Category Archives: Underwater Photography

Getting the best colors in your underwater video with the panasonic gh5

There is no doubt that the Panasonic GH5 is a very capable camera and in given conditions the video performance you can get is truly impressive.

Broadly speaking a video clip needs to be:

  1. Sharp
  2. Colorful
  3. Contrasty
  4. Clean

Those 4 characteristics are tightly related to:

  1. Resolution
  2. Color depth
  3. Dynamic range
  4. Low Noise

Resolution

Today everyone shoots 4K and after all resolution is well supported by almost any camera, broadly is unaffected by other factors and unless the noise is really high sharpness of your frame is not going to be a real issue shooting at 4K.

Color depth

In normal conditions and not underwater a camera can resolve many colors. However underwater due to the diffraction of light and selective absorption of colours the starting point is very different from land. So generally is not the camera that cannot resolve the colors but the colors that are missing to start with. This post will focus specifically on this aspect. The Panasonic GH5 can resolve 23.8 bits in RAW and therefore technically has less than 8 bits color depth – do not confuse this with the 8 or 10 bit recording setting.

Dynamic Range

Underwater scenes tend to have limited dynamic range, with the exception of sunbursts or shooting against the light this is going to be an issue only in specific circumstances of very bright scenes with shadows. In all scenes taken with video lights dynamic range is not an issue at all. The GH5 has 13 stops of dynamic range but rarely this is an important consideration.

Noise

Noise is an important consideration as when the noise goes up the camera looses the other characteristics, color, dynamic range and resolution will be affected when the camera is outside the sweet spot. Broadly speaking the Panasonic GH5 does not do well once you pass the ISO 1600 setting and I tend to cap the ISO in video at 800 in most cases.

Diving Conditions

To understand how those variables play we can see how the same set up reacts very differently in scene where there is less light and therefore the camera uses high ISO like this one.

The same camera with exactly the same equipment in brighter water produces this

So the reason for the above is that with less light there are less colours and the clip looks what it is really.

OK moving on to the main subject of this post how do I get the colors right? It is a combination of techniques and the trick is to use the right one in the right conditions.

Generally every site has specific conditions that change depending on weather, time of the day, visibility and other factors. So in broad terms a site will have more or less light and therefore more or less colours. It is therefore impossible to categorically define what to do at a given depth but is more about typical values. With this in mind we have typically 3 scenarios:

  1. Ambient light shots
  2. Artificial light shots
  3. Balanced light shots

Close up Shots

In general close up shots especially of small subject fall within the scenario 2 for which a video light with high color rendering is important as this will define the colours you see. With a lot of power it is possible to extend artificial lighting to larger subjects but eventually you run out of power due to distance or size of the subject.

Wide angle shots and seascapes

True wide angle shots are generally ambient light shots which also means when it gets too dark the colors will be missing and it will look blue not matter the equipment.

In order to make the most of ambient light shots for wide angle it is essential to balance the colours in water even when you use a RAW format on a still image because RAW files are not as RAW as you think and are actually compressed.

Custom White Balance

Using Custom White balance with a grey card it is possible to obtain decent results until the camera hits the maximum color temperature in the case of the Panasonic GH5 this is 9900K. Depending on conditions you may get to 10-12 meters and this still works, in darker water this stops working much sooner.

Chrisoula K Bow
Chrisoula K Ambient Light 5 meters

Color Filters

Color filters push the limit of custom white balance further down. Some add more or less 4 meters others up to 6-8 meters at the expense of an overall loss of light. Filters are useful when there is a lot of light because also help to keep the Panasonic Gh5 in the best aperture range (not smaller than f/11)

Filter in action at 10 meters

Right now there are predominantly 3 filters on the market:

  1. UR PRO
  2. Magic filter
  3. Keldan Spectrum

All those filters will improve the performance and color rendering of your footage, under the conditions that the loss of light is not pushing the camera above reasonable ISO values.

