separation of the subject from the background. I have seen some people jumping in the water with a black slate to create an artificial black background, clearly is much easier to do that for macro as everything is at end and typically the subjects are not fast moving or the diver is not fast moving.

Then of course there is strobe positioning, classic, inward, crossed, rabbit ears, backlighting etcetera here goes a long list of options.

At the end however some pictures just seem to “pop” more than others, and this usually has to do with the colours and the contrast and with the blue.

It is not a coincidence that the term Mustard Blue is what has made some shots from Alex Mustard re-known and if you read his underwater photography masterclass there is a whole section ‘The sea is blue’ where Dr. Mustard goes on about the importance of exposure and background blue.

His suggestions are to:

  1. Dial in an underexposure (for the water) around -2/3 to -1 1/3 Ev
  2. Using warm strobes

It is worth stressing out that the primary reason why the camera gets fooled by the conditions underwater is because colours gets absorbed and blue lights gets scattered instead creating that milky glare at times when the water has lots of suspended particles.

If shoot an auto mode with exposure compensation at zero your pictures will for most part come out washed out and lacking contrast underwater and this is one the primary reasons photographer like Dr Mustard do not follow the expose to the right rules.

Underexposure for the water is obtained by keeping the aperture and ISO constant as they are aligned to the strobes and changing the shutter speed accordingly. Obviously if you are shooting video your shutter speed is most likely fixed so you need to find alternative ways to get your blue as you want it but generally you would still underexpose probably not as much.

With regards to warm strobes this is a fairly subtle point linked to the camera auto white balance mechanism.

Most flash strobes have colour temperatures between 5500 and 6500 K and therefore are not at all particularly warm.

Inon Z240 Standard and Warm diffuser

Inon has developed warming diffusers for their Z240 range and I believe also for the most recent Z330 range. They are available in 4600K and 4900K temperature. I definitely recommend the 4600K version over the 4900K as it has a stronger effect.

So how does a warm strobe work in order to get a richer blue?

Table of light sources – Olympus education

When we shoot with strobes the camera is set to auto white balance, and will average for most the subject we hit with our strobes to calculate the average colour temperature and tint.

The camera auto white balance operates between 2500K and 7500K typically so a warm strobe is likely to set the colour to 4600K instead of the typical 5500K the ‘extra’ 900K do not really do anything to the subject that will anyway we white balance but give an extra kick to the blue background. Underwater colour temperature is usually higher than 9000K and easily reaches 14000K (purple tone in the water) at depth. So the warm strobes are particularly effective in shallower and clearer water as they push the blue to a darker tint like in this example taken around 12 meters.

f/8 1/125 ISO 125

You can see how deep is the blue other example taken on the Barge at less than 10 meters.

Portrait in deep blue…

So what happens if you don’t have a warm strobe or if there aren’t warm diffusers for the strobe you have, or maybe you don’t want to spend the money for them?

Amazon comes to the rescue

If your strobe is around 5250 with diffusers (like Sea and Sea YS-D2 or Inon S2000/Z240/D200) get a 1/8 CTO

Rosco Cinegel sun 1/8 CTO, 20×24″ Color Correction Lighting Filter

You can find this filter also under Lee on colour 231, with a little amount you can get a half sheet that is enough for a few strobes.

This filter has a negligible -0.3 Ev light loss and will bring your strobe down to around 4600K .

If you have a fairly cool strobe you need a 1/4 CTO

Rosco un 1/4 CTO 20X24 Amber – Rosco RS340911

If you have something different you can try a mired shift calculator here

http://www.leefilters.com/lighting/mired-shift-calculator.html

Be careful not to exceed with this technique or subject will turn too warm.

An alternative and perhaps counterintuitive approach is to use cooling filters.

In this case the strobe light will become colder to emulate the water colour and the camera will need to be set to custom white balance.

In almost all cameras except Olympus that reach 14000K colour temperatures are limited to 10000K however they can be further enhanced to reach 11000K if you have an adjustment panel like the Panasonic or Sony cameras. Pushing the adjustment to the A gives extra 1K. This technique with a bare lens has however a limitation as when the custom white balance caps the colours go completely off.

In order to see what can the colour temperature setting do we can compare a normal grey card shot with one where the colour temp is 11000K and magenta is pushed to the max.

Grey card bare lens
Maxed out Custom White balance on Panasonic GH5

In order to cool down the strobes you need a cyan filter, the custom white balance can correct up to 2 stops Cyan but no more. You can trim a sheet of Rosco 4360 to fit into your diffuser as below. This takes around 1 stop Ev off the strobe.

Sea and Sea diffuser with a Cyan 60 gel

It important to stress that the predominant colour in blue and blue water is cyan not blue and this is what gives the washed out scattering. We want to keep the deep blues and get rid of light blue and green which ultimately is cyan the colour of water.

So the strobe will emulate the water and the camera custom white balance will set the colour restoring what was lost and giving us a full correct spectrum. This however only works until the water colour temperature gets to 11000K and this is not as deep as you may think it could be a low as 9-10 meters. A cyan 60 filter is approximately 9500K. You can see the colour in the image below.

Cyan 2 Stop results in Colour Temperature around 9500K

In this technique the strobe is not used to give colour but to eliminate shadows the custom white balance is going to give a deep colour that penetrates the whole frame so any subject in the distance will be colourful as well.

The benefit of this technique is that you may use wider apertures and even slower shutter speeds like in this 1/60 example here.

batfish formation 1/60 f/5.6 ISO 200

You can clearly see the orange colours of the anthias far behind in the frame.

