Tag Archives: 4K

Getting the best underwater colours for your 4K Sony RX100 Mark IV

It is not a mystery that even the new Mark IV version has issues with custom white balance.

The ergonomics have not changed and you need to go into photo mode to set custom white balance but generally underwater results are poor. Using filters is therefore a necessity also on the new 4K version.

RX100 Mark IV Video Behavior

The RX100 offers now a 4K 100 mbps mode and can use picture profiles.

I have used a modified version of PP6 that use the cine2 gamma curve, I have however changed the colour to the Pro mode and changed a number of other settings in my last video in Puerto Galera.

The water was green and murky but this gives you an idea of what you can get.

Filter Options and Wide Angle

Although the Nauticam WWL-1 is the best lens for the RX100 it does not take filters and therefore is not adequate for video.

In this review clip you can see the options available on the market.

In terms of wide angle you have two options for 4K:

  1. Inon UWL-H100
  2. Inon UWL-100

Both lenses work fine in 4K however the older UWL-100 achromat does vignette in photo mode.

The UWL-H100 offers a very wide field of view also in HD mode with no vignette and accepts the mangrove/deeproof filter.

This filters is loaded with magenta so I suggest adjusting the tint in the auto white balance mode to +2 green.

The UWL-100 works fine in 4K and is wider than the UWL-H100 however has only the M67 mount. If you have one of those lenses you can use the Ikelite 6442 filter. This filter required you to remove the rubber ring on the lens and does work quite well except has a yellow cast to it you can reduce by changing the tint to +2 blue and increasing also magenta to +1.

For flexibility purposes probably the UWL-H100 is better as it takes the bayonet but the UWL-100 is really wide and has a little less fringing. Some people do like the UR/PRO filters better.

I hope you find this post useful and good luck with getting the best colours from your Sony RX100 Mark IV

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

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

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

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

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

Photozone has tests of all the three lenses

Olympus Test

Panasonic Vario G X PZ Test

Panasonic 12-32 Test

The Panasonic power zoom is better than the Olympus however the lens has issue of vignetting and pretty high chromatic aberration. The Panasonic 12-32mm is surprisingly good and has similar resolution and less issues of fringing.

I attached the 29 Macro Port to my GX7 housing and took some tests shots in the sink with the WWL-1 petals touching the subject.

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

The image is wide and the corner sharpness is great with minimal to no chromatic aberrations.

The 12-32mm lens does not vignette at wide end and gives similar performance to the PZ lens with the benefit of increased field of view.

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

The shots are taken at f/4 ISO 1600.

For comparison I mounted the 4.33″ dome and the 8mm fisheye and took a similar shot.

8mm Fisheye
8mm Fisheye

The field of view is wider but of course distortion in the corners is very high to the point they become garbled.

Clearly if you do need a fisheye lens the 8mm is still the choice however the WWL-1 has the advantage that you can use the full zoom and a field of view of around 130° with a 28mm equivalent lens and around 135° with 24mm equivalent.

One thing that is interesting is the use of the 12-32mm with the Macro 29 port combined with the Panasonic GH4 in 4K.

The crop factor of 1.2x means that the focal length with this lens at 4K 16:9 is 31.38mm. This makes this port compatible with a number of flat wide angle lens of the old generation.

Specifically the old Inon UWL-100 would give a field of view of 100° equivalent to 18mm in 4K. The additional benefit is that you can use the Ikelite UR/PRO push on filter and the full zoom. At the tele end 83.7mm may be a bit short however the fact that you have a fully rectilinear lens and you can use a push on filter is a big advantage.

The Macro port 29 is also compatible in normal mode with the Inon UWL-H100 at 24mm equivalent as per image.

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

The field of view appears narrow as the lens can get closer to the subject compared to the WWL-1. The optical quality is excellent with minimum fringing.

In summary the Macro Port 29 is a must purchase for the following users:

  • 4K Panasonic GH4 video users
  • 4K Panasonic GX8 Users
  • HD and Still images micro four third users wanting a full wet lens set up

The 12-32mm lens also give almost the same field of view of the Panasonic 7-14mm with wide angle port at much lower cost when coupled with an Inon UWL-H100 allowing use at apertures of f/4 and f/5.6 with one to two stops advantages on the 7-14mm.

