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Dan Schwartz

Medium format ergonomics

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The subject of taking medium format gear has, unfortunately, gone off thread. However, one subject not really talked about is ergonomics.

 

Not re-hashing all of the old imaging arguments, there are some of us who are just more comfortable shooting medium format... And please, let's leave it at that.

 

What I would like to hear about are people who have actually used medium format gear underwater (Alex(!), Troy(!), Stephen(?)); and specifically centered around the ergonomics of the larger housing.

 

Some of my questions include

* How does shooting MF underwater compare to shooting vido with a broadcast-quality camera;

* How does the larger housing react with your BCD?

* I shoot the Mamiya 645AFd system, which is rather bulky: Would your opinion change if you shot a small 6x45 rangefinder (without the bulky pentaprism), like my Fuji GA645, or a Mamiya 7-II? (Later today, I'll put a photo of several 35mm & MF cameras side-by-side, for more intelligent discussion.)

* As you go deeper, is the increase in handling difficulty of the larger housing more than that of a smaller housing?

* Is the increased difficulty of handling a MF rig exacerbated by colder water?

 

[Those last 2 questions go to my self-imposed 30 foot limit in Grand Cayman.]

 

Please, let's not turn this into another pissing contest: Above the water, I like to shoot handheld medium & large format. Without getting sidetracked on image quality issues, I'm beginning to think that housing a 6x45 rangefinder may actually be a smaller package than a big dSLR.

 

Please, let's keep this civil!

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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Followup:

 

What led me to this question was the rental counter display at Lens & Repro in the Photo District last Friday...

 

Sitting next to three Nikonos V cameras was a Nikonos RS -- And the RS was bigger than all three V's put together... And then some more. [Next time I go there, I'll take a snapshot so you can see the size difference to scale.]

 

I guess my point is that, in the grand scheme of things, trying to house an SLR form factor camera of any size (even a Nikon Pronea APS), with associated penta prism, may not be quite the best way to go about things, from an ergonomic standpoint.

 

The floor is open to the experts... Have at it, guys! :)

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Some of my questions include

* How does shooting MF underwater compare to shooting vido with a broadcast-quality camera;

* How does the larger housing react with your BCD?

* I shoot the Mamiya 645AFd system, which is rather bulky: Would your opinion change if you shot a small 6x45 rangefinder (without the bulky pentaprism), like my Fuji GA645, or a Mamiya 7-II? (Later today, I'll put a photo of several 35mm & MF cameras side-by-side, for more intelligent discussion.)

* As you go deeper, is the increase in handling difficulty of the larger housing more than that of a smaller housing?

* Is the increased difficulty of handling a MF rig exacerbated by colder water?

 

Dan

I'll try to answer your questions.

  1. Shooting MF or any other big camera inside a big housing means you have to deal with a big tub of air and the requisite buoyancy problems that go with it. Depending on setup and housing, it can be negative or positive.
  2. If you have a housing that has less air, then it's less buoyant and negative.
  3. Unless you are using a plastic bag, then your housing should be solid PU or aluminium. In which case, it should be rigid and buoyancy changes will be minimal, especially with your 30ft max depth.
  4. Have you dived in cold water before? The restrictions from thicker neoprene/dry suit are self explanatory. As such, so is the handling of any camera equipment. It's the same as wearing thick gloves trying to take a photo.

From your post here, I'm assuming you are a beginner diver. I suggest you get comfortable in the water before bringing a camera down with you. Cameras are distracting when you don't have all your diving skills developed. My apologies if I'm wrong about your diver skills.

Also the most important thing is I don't know too many housing manufacturers who make MF housings. You may have to get a custom job. Then you have to develop all the ports and domes and their focal points to suit your MF.

Not that it's not worthwhile doing if you have the time. I know a few people who have tried it. They don't do it often because of the limitations MF film brings. Digital backs may change that.

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Hi Drew!