In terms of depth range the magic filter and the Keldan Spectrum -2 version can be pushed to 15 meters depth on a bright day in clear water. The URPRO is capable of getting a few meters more down to around 17-18 meters although it does generate an orange cast (as there is no red left) it is still workable.

FilterLight LossTypical Max Depth
Magic Filter1 1/2 stop15 meters
Keldan Spectrum -22 stop (WWL)15 meters
URPRO 2 stop18 meters

This image gives an idea of the 3 filters as you can see they are very different one from the other.

Keldan top URPRO bottom Magic filter

Balanced Wide Angle Shots

This is an entirely new technique that has started with the Keldan Ambient light filters. I wrote a whole piece on wetpixel

The principle is to use custom white balance with or without filter to obtain color rendering and then put filters on the video light so that the color of the light emulates the ambient light and therefore it only gives texture not color.

Keldan has developed a whole range of filters for various situation that match their light and therefore are not applicable to any other light.

As I do not own a set of Keldan I have done some tests and found that a gel of Cyan filter 2 or 3 stops makes my divepro G18+ practically ambient light in the conditions I dive into.

FilterCyan Strength
Magic Filter2 stops
Keldan Spectrum2 stops
URPRO3 stops

The above value are based on my experience use at your own risk especially with different lights.

Square Cyan 2 stops Round Cyan 3 stops

To give an idea I overlapped the filter to my iPhone lens

This is the shot without any filters

Original Shot

URPRO and Cyan 3 stops (darker)
Magic filter and cyan 2 stops accurate
Keldan and cyan 2 stops accurate

This example shows that the two filters cancel themselves the result is almost daylight with no cast which means in water if you use a video light or a strobe you will not see a red or orange spots on the image.

For those taking pictures the same combination remains true with Inon Z240 and Sea and Sea YS-D2

Example picture here

five in a row
My own filter and Cyan 3 stop note that the light is coming from the other side

One thing to take into account is that you need to find a way to hold the gel on the video light or the strobes. The flat surface strobe diffusers make this process easy, finding something you can use with your video lights is not easy and also the gels may melt after continuous use.

Artificial lights

It comes a point and a depth where filters stop working, this could be as shallow as 8 meters in green water. As the scene is dark using lights is what is required. There is nothing specific about this technique except making sure you don’t get burned highlights or backscatter. As it happens in photography using long arms (maybe not as long as for stills) is key to get good lighting on your subject.

My Camera Settings

I use CineLike D with saturation, sharpness and noise reduction to -5. I shoot at 24/25p AVCI 400 mbps and follow the 180 rules, it is entirely possible to shoot at 1/100 if you like more crisp look.

Clearly there are people out there that do not like filters and think white balance is best etc but I think a good read on magic filters explains it all.

http://www.magic-filters.com/need.html

CALLING OUT TO ALL IMAGE MAKERS 1ST INTERCEPTOR121 LIVEABOARD RED SEA 2020

Diving for images or video can be frustrating at times. I find this less so for macro and super macro where you are resort based and you can hire a guide with super sharp eyes that will help you find the right subjects. For wide angle it is a totally different story. Land based may preclude the best access to certain destinations whilst if you are on a liveaboard with divers there is a conflict of interest. The boat will typically run a fixed itinerary cruise and the result is that you will visit many times so more memorable than others and typically just once. The single dive you do may not be at the right time of the day and the ambient light may not be the best for what you trying to do.

I am self taught and I like to read books and experiment myself however some years ago I was invited by Nauticam to a Red Sea workshop with Alex Mustard.

I wrote some articles at the time you can find them all if you click this link https://interceptor121.com/?s=workshop

What I really liked about that workshop was the ability to steer the boat to the right sites, to be able to dive at the right time of the day and also to repeat dives on the best sites and omit the areas that were not promising. For me this had great value on its own.

