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Brand new to underwater photography, looking for advice to get started


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#21 Fruitographer

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 09:14 PM

The more I think about it the more I agree that a crop sensor would be better for someone just getting into underwater photography. the size of dome ports you need for a full frame is definitely a big consideration as well and a big piece of equipment to lug around. the Sony a6500 looks like a nice little camera that I would imagine would be pretty good and compact. There's quite a bit of older Sony equipment for some great deals. I've only used a Sony RX100 V with a Nauticam wet wide angle lens and was able to get some pretty decent shots. Sony makes many of the camera sensors even for other manufactures so I'm sure they're camera sensor are pretty good. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with the older NEX5 or NEX7 cameras underwater. They have a crop sensor and can be found for pretty cheap. There's a Nauticam housing for NEX5 on eBay for $400 and the camera is only around $100 through eBay as well. Personally I would use the 50mm f2.8 macro that costs $200. required N85 to N120 port adaptor is $480 and the macro port is $360. So what seems like a good deal for a housing that only costs $400 now just turned into $1,540. The more I look at the compact Sony crop sensor the more it entices me. From the stats, they seem like pretty good cameras. I wish I could say from my own experience whether they were any good or not. I also found a full kit for a Sony NEX5n on eBay with 2 ports and 2 lenses. You still may need to get some other ports and a macro lens to shoot close up, but this kit would get you in the water. for much less than it would've been separately. The reviews don't look good for what yo could get today. the NEX5 is probably not a great option for what's currently available.

https://www.ebay.com...6oAAOSwPN9bGgJw

 

The Fuji XT-2 would be a great camera underwater on land and in the water with outstanding color rendition. My father has been doing photography for over 45 years and has the XT-1 and loves it. To get anything Fuji though would have to be purchased new which puts anything from them way outside the price range for this discussion. But now we can rule them out.

 

If you go with Sony, here is a good article about different macro lenses available with comparison photos. Pretty good article.

http://www.divephoto...y-part-1-macro/


Edited by Fruitographer, 13 June 2018 - 09:54 PM.


#22 Barmaglot

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Posted 14 June 2018 - 01:01 AM

NEX-5 is really old - I think it's the first E-mount camera that Sony made, so it's a v1.0 release of an entirely new product line. There's a reason people are selling them off so cheaply. For one thing, they lack PDAF - the first camera in that line that had it was A6000, with A6300 featuring a significantly improved version - so the focus is going to hunt like most compacts (not RX100V, which also has PDAF). On the other hand, the only differences between A6300 and A6500 are: in-body image stabilization, focus point selection via touchscreen, one more C button, and $400-500 in cost, both new and used.



#23 ChrisRoss

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Posted 14 June 2018 - 04:26 AM

The Sony is a great little camera, however the Achilles heel is the lens lineup.  If what they offer suits you that's fine, for UW there's basically the 10-18, and the 90mm macro.  Do some research before selecting the 30 or 50mm macro lenses and there is no native fisheye lens, you have to use convertors either lens adapters or fisheye lenses.  The 16-70 is a nice lens but doesn't focus super close and there's also the 16-50 kit lens.  

 

m43 on the other hand have a lens for every occasion and they all focus super close and being a smaller sensor are not as demanding on dome size as their larger sensor-ed cousins for wide angle rectilinear lenses.  I'm shooting an EM-1 MkII previously used the Em-5 MkII. both great little cameras.



#24 Barmaglot

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Posted 14 June 2018 - 04:50 AM

If you can live with manual focus, there are native e-mount fisheye lenses from Rokinon/Samyang and 7Artisans.



#25 alanp

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Posted 21 June 2018 - 09:47 PM

Hi everyone, have been reading the responses and have started drafting responses a few times but to be honest Im just overwhelmed cause I really dont understand the terminology or specs. Plus I dont really learn well through research, I learn a lot better by doing.

Unless something good comes up in the classified, Im starting to think I might be better off just getting a new mirrorless camera to start off with and a basic lens, and just start taking pictures above ground, learn some photography basics.

