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phxazcraig last won the day on September 4

phxazcraig had the most liked content!

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123 Excellent

About phxazcraig

  • Rank
    Tiger Shark
  • Birthday 10/19/1953

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
  • Interests
    Photography, especially underwater. Diving. Motorcycling. Travel (63 countries, 50 states). Computers (self-employed IT consultant for 22 years).

Additional Info

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    United States
  • Camera Model & Brand
    various Nikons
  • Camera Housing
  • Strobe/Lighting Model & Brand
    Sea & Sea YS-D1, Backscatter Miniflash with Snoot
  • Accessories

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  1. I'm shooting the Z9 underwater with the same basic setup I used for my D850 in a Nauticam housing. For wide angle, I'm using the 14-30 with the Sea and Sea Internal Corrections Lens behind a 230mm dome port and 50mm extension. I also have the 14-24, but I see no advantage in using it. I'm already stopping down to at least F8 most of the time, and I'd much rather have 30mm available than just 24mm. For macro I'm using the 105mc in the same way as I used the 105vr on the D850. I had to replace the macro port with one specifically for the new lens. I forgot which port number it is. Unfortunately, the z-mount 1.4TC will not fit on the 105mc. I've not used any wet optics yet.
  2. OK, I see what you are thinking about here. I'd say this looks similar to, but not as bad as, my old 16-35 without the IRC. So it looks like the 14-30 starts out being a better lens, which doesn't surprise me considering the z-mount advantages. It's a little hard to tell for sure, because the focus point is important. Too much distance between the focus point and the nearest objects results in a smeary, ugly, unnatural out-of-focus area. But I do think you can get better results with the lens, in general. I'm shooting mine through a 230mm glass dome with a 50mm extension. If you aren't shooting the same, it's hard for me to draw conclusions, especially since I've never shot my 14-30 underwater without an IRC mounted. I can say that I'm generally happy with the results I'm getting now, while I was generally unhappy with the 16-35 performance before the IRC. As for availability, it's hard to find in stock these days in stores, but some can order direct from S&S to get you one. Price last summer was about $750. It was specifically designed for only a couple of lenses to be used in a 230mm or 240mm dome, so ended up being pretty specific to the 16-35. It may be that the 14-30 doesn't really need it, if you are using a 230/240mm dome with it.
  3. Was just thinking of the hassle of traveling with big dome ports, and that one way to 'handle' them is to travel differently with them, IE checked luggage. It certainly made my flights more comfortable as I carried a small backpack of whatever-I-needed instead of two camera bags. (Still have the waist bag with camera and lenses).
  4. I got tired of carrying so much gear too - so I switched to baggage. Pelican 1610 Air holds the bulk of the housing and 230mm dome port. Yes, another suitcase, but I travel with 2 anyway. This was somewhat freeing for me as I didn't have to worry constantly about overhead space in the plane. But I had to travel a bit lighter overall and bring less clothes. I also discovered the joys of riding in first class across the Pacific (to Guam at least) with little cabinettes and lay-flat seats. That made a lot of difference in how much energy I had once I got to my destination.
  5. I think the third video in the OP looks awesome. Maybe not technically in terms of dynamic range or detail, but the subject and angle of view is compelling. I got the X3 to mount to my motorcycle, but I haven't got around to that yet. I did get the dive housing but have never tried it yet. I took it to Truk in March, but without testing first I didn't want to risk it on 100 foot dives. I did walk around with it above water, and I think it has quite a few good possible uses. I'm finding it much more compelling than my drone, which I haven't used in over a year. I don't find the 360 degree view to be watchable, but I love the post-processing freedom to pick an angle of view to work with in standard video format. I tried to make good use of it on the dive boat in Truk coming back from an afternoon dive: I wish I'd had the camera with me inside some of the wrecks in Truk. Not sure how I'd carry it, not sure how I'd light things, not sure what I'd do with my Z9 rig while trying to use the X3, but it could have been fun.
  6. I don't do much special here. More like 'F8 and be there'. Lots of my shots were at 14mm, but I'm not quite sure which shots you are looking at. I routinely tell Lightroom to correct for lens distortions. I check that box and leave things at the defaults. If you are also shooting the 14-30 through a 230mm dome, what extension length are you using? I've got 50mm for the Z9/14-30, 90mm for the D850/16-35. In any case you could go to my personal web site at www.cjcphoto.net and look at both the Roatan 2022 and Truk 2023 albums. They were both shot with the 14-30, and the EXIF data is there to see the parameters. I have one shot taken at F14 that shows perhaps how good this lens can be, but I normally don't shoot that stopped down with wide angle. I did a series of test shots at different apertures you can look at here: https://www.cjcphoto.net/lenstests/14-30/ Again, it is very important to have the point of focus in the correct distance. If the focus point is a