On a final note for the users of the Macro 35 port Nauticam has now released the zoom gear for the Panasonic 14-42mm II Mega OIS. This lens is better than all of those discussed in this post in terms of optical quality and it comes as kit lens on lower end Panasonic cameras. If you already have the Macro Port 35 and a kit lens or if you don’t have any lens or port this is definitely the best option in terms of cost and optical quality

Sony RX100 Mark IV Picture Profile Part 2

I have done some further research on the picture profiles and found out quite a bit of information.

In this post I will focus on the luminance and black gamma.

Luminance

Luminance determines the range of black and white that are in the footage. People familiar with the Panasonic GH4 will know that you can set luminance fundamentally in two ranges: 0-255 and 16-235.

What this means that you have in the first case 256 grades of grey and the in the second 220. Some people confuse luminance with dynamic range but they are not the same thing.

You will somewhere find the definition of limited for 16-235 and full for 0-255 this is what it means.

In particular video broadcasting legal luminance is 16-235 so if you use a clip produced at 0-255 the extremes will be clipped this is anyway resolved as the levels are mediated when clips are produced for compatibility.

On the other hand if you use a clip with range 16-235 on a computer that has 0-255 luminance range it will look as lacking deep blacks or whites.

Ultimately you need to decide what is that you are shooting for and if your clips are going to be played on a computer that works in RGB or on a Tv that has YUV.

Profile Name Description Luminance Range Dynamic Range
PP1 Movie 0-255 < 7 stops
PP2 Still 0-255 < 7 stops
PP3 Video Natural 0-255 7 stops
PP4 Video Vivid 0-255 7 stops
PP5 Cine1 109% 0-255 10 stops
PP6 Cine2 100% 16-235 10 stops
PP7 S-log 0-255 13 stops

So the only profile that is broadcast compatible before editing is PP6 or the Cine2 gamma curve.

You can see that the dynamic range is the same for PP5 and PP6 so the fact that the camera records more grey levels does not really change things as the cine2 curve is smoother so it can accept higher input signals.

Black Gamma

In order to increase depth of blacks it is possible to use the black gamma setting. This has 2 controls, one is the Range Narrow, Medium, Wide and the other is the level that goes from -7 to +7

If you are going to grade your footage of and if you are going to use the video gammas PP1-PP4 you should not touch the black gammas otherwise you risk crushing the blacks.

However if you intend to use the cine profiles straight out of the camera you can tweak the black gammas accordingly.

The range determines where the setting will be effective.

Broadly speaking Narrow works on the first 10% of the signal, medium around 20% and wide around 30-35%.

What it means is that Narrow really works on the deeper blacks as you move to Wide you are altering also the grey and effectively changing the balance of the whole image.

More details here http://helpguide.sony.net/di/pp/v1/en/contents/TP0000909110.html

For what concerns the level a positive value will move black towards grey and a negative value shift grey towards black.

There are two main uses of the black gamma: get deeper blacks without altering the overall contrast this is obtained using the Narrow setting and a value between -3 and -7 or use the Wide setting with negative values to give the whole image a darker tone.

A setting of Wide with level around -3 gives an overall darker tone to a Cinegamma if you don’t want to change the blacks in post and remains overall balanced.

Which leads to my current favorite profile that is a customised PP6 setting the parameters that I have changed are:

I have tested the various Gamma with backlight situation and I found that Cinema2 performs best on my Tv where I watch my clips.

I prefer Cine2 even on the computer to be frank but it is true that the blacks are a bit light.

Color mode: I have tried Cinema and Pro am now on Pro with Saturation +8

Black Gamma: Range Wide Level -7 as the cine2 mode is quite dull I like to push the blacks a little overall.

As the Sony RX100 Mark IV records at 8 bit my opinion is that using S-gamut is not worth without an external recorder. And to be honest the amount of grading possible is quite limited so my approach is to get the video as good as possible out of the camera.

This is a little test with my Kitten

Picture Profiles for the new RX100 and A7 Cameras

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.

Profile Name Description Minimum ISO Knee Mode
PP1 Movie 125 Auto/Manual
PP2 Still 125 Manual Only
PP3 Video Natural 200 Auto/Manual
PP4 Video Vivid 200 Auto/Manual
PP5 Cine1 109% 200 Manual Only
PP6 Cine2 100% 200 Manual Only
PP7 S-log 1600 Manual Only

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.