The ultimate stretch of this technique is to combine a filter like the magic filter this can be used with both a Cyan 2 stops and also a Cyan 3 stops in deeper water. This technique is taxing on exposure as your strobes are half power and your exposure has 1 2/3 stops less however this is easily recovered as you tend to shoot at slower shutter speeds of 1/30 to 1/60 instead of 1/125 to 1/200 because the filter will give you the deeper blues.

Magic filters on WB slate

The magic filter adds around 3000K to you camera custom white balance ability reaching the 14000K where the water starts turning purple blue. To that regards due to the amount of red I do not recommend going to deep with the magic and keep it to a max of 13 meters as recommended on their website.

The magic filter is almost a perfect match for the Cyan 60 filter if you overlap them over the lens you get almost a neutral grey card the temperature is only 150K off while the tint is around 5 notches toward green in Lightroom.

Magic Filter + Cyan 60 results in almost neutral grey card

This cave shot I believe gives an idea and is taken with filter on lens and strobes.

Magic filter plus Cyan 60

I have also tried the magic filter with Cyan 90 however there are some side effect to consider. Firstly you get Cyan cast on the image at shallower depths. Second the magic filter has a tendency to turn purple below a certain depth so I recommend to use the magic with the Cyan 60 as you are certain that the foreground subject and the strobe filter will give you a neutral colour. If you are in deeper water and the temperature is above 10000K this will only result in a deeper blue and a warmer light on the subject that once RAW corrected will look just fine.

Conclusion

In this post I have tried to give you some tips on how to use gels to give deeper blue or richer colours to your wide angle. I would recommend to start with warming diffusers and then move to cyan filters and finally to magic filter and cyan filter in combination.

I will be demonstrating extensively this techniques during my 2020 Red Sea Liveaboard

A final word for video shooters. I am not aware of any add on warming diffusers for video lights and generally I have not seen LED warmer than 5000K therefore unless you shoot at 60p 1/125 it will be very hard to get deep blue at shallow depths without a lens filter.

See my other post for video specific tips.

Full size images are available on my flickr pages all images here are reduced to 1600 pixels for storage purposes.

The importance of Underwater white balance with the Panasonic gh5

One of the key steps in order to get the best underwater colours in your video is to perform a custom white balance.

This is true on land and on water because auto white balance only works in a specified range of color temperatures.

Panasonic GH5 advanced user manual

For our GH5 the range where auto works goes is approximately 3200-7500K. When the camera is working outside this range you get a colour cast. Let’s see with some examples:

Grey card Auto White Balance 8mm
Grey card Custom White Balance 8mm

In the example above I am taking a picture of a white balance reference card under warm lights that have a colour temperature of 2700K.

As you can see the auto white balance fails resulting in a yellowish tinge, while the shots taken after the custom white balance is accurate.

In terms of white balance card I use the Whibal G7 Studio 3.5″x6″ (8.9×15.2 cm). I found this card to work well underwater and I use it with a lanyard attached to a clip that I hook on my BCD D rings.

More info on the whibal here

It is possible to buy a larger card such as the reference that is 7.5″x10″ however this is cumbersome and I found the Studio version to work well with the Panasonic GH5 as it only uses the central part of the frame for white balance.

Custom white balance with the 8mm fisheye

Going back to our GH5 instruction manual you can also see that the camera white balance is limited to 10,000K which is the colour of blue sky.

Underwater due to light absorption at longer wavelengths red and orange disappear at depth and blue tends to scatter over suspended particles. So the colour temperature of water tends to be higher than 10,000K and also the blue is somewhat washed out by scattering.

This is the reason filters are essential because reduce the amount of blue or to say better cyan and bring the camera into a range where custom white balance works again.

I have already posted a whole range of observations on filters in a previous post so am not repeating here.

With the right filter for the water colour I dive in and with the appropriate white balance card you can get some pretty decent results with custom white balance.

To help the colour accuracy I have experimented with the Leeming Luts and I want to thank Paul Leeming for answering my obscure questions. Obviously you do not have to use the LUTs and you can design them yourself however I found that using the Cinelike D LUT I have a very good starting point for colour correction.

The starting point is a CineLike D profile with saturation, noise reduction and sharpness set to -5 all other settings to default as suggested by Paul, there is no need to lower the contrast as CineLike D is already a flat curve.

*Noise and sharpness have actually nothing to do with grading but are set to -5 as the GH5 applies sharpening and noise reduction even at -5 setting. Sharpening has generally a negative effect all around while noise reduction if required is better performed in the editor.

Looking at imaging resource tests of the GH5 we can appreciate that the camera colours are oversaturated by default.

the GH5 has around 113% over saturated colours

The GH5 tends to push deep colour and wash out cyan and yellow. This becomes apparent when we look at a white balanced clip uncorrected.

White balanced clip in final cut pro you can see how the water column is washed out whilst red and other dark colours are accurate

The Leeming Lut helps rebalancing the camera distorted colours and when you apply the camera LUT, provided you have followed the exposure instructions and applied the profile as described, the improvement is immediate.

The previous clip now with the CineLike D Leeming LUT applied

From here onwards it is possible to perform a better grading and work to improve the footage further.

For the whole read please look at Leeming Lut website

One other thing that I believe it is interesting is that while generally for ambient light or balanced light shots I do not actually trust the camera exposure and go -1/3 to -2/3 for close up shots exposing to the right greatly helps highlights recovery

In the two frames you can see the difference the LUT brings restoring the correct balance to the head of the turtle.

