Category Archives: macro

Panasonic GX7 First Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

URPRO test card
URPRO test card

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

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

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

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

DSC04030

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony RX100 Mark III – Is it worth upgrading?

UPDATED 23 July 2014

Once again Sony has updated their RX100 camera with a stunning new release that will surely be a market leader at least until the release of the new promised Panasonic large compact sensor with 4K video recording.

So the question is again is it worth throwing our hard-earned money to this new model and housing or should we stay with what we have got? The Mark I and II are still available at reduced price though it is becoming harder to find Mark I housing as new.

The answer to the question is: it depends on what you are planning to do with your RX100, for some users an upgrade may not be required or even not advised let’s see why. no don’t waste any time with the Mark III.

Every time a new camera is released and reviewed I get a bunch of emails with subject: New Camera XYZ what do you think?

The best reviews you find online are made by sites that specialize in land photography and no consideration is given to underwater use. So not necessarily a camera that is a top performer on land will remain such underwater as this depends on specific characteristics that may be different or even opposite to land requirements.

So those reviews cannot be taken as they are they need interpretation. Personally I use two sites for camera reviews imaging resource and dxo mark I use the first to understand ergonomics, performance and to compare images with other cameras side to side, and the second to check sensor quality and lenses. Imaging resource has made a good article to compare the various RX100 on land read it here

http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2014/06/16/battle-of-the-rx100s-sonys-rx100-vs-rx100-ii-vs-rx100-iii

If you look at a sensor comparison on DXOMark you would conclude that there is no need to upgrade at all if you use your camera primarily for still pictures as the sensor are practically identical in performance as this table demonstrates:

RX100 Sensor Ratings
RX100 Sensor Ratings

As you can see the differences in dynamic range, color depth or ISO are pretty much intangible.

However there are other metrics that are also important let’s see which ones and why.

Flash Recycling

We want our camera on board flash to recycle quickly after a full dump as the RX100 has only TTL flash and the flash can’t set to a minimum manual setting without consequences. Those are the flash recycling times at full output (a full dump will always occur when you don’t aim strobes directly at the subject for example wide angle)

Mark I: 7.2 seconds

Mark II” 4.4 seconds

Mark III: 3.3 seconds

The Mark III is pretty quick and the Mark II is acceptable the first release is definitely too slow.

Minimum Capture Area & Zoom

What is the smallest area that can be captured at wide end at the closest focus distance? This gives you an idea of out of the box close up performance

I do not have precise metrics yet but looking at comparable images on imaging-resource seems like the Mark III is worse than the Mark I and II of at least 20% with a capture width around 90mm versus the already not very good 76mm of the Mark I and II.

To fix this issue we use close up lenses in water that fix to a great extent the focal length and then zoom in to achieve magnification which means longer camera lens more magnification I roughly estimate that the Mark III will be worse of a factor of 0.7x so things will look 1.4x bigger with the Mark III this is terrible news for macro shooters as it means you need to be on top of the subject to fill the frame, this is in some cases not possible.

I have estimated that you need 11 diopters to achieve 1:1 macro so the Subsee 10 and Inon UCL100 that gave real macro on the Mark I and II won’t be sufficient. With two UCL-165 or Dyron 7 you are looking at 2.58″ or 6.5 cm from the back of the first close up lens that means you will be right on top of the subject which is not really an option.

Update July 18th: Nauticam has confirmed that even with their SMC lens the most powerful diopter on the market the capture area is 38mm wide so does NOT achieve 1:1 macro as I suggested…

 

Lens Focal Range

The new mark III has a 24-70mm lens compared to the 28-100mm of the Mark I and II what does this mean?

  • Less magnification with close up lenses and no real 1:1 macro
  • Vignetting or even not possible to use fisheye lenses designed for 28mm lenses

This means that with the Mark III your scene selection will be restricted  compared to the 150 to 24 of the mark I and II.

Update 23 July I have done some tests that confirm my suspicions please look at the following frames. The Mark III once zoom to 28mm actually works fine with the Mark II housing except the power button.

RX100 Mark III with Inon UCL-165 Close up lens
RX100 Mark III with Inon UCL-165 Close up lens

With a single Inon UCL-165 (+6.06 in water) the minimum capture area width is 5.4 cm which is bigger than the Mark II 4.8 cm. Not only that the distance from the top of the lens is only 9cm.

With stacked UCL-165+UCL330 total power 9.09 diopter we get this

Stacked UCL-165+UCL330
Stacked UCL-165+UCL330

4.4 cm width however we start running into problems as the minimum distance from the lens is only 4cm.

