During the London Dive Show I attended a talk from Martin where he covered a number of shooting situations and how to deal with them in terms of composition and settings.
There was a promotion for a two for one tuition day with him that my buddy was keen to take so few months later we made our way to Dorset for a day of underwater photography with Martin.
This will be my first day of shooting with the RX100 Mark II albeit in a pool with my new arms and lenses so I was looking forward to it.
We arrived in Poole the night before and got ready for an 8.30 start with Martin.
We started off with a review of some basic exposure concepts and then looked at competition winning pictures and trying to identify what makes a wow picture. It was extremely useful!
Afterwards we went through our trips pictures so he could see what needed improving. Then look at what was needed for the next trip.
With that in mind we set up to jump in the pool to take some pictures the objective was to improve my buddy close ups and portraits as apparently her wide angle is as good as it gets with the Canon S95 used see featured image on this post.
Pool conditions were low visibility and plenty of suspended particles as the pool is used for kids swimming lessons let me give you an idea!
The first task was to shoot a frog with a view of eliminating shadows in its mouth. Start with one strobe and finish off with two.
The frog with the bare port gives you an idea of the size and the complexity of the task with one strobe. There are shadows in his mouth.
I then shot a portrait at 50mm, the reason why you see shadows more on the left is because I set the strobe at different powers.
The magnification of the RX100 is little so I went on with a first Inon UCL-165 and full zoom at 100mm equivalent. Note that everything is pretty much sharp at f/11.
With two Inon UCL-165 focusing on the mouth will result in this and the eyes being in focus and the rest blurred because of lack of depth of field.
I then moved to an Octopus rich of textures. I took the first shot with my Inon UWL-100 28AD with dome.
The same octo at 28mm fills the frame much more of course.
The Octopus at 50mm looks even better. I have topped up the lighting on this one.
I then took this guy with a single UCL-165 note the depth of field insufficient to keep the back of the head in focus, results though are exceptional.
With two close up lenses we go back to the depth of field problem even at f/11.
I thought I had at that point nailed all focus and strobe issues, especially considering I shot with single auto focus, I did not bother using manual focus at all with exception of some double diopter shots.
I then tried a few surface reflections with the fisheye this being the best.
You can see the outside of the pool and the windows on the top.
Afterwards made my own composition of statues for a fisheye shot that I think came out very well. The Z240 performed extremely well in both TTL and external auto as well as manual.
Martin asked me to have a go at the child with the dog as it is extremely difficult to lit up properly.
I went for an alternative strobe placement with light from the bottom as if it was in a gallery. He was impressed with the results.
To finish off my last task was the tongue and eyes of a lion that I shot with a single UCL-165.
Overall a great day and I definitely recommend you the tuition day with Martin. He is a great person and extremely good at teaching I can see the benefits my buddy had right away.
Lessons learned on the RX100
There were a few things that I learned about my RX100 still rig mode that I want to share with you.
The autofocus is incredible. I even used this for macro. If the camera does not focus is because you don’t have enough depth of field and that is it.
Best macro performance is with a single diopter and also had a benefit of an increased working distance, this means the shots will need cropping for extremely small critters
Two diopters resulted in near bokeh with less than 1mm in focus and difficult to autofocus (though the LCD is great and I could see if things were in focus or not I think this is personal and I would recommend DMF to others)
Performance at wide angle with the UWL-100 28AD with dome is stellar
Inon float arms (I used two 6″ segments) were perfect with lens holders on it.
Inon Z240 twin set with one in TTL and the second in external auto delivered creative lighting without headaches, remember to buy the AUTO diffuser that does not come with the strobe
Strobes in manual allowed for even more creativity and the level of precision compared to sea and sea was staggering
Despite pool conditions the RX100 focused well in low light and much better than the Canon S95 that was returning focus error on the same exposures. I will not bother having a focus light with this camera and only have a single sola on night dives
That’s all for now any question just drop a comment
Over a year ago I wrote a set of posts for the RX100 and some of the quirks of this wonderful little camera.
Steadyshot – aka Image Stabilizer
The RX100 has a specific Active mode for video not available when taking stills. I described the differences between those two modes in this post
Everyone is so obsessed of having the widest possible field of view that other more important considerations are completely missed out.
If you have ever shot a video with a GoPro underwater you know how bad is the quality of the image in the corners, this is because the flat port combined with the gopro lens create many optical aberrations.
Our RX100, especially the original Mark I, also has an issue in the corners, this is not just an underwater issue is also true on land. The lens on the camera has a lot of distortion and when corrections are applied to the image this effectively creates corner softness.
When we add a wide angle lens the image quality in the corners deteriorates further especially if the lens is flat creating a lot of chromatic aberrations that you can see in pictures with a blue or yellow halo around the edges.
Now the good news the Active steady shot mode crops the image of a factor of 1.15x getting rid of the majority of the corner softness.
There is of course a price to pay which is the loss of some of the angle of view. According to my calculation if you use an Inon UWL-H100 you start from more than the declared 100.8º more around 104º in fact. When the active mode is on this drops to around 95º. Remember all those values represent the largest incident angle that means the diagonal field of view.
A lens with 100º diagonal field of view means 90º horizontal. So after the active mode is engaged our horizontal field of view looks more like 84º which is equivalent to a 20mm lens. This is sufficient for most close wide angle shots and plenty for ambient light videos of large fish or wrecks. I generally suggest to keep the Active mode on, of course if you can be in a fixed position and hold the camera really steady you can also use the standard mode and obtain more field of view. There is a chance though that you will need to crop the extra field of view if you need to stabilize in the editing phase.
For macro shots without a tripod the steadyshot is a must and helps greatly. I do not even see a reason to take it off if you have a tripod as the RX100 does not have a particularly small capture area.
