Nauticam entered the wet lenses market with their SMC close up wet lens that was optimized for DSLR.
Then it released the CMC compact macro converter for compact cameras and micro four thirds and finally the Wet Wide Angle Lens I that is compatible with compacts, micro four thirds and also full frame cameras with 28mm equivalent lens.
Up to now all lenses were using the traditional M67 mount as most of the lenses, even the close up ones, are pretty heavy this means going for the dive with the same lens. Nauticam has developed the flip diopter adapter for flat ports to overcome this issue.
The flip diopter is a good solution for micro four thirds and DSLR but looks rather cumbersome on compacts as the image shows.
I asked Nauticam for a bayonet adapter and specifically if they could develop something for the Inon LD bayonet system that so far has been the reference for wet lenses for compacts and micro four thirds cameras.
Edward told me that due to the fact that the WWL-1 lens rear element is so large the Inon LD system was not an option so they went off and developed their own system.
I would like to thank Nauticam again for making those parts available before general availability.
Looking a bit closer to it you can see that due to the specific construction with two concentric rings you need a special tool to apply the adapter on the port.
Obviously as the Nauticam lenses use an M67 thread new adapter needed to be developed.
Nauticam does not use ABS plastic and uses aluminum for all their parts.
Now that the items have a bayonet adapter there is a need for a lens holder to put on the arms.
The lens holder is too big for a standard 5″ segment but looks in proportion with a longer segment.
The adapter is larger than the LD mount and a bit big for compacts to the point that even with a tray the adapter tips the rig back.
Another challenge is that this system is designed for Nauticam lens that have protruding rear element so when used with standard lenses there is a gap between the port and the wet lens that can be counter productive, not the end of the world and frankly the Inon system has the same problem. This however means that if you wanted to use this system with a different wide angle wet lens this would be suboptimal.
I am waiting for Nauticam to ship me back the WWL-1 so I can show how that lens performs on this system.
Another observation of course is that if you use this system for wide angle the super heavy WWL-1 and the fact that the adapter only works on a normal segment means your rig will be very heavy in water. I am going to discuss with Nauticam the possibility to have the adapter on a float arm however their carbon arms do not have any mounting point to be used.
Stay tuned for a full review of this adapter with the new 29 macro port that looks very promising for video.
The new cameras in the RX100 and A7 series can record 4K video internally but what is more important come with significant enhancements for video shooters.
Probably the most important feature is the availability of picture profiles that have a number of presets that can be further customized by the user.
There are many forums on the internet with custom setting to try to extract cine like look from Panasonic GH4 clips but all in all we can say that the controls in a still camera have been quite limited so far.
The new software that comes with the RX100 and A7 is a real step forward in this respect and contains all characteristics and functionality previously only present on Sony professional and semi professional video cameras.
The Seven Presets
The starting point of using a picture profile is to find one that we like as a starting point for further customization; the new Sony cameras have 7 profiles already loaded with example settings. The profiles have many characteristics that can be configured but probably the most important is the shape of the gamma curve because it also determines the minimum ISO and the availability of other features.
The descriptions above are my personal short description as the user guide is quite confusing.
Profiles PP1 to PP5 are usable straight from the camera, PP6 is optimized for editing and PP7 can’t be used without editing.
The profile PP1 and PP2 emulate the camera behavior in movie and still mode in terms of contrast and saturation. The main difference between the two is that the Still mode has stronger contrast and saturation than movie. Both use a minimum ISO of 125 and they allow customization of the standard camera modes.
Within a profile you have access to controls for color and sharpness at much granular detail that you have with the camera in normal mode. For example the saturation slider goes from -32 to +32 and the sharpness can be completely controlled manually. Colour depth is available in the range -7 to +7 for the whole RGCCYM palette. The customization of those controls lets you have the colours you want off the camera this can be particularly important to people looking for a specific look of certain colors typically red and blue.
Another feature that is incremental to the normal movie mode is the knee setting. The knee is particularly useful with highlights and with back lit shots. What it does it to compress the highlights within the usable signal range.
The knee is a way for those who like video look footage to capture more highlights and avoid hard clipping of back lit images.
The profiles PP3 and PP4 use the ITU709 gamma curve that is the standard for high definition video television. The gamma curve has a low light gain of 4.5 dB and for this reason the minimum ISO is 200.
The video profiles bring substantial increase in both shadows and highlights to the image compared to the standard profiles.
