Category Archives: SONY RX100M2

Nauticam bayonet mount for wet lenses

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.

Flip Diopter on Nauticam RX100 IV
Flip Diopter on Nauticam RX100 IV

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.

LD mount converter on RX100 IV
LD mount converter on RX100 IV

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.

M67 bayonet mount converter
M67 bayonet mount converter

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.

M67 bayonet mount converter The large item is to attache the mount to the port
M67 bayonet mount converter
The large item is to attache the mount to the port

Obviously as the Nauticam lenses use an M67 thread new adapter needed to be developed.

Mount converter for CMC/SMC
Mount converter for CMC/SMC

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.

Lens holder looks too big for a 5" arm segment
Lens holder looks too big for a 5″ arm segment

The lens holder is too big for a standard 5″ segment but looks in proportion with a longer segment.

Lens holder on 8" arm segment
Lens holder on 8″ arm 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.

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Leak Sentinel V4 and Vivid Housing Vacuum Valves

A few weeks ago I was trying to buy a second hand Nauticam GH4 housing with the camera and I thought I could have recycled the valve on the GX7 housing. However I did not manage to take it off, even using the tool provided the valve would not come off.

Bare Vacuum Valve

The prospect of buying another valve did not sound particularly appealing so I tried to work out if there were some basic options out there and got in touch with vivid housings.

P1020804
Left Leak Sentinel V4 Right M14 Vacuum Valve

 

I wanted to find out if it was possible to use the leak sentinel that I still had as a dumb valve. I was also told that is possible to order the v4 circuit board for your leak sentinel v3 for €50. But I also noticed that there was a valve only option for €75. After a few discussions it turns out that is possible to order the vacuum valve (without circuit board) and the pump for €95 including shipping. This sounded quite appealing.

Unfortunately the valve was stopped at customs and it was dented disassembled and put back together damaging the o’ring plus my prospective seller for the GH4 rig had gone away. So in order to test if the valve was still working I used it with the M16 adapter that came with the leak sentinel v3 on the LX100 housing I have on loan that thankfully I have yet to return.

It works a treat! I posted a quick video review on my channel

Leak Sentinel v4 Updated Review

Vivid housing have taken on board my suggestions and the Leak Sentinel V4 comes with temperature compensation and also a very useful overnight mode. You an pressurize the housing and switch off the circuit if you prepare the rig overnight and then put it back on again. This is a clear advantage over other systems where the switch can only be accessed opening the housing. Another benefit is that if you have to change a port you also don’t need to fully open the housing.

I tested the leak sentinel v4 in parallel with the Nauticam system and generally worked well but there still some sensitivity having the sensor outside the housing so I suggest giving an extra stroke once vacuum is reached for safety otherwise the indicator may start blinking. Another useful feature is the battery warning indicator.

Frankly if you have a housing already equipped with a circuit and an indicator like the nauticam system it is likely you will only get the valve, after all the system in the housing has also a moisture sensor with an audible alarm. But if you have a housing without electronics the leak sentinel is a very cost effective option.

A word of warning as the circuit board is inside the valve care must be taken to have completely dry hands and dry environment when the valve is depressurised otherwise humidity can get into the PCB and make it fail.

The leak sentinel v4 costs €200 including shipping worldwide.

Both products are sold by vivid housings http://www.vividhousings.com

For clarity I received no benefit or commission on any of my review and I remain vendor independent!

Underwater Photography and Video: 1″ Sensor Compacts vs Micro Four Thirds

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:

  1. Richness of color (color sensitivity)
  2. Contrast (dynamic range)
  3. Noise
  4. Sharpness

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.

Dxomark Comparison
Dxomark Comparison

 

Color

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

Look Right in

This is another portrait shot with the Panasonic GX7

Wings Open

Contrast

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

Bats Photography

Panasonic GX7

From below

Again not much difference at all.

Noise

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

Ras Katy

I looked at my RX100 shots and I could only find an ISO 160 shot

Arrows

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.

Sharpness

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

Meteor

However if we look at the Panasonic GX7 with the 8mm fisheye

Get together

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

Shoal of snapper in action

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.