 

Standard Profiles

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.

PP1 Movie
PP1 Movie

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.

PP2 Still
PP2 Still

For a complete description see this link:

http://helpguide.sony.net/di/pp/v1/en/contents/TP0000909111.html

 

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.

Knee Point and Slope
Knee Point and Slope

 

 

The knee is a way for those who like video look footage to capture more highlights and avoid hard clipping of back lit images.

 

Video Profiles

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.

PP3 ITU709
PP3 Video Natural

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.

PP4 Video Vivid
PP4 Video Vivid

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.

 

Cine Profiles

The profiles PP5 and PP6 use the two different Cine gamma curves one is limited at 109% and the other at 100%.

Gamma curves
Gamma curves

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.

PP5 Cine1
PP5 Cine1 109%

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%.

PP2 Cine2 100%
PP2 Cine2 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.

S-log2

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.

PP7 s-log2
PP7 s-log2

 

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.

PP5 Saturation +20
PP5 Saturation +20
PP6 Saturation +20
PP6 Saturation +20

 

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.

The full guide is here http://helpguide.sony.net/di/pp/v1/en/contents/TP0000909112.html

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.

 

 

Best Settings for 4K video with the Panasonic DMC-LX100

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.

Movie Menu

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.

Histogram: OFF

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

Q.Menu: preset

iA button: default

Video Button: leave to On

Eye Sensor: LVF Monitor Switch: Mon

Custom Menu

All settings default except

Menu Resume: set to ON

Focus Area: 1 Area recommended for underwater use alternatively pinpoint for macro

Recommended Shooting Settings

Wide Angle

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.

Macro

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.

Nauticam NA-LX100 4K Video Review

Following the previous review that was dedicated to still images we now go into the subject of 4K video with the Panasonic LX100 and related Nauticam LX-100.

Currently there are only two compact cameras that produce 4K video the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic LX100.

The housing for the Sony RX100 has a traditional M67 port whilst the LX100 uses the N50 compact port system.

This means you can use all your wet lenses with the RX100 without specific adapters. The LX100 has however a number of benefits.

This table compares the field of view of the two cameras in 4K video mode.

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

When the camera shoots in 4K mode the focal length remains the same however the camera uses a smaller part of the sensor. A normal micro four third sensor measures 17.3×12 mm whilst the 1″ sensor of the RX100 is 13.2×8.8 mm. Note that the LX100 does not use the whole sensor due to the multi aspect format that keeps the diagonal field of view unchanged regardless of the image format.

What we can see in the LX100 table is that although the focal length in 4K is 26mm the horizontal field of view is the same of a full frame camera with a lens of 23.86mm this means the field of view in 4K should be slightly wider than a picture taken by the LX100 in 4:3 format.

I put the camera on a tripod and took two sample shots, this is the first at 24mm in 4:3 format that I then cropped to 16:9.

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

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

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

As stated the horizontal dimension is just a few mm wider in 4K 16:9.

What this means is that this is the same that any normal camera with a 24mm lens that then is cropped to movie format in terms of field of view.

The Sony RX100 does not have a multi aspect sensor and therefore the horizontal field of view drops more.

With the short port on the LX100 using a wet lens like the Inon UWL-H100 we can achieve more than 97° horizontal which is very wide and zoom all the way to 79° and if we use a wetmate or the mini dome cover the other range between 72° and 50°.

Practically the LX100 with wet lenses and wetmate or minidome gives you access to focal lengths between 15.5-21mm and again 24-35mm is like having an 8-18mm lens on a micro four third which is good for whale sharks and mantas this is even wider than the 7-14mm lens on a Panasonic GH4 in 4K and the LX100 has a (weak) optical stabiliser on the lens.

The RX100 mark IV instead can only cover between 96° and 90° before the wet lens stops working properly and we jump to 68° if using a wetmate.

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

This shot taken at around 15cm shows a nearly rectilinear and very wide image.

In short if you are after some super wide angle in 4K the LX100 is definitely the way to go.

From an ergonomic point of view I shoot video in shutter priority and let the camera work out ISO and aperture, this is relatively easy to do with the LX100 although the absence of custom memory modes on a mode dial is painful.