This brings the second subject: digital zoom, if you shoot pictures you avoid it as what you are doing is to crop the image, something you can do yourself in processing. In video though there is very little quality loss as we use just 2 megapixels of the 20 of the RX100 camera. In my test you can use digital zoom until the 2x multiplier is reached, this corresponds to 7.2x magnification and see no noticeable degradation in the image quality. The other benefit is that the depth of field is the same despite the magnification so you can save yourself stacking two diopters with all the difficulties that follow in terms of focus.
Digital zoom is always on in video mode and I recommend to use it with a single close up lens before embarking on dual diopters or a strong single diopter. Also take into account that with a single +6 diopter your working distance is around 4″ which is ideal for most critters except pygmy seahorse and bobtail squid or some shrimps.
In another post I have explained that getting hung up about light angle coverage is not really the only thing to consider, there is also luminous flux and quality of light. With my Sola 1200 I can cover something between 2 and 4 feet away with decent results further away is just back scatter. Generally this is ok for some close portrait work and close wide angle and of course not sufficient to cover part of a wreck or much larger subjects. You may decide not to bother at all with lights for wide angle and just render your deep wreck dives in black and white in this case consider that a pair of Sola Dive 800 at $399 are a high quality macro set up, function as dive light and provide some decent close wide angle portrait illumination. For macro shots you need much less than that, I set my fill light at minimum (300 lumens) and the main light at 2/3 which is 600 lumens, I can shoot at f/11 with this light intensity. You can see me shooting in the feature image.
Recently I have started building my RX100 Mark II photo rig and as part of this I had to choose a wet fisheye lens.
For video I do not like the barrel distortion of a fisheye lens, and on top of that you can’t attach a push on filter to a dome so for me those are two big no when it comes to the RX100 and its white balance error woes.
For still instead I shoot only RAW never white balance in the water and a fisheye lens is required so that I can have human size strobe arms when shooting close focus wide angle at distances between 0 and 16”.
I will focus my discussion on the Nauticam housing starting off with a 67mm thread and go from there.
Currently there are 3 options on the market for the RX100 and come from 3 difference manufacturers. I will go through each one briefly and then we will look more in detail at the two I consider best.
The first lens is the FIX UWL-28M52R, this lens is the smallest of all and was originally design to nicely complement the form factor of a Canon S100 in a fix housing, hence the 52mm thread. The lens has a magnification factor of 0.41x and a diameter of 126mm including the hood, the lens is actually much smaller at around 90mm.
Fix has introduced this lens in 2011 as a replacement of the previous UWL-04 model for two reasons, the first is to have a smaller lens as the UWL-04 was a too big in comparison of the housing, second probably cost though this was never declared. However other people tests and plenty of in water images show that this lens is actually worse than its predecessor. It is also smaller making split over-under shots more difficult.
When Fix withdraw the UWL-04 the manufacturer of the lens continued the production and finally put it back on the market under the i-divesite brand. This lens is the same as the Fix except the label.
Both lenses the old and new fix are pretty much a copy of the old Inon UFL-165, both made of 4 glass elements and an acrylic dome with hard anti scratch coating.
Here is a set of shots for the UWL-04 and the various parts in the box.
The last lens on the market is the Inon UWL-H100 with dome. This lens is available with an M67 mount and with an LD bayonet mount. Due to the size and weight of those lenses in water (100 to 500 grams weight and diameter between 125 and 152 mm) a bayonet mount is my preferred choice.
The Inon lens is actually made entirely of glass, the dome is the biggest at 115mm for the lens with an overall diameter of 132mm. This lens is the more suitable to split over under shot and promises a better contrast and less flare than the other lenses with plastic domes. Inon had some concerns about plastic domes and flare following the performance issue of their UFL165 so went for 100% glass for all next generation lenses.
Vignetting with RX100
In certain conditions all those lenses actually have some vignette in water. Despite what you read on shop websites if you look at real pictures there is a bit of that.
The Fix and Idas lenses have an issue with the lateral hood, the shots look clear of vignette on land but in water the magnification of the hood petals makes them show in the picture, we are talking a minimum crop required around 1% and usually on one side. The Inon UWL-H100 has a different issue and it gives in specific situations a tiny bit of vignette in the corners, around 2% of the image needs to be cropped. Both lenses will not vignette when image stabilization is deactivated, the image stabilizer tends to aggravate the issue so if you are obsessed switch it off and try to be steady shooting at speeds of 1/125th of a second or faster. For example on the amount of vignette see the following
I would like to thank Alex Tattersall, Tamas Plotek and Troy Williams for those in water pictures.
Inon UWL-100 28AD
Inon has another lens that is suitable for the RX100 and is the UWL-100 28AD a lens originally introduced in 2005. This lens has a smaller rear element than the UWL-H100 and it is not suited to many cameras with a very large lens aperture. The RX100 however works fine with this lens and contrary to the newer UWL-H100 this lens does not vignette in water or on land. The reason is that the de-magnification of this lens is less than the newer lens 0.63x vs 0.6x. This is the lens I have chosen for my RX100 Mark II and I will compare it here with the UWL-04 I have recently bought for my Canon S95. There are no substantial differences between the UWL-100 28AD and the UWL-H100 in terms of optical quality.
Here are few pictures to compare the lenses, take into account that whilst the weight on land is comparable, once in water the Inon lens is heavier at 400 grams versus 160 of the UWL-04.
There is no need to take the lenses in water to compare image quality generally things get worse in water not better so it is sufficient to take a shot on land and see how that goes to have a relative comparison between two lenses. In this example the cameras are on a table exactly in the same position when the shots are taken and use the same settings of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
The first impression is that the UWL-04 is a tad wider but more rectilinear, the Inon lens has definitely more barrel distortion and is more a fisheye than the UWL-04 is. Looking at mid upper frame you can see that at diagonal level the UWL-100 28AD is actually wider than the UWL-04 that remains wider horizontally. This means looking at the specs can be misleading and results depend on the camera lens combination.
