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Alex_Mustard

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Everything posted by Alex_Mustard

  1. Still using a Nikon D850 (and used the Nikon D5 on my last trip to Norway). Expect to be running a FF mirrorless by this time next year. Although, very unsure if it will be Nikon, Sony or Canon. All three have a decent chance, odds are probably in that order. Just packing for Raja Ampat. And it actually surprises me how little of my luggage is actually Nikon stuff. It is all UW optics and strobes and a housing! That seems to be the future for me. Alex
  2. Really useful information/experience that I think lots of people will be grateful for right now, Douglas. I have similar opinion. If someone said to me i had no choice and had to use just one use either for everything, I’d be fine with that. Whichever it was. But given the choice, I’d do the same as you. In fact from the first time trying a Z, I just kept picking it up whenever I had topside images to shoot. The photo is surely Fiji, from the species in it. Alex
  3. I think these things would be more likely if there was one dominant force in the market - as there was in the time of the Nikonos viewfinder days. These days you would have to make something that works on Nikon, Sony, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic and whether you would cater for existing SLR and mirrorless mounts. Making the lens AF and change aperture and do that with all these systems is totally uneconomic. Also some companies like Canon are blocking other companies for making lenses for their mounts. Then you have to make a system that works on multiple housings... You also have the problem that some photographers want a rectilinear lens. While others a fisheye. I am much more in the fisheye camp. Most still images taken with rectilinear lenses lack the impact of fisheye shots. The Nikonos 15mm is optically excellent - but for stills it is really not wide enough (it is about 90˚ compared with WWL/WACP of 130-140˚, or fisheye 180˚). So even if it auto focused, I wouldn’t use it much. I know this because it is almost identical to my Carl Zeiss corrector setup, and while I have taken celebrated images with that, it is always the option wide angle on trips, not the main lens. I think if you tried to go much wider and stay rectilinear it would get bigger, fast. Also it would still have the low-impact rectilinear look, pushing your subject into the background, rather than making it pop out. This is why the native AF lens + UW corrector or conversion lens is clearly the only economic way I see to achieve the lenses we want. And the problem is that with this set up - bigger optics gives better quality. Nauticam already give most people at least 3 size vs quality options, and I tend to favour the goldilocks option - WACP-1. Nikonos RS-13mm is a very nice solution - but it really doesn’t give a massive difference over an 8-15mm in most situations we shoot. But the good news is that prices are going to tumble in price when the Z8 comes out and more people move to Mirrorless for stills and this lens can no longer be used. Alex
  4. I am happy to share some high resolution files, I have taken. I am on the road at the moment (cancelled flight delaying return home). But can share some when I am back.
  5. I am sad to hear that too. Alex
  6. Cool. Just checking you had thought it all through before spending money. If it is not already, I am sure the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro will be Z-ified soon, if it hasn’t been already. Sigma et al. won’t survive without making lenses for the latest systems.
  7. Agreed. I think that this feature is promoted because it is a very valuable selling point, even if the manufacturer and dealer, I am sure realise that it is unlikely. I think new customers prefer the idea of a lens that they can remove - more flexibility is an easy sell. Even though once they start using it, they realise it is better left in place.
  8. I think it depends on the housing brand too. Until I was bored in lockdown, I’ve never serviced any of my Subal housings - all work great and look like new. But I did have a housing from another manufacturer for a short while that required 6 services. Peter Rowlands always told me he made far more money servicing Nikonos cameras than selling them, back in the day. And was very grateful that Nikon recommended regular servicing. I suspect today’s dealers are equally grateful that the manufacturers recommend this regular income stream for them too. Cosmetically. I also think the different finishes from the different companies age at very different rates. Despite a lot of work, my Subal housing still looks pretty much like new. Only if you look at the flash brackets on it, can appreciate its workload. I realise that most people don’t shoot as much as I do. My housing today. Main finish looks close to new. But these Ultralight brackets, which are the same age as the housing, reveal the workload.
  9. I don’t know the specifics of the port query. But I would question the logic of buying a top line camera, like the Z9, that is also large. And then trying to make that a small, travel friendly system. A smaller sensor format camera would do that much better. And it also doesn’t make sense to have a top line camera, and then limits its quality with lenses with a focal range that is not well suited to typical travel underwater photography. I just mention this as food for thought before you end too much on additional lenses that you end up frustrated with.
  10. I tested this with both the WACP-1 and WACP-C when both first appeared. The Sigma fits and is a sharper lens than the Nikon lens on land, but the Nikon works much better behind the WACPs. It was ages ago that I tried it - and if I had a pool I would like to do more tests of different lenses. I need a friend with a pool!
