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A7SIII, Lens/port recommendations


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#1 Driftc

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 09:06 PM

Hi All,

I've been following this forum for a while, and have really appreciated the wealth of knowledge everyone has.  

 

I'm currently researching underwater camera systems (starting from scratch) for both professional and personal purposes (the conservation of salmonids and other native fish in the Pacific Northwest).  I've been following the camera releases for a while, and think I've settled on Sony mirrorless as the best camera brand, as well as a Nauticam housing.  I've been waiting patiently for the next release of the Sony A7SIII.

 

I'm curious what people recommend for wide angle, zoom, and macro, and any other favorites people have.  I have some consideration for size, so ideally, I'd like to stay away from 10'' domes.  Any other port/ focus considerations would also be appreciated.

 

What I've looked at so far is the Sony 16-35 2.8 GM, the 90mm 2.8 macro, and the 28mm F2 (perhaps with a wide angle conversion). I know the N100 flat port 32 works with the FE 28mm, but what other two ports would people recommend?

 

Most of the use will be in stream environments, and I will be doing a lot of under/over shots. I will need to keep lenses as bright as possible due to limited light, and fast moving subjects.  Also, please keep in mind that I will be hiking equipment (many miles) into wilderness areas, and traveling quite a bit-- so ideally the more scenarios the gear can cover, the better.

 

Thanks in advance for any and all advice.

 

 



#2 ChrisRoss

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 10:28 PM

It will depend on what you are willing to give up on.  Dome size is related to sensor size, so for rectilinear wide lenses you need a big dome (230mm) to get good corners when operating wide.  This requirement reduces as the field of view is reduced.  Traditionally a 16-35 lens on full frame the recommendation is a 230mm dome.  The Sony camera/housing is smaller but the domes are as big as a fulll frame DLSR pretty much

 

This is the Nauticam port chart:  https://drive.google...-vdKVlcxsK/view

 

and this is the Zen:  http://www.jaredpars.../nauticam-n120/

 

You'll note options to use the 180 dome which are not the primary recommendation but won't be as good in the corners,  The Zen 200mm dome may be a good compromise, the 170mm ZEN is a little small even for a m43 7-14mm lens.

 

I would suggest studying them closely to determine what your options might be to maximise the lenses you can use with a given dome.  Also consider the 16-35 f4 lens to save weight, you'll need to stop down to get sharp corners on any lens that wide so don't see any advantage from the extra speed and if you opt for the small dome you may need to stop down even further.  I think normal an absolute minimum of f8 and often around f11 - f16 to maximise performance.

 

Another possibility is the MWL chart here:  http://www.bluewater.../2018/MWL-1.pdf

 

or the WACP:  here:  http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com/images/articles/NauticamPC/2018/WACP%20Port%20Chart.pdf or the WWL which is a little more restricted without a zoom to use in combination with it on the charts/

 

Both of these are heavy but smaller than the big domes but the first will allow macro and very wide with a single port system and the second zoom through capability and much better corner performance at lower f stops.

 

Bear in mind that full frame allows better noise performance but at least with rectilinear wides needs to be stopped well down,  smaller formats don't need to stop down so much so you can open up some and enjoy a lower ISO.  For example f8 on on m43 gives the same depth of field as f16 on full frame.  f8 is generally enough for the corners with a small dome like the 180mm dome, while full frame needs a bigger dome and f16 to get the same performance and the same field of view.  If you don't need to go all the way to 16mm these requirements relax.  You might want to study the charts and then ask for specific experience to see if anyone has used that particular combo and maybe a visit to retailer where you could touch and feel stuff to get an idea if you would like the carry the chosen option on your back!.


Edited by ChrisRoss, 10 March 2019 - 02:10 AM.


#3 horvendile

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 12:10 AM

Another couple of cents in addition to ChrisRoss' informative post. (NB: I've only read stuff, no actual experience yet of this since I'm also in the research stage.)

 

* The Nauticam WACP allows for less stopping down but, as far as I understand, does not allow split under/over shots which seemed to be important.