Turte detail the highlights appear blown out
Turtle detail with Leeming Lut applied

To be clear the turtle detail has been white balanced in water on the whibal card while using a Keldan Spectrum filter -2, then in fcpx automatic balancing is applied. The LUT brings out a better dynamic range from the same frames.

Obviously you are free to avoid lens filters and LUTs and to some extent it is possible to get similar results however the quality I obtain using automatic settings I believe is quite impressive.

I found myself most times correcting my own wrong exposures or wanting to increase contrast in scene where I had little however this only happens in sever circumstances where white balance and filters are at the limits.

Conclusion

There are many paths to get the right colours for your GH5 underwater videos in my opinion there are four essential ingredients to make your life easier and give your footage a jump start:

  • Take a custom white balance using a professional grade white balance card
  • Set the right picture profile and exposure when shooting
  • (Recommended) Use appropriate filters for the water conditions
  • Apply the appropriate LUT to eliminate the errors in the GH5 colour rendering in post processing

With the following settings producing a video like this is very simple and all your efforts are in the actual cutting of the clip.

Short clip that applies this blog tips

Please note some of the scenes that look off are shot beyond the working conditions of filters and white balance at around 25 meters…

which macro lens to pick for your gh5 or micro four third

I see many posts on line debating which macro lens is best for your micro four third system.

If I refer to the Nauticam system we have 4 macro lenses:

  • Olympus 30mm
  • Panasonic 30mm
  • Panasonic 45mm
  • Olympus 60mm

For the purpose of this article I will skip the Olympus 30mm as the Panasonic lens is known to be sharper and will focus on the other 3 lenses.

DxOMark is a popular tool for comparison as it gives you the results on one page. I have run it for the Oly 60 and the Pana 30 and 45 on the 20 Mpix OMD E-M1 MKII

DxOMark Comparison on Olympus OMD E-M1 MKII

Surprisingly the much more expensive Leica performs worse than the other cheaper models, this is confirmed on all internet sites running other type of tests.

What we can see is that there is little difference between the Panasonic 30mm and Olympus 60mm when it comes to image quality so whichever lens you choose your subject at the same level of magnification and aperture will have more or less the same detail.

Common Misconception: Shorter focal length give more depth of field

Many people think that using a longer lens is harder because there is less depth of field this is actually incorrect conceptually.

Let see why

Using an online calculatore like Dofmaster https://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

Enter for the Panasonic GH5 the following parameters

Circle of confusion: 0.015 mm

Focal length 30mm

Distance 10.5 cm (minimum distance of the 30mm Macro)

Aperture f/11

Result Total depth of field 0.3cm

Now enter

Focal Length 60mm

Distance 21 cm (as it achieves the same magnification)

Aperture f/11

Result Total depth of field 0.3cm

So depth of field is not a consideration when choosing a macro lens…

Shooting a subject close to the background

In the following 3 shots am taking an image of a widget at f/11 at 29-44-60 mm on a Leica 12-60 (it is just easier it makes no difference to the outcomes)

Shot at 60mm
Shot at 44mm
Shot at 29mm

At the same aperture you can clearly see that there are no difference whatsoever in the detail and actually overall in the picture you don’t notice anything.

Shooting a subject far from the background

For the second shot I have moved the widget away from the wall.

Shot at 60mm
Shot at 44mm
Shot at 29mm

Again there is no difference in the level of detail of the widget however looking at the background we can see that

  • The 60mm shot reveals one brick and less than one quarter
  • The 44mm shot reveals one brick and a half
  • The 29mm shot reveals two bricks

So while the subject is exactly the same as the 60mm lens has a narrower field of view we see much less of the background.

This means that if you are shooting a nudibranch on the sand or something flat on a rock you won’t notice anything however if there is space behind the subject you will capture much more of that resulting in less subject isolation.

Underwater Comparison 30 vs 60 mm

In the first shot the Rhinopia is taken with a 60mm lens

Rhinopia Olympus 60mm

In the second shot the same Rhinopia with the 30mm (in a different place to be fair)

I have marked up with red the areas that with a longer focal length would have been minimised.

Which Lens to choose?

Now that we have clarified that depth of field is not a consideration and as each macro lens will have the same magnification there are only two factors that matter:

  1. Working distance
  2. Isolation from background

The 60 mm will have a longer working distance and at the same magnification will isolate the subject better from busy backgrounds, the 60 mm is also better for skittish subject because of the longer working distance. I have this lens and I have borrowed the 30mm in couple of occasions but do not have the 30mm yet.

There are however situations where longer working distance is not a benefit, specifically when the visibility is poor and there are suspended particles or the subject is really large.

In the example below I was at one meter from the two frogfish, a 30mm would have been better however the shot came OK.

Hairy frogfish Olympus 60mm

Conclusion

I believe the Olympus 60mm is a must lens to have. To date I have not felt the need for the Panasonic 30mm that is indeed a very sharp lens because I have always managed to pull out the shots. However for someone diving in murky water and focussing on nudibranches or subject laying flat on the seabed the Panasonic 30mm could be a better choice. I also want to say that using the 14-42mm at 42mm for me is actually a better choice for portraits and with a close up lens works very well with small subject not super macro and therefore as I already own the 14-42mm and various diopter for me the 30mm is not on the shopping list.

Getting the best colors in your underwater video with the panasonic gh5

There is no doubt that the Panasonic GH5 is a very capable camera and in given conditions the video performance you can get is truly impressive.

Broadly speaking a video clip needs to be:

  1. Sharp
  2. Colorful
  3. Contrasty
  4. Clean

Those 4 characteristics are tightly related to:

  1. Resolution
  2. Color depth
  3. Dynamic range
  4. Low Noise

Resolution

Today everyone shoots 4K and after all resolution is well supported by almost any camera, broadly is unaffected by other factors and unless the noise is really high sharpness of your frame is not going to be a real issue shooting at 4K.