  11. The earliest wet wide angle lens I have seen myself is the VisMaster I and then II, designed by BSoUP’s Geoff Harwood in the late 1960s, early 1970s, which could be slotted in front of the standard 35mm lens on Calypsophot & Nikonos. This was a great leap forward, and is relatively simple to do (in fisheye form) and they cut and polished the elements themselves out of perspex. It was actually developed before anyone in the UK had ever used a dome port. More professionally produced options followed like the Subawider (which I was writing about earlier this week when writing the introduction to the special Martin Edge BSoUP meeting for October) , Marine Eye, FE-5 Fisheye and Sea & Sea’s Nikonos conversion lenses followed in the 1980s. Most of the digital era wet lenses use a related optical setup to these early lenses - again making a standard lens into a wide angle in water. There was a great proliferation of these lenses for all the popular compact cameras (Olympus, then Canon) from the early 2000s, and they were very widely used here on Wetpixel in that golden age of 2-6MP underwater compacts! The RX 100 was introduced over a decade later. These wet lenses varied, some were crappy lenses and some very decent (I think owing more to the quality of the components, rather than design differences). What differentiated the WWL was that it set out to design not just a wet lens that would make the view wider, but to properly correct all the optical issues (aberrations and field curvature - most wet lenses have field curvature the same as domes) using proper lens designing software to tweak each element. So while fundamentally using a similar set up of lenses, the way they interact is fixing problems. The result is a lens that is both a wet lens and a water contact lens (ie one where the details of the lens design was optimised to correct the image quality problems of working in water.) Of course, making water contact or properly underwater corrected lenses was also not new. Nikon did it for their wide angle (20 and 15mm) lenses for the Nikonos viewfinder cameras. And the 13mm fisheye, 28mm and 20-35mm for the RS. But just used flat ports on their longer lenses. But the specialist underwater companies could not do such expensive development and the extensive calculations. The software availability converged with a company with the resources in Nauticam, hence why the I believe the WWL is a real landmark lens in underwater photography - and the family of WACPs it spawned. Of course, water contact has become a marketing term. So now everything is called water contact...
  12. Shhhh. Don’t help everyone to understand how important light is in underwater photography. I've often credited the Sea & Sea's marketing for allowing me a successful career in underwater photography!
  13. While we all remember events from our own perspective, I was keen to stress in my tale above that many people, especially Nauticam dealers and users, were involved in these developments over the last decade. Adding feedback on developing products and explaining what they wanted. Just yesterday I shared a picture of Peter Rowlands with a harbour seal in California - shooting the WWL on his Panasonic in summer ’15. Nauticam, I suspect, sells more dome ports than anyone, and I am sure they are more profitable than developing and designing water contact lenses. I do remember hearing that the WACP was Nauticam’s lowest profit item when released. But I am thrilled that we have these tools as options. If you would have told me 10+ years ago where we are now in terms of options I would not have believed it.
  14. This is a decent way of thinking about the range. But I don't that the range was developed from an initial strategy, it was very much a case of one product leading to the next, highlight a gap or a need. And the success of one making the next possible. I have been involved in various points in this story, sometimes integrally and sometimes more peripherally. Of course, from my perspective I see my points forming a direct line, while I am sure there were many turns in the road I know nothing about. In the early 2010s I had a long chat with Edward @Edward Lai from Nauticam saying that I felt the two under-developed frontiers in underwater photography were underwater optics and high quality underwater lighting (I said the same thing on Wetpixel many times - and my first post on this forum, in 2002?, was about Ivanoff Correctors). This was at the EUDI show in Milan (just checked this was 2013 - (I had remembered Bologna) I don’t go to many dive shows!). I also joked that nobody sensible would get into strobes because there is too much to go wrong and who wants to be responsible for a product with so much to go wrong. And nobody would do optics because it was difficult computationally and prohibitively expensive for a tiny number of people who would appreciate and buy them! Edward took up the optical challenge and the first product was the SMC close up lens - which does some clever stuff optically maintaining a longer camera to subject distance than normal for the super high magnification and corrects for the water/air interfaces (front and back on SMC and the port) yielding sharper images. We had the prototype of that lens for the Wetpixel Workshops in Lembeh October 2013. An image I took with it on that trip was awarded in the next Wildlife Photographer of the Year. (As a intreguing aside, I also met Oskar @Oskar@RetraUWT from Retra at that same EUDI show. He was there with a touchscreen housing for an iPad that worked underwater. I don’t remember is I spoke to him about strobes at the same event...) Nauticam produced more macro lenses CMCs and another SMC, with water corrected optics and then ventured into wide angle with the WWL. This was aimed a M43, but after a while it was discovered it that it worked well with the diminutive 28mm on Sony FF. David Cheung (CheungyDiver on Wetpixel , RIP) was the first person I was aware of using one on Full Frame - when I met him in Palau in late 2015. Myself (and others) wanted to use it on FF SLRs but couldn’t make it