Once I get comfortable, I can buy a housing, continuous light, and tray to take some basic shots underwater.

Save the strobes for the future when I have some basic skills.

Any entry level mirrorless, basic lens, underwater housing, continuous light, and tray that j could get for under $3K new? Or am I dreaming?

Thanks!

#26 Barmaglot

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Posted 21 June 2018 - 10:58 PM

$3K (assuming US$) is plenty.

 

Sony A6300 with kit 16-50mm lens is $900 new; you can get it for ~$600 used.

SeaFrogs Salted Line housing with basic flat port is $327 shipped from meikon.com.hk.

Tray with two arms and four clamps is about $130 on Aliexpress

Archon D36V lights are no longer listed on Aliexpress for some reason, only D36VR, but I see them on Ebay for $283 apiece.

 

Later on you can add a 10-18mm lens with a dome (a six inch dome is available now for $255, eight inch dome is supposed to come out in a few weeks), a macro lens and/or diopter(s) with the appropriate ports, strobes, etc. In fact, if you buy the camera and lenses used, an A6300 with 16-50mm, 10-18mm, 90mm, housing, ports, tray, a pair of strobes (assuming Meikon's ST-100) and requisite accessories (covers, batteries, memory cards, etc) should come out to about US$3500.



#27 Fruitographer

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Posted 22 June 2018 - 12:08 AM

You can get a non z240 strobe for around $300-$350 and you can start with one. Setup with two arms as if you were using two strobes. Place the one strobe you get on the left side and mount a white plastic card on the right arm. when shooting, you can position the card to reflect light back into the subject you want to photograph and the card will act like a second light if it's held close enough. You're better off shooting with one light anyway until you understand how lighting works. It can get very confusing rather quickly if you jump into using two lights right away. Try to understand the behavior of light with one strobe first or you'll be chasing you tail in circles. 

 

If you want to learn more about photography and the concepts we're talking about, Kodak makes an excellent book that explains everything better than any other book I've ever seen. It's a little out dated but the concepts are still the same and it gives examples and comparisons, of everything it talks about. The title is (How to Take Good Pictures). The most recent version has a yellow cover with red text. 

 

Your option is to get a nicer camera that's current and usable for land or get an outdated version that can go underwater. It depends on what you really want to do. If you just want to get into photography then get a nice camera and wait to get the housing until later. there would be some benefits to getting a nicer camera now and a housing later. You would have a better understanding of how the system works and how each function affect the image. Trying to figure this out underwater would be pretty frustrating. Since the Nikon D850 just came out, many people were getting rid of there D810 setups. I scooped up a Nauticam housing and camera body which looks brand new for $3,200. So if you already had the camera you want the best time to get a housing is right when the same manufacturer announces a new model that will replace the one you have. Then you'll see a surge of people trying to update their kits and get rid of the housing you want to get.

 

I'm actually getting ready to get an older kit from someone for an outstanding deal. At the price I'm getting it for you could have a nice camera for land and a cheap kit for underwater and still be within your budget. 

 

Link to book

Kodak's How To Take Good Pictures.

 

My Olympus TG4 doesn't have manual mode which drives me nuts. I want to control everything in my camera to get the exact image I see in my mind and know is a possibility to produce. Since it doesn't have manual I have to trick it into doing what I want which requires an in depth understanding of how a camera functions. 



#28 Barmaglot

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Posted 22 June 2018 - 11:05 AM

Thing about buying a used system though, from someone who is upgrading, is that unless they're changing systems entirely, or retiring from diving, you're unlikely to get a full, ready-to-dive set. Take that D810 deal you reference - sure, it's a tremendous bargain for a high-end full-frame DSLR with a top-end housing - but $3200 is quite a lot of money no matter how you slice it, and it still needs several thousand dollars worth of extras (lenses, ports, extension rings, strobes, arms, handles, etc) to actually go underwater, not to mention the part where maneuvering a huge DSLR rig with a 230mm dome will almost certainly overwhelm someone who is just starting out.