Color depth

In normal conditions and not underwater a camera can resolve many colors. However underwater due to the diffraction of light and selective absorption of colours the starting point is very different from land. So generally is not the camera that cannot resolve the colors but the colors that are missing to start with. This post will focus specifically on this aspect. The Panasonic GH5 can resolve 23.8 bits in RAW and therefore technically has less than 8 bits color depth – do not confuse this with the 8 or 10 bit recording setting.

Dynamic Range

Underwater scenes tend to have limited dynamic range, with the exception of sunbursts or shooting against the light this is going to be an issue only in specific circumstances of very bright scenes with shadows. In all scenes taken with video lights dynamic range is not an issue at all. The GH5 has 13 stops of dynamic range but rarely this is an important consideration.

Noise

Noise is an important consideration as when the noise goes up the camera looses the other characteristics, color, dynamic range and resolution will be affected when the camera is outside the sweet spot. Broadly speaking the Panasonic GH5 does not do well once you pass the ISO 1600 setting and I tend to cap the ISO in video at 800 in most cases.

Diving Conditions

To understand how those variables play we can see how the same set up reacts very differently in scene where there is less light and therefore the camera uses high ISO like this one.

The same camera with exactly the same equipment in brighter water produces this

So the reason for the above is that with less light there are less colours and the clip looks what it is really.

OK moving on to the main subject of this post how do I get the colors right? It is a combination of techniques and the trick is to use the right one in the right conditions.

Generally every site has specific conditions that change depending on weather, time of the day, visibility and other factors. So in broad terms a site will have more or less light and therefore more or less colours. It is therefore impossible to categorically define what to do at a given depth but is more about typical values. With this in mind we have typically 3 scenarios:

  1. Ambient light shots
  2. Artificial light shots
  3. Balanced light shots

Close up Shots

In general close up shots especially of small subject fall within the scenario 2 for which a video light with high color rendering is important as this will define the colours you see. With a lot of power it is possible to extend artificial lighting to larger subjects but eventually you run out of power due to distance or size of the subject.

Wide angle shots and seascapes

True wide angle shots are generally ambient light shots which also means when it gets too dark the colors will be missing and it will look blue not matter the equipment.

In order to make the most of ambient light shots for wide angle it is essential to balance the colours in water even when you use a RAW format on a still image because RAW files are not as RAW as you think and are actually compressed.

Custom White Balance

Using Custom White balance with a grey card it is possible to obtain decent results until the camera hits the maximum color temperature in the case of the Panasonic GH5 this is 9900K. Depending on conditions you may get to 10-12 meters and this still works, in darker water this stops working much sooner.

Chrisoula K Bow
Chrisoula K Ambient Light 5 meters

Color Filters

Color filters push the limit of custom white balance further down. Some add more or less 4 meters others up to 6-8 meters at the expense of an overall loss of light. Filters are useful when there is a lot of light because also help to keep the Panasonic Gh5 in the best aperture range (not smaller than f/11)

Filter in action at 10 meters

Right now there are predominantly 3 filters on the market:

  1. UR PRO
  2. Magic filter
  3. Keldan Spectrum

All those filters will improve the performance and color rendering of your footage, under the conditions that the loss of light is not pushing the camera above reasonable ISO values.

In terms of depth range the magic filter and the Keldan Spectrum -2 version can be pushed to 15 meters depth on a bright day in clear water. The URPRO is capable of getting a few meters more down to around 17-18 meters although it does generate an orange cast (as there is no red left) it is still workable.

FilterLight LossTypical Max Depth
Magic Filter1 2/3 Ev15 meters
Keldan Spectrum -22 stop (WWL)12 meters
URPRO 1 2/3 Ev18 meters

This image gives an idea of the 3 filters as you can see they are very different one from the other.

Keldan top URPRO bottom Magic filter

Balanced Wide Angle Shots

This is an entirely new technique that has started with the Keldan Ambient light filters. I wrote a whole piece on wetpixel

The principle is to use custom white balance with or without filter to obtain color rendering and then put filters on the video light so that the color of the light emulates the ambient light and therefore it only gives texture not color.

Keldan has developed a whole range of filters for various situation that match their light and therefore are not applicable to any other light.

As I do not own a set of Keldan I have done some tests and found that a gel of Cyan filter 2 or 3 stops makes my divepro G18+ practically ambient light in the conditions I dive into.

FilterCyan Strength
Magic Filter2 stops
Keldan Spectrum1 1/2 stops
URPRO3 stops

The above value are based on my experience use at your own risk especially with different lights.

Square Cyan 2 stops Round Cyan 3 stops

To give an idea I overlapped the filter to my iPhone lens

This is the shot without any filters

Original Shot

URPRO and Cyan 3 stops (darker)
Magic filter and cyan 2 stops accurate
Keldan and cyan 2 stops accurate

This example shows that the two filters cancel themselves the result is almost daylight with no cast which means in water if you use a video light or a strobe you will not see a red or orange spots on the image.

For those taking pictures the same combination remains true with Inon Z240 and Sea and Sea YS-D2

Example picture here

five in a row
My own filter and Cyan 3 stop note that the light is coming from the other side

One thing to take into account is that you need to find a way to hold the gel on the video light or the strobes. The flat surface strobe diffusers make this process easy, finding something you can use with your video lights is not easy and also the gels may melt after continuous use.

