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ticohans

Best camera for existing light?...

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Let me start off by saying that I just discovered this forum, and holy cow is this place great!

 

I need your help! I'm looking at getting a new digicam for both above- and underwater use. Realistically, I need to keep the budget around $700, but if there's a great option out there for a little more, I can probably stretch a little. DSLR would be awesome, but nowhere near possible budgetwise.

 

Basically, I'm looking for a camera/housing combo that will do a great job of taking pics with the existing light, as I'm a novice when it comes to underwater photography and don't really want to deal with the complication of adding an external strobe just yet. Budget constraints also make strobes difficult at this point. Lag is important - obviously there are a number of factors that influence this - af time, actual shutter lag, etc. Lag time from one shot to the next is important, too, as well as flash recycle time. Manual WB adjust is also very important, although it seems some digicams do a good job with their presets. I don't think I'm going to do much wide angle stuff, but will focus more on fish portraits/macro shooting. That said, I'd like the ability to pull away from the reef and take it in at a distance every once in a while, too.

 

From what I've read, it seems like the Fuji F30 does an outstanding job of dealing with existing light levels. However, it doesn't do RAW format, and it doesn't do full manual (only aperture priority, right?), both of which are problematic. That doesn't mean I've ruled the camera out, only that I'd like to get a better feel for what my other options are.

 

It seems like the Oly 350 is very popular here - any thoughts on how well it takes photos sans strobes? I love the dedicated underwater shooting modes - it's great to see such support of underwater photography from the manufacturer. Battery life is somewhat concerning, ce4jesus' findings notwithstanding. Fuji E900 gets some pub, too, but I'm concerned about the recycle times for flash on that one. Any Canon lovers out there? I think they do a great job above water, but am not sure how that will translate below. Help me out!!!

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Welcome to our pond!

 

For now, the Fuji F30 is the best choice. Simply put, nothing beats the F30 for high ISO performance. My guess is that they will release something in February with manual control (to replace the E900). Until then, the F30 is your camera.

 

Since you won't be using a flash, the F30 with Aperture Priority will give you plenty of control. The F30 has exposure compensation so it would be very easy to get what you want. Now if you were to use a flash, things would be a bit more complicated.

 

RAW would have been nice, but not absolutely necessary. First, if your exposure is way off then RAW won't help much. What it will let you do is re-adjust white balance later on your computer. Your best bet is to do one of two things:

 

1. Manually calibrate your white balance. It's very easy.

2. Use a filter like the Magic Filter Auto.

 

I have the Olympus SP-310, which is basically the SP-350 with a 7MP sensor. I used the Magic Filter for my trip to Fiji. My total cost for the camera, housing, used Sea & Sea wide angle lens and filter was about $500.

 

Since it was my first time with this camera, I shot RAW. Since I calibrated white balance every few feet, I found I needed to make very few changes. The Olympus cameras with RAW allow you to do minor WB adjustments in-camera and save them as a JPEG. As far as I know, the Fujis with RAW (E900) require you to use their software in computer, or get an Adobe plug-in.

 

So, If I were you, I would purchase the F30. It's cheap now. The Fuji housing has a double o-ring seal, and it's only $144. Add an Inon 105AD wide angle lens w/ AD adapter. Finish with a Magic Filter.

 

Here are a few of my available light photos. The rest are at: http://www.pbase.com/krancer/fiji_2006_

post-2471-1165955696_thumb.jpg

post-2471-1165955996_thumb.jpg

Edited by DesertEagle

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Thanks for the feedback, deserteagle! It looks like you're getting great results! To what depth approximately is the magic filter an effective way to restore color to your photos? I know the specs on the website say approx 40 ft. Did you find this to be true? At deeper depths, can you use a flash with filter still on to restore color?

Edited by ticohans

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40 ft is about the deepest you can use the filters.

 

Technically, it would be very difficult to use a flash with the magic filter. To balance the color, you would need to use a blue filter on the flash. If you want to do macro, or deep dives then you would not use the filter.

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Welcome to our pond!

 

For now, the Fuji F30 is the best choice. Simply put, nothing beats the F30 for high ISO performance. My guess is that they will release something in February with manual control (to replace the E900). Until then, the F30 is your camera.

 

Since you won't be using a flash, the F30 with Aperture Priority will give you plenty of control. The F30 has exposure compensation so it would be very easy to get what you want. Now if you were to use a flash, things would be a bit more complicated.

 

RAW would have been nice, but not absolutely necessary. First, if your exposure is way off then RAW won't help much. What it will let you do is re-adjust white balance later on your computer. Your best bet is to do one of two things:

 

1. Manually calibrate your white balance. It's very easy.

2. Use a filter like the Magic Filter Auto.

 

I have the Olympus SP-310, which is basically the SP-350 with a 7MP sensor. I used the Magic Filter for my trip to Fiji. My total cost for the camera, housing, used Sea & Sea wide angle lens and filter was about $500.

 

Since it was my first time with this camera, I shot RAW. Since I calibrated white balance every few feet, I found I needed to make very few changes. The Olympus cameras with RAW allow you to do minor WB adjustments in-camera and save them as a JPEG. As far as I know, the Fujis with RAW (E900) require you to use their software in computer, or get an Adobe plug-in.

 

So, If I were you, I would purchase the F30. It's cheap now. The Fuji housing has a double o-ring seal, and it's only $144. Add an Inon 105AD wide angle lens w/ AD adapter. Finish with a Magic Filter.

