How many times you see practically new close up lenses being sold on eBay after sitting for years in a cupboard? Have you ever experienced the frustration of buying a close-up lens to find out it did not add anything to your set up?
There is a lot of confusion in terms of what is that you are really getting when you buy an underwater close-up lens. In most cases lenses are specified in diopters, in some other cases with a magnification factor, in few cases with the focal length.
The focal length is probably the most useful of those specification because in a traditional diopter the following formula is valid if you approximate the lens to converge in the rear element:
Working distance ≤ Focal length – physical length of the close-up lens
For example for a Subsee +5 diopter the focal length is 1000/5=200mm the lens is 32mm therefore the working distance is less than 168mm.
Now on its own this means very little. Depending on the camera we use a distance of 168mm may be a great improvement or no improvement at all.
To understand why we need to look on our camera and find the little symbol that indicates the focus distance reference mark.
While for DSLR the shooting distance is typically calculated from the front on the lens for micro four third you need to use this obscure symbol.
Once we locate the reference mark we need to identify the corresponding reference on the housing we can use the other dials as starting point. In this case the mark is approximately in the middle of the cold shoe.
When we put the camera in the housing we can then look up the specifications of the lens and calculate the minimum shooting distance. For example for an Olympus 60mm this value is 19cm.
We take note of this point and then measure the distance between the glass and the minimum working distance on land.
This works out to be around 9cm. We now need to consider that once immersed in water this distance will be multiplied by 1.33 to become 12cm.
It follows that any diopter with a focal length close to 12cm or longer is not going to be effective for our camera and lens combination. More likely we need something that can focus substantially closer or the benefit will be minimal. Assuming we half the physical working distance between the port and the subject we need something around 60-80mm focal length which considering the length of the lens itself could mean getting 2cm away from the subject.
The Panasonic power zoom is better than the Olympus however the lens has issue of vignetting and pretty high chromatic aberration. The Panasonic 12-32mm is surprisingly good and has similar resolution and less issues of fringing.
I attached the 29 Macro Port to my GX7 housing and took some tests shots in the sink with the WWL-1 petals touching the subject.
The image is wide and the corner sharpness is great with minimal to no chromatic aberrations.
The 12-32mm lens does not vignette at wide end and gives similar performance to the PZ lens with the benefit of increased field of view.
The shots are taken at f/4 ISO 1600.
For comparison I mounted the 4.33″ dome and the 8mm fisheye and took a similar shot.
The field of view is wider but of course distortion in the corners is very high to the point they become garbled.
Clearly if you do need a fisheye lens the 8mm is still the choice however the WWL-1 has the advantage that you can use the full zoom and a field of view of around 130° with a 28mm equivalent lens and around 135° with 24mm equivalent.
One thing that is interesting is the use of the 12-32mm with the Macro 29 port combined with the Panasonic GH4 in 4K.
The crop factor of 1.2x means that the focal length with this lens at 4K 16:9 is 31.38mm. This makes this port compatible with a number of flat wide angle lens of the old generation.
Specifically the old Inon UWL-100 would give a field of view of 100° equivalent to 18mm in 4K. The additional benefit is that you can use the Ikelite UR/PRO push on filter and the full zoom. At the tele end 83.7mm may be a bit short however the fact that you have a fully rectilinear lens and you can use a push on filter is a big advantage.
The Macro port 29 is also compatible in normal mode with the Inon UWL-H100 at 24mm equivalent as per image.
The field of view appears narrow as the lens can get closer to the subject compared to the WWL-1. The optical quality is excellent with minimum fringing.
In summary the Macro Port 29 is a must purchase for the following users:
4K Panasonic GH4 video users
4K Panasonic GX8 Users
HD and Still images micro four third users wanting a full wet lens set up
The 12-32mm lens also give almost the same field of view of the Panasonic 7-14mm with wide angle port at much lower cost when coupled with an Inon UWL-H100 allowing use at apertures of f/4 and f/5.6 with one to two stops advantages on the 7-14mm.
