While at first glance Olympus's new free OM-D E-M1 camera firmware upgrade v2 doesn't appear to offer much for underwater photography, digging into some of it's subtleties and improvements shows that it offers some pretty interesting ideas to expand your underwater universe.
The features added include most all of the latest ones now found on the new PEN E-PL7. It's not often that you can apply these types of upgrades to a camera that's nearly a year old.
Besides some improvements such as speeding up it's EVF display, more and smaller AF points, and improved focus peaking, there are a lot of new in-camera creative possibilities available such as using Keystone Correction to straighten the lines of a wreck, or maybe stalks of kelp, while shooting with a fisheye lens - right on the camera back. Same with it's Live Composite Tool; allowing for multiple exposures to be made creatively without post-processing. Other cool effects like Partial Color are now available, allowing you to shoot a brightly colored subject against a black and white background.
Do you like HDR? This popular technique of shooting and overlaying multiple varying exposures can be set-up and shot right on the camera. Using a high-frame rate, these HDR composites can be previewed on the camera display and then saved into RAW for further manipulation later. New is ev compensation on the HDR frames.
Updates have also been made to the wireless apps and tethering software, along with many other features you'll enjoy using above water. You can also use them to apply filters and create composite "stories" and upload them with your phone; without even opening your housing!
If you have one of these great Olympus micro-four thirds cameras, getting this free E-M1 firmware update is a no-brainer. It is easily downloaded onto a computer, then uploaded to the camera with the mini-usb cable included with the camera.
So enjoy this cool new present from Olympus and think creatively underwater, you might be surprised!
More information on the OM-D EM1 can be found here. You can download the updater here.
Here's a complete list of new features and changes:
8 New Functions:
Keystone Compensation (Digital Shift)
Tethered Shooting System (OLYMPUS capture)
Zoom In/Out and Layout have been added to Photo Story. Save (complete partway through), Temporary Save, and Resume functions have been added to Photo Story mode
New Art Filters: Vintage and Partial color
Old Film Effect in video recording
The Aperture Lock function has been added to Aperture Preview
The Panning Shot shooting mode has been added to SCN mode
16 Operability Improvements:
Image display time lag in the Electronic Viewfiner has been improved to 16 msec (frame rate setting is high speed)
Multiple simultaneous settings now available in Live Guide
Exposure compensation (±3 EV) is now available in HDR 1/HDR2 shooting
A function has been added to cancel Color Creator and return to the original Picture Mode by pressing the MENU button when using Color Creator function.
Movie Tele-converter can now be used simultaneously when Art Filter is set to Picture Mode.
AF function for each frame was added to Custom Self Timer. In Drive Mode's Custom Self Timer settings, you can now press the INFO button to change settings.
MF Assist is now supported in magnified frame position.
3x has been added to high resolution magnified Live View.
The Peaking display frame rate has been improved.
Electronic zoom speed setting function was added. An icon appears on the LCD monitor when using an Olympus electronic zoom lens.
When the arrow pad is set to Direct function, the Underwater/Underwater macro functions can be used with the left and down button on the arrow pad.
Double tap is now supported in touch operations on the Super Control Panel.
The level gauge and histogram can now be displayed during magnified frame display. The Touch Off icon was added to magnified frame display.
A function was added so that shooting information recorded in HDR1/HDR2 can be viewed in the playback screen.
Information on composited number of shots for images recorded with Live Composite was added (Can be checked in Olympus Viewer3).
When the BKT button is held down, the BKT menu now appears.
I shot quite a bit with this in Fiji. I think it works out pretty well. Others felt that you should just get closer, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I used the Kenko 1.4 TC, not sure about the new Nikon.
I dunno, you shouldn't have to be using diopters at all if you have a large enough port. All you are doing is taking a great optics and dumbing them down, IMHO.
I think the main issue is that the port is too small. Stopping down and adding a +2 helps a lot, but until you shoot that lens with a 9" port, I would expect corner issues. Shooting vertically, you can put two corners in the blue so it's not as apparent. But the Sigma 15FE or Nikon 16FE will shoot rings around the 16-35 for sharpness, especially with a smaller port.
Rectilinear zooms are best used for big animals where you need a little more reach, than CF/WA.