 

These are the kinds of answers I'm looking for... To a point. What I'm trying to do is start a discussion amongst the experts (like you, Alex, Troy, and Stephen) -- All guys who have shot medium format underwater -- about what does, and does not work. (more)

When you see the photo I have set up on my shooting table tonight (but will shoot in the morning), you may just change your mind... Especially when you see the weights & volumes in the captions.

 

Keep your powder dry! ;)

 

These are items I'm looking for opinions for, i.e. rigid vs pliable (such as Ewe Marine)...

 

[*]Have you dived in cold water before?

 

Hell no... And I don't intend to, either: I want to make pretty pictures, not freeze my cajones off! :)

 

Don't apologize! Yes, I'm a "resort" diver; but that doesn't mean I can't "shoot pretty pictures" once I get the right gear underwater. The key phrase is "the right gear."

 

In any case, I'm going to post the photo of what is on my shooting table tomorrow (Tuesday); and once you see it, a lot of pieces to the puzzle will fall into place.

 

Then, we can have an intelligent discussion... And no ad hominum attacks, either.

 

Cheers!

Dan

 

PS: I'll be putting my engineer's hat on for my underwater MF/DigiBack project

 

PSS: I just bought this digiback for my Mamiya 645AFd system; so now I can shoot both 6x45 cm and digital through it;

 

PSSS: This is the `blog on my latest camera project, to be rolled out Thanksgiving dinner with Polaroid Type 72 and Ilford HP5+ film;

 

PS^4: I have access to CAD/CAM camera part machining.

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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I'll respectfully disagree with you on the shooting before you can dive properly idea. Buoyancy and other skills are very important, if for no other reason than survival. I find people with inadequate skills underwater with cameras tend to be a nuisance to the dive masters, a danger to themselves and others and also destructive to the reef.

And I am by far not an "expert" in the field. I just happen to know the basic principles of diving with a camera, most of which I learnt in theory and more importantly by practice.

 

For future reference, please do not quote extensively if there is no post between your reply and the post you are replying to. It's tedious to read and unnecessary. I took the liberty of editing out all your quotes.

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I would go further than Drew and suggest that any potential difference between DX format, Full Frame 35mm and Medium Format is utterly irrelevant if your buoyancy control skills are not of a very high standard!!! I find (after more years diving than I care to think about) that changing a basic piece of equipment (such as BC, drysuit or even weightbelt), can lead to irritating trim changes which may in turn impinge of image making, but getting dive gear to be trim or buoyancy "invisible" (I'm sure people will understand what I mean) requires experience, and will mean that you can concentrate on photography whilst maintaining an 'acceptable minimum' eye on safety. Ergonomics of housings will then play a more important role too.

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I would go further than Drew and suggest that any potential difference between DX format, Full Frame 35mm and Medium Format is utterly irrelevant if your buoyancy control skills are not of a very high standard!!!

 

I hear you both on that: Fortunately, we have a pool in our backyard, so I can practice easily, starting with a snorkel and even over-under shots.

 

Also, it has a salt chlorinator system, with me keeping it at 4000 ppm, about 1/10th that of the ocean, so that I would have a heads-up on any corrosion issues.

 

EDIT: I also intend to take a class at Cathy Church's UW photography school on Grand Cayman, as she covers buoyance issues and lighting. Hat tip to Giles for the recommendation! :)

 

In any case, if the water is too choppy &/or I can't get my arms around UW photography, I'll also be taking my Speed Graphic - Aero Ektar "David Burnett Combo" so I can play Ed Weston, as the Island also has a wonderful assortment of tropical foliage.

 

----------------------

 

In any case, getting back to the issue of ergonomics, I think you'll be surprised at my analysis once you see the photos to scale. Then, I'd like to see photos of Alex' & Troy's Hassy housings next to their dSLR housing for size comparison; and also anyone that has a Rolleimarin housing as well.

 

After all, this section is "Gear Lust"

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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Dan,

It's clear to me you have no intention of taking anyone's advice. For some reason you are driven to simply dominate this forum with rambling arguments and speculative BS from someone who does not even qualify yet as a beginner, either as a diver or as an underwater photographer. Please, take whatever piece of equipment you like, inside any type of container, into any body of water you like. At this point probably the bathtub will be safest for you and your equipment. Hope no one gets hurt, and when you're done let's see the pictures and equipment report, because no matter what type of gear we all lust after, the pictures are all that count in the end.