On a final note for the users of the Macro 35 port Nauticam has now released the zoom gear for the Panasonic 14-42mm II Mega OIS. This lens is better than all of those discussed in this post in terms of optical quality and it comes as kit lens on lower end Panasonic cameras. If you already have the Macro Port 35 and a kit lens or if you don’t have any lens or port this is definitely the best option in terms of cost and optical quality
Nauticam entered the wet lenses market with their SMC close up wet lens that was optimized for DSLR.
Then it released the CMC compact macro converter for compact cameras and micro four thirds and finally the Wet Wide Angle Lens I that is compatible with compacts, micro four thirds and also full frame cameras with 28mm equivalent lens.
Up to now all lenses were using the traditional M67 mount as most of the lenses, even the close up ones, are pretty heavy this means going for the dive with the same lens. Nauticam has developed the flip diopter adapter for flat ports to overcome this issue.
The flip diopter is a good solution for micro four thirds and DSLR but looks rather cumbersome on compacts as the image shows.
I asked Nauticam for a bayonet adapter and specifically if they could develop something for the Inon LD bayonet system that so far has been the reference for wet lenses for compacts and micro four thirds cameras.
Edward told me that due to the fact that the WWL-1 lens rear element is so large the Inon LD system was not an option so they went off and developed their own system.
I would like to thank Nauticam again for making those parts available before general availability.
Looking a bit closer to it you can see that due to the specific construction with two concentric rings you need a special tool to apply the adapter on the port.
Obviously as the Nauticam lenses use an M67 thread new adapter needed to be developed.
Nauticam does not use ABS plastic and uses aluminum for all their parts.
Now that the items have a bayonet adapter there is a need for a lens holder to put on the arms.
The lens holder is too big for a standard 5″ segment but looks in proportion with a longer segment.
The adapter is larger than the LD mount and a bit big for compacts to the point that even with a tray the adapter tips the rig back.
Another challenge is that this system is designed for Nauticam lens that have protruding rear element so when used with standard lenses there is a gap between the port and the wet lens that can be counter productive, not the end of the world and frankly the Inon system has the same problem. This however means that if you wanted to use this system with a different wide angle wet lens this would be suboptimal.
I am waiting for Nauticam to ship me back the WWL-1 so I can show how that lens performs on this system.
Another observation of course is that if you use this system for wide angle the super heavy WWL-1 and the fact that the adapter only works on a normal segment means your rig will be very heavy in water. I am going to discuss with Nauticam the possibility to have the adapter on a float arm however their carbon arms do not have any mounting point to be used.
Stay tuned for a full review of this adapter with the new 29 macro port that looks very promising for video.
Following the previous review that was dedicated to still images we now go into the subject of 4K video with the Panasonic LX100 and related Nauticam LX-100.
Currently there are only two compact cameras that produce 4K video the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic LX100.
The housing for the Sony RX100 has a traditional M67 port whilst the LX100 uses the N50 compact port system.
This means you can use all your wet lenses with the RX100 without specific adapters. The LX100 has however a number of benefits.
This table compares the field of view of the two cameras in 4K video mode.
When the camera shoots in 4K mode the focal length remains the same however the camera uses a smaller part of the sensor. A normal micro four third sensor measures 17.3×12 mm whilst the 1″ sensor of the RX100 is 13.2×8.8 mm. Note that the LX100 does not use the whole sensor due to the multi aspect format that keeps the diagonal field of view unchanged regardless of the image format.
What we can see in the LX100 table is that although the focal length in 4K is 26mm the horizontal field of view is the same of a full frame camera with a lens of 23.86mm this means the field of view in 4K should be slightly wider than a picture taken by the LX100 in 4:3 format.
I put the camera on a tripod and took two sample shots, this is the first at 24mm in 4:3 format that I then cropped to 16:9.
This other shot is from exactly the same position taken extracting a 4K frame from a small video.
As stated the horizontal dimension is just a few mm wider in 4K 16:9.
What this means is that this is the same that any normal camera with a 24mm lens that then is cropped to movie format in terms of field of view.
The Sony RX100 does not have a multi aspect sensor and therefore the horizontal field of view drops more.
With the short port on the LX100 using a wet lens like the Inon UWL-H100 we can achieve more than 97° horizontal which is very wide and zoom all the way to 79° and if we use a wetmate or the mini dome cover the other range between 72° and 50°.