The difference between those two profiles is the selection of the color mode. The PP3 profile has a Pro colour mode that the manual says ‘it is similar to professional Sony broadcast cameras’ the PP4 instead has an ITU709 Matrix colour mode.
What it means is that the Pro colour is slightly below the standard saturation whilst the ITU709 Matrix is extremely saturated looking like the Tv program that go these days. Both settings allow usage of the knee setting in auto and manual mode. The idea is to restore the highlights and make the footage look less harsh. The issue is of course that this has only effect on the highlights and not on the shadows.
The profiles PP5 and PP6 use the two different Cine gamma curves one is limited at 109% and the other at 100%.
Those are the official descriptions:
Cine1: Softens the contrast in darker image areas and emphasizes gradation changes in lighter image areas, producing a subdued tone overall (equivalent to HG4609G33). Gamma curve that obtains a dynamic range of 460% when the exposure is adjusted to 33% video output with 18% reflectance gray. The maximum value of video output is 109%.
Images shot with this gamma can be used without grading, but since the images have smooth gradation characteristics, this can be used to grade and finalize the viewed image in the post-production process.
Cine 2: Similar results to [Cine1] but optimized for editing with up to 100% video signal (equivalent to HG4600G30). Gamma curve that obtains a dynamic range of 460% when the exposure is adjusted to 30% video output with 18% reflectance gray. The maximum value of video output is 100%.
Both curves are cine like and therefore do not use the knee function by default this is because a cine gamma curve is already clipping at much higher signal levels. The Cine2 curve has less contrast than Cine1 and is limited to 100% as opposed to the standard 109% so it is optimized for editing and the footage will lack whites and look fairly grey.
Practically the cine profile achieve a higher dynamic range using a smoother curve, this compares to the video profiles where the curve is pretty much the same until the highlights get compressed using the knee function.
The PP7 profile is for S-log2, this has the highest dynamic range but the minimum ISO is 1600, the footage looks really bland out of the camera but this can be really enhanced through editing to bring out all the details.
My Take on the Picture Profiles
I think the whole cinema like video is a very overrated subject for underwater use. An acid test to understand where you stand is your own TV. If you use the picture settings Vivid or Standard then you are a video like person, waste no time pursuing cinema like look as in the editing you will effectively bring it back and eliminate all the detail you capture by increasing contrast and saturation.
If instead your TV is set to Cinema or is even calibrated then you are a Cine like person.
Personally I think S-log2 for underwater use at 100 mbps is a total waste of time and it is only worth with external recorders. The bitrate is too low to capture that amount of detail and resist extensive grading and actually shooting at 1600 is pretty difficult and requires ND filters (that the RX100 has) to perform decently.
You can take still shots with the picture profile so the first thing to do is to take a few pictures and see what image you like the most, then you can start tweaking.
I found myself to like the cine settings in terms of contrast but I find then too bland in color so I have settled for +20 saturation right now.
Between Cine1 and Cine2 is quite difficult to choose because although Cine2 is in theory optimized for editing actually it looks pretty good straight from the camera for my liking. I particularly like the fact that the highlights almost never clip with this setting even in harsh conditions. It is possible to mix the Cine profiles with the Pro color mode but I found that using saturation was giving the same result.
Detail setting (aka Sharpness)
The last feature of the RX100 and A7 new controls is the fine tuning of the sharpness setting. I find that the default works pretty well except at high ISO where you want to start adjusting slightly the behavior.
But it takes a bit of time to understand the settings.
The starting point for me is the crispening setting that in perfect Sony tradition means exactly the opposite of what you would think. So a setting of +7 means actually limit the sharpening on speckles and noise where a clear shape can’t be detected. Once you set crispening to the max and you shoot at high ISO you see how it reduces the noise. However the issue is that now the sharpness has also reduced so in order to restore the effect you go back to the total level of detail and set it to 7. Once you do that you find out that now the sharpening applied correctly is actually excessive so the limit setting effectively clips the amount of sharpening applied to the edges I use this at 3, as this results in a reduction of highlights sharpening (glass reflecting objects look dull) I then set the highlight detail to +2. After I did all of that the end result was very similar to the standard setting and a bit softer on the edges, practically it was only better at very high ISO so I went back to the original setting.
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.
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.