Demystifying video formats

Youtube now supports double frame rate video 50p and 60p so what?

That is actually a legitimate question look at this example here which is a short clip from a trip to Barbados in 2013, this was originally shot on a Sony RX100 Mark II in AVCHD progressive 1080@50p 28 Mbps

If you don’t see the 50p option is because your browser operating system does not support it. You need the latest version of browser and operating system and a machine fast enough plus enough bandwidth. So for Mac this means OS X Yosemite and Safari and for Windows you need 8.1 and IE9.

I hope you enjoyed the clip now check this other one which is a instead shot at 25p with the same camera at 24 Mbps/

I think you can see by yourself which one looks better and it is the 25p clip despite an overall lower bitrate.

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Underwater clips do not have a lot of action as you may think so extra frames go a bit to waste
  2. The encoding which is how the clip is first recorded by the camera is not really that different.
  3. The human eye does a great job at interpolating missing frames anyway
  4. There is not really much more data in the 50p file compared to its 30p rendition
  5. The image quality if you look at a still frame is better in the 25p clip.

There are of course benefits in shooting at double frame rate if you want to slow down the footage 50% speed but for what concerns your normal shooting you would say for that clip you could not tell.

Let’s think about it in simple terms if you have a clip shot at 25p with 24 Mbps you would expect something not quite double but a bit more for 50p instead you only have 28 Mbps. To be more precise you have 22 Mbps vs 26 Mbps video which is 18% more in Sony’s case. So that is not really much information more.

What is more interesting is the structure of the data what follows now is a bit technical but bear with me.

GOPStructure
GOP Structure Row 1 and 3 Sony AVCHD 25p and AVDHD progressive 50p

The first and third rows are representation of Sony 25p and 50p clips. The green bar are I frames that you can think of like a JPEG image, the red bars are P frames or prediction the only contain a delta from the previous frame not a full image.

You can see that in the first row there are 12 P red bar between each green I bar. This means that the GOP or group of picture is composed of a sequence IPPPPPPPPPPPP that repeats indefinitely.

On the 3 row there is a representation of a Sony 50p clip you can see that now there are 23 P frames between two I frames.

So the increment in full frame is limited however if we look at the sizes we see that the I frames in the 25p clip are 12% bigger and also the P frames are smaller.

So in short if you look at the image quality the 25p clip has more information in the full frames as well as for the predicted frames whilst the 50p clips has more frames but overall with less quality.

Which means that unless you are shooting something that is really action packed or you want to do slow motion there is no actual benefit but instead a deterioration when you shoot AVCHD progressive underwater.

Note: if instead we were shooting at higher bitrates for the 50p the story would be different but at similar bitrate it goes as above.

You will also have noticed stream 2 and 4 in the image above I repeat them again here

GOPStructure
GOP Structure Panasonic AVCHD 25p and AVCHD progressive 50p

The second and fourth stream are generated by a Panasonic camera and they look different. You will notice now the existence of frames with the tag B and also that some of the P frames have a green slice.

This means that Panasonic AVCHD implementation has two features that Sony does not have:

1. It has B frames which not only predict future frames from the past frames but can also reference future frames in the prediction (sounds crazy but it works basically the frames are stored in memory before past ones are saved)

2. It has slices for images so on one frame there can be an element of prediction from a previous frame and another element completely newly generated for example if the prediction was completely in a part of picture where there was a lot of movement.

H264 encoding has motion compensation so things that do not change are referenced and new parts are predicted or in this case partially created from scratch.

So the Panasonic encoding algorithm is much superior to the Sony one for AVCHD this explains why a small camera like the Panasonic LX7 could produce video to compete with a larger sensor RX100 with almost double number of megapixels.

What makes me laugh is when photography magazines jump to conclusion on the video quality of a camera shooting a static frame!

Of course if there is not movement the camera with the best IQ in still pictures will prevail however when you record motion all of that becomes somewhat less relevant as compression impacts the quality.

So the more effective compression algorithm of Panasonic beats Sony to the point that even a larger sensor size seems not to matter.

This explains why when you take a real life clip Panasonic cameras perform better in video despite a worst image quality in still images.