Practically the LX100 with wet lenses and wetmate or minidome gives you access to focal lengths between 15.5-21mm and again 24-35mm is like having an 8-18mm lens on a micro four third which is good for whale sharks and mantas this is even wider than the 7-14mm lens on a Panasonic GH4 in 4K and the LX100 has a (weak) optical stabiliser on the lens.
The RX100 mark IV instead can only cover between 96° and 90° before the wet lens stops working properly and we jump to 68° if using a wetmate.
This shot taken at around 15cm shows a nearly rectilinear and very wide image.
In short if you are after some super wide angle in 4K the LX100 is definitely the way to go.
From an ergonomic point of view I shoot video in shutter priority and let the camera work out ISO and aperture, this is relatively easy to do with the LX100 although the absence of custom memory modes on a mode dial is painful.
A control that can be quite useful due to the tendency of the LX100 to go focus hunting is to set the ae/af lock button to af-on. This requires the shutter to be set in release priority with this control you can use manual focus and force the LX100 to refocus when you hit the af-lock. This is a very useful feature.
Update 28 September the method described to fight focus hunting does not work in 4K. There is going to be another post with the best settings for 4K video for the LX100.
For what concerns macro both the LX100 and RX100 present their challenges due to the short zoom lens, the LX100 more so due to the horrible rectangular port. It can be argued that you can’t shoot wide and macro with the LX100 whilst you can do that with the RX100 however the strength of the LX100 is certainly in its very wide lens and the short port that combined with a flat wide angle lens can produce an extremely wide field of view able to cover practically almost any wide angle scene.
For macro the GH4 and upcoming GX8 are probably going to be better placed due to the higher crop factor giving focal lengths in excess of 100mm using the 14-42mm lenses.
If you want to get into 4K video and your focus is primarily wide angle the LX100 is an excellent device.
Nauticam has given me the opportunity to test the housing for the Panasonic LX100 priced at $1,200 or £922 in UK.
As anticipated some time ago this housing features the new N50 mini port system for compact.
The housing comes with the rectangular port as a standard, as the LX100 has a 24mm equivalent lens and the lens extends quite a lot between the shortest and longest focal length it is not possible to use an M67 long port or there will be vignetting.
In order to install the camera you need to set the aperture to f/16 and the aspect ratio to 4:3 with focus mode in normal and lift the zoom lever. Likewise to take the camera out of the housing.
Unfortunately as mentioned several times on this blog pincushion distortion severely affects the image at focal lengths shorter than 35mm equivalent as our in water test shot demonstrated. If you zoom in the corners you can see also extensive blur and chromatic aberrations.
Furthermore the lack of an M67 port means you now need the Nautical flip diopter for rectangular port that costs $220 or £170.
When you eventually get to put a diopter on the lack of zoom means that magnification with traditional lenses is quite limited.
The frame width is 62mm with a single Inon UCl-165 and goes to 5cm when we stack another UCL-330.
Image quality is ok except some blue fringing at the borders.
A single UCL-100 gives a frame width of 42mm.
Apparently the Nauticam CMC ($320 or £240) gives 32mm frame width that is adequate for macro.
So if you are into macro you need to invest $1,200+$220+$320=$1,740 to have some decent magnification.
If you possess many clamps and cold shoe ball mounts you can buy an Inon M67 lens arm and use the lenses you have saving some $$$ but the magnification is limited unless you get the CMC.
For semi-wide angle a mini dome port is available at $280 or £216.
This restores the field of view in air however you can only zoom to 40mm before the camera can’t focus anymore. I have even tried with dry diopters on the camera there is no improvement.
Optical quality is great.
Probably the most useful port is the N50 short port that has an m67 thread and allows to use wet wide angle lenses.
I went to Swanage but got the tide wrong visibility was shocking still gives an idea of the image quality of the LX100 with the Nauticam WWL-1 wet lens.
If you have a Nauticam wet mate you can also use it with the short port and achieve the same or better sharpness than the minidome thought with some residual chromatic aberration.
