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 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.
< 7 stops
< 7 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I am just back from the Red Sea underwater photography workshop hosted by Alex Mustard, this time I took the Panasonic GX7 with me instead of the Sony RX100 Mark II.
There have been a few posts on wetpixel and scubaboard to say that advanced compacts are all an underwater photographer will ever need considering also the luggage restrictions that are becoming increasingly more demanding these days.
As I have been on the forefront of the advanced compact shooters I thought of giving you my view on the subject. This is based on observations that I have made on this and last year workshop observing the images of around 35 different photographer. The kit in use went from a Sony RX100 Mark II all the way to full frame such as the Nikon D810, and included micro four thirds, cropped sensor SLRs as well.
In general terms I consider only 4 characteristics when I compare images between cameras and those are:
Richness of color (color sensitivity)
Contrast (dynamic range)
The following comparison may be useful to understand the differences between various cameras, I did it on Dxomark and I own all those 3 cameras so I have a good idea on how they fare.
I already observed last year that when it comes to color there really is no perceived difference between the RX100 and a MFT camera. There is however a difference between compacts and MFT when you compare to a good cropped sensor like the Nikon D7100.
To make the point clearer this is a portrait shot with the RX100 Mark II
This is another portrait shot with the Panasonic GX7
Here I am not talking about the contrast of the image the camera produces but the amount of contrast in the scene that the camera can deal with or dynamic range.
I am going to use two black and white images for comparison
Sony RX100 Mark II
Again not much difference at all.
It can be useful to be able to shoot at high ISO however to be honest I have not yet found a reason to shoot at more than ISO 400.
This is a Panasonic GX7 at ISO 400
I looked at my RX100 shots and I could only find an ISO 160 shot
I did not take split shots with the RX100 and so there was no need for high ISO. For me shooting at high ISO is a bit overrated as with stabilization you can shoot underwater landscapes at 1/25 without issue and for moving fish I use strobes for most.
Should you need higher ISO though there is around one stop improvement in a micro four third to a 1″ compact and nearly two with a cropped sensor.
This is probably the only real difference between a compact and a micro four third and to be honest is only visible on a 4K monitor or if you print or zoom into the image.
Schools of fish are a good way to check sharpness
This shot with the Sony RX100 Mark II is sharp
However if we look at the Panasonic GX7 with the 8mm fisheye
We can see that there is a difference looking at the fish scales.
So in short if all you do is to look at images on the screen there really isn’t much in it, however if you have a high resolution screen or you print there is a considerable difference in sharpness between an advanced compact and a micro four third.
So what about video? If we consider HD there is no perceived difference in sharpness between clips taken with the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic GX7 until you go to High ISO.
At 4K I suppose we are back to similar considerations and micro four thirds should win but I have not done any tests so it is hard to say.
One thing that I do like about the Panasonic GX7 with wet lenses is that you can zoom through the entire range of the lens, whilst this is not an option on the Sony RX100.
So my conclusion is that if you are going on a trip and you are constrained by luggage limitations you can load camera, housing, wet lenses and two strobes in a back pack if you use a compact.
With a micro four third the strobes could end up in the luggage hold.
What about DSLRs? I found that if I compare shots with a good cropped sensor like the Nikon D7100 I can see difference in both colors, contrast the camera can cope and noise. The difference in sharpness seems to be less when you compare the panasonic 8mm fisheye with the tokina 10-17mm.
This should give an idea
Obviously once you are in the DSLR camp the size of the housing and its weight become the predominant consideration but so does the cost that doubles from a micro four third rig.
The camera is available at £467 with £50 cash back from Amazon, during Christmas the cash back was £100.
In US this camera with the same lens is available at $647 which is pretty much the same price once you factor in the cash back.
The housing of choice is of course the Nauticam GX7 however if you look at the port chart the LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 II ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S. is not available on the map.
The lens on the map is the old version Mark I that was much longer when zoomed in and out and therefore Nauticam reports as flat port the 72 and the 4″ wide angle port if you like a dome. Now 28mm equivalent is not great behind a dome as it is too narrow.
So what about the current kit lens? The good news is that it fits in the Macro Port 35 too.
The lens also comes very close to the glass closer than the Lumix PZ 14-42 X Vario.
If you have an Olympus OMD-EM5 the camera comes with the Olympus ED 14-42 lens that also fits in this port.
The Panasonic lens is overall a better lens than the Olympus and is sharper than the Lumix Power Zoom 14-42 it has better sharpness and less chromatic aberration.
Another good characteristic of the Panasonic 14-42 Mark II Mega OIS is the way the lens zoom works. The lens is the longest at 14 and 42 mm and shortest at 25mm.
As such if you add an Inon wet lens the Panasonic 14-42 does not vignette with either the UWL-H100 or the close up UCL-165, it does not even vignette with the dome this was reported on an old Inon port chart.
So this lens is an excellent candidate for wet lenses because it has very low chromatic aberration and the zoom mechanism means the lens is very close to the port at wide end.
I put the camera in the housing and took some shots in an inflatable pool.
As it happened with the 14-42 PZ lens you can fully zoom through the wet lens and the corners stay sharp. This picture is taken at f/5.6 so the lens is not even stopped down.
A residual problem is the lack of zoom gear however there are options out there in the market.
One of those is deepshot missing bits that is ran by Jussi Hokkanen in London.
The zoom gear for our lens costs £55 which is around less than half than any Nauticam gear, it is 3D printed and is not as sophisticated as the OEM gear so it is one piece of plastic with 3 adjustable rubber bits. The gear comes with a small allen key to adjust it.
