Panasonic LX7 reference compact for underwater video

So I finally had the opportunity to take the LX7 on a trip after some pool tests.
After my attempts last year with the Sony RX100 I was a bit skeptical that I could actually find something better for video but I think the LX7 beats it.
I put together a sample just to give an idea of equipment used and how it works, please note this is not altered in any way

There is a picture of the rig in this blog on a specific page but let me confirm once again in detail
Panasonic LX7
Nauticam LX7 housing
Ultralight TR-DM tray with extension TR-DUP and two TR-DH handles without ball.
12 segments locline arms on 3/4″ mount base and reducer on the handles
Two sola 1200
Nauticam wet mate
Inon UCL165AD on bespoke M67 adapter
Inon UWL-H100 28M67
Inon M67 double lens holder on custom mount

In a previous post I highlighted that for most the wet mate will be the only lens needed however I had some wreck dives and the 18mm of the Inon wide angle are more appropriate.
I also gave a try to the panasonic intelligent zoom that allows for 2x digital magnification and sharpening that for me works very well and you can see it in the footage. This allows a user with just the wet mate to further zoom without need of a close up lens or a use with a single +6 diopter to achieve super macro.

Pedersen Shrimp with two stacked UCL165AD and intelligent zoom 7.5x The frame height is less than 1cm
Pedersen Shrimp with two stacked UCL165AD and intelligent zoom 7.5x
The frame height is less than 1cm

I found the white balance of the camera excellent on both my hand or sand. I had issues with my padi slate that many times returned a ‘scene too bright’ error. Maybe this is the reason why backscatter failed this camera for video?? Who knows.
You can see that even at 36 meters the colour are as good as they can be.

White Balance on Bianca C 36 meters depth
White Balance on Bianca C 36 meters depth

For macro shots I used the temperature setting at 6500K, I found the white balance tint fine tuning to be excellent to further enhance it.
I shot in shutter priority the whole time with shutter speed of 1/100 or 1/50 depending on conditions and type of shot. The camera autoISO and choice of aperture privilege noise reduction however as the lens of the LX7 is really sharp the relatively wide aperture did not mean soft corners.
I tried the various photo styles and at the end settled for the standard one, I found the natural really to have too little contrast.
I thought of shooting in mp4 for wide and AVCHD progressive for close up but this would have meant two different frame rates to edit, at the end I shot at the highest available setting to avoid confusion.
I had received a new port from nauticam so I had no vignette at 28mm and the full 100 degrees the inon lens can offer.
The ergonomics of the camera that have fixed commands for aperture and shutter proved to be convenient and the built in neutral density filter was very effective at shallow depth or on the surface.
In essence I think that the issues backscatter mention are non existent.
I did have a few problems with the wet lenses though.

Lens Marking reflection on Wet mate dome
Lens Marking reflection on Wet mate dome

The wet mate proved to be a great little tool very sharp and light however none of the sides of the glass have anti reflective coating. In bright scenes or backlit scenes I did not have many issues with flare however I could see the marking on the lens reflected back on the wet mate and in the picture. I suggest putting an inon anti ghost sticker or gaffer tape to hide those shining markers or to colour them with permanent black ink.
Other than this the wet mate performs very well in all reef scenes and close up of critter a few inches big.
The inon diopter did not cause any trouble other than the obvious vignetting until 70mm. One pleasant surprise is the LX7 autofocus. Having struggled with the poor focus of the RX100 at high magnification I was astonished that the LX7 finds focus even with two stacked diopters and keeps it!!! I never had to use manual focus that with the RX100 was the norm at macro range.
I had bought the UCL165 and UCL330 in m67 format but decided to sell them as I will actually switch to bayonet very soon for the wide angle.
The Inon UWL-H100 was probably the most disappointing find of the trip. Image was sharp in normal condition however this lens tends to flare quite a bit and this creates block noise in the water column in video, when I used my hand to shade the lens the flare went away. Inon sells a lens hood for the 28LD version of this lens but not for the M67 as there would be issues to align the hood petals to the frame.

Inon UWL-H100 Flare on top of the frame
Inon UWL-H100 Flare on top of the frame

Considering that the lens is very heavy in water at 350 grams and that screwing and unscrewing was a concern mid water I have decided to convert the lens into an LD bayonet. Inon sells a replacement service part for the 28LD that can be used to replace the M67 thread of the lens. Other than this part the two lenses M67 and 28LD are identical. I will use a nauticam m67 LD adapter I hope this will not increase the vignette. I will connect my AD mount close up with a AD->LD converter when using the wide angle and then use an AD->M67 converter when I use the wetmate. This saves me buying two different diopters and I can stack the two UCL165AD I already have. They do vignette a lot at medium but who cares when you shoot at full zoom.
I look forward to testing the UWL-H100 with the lens hood I am sure results will be better. On the other hand when the sunlight is behind the shots have incredible sharpness with this lens.
So the LX7 gets 5 stars from my side and I leave you with two recommendations:
1. Apply a form of anti ghost sticker to the LX7 lens
2. If you want to get the Inon UWL-H100 go for the LD mount so that you can put the lens hood on

10 thoughts on “Panasonic LX7 reference compact for underwater video”

  1. Hi,

    Nice video indeed. Did you really have autofocus all the time? That’s the first time I have heard this with compacts/slr. What about fast moving fish? How was the focus keeping up?