So how do these lenses compare when it comes to corner sharpness and flare?
This is a shot with the UWL-100 in very harsh conditions with sun-rays hitting the lens directly on the dome, you can clearly see the ghosting that comes from it.
This is the same shot in the same place taken with the UWL-04 you immediate notice that the ghosting has a green color. This is most likely due to lack of anti-reflection coating inside the dome and to the color of the inner lens mount.
Looking at the image the picture taken with the Inon has a clearer ghosting but then is sharp in the rest of the image, the UWL-04 image has flare around it with comparable less contrast as we move from the center to the corners.
The other two images are a crop in the corner, you can see that despite the high level of distortion you can still distinguish some detail of the small grass bush in the Inon image, the UWL-04 instead is softer and the bush is basically a uniform green shape with no detail at all.
Update 28 Feb I have taken some shots with the UWL-H100 and the UFL165AD here are the overviews
The UWL-H100 is actually wider than the UWL-04 with the Sony RX100 despite the advertised 144.5 degrees versus 165 of the UWL-04. Has the same level of detail of the UWL-100 28AD
The UFL165AD flare issue is obvious in this shot both lower corners are compromised, this confirms why the UWL-04 is the best option for the Canon S series in terms of flare or vignette.
Looking at the UWL-H100 crop you can see the vignette more apparent in the upper corner and the image sharpness, it is possible that with an M67 mount there is no vignette with a Nauticam housing in most conditions, with LD mount you need to turn image stabiliser off or crop. Considering this is the widest lens it is not a big issue. Once cropped the UWL-H100 gives still the widest field of view but someone maybe be annoyed by this. Zooming in results in the same field of view of the UWL-10- 28AD
The Inon lens presents the benefit of a bayonet mount, although the lens is heavy it can be removed in water quite easily, the UWL-04 has some issues whereby the adapter ring would unscrew instead of the lens, this can be avoided fixing the adapter on the lens but then there is no lens cap that would fit the larger M67 screw in the box so you need to buy one yourself, generally the size of the petals make this lens impossible to handle in water and is more like diving with a dome port. It has to be noted though that you can zoom through with both lenses so still continue and take portrait shots and close ups. Obviously for real close or macro you do need to take the lens off which with the UWL-04 you can basically forget.
The UWL-04 costs $460 in US as shown here with dome cover and step down ring, and £362 in UK. The Inon UWL-100 28AD with dome costs $907.80 including an M67-ADF adapter in US and £775 in UK. All in all the Inon is around near to double the price of the UWL-04. The UWL-H100 is even more expensive at $970 for the M67 version and $942 for the LD bayonet, you then need to add $160 for an adapter for a total of $1,102 that is a lot of money another reason for the 28AD version.
The Inon is the best lens for the RX100 and there is no doubt, however it costs more than double the UWL-04 not everybody will be able to afford it. The UWL-04 is a somewhat basic lens that lacks sophistication and is essentially not removable in water but comes at a great price. In terms of field of view the lenses are very similar with the Inon lenses having more fisheye distortion and a wider diagonal field of view. The UWL-04 is more rectilinear and as consequence has less field of view diagonally. Only one lens has zero vignette at the wide end and this is the UWL-100 28AD with dome.
In Water Shots
I don’t have shots in water yet pending my next trip but two galleries that give an idea are here:
The second shooter has got rid of the UWL-04 to buy an Inon as not happy with corner sharpness!
My perspective is if I look at the pictures I can barely tell the difference however looking close the Inon lens is sharper at one f/stop less, the UWL-04 requires stopping at f/8 or smaller, you can happily shoot f/5.6 with the Inon which means you need less light and less strobe power.
So the time has come to talk about photography more in depth. I have actually given up stills in favor of video since a few years as I find video gets me closer to behaviors than stills do, I guess am just not patient enough to capture behaviors on still as that involves waiting!
Anyway this is the rig as it is today without the floats.
The RX100 is a demanding compact for the very same reason why it is the best compact the huge sensor it sports. If you come from shooting a canon or panasonic or even Olympus on a 1/1.7″ sensor you find the RX100 to be very unforgiving. In essence you can’t really just point and shoot you need to put some more thinking into your shots.
The rig that I have put together for stills has the same meticulous attention to detail than my video rig has, you would say OCD probably but here it is.
So let’s start with the housing, Nauticam just makes the best most ergonomic housing for the RX100 period. There is nothing you can think of improving about this housing. Even if the bulkhead connector is useless you can actually put a vacuum valve on it to put it to full use.
Nauticam do offer an M67 thread native on all their compact housings but I find this tedious to say the least. The beauty of a compact is that you can shoot wide and macro on the same dive, the M67 thread in essence negates this as it makes virtually impossible to change lenses on a dive. This is the reason why I went for the Inon 28AD mount for my rig using an inexpensive 10 bar adapter priced at $20 or £15.
Once you connect the Inon UWL-100 28AD the lens is very close to the housing to the point of nearly touching the port. This means you get no vignette with this lens with the added dome, and actually a larger field of view in water than you get with the UWL-H100. Why is that? The UWL-100 28AD has less magnification so it does not vignette even on land, once you add the dome you get almost the same field of view in water around 150º. The lens is just a tad lighter than the UWL-H100 with an in water weight of 400 grams.
The choice of the 28AD mount means you can only use the UCL-165AD close up lenses, that if attached would crash into the glass, you need therefore a 28AD->AD adapter from Inon.
You do get vignette until 50mm however this is not an issue as you shoot those lenses at the tele-end.
This is the whole lens set with the two adapters.
As discussed in other posts the two stacked diopters give you super macro, they are also light with 35 grams each in water. The small amount of fringing they give can be eliminated in lightroom with a single click.