Artificial lights

It comes a point and a depth where filters stop working, this could be as shallow as 8 meters in green water. As the scene is dark using lights is what is required. There is nothing specific about this technique except making sure you don’t get burned highlights or backscatter. As it happens in photography using long arms (maybe not as long as for stills) is key to get good lighting on your subject.

My Camera Settings

I use CineLike D with saturation, sharpness and noise reduction to -5. I shoot at 24/25p AVCI 400 mbps and follow the 180 rules, it is entirely possible to shoot at 1/100 if you like more crisp look.

Clearly there are people out there that do not like filters and think white balance is best etc but I think a good read on magic filters explains it all.

http://www.magic-filters.com/need.html

NAUTICAM WWL-1:THE BEST WIDE ANGLE LENS FOR UNDERWATER VIDEO (ON THE GH5 AND OTHER MICRO FOUR THIRDS)

It has been almost 4 years since my first review of the Nauticam WWL-1 wet wide angle lens and a few accessories later this lens is definitely my all time favourite for underwater video with my GH5.

I do not want to repeat myself and beat to death the topic of sharpness in corners I would rather recap on the other benefits of this lens that really make it unique for underwater video. Obviously this lens is very valid also for still images because of the ability to zoom through but this is not the focus of this post.

So let’s have a look at the three killer features of this lens that make it really special

Field of view

The WWL-1 once combined with the Panasonic 14-42mm MKII (the best lens to combine with the WWL-1 in my view) offers a field of view of 130 degrees diagonal. But what does that really mean?

First the WWL-1 does not compare with a rectilinear lens in fact it is almost a fisheye lens as we can see from those shots of a pool wall.

WWL-1 at 14mm wide end

The barrel distortion is evident correcting the image in lightroom gives an idea although not 100% correct of what is the real field of view of the lens.

WWl-1 at 14mm with distortion correction at 100

What is interesting to see is that the WWL-1 like a fisheye lens offers a much wider diagonal field of view than on the other dimensions.

I have compared the WWL-1 with other rectilinear lenses and with the 8mm fisheye.








Horizontal  25 50 100 200 FOV Linear Ratio to FE
7-14mm@7 62 124 248 496 102 57%
8-18mm@8 54 108 216 432 94 50%
12-60mm@12 36 72 144 288 72 33%
WWL-1 61 122 244 488 102 56%
Fisheye 8mm 109 218 436 872 130 100%







Vertical 25 50 100 200 FOV
7-14mm@7 46 92 184 368 86 84%
8-18mm@8 41 82 164 328 78 75%
12-60mm@12 27 54 108 216 57 49%
WWL-1 39 78 156 312 75 71%
Fisheye 8mm 55 110 220 440 96 100%







Diagonal 25 50 100 200 FOV
7-14mm@7 77 154 308 616 114 13%
8-18mm@8 68 136 272 544 107 12%
12-60mm@12 45 90 180 360 84 8%
WWL-1 107 214 428 856 130 18%
Fisheye 8mm 583 1166 2332 4664 170 100%

The table I have prepared uses the equisolid equation for a fisheye lens to map the WWL-1 I have verified the values and I can confirm the WWL-1 is somehow equivalent to 10.06mm fisheye lens.

There are two things that are worth noting, the first is that on the horizontal and vertical axis the WWL-1 is not wider than the Panasonic 7-14mm at 7mm. The other consideration is that with the WWL-1 the 4:3 format frame starts to become a classic 3:2 as the ration width/height is 1.56.

When we work in video at 16:9 we crop out most of the diagonal part leaving the rest of the field of view intact this means that in video mode the lens is much more rectilinear and the barrel distortion more contained.

14mm WWL-1 cropped at 16:9

If we look at a frame at 25mm we can see that at 4:3 the level of distortion is reduced but still present.

WWL-1@25mm

.The corrected frame shows the residual distortion.

WWL-1@25mm corrected
WWL-1@25mm 16:9 crop

The level of residual distortion in video mode is pretty negligible at 25mm. At 35mm even in 4:3 mode the WWL-1 is practically straight.

The benefit of the distortion of the WWL-1 is such that if you are shooting large sharks for example the barrel distortion makes those sharks look large in the centre of the frame and when they go out of the frame you don’t have the pull effect of a classic rectilinear lens behind a dome. At the same time if you need to shoot some divers or lines that are straight you can zoom in and still cover a pretty wide field of view.

Stabilization

The other benefit of the WWL-1 is that allows you to use lenses that are stabilised, today any lens at the 7-8mm range on micro four third has no stabilisation which means you need to use the in body stabiliser if available with your camera. For the GH5 this means that choosing a lens like the 14-42 MkII gives you access to Dual IS combining body and lens stabiliser and IS lock that really is useful when finning around. I just want to make sure that I am clear I am talking of this lens

https://www.panasonic.com/uk/consumer/cameras-camcorders/lumix-camera-lenses/lumix-g-lenses/h-fs1442ae.html

The Panasonic 14-42PZ power zoom is NOT compatible with dual IS so if you use this lens you either have in body or lens stabiliser not both. Obviously if you have a camera without stabilisation like the GH5s or the BMPCC 4K all of this is less relevant but still you can have some stabilisation instead of nothing.

I have not shot a comparative Dual IS vs Lens IS vs nothing in the pool but I am planning to do that soon. I can only say once you have dual IS with IS lock you don’t want to go back.

