I see many posts on line debating which macro lens is best for your micro four third system.
If I refer to the Nauticam system we have 4 macro lenses:
For the purpose of this article I will skip the Olympus 30mm as the Panasonic lens is known to be sharper and will focus on the other 3 lenses.
DxOMark is a popular tool for comparison as it gives you the results on one page. I have run it for the Oly 60 and the Pana 30 and 45 on the 20 Mpix OMD E-M1 MKII
Surprisingly the much more expensive Leica performs worse than the other cheaper models, this is confirmed on all internet sites running other type of tests.
What we can see is that there is little difference between the Panasonic 30mm and Olympus 60mm when it comes to image quality so whichever lens you choose your subject at the same level of magnification and aperture will have more or less the same detail.
Common Misconception: Shorter focal length give more depth of field
Many people think that using a longer lens is harder because there is less depth of field this is actually incorrect conceptually.
Enter for the Panasonic GH5 the following parameters
Circle of confusion: 0.015 mm
Focal length 30mm
Distance 10.5 cm (minimum distance of the 30mm Macro)
Result Total depth of field 0.3cm
Focal Length 60mm
Distance 21 cm (as it achieves the same magnification)
Result Total depth of field 0.3cm
So depth of field is not a consideration when choosing a macro lens…
Shooting a subject close to the background
In the following 3 shots am taking an image of a widget at f/11 at 29-44-60 mm on a Leica 12-60 (it is just easier it makes no difference to the outcomes)
At the same aperture you can clearly see that there are no difference whatsoever in the detail and actually overall in the picture you don’t notice anything.
Shooting a subject far from the background
For the second shot I have moved the widget away from the wall.
Again there is no difference in the level of detail of the widget however looking at the background we can see that
The 60mm shot reveals one brick and less than one quarter
The 44mm shot reveals one brick and a half
The 29mm shot reveals two bricks
So while the subject is exactly the same as the 60mm lens has a narrower field of view we see much less of the background.
This means that if you are shooting a nudibranch on the sand or something flat on a rock you won’t notice anything however if there is space behind the subject you will capture much more of that resulting in less subject isolation.
Underwater Comparison 30 vs 60 mm
In the first shot the Rhinopia is taken with a 60mm lens
In the second shot the same Rhinopia with the 30mm (in a different place to be fair)
I have marked up with red the areas that with a longer focal length would have been minimised.
Which Lens to choose?
Now that we have clarified that depth of field is not a consideration and as each macro lens will have the same magnification there are only two factors that matter:
Isolation from background
The 60 mm will have a longer working distance and at the same magnification will isolate the subject better from busy backgrounds, the 60 mm is also better for skittish subject because of the longer working distance. I have this lens and I have borrowed the 30mm in couple of occasions but do not have the 30mm yet.
There are however situations where longer working distance is not a benefit, specifically when the visibility is poor and there are suspended particles or the subject is really large.
In the example below I was at one meter from the two frogfish, a 30mm would have been better however the shot came OK.
I believe the Olympus 60mm is a must lens to have. To date I have not felt the need for the Panasonic 30mm that is indeed a very sharp lens because I have always managed to pull out the shots. However for someone diving in murky water and focussing on nudibranches or subject laying flat on the seabed the Panasonic 30mm could be a better choice. I also want to say that using the 14-42mm at 42mm for me is actually a better choice for portraits and with a close up lens works very well with small subject not super macro and therefore as I already own the 14-42mm and various diopter for me the 30mm is not on the shopping list.
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:
Those 4 characteristics are tightly related to:
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
Ambient light shots
Artificial light shots
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.
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)
Right now there are predominantly 3 filters on the market:
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.
Typical Max Depth
1 2/3 Ev
Keldan Spectrum -2
2 stop (WWL)
1 2/3 Ev
This image gives an idea of the 3 filters as you can see they are very different one from the other.
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.
1 1/2 stops
The above value are based on my experience use at your own risk especially with different lights.
To give an idea I overlapped the filter to my iPhone lens
This is the shot without any filters
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Linear Ratio to FE
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.
If we look at a frame at 25mm we can see that at 4:3 the level of distortion is reduced but still present.
.The corrected frame shows the residual distortion.
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.
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
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.
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.