 

I don't like sounding like a Meikon fanboy, but in the past year or so, they've really stepped up their game, producing housings that are still attractively priced, yet have close to feature parity with other manufacturers' much more expensive offerings. Their single biggest weak point is lens gears, but so long as you can live with autofocus, and, in some cases, fixed focal lengths, they provide a very affordable entry point into UW photography



#29 alanp

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 07:53 AM

Ive been searching online and the selection and deals available in US seem to be way better than in Canada :( Im considering the Costco route - they have an EM10 mark iii with 14-42 kit lens (pancake) for $1000 CAD. My friend recommended the 12-50 lens for more flexibility and macro feature, but it seems way too big and the nauticam port kit is like $1000 USD for that lens! Think the 14-42 would be ok for shooting nudis?

Fruitographer - if shooting both video and photos would you do 1 strobe and 1 video light? And thanks for the rec on the Kodak book.

Barmaglot - I definitely have no issue with meikon with my current level of experience :)

#30 Barmaglot

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 10:56 AM

As far as I can tell, only Ikelite and Nauticam make housings for E-M10 III; Olympus PT series only cover E-M1 and E-M5, and it's not even supported by Easydive universal housings, expensive as they are. Also, $1000 Canadian seems quite a lot for that - B&H lists E-M10 III with 14-42mm lens for US$649 and they have free shipping to Canada. Still, with only a 16MP 4/3" sensor and contrast-detection autofocus, I'd steer clear - Sony A6000 will give you a 24MP APS-C sensor with PDAF at the same or lower price point (B&H has it for $550 right now; $700 with 16-50mm and 55-210mm lenses plus spare battery, memory card and shoulder bag), and that's before you factor in the much more expensive housing you'd need for the Olympus camera.



#31 alanp

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 11:30 AM

Barmaglot - yeah free shipping, but then you gotta add on import fees and returns are a huge pain. Usually not worth the hassle. But yes the housing for the EM10 is pretty steep. Its the only mirrorless option with costco, so the return policy makes it really tempting...

#32 alanp

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 11:42 AM

Barmaglot - whoah meikon housing for a6000 is only $250. Ok that is a huge factor.

#33 Barmaglot

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 12:10 PM

Note that the $250 model has a fixed port - it only takes the 16-50mm lens, plus some other lenses with similar dimensions, the only notable one being 30mm macro. There is also an older Meikon model for just A6000, not for the entire A6xxx line, that you can get through Aliexpress for just $150, although it has the zoom knob on the front of the housing rather than on the left side. However, the newer Salted Line model is only $70 more at $327 shipped, and it offers interchangeable ports, EVF access, display sunshade, paddle shutter and a vacuum valve port. The only downside compared to the older model you're looking at is that the basic flat port doesn't have threading, so it can't accept accessories, but a week ago they released a $99 flat port for 16-50mm and 30mm macro which has 67mm threads, so it covers that last remaining gap.

 

For the reference, I've had the fixed-port model for a year now, and upgraded to the Salted Line model with 6" dome last week.



#34 alanp

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 03:20 PM

Just bought an a6300! :)

Will worry about lens, housings, strobes after I develop some photography skills...

Thanks so much for your help everyone!!!

#35 Barmaglot

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 05:35 AM

Congrats :) You should also pick up a copy of Martin Edge's The Underwater Photographer; it's practically required reading for anyone getting into the field.



#36 Fruitographer

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Posted 29 June 2018 - 07:37 AM

The best photography book I've ever seen is by Kodak titled "How to Take Good Pictures". It has nothing to do with underwater and is a bit outdated but the concepts and explanations are excellent. It will cover all the topics and setting you need to understand about your camera and provide examples of how these settings change the image. Definitely worth picking up.

 

Congratulations on your new camera.



#37 dougjgreen

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Posted 19 July 2018 - 05:46 AM

I don't think going FF is really that important for UW Photography. High ISO is pretty much irrelevant if shooting with strobes and image quality at base ISO is very good even on mu43. The lens selection is very good as well and the increased DOF is probably a benefit in most underwater situations. The only thing you lose is the high megapixel count on some of the newer models, but I've got 40x60cm prints of my Panasonic GX7 16mp sensor hanging on the wall and they stand up to quite a bit of scrutiny even when looking up close.