The wide angle lens sports a 115mm optical glass dome with inner anti-reflection coating. If you are into observing fine detail you will notice that the dome is not actually a full semicircle but flatter, if you add the special coating this means no flare and increased contrast. If you wonder why shots taken with Inon dome lenses are sharper is because only 1% of the incoming light is reflected, against 3% of an acrylic dome, the glass dome due to the coating don’t flare, plastic ones do as simple as that.
Now let’s move on to the strobes a twin Inon Z240 set. I have been a sea and sea user for years until I managed to damage my YS-01 and got no assistance at all from S&S since then I decided to go elsewhere.
What I love about the Z240 is the variety of controls to manage shadows, the sharp aiming light with a red filter good for the most skittish critters. Contrary to what many people think I aim directly at the subject in macro as the distance is short and backscatter is not an issue so no point aiming the strobes away for me.
I happened to have a pair of Sea and Sea optical L cable that served me well and had no will to change, FIT produces this cost effective adapter that goes on your Z240 and makes it compatible, I just love it.
I believe Inon Z MV strobe head adapter has no equal in ergonomics but for some reason a part that is $20 in Japan sells at over $40 in US and £30 in UK so is not that popular. My second choice would be the Nauticam strobe adapter that has got the small feet needed to correctly lock on the strobe head.
With the Z240 doing wonders as aiming light there is no real room for a focus light however I have a set of Sola Video 1200 and what I like is that you can use them as dive light. I have connected them with a locline cold shoe, this will soon change to a ball mount, as the cold shoe is on the left side. Probably I will get a Sola Dive 800 so I can leave my two trays set for video and stills on the boat.
Looking at the tray I use ultralight, it simple and sturdy and allows me to center the port in the middle of the tray.
The most attentive will see that the two handles have different colors.
Why is that? Firstly I want to place the handles at maximum distance, second by placing two different handle I can ensure the ball is at the same height, this would not be true if I was using the same handle on both sides. I use a TR-DM with a TR-DUPL long extension to make the tray 30cm or 12″.
So this is what it looks like, there will be floats on it, I estimate I need 8 floats to make the rig neutral with the lenses off. I am planning to place 3 on each 8″ arm segment and two on the tray however I might change this to 2 on each arm and a bespoke float on the tray bottom. I will run some test to see what works best.
So that’s all folks surely there will be questions and I look forward to answer them.
Just want to remind you that if you are in the market for a compact still or video rig I provide a personal shopper service for £30 or $45 that provides an end to end service on your budget where all you have to do is to call the shop to pay. Of course we would discuss any observations about the set up before this gets finalized, but am sure better to spend a little amount instead of making expensive mistakes!
UPDATE 9 June 2014 I have made some more changes to the rig the current version (never say final) is here
I thought of writing a brief article about video lights.
In the last years LED lights have become incredibly cost effective and there are many products on sale that look promising and cheap.
A special mention goes to the GoPro a very cost effective option for underwater video plagued by poor performance in low light. The GoPro market seem to have injected new life into the video light marketplace and of course calls for products that are not expensive in line with the typical profile of the GoPro user.
There are many examples of footage with what you would consider powerful lights that actually do not look that bright or even nice, why is that?
Lights are now measured in Lumens which is the SI unit of measure of luminous flux a light is said to emit one lumen if it emits one candela over a solid angle of one steradian. This sounds all very complicated and not very helpful so let’s try to make some sense of this.
Usually when we go an buy a light we are given three key pieces of information:
Lumens – this in a way is considered the power of the light*
Beam angle – this is the maximum horizontal beam that the light can cover – note this does not relate with solid angles but is merely a 2D view
Color – this represent how white is the light, a good light should not exceed 6500K which is what is considered a day light white
*we will see that this is actually incorrect
Let’s have a look at a typical best buy the Archon Video Light W38VR, this light is declared to have the following:
120 degrees beam angle
Looking at the specifications this looks like a very warm (5000K) wide beam light and very powerful so how comes that with a subject at one meter or 3 feet distance this light seems to have no effect on a bright day?
The reason is that lumens are not a real indication of the amount of light that hits the subject but just the total light emitted which includes the light that illuminates the water between us and the subject that we actually are not interest at all in illuminating.
If you had to do a video production in studio you would be looking at intensity of 1000 lux where a lux is measured in lumens/m2. The lux is the density of light that hits a flat surface at a given distance.
With a few calculations we see that the Archon light because of the very wide beam is effective at two feet and produces around 1200 Lux which is great however at 3 feet this drops to 550 Lux which is not that great.
Many times when comparing the new cheaper lights to expensive lights like Sola or Fix despite the less nominal lumens declared the sola or fix seem brighter at the same distance.
So let’s evaluate the lux produced by a Sola 1200 a light much more expensive than the Archon with only a 60 degrees beam.
At two feet the sola produces around 4000 Lux which would nearly tan a fish, at 3 feet it still produces nearly 1800 Lux dropping to the studio value of 1000 Lux at a distance of 4 feet or 1.2 meters. This is because the illumination is in a smaller and narrower beam and is like the light was more dense.
Of course this has the disbenefit of a narrower beam so we need to step away from the subject in order to cover it properly, this diagram gives an idea
The two set of lines contain the video lights beams, we can see that those beams cross and them keep as combined angle of coverage the same beam of the lights themselves, that is the ideal spot for our lights as there are no shadows there.
Another consideration is the angle of coverage that we need for our camera lens to follow the lights, two 60 degrees beam lights actually cover a 100 degrees diagonal lens or 90 degrees horizontal lens typical of a 18mm lens. The GoPro and all compact cameras with a 100 degree lens fall in this group.
Another consideration to be done is that due to the light angle of coverage there is a minimum distance to be kept if we want to avoid our subject to be in the shade, this minimum distance depends on the light beam and the distance between them.