The big benefit is that if you find that your wet wide angle lens is too wide for what you are shooting you can change lens without changing the port.
For what concerns the ergonomics of the LX100 they are quite intuitive on land.
One of the characteristics is the lack of a mode dial.
You have an auto position for shutter speed and aperture and if you leave them as such the camera shoots in program mode.
Once you move the aperture the camera goes in aperture priority mode. Probably the worst situation is the shutter dial that once touched has to come down all the way from 1/4000 to whatever you need it to be.
Also you don’t have thirds of exposure for the shutter dial and for example to get 1/50 you need to go to 1/60 and then use the rear dial.
I found the ergonomics of the camera in water particularly annoying as I was shooting with gloves. I did like the nauticam trigger system for the shutter however the amount of hardware of the nauticam tray and its weight are not really an option for me.
The Panasonic LX100 is a very interesting camera on land but in water ends up quite uncomfortable and expensive. The housing with the 3 ports comes at $1,200+$180+$280 if you add the Nauticam CMC and the WWL-1 you end with a whopping $3,195 the camera costs another $800. Total investment $4,000.
This is a lot of money in my opinion considering that with another $300 you can get a Panasonic GX7 with GX7 housing, an Olympus 60mm with 65 macro port and a Panasonic 8mm fisheye with 4.33″ dome. The LX100 and GX7 share the same sensor but there is no doubt that the macro performance of a dedicated lens as well as the fisheye of the 8mm lens have no comparison.
In conclusion the Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 is a bit of a flop for stills the only use that I can think of is wide angle 4K video with the short port and a wet lens but other than that I don’t see how Nauticam is going to sell many of those units.
Micro Four Thirds camera have become increasingly popular for underwater photography especially for macro and close up subjects in the last years.
The micro four thirds standard is shared between Olympus and Panasonic however in terms of underwater use Olympus is on the forefront and in fact it produces their own poly-carbonate housings for all new models.
Nauticam has their own N85 port system for micro four third that as of today has 10 different ports, two extension rings and a large number of focus and zoom gear. You can also buy cheaper 3D printed gear to save a few bucks for majority of lenses.
The other interesting characteristic of the micro four third market is that since the introduction of the 16 megapixels sensors, there have not been any substantial improvement in image quality among the various model, we will have to see what the 20 megapixels sensor of the Panasonic GX8 will bring but all in all the camera choice is mostly one of ergonomics and features.
Olympus is quickly clearing stock but you can still found the OM-D E-M10 out there for £478 with kit lens. The might Panasonic GX7 is now £433 with kit lens. In US you can find both the Panasonic GX7 and the Olympus O-MD E-M100 for $599 with kit lens.
The Panasonic LX100 sets you at £589 in UK and $698 in US really if you are into photography and want a micro four third it is a no-brainer you get a previous version GX7 or OMD EM10 (as you can’t find an EM5 new) and happy days.
Now that you have committed to the camera you are into lenses and ports for underwater use. The Olympus housing costs on average 25% less than Nauticam and has less choice of ports for me really is not appealing so let’s assume we are into Nauticam. What lens or port to choose?
Both the Olympus 14-42 EZ and the Panasonic 14-42 II fit in the Nauticam 35 port and require 3D printed gear to operate. The flat port will be OK for fish portrait and if you already have wet lenses it is definitely recommended to buy the 35 macro port first especially if you shoot video.
Both lenses do need a wet diopter to shoot small subjects in water as the smallest frame is around 7-9 cm width otherwise.
If you come from a compact camera most likely you have wet lenses and therefore you can re-use them for close range work.
Obviously a flat port for a 28mm equivalent lens is not a solution for wide angle.
First of all at the wide end due to water magnification the angle of view is the same of a 37mm lens which gives a field of view of just 60 degrees. The other point is that you really want to shoot at the tele end to avoid cluttering the background too much and typically in water those kit lenses work only at over 25cm from the port which means they are only good for medium size fish portraits.
The sequence of shots shows that even if the size of the cup is pretty much the same it looks much better at long focal length.
At 28mm you can see the glass in the frame on the right side and the window in the background.
At 50mm with similar size of the cup the glass is half gone and the cup looks nicer less of the window is showing.
at 42mm the glass is nearly out of the frames and the windows in the background is gone.