 

* Er... possibly never mind this bullet. I was going to mention the Sea & Sea correction lenses for wide-angle lenses behind dome ports, but I don't know whether they are tested with the Sony options.



#4 adamhanlon

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 03:31 AM

If you plan to shoot over/under shots, you really need a fisheye lens, which currently Sony does not offer for full frame.

 

Bear in mind that fast lenses are not much use behind a dome port. With rectilinear lenses, in order to get sharp corners, you will need to be at f/11 or greater. Yes, you will get the shot at f/5.6, but the corners will be mush! The only way to be able to use large apertures with full frame cameras is to use some kind of a correction lens like the WACP.

 

I would also suggest you really need to get the opinion of someone that has actually shot the lenses you list behind a dome port underwater. There is simply no way to predict how a given lens/dome combination will work without actually trying it. Specifications are pretty much meaningless.

 

To be blunt, for me, the lack of fisheye options pretty much rules the Sony cameras out currently. You can use the WACP to get (very fine)  wide angle options, but the lack of a dedicated fisheye will limit your creative options.

 

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#5 Phil Rudin

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 10:29 AM

I agree with Adam when he points out that fast lenses like the Sony FE 16-35 F/2.8 are of little use in underwater photography and that the FE 16-35 F/4 would be the more logical choice. I also believe that with full frame cameras like the Sony A7 line, Canon EOS R line and Nikon Z-line that F/11 and for me F/13 is a good starting point for the 16-35 lenses on the wide end. For best results, 230mm ports will deliver best results regarding corner sharpness. 

 

While I agree with Adam that Sony has no native FE Fisheye lens I get by quite nicely with a Canon 8-15mm FF circular fisheye lens which I have used for both A7 II and A7 III cameras. EOS R and Nikon Z also lack a native fisheye but I have used both those cameras with the Canon and Nikon 8-15 DSLR fisheyes with great results. 

 

Depending on which housing you chose, it is likely that they will recommend a 140mm diameter port for best results. I have also used a 100mm port with the Canon lens. To use any of these Fisheye lenses as an over/under lens a much larger port like the 230mm would in most cases be the better choice. I also like rectilinear lenses for O/U and I am now using the Sony FE 12-24mm F/4 and the Zen 230mm port. Also working out an extension length for the brilliant Sony FE 24mm F/1.4. 

 

I agree with Adam that getting an opinion from someone that has actually used the equipment is always helpful. I write for UwP magazines and have written reviews of some of the gear you have listed for UwP magazine.

 

Most of my reviews are related to mirrorless camera equipment while other reviewers cover the DSLR and video stuff. 

 

(Post edited: Admin)


Edited by adamhanlon, 11 March 2019 - 08:23 AM.


#6 Reefdiver88

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 06:28 PM

Sel057fec converts the 28mm to 16 fisheye.

I know several divers who have gotten years of service from Ikelites. The polycarbonate housings hold up very well with moderate care.

Also you will likely shoot with strobes so fast lenses aren’t so important.

#7 Driftc

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 12:51 PM

Sel057fec converts the 28mm to 16 fisheye.

I know several divers who have gotten years of service from Ikelites. The polycarbonate housings hold up very well with moderate care.

Also you will likely shoot with strobes so fast lenses aren’t so important.

Thanks-- I've been looking at the Sel057fec converter for the 28mm-- is it much better than say the 16-35 F4/F2.8?  What would be some of the advantages of the adapted 28mm (besides cost)?

 

As for the housing-- I've pretty much settled on the Nauticam, mostly because I am looking for the added durability, and I'll be customizing some wireless remote trigger add ons.  



#8 Driftc

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 01:04 PM

Also, has anyone played around with using an O-ring along with the WACP to accomplish O/U shots?



#9 ChrisRoss

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 06:48 PM

There's threads on using an O-ring for over under on this forum as I recall. 

 

The fisheye converter is a different beast to the 16-35 rectilinear as it provides a 180° diagonal field of view vs the max field of about 105° for the 16mm end  So you have to be very much closer to your subject and much more concern about what intrudes into the edge of the frame including you own feet  if you are taking pics on land. 