work with the lenses. At ADEX 2016 (April) I had the chance to try and persuade Edward face to face to make a WWL for full frame. My book UWP Masterclass had just come out and I may have even written it inside the copy I signed for him! Others like, Jason from Scubazoo, were petitioning similarly. Edward had a better idea and realised that making a “dry” at the back wetlens - made the design more optimal as there were now 2 less air to water interfaces, just one to worry about at the front. Edward’s first design for SLRs was called the “Dry Lens” to make the point that not having to worry about correcting for the problems of the air to water and then water to air interfaces at the back. I shot this development lens in the Red Sea (November 2016) and was very happy with the results. But ultimately we decided that to be able to persuade users to buy this in addition to their dome ports it needed to have a more obvious optical improvement over their existing lens - so people would notice it from their first dive and tell their friends! The development costs were pretty big and Nauticam did need to sell some, not just make one for me! That said, what would become the WACP was intended as a very low volume product, but would have to sell to people who knew their stuff and already had 230mm domes and all the wide angles. At the time it was designed for the Nikon 28mm fixed lens. But I was very keen to be able to use a zoom behind it and found the Nikon 28-70mm AF-D worked well. And that became the main development camera lens from there on. These tests led to Nauticam designing a much larger version of the Dry Lens - which was called the WACP (and renamed WACP-1, when the WACP-2 was introduced). I tested a production ready version of this in the Red Sea in June 2017 and the lens started shipping that summer. By the end of the year Nauticam had real supply problems with the WACP-1 as the demand and sales was way, way higher than expected, driven by word of mouth as people used it, loved it, told others. All, bar 1 photographer on this Maldives workshop had WACP-1s. I spot quite a few of those fancy new Retra strobes too. I have had the WACP-1 since then. But I never gave Nauticam back the original “Dry lens” because it offered better than dome port performance in a very small package. And while a step behind the WACP-1, it was smaller and lighter. I have continued to use it, particularly on trips where I do not expect to use the WACP-1 much, and want to use my luggage allowance for other items. For example I have taken the WACP-1 to Galapagos, Socorro, Maldives, Red Sea, but used the dry lens in Indonesia and Cayman. The zoom combined with the ability to shoot big animals with a more open aperture and therefore to get more strobe on them is great. I always hear people say that with big animal shots the corners don’t matter - which is rubbish - because I don’t want to shoot all my shots as subject surrounded by blue - how dull - how about shots say with foreground, background, or even the animal coming into the frame - and in all those cases corners matter. Also all these places are famed for great schools of fish - and again being able to shoot these more open aperture and have the subject matter filling all of the frame. Furthermore the small form is easier than a 230 dome in currents and much easier for CFWA lighting too as there is less shading. The WACP-1 is particularly good for unpredictable, big animal diving (Galapagos, Cocos, Socorro, Maldives etc) and delivering professional level image quality on full frame cameras that you know you can send to any client and they won’t have anything with better quality. Nat Geo tested it and Brian Skerry switched to Nauticam housings to shoot it for his major Secrets of Whales Nat Geo/Disney story. I have had 2 images awarded in WPY taken with the WACP-1. The sales success of the WACP-1 surprised Nauticam and this made the WACP-2 possible. We all feared nobody would buy the WACP-1 because of the price tag. And when after a few months the orders started ramping up, not dying down, Nauticam could not match the demand, it was clear that a tier above the WACP-1 was possible. The WACP-2 is bigger and better. I’ve shot the WACP-2, but don’t want one - simply for luggage weight reasons. Also a major attraction of the WACP-1 was that is was much smaller and easier to light than a big dome, the WACP-2 was not. And also I was more interested in the EMWL, that was developed at the same time as the WACP-2. But they have been lapped up by the booming filming industry with all the commissions they are flooded with as every streaming service wants their own natural history epic! Not many stills photographers are using the WACP-2, but I had two turn up on the same workshop trip last year (there was only 9 people in total)! So what about that original “Dry” lens? Well that is what is now the WACP-C. It’s damn good, a step up from a dome. Smaller, lighter, cheaper than a WACP-1 and not limited in compatibility like the WWL. But it is step below the WACP-1 - that’s why the WACP-1 was designed. But it is great to have the options. Well done for getting this far. As I said at the top, this is the history from my perspective (often unaware of the many things that I am sure happened that I wasn’t involved with). I also have tagged Edward and Oskar in this, they are both mentioned in this tale and I tag to give you reassurance I am not misrepresenting things. And perhaps most importantly, I have not done any of the clever work in terms of designing anything. I have simply tested items and give my feedback from the perspective of a user, to help create exactly the products I have long felt underwater photography would benefit from. I wonder what is coming next? Alex Finally, here is Edward’s side of the story from Wetpixel Live - starts around 03:45:
  15. I think it is great to see passionate debate on the forums again - that is what they exist for - it is a Wetpixel tradition. Members benefit from thrashing through all the issues and many more benefit from reading the opposing views and forming their own opinion.