bit too far away, the foreground will be out of focus at least somewhat, and this seems to be the ugliest type of out-of-focus area. Out of focus areas behind the focus point not only seem more natural, the quality of the blur is more pleasing as well. The 14-30 can have bad looking corners too if you put out-of-focus elements there. Try to simply avoid things too close that are not the immediate subject. As noted before, I used to shoot the 16-35 for a long time on a D810, then a D850. All of my shots were disappointing to me, and virtually all were cropped to eliminate the worst of the blurring. Once I added the S&S lens/filter, I was much much happier. I'm assuming the 14-30 has inherent advantages just because of the bigger lens mount, but I added the S&S to be sure. I've just come back from a 10-day trip to Alaska where I used the 14-30 for flightsees. Even through the plastic windows of the small planes, I got amazingly-sharp results.
  7. I have had the Z9 for a year, and I still haven't mastered the AF system above water. It changes a bit for the better with each firmware release, but I haven't even tried Auto Capture yet. I generally have good luck when the subject fills the DX frame, but start struggling more and more with distant/smaller subjects in the viewfinder. This is for any mode with Subject Detection. I have NOT tried a small custom AF area yet, but also haven't had a lot of shooting lately. What I did for years with the D850 and new Z9 is 3D Tracking. I found 3D Tracking to be very fast and accurate on the D850, and it didn't really matter much what the distance was. Underwater, I used it all the time, and it worked on the D810, and it worked better on the D850. My goal with the Z9 was to at least match the D850, and it does, thankfully. I was worried it would grab onto the background, a tendency that was a lot worse with firmware 2.1. It not only 3D tracked my subjects, but it did so to the edges of the frame. The D850 never gave me an issue in my shooting, so I consider it basically perfect. The Z9 is also perfect. If the Z9 is even faster, it's hard to tell. It's Subject Detection that drives me nuts. I tried it underwater, and it mostly did not work, or focused on the wrong part of a fish. (Fake eyes.) So I just leave it off and shoot like I did with the D850. Above water, Subject Detection is either the greatest good or the greatest evil. It either grabs the right subject faster than humanly possible, or it grabs the wrong subject and fights you for control. I think the biggest issue I have is that Subject Detection works quite far outside the 3D Tracking focus box, and you don't have pinpoint control with it on. I've had up to 5 function buttons programmed with different AF modes. It's taking a long time to decide which to use. MY underwater photography is more often small, slow or stationary things where the biggest movement is me approaching the subject. But I can see a great advantage for a wide area AF mode for certain bluewater subjects. Me, I've long wanted to pinpoint where my focus point is, so I'm happy with 3D Tracking.
  8. I don't know your camera, but on a Nikon I would use 3D Tracking. Basically a small focus box I manually move around, but which can then track what I tell it to. No subject detection. AF-C (continuous), with back button focusing. I'd get focus on part of a creature, and keep the focus point on it if moving. Otherwise I'd let off the back button and just shoot, using depth of field to cover small movements. If I'm shooting wide angle at 14 to 30mm, F8-F10 works well. Lots of depth of field, until something comes close.
  9. I got the Z9 last summer, and then bought a Nauticam housing for it. I use the 14-30 and the 105mc. I had to buy a new macro port, and I bought a shorter extension port for the 230mm dome. I'm coming from a D850/Nauticam rig and a D810 one before that. I think the Z9 has definite advantages underwater over pretty much every other Nikon. Compared to the DSLRs, I now have good video with working autofocus. The 3D tracking works pretty well underwater, and I see it as equivalent to my D850 there. But having the focus points go to the edge of the frame is a definite advantage. The battery life is excellent, and this is where I see a big advantage over the Z8, particularly if shooting video. On the other hand, the housing cost is outrageous at $7500 for the Z9, while the Z8 comes in at a more affordable $4800 or so. Underwater handling is about the same as the D850. Once you get the rig balanced, it isn't any more significant effort to push through the water even though the housing is taller. I haven't used a Z7, so I can't really compare the autofocus speeds. But my D850 was noticeably faster than my D810, and that allowed me to get some shots easily that I struggled with on the D810. Fast autofocus is certainly useful underwater. I'm also finding it quite useful to reprogram some of the function buttons for specific underwater purposes, like moving the ISO button to the left hand.