Of course Dr Alex Mustard tuition was also superb however I have now done this workshop 3 times and I believe that element has become less interesting. I also happened to work in Sharm El Sheikh as resident instructor at the Marriot Hotel so all dive sites were already known to me as a diver at least.

On those workshops I found very useful the fact that you could see the work of others and learn from the group, I also like the fact that there was no competition so everybody was encouraged to share.

Needless to say that after years of diving the same sites I still find the Northern Wreck and reefs of the Red Sea one of the best imaging destination in the world so I thought how do I have the same experience without the workshop part and the related high costs – it costs almost double a standard diving trip to book Alex workshop and they are fully booked almost immediately.

A further issue that has occurred in time is that there are no flights to Sharm El Sheikh from UK and now majority of boats live from Hurghada. This seriously limits the workshop as you have a lot more navigation.

So my ideal requirements for such a trip would be:

  1. Boat to live from Sharm El Sheikh not Hurghada. I rather have indirect flights and burn land time vs consuming cruise time in transfers
  2. Need to be able to have full control of the itinerary
  3. Dive as a photographer with a loose buddy concept
  4. Have a good boat and logistics
  5. Have small number of people in the water – I think 20 is too much so I have set my target to 8 min 12 max

I reconnected with my old network and after looking around I have found a boat and a company that can help with this.

King Snefro is the only liveaboard fleet currently departing from Sharm El Sheikh and the boat of choice is the Snefro Pearl

Cruise Dates: 25 July to 1 August 2020

Price: €1250 or $1395 per Pax in twin cabin includes:

  • 32% Nitrox
  • Airport transfers
  • 12 Liter tanks
  • 3 meals, snacks and soft drinks, tea and coffee
  • Special imaging orientated dive briefing to make the most of the sites
  • Group image debrief – optional participation
  • Arrival on Saturday 25 July – check in commences at 1800
  • Check out Saturday 1 August – 1200 latest
  • For those whose flight leaves much later possibility of a stop gap in a beach resort before final departure

On to the dive sites:

Wrecks of Abu Nuhas

Giannis D

Gianni's D classic shot
Giannis D Classic Shot

Carnatic

Encircled
Silversides and diver in the Carnatic

Chrisoula K

Chrisoula K Bow
Bow of Chrisoula K

The Tugboat

Stay Away from my Eggs
Tiger cardinal fish with eggs

The Thistlegorm

Motorbike in Hold 2
bike on hold 2

Ras Za’tar (Optional site for sunbursts)

Sunburst
Suburst on Ras Za-tar

Jackfish Alley – Optional site for caves

1st Cave@Jackfish Alley
Cave 2 Jackfish alley

Ras Mohammed where at that time of the year you can have various shoals of fish

Bohar Snappers

Sunburst  Snap
Snapper Sunburst

Barracudas

Arrows
Arrows

Batfish

Schooling Batfish on Reef
Bats

Surgeonfish

Toilet Flush
Toilet flush

Instead of night dives we will do snorkelling session for split shots or sunset dives

Sunset Neat
Sunset on Ras Katy

I will be glad to help with ideas for the sites or the shots to take however this is not for beginners so if you don’t know even how to work out your camera works maybe it is not for you. The trip is open to photographers and vdeographers I will shoot both and will provide assistance as required. Below little sample of the video opportunity in Shark Reef

If you are interested in this trip deposit of 25% is due by September 23 2019 full payment by 25 January 2020.

Please use the form to express your interest. In case the cruise it is sold out I will operate strictly a first come first serve basis at time of writing there are five only three spaces left so hurry up. In case of cancellation I will also run a wait list. Please inquiry for any other details as well

NAUTICAM WWL-1:THE BEST WIDE ANGLE LENS FOR UNDERWATER VIDEO (ON THE GH5 AND OTHER MICRO FOUR THIRDS)

It has been almost 4 years since my first review of the Nauticam WWL-1 wet wide angle lens and a few accessories later this lens is definitely my all time favourite for underwater video with my GH5.