Jeff

Edited by loftus

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Jeff:

 

I am very disappointed in your attitude: I asked for people who have actual MF UW experience, not snide remarks, as I wanted to keep this thread on track.

 

But, since you raised the subject of my self-admitted lack of skills:

 

1) I just posted SNUBA/hookah & photography, Will this allow for bigger housings? in The Galley's General Chat: This may be a viable answer for me;

 

2) My father would probably go on this trip and dive with me, depending on his recovery from having 3 discs replaced in his back last week.

 

3) Although my SCUBA diving skills are at a "resort class level," my father sat in on the classroom training & watched over me during the pool training (East End of Grand Cayman), and said the training quality was pretty good.

 

4) I've contacted WP member & dive instructor Heidi Connel about poolside dive instruction here in the NYC metro area where we both hail from; with the open water dive to be down on Grand Cayman.

 

4) I've contacted Cathy Church's UW Photography school for lessons in underwater photography.

 

5) Because of what I've posted above, I am reasonably confident that I'll succeed in UW photography.

 

 

Dan,

It's clear to me you have no intention of taking anyone's advice. For some reason you are driven to simply dominate this forum with rambling arguments and speculative BS from someone who does not even qualify yet as a beginner, either as a diver or as an underwater photographer. Please, take whatever piece of equipment you like, inside any type of container, into any body of water you like. At this point probably the bathtub will be safest for you and your equipment. Hope no one gets hurt, and when you're done let's see the pictures and equipment report, because no matter what type of gear we all lust after, the pictures are all that count in the end.

Jeff

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Paul, thank you for the warning on buoyancy control. Fortunately, that was a skill we learned on the "resort dive class" I took, allowing me to SCUBA dive with only 3 lbs of lead weight.

 

However, as I mentioned above, I also opened up another thread in the Galley's General Chat section about SNUBA & hookah diving.

 

Also I pretty much plan on limiting my diving to Grand Cayman, where a whole lot of reef life can be shot in 30 feet of warm water, without a wetsuit. I have no desire to abuse my body by diving over 100 feet down the wall: I took a ride on the big submarine down to 150 feet and had a blast; and may take the 800 foot bathyscapthe (?sp) ride next time I go.

 

I would go further than Drew and suggest that any potential difference between DX format, Full Frame 35mm and Medium Format is utterly irrelevant if your buoyancy control skills are not of a very high standard!!!

(cut)

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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Dan,

We've heard all your plans, on this thread and others, multiple times. What I'm trying to communicate here, is that it's time to just get into the water, so that you can get your mind around the realities of diving, and diving with a camera. Until then, clear communication is difficult.

Ergonomics if you think about it is very simple, irrespective of format. It comes down to the size of the box and it's ultimate buoyancy in the water, and the access that you have to the various controls - that's really it. The size of the camera will not really matter within reason, as long as the box has the desired buoyancy and is not too large to push through the water, and you are able to control whatever camera functions you need to. Clearly the combinations and permutations are endless, depending on the material used, fit of the box around the camera, which controls are added to the box, and where they are placed.

The reality here is that when it comes to discussing these issues, you presently have no mass regarding the experience of being underwater with a camera, so for anyone who has had even one dive with a camera, it is difficult to communicate with you. I think you will find that if you actually start diving, and then progressively add a camera of any kind to the mix, you will then have an ahaa moment where you will understand very quickly what some of the incredibly knowledgeable people on this site are talking about , and no one seems able to convince you of. Get in the water with a simple camera, demonstrate your abilities, and then folks will be much more inclined to engage in a constructive fashion

Jeff

Edited by loftus

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EDIT: I also intend to take a class at Cathy Church's UW photography school on Grand Cayman, as she covers buoyance issues and lighting. Hat tip to Giles for the recommendation! smile.gif

 

Dan you can't take this course until you have become certified.

