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#1 sammie

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:55 AM

Hi all!
I've been poking about the forum for a few days, trying to search videos and opinions on DLSR for underwater videography vs. a video camera. I'm sure there's a wealth of knowledge out there, I'm just having difficulties accessing it! Any advice I can get is greatly appreciated!
Here's what I'm working with!
I recently graduated film school, so I know my way around video cameras, not so much dlsr but I've been on a few sets and tried out the 7D. I've recently been introduced to scuba and feel at home beneath the waves. My dilemma is that I've been planning on buying a camera to mainly work on documentaries on, something easy to travel with is key. I went to my local camera shop ready to purchase the T3i or maybe even get talked into the 7D, when the man working told me it was all wrong as soon as I mentioned my interest in shooting underwater. He told me horror stories of DSLR sensors heating up and everything being out of focus... then he led me to the video camera section- very pricey.. not sure if this was a sales move or he genuinely wanted me to have the best experience above and below the water! ANYWAY, now I've stretched my budget and am considering these two video cameras JVC GY-HM100U, or a used EX1. OR do you (the people who have experience in shooting underwater, the sales man didn't) think I can use the T3i, or since I am interesting in spending my life savings anyway! the 7D.

Thanks so much for any input. I understand all these cameras have their pros and cons, and may come down to personal preference.

#2 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:39 AM

Hi Sammie,
Can you tell us a little more about how you plan to use the equipment? What is the product you'd like to create?

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#3 Steve Douglas

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 11:19 AM

The JVC HM100 is an excellent cam that shoots to Quicktime files. Unfortunately, neither Gates, L & M or Amphibico (the 3 major housing companies in the US do not make a housing for it. The Sony EX1r is a fantastic cam but if you want something that is small and lightweight, the housing is very large and heavy. And VERY expensive once you figure in the port and lights.
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#4 TheRealDrew

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 11:45 AM

As mentioned, alot of the answer is going to wind up coming from budget, use and other issues. Not sure if you have read all the pros and cons of the various options and comparisons.

In general and real broad stroke:

1.) the dSLRs are going to give you better results than many consumer camcorders. In other words, you are probably going to be better off generally in terms of quality with a $600 Rebel when compared to a comparable $600 Camcorder
2.) The dSLRs are not going to be as easy to use as dedicated camcorders in terms of some features and are subject to rolling shutter and other issues.
3.) if you are traveling alot and weight/size are a concern, the dSLR is going to probably wind up as a smaller package than a dedicated camcorder rig that will give similar results.
4.) the dSLRs do a great job in many circumstances when you know the pros and cons
5.) I used 5D Mark II and 7Ds on a land shoot, and the 7Ds overheated, but I was pushing them ALOT. If you look through WP many people have done fine underwater with them
6.) In terms of quality Backscatter posted some results

5D Mark II
7D

I saw some of this footage at BTS in real life on a large screen, looked great. Jim Decker also mention some T2i footage mixed in and it looked great. (Though higher ISOs/lower light may not perform as well)

I am not saying dSLRs are perfect, things like WB, handling underwater with the housings for stills (as opposed to video) and other things present issues, but people have worked around them. Poke around the boards here in the video section and search for 7D, 5D MARK II, Rebel, you will pull up many discussions on pros/cons and examples of what can be done.

BTW one thing - if you are new to scuba make sure you REALLY like it before you invest with scuba in mind. And make sure you get your diving skills under your belt. :rolleyes:

#5 JohnE

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 02:24 PM

I will disagree with a couple points made by Drew, and add some further thoughts. But first, allow me to address Depth of Field (DOF).

DOF is an important commodity underwater. A big DOF means Animals and reefs look great when everything is sharply focused. In the underwater video world, we have been largely spoiled with big DOF for reasons related to camera sensor size.

To wit: In general, larger sensors have less DOF. DSLR's with FF35 or crop sensors have a shorter DOF than their video cousins with 2/3" or smaller sensors.

Similarly, shorter focal length lenses have deeper DOF (and wide Field of View). This is why you get big DOF with DSLR's and wide angle lenses. The DOF lost to a larger sensor is reversed by the short focal length lens.


So the good news: shooting DSLR's with Super Wide or Fisheye lenses (like the Tokina 10-17) produce fantastic results. Berkley's' dolphin and wreck videos are eye-poppers.