I do not want to repeat myself and beat to death the topic of sharpness in corners I would rather recap on the other benefits of this lens that really make it unique for underwater video. Obviously this lens is very valid also for still images because of the ability to zoom through but this is not the focus of this post.

So let’s have a look at the three killer features of this lens that make it really special

Field of view

The WWL-1 once combined with the Panasonic 14-42mm MKII (the best lens to combine with the WWL-1 in my view) offers a field of view of 130 degrees diagonal. But what does that really mean?

First the WWL-1 does not compare with a rectilinear lens in fact it is almost a fisheye lens as we can see from those shots of a pool wall.

WWL-1 at 14mm wide end

The barrel distortion is evident correcting the image in lightroom gives an idea although not 100% correct of what is the real field of view of the lens.

WWl-1 at 14mm with distortion correction at 100

What is interesting to see is that the WWL-1 like a fisheye lens offers a much wider diagonal field of view than on the other dimensions.

I have compared the WWL-1 with other rectilinear lenses and with the 8mm fisheye.








Horizontal  25 50 100 200 FOV Linear Ratio to FE
7-14mm@7 62 124 248 496 102 57%
8-18mm@8 54 108 216 432 94 50%
12-60mm@12 36 72 144 288 72 33%
WWL-1 61 122 244 488 102 56%
Fisheye 8mm 109 218 436 872 130 100%







Vertical 25 50 100 200 FOV
7-14mm@7 46 92 184 368 86 84%
8-18mm@8 41 82 164 328 78 75%
12-60mm@12 27 54 108 216 57 49%
WWL-1 39 78 156 312 75 71%
Fisheye 8mm 55 110 220 440 96 100%







Diagonal 25 50 100 200 FOV
7-14mm@7 77 154 308 616 114 13%
8-18mm@8 68 136 272 544 107 12%
12-60mm@12 45 90 180 360 84 8%
WWL-1 107 214 428 856 130 18%
Fisheye 8mm 583 1166 2332 4664 170 100%

The table I have prepared uses the equisolid equation for a fisheye lens to map the WWL-1 I have verified the values and I can confirm the WWL-1 is somehow equivalent to 10.06mm fisheye lens.

There are two things that are worth noting, the first is that on the horizontal and vertical axis the WWL-1 is not wider than the Panasonic 7-14mm at 7mm. The other consideration is that with the WWL-1 the 4:3 format frame starts to become a classic 3:2 as the ration width/height is 1.56.

When we work in video at 16:9 we crop out most of the diagonal part leaving the rest of the field of view intact this means that in video mode the lens is much more rectilinear and the barrel distortion more contained.

14mm WWL-1 cropped at 16:9

If we look at a frame at 25mm we can see that at 4:3 the level of distortion is reduced but still present.

WWL-1@25mm

.The corrected frame shows the residual distortion.

WWL-1@25mm corrected
WWL-1@25mm 16:9 crop

The level of residual distortion in video mode is pretty negligible at 25mm. At 35mm even in 4:3 mode the WWL-1 is practically straight.

The benefit of the distortion of the WWL-1 is such that if you are shooting large sharks for example the barrel distortion makes those sharks look large in the centre of the frame and when they go out of the frame you don’t have the pull effect of a classic rectilinear lens behind a dome. At the same time if you need to shoot some divers or lines that are straight you can zoom in and still cover a pretty wide field of view.

Stabilization

The other benefit of the WWL-1 is that allows you to use lenses that are stabilised, today any lens at the 7-8mm range on micro four third has no stabilisation which means you need to use the in body stabiliser if available with your camera. For the GH5 this means that choosing a lens like the 14-42 MkII gives you access to Dual IS combining body and lens stabiliser and IS lock that really is useful when finning around. I just want to make sure that I am clear I am talking of this lens

https://www.panasonic.com/uk/consumer/cameras-camcorders/lumix-camera-lenses/lumix-g-lenses/h-fs1442ae.html

The Panasonic 14-42PZ power zoom is NOT compatible with dual IS so if you use this lens you either have in body or lens stabiliser not both. Obviously if you have a camera without stabilisation like the GH5s or the BMPCC 4K all of this is less relevant but still you can have some stabilisation instead of nothing.