 

Here are a few of my available light photos. The rest are at: http://www.pbase.com/krancer/fiji_2006_

 

 

Hi...deserteagle. Thank you for your post... I just bought a F30 ( Fuji Housing) and today I can´t afford a strobe. But in the future I d like to buy a good one...Can you explain why partial control camera is hard to use with a strobe? Thanks a lot GHN

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GHN,

 

Welcome to the pond!

 

If you pland to shoot with a separate strobe, it's easiest to have full manual control. Manual is the simplest mode to use with a strobe. It is a matter of selecting the exposure you want, and using the strobe to fine-tune the fill light. Don't get me wrong. You can certainly use the F30 with a strobe, and probably with great results. The difference is that you're using a semi-automatic camera and semi-automatic strobe- so it leaves more variables.

 

For use with a Magic Filter, the F30 is perfect. I would shoot ISO 200 or 400 in aperture priority (F5.6 or F8). At that point all you need to do is dial the exposure compensation you want, which will usually be around minus 2/3. There are two Magic Filters: original and auto. You could use either. Original requires you to manually calibrate white balance. No big deal. The auto is easiest, but takes some additional light out. The F30 has the advantage of better high ISO performance, so go for it.

 

Once you plan to add a strobe, I highly recommend the Inon models. They offer very easy exposure control with compact cameras. The downside is that they start at $500, plus tray, strobe arm and cord.

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Thanks for your answer...The F30 will be my first UW camera. I can't wait for use it. Another question for the F30 users: Have already used the new 2Gb xD card? ( I'm not sure if its compatible. Anyone knows?) GHN

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The F30 only produces 3MB or so jpegs at the maximum resolution/quality so a 1GB card should be sufficient for most of the time, but Fuji seems to say that the 2GB M card should work although they haven't updated their compatibility chart to include the 2GB H card.

 

I've just bought an F30 as a BCD pocket/light weight travel camera so I should have some images in the next month or so...

 

I miss the additional flexibility of RAW and the lack of a full manual mode but as has been said above, aperture priority with exposure compensation and custom white balance should do the job nicely. The control system seems pretty smooth especially for a compact so I'm looking forward to getting it wet.

 

(I wonder if FUJI would do a firmware update to add RAW support ;->)

 

Dan.

 

Thanks for your answer...The F30 will be my first UW camera. I can't wait for use it. Another question for the F30 users: Have already used the new 2Gb xD card? ( I'm not sure if its compatible. Anyone knows?) GHN

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The F30 is the only compact camera I've used that I feel is good at higher ISOs. Fantastic camera!

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Thanks for your answer...The F30 will be my first UW camera. I can't wait for use it. Another question for the F30 users: Have already used the new 2Gb xD card? ( I'm not sure if its compatible. Anyone knows?) GHN

 

I use both a 1GB xD H Card and 2GB xD M Card. No issues so far. (wasn't aware that they came out with a 2GB xD H card).

 

Ditto what Eric said about this being a great low-light camera. Will try to bring this along on my dives next week along with my DSLR... :wacko:

Edited by pakman

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Just a few comments now that I've used the F30 underwater for a while.

 

It's a brilliant snorkelling/freediving camera. The housing is small enough that it does cause any streamlining problems and the underwater mode automatic settings make it possible to get some pretty good photos quickly. (It sounds cheesy, but the underwater mode is actually pretty good, especially in the shallow clear water in which most snorkelling takes place).

 

The macro button is your friend. It's a one button macro and so is easy to turn on and off - however, if the camera auto powers off (I've set mine to 5 mins inactivity) then macro will be off when you turn it back one - one to remember. Also I occasionally forget that I have it on the aperture settings controls and try to turn macro on/off and just end up changing the aperture.

 

The macro is pretty good - not as good as some but it's a 6MP camera so you can just step back a little and crop later. (No loss of artistic integrity if it's intentional ;->)

 

It's a really good fish compact. While the macro focus is a little slow, the normal focus is very fast and captures moving targets effectively. With a aid of the zoom (not ideal but it works) some very nice shots of the larger beasties can be had.

 

Size - wow. It's tiny. I've been work diving with it (as a sample recording camera mostly) and it's great - I can just flick it over my wrist or clip it away and it's gone. Then when I need it... I really like this.

 

Movie mode is pretty fair quality although I just played with it to see what it would be like.

 

I shot with a 1GB H card and never had any issues with getting near the end. Even on occasions where I couldn't change the card over two days I didn't have any issues (and the battery kept going perfectly).

 

Battery wise it goes for ages but personally I'd recommend getting the external charger and a spare battery. I had the camera in the water a few times a day for 2 weeks solid and being able to just grab the spare from the charger, swap them over and be ready to go was invaluable.

 

High ISO shooting. Very useful - I tried a few approaches at night - the flash is well dispersed with the diffuser and actually works quite well (especially for a compact). However I used it at ISO 800 and 1600 with my dive light and came away with some actually quite useable shots. If I'd had a wider beam light with me, I'm sure there would have been even more keepers.

 

In general I'd say that it is a really great compact and satisfies that reasons that I bought it (namely size and convenience). While the lack of raw and manual focus have occasional been a hassle, it has definitely performed above what I would have expected from a compact of this size.

 

I'll throw some sample pics up in the next week or so once I get home.

 

Dan.

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