We finally achieve 1:1 with two stacked UCL-165 however the distance from the top of the lens is 3cm definitely too little

two UCL-165 stacked
two UCL-165 stacked

I have also tried the Mark III at 28mm and it still vignettes with the Inon UWL-H100 in air until around 30mm. Instead the old UWL-100 28AD is fine at 28mm either way image looks narrower than with the Mark II but this may be an issue with the old housing.

So basically no macro with the Mark III and no decent fisheye as expected.

Underwater Photography Conclusion

Due to the reasons above the best camera for the job is the RX100 Mark II, with the Mark I coming close but being penalized by the strobe recycle time, the Mark III really is not an option for the serious shooter due to limitations of the lens.

Let’s have a look at some other features of the Mark III that are not relevant for stills as much as they are for video.

ND filter

Shooting at the surface with plenty of ambient light or on land can create problems if you want to follow the 180 shutter rule, the ND filter of the Mark III ensures your footage will be smooth on land and in water. Take into account that on land you can apply optical ND filters (I have it for the Mark II) so this is really for underwater use when you are shooting at 1/50 or 1/60 shutter speed and the scene is too bright when you hit f/11 and the lowest possible ISO. Having now tested this feature I confirm it is really valid on land on a bright day to keep the aperture wide.

Clear Image Zoom

This is a special digital zoom with edge enhancement that only worked on JPEG stills on Mark I and II but is now available on video on the mark III. This means an additional 2x zoom is available bringing the focal length to 140mm that is more than adequate for macro. This is not an option on RAW images so irrelevant for still users.

23 July update Having done some tests for macro video (as stacking two diopters is not an option) the image quality suffers but anyway this is all you are left with lacking any other options.

Clear image zoom 1.5x on single UCL-165
Clear image zoom 1.5x on single UCL-165

Image stabilizer

The Mark III adds a further stabilizer mode with additional crop that takes the lens to 96mm equivalent in video mode. This is well worth for super macro hand-held footage and effectively provides an option where you can either use the super steady shot and no clear image zoom when hand-held or leave on only the optical stabilizer and use clear image zoom. If you shoot macro on walls and not on flat sand this is a well worth feature.

Update 23 July 2014

Following a side by side comparison you can find on this link

It follows that there is really no 5 axis stabilisation and only an additional mode with more crop with correction for rolling shutter that anyway does not really work!

Full Sensor Readout Video

The mark III reads the whole sensor not just alternate lines when capturing video this increases should increase the resolution to a great degree and increases the perceived resolution and clarity of your videos. However this does not seem to correspond to real life tests. See this sample with a side by side comparison the Mark III looks visibly worse than its predecessor even on the higher bitrate XAVC!!!

Video Formats

The Mark II introduced a well welcomes 24 Mbps 24/25 fps mode now the Mark III introduces a 50 Mbps mode in XAVC (that can be rewrapped into normal MP4) that produces even better footage although it will be quite demanding on your workstation and most likely some of your home devices will struggle playing the files (my Apple Tv 3rd generation only plays up to 25 Mbps) when uploading files online this will downgrade to 8 Mbps so won’t matter unless you have a good player at home. improves nothing and requires manipulation as the files are actually not MP4 compliant as they have WAV audio (!) they are also inside the AVCHD folder which is painful. As seen above seems like the encoding has got worse on the AVCHD files and only the higher bitrate compares but still does not match the mark II at the lower 24 Mbps!!!

HDMI connection

You can now connect the Mark III to an external HDMI recorder if you are into that kind of semi pro usage. For the normal user this is not relevant: if you are into spending that money probably you have already a DSLR or a Panasonic GH4.

Video Auto Focus

The auto focus in video has got worse you can see an example in the stabiliser test, and actually plenty of frames are blurred on the mark III. Awful!

Underwater Video Conclusion

The Mark I with only a 28 Mbps 50/60p mode is definitely a poor choice, the Mark II is acceptable to most users. and the mark III promises even better performance if you are a serious video user and have another camera to take pictures the Mark III may be well worth it.

The Mark III despite some useful feature is actually a let down and perform worse in practical terms than the mark II that remains my camera of choice.

Summary

If you have a Mark I camera and are frustrated with flash recycling you should be looking at a cheaper upgrade to the Mark II.

If you have a Mark II and your priority is photography upgrading is NOT recommended.

If you don’t have any RX100 get yourself a Mark II or wait for the new Panasonic as the Mark III is pretty much a pile of crap.

Is it the first time I am actually sending back a camera and invoking consumer rights but when I spoke to the camera shop they told me they had other returns and this is not really an upgrade!!!