I have not shot a comparative Dual IS vs Lens IS vs nothing in the pool but I am planning to do that soon. I can only say once you have dual IS with IS lock you don’t want to go back.

Filters

The final killer feature of the WWL-1 is that it gives you access to the Keldan Spectrum filters review here http://wetpixel.com/articles/review-keldan-spectrum-and-ambient-filters-by-massimo-franzese

Personally I think that any dive down to 18 meters in tropical or subtropical water will benefit from a filter but I also believe that conditions may change and in some cases you want to take the filter off. Now most of the rectilinear lenses for the GH5 do not even take a filter but also consider that once you fit one in dome port you are stuck with it for the dive. With the WWL-1 and the Keldan filter if you feel there is too little light and you want to get rid of the filter you can.

Keldan filter in action

Travelling light – Part I Chargers

Disclaimer: there are many USB chargers out there and not all of them have performance level adequate to support your underwater photography needs. Make sure that each USB-Type A outlet is at least 10W and that the total power equals 10xnumber of outlets as a minimum or your USB charging will be slow. If you get an USB-C charger make sure that the power allocated to the USB-A outlets is enough or your laptop will charge very fast but your batteries will take forever. The product I am suggesting here have been researched and I have tested them on the field I do not take responsibility if you get something different because it looks cheaper or newer. In case of doubt happy to take questions.

Few months ago I booked a shark diving trip. Looking at the boat specs I realised the vessel was smaller than those I have travelled in the past and therefore I was concerned that with many photographers on boat it would have really been a struggle to have all my chargers especially as there were only shared cabins. Furthermore many boats do not allow anymore to charge batteries in your cabin to reduce the risk of fires,

I put my items on a scale and I realised how much this whole set up weights

Charger spaghetti and one strip

I contacted the boat that told me strips were available for power but of course US format so not good for me. 1.8 Kg for a single AA battery fast charger, laptop power supply, phone charger, camera batteries charger. 1.8 Kg without even including the back up AA charger in the image below. Of course I can find a lighter strip or have a number of US adapters but you can see this is not heading in the right direction.

Chargers for a typical underwater photography typical trip

I recently bought a new MacBook Pro that only has USB C ports this has made me realised how powerful USB has now become with USB C you can deliver power to charge a large laptop as well as transfer at light speed images and especially videos. I will write another post on how to make your physical media management more effective but for now let’s focus on power.

At the same time in our home there is competition for charging tablets, phones and all sorts of other portable equipment by USB.

I thought would not be nice to have a multi USB charger? Do they even exist and the answer is yes. See below a product I bought for home and travel use that can power up to 4 devices.

Wall Charger, RAVPower 40W 8A 4-Port USB Charger with iSmart 2.0, Travel Adaptor for iPhone XS/XR/XS Max/8/8 Plus, Galaxy S9/S8/Note 8, iPad, Tablet, Kindle, Power Bank & More – Black

£15.99 to end all our struggles seemed a great deal. You can directly click the image above to buy it on amazon.

In US this is $16.99 so even cheaper

RAVPower USB Wall Charger 40W 8A 4-Port Multi-Port Travel Charger Charging Station, Compatible iPhone Xs Max XR X, iPad Pro Air Mini, Galaxy S9 S8 Note 8 Edge, Smartphone, Tablet and More

From there I started thinking is there a way to charge AA batteries using USB after all the current requirements are quite low?