I got in touch with Jussi and few days later he delivered the gear at London Waterloo station. The gear works perfectly with the lens as expected.
The kit lens is not exactly a macro lens this is a shot at the 42mm end.
The lens does not vignette with the diopter UCL-165 either as this image demonstrates from what I can see the chromatic aberration is minimal too in the corners.
The previous should give you an idea of the level of magnification the piece of paper as actually bent so there is not so much distortion as it looks!
So that means with an investment of £55 plus the macro 35 port that retails at £230 we are ready to use the kit lens once we have the GX7 housing.
Total cost in UK 417+1100+55+230=£1802
In US 647+1550+290+90=$2577
This is still more than the Sony RX100 Mark II that can take all sorts of wet lenses and will cost less, still producing decent video and superb stills. However when you look at the newer Canon G7X once you take into account the fixed port system and the fact that the Canon can’t take a semifisheye you wonder where to put your money. Plus a mirrorless camera allows you to choose a proper macro lens like the Olympus 60mm or the Panasonic 8mm fisheye.
The Canon G7X costs now £369 and the Nauticam housing £850 with the macro port, but you need to spend another £120 for the short port and still you won’t be able to reach more than 110 degrees field of view.
If you have Inon wet lenses from your compact camera this looks definitely appealing.
Also consider that other than the Inon UWL-H100 other wet lenses for compact cameras do not work properly with mirrorless as this article demonstrates.
Note that the same considerations apply for the Olympus OMD-EM5 however the olympus kit lens does NOT perform well with the wet lenses in virtue of the different zoom logic. The Olympus lens is not close to the port at wide end as the Panasonic and I would not recommend the combination.
Obviously if you do not own any wet lens you still have the option of the Panasonic 7-14mm with wide angle port or the Olympus 9-18mm with the 4″ wide angle port. Both options require you to buy the lens and the port as well, both ports cost more than the macro 35, and both lenses have a soft corner issue at their widest.
The other positive of the kit lens is that it is optically stabilized from what I can see the Mega OIS is as effective as the Power OIS.
So if you have a panasonic GX7 with the newer 14-42 Kit lens you may need very little more to get you going especially if you are into video as the lens fully supports the Inon last generation of wet lenses.
I would also recommend this lens as a macro lens for the Panasonic GH4 and 4K video shooting, due to the crop factor the lens will be about 35-110mm which is pretty good.
So if you have grabbed a GX7 at discounter price you may as well be close to have a very effective combination without having to spend a fortune especially if you have a selection of wet lenses at hand.
So time has come for my first video with a micro four third camera the Panasonic GX7. I had only 3 dives in Sharm and conditions on Naama Bay beach were not the best but still good enough to give the set up a good try, this is the resulting video.
I used the Nauticam housing with the Macro 35 port and the M67-LD adapter so that I could use the Inon UWL-H100 wet lens.
As it is not possible to fix the position of the lens I had to take the hood off and therefore I used an Ikelite UR/PRO filter for the 100mm lens. I had to use gaffer tape on the lens and inside the filter or it would be loose but it worked.
The first dive was with the URPRO filter in auto white balance, I was hoping this would give me good results but instead everything came with a strong yellow cast.
From the second dive I used custom white balance and the results were much much better.
To give an idea of the issue this is a shot of a grey card with the UR/PRO filter on land with white balance fixed.
You can see what kind of effect the filter bear it is orange in colour.
Other than this I was pretty happy with the GX7 especially because I could use the full zoom with the wide angle lens this is the first time I see it working. The moray eel shot towards the end of the video is an example.
Back home I was not happy at all about the UR/PRO and the inability to work with auto white balance. Probably I could have played with the tint but it did not come to mind. So I got in touch with Peter Rowlands of Magic Filters to see if they had an option that would fit on the Ikelite mount. Peter sent me two sample and they fit perfectly in the ikelite frame, though this is not commercially available I guess you can request those if you are not happy with the ikelite UR/PRO.
This is the same test card with the magic auto filter.
You can see that it looks less orange and also slightly colder.
I did some tests and the UR/PRO is a warmer filter with 2700K temperature whilst the magic auto is 3200K. The magic is however more red and has more magenta tint than the UR/PRO.
For me this means that the magic will work better in auto and will require less custom white balance. However those 500K difference mean you will eventually need to custom white balance once you go below 18-21 meters. I know people say filter work until 21 meters anyway but I have tried with deeproof down to 30 and on a bright day it was still good.
So if you are not happy with the yellow cast of your UR/PRO in auto white balance is definitely worth giving magic filters a go.
The GX7 confirmed all the good features including the ex tele mode
Here the shrimps are shot with a single Inon UCL-165 and then the close up of the head uses ex tele that pushes well over super macro.
Look at the incredible ability to refocus in video mode. See how focus locks on the shrimps when I press the button.
Overall the GX7 can do pretty much everything on a single dive with a wet wide angle lens and a close up lens. You can cover from 100 degrees wide to super macro. The fact you can zoom with the wide angle removes the need to take the lens off at every occasion and in fact in the red sea you barely need to have any other lens.
I was not particularly happy with the lack of hood that the ikelite filter wants removed so I experienced the occasional flare. Still pretty good result.
The clip looks much better at home than it does on youtube where the gap with the RX100 seems much smaller.
So as far as video is concerned if you don’t need 4K the GX7 gives you extremely high quality footage and reasonable cost.
A final note I shot this video in 24p at home I can’t tell the difference with 25p see if you can see it!