 

Regarding the advantages of the adapted 28mm the only advantage is cost, the lack of a native fisheye is regarded as a weakness of the Sony lens range for UW work, whether that's a problem for you will  depend on what you are shooting (how big it is)  and whether of not your subject likes having a dome port placed right in its face.  If you look at lens reviews you will see for example the Canon 8-15mm fisheye gets better reviews than the adapted Sony offer, with the edges in particular being much better. 

 

I see that you say you settled on Sony as "the best " camera, presumably you mean the best image quality.  Actually getting that advantage when you place the camera/lens behind a dome is more difficult than you might think.  If you look at the premise of the WACP it says that the image quality behind domes is degraded to such a degree that an old 28-70 f3.5-5.6 Nikon kit lens behind the WACP outperforms the latest 16-35mm f2.8 zooms because the optics with the dome degrade the image to such an extent that the old 28-70 produces a better image.  The logical leap from this that that extra last bit of resolution is not obtainable behind a dome underwater.   I would advocate looking at the UW system choice from a total system perspective and that includes UW-suitable lens availability, port size and availability, Housing options and camera body, taking into account your subject  matter rather than what can I do with the best camera body available.  Bottom up rather than top down.

 

I shoot Canon on land and decided m43  Olympus was the best choice for me, housings and lenses are significantly cheaper, dome ports smaller, lens line up complete all a lot lighter and easier to handle underwater.  Not saying that's the right choice for you but would encourage you to consider from a total system basis. 

 

A few more questions about your shooting, you say you are shooting in streams, assume you are in the water shooting available light (no Strobes), a lot of over under.   How close can you get to your subject and how big is it?    The over-unders may present some difficulty because the UW portion is a virtual image very close to the dome and the above water portion may be effectively at infinity so you need to stop well down to get both in focus.   Bigger domes will help with this as will shorter focal length fisheye lenses because of their inherent DOF.  The UW portion will be darker and balancing between the two may be difficult without strobes depending on the lighting available.



#10 Driftc

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 08:54 PM

Thanks for the continued helpful and thoughtful replies.  My main consideration for choosing Sony is that multiple of my close friends have Sony full frame systems, with associated Nauticam housings, so there are efficiencies in sharing gear when possible.

 

I should also mention, rather than resolving power, my main challenge has been low light/ fast moving underwater subjects which also bends me towards the A7S series.  There just isn't much light in areas of high topographic relief, under a forest canopy, in the middle of winter, underwater.  I am primarily photographing native salmonids (salmon, steelhead, trout, and char) of the Pacific Northwest as both adult and juveniles. I also run into associated cyprinids, cottids, and other species associated with sitka spruce/Douglas fir/Western Red Cedar temperate rainforests.  I may get into macro invertebrates, amphibians, and aquatic birds and mammals (beavers, otters, kingfishers, blue herons...etc.) down the line, but they are not my main focus.

 

Regarding your question about how close I can get to my subjects:  For juvenile fish (25-200mm) I am often within centimeters of the fish, but it varies significantly with adult salmonids (300-1300mm).  To remedy that I hope to use a remote trigger (such as Cam Ranger) which is hooked up to the housing so subjects can become adjusted to the presence of the equipment.  In some circumstances, especially with juvenile fish, large domes are prohibitive in shallow 4-6 inch water and/or complex stream environments-- for example working around log jams.

 

While I hope to add strobes to my kit down the line, I would like to work with natural light to start out with.

 

 

There's threads on using an O-ring for over under on this forum as I recall. 

 

The fisheye converter is a different beast to the 16-35 rectilinear as it provides a 180° diagonal field of view vs the max field of about 105° for the 16mm end  So you have to be very much closer to your subject and much more concern about what intrudes into the edge of the frame including you own feet  if you are taking pics on land. 