So I found this other product that did the job and can charge 4 AA or AAA batteries for £14.99 on Amazon. Note that despite the misleading description the two chargers are identical except one has micro USB and the other also USB-C. The USB-C version is slightly bigger (70x90x23 mm USB version vs 97x114x34mm USB C)

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
EBL 2-hour Super fast AA AAA Rechargeable Battery Charger with Battery Intelligent Auto-detection Tech for 1-4 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Links to Amazon.com

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
AMAZON.COM
EBL 2-hour Super fast AA AAA Rechargeable Battery Charger with Battery Intelligent Auto-detection Tech for 1-4 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
AMAZON.COM

From there I moved to camera batteries and I found another product that allows to charge two batteries at the same time as battery consumption for video is huge. £8.49 seems a bargain click and see for yourself!

Newmowa Dual USB Charger for Panasonic DMW-BLF19 and Panasonic DMC-GH3,DMW-GH4 (DMW-BLF19 Dual USB Charger)

DSTE Rapid Dual Battery Charger with Micro USB Cable for Panasonic DMW-BLF19E BLF19 Battery on Amazon US

The above for the Panasonic GH5/5 etc the following for other cameras

Nikon EN-EL15 for D8xx series on Amazon UK

Nikon EN-EL15 for D8xx series on Amazon US

Sony FW-50 for A7 series on Amazon UK

Sony FW-50 for A7 series on Amazon US

Olympus BLN-1 for OMD series on Amazon UK

Olympus BLN-1 for OMD series on Amazon US

Canon LP-E6 for 5D series Amazon UK

DSTE Dual USB Charger for Canon LP-E6 LP-E6N EOS 5D Mark II III 5DS 5DS R 6D 7D 60D 60Da 70D 80D 7D Mark II III XC10 EOS R BG-E22 Digital Camera Amazon US

When you hit the page you can also buy compatible batteries this is not recommended please buy original batteries there is a whole world of difference.

At this stage my travel charger was using 2 ports for AA batteries 1 for camera dual battery charger with one spare for the phone or other devices.

I though is there a charger that also has a UBC charging port so I can also get rid of the laptop charger and there is £27.99 on amazon click on the image to go directly there.

USB C PD Charger, RAVPower 60W 5-Port Power Delivery Desktop Charging Station with 1 Type-C PD Port up to 45W for MacBook, 4 iSmart 2.0 Ports for iPhone XS/XR/XS MAX-Black
Amazon.com Link

At this point streamlining was complete. As additional benefit the desktop charger has a removable power plug so you can get your cable for EU or US or any other country the device will work anywhere. The only item still to be worked on are video lights but with batteries of 99 Wh this is not yet possible.

I put all on the scale well it speaks for itself 1 KG less

Of course many people do not have USB C powered laptops yet but this is changing so I would recommend getting a charger with USB C however if you don’t want or need that there is also a charger without with 4 or 6 ports

USB Charger, RAVPower 40W 4-Port Desktop Charger Mains Plug with iSmart for iPhone XS XR XS MAX, iPad, Galaxy S9, Mobile Phones, Tablet -Black
Amazon.com link
RAVPower USB Charger, USB Charging Stations with 60W 6-Port Multi Plug Charger for iPhone XS/XR/XS Max, Galaxy S9 – Black
Amazon.com link

Of course you have put all eggs in one basket now but frankly it was the same also before if one of the charger would fail and besides you will find USB chargers on a resort or a boat as anybody as a phone. Worst case you can bring two power suppliers however this looks unnecessary to me.

I hope you find this useful feel free to share this page with your friends and use the links on here. I have looked into products in details those are the best ones that have the features you need (2.4A current at least 45W USC B won’t bore you with details but trust me this is what you need).

Nauticam WWL-1 with Macro Port 29 for Micro Four Thirds

Nauticam has recently released a new Macro port 29 that is shorter than the 35 and is designed for optimal compatibility with the following lenses and the WWL-1 Wet lens.

  1. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R
  2. Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Mega OIS
  3. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario Power Zoom 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Power OIS

I have had the port and wet lens for a few days and those are my observations with the Panasonic lenses as I do not own the Olympus.

In general terms none of those lenses are amazing in terms of optical quality and only the Panasonic lenses are stabilized. This is not so important for still images but an advantage for video.