A control that can be quite useful due to the tendency of the LX100 to go focus hunting is to set the ae/af lock button to af-on. This requires the shutter to be set in release priority with this control you can use manual focus and force the LX100 to refocus when you hit the af-lock. This is a very useful feature.

Update 28 September the method described to fight focus hunting does not work in 4K. There is going to be another post with the best settings for 4K video for the LX100.

For what concerns macro both the LX100 and RX100 present their challenges due to the short zoom lens, the LX100 more so due to the horrible rectangular port. It can be argued that you can’t shoot wide and macro with the LX100 whilst you can do that with the RX100 however the strength of the LX100 is certainly in its very wide lens and the short port that combined with a flat wide angle lens can produce an extremely wide field of view able to cover practically almost any wide angle scene.

For macro the GH4 and upcoming GX8 are probably going to be better placed due to the higher crop factor giving focal lengths in excess of 100mm using the 14-42mm lenses.

If you want to get into 4K video and your focus is primarily wide angle the LX100 is an excellent device.

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

 

Nauticam NA-LX100 housing and port system review

Nauticam has given me the opportunity to test the housing for the Panasonic LX100 priced at $1,200 or £922 in UK.

As anticipated some time ago this housing features the new N50 mini port system for compact.

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

The housing comes with the rectangular port as a standard, as the LX100 has a 24mm equivalent lens and the lens extends quite a lot between the shortest and longest focal length it is not possible to use an M67 long port or there will be vignetting.

In order to install the camera you need to set the aperture to f/16 and the aspect ratio to 4:3 with focus mode in normal and lift the zoom lever. Likewise to take the camera out of the housing.

LX100 housing preparation
LX100 housing preparation

Unfortunately as mentioned several times on this blog pincushion distortion severely affects the image at focal lengths shorter than 35mm equivalent as our in water test shot demonstrated. If you zoom in the corners you can see also extensive blur and chromatic aberrations.

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

Furthermore the lack of an M67 port means you now need the Nautical flip diopter for rectangular port that costs $220 or £170.

When you eventually get to put a diopter on the lack of zoom means that magnification with traditional lenses is quite limited.

UL-165
NA-LX100 UCL-165

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

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

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

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

UCL-100
NA-LX100 UCL-100

Apparently the Nauticam CMC ($320 or £240) gives 32mm frame width that is adequate for macro.

So if you are into macro you need to invest $1,200+$220+$320=$1,740 to have some decent magnification.

If you possess many clamps and cold shoe ball mounts you can buy an Inon M67 lens arm and use the lenses you have saving some $$$ but the magnification is limited unless you get the CMC.

For semi-wide angle a mini dome port is available at $280 or £216.

N50 3.5
N50 3.5″ Mini Dome

This restores the field of view in air however you can only zoom to 40mm before the camera can’t focus anymore. I have even tried with dry diopters on the camera there is no improvement.

Optical quality is great.

LX100 Mini Dome 24mm
LX100 Mini Dome 24mm

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

N50 Short Port
N50 Short Port

I went to Swanage but got the tide wrong visibility was shocking still gives an idea of the image quality of the LX100 with the Nauticam WWL-1 wet lens.

SWANAGE (4 of 4)
Atlantic Ocean Anemones
SWANAGE (3 of 4)
Kelp?
Upside down
Upside down
SWANAGE (1 of 4)
Myst!

If you have a Nauticam wet mate you can also use it with the short port and achieve the same or better sharpness than the minidome thought with some residual chromatic aberration.

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

The big benefit is that if you find that your wet wide angle lens is too wide for what you are shooting you can change lens without changing the port.

NA-LX100 rear buttons
NA-LX100 rear buttons

For what concerns the ergonomics of the LX100 they are quite intuitive on land.

One of the characteristics is the lack of a mode dial.

You have an auto position  for shutter speed and aperture and if you leave them as such the camera shoots in program mode.

Once you move the aperture the camera goes in aperture priority mode. Probably the worst situation is the shutter dial that once touched has to come down all the way from 1/4000 to whatever you need it to be.

Also you don’t have thirds of exposure for the shutter dial and for example to get 1/50 you need to go to 1/60 and then use the rear dial.

I found the ergonomics of the camera in water particularly annoying as I was shooting with gloves. I did like the nauticam trigger system for the shutter however the amount of hardware of the nauticam tray and its weight are not really an option for me.