The bad news:
* You must be, quite literally, on top of your subject, which is not always practical or achievable;
* You are practically limited to shooting super wide angle. Anything less reduces DOF dramatically. Subjects are only partially in focus. At macro focal lengths, you have a 'paper thin' DOF (to quote a seasoned video shooter)

In short, dedicated video cameras have a distinct advantage in versatility. Coupled with underwater adaptive optics designed specifically for the underwater medium yields sharp, clear video across the entire zoom range of the camera. This is clearly not something you get with DSLR's.

As Drew points out, there are other considerations often overlooked as well including user interface and image stabilization.

I disagree with Drew that DSLR's will be smaller for travel than a small camcorder housing. I will also disagree that you will get better results from the DSLR because so much is dependent on your ability, technique, lighting, etc. You can make both shine.

J-

Edited by JohnE, 05 April 2011 - 02:46 PM.


#6 Captain_Caveman

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 04:39 PM

You're going to get as many different opinions as there are users, unfortunately you're gonna have to read through the facts, determine what is important for you and make your own mind up.


Throwing my hat in the DSLR ring, I use a 5d2 every day and have produced hundreds of videos (for work) with it underwater. It's never once overheated - although it is the larger chip camera so can't speak for the 7Ds.

You have total manual control with a DSLR, and you have to use it, there's no usable auto setting. For a camcorder, you can swim around pointing it and it will auto everything for you. Moving into manual takes a bit of work and then only some offer the full manual controls you're gonna get with a DSLR.

Real life example: You're swimming along and a shark pops up, get your camcorder, point, press record and you've got it.
DSLR, assess if you have enough lighting for the ISO/aperture/shutter speed (you can get away with auto ISO within a limited stop threshold) press the live view to put it into record mode - place an AF point at the subject, press the AF button to focus, the press record maybe the subject swims out of focus. (You have the option of a focus ring, but underwater manually focusing a live moving subject is gonna be pretty difficult.)

The +'s and -'s are all over here and well documented. I'm biased because I shoot DSLR and I wouldn't change it. I get full control over my scene - I shoot in very tough demanding lighting situations and get the light sensitivity that an EX1 could only dream about.

In return for a tip top film capture device, I can use all my canon lenses (lenses I've had for a number of years and I'll take with me to my next camera) and I've got a photo camera I can take great quality photos with.


All of Drew's points are valid - you need to choose where you want to go with this. Using a DSLR under water isn't easy, but if you can get it to work, it can pay dividends.

Check the vids on my sig, they're all shot using DSLR.

I use...

Canon 5d2
Aquatica Housing
8" Dome
Sigma 15mm
Sola lights





~ Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L - Canon 70-200 IS f/2.8 L - Canon 50 f/1.8 ~

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#7 JohnE

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 04:50 PM

In return for a tip top film capture device, I can use all my canon lenses (lenses I've had for a number of years and I'll take with me to my next camera) and I've got a photo camera I can take great quality photos with.


What lenses do you shoot underwater? Anything other than 15mm?

Edited by JohnE, 05 April 2011 - 04:50 PM.


#8 TheRealDrew

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 06:12 PM

I disagree with Drew that DSLR's will be smaller for travel than a small camcorder housing. I will also disagree that you will get better results from the DSLR because so much is dependent on your ability, technique, lighting, etc. You can make both shine.


No doubt and it is never a clear choice. I was speaking in broad strokes based on the information and was not trying to dismiss video cameras as an option at all. The OP was in film school looking to shoot documentaries where the budget for a 7D was blowing the budget out of the water.

As the OP mentioned they are stretching things (Budget wise) to get to the following and are looking for portable, well I dunno if that is what they are looking for

If these two video cameras JVC GY-HM100U, or a used EX1.

'

I think alot of what the answer to the OPs original question will come back to feedback from the budget and the other considerations. (Is this just a purchase for UW use and there is budget for above water use another rig etc.) I love my video camera and housing combination due to its size and portability and would not hesitate to recommend it for those who indicate it was a fit. But if the sole issue is trying to find one camera that will do both, based on size, budget and the rest, dSLR very well could be the recommendation.

As to the use underwater with other lenses, check out aquarium from a couple years ago which was still early in the game of getting used to the DSLR scene.