  16. I remember them posting that shot when I was in Grand Cayman in January 2020 - we were having a rather different experience (see the video below)! There is an important difference in the geography of Grand Cayman and Little Cayman. On Little Cayman all the dive sites are only on the NW side of the island (the shadiest side of an island so the best for sponge growth), so when you get a winter storm - known as a North-Wester - all the diving is gone. Being a bigger island, Grand Cayman has 4 sides, so whatever the wind direction there is always a lee side, often 3 lee sides. Here is my experience from Cayman in January 2020. Video of lots of underwater photographers - so you can check out the weather (and the earthquake we had) and what everyone was wearing. That same storm brought a couple of days of (comparatively) cold weather for us (long sleeves) - but because of the shape of the island, flat clam seas where we were (I am wearing a full wetsuit in the pool because I am in there all afternoon during the workshop and for sun protection). While plenty of tourists dive in t-shirts and shorts in Grand Cayman in January, I’d recommend dedicated divers use a 3mm or 5mm, depending on the individual. Alex
  17. I received this as a PM - but thought I'd reply to the interesting points here. I've not tried the EMWL without the relay section - but I will make a point to try on a future trip. My Hasselblad housing had a reversed viewfinder and while you could adapt to the reversed view, you would never say it is optimal. I can't imagine volunteering to do that with the EMWL! I also think a reversed view would make you much more likely to disturb a subject or scratch the lens. You need to keep your subject relaxed to get good results with these lenses. There is nothing to stop you shooting wide angle with this lens, but this isn't going to match a dedicated wide angle for ease of use or quality. These two shots are with the EMWL + 130˚ lens. Which are getting towards more standard wide angle. Hawksbill, Maldives Brittlestars On Maerl, Scotland
  18. This is only true in the very tiny centre point of the frame. From this single point outwards, even in the central area, the curved air/water interface is causing issues, which become increasingly exaggerated the wider from this centre point, hence why the wider the angle of coverage the more the problems are most obvious. But it is misleading to suggest that none occur in the central area. Of course, a flat port performs even better than a dome port at the very centre of the frame - because there is no virtual image etc, but I am not suggesting using a flat port for wide angle shooting! Alex Here is the only actual data I have for this (note these lines are drawn between data collected at 4 positions, I’d expect the lines to actually be curves). You can see the flat port (in water) matches the lens performance in air at the very, very centre. But quickly falls behind the dome. The dome also begins to fall away increasingly quickly from the lenses performance in air (even by reasonably modest Fields of View - say just 50˚ - which is a very large portion of the frame is the lens sees to 130˚, like the WACP). The graph shows light ray aberrations against the field of view of the lens at that point (this is based on an existing 90˚ lens (roughly equivalent to a 20mm on FF, 14mm on DX or 10mm on M43). Of course this is not that wide compared to the WACP - the topic of the thread. In short the WACP is attempting to occupy the space between the green line and the grey line. As close to the green line as poss. Sorry for jumping into the discussion - that first paragraph came up on the previews of the new posts feed.
  19. I had the chance to use the forthcoming 160˚ degree lens for the EMWL in Canada this month. I thought it was great - basically makes the EMWL better still at shooting Wide Angle Macro - I've written it up here: https://wetpixel.com/articles/field-review-nauticam-emwl-with-160-degree-lens-by-alex-mustard I thought I'd share a few of the images at a higher res than possible on the front page articles. Click on the images to see them bigger. Alex
  20. I'd say that the issue was choice of destination. Both Socorro and Galapagos are great destinations for underwater photography, but both are poor destinations to learn underwater photography. To learn skills you want easy diving, which offers repeatable and unhurried opportunities with subjects. So you have time to think about and optimise those techniques. Once the techniques become second nature you can then make the most of those challenging but rewarding destinations. In many dives you either need a point and shoot camera, or to be on top of your technique so that you can operate a more capable camera as efficiently. Alex
  21. It is quite a long bag - as it fits freediving fins. I once had Easyjet tell me it was too big for the standard luggage - and had to go down the oversized chute. But zero problem on any other trip, including today.