Once you get closer than one foot it is not necessary anymore to point the lights forward as the amount of water is limited and the lights can be pointed directly at the subject like in this example
So assuming we want to be at a distance of one foot or 30cm how far do the lights need to be?
For a 60 degrees beam the lights need to be 36 cm away or around 12 inches. For a light like the Archon with 120 degrees beam the distance between the arms needs to be 1 meters or 40″. Considering a tray is around 30 cm or 12″ this means you need arms at least 13″ in order to cover something at one foot and to cover a subject at 2 feet you need two meters distance that means again 33″ worth of arms.
What happens if you only have the tray with the lights on and your subject is at 3 feet with two very wide video lights of 120 degrees beam?
You illuminate already after 3″ from the camera
The two lights emit 550 Lux that combined are not such a small output
The net result is that a lot of the water in front of the subject is illuminated and this creates backscatter where all the silt in the water gets reflection and ultimately deteriorates the quality of the footage.
If you ever wonder why underwater photographers that shoot super wide have two 16″ arm segments this is why the want to avoid backscatter with their 110 degrees strobes and still be around one foot distance with their fisheye lens.
So what are the conclusions that we can draw:
A wide beam light is only good if you have long arms, the wider the beam the longer the arms otherwise the beams just light up the particles in front of the subject producing backscatter
Lumens are not a real indication of the effectiveness of the light per se but need to be taken into account with the beam angle and a lux calculation needs to be performed you want to aim for 1000 lux at the distance of choice
Light beams need to be evaluated together with the camera lens horizontal field of coverage 60-80 degree beam angles are adequate for most of the video rigs out there and more is only justified for fisheye type of lens not commonly used in video
I hope you find this information useful and get in touch if you want to discuss, the subject is not that simple!
So after a few months since I got the Nauticam housing I finally had the time to get in the water and try it on.
I was in Barbados for a week and although the diving was not exactly outstanding I did have enough to test the camera behavior.
The link to the videos are here for YouTube at 1080p
or if you prefer Vimeo at 720p
The footage was all taken at 1080p50 the highest mode of the RX100. The RX1oo can work in both PAL and NTSC standard but I chose the PAL mode just to avoid the annoying NTSC message at startup. The clip has been edited with iMovie 9.0.9 and then exported in 1080p25 using Xencoder codec for quicktime in high profile. Youtube then reconverts it to its own specifications, but at least I have the highest possible starting point.
As mentioned the RX100 shoots at shutter speed of 1/100 in 50p mode and this suited me fine in case I wanted to produce a 60p clip for viewing on the computer as currently no online system supports it.
As discussed in the previous post I shot all wide angle in camera Program mode. This allowed me to use the left control wheel button to call the white balance set menu that in video is not available. I set the picture format to 16:9 so that would show similar on the screen. I did notice that when I actually started the movie recording the crop of the active steadyshot kicked in with a reduction of field of view of around 9 degrees or a 1.14 zoom equivalent.
However the active steady shot was well worth it as I have not used any stabilization for any part of this clip and therefore not introduced any extra cropping.
The wide angle shots with the RX100 are an absolute breeze when you use a filter and there is no need for custom white balance until it gets too deep to actually use a filter. I struggled getting decent results with custom white balance, the 9900 K error came pretty much every time except when in shallow water and balancing on sand. Also the results were off with too much magenta tint to the point I had always to correct it.
Ultimately I kept the filter and the camera in Auto White balance and did not bother doing a custom reading at all. The results were excellent.
In deeper water the filter started making the image a bit dark so I took it off and used a temperature setting of 9900K with Magenta and Amber at the maximum.
For close up at distances over 20cm I still shot in program and had good results. When getting super close or macro I used Movie mode in Aperture priority mode with aperture set at f/11. Towards the end of the clip you can see a shot of a small pink frogfish that is done like that. The close up on the eye is shot with two stacked Inon UCL165 the depth of field is really small as you can see but still workable considering I hand held the camera at all time.
When I shot this arrow crab I had left the camera in program mode so it chose an aperture of f/5.6 you can see that whilst the mouth is in focus the arrow is not
Similar situation with the pedersen shrimp where not everything is sharp in focus
Obviously I am being very exigent with my footage and in normal condition this is already good to very good.
So what I liked and what I did not like about the RX100 Mark II:
The ergonomics and ease of use are outstanding
The camera performs incredibly well with a filter in auto white balance
The manual focus with peaking works extremely well
Dynamic range and colors are outstanding and not just for a compact
Image crisp even in the corners at f/1.8 compared to the Mark I this is extremely significant
The active stabilizer was great and meant to manipulation in post
Battery life is incredible
Performance in low light is excellent and better than the Mark I the camera never reached the ISO MAX of 800 I had set hitting a top of 640 at 30 meters
Autofocus at wide end in bright conditions is superb
The only think I hated was the custom white balance results an absolute disgrace, to the point that there is no benefit doing it. Not only that the few parts of the clip I had used it and correct it were still a bit off and required correction in post to a small extent.
Also to consider some of the topside capabilities of the RX100 Mark II just to give an idea though this is not exactly the same location have a look as this shot with a Nikon D7100 with sigma 17-70 in comparison with the RX100 Mark II
There is a difference but considering the size of the RX100 and the fact it fits in a pocket I don’t think there can be that many complains. Obviously once you look at specific lenses for the DSLR things change but in the 28-100mm all purpose range I would say that the gap is not as much as double as the price of the two set ups.
So is the Sony RX100 the best compact underwater video set up? Definitely
Is the Mark II better than the original RX100? Yes and well worth an upgrade for video
How does it compare with the Panasonic LX7? The dynamic range and the colors are superior and produces footage that is simply better and sharper. Where the LX7 excels is at macro in clear waters, this is not because of magnification as the RX100 and LX7 perform exactly the same with diopters, and this is because of the LX7 amazing autofocus. However with a bit of silt or other objects in range there is need to switch to manual focus and there the RX100 is actually superior when using peaking even if the depth of field is actually less, the manual focus on the LX7 with the magnifier is not as good unfortunately.