There is no doubt that the Panasonic LX100 is a very capable camera and has a great 4K mode that works great especially at the wide end. In this post we will look at the settings that in my opinion maximize the camera features and have the best ergonomics for shooting underwater and actually also on land for most.
There is quite a bit of confusion between still image settings and movie settings and if your objective is to shoot video I recommend saving all the settings below or your preferred choice in a custom memory. The LX100 has 3 custom memory so you can save your settings for movie, stills and something else. Note that due to the absence of mode dials aperture, shutter and exposure are not saved so check you have the right settings before starting your recordings.
Photo Style: I tend to leave this on the standard setting. Some users like to define a custom setting with sharpening of -2 I don’t think this is necessary. Likewise noise reduction is fine out of the box
4K Photo: I leave this option off as I want to shoot in 24p, setting it on will force the camera in 25/30p mode.
Rec Format: mp4
Rec Quality: 4K 24p I like the cinematic movie but also want to extract the maximum quality from the image
AFS/AFF/AFC: AFS single focus at the beginning of the scene
Picture Mode: setting not relevant in 4K
Continuous AF: set to OFF to prevent the camera to hunt focus especially underwater. If used on land this may be set to ON
Metering Mode: I tend to use centered weighted average for macro and multi metering for wide angle.
Highlight/Shadow: this is a very powerful control but I leave it to default
i.Dynamic: set to OFF to avoid unpredictable artifacts
i.Resolution: set to OFF the camera is very sharp no need for this
i.Zoom: set to ON due to the limited focal range it is important to allow for some extended zoom although there is some quality loss especially at high ISO. It works pretty well on the first notch
Digital Zoom: set to OFF the digital zoom looses too much quality
Mic settings: all left default
Wind cut: auto
Custom Settings Menu
Silent Mode: can be set on if you are working with wildlife on land
AF/AE lock: set to AE lock, as we have disabled continuous focus and we keep the focus at the beginning of the scene there is no need for AF lock in video. AE lock allows you to lock exposure when entering caves and wanting to keep a natural light without abrupt changes in exposure
AE/AF lock hold set to on so that the exposure lock is released only when the button is pressed again.
Shutter AF: ON we want to focus when we press the shutter at the beginning of the scene
Half Press Release, Quick AF, Eye sensor AF: all left to OFF
Pinpoint AF time: set to MID
Pinpoint AF display: picture in picture
AF assisted lamp: off
Direct Focus Area: set to OFF otherwise moving the cursor will override other buttons
Focus/Release Priority: irrelevant in movie mode
AF+MF: this allows for fine tuning with manual focus if the shutter is half pressed can be useful if the camera struggles to focus
MF Assist: focus
MF Assist display: PIP
MF Guide: ON
Peaking: ON your preference of color and level. I find the defaults to work fine some people prefer orange.
Guide Line: rule of thirds
Highlight: irrelevant for video
Zebra: I use zebra 2 with 100% setting to just show me overexposed areas.
Monochrome live view: OFF
Constant Preview: OFF
Expo Meter: ON
Dial Guide: ON
LVF/Monitor Display: set default
Info display: ON
Rec Area: Movie, this settings makes the picture format lever redundant if you shoot videos so you don’t need to set the dial to 16:9.
Remaining Display: movie (this is only useful at the end of the memory card)
Fn button set: For underwater use F1-Set record area F2-default(Wireless) F3-Custom memory settings
Zoom Lever: I prefer to move in steps
Control Ring: defauls
Zoom Resume; OFF very important if you have the LX100 in the short port and accidentally you zoom too much leaving this to on can compromise your dive
iA button: default
Video Button: leave to On
Eye Sensor: LVF Monitor Switch: Mon
All settings default except
Menu Resume: set to ON
Focus Area: 1 Area recommended for underwater use alternatively pinpoint for macro
Recommended Shooting Settings
As discussed I prefer 24p and therefore I leave the aperture dial to auto and the ISO setting to auto too for wide angle. Generally the camera will operate prioritizing a low ISO to a small aperture and if you touch the aperture you end up in manual exposure that may be a possibility. Shutter dial on 1/60 with shutter speed reduced to 1/50 this gives plenty to play with in terms of aperture and in bright scenes the aperture will quickly go above f/8. The focus will be fixed as you set it at the beginning of the scene however if you need to refocus you can half-press the shutter and the camera will re-focus.