The Panasonic LX100 is a very interesting camera on land but in water ends up quite uncomfortable and expensive. The housing with the 3 ports comes at $1,200+$180+$280 if you add the Nauticam CMC and the WWL-1 you end with a whopping $3,195 the camera costs another $800. Total investment $4,000.

This is a lot of money in my opinion considering that with another $300 you can get a Panasonic GX7 with GX7 housing, an Olympus 60mm with 65 macro port and a Panasonic 8mm fisheye with 4.33″ dome. The LX100 and GX7 share the same sensor but there is no doubt that the macro performance of a dedicated lens as well as the fisheye of the 8mm lens have no comparison.

In conclusion the Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 is a bit of a flop for stills the only use that I can think of is wide angle 4K video with the short port and a wet lens but other than that I don’t see how Nauticam is going to sell many of those units.

4K Video Compacts Panasonic LX100 vs Sony RX100 IV

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?

Panasonic DMC-LX100

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.

Nauticam LX100
Nauticam LX100

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:

  • ND filter
  • Auto ISO in manual
  • Allows for external recorders
  • Image profiles for video similar to professional equipment
  • The housing does not have a port system
Nauticam RX100 IV
Nauticam RX100 IV

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

100,000 visits – In Depth into Sharing Videos on the Internet

Two years and few months later I am pleased my blog hit 100,000 visits. Considering that there is sponsorship and this is pretty much content produced during free time I am well pleased.

So as commemoration topic I want to put a few considerations that spin off a post on the editing and share section of wet pixel.

Many people spend a lot of money on underwater video rigs and use sharing websites such as youtube and vimeo to host or promote their content. The reason is clear those sites have a huge audience and if you have original content you can get a bit of advertising revenue as well that is never a bad thing.

However most of us have noticed that once you upload a file on those websites it looks worse than the original some time much worst. Why does that happen?

The answer lies in two words video compression.

Video compression is a technical subject and my previous post tried to share some of my finding in regards of the reasons why a camera produces video better than another even if the second produces better still images. It is all in the compression effectiveness and the same issue applies when we share our videos on line.

Unfortunately many people do not really know much about this subject and assume that the video editing program they purchased has all the answers and everything is optimised. Well that is not the case. Video produced off the shelf by such programs with default settings may be watchable but are not great and usually worse than the source clip of a good deal.

Another common misconception is that you need to convert a file produced by your device to another format so you can edit.

Finally many people convert files many times and wonder why the result is far off the original clips, not realising that video compression is lossy so each time you manipulate a clip are you are making things worse.

Obviously am talking consumer and prosumer here not RAW video recording at stellar bitrates.

So what is the best way too produce an underwater clip that looks good without spending too much time on it and that when uploaded on the web looks still decent?

To give an idea why a clip like this one shot with a compact camera

Does not look to far off this other clip shot with a semipro camcorder Sony AX100

or a Panasonic GH4

What all 3 clips at 1080p on youtube and honestly evaluate if there price difference is justified you will probably think no and think the second clip is actually a pro.

So why is that?

50% of the problem comes from the editing, I don’t have the details of how the other two clips are done but I know my clip is edited with iMovie, surely not the most advanced tool on the market you would think.

However there are a few tricks of the trade that I will explain to you one at time:

1. Never let your editor convert the files at the import.

Unless your workstation can’t physically process them leave the clips as in. Even think about getting a better computer in the long run if you can’t process files as is.

Many editors convert the files at import, in intermediate formats like prores or Avid that have no temporal compression. Those files unlike the originals have each frame stored like a complete image so that it is easier to edit. If your editor allows you use the original file without any conversion. You can do this in Final Cut using proxy and cheating also in iMovie creating manually event folders and copying mov or mp4 compliant files manually into them.

2. Once you finish your editing use the highest quality option available for export.

This is sometimes a tricky issue as the default options of those programs mention sometimes just a quality option with a slider from low to best. Many programs though, like final cut offer other options and modules for advanced compression.

If you have spent money on the editor spend the extra funds on the advanced codecs as they are worth every penny.

Once you have the advanced codecs (x264 is the one I use and is free plug in for iMovie) use constant quality with factor of 18 and the slowest preset your workstation can bear.