Look Right inThe above image was shot at 100mm equivalent with one diopter with the RX100 Mark II. You won’t be able to fill the frame with the same close up lens and the Mark III camera

Tuition Day with Martin Edge

During the London Dive Show I attended a talk from Martin where he covered a number of shooting situations and how to deal with them in terms of composition and settings.

There was a promotion for a two for one tuition day with him that my buddy was keen to take so few months later we made our way to Dorset for a day of underwater photography with Martin.

This will be my first day of shooting with the RX100 Mark II albeit in a pool with my new arms and lenses so I was looking forward to it.

We arrived in Poole the night before and got ready for an 8.30 start with Martin.

We started off with a review of some basic exposure concepts and then looked at competition winning pictures and trying to identify what makes a wow picture. It was extremely useful!

Afterwards we went through our trips pictures so he could see what needed improving. Then look at what was needed for the next trip.

With that in mind we set up to jump in the pool to take some pictures the objective was to improve my buddy close ups and portraits as apparently her wide angle is as good as it gets with the Canon S95 used see featured image on this post.

Pool conditions were low visibility and plenty of suspended particles as the pool is used for kids swimming lessons let me give you an idea!

Pool Conditions
Pool Conditions

The first task was to shoot a frog with a view of eliminating shadows in its mouth. Start with one strobe and finish off with two.

Frog at 28mm
Frog at 28mm

The frog with the bare port gives you an idea of the size and the complexity of the task with one strobe. There are shadows in his mouth.

Frog at 50mm
Frog at 50mm

I then shot a portrait at 50mm, the reason why you see shadows more on the left is because I set the strobe at different powers.

Frog single diopter
Frog single diopter

The magnification of the RX100 is little so I went on with a first Inon UCL-165 and full zoom at 100mm equivalent. Note that everything is pretty much sharp at f/11.

Frog Double Diopter
Frog Double Diopter

With two Inon UCL-165 focusing on the mouth will result in this and the eyes being in focus and the rest blurred because of lack of depth of field.

Octopus fisheye
Octopus fisheye

I then moved to an Octopus rich of textures. I took the first shot with my Inon UWL-100 28AD with dome.

Octopus at 28mm
Octopus at 28mm

The same octo at 28mm fills the frame much more of course.

Octopus at 50mm
Octopus at 50mm

The Octopus at 50mm looks even better. I have topped up the lighting on this one.

Octopus single diopter
Octopus single diopter

I then took this guy with a single UCL-165 note the depth of field insufficient to keep the back of the head in focus, results though are exceptional.

Octopus double diopter
Octopus double diopter

With two close up lenses we go back to the depth of field problem even at f/11.

I thought I had at that point nailed all focus and strobe issues, especially considering I shot with single auto focus, I did not bother using manual focus at all with exception of some double diopter shots.

I then tried a few surface reflections with the fisheye this being the best.

Falcon Fisheye
Falcon Fisheye

You can see the outside of the pool and the windows on the top.

Family Fisheye
Family Fisheye

Afterwards made my own composition of statues for a fisheye shot that I think came out very well. The Z240 performed extremely well in both TTL and external auto as well as manual.

Child with dog
Child with dog

Martin asked me to have a go at the child with the dog as it is extremely difficult to lit up properly.

I went for an alternative strobe placement with light from the bottom as if it was in a gallery. He was impressed with the results.

Lion Mouth Single Diopter
Lion Mouth Single Diopter

To finish off my last task was the tongue and eyes of a lion that I shot with a single UCL-165.

Overall a great day and I definitely recommend you the tuition day with Martin. He is a great person and extremely good at teaching I can see the benefits my buddy had right away.

Lessons learned on the RX100

There were a few things that I learned about my RX100 still rig mode that I want to share with you.

  • The autofocus is incredible. I even used this for macro. If the camera does not focus is because you don’t have enough depth of field and that is it.
  • Best macro performance is with a single diopter and also had a benefit of an increased working distance, this means the shots will need cropping for extremely small critters
  • Two diopters resulted in near bokeh with less than 1mm in focus and difficult to autofocus (though the LCD is great and I could see if things were in focus or not I think this is personal and I would recommend DMF to others)
  • Performance at wide angle with the UWL-100 28AD with dome is stellar
  • Inon float arms (I used two 6″ segments) were perfect with lens holders on it.
  • Inon Z240 twin set with one in TTL and the second in external auto delivered creative lighting without headaches, remember to buy the AUTO diffuser that does not come with the strobe
  • Strobes in manual allowed for even more creativity and the level of precision compared to sea and sea was staggering
  • Despite pool conditions the RX100 focused well in low light and much better than the Canon S95 that was returning focus error on the same exposures. I will not bother having a focus light with this camera and only have a single sola on night dives

That’s all for now any question just drop a comment

 

My Sony RX100 Mark II Photo Rig Analysis

So the time has come to talk about photography more in depth. I have actually given up stills in favor of video since a few years as I find video gets me closer to behaviors than stills do, I guess am just not patient enough to capture behaviors on still as that involves waiting!