For macro other considerations on depth of field apply so you need to get going with the aperture until you get a decent focus, consider that the camera does not follow any rules so in effect you will set the shutter to 1/50 and then play with the ISO until you reach the desired exposure. As you will be shooting macro with lights this should not pose a large issue. If your subject is in the center of the frame use centered weighted average metering if not you need to be careful here is where the zebra control comes very useful. In general is better to avoid under exposure and the zebra can help to ensure you prime subject is exposed correctly. For what concerns focus here you can try auto+manual as a starting point and then fine tune. Depth of field is limited so once you lose the focus it may be worth stopping and starting again instead of trying to refocus.
You can also keep the focus constant and move the camera back and forth.
I hope you find those settings useful let me know how you get on.
Following the previous review that was dedicated to still images we now go into the subject of 4K video with the Panasonic LX100 and related Nauticam LX-100.
Currently there are only two compact cameras that produce 4K video the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic LX100.
The housing for the Sony RX100 has a traditional M67 port whilst the LX100 uses the N50 compact port system.
This means you can use all your wet lenses with the RX100 without specific adapters. The LX100 has however a number of benefits.
This table compares the field of view of the two cameras in 4K video mode.
When the camera shoots in 4K mode the focal length remains the same however the camera uses a smaller part of the sensor. A normal micro four third sensor measures 17.3×12 mm whilst the 1″ sensor of the RX100 is 13.2×8.8 mm. Note that the LX100 does not use the whole sensor due to the multi aspect format that keeps the diagonal field of view unchanged regardless of the image format.
What we can see in the LX100 table is that although the focal length in 4K is 26mm the horizontal field of view is the same of a full frame camera with a lens of 23.86mm this means the field of view in 4K should be slightly wider than a picture taken by the LX100 in 4:3 format.
I put the camera on a tripod and took two sample shots, this is the first at 24mm in 4:3 format that I then cropped to 16:9.
This other shot is from exactly the same position taken extracting a 4K frame from a small video.
As stated the horizontal dimension is just a few mm wider in 4K 16:9.
What this means is that this is the same that any normal camera with a 24mm lens that then is cropped to movie format in terms of field of view.
The Sony RX100 does not have a multi aspect sensor and therefore the horizontal field of view drops more.
With the short port on the LX100 using a wet lens like the Inon UWL-H100 we can achieve more than 97° horizontal which is very wide and zoom all the way to 79° and if we use a wetmate or the mini dome cover the other range between 72° and 50°.
Practically the LX100 with wet lenses and wetmate or minidome gives you access to focal lengths between 15.5-21mm and again 24-35mm is like having an 8-18mm lens on a micro four third which is good for whale sharks and mantas this is even wider than the 7-14mm lens on a Panasonic GH4 in 4K and the LX100 has a (weak) optical stabiliser on the lens.
The RX100 mark IV instead can only cover between 96° and 90° before the wet lens stops working properly and we jump to 68° if using a wetmate.
This shot taken at around 15cm shows a nearly rectilinear and very wide image.
In short if you are after some super wide angle in 4K the LX100 is definitely the way to go.
From an ergonomic point of view I shoot video in shutter priority and let the camera work out ISO and aperture, this is relatively easy to do with the LX100 although the absence of custom memory modes on a mode dial is painful.
A control that can be quite useful due to the tendency of the LX100 to go focus hunting is to set the ae/af lock button to af-on. This requires the shutter to be set in release priority with this control you can use manual focus and force the LX100 to refocus when you hit the af-lock. This is a very useful feature.
Update 28 September the method described to fight focus hunting does not work in 4K. There is going to be another post with the best settings for 4K video for the LX100.
For what concerns macro both the LX100 and RX100 present their challenges due to the short zoom lens, the LX100 more so due to the horrible rectangular port. It can be argued that you can’t shoot wide and macro with the LX100 whilst you can do that with the RX100 however the strength of the LX100 is certainly in its very wide lens and the short port that combined with a flat wide angle lens can produce an extremely wide field of view able to cover practically almost any wide angle scene.
For macro the GH4 and upcoming GX8 are probably going to be better placed due to the higher crop factor giving focal lengths in excess of 100mm using the 14-42mm lenses.
If you want to get into 4K video and your focus is primarily wide angle the LX100 is an excellent device.
Nauticam has given me the opportunity to test the housing for the Panasonic LX100 priced at $1,200 or £922 in UK.
As anticipated some time ago this housing features the new N50 mini port system for compact.