The difference between the 28 Mbps and 24 Mbps follows pretty much the same trend of the Sony clips there is not enough bitrate to justify the double frame rate unless there is a lot of action in your clip.

So to conclude if you are shooting AVCHD the normal 24/25p more will have better image quality and will be more suitable to scenes with a lot of dynamic range, will give more colour and contrast. If there is really a lot of action or you want to slow down the clip shoot in 50p bearing in mind that image quality will actually drop if you look at a still frame in isolation.

Underwater contrary to what you may expect things do not actually go that fast and most of the movement is in a specific part of the frame or in a limited part of it so AVCHD 24/25p gives better results.

Finally when looking at a camera for video check for real clips do not look at resolution charts designed for still images as they give very little indications on the quality of your videos. Also if there are any tests make sure those are on the JPEG images that share similar processing engine not on RAW files are you are not shooting RAW video. And finally consider that at similar bitrate some manufacturer have a clear edge on others when it comes to real time compression in our example Panasonic produces similar quality to a Sony camera with overall a better sensor but poorer compression.

Moving to Micro Four Thirds

In a previous post last year I had mentioned that a move to an interchangeable lens camera was unlikely however seeing the latest generation of compact on the market also have a port system it is time to reconsider the options.

During the Christmas holiday Panasonic put up a double cash-back promotion which meant you could get a Panasonic GX7 with kit lens with £100 off the retail effective price.

On the web you could find the GX7 with the 14-42mm G Mega OIS for £449 and combined with the 20mm f/1.7 for £579. The 14-42mm is actually a good lens but knowing I had to get the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm I opted for the 20mm f/1.7 a very bright lens that seemed good for occasional photos.

Butterfly bokeh

 

So I got myself the X Vario PZ 14-42mm and also the Lumix G 12-32mm Mega OIS as I thought I needed something midrange but did not want to spend a lot of money for the 12-35mm Panasonic and especially did not want to entertain a 6″ wide angle port.

Foliage Detail 12-32 mm
Foliage Detail 12-32 mm

I actually think this lens has better IQ than the 12-42mm PZ

14-42mm PZ
14-42mm PZ

The 12-32mm is the kit lens that used to come with the GX1 so is not a massively popular lens. A quick look at the Nauticam Port Chart confirms this lens takes the same macro port 35 of the 14-42 PZ, this port through a 30mm extension can be used to house the Olympus 60mm Macro. So went ahead and contacted Alex at Nauticam UK to get a quote on the housing. It turns out that there are no stocks of the NA-GX7 so had to wait until yesterday to receive mine.

I asked Alex to lend me a Nauticam Wetmate as I thought this could be used on the 35 port with the 12-32mm Panasonic lens in case the Inon UWL-H100 vignettes.

I was not quite sure of the physics of the wet mate so I got myself some close up filters in case there were focus issues.

The 12-32mm won’t focus in water with the wet mate until you add a +1 close up filter.

12-32mm with +1 diopter and wet mate on macro port 35
12-32mm with +1 diopter and wet mate on macro port 35

Once you get focus the image quality seems pretty decent despite being shot at ISO 1250 f/3.5. However this configuration would start having focus problem past 15mm so I put on a + diopter and tried again until 20mm or 40mm in 35 equivalent terms.

12-32mm at 20mm with +2 diopter and wet mate on macro 35 port
12-32mm at 20mm with +2 diopter and wet mate on macro 35 port

Quality is pretty good and the chromatic aberration are probably coming from the cheap diopter more than the wet-mate.

I am quite happy with those results although I have to admit the wet mate with the 67mm thread is a pain to take on and off in water and also is not coated so scratches easily.

Nauticam has still to confirm if the 4.33″ dome port can offer full zoom with the 12-32mm, I suspect it will with the help of a +2 diopter. The alternative is the 20mm extension with the 3.5″ wide angle port, in future perspective this is interesting for wide angle macro photography but not so much right now so will go with the 4.33″ dome.

I also did some tests with the Inon UWL-H100 28LD, once again the Fix M67-LD adapter let me down the screws had melted into the aluminium despite the tender loving care and broken the adapter I could however take some shots without the hood before that happened.