  22. I am fortunate that I travel with hundreds of underwater photographers each year and have developed my baggage strategy with many ideas learned down the years. It all starts with a clear understanding of what I really need on a trip and what I don’t. In fact, learning what not to pack is the key to everything. For me Pelican cases offer the ultimate in protection. But they definitely attract thieves, dubious custom officials and extra security checks (which can mean missing connections). Also my baggage strategy needs to be flexible because of variations in airline rules depending on destinations. I am generally limited by Economy allowances and sometimes by very restrictive charter flights (Red Sea). Generally my approach is to make sure the bags are light and strong - because even when I do have generous allowances, I am always trying to maximise the amount of camera gear I can take. And when I don’t have generous allowances, I need to make sure I can still bring everything I need. I will always take a much as I can in carry on. However, 1) many flights from Europe have very strict carry on allowances (5-7kg/10-15lb is common). I try and fly with more generous airlines, but this is not always possible. And 2) I do not try and get a basic system in carry on. This is because baggage loss is very rare (as we do not need to fly through hub airports much in Europe). And also I have too many delicates cameras, lenses, laptop etc to have hand luggage space for ports, strobes and strobe arms etc. Carry on bags need wheels - you do not want to be carrying that weight. And they don’t need to be rigid as you have them with you. So for checked luggage I use 2 bags when allowed. One is a lightweight hard case. One is a lightweight rubberised canvas dive bag - which we will deal with first (https://www.mares.com/en_GB/attack-titan-rouge). This contains dive gear, batteries, chargers, non-delicate camera gear (clamps, arms) and delicate gear that is well protected in its own boxes (WACP, EMWL). I also happily put my Matty Smith dome in here - wrapped in bubble wrap and wetsuit. I used to use non-branded dive bags to be slightly more discrete - but I think only a diver would actually recognise this bag as a dive bag. The other bag is a lightweight samsonite hard case. These are ever more expensive, but Samsonite has regular sales and this is the time to buy them. I have had this bag for at least a decade and done many flights without any issues to gear inside. The trick is not to get too big a case. I have the small - 65cm one - as the bigger ones end up over the standard 23kg/50lb limit when fully loaded. And the strength comes when full. https://www.samsonite.co.uk/c-lite-spinner-69cm--deep-blue/122860-1277.html - in this bag I pack strobes, domes, housing (when not in hand luggage) electricals etc. Each delicate item is bubble wrapped. Plus clothes for extra padding and toiletries. I am off to Canada tomorrow - so you can see what is in the Samsonite case (3 x strobes, 5 x ports, port extensions, strobe accessories, cables and chargers, EMWL - which is usually in its case in the other bag, but since this is a Goldwater trip, the other bag has more dive gear, less space than usual) - clothes and toiletries still to pack and pad with: Hope this helps Alex
  23. My postman has some good knowledge too... I would be fascinated to see these data in public. However, Nauticam have always been averse to share actual measurement data - because they allow someone else with different testing conditions to claim better numbers for another setup. You can imagine it - "I did a test and my lens is the sharpest in the world!" I also think that the endorsement that they want is actual customers telling other photographers that they like the gear and it helped them get the shots they wanted.
  24. When writing my 2016 book I read (re-read) all the UW photo books I could find. Some are ego-trips, some simply repeat exactly the same stuff as every other book, and some (a smaller some) really add something original and useful to the field. I’ve spoken many times about all the different things I wanted to achieve for the reader with my book - and those who have read it can judge if I did. But a major motivation was to write something original - so whatever else you’d read on the topic, there would be value in reading my scribblings too. So I particularly value books that at the time they were published really introduced something new. Three oldies-but-goodies that I would add to this list that I think bring something valuable to any UW photo bookshelf are: De Couet & Green: The Manual Of Underwater Photography. 1989. Lot of outdated gear talk. But also plenty of sound underwater photography insight. Flip Schulke: Underwater Photography For Everyone. 1978. Well written and helpful. Obviously date in many areas. But excellent photography. Lawrence Mertens: In-Water Photography. 1970. Technical and original. Ideal for lovers of equations. No pretty pictures. Alex
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