Anyway this is the rig as it is today without the floats.

Sony RX100 Mark II Still Rig as of 2014 January 20th
Sony RX100 Mark II Still Rig as of 2014 January 20th

The RX100 is a demanding compact for the very same reason why it is the best compact the huge sensor it sports. If you come from shooting a canon or panasonic or even Olympus on a 1/1.7″ sensor you find the RX100 to be very unforgiving. In essence you can’t really just point and shoot you need to put some more thinking into your shots.

The rig that I have put together for stills has the same meticulous attention to detail than my video rig has, you would say OCD probably but here it is.

So let’s start with the housing, Nauticam just makes the best most ergonomic housing for the RX100 period. There is nothing you can think of improving about this housing. Even if the bulkhead connector is useless you can actually put a vacuum valve on it to put it to full use.

Nauticam do offer an M67 thread native on all their compact housings but I find this tedious to say the least. The beauty of a compact is that you can shoot wide and macro on the same dive, the M67 thread in essence negates this as it makes virtually impossible to change lenses on a dive. This is the reason why I went for the Inon 28AD mount for my rig using an inexpensive 10 bar adapter priced at $20 or £15.

M67-ADF adapter with Inon UWL-100 attached
M67-ADF adapter with Inon UWL-100 attached

Once you connect the Inon UWL-100 28AD the lens is very close to the housing to the point of nearly touching the port. This means you get no vignette with this lens with the added dome, and actually a larger field of view in water than you get with the UWL-H100. Why is that? The UWL-100 28AD has less magnification so it does not vignette even on land, once you add the dome you get almost the same field of view in water around 150º. The lens is just a tad lighter than the UWL-H100 with an in water weight of 400 grams.

The choice of the 28AD mount means you can only use the UCL-165AD close up lenses, that if attached would crash into the glass, you need therefore a 28AD->AD adapter from Inon.

28AD to AD adapter with UCL-165AD attached
28AD to AD adapter with UCL-165AD attached

You do get vignette until 50mm however this is not an issue as you shoot those lenses at the tele-end.

This is the whole lens set with the two adapters.

Two UCL-165AD, UWL-100 28AD with dome, 28AD->ADF adapter, M67-28ADF adapter
Two UCL-165AD, UWL-100 28AD with dome, 28AD->ADF adapter, M67-28ADF adapter

As discussed in other posts the two stacked diopters give you super macro, they are also light with 35 grams each in water. The small amount of fringing they give can be eliminated in lightroom with a single click.

Inon UCL-165AD x2 with Inon 28AD to AD adapter
Inon UCL-165AD x2 with Inon 28AD to AD adapter

The wide angle lens sports a 115mm optical glass dome with inner anti-reflection coating. If you are into observing fine detail you will notice that the dome is not actually a full semicircle but flatter, if you add the special coating this means no flare and increased contrast. If you wonder why shots taken with Inon dome lenses are sharper is because only 1% of the incoming light is reflected, against 3% of an acrylic dome, the glass dome due to the coating don’t flare, plastic ones do as simple as that.

Inon UWL-100 28AD with Dome
Inon UWL-100 28AD with Dome

Now let’s move on to the strobes a twin Inon Z240 set. I have been a sea and sea user for years until I managed to damage my YS-01 and got no assistance at all from S&S since then I decided to go elsewhere.

What I love about the Z240 is the variety of controls to manage shadows, the sharp aiming light with a red filter good for the most skittish critters. Contrary to what many people think I aim directly at the subject in macro as the distance is short and backscatter is not an issue so no point aiming the strobes away for me.

FIT Sea and Sea adapter for Inon Strobes
FIT Sea and Sea adapter for Inon Strobes

I happened to have a pair of Sea and Sea optical L cable that served me well and had no will to change, FIT produces this cost effective adapter that goes on your Z240 and makes it compatible, I just love it.

Inon Z MV Strobe adapter
Inon Z MV Strobe adapter

I believe Inon Z MV strobe head adapter has no equal in ergonomics but for some reason a part that is $20 in Japan sells at over $40 in US and £30 in UK so is not that popular. My second choice would be the Nauticam strobe adapter that has got the small feet needed to correctly lock on the strobe head.

