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Configuring my first system


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#1 Ransome

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 10:10 PM

Hello,

I'm just beginning to explore my options to house my new 5D II for underwater photography. I've been diving since '75 and become a serious amateur digital photographer over the last six years. I've decided to marry my two hobbies to what I feel will become a true passion. (Please forgive the melodramatics, I turn 50 next month.) I'm starting to formulate my thought around the system I should buy. I'm asking a lot of questions, so don't feel like you have to answer them all, just the one's you want.

Current lenses I own and will buy ports for, both Canon: 35 1.4 L and 100 2.8 macro.
Wide angle suggestions: I would have purchased a Canon 15 2.8 fisheye but everyone is out of stock right now. Other thoughts for wide angle are welcome. Is anyone using the 14 2.8 L? Looks like a great lens, but out of my price range at the moment. I own a 16-35 2.8, but it's too big for the Ikelite system. The 17-40 4.0 is an option, but I like the DOF options that 2.8 gives you.

My key objectives are: 1) higher keeper rate, 2) high quality image, 3) reasonable cost, 4) system reliability.

1. Housing brand: I am predisposed to Ikelite at this point: 1) right price range, 2) I like the idea of see through, 3) positive feedback from my dive store (they are a dealer). It seems from a reliability standpoint, this is a good choice.

- What are your thoughts on Ike vs. the other brands, plastic vs. aluminum housing, glass vs. plastic ports?

2. Strobes (assuming an Ikelite decision): My current thinking is to purchase 2 DS 160s vs the high end 200. This newer model has 20% less power, but slightly faster recycle times, 30% more flashes per full charge, minimally less angle of coverage (which with two strobes shouldn't be a big deal) and LED modeling light vs. halogen.

- Do you need to go with the Ikelite strobe to get TTL support?
- Will two strobes help me meet my objectives over one? Is the weight balance of two over one really that big of a deal?
- Anyone using the 160, feedback would be appreciated.

3. Arm supports: my dive shop is recommending the Ultralight brand for three main reasons: 1) flexibility in light positioning, 2) buoyancy arm parts for added buoyancy of the system, 3) support strength.

Lot's to consider, so any input will be appreciated.

Ransome

Edited by Ransome, 06 April 2009 - 10:13 PM.


#2 Steve Williams

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 11:32 PM

Hi Ransome,
I went through the same thing 2 years ago so I sympathize with your position. There is a lot to think about and a bunch of things to get right. The good news is that all of your goals are possible (except for reasonable cost) I'm not sure any of this is reasonable by a normal persons standards. But then none of us here are normal so that's not a problem.

I would counsel you to get to a shop that has a selection of housings you can pick up and feel. Especially with the 5D MkII. Unfortunately your local guy probably doesn't have the experience and is limited in selection. Any of the sponsors listed on the right will show you some options and they are shooters too, so they understand the little things to look for. I would also ask you to take another look at the aluminum housings from S&S, Aquatica and similar. I believe the port designs are a little more solid and if I'm going to take a $3500 piece of electronics and dunk it in the ocean I want all the help I can get. They are about $1400 more plus ports but I think in this case you get what you pay for. Luckily some others will jump in and have different opinions

There are quite a few threads on your lens and strobe questions, I'd recommend you do a quick search. I shoot a 40D so I'd hope the full frame guys jump in on this portion of your question.

Your guy steered you right on the Ultralight arms. The last trip I was on was mostly a bunch of reasonably experienced (older guys like us) shooters. There were 11 rigs on the boat and 9 used Ultralight arms. TLC arms also get a lot of love here on wetpixel.

Good luck on your quest, enjoy the journey.
Steve

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#3 Ransome

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 06:33 AM

Thanks Steve,

I'm a Williams too, so we must be related.

Yes, my dive shop doesn't have demo equipment out for DSLR's, so I hear what you are saying. They are dealers for both Ikelite and Sea & Sea. This is Diver Dan's in San Jose, who I've been dealing with for over 20 years, so they do have some credibility with me. If anyone is aware of a shop that has demo equipment in the Bay Area, I'm glad to make the trip.

There were two things that steered the conversation to Ikelite. I said I was interested in Ikelite and the guy I spoke with at the dive shop shoots with Ikelite. He is an instructor and teaches underwater photography. He said "the configuration I'm putting together for you is exactly what I bought" (for his 30D). He also offered to bring his rig in and let me try it in their pool, so that is a good first step.

I will do more searching, I promise. :P

Best,

Ransome

#4 newmediasoup

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 07:51 AM

Ransome,

Here's some feedback on lens:
100 2.8 macro - great choice for macro on the 5dmkii.
15mm 2.8 fisheye - great lens for the canon 5d/mk ii fullframe camera
Stephen Frink has tried the 14L. I think there are challenges with getting the diopter right for your port combination. Diopter considerations and port sizes for the size of your lenses are a pretty big factor. What you really want to do is talk with a shop that specializes in underwater photography, knows the system configurations, and known incompatibilities. Some of the lens you own may or may not work, depending on the configuration/system you end up getting.
Re: 2.8: DOF is nicer than a lens that has 4.0, and this seems to be logical for on land photography, but underwater most of the time we shoot at higher apertures to control the blueness of our water in the shots. (F5,F8,F11,F22 -macro)