The housing comes with the rectangular port as a standard, as the LX100 has a 24mm equivalent lens and the lens extends quite a lot between the shortest and longest focal length it is not possible to use an M67 long port or there will be vignetting.
In order to install the camera you need to set the aperture to f/16 and the aspect ratio to 4:3 with focus mode in normal and lift the zoom lever. Likewise to take the camera out of the housing.
Unfortunately as mentioned several times on this blog pincushion distortion severely affects the image at focal lengths shorter than 35mm equivalent as our in water test shot demonstrated. If you zoom in the corners you can see also extensive blur and chromatic aberrations.
Furthermore the lack of an M67 port means you now need the Nautical flip diopter for rectangular port that costs $220 or £170.
When you eventually get to put a diopter on the lack of zoom means that magnification with traditional lenses is quite limited.
The frame width is 62mm with a single Inon UCl-165 and goes to 5cm when we stack another UCL-330.
Image quality is ok except some blue fringing at the borders.
A single UCL-100 gives a frame width of 42mm.
Apparently the Nauticam CMC ($320 or £240) gives 32mm frame width that is adequate for macro.
So if you are into macro you need to invest $1,200+$220+$320=$1,740 to have some decent magnification.
If you possess many clamps and cold shoe ball mounts you can buy an Inon M67 lens arm and use the lenses you have saving some $$$ but the magnification is limited unless you get the CMC.
For semi-wide angle a mini dome port is available at $280 or £216.
This restores the field of view in air however you can only zoom to 40mm before the camera can’t focus anymore. I have even tried with dry diopters on the camera there is no improvement.
Optical quality is great.
Probably the most useful port is the N50 short port that has an m67 thread and allows to use wet wide angle lenses.
I went to Swanage but got the tide wrong visibility was shocking still gives an idea of the image quality of the LX100 with the Nauticam WWL-1 wet lens.
If you have a Nauticam wet mate you can also use it with the short port and achieve the same or better sharpness than the minidome thought with some residual chromatic aberration.
The big benefit is that if you find that your wet wide angle lens is too wide for what you are shooting you can change lens without changing the port.
For what concerns the ergonomics of the LX100 they are quite intuitive on land.
One of the characteristics is the lack of a mode dial.
You have an auto position for shutter speed and aperture and if you leave them as such the camera shoots in program mode.
Once you move the aperture the camera goes in aperture priority mode. Probably the worst situation is the shutter dial that once touched has to come down all the way from 1/4000 to whatever you need it to be.
Also you don’t have thirds of exposure for the shutter dial and for example to get 1/50 you need to go to 1/60 and then use the rear dial.
I found the ergonomics of the camera in water particularly annoying as I was shooting with gloves. I did like the nauticam trigger system for the shutter however the amount of hardware of the nauticam tray and its weight are not really an option for me.
The Panasonic LX100 is a very interesting camera on land but in water ends up quite uncomfortable and expensive. The housing with the 3 ports comes at $1,200+$180+$280 if you add the Nauticam CMC and the WWL-1 you end with a whopping $3,195 the camera costs another $800. Total investment $4,000.
This is a lot of money in my opinion considering that with another $300 you can get a Panasonic GX7 with GX7 housing, an Olympus 60mm with 65 macro port and a Panasonic 8mm fisheye with 4.33″ dome. The LX100 and GX7 share the same sensor but there is no doubt that the macro performance of a dedicated lens as well as the fisheye of the 8mm lens have no comparison.
In conclusion the Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 is a bit of a flop for stills the only use that I can think of is wide angle 4K video with the short port and a wet lens but other than that I don’t see how Nauticam is going to sell many of those units.
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.
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.
The lens comes with a neoprene dome 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I did have some fun shooting through the window.
The calm conditions of the pool allow the camera to see through the surface.
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.
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.
There is some softness and virtually no chromatic aberration.
The lens has the typical barrel distortion of a fish eye lens.
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.
I then took a few shots with the UWL-H100 flat, the LX-100 stopped vignetting at 25mm.
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 °.
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 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.
Micro Four Thirds camera have become increasingly popular for underwater photography especially for macro and close up subjects in the last years.
The micro four thirds standard is shared between Olympus and Panasonic however in terms of underwater use Olympus is on the forefront and in fact it produces their own poly-carbonate housings for all new models.
Nauticam has their own N85 port system for micro four third that as of today has 10 different ports, two extension rings and a large number of focus and zoom gear. You can also buy cheaper 3D printed gear to save a few bucks for majority of lenses.