Sola 1200 on Loc line mount
Sola 1200 on Loc line mount

With the Z240 doing wonders as aiming light there is no real room for a focus light however I have a set of Sola Video 1200 and what I like is that you can use them as dive light. I have connected them with a locline cold shoe, this will soon change to a ball mount, as the cold shoe is on the left side. Probably I will get a Sola Dive 800 so I can leave my two trays set for video and stills on the boat.

Left Handle Ultralight TR-DHB
Left Handle Ultralight TR-DHB

Looking at the tray I use ultralight, it simple and sturdy and allows me to center the port in the middle of the tray.

The most attentive will see that the two handles have different colors.

Right Handle Ultralight AC-H
Right Handle Ultralight AC-H

Why is that? Firstly I want to place the handles at maximum distance, second by placing two different handle I can ensure the ball is at the same height, this would not be true if I was using the same handle on both sides. I use a TR-DM with a TR-DUPL long extension to make the tray 30cm or 12″.

Sony RX100 Mark II Still Rig as of 2014 January 20th
Sony RX100 Mark II Still Rig as of 2014 January 20th

So this is what it looks like, there will be floats on it, I estimate I need 8 floats to make the rig neutral with the lenses off. I am planning to place 3 on each 8″ arm segment and two on the tray however I might change this to 2 on each arm and a bespoke float on the tray bottom. I will run some test to see what works best.

So that’s all folks surely there will be questions and I look forward to answer them.

Just want to remind you that if you are in the market for a compact still or video rig I provide a personal shopper service for £30 or $45 that provides an end to end service on your budget where all you have to do is to call the shop to pay. Of course we would discuss any observations about the set up before this gets finalized, but am sure better to spend a little amount instead of making expensive mistakes!

UPDATE 9 June 2014 I have made some more changes to the rig the current version (never say final) is here

Photo Rig Current

Barbados: First Sony RX100 Mark II Feature

So after a few months since I got the Nauticam housing I finally had the time to get in the water and try it on.

I was in Barbados for a week and although the diving was not exactly outstanding I did have enough to test the camera behavior.
The link to the videos are here for YouTube at 1080p

or if you prefer Vimeo at 720p

The footage was all taken at 1080p50 the highest mode of the RX100. The RX1oo can work in both PAL and NTSC standard but I chose the PAL mode just to avoid the annoying NTSC message at startup. The clip has been edited with iMovie 9.0.9 and then exported in 1080p25 using Xencoder codec for quicktime in high profile. Youtube then reconverts it to its own specifications, but at least I have the highest possible starting point.

As mentioned the RX100 shoots at shutter speed of 1/100 in 50p mode and this suited me fine in case I wanted to produce a 60p clip for viewing on the computer as currently no online system supports it.

As discussed in the previous post I shot all wide angle in camera Program mode. This allowed me to use the left control wheel button to call the white balance set menu that in video is not available. I set the picture format to 16:9 so that would show similar on the screen. I did notice that when I actually started the movie recording the crop of the active steadyshot kicked in with a reduction of field of view of around 9 degrees or a 1.14 zoom equivalent.

However the active steady shot was well worth it as I have not used any stabilization for any part of this clip and therefore not introduced any extra cropping.

The wide angle shots with the RX100 are an absolute breeze when you use a filter and there is no need for custom white balance until it gets too deep to actually use a filter. I struggled getting decent results with custom white balance, the 9900 K error came pretty much every time except when in shallow water and balancing on sand. Also the results were off with too much magenta tint to the point I had always to correct it.

Ultimately I kept the filter and the camera in Auto White balance and did not bother doing a custom reading at all. The results were excellent.

SS Stavronikita
SS Stavronikita AWB

In deeper water the filter started making the image a bit dark so I took it off and used a temperature setting of 9900K with Magenta and Amber at the maximum.

For close up at distances over 20cm I still shot in program and had good results. When getting super close or macro I used Movie mode in Aperture priority mode with aperture set at f/11. Towards the end of the clip you can see a shot of a small pink frogfish that is done like that. The close up on the eye is shot with two stacked Inon UCL165 the depth of field is really small as you can see but still workable considering I hand held the camera at all time.

Pink Frogfish f/11
Pink Frogfish f/11

When I shot this arrow crab I had left the camera in program mode so it chose an aperture of f/5.6 you can see that whilst the mouth is in focus the arrow is not

Arrow Crab
Arrow Crab f/5.6

Similar situation with the pedersen shrimp where not everything is sharp in focus

Pedersen Shrimp
Pedersen Shrimp f/5.6

Obviously I am being very exigent with my footage and in normal condition this is already good to very good.