If you did not have any wet diopters the first additional lens and port to get will depend on your subjects, if you shoot macro you need a macro lens, if you shoot close focus wide angle you need a fisheye lens it is as simple as that.
The Olympus macro 60mm is the preferred lens combined with the Nauticam 65 port (or 35 port plus 30 extension). This lens can focus 10cm from the port and therefore can be used also in low visibility. Really there is no reason to use the more expensive 45mm Leica lens. The 60mm is great also for portrait work of small fish.
The same shot of the cup at 60mm means we now say goodbye to the glass due to the reduced angle of view. The increased working distance also means a more pleasant perspective.
I hope this explains why for underwater macro we want to shoot with long focal length as this helps us to get rid of the background so a longer lens will always be better than a zoom lens with a wet diopter and it will also give more magnification in case you have really small subjects.
If macro is not your priority and you are happy with kit lens and diopter for wide angle the first option is the Panasonic 8mm fisheye, that since the introduction of the Olympus 8mm pro fisheye has also reduced in price.
This lens works best with the Nauticam 4.33″ dome port. If you shoot in 3:2 format you can also try the Nauticam 3.5″ wide angle port that makes the set up even smaller however there are no substantial improvements on how close you can get as the strobes will fail to lit properly anything that is right on the port without risking to see the strobe lights in the frame. The 3.5″ port will vignette in 4:3 image format though some users report success.
EDIT 7 September 2015
The issue of the 3.5″ port has been put forward again with the argument that it allows you to get closer than the 4.33″ dome with the Olympus EM5. I do not have an EM5 but I do have a Panasonic GX7 the end of the dome is 9 cm away from the focus point and this means that the dome allows you to get closer than the minimum focus distance of the lens of 10cm. As the dome is shorter than the minimum focus distance on the GX7 the 3.5″ port does not bring any benefit. Furthermore as trays are in general around 30cm you need to be around 15 cm anyway to be able to illuminate the subject properly with edge lighting, in virtue of this I remain convinced that the 3.5″ port does not bring any real benefit except is a bit cheaper and may vignette.
So your starter kit if you upgrade from compacts of you own a close up lens is Macro 35 port followed by Olympus 60mm and mini extension ring 30 or Panasonic fisheye 8mm with 4.33′ dome for wide angle.
Wide angle zoom lens are less of a priority but the choice is between the Olympus 9-18mm and the Panasonic 7-14mm bearing in mind that if you had a wet wide angle lens you may not even bother getting an intermediate wide angle zoom lens.
That’s all for now hopefully this will cover most of the ground for all new micro four third underwater shooters with kit lenses!
I am just back from the Red Sea underwater photography workshop hosted by Alex Mustard, this time I took the Panasonic GX7 with me instead of the Sony RX100 Mark II.
There have been a few posts on wetpixel and scubaboard to say that advanced compacts are all an underwater photographer will ever need considering also the luggage restrictions that are becoming increasingly more demanding these days.
As I have been on the forefront of the advanced compact shooters I thought of giving you my view on the subject. This is based on observations that I have made on this and last year workshop observing the images of around 35 different photographer. The kit in use went from a Sony RX100 Mark II all the way to full frame such as the Nikon D810, and included micro four thirds, cropped sensor SLRs as well.
In general terms I consider only 4 characteristics when I compare images between cameras and those are:
Richness of color (color sensitivity)
Contrast (dynamic range)
The following comparison may be useful to understand the differences between various cameras, I did it on Dxomark and I own all those 3 cameras so I have a good idea on how they fare.
I already observed last year that when it comes to color there really is no perceived difference between the RX100 and a MFT camera. There is however a difference between compacts and MFT when you compare to a good cropped sensor like the Nikon D7100.
To make the point clearer this is a portrait shot with the RX100 Mark II
This is another portrait shot with the Panasonic GX7
Here I am not talking about the contrast of the image the camera produces but the amount of contrast in the scene that the camera can deal with or dynamic range.
I am going to use two black and white images for comparison
Sony RX100 Mark II
Again not much difference at all.