So my ranking for video is:
1. Sony RX100 Mark II
2. Panasonic LX7
3. Sony RX100
I would also add that for stills the LX7 is even more rewarding at macro range due to the performance of autofocus.
It is not a mystery that the RX100 is capable of shooting excellent video. In fact in some comparisons with SLRs cameras there is little to no difference in the footage quality. The RX100 has many settings and options so which ones are important for underwater video? I will go and explain those that I find useful.
RX100 Video Behavior
Although the RX100 offers full manual control in video this option is not as useful as it seems. Now that many video editors support AVCHD progressive the 50p or 60p options are the more relevant as the footage can be slowed down to half speed and still offer a standard frame rate (50/60p at half speed is 25/30p).
The RX100 shoots video in program mode with shutter speeds of double the frame rate so 1/100 for PAL and 1/125 for NTSC that is excellent news. The camera will then drop to 1/50 or 1/60 when the max ISO is reached which is still acceptable. In Movie Program mode the camera shoots at the lowest possible ISO for the set shutter speed at the widest required aperture. The RX100 has a minimum ISO in video of 125 and the RX100 has it at 160, which is quite high.
Shooting Wide angle
I shoot all my wide-angle footage with the camera in Program Mode. By that I actually mean Photo Program Mode. Pressing the movie button in P mode results in the same behavior that shooting video in P mode. In order to be able to frame correctly I set the image format to 16:9 also for stills. This is also useful to capture ambient light landscapes. I started shooting in P because this allowed me to white balance quickly however I found out that the custom white balance on the RX100 Mark II is a total disaster and in fact I never use it as it gives weird results. I shoot with a red filter with Auto white balance on until approximately 25/27 meters and then I move to White Balance set to K (colour temperature) 9900K Tint set to M7+Y7. When shooting with lights I also use auto white balance. Generally speaking I only use the movie button and the white balance settings for wide angle.
When shooting with diopter at tiny subjects focus with the RX100 is a challenge. I set my video mode to Aperture priority with an aperture of f/11 and Auto ISO, the camera will always keep a shutter speed of double the frame rate which is ideal. If you light the subject properly the RX100 will always shoot at the lowest ISO maybe at 200 but not more. I use auto white balance for all my macro. I find it convenient to leave the video mode like this so that I only have P for wide angle and Movie – Aperture priority for video. If you prefer you can set those as memory recall 1 and 2 but I find that not as useful except you don’t need to use the control dial.
Settings for the Function Buttons
Many features that can be assigned to the function button are not available in video or not useful. I only have 4 settings in the function wheel:
Metering Mode – Always on evaluative
DRO – I set it to auto
Focus Mode – in video only constant and manual are available
To be perfectly honest I rarely change any of those except for testing the camera exposure. Even the metering mode can be left to evaluative all the time as when you shoot macro the area is so small and evenly illuminated that I have never had an issue with exposure.
Settings for the Control Wheel
I use the following assignments and I find them very useful:
Left: White balance
Centre: Manual Focus Toggle
Right: Exposure Lock
The bottom arrow is always assigned to exposure compensation and can’t be changed I set it to -0.3 eV all the time.
The performance of custom white balance with the RX100 Mark II is shocking worse than the original RX100, 9 out of 10 I get a white balance error and the results are usually off with too much magenta. The only occasions where I do not get an error is in 6 meters or water (20 feet) on a sandy bottom. In other conditions it does not matter if you try with sand, tanks, hand, slates the outcome is shocking. The results can be used changing the tint to an M2 or even zero but generally using a filter and auto is just much easier and better. I assign the K setting to 9900K M7 for shooting at depth, This is painful because it means that unless you have a flat lens like an Epoque or Inon you can basically forget shooting video with the RX100 as the custom white balance is erratic at least.
The Inon UWL-H100 has only one red filter that is compatible and is made by deeproof. I find this filter excellent though I prefer plastic to glass I have to say it works a treat.
The RX100 focus automatically on the center when shooting video and does it very well,. Tracking focus is not as useful and by assigning the center button to manual focus it can be eliminated. When shooting macro it is essential to use peaking. I set it to low with white color. Generally with diopters there is only one focus distance so I move the camera until the peaking shows nice white and then press record trying to be steady. That’s pretty much it.
I keep the dynamic range optimizer to Auto. This means the ISO is most of the times set automatically to 200 to preserve dynamic range. When the scene is perfectly lit the ISO is chosen to be 160. I don’t see much difference between ISO 160 and 200 but if this bothers you set the DRO to off which means the camera will mostly shoot at ISO 160 in good light conditions.
ISO and Max ISO
I set the ISO Max to 800, having analysed a lot of my footage I have not found one example where the camera shot at ISO800 yet unless I had a filter and was at 30 meters. However I prefer the camera to drop the shutter speed and keep the ISO to 800 instead of going all the way down to 3200.
In video the RX100 activates digital zoom even when you set it to off. This deteriorates the image so you need to pay attention that the middle notch corresponding to 3.6x is not exceeded or you will see artifacts in your footage.
I use active steady shot thought this reduces the field of view as it does help with shake quite a lot with macro footage.
Other Settings to disable
There are a number of settings that are harmful in video either because they use battery or because they are counter productive I disable them all list includes:
Smile / Face Detection
Audio recording ( I do not like bubble sound)
Wind Noise Reduction
The following are only relevant for still but I like them off regardless.
I have been fortunate to receive one of the first RX100M2 that have reached the market so I thought of sharing with you my first impression and what I believe will be the potential for underwater imaging use.
