Sony RX100 – Tips for UW Video Part 6 – Housing Choices

I have a been a bit busy lately fighting with the MTS video files that the RX100 produces, I finally have an automated tool that converts all files into MP4 ready for iMovie that works a breeze.

Anyway this post is not about that workflow but about housing choices. I have received quite a few inquiries about housing choices and although I am not associated with any manufacturer or reseller I thought it would be a good idea to share my thinking.

When I had to choose a housing for the Canon S95 I chose a Recsea, in fact my buddy uses it, the latest WHC-S95D for still pictures and it looks pretty much like this.

A few bits got me frustrated with the Recsea housing one was the rear control.

This may look great but I have been frustrated when underwater the pressing of the buttons was mistaken for rotating the dial itself.

The other thing that I thought was pretty poor was the cold shoe for the focus light, this is a small piece of metal and the screws need to be treated with thread lock if you don’t want to lose it underwater.

Not to mention the mode dial that is really stiff.

Finally the bottom of the housing where the screws go is made of steel threads, in fact you should be careful not to leave an aluminum tray in salt water as it might corrode the housing. This may seem unlikely but I have seen other Recsea housing with huge speckles that mean corrosion.

Recsea produced a housing for the Canon S100 that introduced a front ring like the one on the camera itself but the housing remains the same of the S95 for the other features.

The choice of the Recsea housing over others at the time was mainly because it was easier and more cost-effective to get adapters for the Inon AD lenses I have.

So when the new  housing for the RX100 came out, first on the market from Recsea, I studied carefully the pictures to see how specific issues had been addressed. In essence the  housing for the RX100 is the same of the Canon S100 and has the same annoyances that I did not like with the S95.

So I waited until Nauticam came out with their product, which is in fact made by the same plant that did the Fisheye-fix for the S90/95/100 we can recognize the same features in this housing.

The first is that there is no integrated rear dial,  the buttons are separated from the rotation, this means the housing is very precise and there is never confusion in button presses and response from the camera.

The second is the top of the housing itself, the mode dial is smooth and the cold shoe is top quality as it was the fix s100.

The cold shoe is robust and takes easily not only adapters for 1/2″ loc-line but also 3/4″ which is great.

Finally as it was on the fix housing the bottom of the housing has got two zinc plates to act as cathodes and avoid corrosion.

There are other two incredible plus points of the Nauticam housing:

  • the moisture alarm, I don’t recall seeing one for a compact but the Nauticam has got it and it works as well
  • The housing has an M67 thread that allows you to mount lenses without adapters

Personally I don’t like M67 wide angle options for the RX100 as those are heavy lenses in water however if you already have them than you are sorted.

What about the Ikelite housing? Ikelite had issues of sticky buttons with the Canon S100 so for the Rx100 they have gone back to a large form factor. Personally I don’t believe a polycarbonate housing of such size is very appealing however if money is lacking this is the only choice at the bottom. It does not come anywhere near the quality and features of Nauticam or Recsea.

There is also another housing from Patima that has just been released, I have just seen the pictures and  it does not look particularly attractive, the closing latch looks ancient,  the rear section has button and dials too close and the control ring control placed on top of the camera is just unpractical. It is priced at source at $699 so 27% cheaper than the Nauticam, but this comes at a price: there are plenty of design shortcuts that may create usage issues underwater.

In conclusion the Nauticam I believe offers the best quality and value for money for the RX100, with the exception of the front ring being operated in a traditional mode I don’t see any faults with this set up and I would recommend it for both video and stills, if you don’t have that amount of money and you want to use your RX100 just for video then the Ikelite is worth a try, but not if you want to use the camera also for stills. Nothing specific to Ikelite but transparent housing give too many issues with strobes to even bother.

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Sony RX100 – Tips for UW Video Part 5 – Video Modes

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take the rig in the pool and try the steadyshot in water. Clearly it is not really accurate to compare like I have done but it gives an idea you can check it out

This made me think about the video modes implemented in the RX100, as we know there are 4 surprisingly for a compact:

  1. Program
  2. Aperture Priority
  3. Shutter Speed Priority
  4. Manual

The manual option may sound very exciting to someone that comes from still photography but in the end is not that significant in video. Not sure how many have heard about the ‘180 degrees shutter rule’ anyway google it there is some good explanation there. In essence once you fix the frame rate you have pretty much fixed the shutter speed as well so this takes away one of the exposure variables, we are left with aperture and ISO.

Aperture is available in 1/3 of Ev however in wide angle shots with a wet lens most of the times with subjects 10 feet or 3 meters away the camera even with this size sensor has so much depth of field that there is no much point bothering.

ISO in video goes from 125 to the max in 1 f-stop increments so after 200 you have 400, 800 and higher values that are not good for video as the H264 compression makes the footage grainy. I would recommend limiting the max auto iso to 800 or maybe 1600.

So the manual mode allows you to set the exposure, now is that a good thing? As seen earlier on Part 2 this is indeed a good thing in specific situations such as wreck penetration, caves and the likes. It is not however that great for general wide angle and if you ever happen to do camera pan or change the angle of the camera. Panning is not that great in underwater video but sometimes you need it and fixing the exposure is not a good idea.

So the Manual mode is good to take control of the camera in specific situation but in most cases is an overkill as there are not many parameters you can really change independently.

Following on from the shutter speed 180 rule the shutter priority is also pretty useless as we should set the shutter value to a multiple of the frame rate to avoid stuttering.

Aperture priority is instead a great value add of the RX100. Diligently the camera will try and respect the 180 degree shutter rule but in specific cases, for example when doing macro with diopters or in close up, we want to really make sure we have the depth of field required. In that scenario I recommend leaving the ISO on Auto and not set it manually.

So why Auto ISO? Because changing ISO in a digital camera is done amplifying the signal, is not changing film, so in effect the ISO does not need to go in f-stop values at all. So leaving it on ISO the camera might as well apply values that you cannot choose manual.
This uneventful picture taken with the RX100 and an Inon UWL105AD shows a value of 320 in ISO as it has been shot in program mode.

We could not select this value if we were setting the ISO manually but would have needed to choose between 200 or 400.

Aperture priority is my favorite mode for those special situation where extra control is needed.

So what about the Program Mode? Actually that is not bad at all, especially for wide angle shots, as mentioned the shutter speed is pretty much set, in program the camera tries to keep the lowest ISO as possible and opens the aperture accordingly. This behavior may be acceptable with sufficient ambient light so I would not discount this mode at all.

Not bad for program mode with no lights…

A final note the camera uses a shutter speed of double the frame rate in Active Steadyshot and the same as frame rate in standard mode, also for this reason I do not recommend the standard steadyshot even if Active crops the picture in the 1080p50 mode