Filters

The final killer feature of the WWL-1 is that it gives you access to the Keldan Spectrum filters review here http://wetpixel.com/articles/review-keldan-spectrum-and-ambient-filters-by-massimo-franzese

Personally I think that any dive down to 18 meters in tropical or subtropical water will benefit from a filter but I also believe that conditions may change and in some cases you want to take the filter off. Now most of the rectilinear lenses for the GH5 do not even take a filter but also consider that once you fit one in dome port you are stuck with it for the dive. With the WWL-1 and the Keldan filter if you feel there is too little light and you want to get rid of the filter you can.

Keldan filter in action

DivePro G18 Plus video lights review

I managed to get hold of a pair of DivePro G18 Plus samples last week to use for my wide angle video hereby my thoughts on this product that I believe could be interesting for many video shooters.

Construction and technical data: solid anodised aluminium smoothly finished. Jaunt has decided to expose the battery that screws into the light head as oppose to house the battery itself into the light a more conventional design. The light features a Cree CXB3590 LED with a color temperature of 5000K and a CRI of 92 with declared output of 18,000 Lumens and a 95 degree beam angle. The battery delivers 14.4V with a total capacity of 6800 mAh giving an autonomy of 52 minutes at full power of 105 minutes at half power. The technical specifications of Creed LED give full details of the light used https://www.cree.com/led-components/media/documents/ds-CXB3590.pdf

When you look at page 14 performance group EB you see 15000 lumens nominal per bin, take into account that the array has an efficiency of 120% so this gives you the nominal lumens. In terms of viewing angle the nominal beam in air is 115 degrees and this in water gives you 100 degrees according to my calculations am not sure how Jaunt worked out 95 degrees. Looking at page 10 you can see that even at CRI=90 there is a spike in the navy blue colour this is most likely to show in water when combined with close up lenses as blue fringing and should be completely irrelevant at wide angle.

The provided chargers delivery only 1A with a declared charging time of 8 hours that frankly is totally unacceptable for a video light.

I recommend getting a spare battery the code is DivePro B06. The light has a color indication for the charge level around the switch button that is simple and effective at the same time although you don’t get your residual time in minutes as you do from some other products.

Ergonomics: the light feels very much like a torch and when attached to the included ball mount is very bottom heavy. The fresh water weight is 350 grams and becomes 370 grams with the mount. The light feels very well built, smooth and rugged.

Dry weight of the G18 Plus
Weight in fresh water

The light switch system allows for 100% 50% and any intensity from 1% to full power however this is slightly difficult to use, there is also an SOS feature. Generally the light feels well designed with few small niggles, the ball attachment is quite long this is not an issue except the light is already heavy on the bottom whilst the attachment to the arm is in the front part this creates a significant torque especially on land. Use of a bespoke underwater float is advised. Another minor issue of the ball mount is that it is not actually 1” but 2.65 cm. 1mm may seem little but it does bring the clamp off balance making it easier to loose grip. I recommend changing the o-rings with normal buna rings to reduce the size and improve grip if you use Ultralight, Inon or Nauticam arm systems. Another small issue of the switch system is that at rest on land the button may hit the floor. Previous version of the light switch on immediately at button press now Jaunt has changed the logic of the switch on to a long 2 second press to avoid accidentally switching on the light.

Video with the old switch mode

As the light overheats outside water this will prevent LED burnout. I had the latest version of the light, other copies on the market may still have the old logic check carefully yours.

Torch shape of the G16 Plus

Field test: Testing the light in a tank confirms the beam angle and the battery life as per specification more detailed testing is only possible in the pool.

I tested the lights in a pool with a 5 meters deep end. Pools have controlled conditions to check how the lights fall off and what is the real life coverage of the lights for your lens. It is not possible to provide a real test of the geometry of a light in the sea unless you know exactly the dimensions of what you are shooting and you have flat surfaces. I have some diving end of April in the Mediterranean will provide an update later on open water performance especially in terms of color rendering that I have not checked in the pool.

Beam angle: I took a series of stills at 80, 100, 150 from the axis of the lights using arms 28” long to which you need to add the length of the tray to determine where the light beams will meet.

As expected at 80 cm you see two separate circles of light, this become an elliptical shape at 100 cm and fill the frame at 125 cm with small fall off at the edges.

Dark Shadow as the lights are too close to the pool wall to merge the beams.

This pool shot gives an idea of the coverage only the edges are dark and the light is very nicely distributed. I have removed the reflections of the lights on the wall as they are distracting. 

1 Meter distance from the WWL-1 shot (1.15cm from light axis)

In order to understand the light falloff I ran the stills into a monitor equipped with false colour you can see the results here the lights are in my opinion very convincing and still deliver at 1.5 meters distance although you may need to pump up the ISO.

False colour shows good distribution of the beam across the frame. Note this is a 4:3 shot the 16:9 crop is the red frame

I would think that with this angle of coverage a distance of 30” between the two lights is ideal with my rig this means two 8” segments however this may create ergonomic issues so I settled at 5 + 8 this gives an arm length of 21” and with the GH5 26” from centre. Considering a WWL-1 set up with the front of the lens 6” ahead this means shooting distances up to 1 meters from the front of the lens covering a frame width of around 3.5×2.0 m that is a huge surface.

After the pool test I noticed a number of scratches in the paint clearly the coating is not the same quality of more expensive lights.

Conclusion

Overall the lights have great performance in terms of power, beam distribution and are very well built with excellent autonomy. Issues to note and suggested remediation:

  1. The chargers that come with the lights are inadequate. A 2A charger would be better and would halve the charge time without damaging the battery pack, here some links for  third party 16.8V/2A chargers:
    1. UK https://amzn.to/2YPyg4G
    2. US https://amzn.to/2HZEJoK
    3. Germany https://amzn.to/2I2hN83
  2. The clamp position creates an issue of pitch in water obviously if you manage to have some floatation system for the individual light this is no longer a problem.
  3. The light intensity adjustment is not effective and you can’t really tell if the two lights are set the same. Obviously this is only an issue if you need less than 9000 lumens for example for close shots. There is no easy solution to this problem other than controlling the two lights simultaneously.