 

Regarding the advantages of the adapted 28mm the only advantage is cost, the lack of a native fisheye is regarded as a weakness of the Sony lens range for UW work, whether that's a problem for you will  depend on what you are shooting (how big it is)  and whether of not your subject likes having a dome port placed right in its face.  If you look at lens reviews you will see for example the Canon 8-15mm fisheye gets better reviews than the adapted Sony offer, with the edges in particular being much better. 

 

I see that you say you settled on Sony as "the best " camera, presumably you mean the best image quality.  Actually getting that advantage when you place the camera/lens behind a dome is more difficult than you might think.  If you look at the premise of the WACP it says that the image quality behind domes is degraded to such a degree that an old 28-70 f3.5-5.6 Nikon kit lens behind the WACP outperforms the latest 16-35mm f2.8 zooms because the optics with the dome degrade the image to such an extent that the old 28-70 produces a better image.  The logical leap from this that that extra last bit of resolution is not obtainable behind a dome underwater.   I would advocate looking at the UW system choice from a total system perspective and that includes UW-suitable lens availability, port size and availability, Housing options and camera body, taking into account your subject  matter rather than what can I do with the best camera body available.  Bottom up rather than top down.

 

I shoot Canon on land and decided m43  Olympus was the best choice for me, housings and lenses are significantly cheaper, dome ports smaller, lens line up complete all a lot lighter and easier to handle underwater.  Not saying that's the right choice for you but would encourage you to consider from a total system basis. 

 

A few more questions about your shooting, you say you are shooting in streams, assume you are in the water shooting available light (no Strobes), a lot of over under.   How close can you get to your subject and how big is it?    The over-unders may present some difficulty because the UW portion is a virtual image very close to the dome and the above water portion may be effectively at infinity so you need to stop well down to get both in focus.   Bigger domes will help with this as will shorter focal length fisheye lenses because of their inherent DOF.  The UW portion will be darker and balancing between the two may be difficult without strobes depending on the lighting available.



#11 ChrisRoss

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 10:06 PM

I've been in those forests many years ago and they were very dark as I recall, a difficult problem, with probably no good solutions, though I think strobes would help a lot, but may cause additional difficulties around log jams.  Seems like the usual solutions for marine shooting are really not all that applicable and you have competing demands.  You need fast shutter speeds so you want to open up the aperture but the corners will be a problem.  You want a smaller dome for carrying and use in shallow streams but that makes the corners worse and you need to stop down more.   You could just crop the corners out but you lose the benefit of the full frame high ISO performance progressively as you remove pixels. I would also suggest you enquire about AF performance in very low light.

 

Regarding your lens choice, my gut feel is that a fisheye is probably not the solution, you would need to be 150mm from a 400mm fish to fill the frame and the field of view at 1m distance is about 4m wide.  So that leaves you with a rectilinear with dome or WACP.  The WACP for the Sony with 28-70 lens gives you a 10-25mm equivalent lens, which at the 25mm end a 300mm fish filling frame from edge to edge you are about 200mm away from the port or so.  If you're going to 300mm - 1.3m away from a fish (I'm guessing is 300-600mm long??)  it seems to me like a 24-70 f4 lens might be a better choice and a 180mm dome port would be a good fit.

 

It seems like a specialized field, have PM'd Tom Kline?  he shoots salmon in Alaska and may be able to make some recommendations on the lens class that works best for him?



#12 ComeFromAway

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Posted 19 March 2019 - 06:36 PM

Yeah, speaking as someone who shoots mostly in shallow rivers, you'll need to ditch the super dome idea. I have used an 8" dome but it is constraining in certain situations (e.g., spawning brook trout, sea lampreys) like when fish are tight to the bottom. I now use a fisheye and a 4" dome, but I know others that shoot adult salmonids that use 8" with Nikon 16-35 f4. I often shoot adult brook trout in the fall and a fisheye works great. You can get quite close to salmonids if you have a dry suit and lots of patience. I'd be concerned a 16-35 would be TOO tight and cut off parts of the fish. I also routinely shoot rainbow smelt and alewife (the former only 6" on average and not much taller than a quarter) and the fisheye is great. I've shot alongside a guy using a 140mm Zen glass dome with a Canon 8-15 behind it. Nice combo. If I were you, I would definitely consider the Canon 8-15 w/ Metabones adapter for adult salmonids.