A few pics and video from our recent Sea of Cortez trip on the Solmar V. Originally we were going to go to the Socorros, so I didn't have a macro lens along.
The Sony a7 is ground-breaking is a full-frame mirrorless camera, lots smaller and lighter than my D800 for sure. Better low-light and a host of programability. BUT lens offerings are pretty scarce. Hopefully by the end of the year this should be improved.
With some of the viz "challenging", I ended up shooting a fair amount of shallower available light. With the a7's low-light abilities it was easy to shoot up into the 2-3,000 ISOs without much degradation at all.
Using the manual focus Nikonos lens was a bit different, but it has such a long depth of field that I just stopped it down and only changed focus from CF/WA to WA as necessary. Using focus peaking it was easy to shoot when you saw the "reds" of their eyes! I also used the 28-70 and for a "kit" lens it isn't bad, with a close up diopter, I think it would work out well. I did shoot some moderate close ups and with the huge files, a little cropping came up with some pleasing images.
Proscriptive? Heck, in my old age, I've been going back to primes. Fast, cheap and sharp. Zoom with your fins!
Not to get off the OP's questions, but I'm dying to try the Nikon 28 f/1.8 on a D800 there...
Echo Tim's comments about murkiness at times in Socorros... viz can be up and down, as wind blows volcanic ash off the islands into the water, or surge stirs up the bottom. Of course, that's when you see the largest schools of hammerheads...
You can use the 10-17 + the TC and get a little more reach. I've found this to be a sharper solution than the Sigma 17-70 which is about the only other lens I like underwater. The 17-70 is fairly useful and has a good range including sort of a close-up mode. But I don't think it's got stellar sharpness.
I've shot all three of these solutions down there. Mid-range zooms tend to be slower lenses and don't shoot very well uw (poor corners, etc.). Socorros can be murky at times.
I think a larger dome does give other options, and you can shoot at more wide open apertures than in the mini-dome, so I would recommend looking into that. The 17-70 requires a large dome and a 50mm extension, so it tends to be a bit bulky for shooting in blue water. Shooting a 60 behind a dome is a decent sort of shark setup for more reach, fairly sharp and fast, no extension.
Went down to Cabo for a few days and then out on the Solmar V to the Soccoros for a week in mid-January. It can always be a crap shoot, and the last trip I made (this is my third) was in January and was spectacular. This time we had wind a cool weather in Cabo for most of the 5 days.
The islands really got beat up with hard rain and wind the week before we went. Fortunately it had improved as we left. Unfortunately the seas were choppy and the wind was still bad for the first couple of days. The viz was pretty bad, worst I've seen. Normally it's 80-100', but we had more like 20' horizontal and 40' vertical. We couldn't see our fins at Cabo Pearce. Frustratingly, there was pretty decent animal interactions, with lots of hammerheads and even a small (10-12') Tiger at Canyons, but pretty much impossible to shoot!
Roca Partida had better viz, still not what I've seen there, but lumpy seas and strong currents. There was a small school of Galapagos sharks, but the group scared them away. Whales were in and a couple of lucky guys dropped in and go a few shots, of course they were gone went I went in...
Finally, we got back to San Benedicto and El Boiler was ok, although very hazy, and pretty bad by the afternoon. But the mantas were playing, and over the course of 8 dives I managed to get some images I liked, by getting within a few feet. Several dives we had 2-3 even 4 circling us and enjoying our bubbles. Over the years, I've learned to just stay motionless and verical with my hand raised as if asking a question. They'll zoom by, stop, and circle right over me. They love the attention. Amazing for an animal thats 18-22' in width!
Oh well, that's blue water diving for you. The next couple of week's trip reports had the viz back and conditions excellent. The crew on the Solmar V is fantastic, the old boat still works out quite well, great food, huge camera table and everyone had fun.
We do have a charter in 2014 at the end of May concentrating on shooting bait balls and the huge schools of silky sharks that seem to congregate around Roca Partida that time of year. I'll have an announcement up soon.
Here's a few shots. They were taken with a Nikon D800, Sigma 15mmFE, in a Nauticam NA-D800 housing and Zen 230mm dome port with 2x Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. This system is very easy to use underwater as it is neutral and fairly compact for it's capabilities.