Considering the price point and the quality this light competes with the Gates GT14 and the Keldan 8X and when it comes to power, CRI, autonomy and price beats them both in terms of durability and ergonomics they appear to be a level down but they are also less expensive.

Jaunt is setting up relationships with distributors in major markets and in UK there is already one so everybody should be able to get a set of lights. Depending on location, duties and import regulations the price will change but generally I have seen it remain competitive.

Macro video with the Panasonic gh5

Broadly speaking with the GH5 as well as with any other camera you have four categories of close up work:

  1. Close-up – frame size 10 cm or 4″ and wider typically hand held
  2. Super close-up – frame size 5cm or 2″ preferably on tripod
  3. Macro – frame size below 2″ only on tripod
  4. Super macro – frame size below 1″

For still images a typical choice is the Olympus 60mm, this lens however is very narrow so for any subject that is not too small and for the first category of close up you end up having working distances well above one foot. This in turns means more water to go through and makes it virtually impossible to cover larger subjects.

If you make that choice is because you have skittish subjects that do not like proximity and are very small. Furthermore the Olympus 60mm has not stabilisation and therefore with our GH5 will only use in-body stabilisation. Another side effect of using this lens is that it is impossible to take shots of divers or anything else at medium range so the videos end up being a collection of very close shots that may please someone but result fairly boring.

Of course you can make this kind of video exciting to an extent like here

But at the end for me something like this is more fun although of course the quality is very different (I shot this years ago with a Panasonic LX7 and edited in iMovie)

The difference between the stunning video of Dustin and the basic video of mine is that you only have very close shots in the first one and frankly a slideshow of still images would be equally nice. There is no description of any sort of where is the fish what are the conditions or anything at all. You may argue that the stuff to see is not that nice but at the end this gives you a real idea of the diving where you go which is the purpose of my videos and majority of non Pro people. Furthermore medium size subjects that move like octopus, squids, crabs will almost always exhibit some kind of behaviour.

My macro video rig is built around the Panasonic 14-42 MKII which is the same lens I use for wide angle video with the Nauticam WWL-1. In effect am running video like a compact set up.

GH5 Macro Video Rig as at 29 March 2019

Ergonomics and lens

  1. The field of view with at 42mm is only 23 degrees horizontal and 13 degrees height this is ideal for portrait type of work
  2. I still use my old Sola 1200 video lights that can be used with a 20 degree beam creating a snoot like effect to better isolate your subject. It can be argued that color rendering index of newer lights is better but I think the narrow coverage of the lights is more important. Consider that at wide end the field of view is less than 60 degrees anyway with the flat port at 18mm
  3. I use two close-up lenses with a Saga dual flip diopter
  4. The rig as described is heavy in water more than 700 grams negative to ensure the required stability
  5. The tripod base has 2x 3″ segments and 1x 5″ segment to be as close as possible to the bottom this creates issue if you do not have a monitor as you need to have your face in the sand however once the shot is framed all is good

Close-up lenses

I use two close up lenses with this rig as the 14-42mm as a working distance in water around 26cm and a minimum frame size around 9cm that is pretty wide.

SubSee 5 wet lens

The SubSee 5 is in the sweet spot for the 14-42mm lens because it starts working pretty much when the 14-42mm can-t focus anymore and down to around 10-12 cm working distance. Minimum frame size is 46 mm

SubSee 5 + 14-42@42mm

Using the Ex-Tele feature in video means we can get to 33mm which is below the 36mm classic DSLR 1:1

When this is insufficient and the subjects are really tiny the next lens is the Nauticam CMC-2

Nauticam CMC-2 on Saga dual flip holder

The CMC-2 gives a frame size of 32mm as in this image

Panasonic 14-42@42mm with CMC-2

Using Ex-tele this becomes 23mm which is the same you get with the CMC-1 without ex-tele and is plenty for any purpose. It is theoretically possible to stack the two close up lenses but is not really necessary and the working distance too small. The CMC-2 works around 6-7 cm so you have still space for lights etc.

Olympus 60mm

Is there any use for this lens? Of course there is in case you want to capture a frame smaller than 23mm with the 60mm you can get down to 17mm with the bare lens to 12mm with the Ex tele, 9 mm with the CMC-1 and 6 mm with CMC-1 and ex tele. Will you be able to focus and work with the CMC-2 at 22mm from the subject is another discussion however for skittish subjects it gives you more working distance and this may be needed. I would recommend taking this lens with you for those cases but for video I do not see how you can really use the CMC-1. Please note the CMC-2 is useless with the 60mm as the working distance improvement is minimal to none.

Travelling light – Part I Chargers

Disclaimer: there are many USB chargers out there and not all of them have performance level adequate to support your underwater photography needs. Make sure that each USB-Type A outlet is at least 10W and that the total power equals 10xnumber of outlets as a minimum or your USB charging will be slow. If you get an USB-C charger make sure that the power allocated to the USB-A outlets is enough or your laptop will charge very fast but your batteries will take forever. The product I am suggesting here have been researched and I have tested them on the field I do not take responsibility if you get something different because it looks cheaper or newer. In case of doubt happy to take questions.