X264 preset go from very fast to placebo, my workstation can tolerate a very slow for 1080p that applies all the most advanced compression settings. This together with quality at 18 gives me an output very similar to the input but much more efficient with a smaller file.

At this point you are nearly there and ready to upload on vimeo and youtube.

Between the two services which one has the best quality?

Vimeo plain and simple, the same file will look better than youtube with less artefacts at the same resolution, however vimeo requires you to have a plus account to upload and share in 1080p whilst youtube is free.

So this is the reason why your files do not look as good as the clips you shot with the camera when you share them.

Now onto the second part why do clips produced with my very expensive equipment look worse than someone with a much cheaper set up and inferior equipment?

This second problem has to do with the way videos are shot.

Many people look on the internet for guidance on how to produce a video clip that looks decent and are tempted by some esoteric terms such as: flat profiles, colour grading, gamma curves etc etc.

They then go into water with their camera set like they have read on the internet and then spend a long time editing their clips, after all that effort the result image is a bit soft and the colors are washed out.  This seems to be quite a common issue especially with pros.

http://www.peterwalker.com/komodo.html

Note that the two videos above are probably two of my favourites of the last few years. However check the difference between the close up shots with lights or the land shots and the wide angle with natural light? Very different

This instead is an example of someone who knows how to work with the limitation of the set up:

Flat profiles and color grading may work very well when the environment is controlled in a studio situation or where there is plenty of light but in water this is seldom the case. So the best help is to get it right first time and if needed use a filter for your ambient light shots.

Many people including me used to be a white balance evangelist but I have to say with years I have lost interest and I think is greatly overrated.

This video from ikelite is my absolute favourite

The best part is at 0:45 comparing filter with auto white balance and filter with manual white balance. The clips says looks at the purple that comes with the manual white balance but actually that is a horrible hue there!

I have spent the entire 2012-2014 trips trying to perform custom white balance with various cameras, with various degree of success. When I was in Raja Ampat I once left the camera in auto and realised the color where the best I ever got. Though this was a mistake but after few months when I reviewed the clips and how they were taken I realised the truth, even since I have never hit the custom white balance button once on my RX100 and I am preparing to do exactly the same on the GX7.

So my five cents into video editing and doing something decent for sharing on the internet is based around the following key principles:

  1. Get the clip right in camera. Use the settings that make the clip look great at the outset, experiment until you are happy of the results. Forget about theory focus on what you like.
  2. Don’t let your editor alter the clips at all and use no or minimum grading or even try to do no correction at all including contrast and exposure any time the editor touches the clip something is damaged.
  3. Export with advanced settings using all the CPU power you have at hand to produce a high quality but as small as possible file

Good luck for your next trip, I am very much looking forward to mine!

 

Nauticam NA-LX100 Pricing Confirmed

It is official now the prices of the NA-LX100 are confirmed

in US $1,200 for the housing with flat port, $180 for the wide short port and $350 for the 3.5″ acrylic dome.

In UK £920 for the housing and flat port, £150 for the wide short port and most likely £290 for the dome.

Which means we can now update the GH4 comparisons for 4K

Super Wide

Panasonic LX100  $899 NA-LX100 $1,200 with Short Port $180 and Wet lens Inon UWL-H100 $522

Panasonic GH4 with 7-14mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port only plus camera and lens $2,399

The max field of view of the two options is almost the same however you can’t zoom the LX100 due to the zoom lock on the housing.

LX100 $2,801

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,348

Mid range

Panasonic LX100 $899 housing $1,200  3.5″ dome circa $350

Panasonic GH4 with 12-35mm and 6″ dome $2750 housing and port Camera and Lens $2,399

The LX100 is wider in 4K at 26-81mm vs 28-81mm of the GH4

LX100 $2,449

GH4 $5,149

Price Difference $2,700

Close Up

Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 rectangular port $2,099

Panasonic GH4 with 14-42 and 35 macro port $1,815 housing and port $2,680

The GH4 will have more magnification due to the longer focal length with the same diopter.

LX100 $2,099

GH4 $4,495

Price Difference $2,396

The gap is still significant even with the price increase ranging between $2348 and $2700.

I still have some concerns on the 3.5″ acrylic dome for the LX100 as I am not sure about focus distance. If this port works with the full zoom it is definitely the most appealing for video but we will need to check this out.