 

Mu43 or APS-C Crop is probably the best way to go, if you want to stay under 3k$.

 

I have a radical suggestion - because it's a discontinued system:  Nikon 1  - but because it is discontinued, some surprisingly good gear is available for incredibly low cost.   The reason I like the stuff is that Nikon's housings for it are EXCELLENT, and they are currently being cleared out for dimes on the dollar.

 

I recently got two different Nikon 1 rigs, camera + housing, for absurd prices,  one for me, and one for my girlfriend:

 

Nikon J4 with 10-30mm PD zoom or 18.5mm prime,  with WP-N3 housing.  Together, I paid $250 for this combination (although $350-400 is a more typical price).  The housing is FAR superior to any comparably priced Meikon polycarbonate housing, as the controls are precise, and work perfectly.  It's originally a $750 housing that I picked up for $115 brand new.  The camera has some control quirks, but is capable of excellent results, with a good 1" sensor.   These were $600 cameras before Nikon killed the system through incompetent marketing, and now can be picked up for $200 with lens (I actually paid $130 for mine, but I don't expect folks to be able to match that deal).

 

Also, got a Nikon J2 with 10-30mm lens, for $125 and a lightly used  WP-N1 housing for $52 bucks. New ones are going for $100-150.  This housing was also a $750 high quality housing when new, and is the same quality as the WP-N3 I mentioned above.  The camera is basically an earlier version of the same camera I described above.

 

The quality of the housings, and the absurdly low prices they can currently be gotten for is what makes these rigs ideal.   They are a noticeable cut above the TG-5 for photo capability.  Quite comparable to a Canon or Sony 1" compact with housing, but for a fraction of the cost - but also with interchangeable lenses.   You really can't do better in a camera + housing for under $400 than these rigs.  The housings have access to all of the camera controls, including zoom ring (unlike the Meikons), and the controls are precise and functional, to a much higher degree of fit and finish and tolerance than the Meikon rigs.

 

As for strobes, the housings have dual optical ports, and use the built-in flashes to fire slave strobes, so they'll work with pretty much any modern lighting rig.

 

It's not going to give you Full Frame low light capability, but they ARE directly comparable to the 1" sensor rigs out there.  And these rigs are FAR smaller than any Full Frame setup.   For a sense of size,  The housing +  camera is about the same size and weight as a Full Frame DSLR WITHOUT the housing.  Although you'll want to weight these rigs down to give them neutral buoyancy.

 

People are talking about budgets in the $1500-3000 range,  well these rigs are in the $300-400 range, excluding lighting.  Even adding a good proper lighting setup and you're still going to be under $1K

 

I should add that I have experience with a Meikon housing for my Oly E-P5, and Micro 4/3 is my main system for shooting on dry land.  The quality and ergonomics advantages of these Nikon 1 housings relative to the Meikon base line of ~$200 housings is more than enough to justify the slight sacrifice in inherent camera image quality between Nikon One 1" sensors relative to Micro 4/3 gear.


Edited by dougjgreen, 19 July 2018 - 06:06 AM.


#38 Fruitographer

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 12:20 PM

Just bought an a6300! :)

Will worry about lens, housings, strobes after I develop some photography skills...

Thanks so much for your help everyone!!!

eBay has a Nauticam housing for a Sony A6300 for $1,100. This would be the perfect housing to get for you to take your camera underwater with you. 

 

https://www.ebay.com...&LH_TitleDesc=0



#39 alanp

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 06:58 PM

So, I didn't end up buying the Nauticam housing on eBay because it was not a lot cheaper than buying brand new... and I've been talking to some sales people that have been really big on the Fantasea housings. Seen the reviews on wetpixel and seems like it's a pretty decent choice. What do you guys think?



#40 Lvmikel

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 08:22 AM

I am in a similar spot as the OP...

Decided to go with my land camera (Sony a6500) and get a housing for it...

 

Question now is what housing!

Fantasea vs. Nauticam....

 

Is the price difference really worth it?