    So, would you definitely recommend the LX7 over RX100? (especially for a newbie in underwater videography like me)

    How did photos come out (if you did any)? I am looking for a video setup but I am curious about photos.

    Finally, could you please run through the costs of such a setup and where to get it from (I am in the UK like you)?

    Many thanks for all your advice.

    1. The autofocus of the LX7 is very intelligent, the camera never hunts for focus randomly. For moving and schooling fish there is a dedicated AF/AE lock button very convenient to use. I have used it in a few occasions there was not much schooling fish in Grenada! For video I definitely recommend the LX7, for stills instead I would go with the RX100 that offers more choice for wide angle lenses. The LX7 would probably do very well for macro pictures but I have not tried it there are some samples on Nauticam site. Also look for Scipio2010 on Flickr he should be uploading soon LX7 stills from the Maldives.
      For what concerns shops I do not want to do advertising here. I buy my Nauticam parts directly from Nauticam UK as a matter of choice as I get them usually before the reach the stores. All parts of my rig can be bought from Cameras Underwater in Devon and Ocean Leisure Cameras in London of the shops I know of.
      Ultimately you will need to negotiate the best price and see who do you feel comfortable with. Take into account those retailers have their own opinion on which camera is best and I am sure when you will go in wanting to buy an LX7 they will try to direct you to other items if they don’t have the Nauticam housing in stock. Ikelite also produces a less expensive plastic housing that should be functional too for video but I have moved on from plastic some time ago so can’t comment. It does have a hot shoe for the strobe if you want to use wired TTL. For further questions email me directly. A new full clip of the trip will be on youtube soon on my channel as well as vimeo.

  2. I am definitely looking for video setup so this looks like its perfect and a bargain too. Quality seems on par with much more expensive camera rigs.

    I wanted to ask about the mounts as I am a bit lost. I gather that M67 is not the way to go given that you definitely want to put a hood on for the reasons you described. I see that there are Inon lenses with both LD and AD fitting. What’s the difference and what would you recommend?

    I suppose as I don’t have anything yet, I can get the Inon UWL-H100 28LD with the hood and UCL-165 LD (or the AD versions if I go the AD way) from the start, right? You are going to change the fitting because you already got the M67. For the UCL-165 can 2 be stacked to get proper macro shots? Also, what about the UCL-330 you mentioned before?

    I am still debating whether I should also get the wet mate. I will be doing lots of wrecks in addition to wide angle reefs and macro, so I definitely need the Inon. I don’t know whether it is worth getting the wet mate as well as they both serve the same purpose. Yes the wet mate allows you to zoom but I have heard that it’s best and most natural to zoom by getting closer to the action rather than use the camera zoom. What would you advise?

    Sorry about all these questions but I am still trying to determine the perfect complete setup to have. I hope asking all these questions will also help others who are reading your blog and are in the same situation as me. I know you are still at the early stages of establishing the best way to use the camera. Would you recommend that I wait until you have a more detailed opinion as to setup?

    I would also like to say a big thank you for the time you are taking to write the blog and help people like me.

    1. The only thing I have to test is if there is more vignetting with the LD mount compared to M67 it should happen in a few days.
      Once that is clear starting from scratch you can get either an UCL165LD that can be stacked with either the UCl330 or UCL165 but in M67 version (two LD lenses can’t be stacked) or even the newer UCL100LD the issue is that this lens working distance is really short so there will be situation where it cannot be used so I would pass on that for now.
      The best is to start with a single UCL165LD and see how you get on. Macro video is the most difficult thing to do so starting with just one lens is the right way especially as the intelligent zoom of the camera works very well.
      For what concerns the wet mate there are many situations where this lens is all you need, the lens is light and not so expensive. I also found that other than large wrecks the field of view is quite wide already. If you have the money and start with bayonet however the two Inon lens would cover all situations but of course you would need to do more lens changes as the wide angle does not allow zooming.

  3. I shall wait to hear about vignetting with LD. What about AD mount? How is it different as it is also a baynet from what I can see and it also has a hood? I see that it is also cheaper than the LD.

    Thanks for your advice on macro. Regarding the wet mate, I think you are right. It is considerably cheaper than the Inon and I might as well start with it and see how it handles wrecks. I was wondering if you might have a picture comparing the capture area of the wet mate vs the Inon wide angle?

    1. The rear of the AD lenses is too small for the LX7 lens and vignettes until 50mm at that point there is no benefit using the lens. I have some pictures for capture area but the information you need is already in the wet lenses post you need to run some calculation based on shooting distance and size of subject. I will post the comparison in the pool soon once I get the bayonet

    2. Peter there is a new blog post on the LD mount lens it is worth having a look.
      I do have some comparison wet-mate to Inon lens though it is only in a pool it does give the idea

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