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A year with the OM-D E-M5 and the M Zuiko 9-18


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#1 Storker

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 10:59 AM

About a year and a half ago, I got myself an E-M5. I've been taking pictures topside for more than 30 years, and when I certified and started to take pictures underwater I soon realized that my Canon G9 compact with onboard flash just wasn't going to cut it in the murky Nordic waters. Macro and strobe only isn't my cup of tea (I like to use flash sparingly, balancing my flash with existing light), so to get decent exposure at depth, below the algal soup layer, the puny compact camera sensor with its pretty crappy high-ISO performance just couldn't deliver.

Enter the E-M5. Noticably more compact than a dSLR, but with a performance that more than matched my Nikon D300 I currently use topside. Lens and port choice was difficult, but I decided on a rectilinear WA, the 9-18mm f/4-5.6. Topside, fisheye really isn't my cup of tea, macro would be too cruel for my diving buddy, and I decided that the 12-50mm was too narrow for me. Besides, the Nauticam 12-50 port was outside my budget at the time. Also, the 9-18 is fairly low cost and is really compact, making it a good lens for topside use as well.


The first stage in my UW photo gear spending spree was an OM-D E-M5, the 9-18, the Nauticam NA-EM5 and the 4" semidome port. No strobe due to budget considerations. Just learning to utilize the WA perspective was a challenge for a guy who for several decades has clearly preferred the portrait tele perspective.

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#2 Storker

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 11:01 AM

My first strobe was a used Ikelite AF35, which worked well with a bit of tinkering. It taught me that a GN of about ten meters just wasn't enough for my kind of photography, and for a serious strobe, the Inon S2000 just wasn't going to cut it for me. A Z240 was put on my wish list.

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#3 Storker

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 11:04 AM

After a fairly short time with the AF35, I bought my first serious strobe: An Inon Z240. I considered the S2000, but luckily I realized that the S2000 probably didn't have enough power to work well with WA. I put the Z240 on 5"+7" arms, mounted on a Nauticam Flexitray.

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#4 Storker

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 11:08 AM

And sometimes, you don't need even one strobe:

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This setup was good enough for me for almost a full year, but I saw that for closeups and early attempts at CFWA at low light, a single strobe gave vary harsh shadows. Also, at close distances I was bothered by poor corner sharpness, however a +2 diopter on the 9-18 helped dramatically. After some more saving, I was able to afford a second Z240 with the arms, and this is my current setup: OM-D E-M5, M Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6, two Inon Z240 on 5"+7" arms.

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#5 Storker

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 11:11 AM

Still, even with two strobes at hand, there are occasions when I prefer to shoot available light only:

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I'm planning to be able to afford the 8mm FE and the 4.33" dome port sometime next year. Now that I'm getting familiar with the E-M5 and the handling of two strobes, I feel competent to take on the challenge of mastering the FE perspective underwater. Wish me luck!

PS: I always shoot raw. I've been using raw format since I got my first raw file capable digital camera, and the amount of post-processing needed to make underwater pictures "pop" the way I want them to, really necessitates raw format shooting. Color balance? No worries, mate!