So what I liked and what I did not like about the RX100 Mark II:

I liked:

  • The ergonomics and ease of use are outstanding
  • The camera performs incredibly well with a filter in auto white balance
  • The manual focus with peaking works extremely well
  • Dynamic range and colors are outstanding and not just for a compact
  • Image crisp even in the corners at f/1.8 compared to the Mark I this is extremely significant
  • The active stabilizer was great and meant to manipulation in post
  • Battery life is incredible
  • Performance in low light is excellent and better than the Mark I the camera never reached the ISO MAX of 800 I had set hitting a top of 640 at 30 meters
  • Autofocus at wide end in bright conditions is superb

The only think I hated was the custom white balance results an absolute disgrace, to the point that there is no benefit doing it. Not only that the few parts of the clip I had used it and correct it were still a bit off and required correction in post to a small extent.

Also to consider some of the topside capabilities of the RX100 Mark II just to give an idea though this is not exactly the same location have a look as this shot with a Nikon D7100 with sigma 17-70 in comparison with the RX100 Mark II

Nikon D7100 Beach Landscape
Nikon D7100 Beach Landscape
RX100 Beach Landscape
RX100 Beach Landscape

There is a difference but considering the size of the RX100 and the fact it fits in a pocket I don’t think there can be that many complains. Obviously once you look at specific lenses for the DSLR things change but in the 28-100mm all purpose range I would say that the gap is not as much as double as the price of the two set ups.

So is the Sony RX100 the best compact underwater video set up? Definitely

Is the Mark II better than the original RX100? Yes and well worth an upgrade for video

How does it compare with the Panasonic LX7? The dynamic range and the colors are superior and produces footage that is simply better and sharper. Where the LX7 excels is at macro in clear waters, this is not because of magnification as the RX100 and LX7 perform exactly the same with diopters, and this is because of the LX7 amazing autofocus. However with a bit of silt or other objects in range there is need to switch to manual focus and there the RX100 is actually superior when using peaking even if the depth of field is actually less, the manual focus on the LX7 with the magnifier is not as good unfortunately.

So my ranking for video is:

1. Sony RX100 Mark II

2. Panasonic LX7

3. Sony RX100

I would also add that for stills the LX7 is even more rewarding at macro range due to the performance of autofocus.

Any questions please drop a comment

Sony RX100 – Which close up lens gives real macro?

As we know the Sony RX100 cameras, we will refer to both Mark I and II as the lens is the same, do not offer the best out of the box super close up performance.

To be clear no compact camera really does macro, as no compact can capture an area 36×24 mm in size without being on top of the subject and having a shadow cast on it.

The RX100 however are particularly unexciting as the capture area is pretty large at 76x51mm at the minimum focus distance of 5cm. This means a reproduction factor of less than 1:2 so things are half life size in traditional terms.

In water the minimum focus distance increases and so does magnification so performance is all in all the same.

This means that a typical small subject like a medium size nudibranch measuring 4cm will fill a bit more than half the frame, not great.

The problem can be addressed by close up lenses that have a set power that determines the focal length and working distance where we can use the full camera zoom.

So the close up lens sets the working distance whilst the camera zoom sets the magnification.

A typical close up lens will have a power of 5 or 6 diopters with a working distance in water of 200 or 165mm, what does it mean for the RX100?

I have done some testing in water using a ruler and an Inon UCL165 this is the result:

Single +6 diopter Inon UCL165
Single +6 diopter Inon UCL165

Our capture width is now 46mm so our 4cm nudibranch will nearly fill the frame. The working distance of this lens is 165mm so this is a very versatile solution as most critters have no problem being approached so close.

What happens with a +10 close up lens with a focal length of 100mm, this is another test

+10 Diopter UCL100
+10 Diopter UCL100

A +10 diopter like the Subsee or Inon UCL100 achieves exactly 35mm so life size macro. However a lens like this will not focus at longer focal distances without zooming out, furthermore there are plenty of subject that do not need this magnification.

Close up lenses can be stacked so this is the result of two + 6 diopters

Two stacked Inon UCL165
Two stacked Inon UCL165

The width is now 32mm which is 1.1:1 so more than macro. This is adequate even for pygmy seahorse and with the incredible resolution of the RX100 cropping is not a big issue. Working distance is around 8.5cm which is still tolerated by small critters.

For completeness I have also tested a +16 combination

16 Diopters
16 Diopters

At around 26mm this is 1.4:1 so real super macro, the working distance is however only 6.25cm which is really close and will scare most critters away.