Panasonic 12-32mm with Inon UWL-H100 at 12mm
Panasonic 12-32mm with Inon UWL-H100 at 12mm

There are some dark corners but all in all the result could be acceptable equivalent focal length in 16:9 is 16.5mm which is approximately 105 degrees.

There seems to be some variability and some times I would get black corners more. Considering I will switch to the Nauticam LD adapter that vignettes more this at the end is not so interesting. The image is also a bit distorted.

With the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario  PZ 14-42mm instead there are no issues of vignette even in 4:3 aspect ratio.

Panasonic 14-42 PZ with Inon UWL-H100
Panasonic 14-42 PZ with Inon UWL-H100

The camera focuses literally on the glass.

What is even more interesting is that the camera lens combination keeps sharp focus all across the zoom range all the way to 42mm or 84mm equivalent.

Pamasonic 14-42mma t 42mm with Inon UWL-H100
Pamasonic 14-42mma t 42mm with Inon UWL-H100

Fringing is contained and generally the image is sharp across the frame considering we are at ISO 3200.

I also did a test with the UCL-330 and using the Extended Teleconverter function available in video I could achieve 32mm width frame with the 12-32mm lens!!!

The other positive note is that this is a 1″1 pixel read without artefacts and moire so generally quality is very high.

I think the PZ 14-42mm with the Inon UWL-H100 and a single UCL-165 makes a fine combination to shoot all purpose stills wide and macro in one dive. For video I will have to determine if the UCL-330 is a better choice considering the extended tele converter feature.

A few other features of the GX7 that really make this camera a video machine include the flicker free video recording that allows you to fix the shutter speed if you had to press the video record button when you are taking stills. Normally the camera would work in P more and not respect any shutter rule, with this feature you are telling the camera to shoot in shutter priority.

The GX7 has also the capability of altering the gamma curve for contrast which is great and a number of picture style presets of which I recommend the Scenery one for underwater use if you white balance.

I did some low light comparisons with the Sony RX100 and despite two full f/stops advantage for the RX100 lens the GX7 still resolved more detail at ISO 3200 versus the RX100 ISO 800 which was a bit surprising.

The AVCHD implementation at 24 Mbps will be my favourite underwater mode unless I am shooting macro and is a full IPB codec unlike the IP only with no B frames that Sony provides. That must be reason why the image quality in video is better even at two stop higher ISO.

In case you are looking for the holy grail for Nauticam micro four thirds camera to do a bit of everything the Macro Port 35 and the Panasonic G X Vario 14-42mm Power Zoom are highly recommended. Probably the image quality is not as good as the Panasonic 7-14mm although in my opinion with the Inon lens the results are very similar to the Olympus 90-18mm with 4″ wide angle port. Macro again is acceptable but not amazing with wet lenses. I will have to test more I am concerned the UCL-100 may not work with this port. For a mid range lens the 12-32mm costs one third of the 12-35mm Power OIS and once I receive the 4.33′ dome I will do more tests, meanwhile an option is to use the wet mate that works until 20mm before you have to take it off. The 4/33″ dome should have better image quality but maybe I will be surprised there too.

Finally with the 30 extension you can transform the macro 35 into a 55 port ready for some serious macro with the Olympus 60mm so I think having only one flat port, an extension ring and one dome to cover fisheye photography, portraits, wide angle, close up and macro is not bad at all. And for video most likely is the only port you will ever need together with the Inon UWL-H100 which is expensive but every flexible indeed.

I will post more images of the rig once I have nailed all options in terms of lenses and arms.

The end of advanced compact cameras for underwater photography

With the arrival of the new Nauticam N50 port system for advanced compacts I believe we say goodbye to using a large sensor compact underwater.

We already saw some signs when Sony released the RX100 Mark III with a 24-70mm equivalent lens, this effectively killed any use of the camera for macro. The new Panasonic LX100 has a similar problem with a 24-75mm lens but on top it has the new N50 port system in the nauticam housing or a severely limited functionality in the Ikelite version. It is obvious that the Panasonic LX100 will have similar sever limitations for macro but also with only 10 Megapixels really not be a strong competitor.