#9 Drew

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:30 PM

He told me horror stories of DSLR sensors heating up and everything being out of focus... then he led me to the video camera section- very pricey.. not sure if this was a sales move or he genuinely wanted me to have the best experience above and below the water! ANYWAY, now I've stretched my budget and am considering these two video cameras JVC GY-HM100U, or a used EX1. OR do you (the people who have experience in shooting underwater, the sales man didn't) think I can use the T3i, or since I am interesting in spending my life savings anyway! the 7D.

I do suggest you advanced search the archives since this subject has been broached by many. Since you graduated from film school (Congrats!), you should know that it's every DP's job to know what the job requires and the tools to make it work. Every camera has a place and category of work. It all depends on what your requirements are.
As John E says, a DSLR has many shortcomings for underwater use, the low resolution the biggest of them all. The shallow DOF issue can be dealt with to a certain degree by using the sensor's bigger area. The DOF 1/3" sensor @ f2.8 is about f13 on S35 (if my quick calculation is correct). With the superior noise characteristics of S35, compensating for 4 stops of light is going to be tough, especially with the low resolution. It is doable (as almost everything is if you do workarounds) but not so fun. However, what's the point if the resolution is about 600 lines vs full HD on some of the video cameras with 1/3-1/2" sensors? It won't look as sharp anyhow. Still if cinema goers didn't notice the resolution change in Iron Man 2, why would the DP care? ;D
With the interchangeable lenses, DSLRs are a nice tool to have and certainly work well on the wider focal lengths, all the way to macro. The Inon UFL-MR130 Fisheye Macro lens gives an awesome perspective in macro that a video camera can't match without some serious lenses from Innovision on the housing. And because of the lower resolution of that lens, the low resolution of the H.264 video doesn't matter.
The guys on the 5-O set use AVCHD and Go-Pro for the underwater shots. Can you tell over a HD feed? Yes. Do TV audiences write in complaining about the Go-Pro low res? No.
It all depends on what you want to use the camera for, and of course your budget.

Edit: As people upgrade their units, there are probably a few EX1 cameras and housings out there. The HM100 is 1/4" CCD and the lowlight doesn't even compare with a few of the newer 1/3" AVCHD cameras. It's got gorgeous output when there's enough light but it's not a good underwater choice, imho.

I suggest you look at the AVCHD cameras with 1/3" single sensors. The Canon XF10x has a housing out now and it looks great with the 50mbps codec. It's pretty compact as well. Some of these little cams take a decent still in 6-10mp range. It's not flash supported but you can always supplement with a still setup like a P&S with a single strobe.

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#10 Captain_Caveman

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:12 PM

What lenses do you shoot underwater? Anything other than 15mm?


No, just 15 underwater.

I use...

Canon 5d2
Aquatica Housing
8" Dome
Sigma 15mm
Sola lights





~ Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L - Canon 70-200 IS f/2.8 L - Canon 50 f/1.8 ~

~ Canon 350D - Canon G9 - Canon 430 EX ~

#11 seok

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 10:10 PM

Hi Sammie,

I have to agree that's a tough decision to make. With DSLR, you can produce a very high quality video, but everything has to be manual and not as easy to control as a video camera. Like Drew mentioned, make sure it's really something you want to invest in because it can be VERY costly! If you think you will be taking stills as well then DSLR is a good option, however if you solely want to concentrate in video, I would say go for a video cam. The housing will be a lot more expensive than stills though, and not as much 2nd hand market if you decide to sell it in the future. Are you ready to spend your life savings on something that you'll be stuck with for a while, and depreciates by at least half the value in 2 years time? If yes then go for GY-HM100U or EX1. If you're not sure and might want to sell it off say after a year or so, then maybe a DSLR setup is the better option.

#12 Steve Douglas

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 09:34 AM

The problem with the AVCHD inter cams (not the considerably more costly and professional intra) is that their footage just seems, to me, to be lacking in contrast and color resolution. While I am still on tape, I did a comparison of my own footage on a dive with that of someone shooting a CX 550 and it appeared to my eyes that the 550 clips just looked very smooth, as if someone applied one of those blemish remover filters like Digital Anarchy's Beauty Box to it. Wish I could be more articulate in my description of it.