 

If you want to only use natural light you'll want something that can handle high ISOs. M4/3 would not be my choice for that (current iterations of most APS-C cameras seem great, but FF obviously better).

 

I honestly wouldn't overthink dome choice for river shooting. You should be considering maneuverability first and foremost (you can have the sharpest dome out there, but if you can't get the right angle on the shot because it's gigantic then you're going to walk away with an uncompelling photo). Acrylic vs. glass is also a consideration.

 

The CamRanger setup is expensive if you haven't already learned that from your research. I priced one out including associated housing accessories. DM me if you want more info on that. I've had great success with just rope and a bike brake cable attached to the shutter release. Nothing beats a dry suit and patience though. Hopefully Tom Kline chimes in here. He has lots of experience using remote camera rigs.


Edited by ComeFromAway, 19 March 2019 - 06:37 PM.


#13 Driftc

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Posted 06 April 2019 - 08:01 PM

With everyone's great feedback I've been putting together a list and budget (I looked back at when I started squirreling away funds for this purchase, and its been over 4 years now!). I can't wait to move beyond the little RX100 I've been borrowing from a friend (and my old canon g9 that I started shooting with underwater in 2009!)  I'm not sure I can get away without strobes, so I've decided to add those also.  Here is what I have down so far:

 

Nauticam NA-A7III housing

M14 Vacuum Valve II

A7SIII (once it is released)

Metabones Adapter

Canon 8-15mm L Fisheye

Nauticam 140mm dome 

 

Inon z330's

(4x) 5'' double ball arm 

(6x) Clamps

(2x) Nauticam Fiber Optic Cable

 

Does anyone have advice (especially who has experience in rivers) about the trade off between strobe arm length and wide angle work with the above combination? I would also like to do snoot work (mainly for stream insects) down the line, so I want to make sure I can grow into that. I've also been going back and fourth between the adapted canon, and the Sony 28mm fisheye converter.  Does anyone have experience shooting both that they might be willing to share some photos from?  I found Nauticam's port chart very helpful for the Sony fisheye converter, but does anyone know if there are any other port components necessary for the adapted canon fisheye?

 

Also, please let me know if there are any other red flags regarding the whole system that you would be concerned.  I really appreciate the perspective @chrisross gave above, and have been trying to think through the system as a whole, my biggest consideration for Sony is actually to share lens/ports/equipment with a few friends who have already bought into the Sony system.



#14 dreifish

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Posted 06 April 2019 - 10:00 PM

For the 8-15, you're going to need a 20mm port extension (might be 30, look it up in the Canon chart from Nauticam).  You'll also need the Nauticam n100-n120 adapter for the metabones, which then allows you to use any canon lenses and their respective extensions/ports as detailed in the Canon port chart. 



#15 Tom_Kline

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Posted 07 April 2019 - 11:46 AM

Thanks for the mention Chris.

I have been shooting salmon UW for several decades and with digital for about 1.5 decades. I have posted some of my technique shots here on WP. Basically I am using a DSLR for digital. I started with APSC (Nikon DX) then added Canon full frame as it came out first. My most used lens for salmon with the Nikon was the 10.5mm fisheye and with the Canon the 8-15mm fisheye zoom (I got one within a week of it being available!). I have only a few salmon shots done without remote control, which is of the simple 3-wire release type. I use flash for a good portion of my shots. It is very dark here (sun less than 10 degrees above horizon at true noon and it is behind a mountain) when the Coho spawn. On the plus side water gets very clear once the air is at sub-freezing temperatures!

 

Lots of examples on my website. The few vids I have done show shots being taken:

https://www.salmonog...lleries/Videos/


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Lens focal lengths ranging from 8 to 200mm for UW use. Seacam housings and remote control gear. Seacam 60D, 150D, and 250D, Sea&Sea YS250, and Inon Z220 strobes.

http://www.salmonography.com/