The last kid on the block is the Canon G7X, this camera looks very similar to the Sony RX100 Mark II and has a 24-100 zoom range that on land is very useful with an aperture of f/2.8 at tele end that is really interesting for land use. However this camera in the Nauticam version has the same port system N50.

So why has Nauticam introduced this? Both the Canon G7X and the Panasonic LX100 have fairly long lenses in terms of physical size and the zoom mechanism is such that the lens is retracted at wide end. This means that there is quite a gap between the lens and the port and wet lenses in those conditions have issues of both corner softness and chromatic aberrations. So Nauticam has introduced a short port with zoom blocked so that wet lenses can be used.

Effectively this is like diving with a fixed 18mm lens on your camera behind a dome with no zoom capability, taking the wet lens off results in horrible pincushion distortion so not really appealing.

Pincushion Distortion at 24mm with flat port
Pincushion Distortion at 24mm with flat port

The dome port does not allow the use of the full zoom at least without a diopter, so this is of limited use too for video.

Cost wise the new housing with the port system are around $1,200 in the US with additional $350 for the dome and $180 for the flat wide port. We are approaching the low end of Micro 4/3 Nauticam housing prices and are more expensive than Olympus OEM options but without the same flexibility and quality in terms of lenses.

It is clear that the Sony RX100 Mark I and II will remain one of a kind and this is the reason why they remain popular few years after launch.

Sony RX100 Mark II Rig June 2014 Front
Sony RX100 Mark II Rig June 2014 Front

 

Video Feature Sony RX100 Mark II in Malta

Following from my previous post I managed to get together a clip out of the 5 dives I did

The first day was somewhat plagued by visibility a bit lower than the norm for the location but the second day was fabulous

For this trip I brought with me the Inon UWL-H100 and the red push on filter from deep roof H20 and the Inon UCL-330 as I was expecting medium size fish and nothing really small

Here is the outcome

I am quite happy how things turned out so let me share the settings with you

First I shot most of the footage in 25p AVCHD mode only some small sections are shot at 50p and actually I did not need to slow down any of the material.

For the wide shots I used steady shot in normal mode and shutter priority at 1/50th. With the filter on I had auto white balance with tint correction G2 A1. I noticed that the camera was giving red tint in some situation and so added a bit of green back. The Amber correction instead is for the RX100 itself the camera does not have vibrant yellow and is a bit blue.

Tunas
Tunas – AWB with filter

For the first time I use creative mode changing the standard contrast to -3 in order to prevent crushing of blacks.

Exposure was set all along to -1/3 and metering to multi area with AUTO ISO limited 160-800.

I think the results are so good that in fact I have performed no colour correction to any shots in ambient light.

Opening the tuna farm
Opening the tuna farm – AWB with filter

For shots with lights I set up first colour temperature to 6500K and A1 to match the lights but then in some of the far shots this resulted a bit cold so I adjusted very slightly in post the temperature.

Seahorse
Seahorse – AWB UCL330

Only 40″ are adjusted in the whole video in essence is as shot and the editing took me half hour.

In cave
In cave –  AWB no filter

I did a bit of analysis and the camera was operating for most at ISO200 with aperture around f/3.5 – f/4.0 which is really the sweet spot of the lens.

I did have some challenges using the UCL330 for some nudibranches  that really required a stronger lens so they look a bit small, there was also surge so I had to fight with focus problems but all in all very happy.

Nudibranch
Nudibranch – AWB UCL330

The longer working distance of the UCL330 (20-30 cm or 8″ to 1′) proved challenging on walls as you are too far to hang on to anything or use a stick. I will bear this in mind in the future.

For the close up shots I used steady shot active.

I also wanted to say that a few times the camera did manage to white balance properly however the results were not exciting and frankly not worth the hassle. Using the filter is just so much better with the auto white balance.

Introducing the Sales Corner

I receive so many queries about equipment that I thought I would put some of my items on sale.

My cupboard is near enough to explode and I need to streamline the equipment I have. Currently I have 3 strobes, a huge selection of ball and clamp arms, 3/4 and 1/2 locline arms, float arms, floats, video lights, tray bases, around 15 clamps and some 6 macro wet lenses and 3 wide angle wet lenses with 3 different mounts.