1) higher keeper rate
pool testing, getting really familiar with whatever system you end up purchasing, and practice, practice, practice, will help play a large factor in your keeper rate.
2) high quality image
The 5d mk ii quality is there. I'd do some searches on lens corner sharpness. If you really want the sharpest image, go with prime lenses. You sacrifice some flexibility by removing the ability to zoom, but I prefer to fin closer anyways. The less water between you and the subject can make a huge difference.
3) reasonable cost
This is where things get complicated. The answer to #4 is to buy the best you can afford. The answer to #3 is that there really aren't too many good deals in underwater photography for pro level SLR's, especially a camera that just came to market.
4) system reliability.
Much of this has to do with O-ring maintenance, how you take care of your gear, and the quality of materials and workmanship in the gear you end up purchasing.
In the underwater housing market, I really believe that you get what you pay for. If you're just starting out, an investment in a metal housing can seem insane. I won't go back personally. I love the reliability of a metal housing.

1. Housing brand: I am predisposed to Ikelite at this point: 1) right price range, 2) I like the idea of see through, 3) positive feedback from my dive store (they are a dealer). It seems from a reliability standpoint, this is a good choice.
Diver Dans is a great dive shop! So is Wallins in the Bay Area. However, for underwater photography gear and especially for a camera that housings have just started coming out on the market for, I would highly recommend talking with someone at Backscatter in Monterrey. They're close to you and are one of the largest underwater photography stores in the USA. It would really be worth the trip. They can show you a wider selection of housings, ports, strobes, and accessories for your desired setup. This is super helpful because you can handle the housings and see what feels best. Ergonomics can really play a huge factor when trying to take photos underwater.

I currently shoot with a 5d in a Subal housing and have a 5d mark ii that I will also be putting in a Subal housing. Other manufacturers that tend to make well built housings with great ergonomics are Sea and Sea, Aquatica, and Seacam.

- What are your thoughts on Ike vs. the other brands, plastic vs. aluminum housing, glass vs. plastic ports?
This sort of depends on what housing you end up with. I know some people that love the acrylic ports on the Sea and Sea, because if you scratch it, it's not nearly as expensive to replace. However, it depends on whether you're shooting a lot of splits. I believe glass ports handle the water beading/shedding better.

2. Strobes (assuming an Ikelite decision): My current thinking is to purchase 2 DS 160s vs the high end 200. This newer model has 20% less power, but slightly faster recycle times, 30% more flashes per full charge, minimally less angle of coverage (which with two strobes shouldn't be a big deal) and LED modeling light vs. halogen.
To quickly respond to this: Do you want to shoot mostly Wide Angle or Macro? If you find yourself looking at other peoples photography and most of what you find yourself admiring is Wide Angle, then buy the most powerful strobes you can afford. If you like the Macro stuff, the smaller strobes can give you more control or the light.

- Do you need to go with the Ikelite strobe to get TTL support?
Many people don't worry about TTL underwater, but if you want to have it, you can also get it with the Sea & Sea TTL converter, and a few other products. Do a search in the forum on TTL.

- Will two strobes help me meet my objectives over one? Is the weight balance of two over one really that big of a deal?
I think the balance is a big deal. Especially with an SLR camera. You'll go through your dive with the camera dragging to one side. Also, I find it harder to shoot wide angle with only one strobe. Macro can suffer too, because you end up getting extreme modeling from only one light with heavy shadows.

3. Arm supports: my dive shop is recommending the Ultralight brand for three main reasons: 1) flexibility in light positioning, 2) buoyancy arm parts for added buoyancy of the system, 3) support strength.
Ultralights are awesome. They're reliable and easy to work with.

Give Russ, Jim, or Marshall a call over at Backscatter: 831 645-1082. They really are super helpful. They've worked with prototypes of the 5d mark ii housings and work very closely with the manufacturers and will be happy to help you with your decisions.
They might also have a 15mm lens in stock too! I saw one in the case not too long ago.

Regards,

Joel

#5 philsokol

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 08:23 AM

Hi Ransome,

Not much I can add to what these two guys have said other than second Joel's recommendation for Backscatter, especially since they're right in your neighborhood. They're one of the top shops in the country and very helpful. It's worth a trip just to get your hands on a number of different housings, play around with them and and see how they feel, check out the strobe options, etc.

I know the cost is much higher compared to the Ikelite housing, but I love my Subal and I know Steve loves his Sea and Sea.

As for arms, Ultralight is the de facto standard. I'd also check out the Stix system - they're light and break down easily for travel. They make different size floats so you can swap them out for more or less lift depending if you're shooting wide or macro. They also make floats that fit Ultralight. I'd steer away from Utralight's big arms - they're bulky and heavy to pack and as you'll soon find, packing and transporting all this gear will be a major consideration!

Good luck!

Phil

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#6 REED

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 08:33 AM

I'm looking into a housing for my mark II as well. I've heard the the only make available is the Ikelite.

Does anyone know a place that will rent this housing?

-Reed

#7 Mike L

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 01:23 PM

We will be renting a Hugyfot 5d MKII housing at the end of the month. And will also have a Sea & Sea when it becomes available end of May/beginning of June. The Hugy's are available for shipping as well
Mike Luzansky
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