Conclusions:

  1. Without any close up lens the RX100 can only capture 5cm objects without extensive cropping
  2. A close up lens with a working distance of 165mm allows for most of the critters we consider small but without super macro effects unless cropped
  3. Two stacked +6 diopters offer super macro and can also be cropped for more suggestive effect
  4. A single +10 close up lens achieves real macro however it is not versatile enough for every day usage
  5. Stacking lenses does introduce chromatic aberration but this can be eliminated in photos and is barely noticed in video

Pay attention when you select your close up lenses that the focal distance that is in the specification is measured in water otherwise you will find yourself with a useless purchase

Lembeh Video Feature Panasonic LX7

This will be my last production with the LX7 as the camera has been sold together with the Nauticam housing

Few weeks ago I was contacted by Juerg at Luxury Grooves

http://www.luxurygrooves.com

So this video is a first cooperation maybe not the last

In this feature I have extensively used the transformer tray as in the image

Transformer Tray
Transformer Tray

Other than that the usual great performance from the LX7 with up to +16 diopters!!!

UCL100 on Nauticam housing LX7
UCL100 on Nauticam housing LX7

Check some of the super macro it is not bad at all

http://flic.kr/p/kF5nbM

Tips for Underwater Video – Tripods and Monopods

First of all I have to thank Mike on Scubaboard to get this in motion the original post is here

When you shoot macro and operate at high magnification even the smallest movement translates into shake, let’s think about it for one moment.

A macro image will have a frame size of 36×24 mm, this means that a move of half centimeter or 1/5 of an inch is equivalent to 20% vertical movement a considerable annoyance. When you shoot a picture this is not an issue because with a very high shutter speed you can freeze motion and there will be no blur like in this image.

Pygmy Seahorse 1.5 cm
Pygmy Seahorse 1.5 cm

Trying to take a video of a moving subject like this proves challenging, and you need to slow down the footage to avoid sea sickness like here

So how do we get outstanding macro footage? We need to be super stable and avoid any type of shake.

One possibility is a tripod. There are various examples of underwater tripods such those made by Ultralight example here

There are several inconveniences using a tripod first is that those are more suited to a camera than a tray that may have the tripod hole off centre, so if you use a tray for your set up and just want to occasionally put it on a tripod this gets complicated.

So that where Mike came into action and contacted ULCS to build a tripod out of a tray those are my results using the following parts:

Camera set up

  • TR-DM tray
  • TR-DUP Extention
  • 2x TR-DH handles
  • 2x 12 segments 12″ locline arms
  • 2x Sola 1200
  • Panasonic LX7 in Nauticam housing

Tripod set up (approx $310)

  • 3x 1420 ball base adapters
  • BA-FBd plate
  • 3x clamps
  • 3x 5″ arm segments

This gives something like this also called Ultimusmacro

UltimusMacro
UltimusMacro

I tried this set up and the key issue is that you are far away from the floor and end up with working distances of around 10-15 cm or 4-6″ those are suited to a +6 diopter but not more and best with camera with at least 105mm zoom.

This is a bit of an issue with my Panasonic LX7 as the max zoom is 90mm equivalent. So I came up with a mini-monopod that has several advantages:

  • Closer to sea floor
  • Less expensive
  • Lighter
  • More flexible

For the mini-monopod all you need is ($150)

  • 3x 1420 ball adapters (two female and one with screw or bolt) – alternatively 3x 3816 2x female and 1x 1420 with bolt if you use AC-AH handles with 3/8 hole
  • BA-FBd plate
  • 1 clamp
  • 1 8″ arm segment

This is the mini in action also called cyclop

Monopod
Monopod

In this configuration I also have a lens holder on the 8″ this gives even more stability
With a mini-monopod you can easily use +10 diopters as you are on the bottom. In my set up I have floats however the 3 1420 ball heads on the bottom are sufficient to have a stable platform that can be pointing down even more raising the arm segment.

In addition to this the monopod can be used to push the camera in remote places or approach critters in crevices or similar

I will be testing both in North Sulawesi starting next week I hope to come back with some great footage

For more pictures of the set up check the Panasonic LX7 link on the top of the page

Underwater Video Tips: Inon UCL100 Analysis

Inon introduced a new close up lens in February of this year the UCL100. So why did Inon come up with this after the very successful UCL165 series? Probably some pressure from products like Subsee that produce better quality images than the Inon lenses and more and more lenses with similar performance to the existing Inon lenses. So what is different about the UCL100? First of all this lens is heavy 243/269 grams in the LD/M67 version in air that become 130/151 grams in water double than the UCL165. The lens is made of 3 elements instead of two and is very similar to a Subsee this is more evident taking a look at the lens on land.