John E certainly knows what he is talking about as he gets to work with all the cams all the time so here's a question. I will be shooting WA in the Cocos Islands this summer using a borrowed D7 as well as my own system. Since there will be a lot of shooting into the blue, how will the DSLR produce quality footage. It sounds as if, unless the hammer schools are 10 feet away, everything will be out of focus. I better learn this camera fast. ;-)
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#13 JohnE

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 09:58 AM

Hi Sammie,

The housing will be a lot more expensive than stills though, and not as much 2nd hand market if you decide to sell it in the future. Are you ready to spend your life savings on something that you'll be stuck with for a while, and depreciates by at least half the value in 2 years time? If yes then go for GY-HM100U or EX1.

"More expensive" in an absolute sense yes. But you must look at the features/versatility/capability in the comparison. This is very much an apples to oranges situation.
And I disagree about losing value. The EX1 is a 'workhorse' system, and accepted by broadcasters around the world.


John E certainly knows what he is talking about as he gets to work with all the cams all the time so here's a question. I will be shooting WA in the Cocos Islands this summer using a borrowed D7 as well as my own system. Since there will be a lot of shooting into the blue, how will the DSLR produce quality footage. It sounds as if, unless the hammer schools are 10 feet away, everything will be out of focus. I better learn this camera fast. ;-)
Steve

Indeed we have the privilege of seeing alot of different cameras. You'll have to let us know how the camera/codec handles the blues Steve. And yes, you'll need to be very close to the hammerheads or they just appear small.

Edited by JohnE, 06 April 2011 - 09:58 AM.


#14 sammie

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 10:53 AM

hi folks!
Thanks for all your replies! To answer a few questions, the type of work I'd like to produce is mainly documentary style, somewhat in the experimental realm. I do enjoy taking photographs, however mainly I'd like to be recording. 7D users, what's the length of time you're getting on continuous shooting underwater? The guy at my local camera shop is saying I'll get 7 minutes, which I suppose is a fairly long time, but for my style shooting a like to have really extended shots for pure observation. All the DSLR clips you all have directed me to have been great, it's really really making me lean towards team DSLR, especially for traveling around reasons. Oh yeah, as far as my budget goes (RealDrew), it's not for a production (I wish!!), it's for the camera I'll be using for idea's I want to further myself. I'd really like to spend as little as possible, but I know that I'd going to have to stretch it to get quality (that's why I'm even considering something like the EX1)... a few months ago I was sure I would just get the T3i and be set, then when I went to go purchase it the local cam shop guy brought up those points I mentioned in the OP and got me obsessing over which choice to make. Seok you make a great point in de-valuing especially since this is the first "real" camera purchase I'm making, I may want to change it up as early as next year!
Drew, I tried to find more info on the Canon FX10x but I guess my internet skills aren't the best cause I couldn't find much! Any more info you've got on it would be great (I understand you're probably busy though!).
Thanks again everyone for your input! And Capt. Caveman, that real life example was perfect- it puts a lot of things into perspective as far as confidence with equipment, and how especially with documentary I want to be able to capture the unexpected quickly with quality!

One more question! When I brought up that I knew there were lots of videographers using DSLRs underwater to the local camera shop guy, he said that the only way they were doing that was by having multiple cameras and camera-persons... How often is this the case?

thank you thank you thank you for the advice!

#15 Drew

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 11:25 AM

For broadcast documentary work, there are fewer choices for A cameras. The XF 3xx series is the only small form camcorder accepted by the BBC as principal camera. The XDCAM EX is accepted by US productions. Then of course DSLRs have shot full episodes on broadcast TV, used as C cams for Hollywood productions and is probably the cheapest way to get awesome skin tones from a camera. AVCHD and HDV cameras have been used as A, B and C cams for broadcast, feature and documentary films (ever see The Human Experience?)
Sammie
If you are looking for a strictly underwater video rig, and don't have the budget, then an AVCHD camera is your only viable choice since housings are available. A DSLR like the 7D, besides the previous drawbacks, also has a 12 min clip limit, slow WB process and chroma issues. A camera like the EX1 is a fine underwater camera but large single sensor cameras now shooting very nice low noise even at 3200 ISO whereas the EX1 @ +18db is soft, noisy and blurry. Confused yet?
The best advice I've heard was given to me by several DPs on a location shoot years ago. They all started with entry level cameras with manual controls to "get their feet wet" then they moved towards what their work required and got the equipment to work on the budget.