Photozone has tests of all the three lenses

Olympus Test

Panasonic Vario G X PZ Test

Panasonic 12-32 Test

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.

Panasonic G X 14-42 PZ Port 29
Panasonic G X 14-42 PZ Port 29

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.

Panasonic 12-32mm Port 29
Panasonic 12-32mm Port 29

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.

8mm Fisheye
8mm Fisheye

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.

Inon UWL-H100 Port 29
Inon UWL-H100 Port 29

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 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.

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!

Nauticam NA-LX100 4K Video Review

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.

LX100
4K Horizontal FOV Vertical FOV Diagonal FOV Sensor width 35mm 3:2
26.00 71.90 44.40 79.50 15.80 23.86
81.00 26.20 14.90 29.90 15.80 74.40
RX100
4K Horizontal FOV Vertical FOV Diagonal FOV Sensor width 35mm 3:2
28.00 67.90 41.50 75.40 11.85 26.73
80.00 26.00 14.80 29.60 11.85 76.37

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.

4:3 Crop to 16:9
4:3 Crop to 16:9

This other shot is from exactly the same position taken extracting a 4K frame from a small video.

4K Photo 16:9
4K Photo 16:9

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.

UWL-H100 Flat Test Cards
UWL-H100 Flat Test Cards

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.

The WWL-1 on a Nauticam LX100
The WWL-1 on a Nauticam LX100

 

Nauticam NA-LX100 housing and port system review

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.

NA-LX100 aperture and format dial
NA-LX100 aperture and format dial

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.

LX100 housing preparation
LX100 housing preparation

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.

LX100 flat port at 24mm
LX100 flat port at 24mm

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.

UL-165
NA-LX100 UCL-165

The frame width is 62mm with a single Inon UCl-165 and goes to 5cm when we stack another UCL-330.

UCL-165+330
NA-LX100 UCL-165+330

Image quality is ok except some blue fringing at the borders.

A single UCL-100 gives a frame width of 42mm.

UCL-100
NA-LX100 UCL-100

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.

N50 3.5
N50 3.5″ Mini Dome

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.

LX100 Mini Dome 24mm
LX100 Mini Dome 24mm

Probably the most useful port is the N50 short port that has an m67 thread and allows to use wet wide angle lenses.

N50 Short Port
N50 Short Port

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.

SWANAGE (4 of 4)
Atlantic Ocean Anemones

SWANAGE (3 of 4)
Kelp?

Upside down
Upside down

SWANAGE (1 of 4)
Myst!

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.

LX100 Short Port Wet Mate 24mm
LX100 Short Port Wet Mate 24mm

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.

NA-LX100 rear buttons
NA-LX100 rear buttons

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.

Nauticam WWL-1 Wet Wide Angle Lens Review

Nauticam has been working on a wet wide angle lens for some time now, the first prototype was seen with the release of the new N50 port system for compact but nothing has come to market yet.

Until now!

Last week I have received a pre-production version of the WWL-1 (Wet Wide-Angle Lens – 1) coming in a retail box.

Edward had advised that the lens is bigger than the competition and this is due to the construction that includes 6 elements in 5 groups.

The box size is the same of a small compact housing and inside you find a pouch that looks like a mini picnic basket.

WWL-1 Pouch!
WWL-1 Pouch!
The lens comes with a neoprene dome cover.

WWL-1 With Cover
WWL-1 With Cover
Other characteristics include an adjustable dome and a large loop ring. I am unsure if this is to secure the lens, as it is so heavy you can’t really remove it in water or to operate it more easily.

WWL-1 Section
WWL-1 Section
Thanks to that ring I could easily remove and replace the lens with gloves.

The other feature is the extremely large rear element that measures 48mm, larger than the Inon UWL-H100. This makes the lens virtually compatible with any camera at 28mm equivalent. Edward mentioned that it could work even with an A7.