I guess it is time for a clear up so I will add a section with items on sale where I will list some of the combination items.

The idea is to provide a full set of lenses or a tray + float solution as those seem to be the most asked for items in my set up.

So if you look on the menu you will see the link Sales items with details of the various sets. I can also sell the items individually but I think this makes little sense as I’d rather do that on ebay.

Many people read my posts and then go to gear shops but there there is always a little mistake or problem getting the whole set up from here you avoid that. I priced the items based on 50% of retail UK price and I would ship to UK and Europe, other overseas will attract import duty so it is not worth it in my opinion.

If there is anything you like  use the contact form on the relative page to inquiry

Tweaking the Sony RX100 Mark II Video Performance

I am currently in Malta for few days relaxing and I manage to squeeze in some dives. The Mediterranean sea is nothing sensational (from a pure diving point of view) but does offer clear water, and some brisk thermoclines, and a combination of algae, blue water, caves and silvery fish that is challenging on the dynamic range of our little RX100.

The purpose of this trip is mostly to refine the video settings and go more in depth in few topics. I wanted to try specifically the following:

  • Metering modes
  • Creative modes
  • Stabiliser modes
  • Tracking focus
  • Medium size fish portraits
  • White balance
  • Caves and low light

Some of my settings will be the same and I am not intending to changed them those are:

Auto ISO: 160 – 800

DRO: Auto

Starting off with metering, the first attempt was to try and use the camera on 0 exposure compensation with centred weighted average metering.

Entering Cave Fairly Bright
Entering Cave Fairly Bright

Pretty soon I realised this gave issues of banding of the blue water, this was apparent not only in backlit shots but also in normal wide angle of fish in specific cases. So after dive number 1 I changed it to the standard -0.3 from dive 2.

I set a new creative style with contrast at -3 in the hope to recover detail and seem to be working fine with the shots still having plenty of contrast.

Lowered Constrast on -3
Lowered Constrast on -3

I also tried spot metering for close up but it makes no sense the video lights are too wide and ended up with burned highlights at the edges of the frame so back to centred weighted average for close up shots.

Spot metering
Spot metering

So when it comes to metering my settings are:

Wide angle: multi area

Close up: centered weighted average

I did some tests with stabiliser in steadyshot mode, this gives back some field of view and the lens offers 100 degrees diagonal and 90 horizontal, I actually think a bit more anyway with fairly stable conditions this worked fine. At longer focal length for close up I am still using active mode.

Schooling Fish 100 fov
Schooling Fish 100 fov

I have a +3 diopter for this test as I realised in my last still trip I don’t have a lens for medium size fish, the lens worked very well and I also tried the camera tracking focus but it seems it won’t work with fireworms or similar. So either keep normal focus or manual with peaking.

Tracking focus fail
Tracking focus fail
Rock FIsh UCL 330
Rock FIsh UCL 330

White balance has been a subject of discussion, I did manage this time to white balance a few times but to be honest it was not worth the effort there is a better correction of the purple hue of the filter but this can be corrected setting Green to 1 or 2 in AWB. I also changed the AWB to include a correction with Amber 1 as per examples. Very happy with the results I think this is the final set up with this filter lacking a proper orange filter.

AWB corrected
AWB corrected

Shooting in low light was rewarding with ISO maxed out at 800. I am becoming less and less a fan of video lights in cave due to the amount of backscatter am getting. I think I will default at using the lights as dive torches instead of wide beams of even leaving them off for effect.

Backscatter
Backscatter
Cave in natural light
Cave in natural light

 

Red Sea Workshop with Alex Mustard – Part III Sunbursts and the Caves

On the early morning of Day 3 we left the Thistlegorm for Ras Mohammed.

Dive number one would have been on Ras Zahatar, this dive site has some great opportunities for sunburst shots in the early morning but generally not a lot of fish as the location is quite sheltered and there is never too much current that I recall.

There are also some very nice gorgonian fans around the 22 meters mark however as soon as we jumped in it was clear it was going to be a competition to have some of it. Besides not having made clear arrangements for modelling with anyone it was going to be a quite technical session.