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#16 Steve Douglas

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 12:33 PM

Anyone with experience using the Nikon 7000 DSLR. I was told that the follow focus does away with several of the Canon issues. Going to soon be moving to a new system but am really torn as to whether to go the EX1r route or DSLR
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#17 sammie

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 12:44 PM

Hi Drew!
Not sure if I'll be making anything for broadcast yet! But it is nice to keep in mind ;) The camera I'm looking to buy at this time, would to be honest, be used above water much much more than below water, given my experience in the water and living in Toronto year round doesn't help.
The broadcast level video cameras are unfortunately out of my price range if purchased new- not sure about used, the EX cams don't come up too often in my area. I'm thinking I may go for a DSLR, probably the 7D (haven't heard too much about the T3i and it's manual capabilities although I do like it's $1000 less ':rolleyes:), still a bit nervous about the DSLRs ability to shoot continuously for some time though.
Thanks for sharing the pro-tip, it's already helped me in being more realistic about the types of cameras I can afford and really need, ideally we'd all be shooting with the best of the best! However, I think for me it's key I start with an entry level so when I do decide to make a larger purchase I know exactly what type of shots I'm drawn to, and the type of work I'm getting (another question in it's self! How DID you all get to working in underwater video?!).
Many thanks!

#18 SimonSpear

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 05:24 PM

One more question! When I brought up that I knew there were lots of videographers using DSLRs underwater to the local camera shop guy, he said that the only way they were doing that was by having multiple cameras and camera-persons... How often is this the case?


Sammie as no one else has said this yet then I will. Don't listen to your local camera guy as he really doesn't appear to know what he is talking about!

As for everything else, then I honestly couldn't say that I'd disagree with anything anyone has said. I've used a 7D extensively underwater and despite all its faults it is a great compact system, especially useful when traveling with low luggage allowance limits (don't underestimate how important that is!). I've had footage from the 7D broadcast, but it does have some serious limitations. Head to head I'd always choose a dedicated video camera (especially as DLSR housings are awful for video), but when you compare say an EX1 to a 7D you can get the 7D underwater cheaper than you could buy just the EX1. When budget limitations are real then that's a real issue to weigh up. As you've graduated from film school shooting fully manual shouldn't daunt you, but on a HDSLR you will loose the flexibility of going semi manual in fast changing situations/conditions. Again don't underestimate how useful that can be. There really is no right answer. Listen to everyone and make up your own mind! Clear as mud? :rolleyes:

Cheers, Simon

#19 seok

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 07:58 PM

Hey Sammie,

Another thing you might want to consider if you want to get a biggish broadcast camera to learn and practice with is to go for used PD150? It has all the similar controls you get on EX1 (audio, XLR, iris, etc..) and used housing should be fairly cheap now. It's not as big as EX1, but still takes very good images in my opinion! However if you want to get HD footages ie AVCHD my top pick will definitely be the CX550.

Quick search on ebay!
http://cgi.ebay.com/...=item33667602cd

Edited by seok, 06 April 2011 - 08:06 PM.


#20 hughmoore

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 03:42 AM

Ive recently bought a Sony Nex 5 based system in a Aquapazza housing. It has same size chip as the 7D, the housing is half the size, doesnt have the mirror issues of the DSLRS and lot less cost for ports.

Video is autofocus with the 16mm lens and flat port but with the large chip, it rarely hunts even in caves. Ive only started using youtube, but have couple of clips here which shows how well it maintains focus. Filmed a freediver from wreck at 25m to almost the surface.

http://www.youtube.com/user/hughmoore2

Im very happy with it plus its very small to travel with.

Footage is fabulous compared to my old TRV950 which has served me well for many years.

Pictures of Camera and housing are here.

http://www.seaoptics...cialshdslr.html

In South Australian Caves where the water is 16 degress C, no issues with chip heating, however on recent trip to Subic Bay where the water was 30 degress c , continuous shooting became a problem, the camera would advise me to take a break for a minute or two at the most.

Given the results so far, Im can live with that being only a hobbyist.

Regards


Hugh