This is the link to the unboxing video of the camera
I posted a summary of the RX100 capabilities for underwater video some time ago on this blog the post is here:
Probably the best thing is to revisit my review and update any significant differences between the RX100 Mark 2 and the original version which is still on the market and will remain at least until the end of 2013.
Bright Lens – Not changed
The RX100M2 has exactly the same lens of its predecessor RX100, it is true that when zoomed the minimum aperture drops down to f/4.9 however this is not a concern for underwater imaging as usually long focal lengths are for macro and we are interested in very small aperture to allow for greater depth of field.
Low Noise – Improvement!
In virtue of the new retro illuminated sensor the mark 2 has one full f-stop advantage over the original RX100. This means that ISO800 is a breeze and potentially we could go as low as ISO1600. I would not do that but what it means is a cleaner image at depth in ambient light.
Image Quality – Improvement
Image quality is outstanding and the lack of aggressive contract and sharpness filters in the default settings means more room for correction in post processing.
Video Mode Control – no change
The RX100 had complete control on video mode and the mark 2 maintains the standard. Very important is that the program mode is excellent and keeps the shutter speed at 1/100 or 1/125 when used in active mode which is ideal for 50/60p smooth footage.
Manual Focus – no change
Same as for the RX100
Battery Life – Improvement
According to Sony battery life has improved from an already outstanding CIPA 330 to a declared value of CIPA 350. The new Mark 2 has also an hot shoe so in theory if any manufactures produces a wired TTL enabled housing this means plenty of shooting before changing the battery pack. We suspect though that only ikelite will have this option on the housing.
Active Steadyshot – no change
I initially slagged the RX100 stabilization system based on performance on land. However at a more in depth analysis it turns out that the RX100 active steadyshot, even if at cost of an image crop is very effective for sudden camera movement and for high magnification macro. The Stabilizer is not as sticky as others so when you eventually vibrate it does not jump. Although the performance for stills is poor to irrelevant and so is the normal mode the active mode is very effective for underwater use. The mark 2 is built exactly with the same algorithm and combination of optical and electronic.
Tedious Workarounds Comparison
Some of the ergonomics of the RX100 are not the best and seriously deduct from an otherwise excellent experience, the most annoying issues:
Lack of focus lock – no change
For some reason Sony decided to skip on this essential feature, the workaround involves switching to manual focus however it is then possible to accidentally change focus if the front ring is set to control focus. The RX100M2 has the same issue.
Setting Custom White Balance in Video – No change
Setting custom white balance is only possible in the still modes, while in fact if you shoot RAW don’t actually need white balancing. This is the largest non sense of this camera that requires the user to navigate out into Program to ensure white balance is set correctly and you don’t end up with the Custom WB Error message. Though this is annoying is not such a killer as it would initially seem if you take your movies in one of this still modes which is valid for wide angle and ambient light shot. For macro you will need to switch to movie mode aperture priority in AWB. If you keep this discipline this is issue is mitigated. The RX100M2 does not change this and I believe this is due to the fact that the shutter button that is used to set custom white balance is disabled in video.
Lack of 24/25/30 progressive modes at 1080HD – Improvement!
The RX100M2 shoots at 50/60p as well as 25/24p in addition to that you can switch between PAL and NTSC which is great!!!
AVCHD – Improvement!
The RX100M2 has not only the progressive modes at double frame rate but also AVCHD 1.0 compliant format, this means that if you choose the 24M 24/25 p mode you can import with all editing programs without issue. Not only that but if you use the wireless import utility this converts also the AVCHD progressive files in mp4 for you. This is great improvement
Key Weaknesses comparison
The RX100 had also some key weaknesses let’s see how the mark 2 fares.
Macro Performance – no change
Exactly the same as its predecessor the RX100M2 has a minimum focus distance of 5cm on land that becomes around 7 in water. Like with the RX100 because of the large capture area you will need diopters for macro shots. On a positive note once you have a close up lens the performance is incredible when coupled with manual focus with peaking.
Sony has adopted a lens shift approach in this camera instead of the sensor shift of the higher end alpha, maybe due to large size of the sensor compared to the camera body. They have then added some software processing in camera but the results are just average. There are many other cameras that do better than the RX100.
Soft Corners at Wide End – Improvement
The RX100 first generation had soft corners until f/5.6 the situation changes dramatically as we can see in this test card comparison shot. Not sure if there was an issue with the RX100 original sensor but this looks excellent and as sharp as the panasonic LX7 or Canon G15.
Look for yourself!!!
No Neutral Density Filter – marginal deterioration
As its predecessor there is no neutral density also on the mark2. A little tip for video is to shoot with filters that take away 1 1/3 f-stop. This is not ideal but helps. There were some speculation that because the minimum ISO in RAW is now 100 instead of 80 sunballs would be more difficult to shoot. 1/3 of an f-stop does not really make any difference I believe this is more a statement so that the RX100 housing that are in stock sell out at full price.
I have to say that the tilting screen is fantastic to shoot on a tripod on lens. I doubt any housing can accommodate for this but the feature is outstanding
And this is the rear
So the question is should I buy the RX100M2 or the RX100 maybe grabbing a deal? Recsea has already announced a housing for the mark 2 and Nauticam is working on it. I believe that when it comes to still photography the difference between the two cameras are not substantial as many shots are with strobes I have however noticed a much faster internal flash cycle time. I do not want to be definite but looks like a full dump takes around seconds to recharge. Also to be considered that in US the price difference is $100 so definitely the Mark2 is the way forward. In UK/Europe the difference on the list price is £150/€180 which is much more.
So I would say if you are planning to use the camera for video go for the RX100M2 the improvements are significant both in terms of video formats but also in terms of sharpness at wide apertures. If your main interest is photography and you live in US go for the mark 2 in Europe instead I would grab a deal on the RX100 when the price of the housing drops.