The other interesting characteristic of the micro four third market is that since the introduction of the 16 megapixels sensors, there have not been any substantial improvement in image quality among the various model, we will have to see what the 20 megapixels sensor of the Panasonic GX8 will bring but all in all the camera choice is mostly one of ergonomics and features.
Olympus is quickly clearing stock but you can still found the OM-D E-M10 out there for £478 with kit lens. The might Panasonic GX7 is now £433 with kit lens. In US you can find both the Panasonic GX7 and the Olympus O-MD E-M100 for $599 with kit lens.
The Panasonic LX100 sets you at £589 in UK and $698 in US really if you are into photography and want a micro four third it is a no-brainer you get a previous version GX7 or OMD EM10 (as you can’t find an EM5 new) and happy days.
Now that you have committed to the camera you are into lenses and ports for underwater use. The Olympus housing costs on average 25% less than Nauticam and has less choice of ports for me really is not appealing so let’s assume we are into Nauticam. What lens or port to choose?
Both the Olympus 14-42 EZ and the Panasonic 14-42 II fit in the Nauticam 35 port and require 3D printed gear to operate. The flat port will be OK for fish portrait and if you already have wet lenses it is definitely recommended to buy the 35 macro port first especially if you shoot video.
Both lenses do need a wet diopter to shoot small subjects in water as the smallest frame is around 7-9 cm width otherwise.
If you come from a compact camera most likely you have wet lenses and therefore you can re-use them for close range work.
Obviously a flat port for a 28mm equivalent lens is not a solution for wide angle.
First of all at the wide end due to water magnification the angle of view is the same of a 37mm lens which gives a field of view of just 60 degrees. The other point is that you really want to shoot at the tele end to avoid cluttering the background too much and typically in water those kit lenses work only at over 25cm from the port which means they are only good for medium size fish portraits.
The sequence of shots shows that even if the size of the cup is pretty much the same it looks much better at long focal length.
At 28mm you can see the glass in the frame on the right side and the window in the background.
At 50mm with similar size of the cup the glass is half gone and the cup looks nicer less of the window is showing.
at 42mm the glass is nearly out of the frames and the windows in the background is gone.
If you did not have any wet diopters the first additional lens and port to get will depend on your subjects, if you shoot macro you need a macro lens, if you shoot close focus wide angle you need a fisheye lens it is as simple as that.
The Olympus macro 60mm is the preferred lens combined with the Nauticam 65 port (or 35 port plus 30 extension). This lens can focus 10cm from the port and therefore can be used also in low visibility. Really there is no reason to use the more expensive 45mm Leica lens. The 60mm is great also for portrait work of small fish.
The same shot of the cup at 60mm means we now say goodbye to the glass due to the reduced angle of view. The increased working distance also means a more pleasant perspective.
I hope this explains why for underwater macro we want to shoot with long focal length as this helps us to get rid of the background so a longer lens will always be better than a zoom lens with a wet diopter and it will also give more magnification in case you have really small subjects.
If macro is not your priority and you are happy with kit lens and diopter for wide angle the first option is the Panasonic 8mm fisheye, that since the introduction of the Olympus 8mm pro fisheye has also reduced in price.
This lens works best with the Nauticam 4.33″ dome port. If you shoot in 3:2 format you can also try the Nauticam 3.5″ wide angle port that makes the set up even smaller however there are no substantial improvements on how close you can get as the strobes will fail to lit properly anything that is right on the port without risking to see the strobe lights in the frame. The 3.5″ port will vignette in 4:3 image format though some users report success.
EDIT 7 September 2015
The issue of the 3.5″ port has been put forward again with the argument that it allows you to get closer than the 4.33″ dome with the Olympus EM5. I do not have an EM5 but I do have a Panasonic GX7 the end of the dome is 9 cm away from the focus point and this means that the dome allows you to get closer than the minimum focus distance of the lens of 10cm. As the dome is shorter than the minimum focus distance on the GX7 the 3.5″ port does not bring any benefit. Furthermore as trays are in general around 30cm you need to be around 15 cm anyway to be able to illuminate the subject properly with edge lighting, in virtue of this I remain convinced that the 3.5″ port does not bring any real benefit except is a bit cheaper and may vignette.