Few months ago I booked a shark diving trip. Looking at the boat specs I realised the vessel was smaller than those I have travelled in the past and therefore I was concerned that with many photographers on boat it would have really been a struggle to have all my chargers especially as there were only shared cabins. Furthermore many boats do not allow anymore to charge batteries in your cabin to reduce the risk of fires,

I put my items on a scale and I realised how much this whole set up weights

Charger spaghetti and one strip

I contacted the boat that told me strips were available for power but of course US format so not good for me. 1.8 Kg for a single AA battery fast charger, laptop power supply, phone charger, camera batteries charger. 1.8 Kg without even including the back up AA charger in the image below. Of course I can find a lighter strip or have a number of US adapters but you can see this is not heading in the right direction.

Chargers for a typical underwater photography typical trip

I recently bought a new MacBook Pro that only has USB C ports this has made me realised how powerful USB has now become with USB C you can deliver power to charge a large laptop as well as transfer at light speed images and especially videos. I will write another post on how to make your physical media management more effective but for now let’s focus on power.

At the same time in our home there is competition for charging tablets, phones and all sorts of other portable equipment by USB.

I thought would not be nice to have a multi USB charger? Do they even exist and the answer is yes. See below a product I bought for home and travel use that can power up to 4 devices.

Wall Charger, RAVPower 40W 8A 4-Port USB Charger with iSmart 2.0, Travel Adaptor for iPhone XS/XR/XS Max/8/8 Plus, Galaxy S9/S8/Note 8, iPad, Tablet, Kindle, Power Bank & More – Black

£15.99 to end all our struggles seemed a great deal. You can directly click the image above to buy it on amazon.

In US this is $16.99 so even cheaper

RAVPower USB Wall Charger 40W 8A 4-Port Multi-Port Travel Charger Charging Station, Compatible iPhone Xs Max XR X, iPad Pro Air Mini, Galaxy S9 S8 Note 8 Edge, Smartphone, Tablet and More

From there I started thinking is there a way to charge AA batteries using USB after all the current requirements are quite low?

So I found this other product that did the job and can charge 4 AA or AAA batteries for £14.99 on Amazon. Note that despite the misleading description the two chargers are identical except one has micro USB and the other also USB-C. The USB-C version is slightly bigger (70x90x23 mm USB version vs 97x114x34mm USB C)

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
EBL 2-hour Super fast AA AAA Rechargeable Battery Charger with Battery Intelligent Auto-detection Tech for 1-4 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Links to Amazon.com

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
AMAZON.COM
EBL 2-hour Super fast AA AAA Rechargeable Battery Charger with Battery Intelligent Auto-detection Tech for 1-4 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
AMAZON.COM

From there I moved to camera batteries and I found another product that allows to charge two batteries at the same time as battery consumption for video is huge. £8.49 seems a bargain click and see for yourself!

Newmowa Dual USB Charger for Panasonic DMW-BLF19 and Panasonic DMC-GH3,DMW-GH4 (DMW-BLF19 Dual USB Charger)

DSTE Rapid Dual Battery Charger with Micro USB Cable for Panasonic DMW-BLF19E BLF19 Battery on Amazon US

The above for the Panasonic GH5/5 etc the following for other cameras

Nikon EN-EL15 for D8xx series on Amazon UK

Nikon EN-EL15 for D8xx series on Amazon US

Sony FW-50 for A7 series on Amazon UK

Sony FW-50 for A7 series on Amazon US

Olympus BLN-1 for OMD series on Amazon UK

Olympus BLN-1 for OMD series on Amazon US

Canon LP-E6 for 5D series Amazon UK

DSTE Dual USB Charger for Canon LP-E6 LP-E6N EOS 5D Mark II III 5DS 5DS R 6D 7D 60D 60Da 70D 80D 7D Mark II III XC10 EOS R BG-E22 Digital Camera Amazon US

When you hit the page you can also buy compatible batteries this is not recommended please buy original batteries there is a whole world of difference.

At this stage my travel charger was using 2 ports for AA batteries 1 for camera dual battery charger with one spare for the phone or other devices.

I though is there a charger that also has a UBC charging port so I can also get rid of the laptop charger and there is £27.99 on amazon click on the image to go directly there.

USB C PD Charger, RAVPower 60W 5-Port Power Delivery Desktop Charging Station with 1 Type-C PD Port up to 45W for MacBook, 4 iSmart 2.0 Ports for iPhone XS/XR/XS MAX-Black
Amazon.com Link

At this point streamlining was complete. As additional benefit the desktop charger has a removable power plug so you can get your cable for EU or US or any other country the device will work anywhere. The only item still to be worked on are video lights but with batteries of 99 Wh this is not yet possible.

I put all on the scale well it speaks for itself 1 KG less

Of course many people do not have USB C powered laptops yet but this is changing so I would recommend getting a charger with USB C however if you don’t want or need that there is also a charger without with 4 or 6 ports

USB Charger, RAVPower 40W 4-Port Desktop Charger Mains Plug with iSmart for iPhone XS XR XS MAX, iPad, Galaxy S9, Mobile Phones, Tablet -Black
Amazon.com link
RAVPower USB Charger, USB Charging Stations with 60W 6-Port Multi Plug Charger for iPhone XS/XR/XS Max, Galaxy S9 – Black
Amazon.com link

Of course you have put all eggs in one basket now but frankly it was the same also before if one of the charger would fail and besides you will find USB chargers on a resort or a boat as anybody as a phone. Worst case you can bring two power suppliers however this looks unnecessary to me.

I hope you find this useful feel free to share this page with your friends and use the links on here. I have looked into products in details those are the best ones that have the features you need (2.4A current at least 45W USC B won’t bore you with details but trust me this is what you need).

Tips to make the most of underwater time