The lens has a standard M67 mount.

WWL-1 Rear
WWL-1 Rear
So off I went to Essex to test the lens in a pool. I was hoping for girls in bikini or at least some model but the water was around 14C so off I went with my dry-suit and gloves.

Interceptor121's test rig with WWL-1
Interceptor121’s test rig with WWL-1
The lens itself weights 1.28 Kg and is heavier than many compact housings including the camera.

I took some test shots with the WWL-1 and with the Inon UWL-H100 with and without dome.

First of all the WWL-1 seems wider than the Inon once you get rid of the vignette. I was using the WWL-1 with a Panasonic LX-100 in Nauticam housing and short port. The WWL-1 would stop vignetting at 28mm whilst the Inon lens needed zooming until 29mm.

Shooting a Snell’s window gives you an idea of the field of view.

WWL-1 Snell's Window
WWL-1 Snell’s Window
The Snell’s window requires an angle of 97.2 ° in order to be fully captured along a specific axis. We can appreciate that the WWL-1 on the LX-100 at 28mm has more than the required field of view on the diagonal and horizontal dimensions but is narrower than required on the vertical axis. Looking at this image the field of view on the diagonal looks more around 120 ° this may be due to the fact that the lens on the LX100 even with the short port is still around 2 cm away from the glass.

However when compared with the Inon the WWL-1 shows a better field of view overall.

UWL-H100 Snell's Window
UWL-H100 Snell’s Window
I did have some fun shooting through the window.

Shooting through snell's window
Shooting through snell’s window
The calm conditions of the pool allow the camera to see through the surface.

WWL-1 Photographer Through Window
WWL-1 Photographer Through Window
Having concluded that the WWL-1 is at least as wide as the Inon UWL-H100 I took some shots with the PADI test cards.

WWL-1 Test Card
WWL-1 Test Card
The images are taken with strobes at an aperture of f/5.6 which is the sweet spot of the camera. I wanted to check what is the level of softness in the corners as well as chromatic aberration.

I took few shots where the PADI logo was right on the bottom corner and this is the crop.

WWL-1 Corner Crop
WWL-1 Corner Crop
There is some softness and virtually no chromatic aberration.

The lens has the typical barrel distortion of a fish eye lens.

UWL-H100 Test Card
UWL-H100 Test Card
I took the same shots with the UWL-H100 with dome and the corners were much worse in terms of softness, CA was not a big issue.

UWL-H100 Corner Crop
UWL-H100 Corner Crop
I then took a few shots with the UWL-H100 flat, the LX-100 stopped vignetting at 25mm.

UWL-H100 Flat Test Cards
UWL-H100 Flat Test Cards
I had to step back in order to be able to capture the two cards and I could not achieve a Snell’s window on the horizontal axis as expected however the field of view is impressive for a rectilinear image I would say around 108-110 °.

UWL-H100 Flat Crop
UWL-H100 Flat Crop
The  wide field of view and the lack of the dome element present challenged, corners present both softness and large amounts of chromatic aberration.

Operating with Gloves
Operating with Gloves
Operating the lens and housing with gloves was acceptable and I could remove it as well.

What I liked the most is the fact that the hood can be adjusted without an allen key just operating the screws on the back.

The retail price of the WWL-1 is going to be $995, £769 and €1060 the lens is going to be slightly more expensive than the Inon UWL-H100 with dome but compared to the Inon it offers increased sharpness and contrast and comparable field of view.

The only draw back is the size the lens weights quarter of a Kg more than the Inon and is substantially longer.

If you are after the best optical quality for a wet lens this is the lens to buy at time of writing.

I would like to thank Edward Lai at Nauticam for sending me this pre-production model and Alex Tattersall at Nauticam UK for shipping me promptly.

I have not bought the item and I do not sell equipment this review is based on my independent view.

I will be testing this lens with the Panasonic GX7 and 14-42mm Mega OIS II soon.

A day at the pool
A day at the pool