 

And I would be HUGELY surprised if ANY operator let you dive as a resort student with anything other than a disposable film camera tied around your wrist with an elastic band.

 

Even after you get certified if you were to be honest with any dive master he would strongly recommend you take MANY dives before attempting to take anything other than a small point and shoot than can fit in your pocket down with you.

You obviously have no idea of what is involved in just getting in the water, your dad watching you sit your resort course MEANS nothing. If you actually get to carry through what you intend without having been taught the basics of diving (the course which you took taught you absolutely nothing, I know this as I have been an instructor for 12 year and taught many resort courses here in grand cayman)

 

note to others: sorry to not have answered any of the above questions but i felt the importance of learning to dive properly to be very important and didn't want any information in here to let people assume otherwise.

For more discussion on dive qualification for UW photography please refer to http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=14832

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Jeff, Giles, and others:

 

I would be getting certified up here, with the final open water dives done in Grand Cayman, as is commonly done. What is so hard to understand about that?

 

Also, what you don't know about me is that I am also a camera collector; and I've already had several "AHA!" moments while looking over my various gear. I'll post a few photos later today, including one from Lens & Repro that goes a long way to explaining where I may be headed.

 

Beyond that, please stay on topic and answer the question posed in my opening post.

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Ergonomics if you think about it is very simple, irrespective of format. It comes down to the size of the box and it's ultimate buoyancy in the water, and the access that you have to the various controls - that's really it. The size of the camera will not really matter within reason, as long as the box has the desired buoyancy and is not too large to push through the water, and you are able to control whatever camera functions you need to. Clearly the combinations and permutations are endless, depending on the material used, fit of the box around the camera, which controls are added to the box, and where they are placed.

I did answer your question; these principles will apply irrespective of the camera you choose to submerge.

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1) Learn how to dive

2) Do 20 plus dives

3) Get digital point and shoot for about 20-40 dives

4) Buy digital SLR

5) If sometime down the road you need a medium format for whatever random reason at least you will know how to dive without killing the ocean or yourself

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MDB and Giles:

 

What I would like to hear about are people who have actually used medium format gear underwater (Alex(!), Troy(!), Stephen(?)); and specifically centered around the ergonomics of the larger housing.

Have either of you actually shot medium format underwater?

 

Have either of you even shot medium format?

 

[crickets chirping...]

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Dan,

 

You're Awesome. :):wub: I think you should take a medium format, housed dSLR, and full HD rig on your first dives. I haven't ever taken 3 cameras on a dive with me, so i can't say it's a bad idea.

 

Don't stop now though, you are providing top class entertainment! Keep up the good work! ;):(:):D

 

 

Edit: Font size and colour changed to add emphasis.

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WETPIXEL.COM: digital imaging for divers...

 

I thought WETPIXEL.COM was for underwater digital imaging...

 

[Photo deleted]

 

Photo Credit: James Wiseman / ReefPix.org

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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I thought this thread was about medium format?

 

It's shot underwater.......

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Dan,

 

You're Awesome. :);) I think you should take a medium format, housed dSLR, and full HD rig on your first dives. I haven't ever taken 3 cameras on a dive with me, so i can't say it's a bad idea.

Si,

 

What you may not know is that there is a whole lot of underwater photography shot in pools in NYC, for ad agency work, where fickle art directors look over, and judge you by your gear.

 

Please see these excellent pool/model photos shot by James Wiseman, including the one I inserted above...

 

Also, please see these superb swimmer photos by Gennaro Ciavarella here...

Edited by Dan Schwartz

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MDB and Giles:

Have either of you actually shot medium format underwater?

 

Have either of you even shot medium format?

 

[crickets chirping...]

 

 

Can someone PLEASE tell me how to block this Dan person's posts

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Can someone PLEASE tell me how to block this Dan person's posts

 

Come on.... nowadays wetpixel without Dan would be like South Park without Eric Cartman.

 

 

 

cartman.JPG

 

 

 

All quiet and civilised...

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