I am waiting for a test housing from Nauticam as soon as I have it I will post an unboxing video followed by some pool tests.
Who has followed my initial LX7 tests is aware of the few issues I have had at wide angle with the LX7.
One was the reflections back on the lens that I have now hopefully resolved using a black marker and changing the camera from white (and silver lens ring) to black and the other was flare.
Flare is an issue at wide angle even on land. What causes flare? Stray light coming from the sides that washes out the picture and eliminates contrast in the process.
Wide angle lens tend to have an ability to catch stray light from the sides and top and this is the reason why wet wide angle lenses have to be really coated well so that this effect is diminished, however it still can happen.
And it did happen to me with the Inon UWL-H100. The general advice to eliminate or reduce flare is to have a lens hood however lens hoods are generally not an option for wet lenses with an M67 thread mount. The only lens that I know that can position the hood on a screw mount is the fix UWL28M52 or UWL04 most of the other lens do not have a hood and have a circular lens unprotected from stray light. And this usually means at some point you will get flare.
So how do you get around it? In the case of the LX7 is pretty much a forced choice as the Inon UWL-H100 is the only lens that does not vignette at 28mm equivalent focal lenght so the possible solution is to put a hood on the lens.
Inon sells a hood for the UWL-H100 but the hood is attached through 6 allen bolts and its position can’t be fine tuned so to use the hood it is a requirement to change mount from M67 to the LD bayonet. You need also to convert the lens itself into an LD bayonet. If you go to your Inon dealer there is a relatively cheap service part that allows you to convert your M67 lens into a bayonet.
The LD bayonet is the latest incarnation of bayonet mount released by Inon. Whilst the old AD mount relied on a mechanical action to secure the lens, the new LD bayonet is much shallower and relies on a pin lock release to stay in place. There are two adapters on the market that are capable of attaching LD bayonet lenses to an M67 thread, one produced by Nauticam themselves and the other by the Japanese Fisheye Fix.
There is a price difference between the adapters with the Fix being 20% more expensive.
The Nauticam adapter is the largest of the two. It has 6 allen bolts on the front and a thumb screw lock on the back to fix it in position. With LD lenses there is only one position to put the lens hood in the correct place so if for some reason the thread ends in the wrong place with your housing you will need to unscrew the front of the adapter to ensure the release lock is on the upper left of the port this happens the same way on the fix adapter. Make sure the little spring does not jump off in the process…Once the release lock is in the right area the fine tuning of the hood position is done with the thumb screw. A possible weakness is that if your housing port has no room for the thumb screw then this adapter is not good for you.
Whilst the Nauticam is made of plastic and metal the Fix seems to be 100% aluminum, this adapter looks better but does not have a mechanism to fix in place it relies on the strength of the M67 thread, however this locking system is compatible with any 67mm threaded port.
The fix allows to perfectly fine tune the hood position and it shows.
The alignment mechanism of the Nauticam adapter creates an alignment issue with the hood where the lens is few degrees turned clockwise.
With the fix this does not happen.
The hood can be properly aligned. Note that in both cases this does not mean more vignetting as the corners are not covered by the hood.
The other check I do is the position of the back of the lens, if there is a gap between the thread and the back of the lens this can create vignetting so it has to be as close as possible or even protruding as the Inon UWL-H100 mount type 2 does.
Let’s have a look at the back of those two adapters with teh UWL-H100 28LD attached.
The Nauticam thread is somewhat too long so the lens sits slightly more inside the thread line.
With the fix the situation changes sightly.
There seems to be little difference we will now check if there is an impact on the possible vignette in water.
As we can see there is a little bit of residual vignette on the bottom right corner when the lens is at 28mm equivalent focal length,
This is the same situation with the Fix
There is still a dark bottom right corner but it is less.
Inserting a 1.25mm spacer between the inner housing and the left side of the camera improves matters, this is because the lens of the LX7 is somewhat misaligned in the Nauticam housing and this corrects it.
With the spacer in the housing and the Nauticam adapter there is a tiny little residue of vignette but overall this is ok.
With the fix adapter this is the result.
No dark corners left.
So this is the recap:
You can change the UWL-H100 28M67 into an LD version with a cheap service part
Once the lens has an LD mount it is possible to attach the hood this will reduce flare
Vignetting is slightly increased but can be eliminated with a spacer with the Fix adapter
There is an issue of hood alignment an increased vignetting with the Nauticam LD adapter
A final note: inserting a spacer in the housing is risky, you need to know what you are doing as in theory the chance of flooding could increase so this is not for everyone.
My recommendation to those who want to improve contrast with the UWL-H100 is to convert to LD mount, attach the hood and get a Fisheye Fix LDF-M67 Pro adapter. Changing to bayonet has other advantages making lens swaps in water much faster and easier compared to the thread version especially with a lens as heavy as the UWL-H100.
There are few design issues and manufacturing errors in the Nauticam LD adapter that create issues with the LX7, most likely other cameras that are not so fussy will have no problems but if you have an LX7 avoid the Nauticam adapter entirely until a new production version is defined. I have given Nauticam the feedback and they will probably react.
You can see in the section of the Veronica L that missing those extra degrees field of view did not allow me to take the full wreck by side even if it was not that big. On couple of reef dives I already had the Inon on the previous wreck dive so I left it you can compare performance of the two lenses in terms of sharpness and flare. Generally I feel the wet mate has less flare and is sharper however it does have an issue of reflections as covered in the previous post.
As always I have used iMovie to edit the AVCHD progressive files that I converted to normal mp4 using the workflow in a previous post. There are no dramatic alterations of colour or exposure and no stabilization has been run in any part of the video (in some parts like the snake eel moving it shows) all was done with custom white balance using the camera functionality, considering how deep were some of the wrecks this is very good I believe.
I would love your comments this was mostly an exploration trip so it is interesting to compare to the RX100 Raja Ampat videos