It can be useful to be able to shoot at high ISO however to be honest I have not yet found a reason to shoot at more than ISO 400.
This is a Panasonic GX7 at ISO 400
I looked at my RX100 shots and I could only find an ISO 160 shot
I did not take split shots with the RX100 and so there was no need for high ISO. For me shooting at high ISO is a bit overrated as with stabilization you can shoot underwater landscapes at 1/25 without issue and for moving fish I use strobes for most.
Should you need higher ISO though there is around one stop improvement in a micro four third to a 1″ compact and nearly two with a cropped sensor.
This is probably the only real difference between a compact and a micro four third and to be honest is only visible on a 4K monitor or if you print or zoom into the image.
Schools of fish are a good way to check sharpness
This shot with the Sony RX100 Mark II is sharp
However if we look at the Panasonic GX7 with the 8mm fisheye
We can see that there is a difference looking at the fish scales.
So in short if all you do is to look at images on the screen there really isn’t much in it, however if you have a high resolution screen or you print there is a considerable difference in sharpness between an advanced compact and a micro four third.
So what about video? If we consider HD there is no perceived difference in sharpness between clips taken with the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic GX7 until you go to High ISO.
At 4K I suppose we are back to similar considerations and micro four thirds should win but I have not done any tests so it is hard to say.
One thing that I do like about the Panasonic GX7 with wet lenses is that you can zoom through the entire range of the lens, whilst this is not an option on the Sony RX100.
So my conclusion is that if you are going on a trip and you are constrained by luggage limitations you can load camera, housing, wet lenses and two strobes in a back pack if you use a compact.
With a micro four third the strobes could end up in the luggage hold.
What about DSLRs? I found that if I compare shots with a good cropped sensor like the Nikon D7100 I can see difference in both colors, contrast the camera can cope and noise. The difference in sharpness seems to be less when you compare the panasonic 8mm fisheye with the tokina 10-17mm.
This should give an idea
Obviously once you are in the DSLR camp the size of the housing and its weight become the predominant consideration but so does the cost that doubles from a micro four third rig.
The camera is available at £467 with £50 cash back from Amazon, during Christmas the cash back was £100.
In US this camera with the same lens is available at $647 which is pretty much the same price once you factor in the cash back.
The housing of choice is of course the Nauticam GX7 however if you look at the port chart the LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 II ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S. is not available on the map.
The lens on the map is the old version Mark I that was much longer when zoomed in and out and therefore Nauticam reports as flat port the 72 and the 4″ wide angle port if you like a dome. Now 28mm equivalent is not great behind a dome as it is too narrow.
So what about the current kit lens? The good news is that it fits in the Macro Port 35 too.
The lens also comes very close to the glass closer than the Lumix PZ 14-42 X Vario.
If you have an Olympus OMD-EM5 the camera comes with the Olympus ED 14-42 lens that also fits in this port.
The Panasonic lens is overall a better lens than the Olympus and is sharper than the Lumix Power Zoom 14-42 it has better sharpness and less chromatic aberration.
Another good characteristic of the Panasonic 14-42 Mark II Mega OIS is the way the lens zoom works. The lens is the longest at 14 and 42 mm and shortest at 25mm.
As such if you add an Inon wet lens the Panasonic 14-42 does not vignette with either the UWL-H100 or the close up UCL-165, it does not even vignette with the dome this was reported on an old Inon port chart.
So this lens is an excellent candidate for wet lenses because it has very low chromatic aberration and the zoom mechanism means the lens is very close to the port at wide end.
I put the camera in the housing and took some shots in an inflatable pool.
As it happened with the 14-42 PZ lens you can fully zoom through the wet lens and the corners stay sharp. This picture is taken at f/5.6 so the lens is not even stopped down.
A residual problem is the lack of zoom gear however there are options out there in the market.
One of those is deepshot missing bits that is ran by Jussi Hokkanen in London.
The zoom gear for our lens costs £55 which is around less than half than any Nauticam gear, it is 3D printed and is not as sophisticated as the OEM gear so it is one piece of plastic with 3 adjustable rubber bits. The gear comes with a small allen key to adjust it.