  10. I bought an MF1 and snoot at last year's Digital Shootout. I used it in Bonaire, and later in Roatan. I have since bought a MF2 + much stick but haven't used it yet. I have only used the largest, round-shaped aperture hole to shape the beam. There is a reason for that. If you have never used a snoot before (I had not), it's REALLY TRICKY AND FRUSTRATING to get the strobe lined up and to use it. It takes me maybe 5 minutes at the start of a dive to position the snoot at the end of an arm. It then takes a lot of practice to line up the line with a target. You not only have to line the strobe up left-right to the camera, you also have to aim it forward-back, and THEN you have to line up the lighted spot in the Z axis as well. It's just really hard to get that spot on your subject at first. It would be far easier to have an aide holding the strobe with the snoot modeling light on the subject while the camera gets into position. I can't wait to try to the MF2's remote trigger - except I'm not sure how the MF2 will be held. I don't have a dive partner to hold the light, and while I have muck stick, I can imagine that it would be extremely limiting to use as I would need both sand and a target right nearby the sand. To be honest, I think it would be easier to tripod-mount the camera and trigger it remotely (somehow) while aiming the strobe. Given that it is so hard to get the strobe lined up, I've not tried the smaller snoot aperture or the oval ones. Hard enough doing the largest. So far I've almost only shot very stationary or slow subjects, often a Christmas Tree Worm. I've successfully got some snooted shots of a Garden Eel rooting around for food, but that was the exception. Once I was shooting with the snoot in Roatan, and suddenly a 6-foot Green Moray Eel came up to me looking for a handout. (Divemaster in the area used to feed Lionfish to the eels there to try to get them to hunt Lionfish. But now they come to us looking for handouts instead.) As I had the snoot mounted, but also had a decent feel for alignment, I managed to get one quick shot of the eel coming at me. Not in focus, but that sort of adds to this shot in ways. After fending off his initial advance, I pulled off the snoot and got some shots of him with just the miniflash. I did get some very nice snooted shots of Christmas Tree Worms. But one gets bored shooting them after several dives. But anything moving faster can be a challenge.
  11. Yes. My roller bag setup as I used to use it for DSLR is here: https://www.cjcphoto.net/uwcamera/all.html As mentioned, I have transitioned to putting the housing, dome and whatever else fits into a Pelican 1610 Air with foam inserts. Total packed weight it 47 pounds, and I ran out of space. I still have 3 strobes and 6 STIX floats to pack in my suitcase. Here is what it looks like packed, in 2 layers. This worked well on one trip so far, to Truk Lagoon. Here are some pics of the bag, and the stuff that didn't fit. I put a macro port and the dome extension in the bottom layer along with a Miniflash, a 180 degree finder, a focus light and several arm parts and clamps. I also put in a Samsung Smarttag+ which made it a lot easier on my mind to know my bag made it on the plane with me. It even helped find the bag before it came up on a baggage carousel. Once the bottom layer is filled, I put in the top layer of foam and add the housing, handle, air pump and gauge, 230mm dome port, more clamps, a 45 degree finder, some tools in a plastic bag to reassemble the housing, and some wheel weights in a white plastic bag. The weights came along in an attempt to balance and trim the housing when the dome port is used. My travel luggage scale is on top of all. And here is the remaining camera gear (other than camera and lenses) that did not fit in the Pelican. One big strobe plus a spare, and one ministrobe plus a snoot. I bring 6 of the STIX floats along, not 12. They have little weight, but I ran out of space for them in the Pelican. I'm rethinking my Pelican packing with the idea I might put some floats in with other bits inside the float holes. I have to say that it was a relative pleasure to board the aircraft without the dome port and housing in carryon. I did lose out on luggage space, and I may end up checking 3 bags some day.
  12. For 7 years I put my housing (sometimes with camera inside, a D810), 230mm dome port and whatever else I could fit into a Thinktank rolling bag. Weight around 35 pounds. What didn't fit in there, or in my waist bag (camera and 2-3 lenses) went in my suitcase along with my dive gear. My clothes and some gear ended up in a second suitcase. I hated worrying about the carryon getting gate-checked. On my last trip I used a Pelican suitcase (1610 Air) to hold the housing, dome port and whatever else I could stuff into its foam padding. Total weight 47 pounds, and I still have a second suitcase holding more strobes, dive gear and a few pieces of clothing. I have a small backpack with a laptop in for carryon now. I used to put the laptop in the suitcase. I never really had any issues with TSA and the Thinktank. Half the time it went right through, and the other half it got opened because that big dome port just looks so inviting on the X-ray... The bag I have theoretically fits under an airline seat, but only if you have full space under the seat in front of you. Normally I get on the plane in an early boarding group and put the bag in the overhead. The waist bag sometimes went up there too, sometimes under the seat. I have flown on airlines that weigh all bags, and going over 7kg can be risky. (Looking at you, Air New Zealand.)
  13. I had a D810 housing do that after 3-4 years, intermittently. I don't remember what I did, if anything, to fix it, but I think it only happened for a week or two. I put in a fresh battery and added a few more pumps to the vacuum and that may have helped. I notice on my Z9 case that I had to pull a bit more vacuum than minimum or the leak detector goes off below about 120 feet, then disappears above that.
  14. Thanks for the Samoa details. Any experience in St Thomas? I'm wondering how to get to the dive shop from where ever I'm staying that week.
  15. How about diving in Samoa? Not American Samoa.
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