So your starter kit if you upgrade from compacts of you own a close up lens is Macro 35 port followed by Olympus 60mm and mini extension ring 30 or Panasonic fisheye 8mm with 4.33′ dome for wide angle.
Wide angle zoom lens are less of a priority but the choice is between the Olympus 9-18mm and the Panasonic 7-14mm bearing in mind that if you had a wet wide angle lens you may not even bother getting an intermediate wide angle zoom lens.
That’s all for now hopefully this will cover most of the ground for all new micro four third underwater shooters with kit lenses!
These days I don’t have too much time to write nevertheless there are some exciting articles coming.
Nauticam is sending me a few items for testing that include the Panasonic LX100 housing and the new Nauticam wet lens.
The nauticam wet lens has been in the works for a very long time and is going to be released end of September, I will compare performance with the Inon lenses and report back finding.
I am also going to review the new Leak Sentinel v4 that has a number of promising updates.
But the first post will be about lenses for micro four third cameras. The system is very flexible and so is the Nauticam Port system there are many lenses supported and getting the right one is a bit of a headache for newcomers to the ILC space, I will try and make it simple and suggest a way forward so stay tuned.
The yearly refresh of the Sony RX100 brings us the mark IV and with it comes 4K video.
The sensor of the camera is still the same 1″ size of the RX100 but Sony has now added an XAVC codec at 100 mbps with 4K resolution as well as a lower 60 mbps mode that adds to the 50 mbps HD modes of the mark III.
So now we have two compact cameras that can record 4K video and the Panasonic DMC-LX100 is not alone.
Frankie Fok has a nice clip from Socorro with the LX100 as shown here
There is to date one only example with the Sony RX100 Mark IV and is not in the best environment but it gives an idea
So if you want to shoot 4K with a compact camera underwater which one should you choose, if any?
The LX100 has some interesting characteristics, although the sensor is in fact the same of the GX7. The camera has a good sharp lens and as all Panasonic the video implementation includes an IPB codec for video that makes compression very efficient.
However the LX100 has a number of issues and challenges as well :
No Auto ISO in manual mode
No ND filter
Short zoom range 24-75mm with multi-aspect sensor (26-81mm in 4K video mode)
The most serious problem of the LX100 is certainly its lens.
Nauticam released the housing early and for the first time it featured a port system.
To my horror the default port is rectangular, this creates a host of issues including the fact that you can’t easily add a close up lens in front without an expensive adapter.
The camera weights around 400 grams with battery and you need to add another 1.2 Kg for the housing for a total of 1.6 Kg more than some mirroless cameras such as the Panasonic GX7 or the Sony A5000.
You need around $2,000 to get the camera and the housing which is not exactly cheap for a camera that can’t do wide angle and you need something like the Nauticam CMC to achieve 32mm width in the frame however the diopter holder is $220 and other $320 for the CMC.
The port system has challenges too, for example the mini dome only allows for limited use of the zoom range and the short port locks the zoom completely.
Update: Nauticam has told me that the dome should work on the entire zoom range am waiting confirmation
The Sony RX100 mark IV has similar issues:
A short lens 24-70mm that becomes 28-81mm in video
The video codec has only predictive frames (as all Sony) and is less efficient than Panasonic
4K video is limited to 5 minutes before the camera auto shuts down
The RX100 has several other attractive features that the LX100 does not have:
Auto ISO in manual
Allows for external recorders
Image profiles for video similar to professional equipment
The housing does not have a port system
The issues at close range are the same of the LX100 and the RX100 requires similar solutions, but at least you have an M67 thread, what’s more important at 28mm you can use a normal Inon lens UWL-H100 to achieve a wide and rectilinear field of view and also a push on filter. Most likely filters are still a must due to Sony well known issue with custom white balance.
The smaller Sony sensor does mean worse performance at low ISO but having seen the LX100 results this seems to be an issue there as well.
The RX100 mark IV + Nauticam housing comes at similar cost but does not require additional ports. The rig is truly portable at around 1.1 Kg in total.
The 5 minutes limit is not an issue for underwater use although it is a limitation on land for sure.
I am not convinced that any of those two compacts are actually worth investing as both use the H264 video codec that is not designed for 4K. This generates all sorts of issues at low ISO as well as being really processor intensive to the point of over heating the sensor like it happens on the Sony.
If you really want to invest in a small rig for 4K underwater video my preference would be the RX100 mark IV but is very likely that personally I am going to stay on HD for another year