I got in touch with Jussi and few days later he delivered the gear at London Waterloo station. The gear works perfectly with the lens as expected.
The kit lens is not exactly a macro lens this is a shot at the 42mm end.
The lens does not vignette with the diopter UCL-165 either as this image demonstrates from what I can see the chromatic aberration is minimal too in the corners.
The previous should give you an idea of the level of magnification the piece of paper as actually bent so there is not so much distortion as it looks!
So that means with an investment of £55 plus the macro 35 port that retails at £230 we are ready to use the kit lens once we have the GX7 housing.
Total cost in UK 417+1100+55+230=£1802
In US 647+1550+290+90=$2577
This is still more than the Sony RX100 Mark II that can take all sorts of wet lenses and will cost less, still producing decent video and superb stills. However when you look at the newer Canon G7X once you take into account the fixed port system and the fact that the Canon can’t take a semifisheye you wonder where to put your money. Plus a mirrorless camera allows you to choose a proper macro lens like the Olympus 60mm or the Panasonic 8mm fisheye.
The Canon G7X costs now £369 and the Nauticam housing £850 with the macro port, but you need to spend another £120 for the short port and still you won’t be able to reach more than 110 degrees field of view.
If you have Inon wet lenses from your compact camera this looks definitely appealing.
Also consider that other than the Inon UWL-H100 other wet lenses for compact cameras do not work properly with mirrorless as this article demonstrates.
Note that the same considerations apply for the Olympus OMD-EM5 however the olympus kit lens does NOT perform well with the wet lenses in virtue of the different zoom logic. The Olympus lens is not close to the port at wide end as the Panasonic and I would not recommend the combination.
Obviously if you do not own any wet lens you still have the option of the Panasonic 7-14mm with wide angle port or the Olympus 9-18mm with the 4″ wide angle port. Both options require you to buy the lens and the port as well, both ports cost more than the macro 35, and both lenses have a soft corner issue at their widest.
The other positive of the kit lens is that it is optically stabilized from what I can see the Mega OIS is as effective as the Power OIS.
So if you have a panasonic GX7 with the newer 14-42 Kit lens you may need very little more to get you going especially if you are into video as the lens fully supports the Inon last generation of wet lenses.
I would also recommend this lens as a macro lens for the Panasonic GH4 and 4K video shooting, due to the crop factor the lens will be about 35-110mm which is pretty good.
So if you have grabbed a GX7 at discounter price you may as well be close to have a very effective combination without having to spend a fortune especially if you have a selection of wet lenses at hand.
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.
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.
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!
The Panasonic 8mm Fisheye lens for micro four third is a clear winner for close focus wide angle however the lack of zoom and the really wide 180º cover mean that there are many subjects that will look tiny in the frame.
The next option in terms of width is the Panasonic 7-14mm wide angle lens however this requires a large dome for optimal performance making the set up expensive.
Is there anything else left if you don’t want to buy a wet lens and you already have the Panasonic PZ 14-42 X Lumix G?
Panasonic produces an add on lens DMW-GFC1 that is declared to provide 10.5mm equivalent and reduce minimum focussing distance to 16 cm all specs can be found here.
This add on lens can be used with the 4.33″ dome for the 8mm fisheye and the 30 extension.
I took a few test shots and the results are pretty good.
This first shot is at f/5 and is very sharp in the centre.
Fisheye Converter f/5
Getting a bit closer and stopping at f/8 the results are pretty good for an adapter that is less than £100 on amazon.
Barrel distortion is contained so this combination may be good for wrecks where the fisheye effect is a bit disturbing.
If you have the Lumix G Vario X PZ 14-42mm you may want to invest in this little accessory before getting the much more expensive 8mm fisheye even if the Nauticam 30 extension is required. Later on the extension can be used with the flat port 35 and the Olympus 60mm for super macro and the 4.33″ dome of course with the 8mm.
I think it is amazing how much can be obtained out of this lens if we consider wet diopters, wet wide angle lenses and this adapter before you need to get a second lens.
This lens could also work for video with the Panasonic GH4 at 4K however zoom is not recommended with it.
Tip & Tricks for Compact and Micro four thirds Cameras Users