Since the arrival of digital sunburst shots have proven to be problematic for DSLR and mirrorless users. The issue is with the sunball itself there is an issue of highlights when you try to shoot a coral reef with the sunball in the frame and you are using a shutter speed of 1/250th or 1/320th that are typical DSLR sync speed.

Mirrorless cameras do even worst as usually the base ISO starts at 200 that makes it really difficult to capture this shot.

So the key is to put the sun behind something or have the rays in the frame but not the sunball. Something like this to give an idea

Soft Coral
The sunball just behind the soft coral gives a nice glow so even with a 1/250th shutter and f/8 at ISO 100 is possible to capture a captivating scene.

Few meters away there is a gorgonian with a red soft coral on top that is really exciting to see at naked eye. To me this reminds of a frogfish head profile. It is impossible to capture this scene at 1/250th f/11 ISO 100 it is just too bright you need to reduce at least two stops to get the sun properly however if you did that on a DSLR you would be shooting at f/22 and it is near to impossible to properly illuminate the coral with your strobes at the distance required.

That is where our RX100 compact comes to help as you can sync your strobes at 1/2000th this should give a black background around the coral, the coral properly lit in the foreground as I had the strobes at full power and the sunball in the frame as well without too  many glowing highlights, this is the resulting shot
Sunburst
Note that a model would not be visible in this shot and fish would be colorful only in front of the coral or close by anyway as discussed there was not fish to model for me and this was just technical entertainment. The image is quite strong but the lack of fish makes it less interesting.

I found some cooperating clown fish on this dive however they are those with the dark eyes so despite the eye contact the shot is not as strong as it would be with a better subject
Look Right in
This is taken with a single Inon UCL-165 a luxury of having a compact and being able to wide and macro on the same dive.

Anyway I was happy with the sunburst in the frame so that dive was well worth it.

Dive two was at Jackfish Alley, and proved to be the most entertaining of the day. Who knows this dive sites knows that there are two caves, the first is wide but very dark and at certain times has turtles inside. The second is really narrow but has few cracks the provides a cathedral light effect best experienced in other site of the Southern Red Sea. Anyway we got the briefing and Dr Mustard was going to be marshaling the queue of photographer in cave number 2.

Being familiar with the dive site I knew that cave 2 is quite narrow even for normal diver let alone this big troupe of photographer so I mounted my tripod legs on the tray with a view of working in cave 1 and then move to cave 2 after the chaos was over.

Well it was real chaos as you can see from the feature image divers in the way, bubbles silt, in short it was a mess.

So I spent some time in cave number 1, this cave is really dark and you can’t really shoot handheld. In cave number 2 you can use speeds of 1/25 or 1/30 up your ISO  and put the camera on a rock whilst you take the shot, in cave 1 this results in darkness unless you go to 4 digits ISO.

So my shot on cave 1 is taken at 0.4″ f/4 ISO100.
1st Cave@Jackfish Alley
The shot is taken with the camera on the tripod using self shoot so that there is no shake from the hand pressing the shutter, this means the picture is sharp as it can be and due to low ISO also very noise free. Unfortunately fish did not feature in the shot so this is again a fairly technical shot that is not as strong as it could be.

There were other interesting opportunities in smaller cracks like this one that I like quite a lot though is not a sensational shot.
Window
I like the fact that the two snappers are one silhouette and the other full color.

After the shambles of dive 2 we moved to Shark Reef where the first dive was really more to acclimatise with the site so won’t bore you with the pictures for that dive.

In the evening the sunset dive was at Ras Katy that would have been our regular evening spot from there onwards.

On day one I was playing with dapple light and reflections

Dapple at Ras Katy
Dapple at Ras Katy

 

This is me taking the shot above

Interceptor Shooting Dapple

As you can see I am nearly at the surface thanks to Damo for this picture.

Near surface can also be interesting like in this case

Test Shots dapple Reflections
Test Shots dapple Reflections

Here you can see part of the Snell windows together with the reef and the sunball. This shot can be made much more interesting if you focus on the reflections.

Anyway this was the end of day 3 of diving next post will be about Shark Reef and the schools of fish.