This shot is taken with the bare port at 50mm.

LX7 50mm
LX7 50mm

This is the same shot at the same working distance using the UCL100 note the magnification.

LX7 UCL100 50mm
LX7 UCL100 50mm

The lens behaves like a magnifying glass exactly as the Subsee, Inon has made some effort to try to reduce vignetting, this picture is taken on land at 28mm.

UCL100 Fix Land 24mm
UCL100 Fix Land 28mm

Note a little dark bottom right corner, the lens in fact vignettes at 24mm this is due to the huge size of the LX7 lens and may not happen with other cameras.

Here we can see the rear of the lens from the Fix adapter side. The lens sits very close to the glass port.

UCL100 rear lens attached to Fix LD adapter
UCL100 rear lens attached to Fix LD adapter

I have opted for a bayonet version of this lens as I will use the fix as m67 adapter if I had to dive with the wet mate.
If you are a photographer I would definitely recommend the LD bayonet version over the M67 as it is easier to remove and attach in water.

There are some other very interesting characteristics of this lens. Usually a diopter works only around a certain working distance for a given zoom so the issue with such a powerful close up lens is that if we are far away from the working distance the lens is not usable.

The UCL100 instead is quite flexible and has a huge swing of working distances for a given focal length as in the table below.

Zoom Position Min Max
90 60 100
70 45 115
50 20 130
35 10 200
28 0 300

All values are in mm.

So the lens keeps working well far away the nominal 100mm and due to the construction also gives a magnifying effect this means that it is possible to take this lens in water as the only close up lens and there will not be too much of a limitation if for some reason we can’t get that close to the subject. A swing of 40mm at telephoto end is excellent and this becomes 70mm at 70mm zoom and 110 at 50mm.

What about image quality most of you will know by now how specific I am when it comes to aberrations, this is a crop of an image taken with the UCL165

Inon UCL165 Fringing
Inon UCL165 Fringing

You can see the yellow and purple halo around the zero.

This is a detail of the same ruler in water with the UCL100

Inon UCL100 Detail
Inon UCL100 Detail

The image is a bit soft because of the aperture used but absolutely free of any fringing that is astounding for this level of magnification, the quality of the image is same as Subsee.

This lens comes with a lens front and back cover, the front lens is a clip with lanyard. The UCL100 can also be stacked with other M67 lenses if you need more!!!

Inon UCL100
Inon UCL100

With the LX7 the UCL100 achieves a reproduction ratio of 1.1:1 compared to the 1.4:1 of an Inon UCL165. The limitation of the zoom of the LX7 shows a bit here as even the Sony RX100 gets nearly a 1:1 with this lens but the strength of the focus of the LX7 are second to no other camera in this segment so I look forward to using this lens on some really small stuff.

The UCL100 is priced at $282 in US and £275 in UK versus $225/£210 of Subsee so why would you bother getting this lens from Inon instead? I think the main selling point of this lens in addition to the image quality and magnification power is the fact that the lens operates until wide end and has a very wide range of working distances so you are not stuck just around the 100mm nominal focal lenght. This allows use of the full zoom from wide to tele that in video is especially important. For pictures I am not so sure the additional cost is justified as stills are usually at full telephoto end.

Grenada Trip First LX7 release

I have just completed the first draft of the clips taken with the LX7 in my trip last week. Links are here:

Youtube may not work in some cases so use vimeo instead

For who wants to know the lens choice for wide angle was as follows

Wet mate: Molinere Sculpture Park, Purple Rain, Veronica L, Shark Reef

Inon UWL-H100: Bianca C (28-40 meters) , Northern Exposures, Southern Comfort, Quarter Wreck, Shake’em (20-32 meters)

You can see in the section of the Veronica L that missing those extra degrees field of view did not allow me to take the full wreck by side even if it was not that big. On couple of reef dives I already had the Inon on the previous wreck dive so I left it you can compare performance of the two lenses in terms of sharpness and flare. Generally I feel the wet mate has less flare and is sharper however it does have an issue of reflections as covered in the previous post.

As always I have used iMovie to edit the AVCHD progressive files that I converted to normal mp4 using the workflow in a previous post. There are no dramatic alterations of colour or exposure and no stabilization has been run in any part of the video (in some parts like the snake eel moving it shows) all was done with custom white balance using the camera functionality, considering how deep were some of the wrecks this is very good I believe.

I would love your comments this was mostly an exploration trip so it is interesting to compare to the RX100 Raja Ampat videos