Jump to content
rgibbs

I need some help

Recommended Posts

Alright, I need help. I am not ashamed to say it but the different options, configurations, brands and decisions have me throughly baffled.

 

A little background on me: I am a professional photographer shooting photojournalistic and freelance work. I shoot all Nikon gear with a couple of D700's and 2.8 lenses from 24mm to 400mm. When I got into scuba about 2 years ago, my first concern was to learn the sport and become comfortable in the water. Now with about 100 dives I feel as though I can juggle both scuba and photography, so it is time to spend some money ; )

 

Obviously none of the gear that I currently have does me much good UW (yet).

 

So here is my primary concern: At this point in time I am hesitant to purchase a Nauticam, Sea & Sea or other aluminum housing for a D700. For two reasons, first is price…add in ports, strobes, arms, sync cables etc and this is a very expensive initial investment. But secondly and more practically the D700 is an aging camera and as much as I love Nikon they are slow to introduce their new cameras. I would like to make the jump to an aluminum or higher quality housing at the same time as purchasing a Nikon equivalent of the 5d mk II with video capability or something along those lines.

 

I have been in photography long enough to have learned the lesson about buying cheap gear so my first thought is "buy the best strobes and supporting material you can afford because the housing is always going to be the short-term investment whereas the lights and accessories will be much longer-lived items."

 

So right now I am looking at the following:

 

- Ikelite DS-160 or 161's (love the idea of having the LEDs onboard for video down the line but I am not sure if they are even practical)

- Inon Z-240's (love the size and the reviews they have been getting and the AA batteries and price)

- ULCS 5 x 8 arms, etc etc...

 

Now if I were to get a housing for my D700 it would be the Ikelite ($1500), add in a dome for $350, and the kicker is I would have to purchase a new lens as I don't have anything for UW WA work. I am looking at either the Tokina 10-17 or the Nikon 20mm. And this is where I begin to get a little lost -- do I purchase the 10-17 or the 20mm? Do I go with Ikelites multi system domes (or whatever they call them) or custom (per-lens) solutions? The next question is, if I spend a bunch of money on Ikelite domes and ports I am going to be stuck using those on Ikelite housings am I not? And if I purchase an Ikelite housing is it worth it to get the Ikelite strobes simply for the TTL capability, don't misunderstand me I am perfectly comfortable with manual strobes on land, though I am not sure if there is some reason I would not be UW. And finally, lets say I start with 1 strobe (I'd most likely have a second within 6 months), I would need to start with a single sync cable and then upgrade to a double y cable would I not?

 

So just thinking out-loud, if I add all this up (housing, lens, domes/ports) I am looking at about $2500 + the costs of lights arms etc.

 

Which gets me thinking. For the same cost as the Ikelite D700 housing I can buy a Canon S90 and a FIX S90 aluminum housing…which saves me the hassle of worrying about aging cameras, dome ports and cheap enclosures at least for now. About the only piece of equipment I would have to buy that would not work with a DSLR setup would be the tray for the FIX housing.

 

Any thoughts on this idea or any disadvantages? I am going to go play with a S90 to test out the various manual controls and the shutter lag to see if I could deal with it.

 

I know that I have put a lot of open-ended questions and thoughts out there but any ideas or thoughts or recommendations would be much appreciated. I am particularly interested in any feedback on strobe choices.

 

Thanks for your help!

 

Ryan Gibbons

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Ryan

 

Some quick thoughts:

 

- The Tokina 10-17 is a DX lens: superb on the crop sensors (think D300), I believe it would be much less effective on the FX-sized D700.

- How about the Nikkor 16-35 if you are looking for WA? It's FX

- Strobes: you can't go far wrong with the Inon Z240s. As you rightly say, small and good for travelling; and have the advantage of highly available AA batteries.

- S90 against DSLR: the P+S S90 and G11s are certainly capable of producing high-quality images. But they do have their limitations. Are you not going to buy one of them and immediately regret that you don't have the SLR capabilities that you are used to?

- scary that you see the D700 as ageing!

- ULCS arms are a no-brainer. You'll never outgrow them.

Edited by TimG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoops, not sure how I missed that the Tokina is a DX lens, that would definitely be a problem, thank you for pointing that out. You make a very good point in regards to the responsiveness of a P&S compared to the DSLR I am used to on land. I will rethink and try to price things out again. I should have phrased my thoughts on the D700 a little better, I only see it as "aging" in regards to it's lack of video capability. It is a SUPERB still camera and will continue to be for many years to come.

 

Thanks again for your thoughts Tim. I'm just on my phone now but I do some more work on this when I get home.

 

Cheers,

RG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One quick thought for you...consider the shutter lag in P&S cameras. I was amazed at the difference. The shutter lag in P&S drove me crazy. If you are already used to DSLR, would you be satisfied with losing the capabilities that you are used to having with your D700?

 

Good luck and let us know what happens with your setup - DiverPam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey DiverPam,

 

Thanks for your thoughts as well. Trying to rework a configuration or two. I'd like to keep this first round of purchases to as minimal as an expenditure as possible and then add to it...so maybe going for a 20mm Nikkor instead of a wider zoom or prime since all the FX WA and zoom WA lenses are fairly expensive. I've always wanted a 20mm anyways ; )

 

On another note I noticed in your sig that you have a D90 / DS-161. Do you have an video publicly available using the 161?

 

Thanks,

Ryan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pam makes a very good point, Ryan, on the P+S.

 

Like you I was used to an SLR topside and, for cost reasons, started my u/w photog with a Nikon Coolpix 5000 in a Subal housing. It produced really good images but the shutter lag (and the slow write to cache/card time) became more and more annoying as I became more adept at using the system. The slow write times are solved now but not the shutter lag.

 

A good P+S, housing and bits is not cheap. If you are already an SLR man, I'd suggest you put the money into that. Better to be satisfied with the gear and have an empty bank account - than dissatisfied with the gear and no cash left to upgrade!

 

I've not researched it in any detail, but I wouldn't be surprised if you can find a high quality non-Nikon WA zoom for the price of the Nikkor 20mm. Worth checking out the Tokinas or Sigmas? Lots of Pixelers use them and are very happy (me included with the 10-17 on DX).

 

On the video on SLR issue, is it me getting older, but doesn't combining an SLR with video seem a bit like combining an apple with an orange? Both great, but why combine them? If you are serious about either do you not want a system that can produce the best of either? Or am I missing something and the video technology is so good that I could pull a high-quality still off the video and blow that up to the print size that I can produce with my D300?

 

Another slice of dinosaur anyone?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ryan,

 

If I had a Nikon D700 I would NEVER take in consideration polycarbonate housing; that being said, take a look at Hugyfot, Aquatica or Nauticam: yest they are alittle bit more expensive than Ikelite and the likes but far more rugged and equipped with advanced features such as vacuum system (Hugyfot) and optical connections (Hugyfot, Aquatica and Nauticam). Cannot help you on lens choice since I use a DX camera. As far as strobes and arm are concerned you can't go wrong with Inons Z-240 and ULCS arms. Would not buy float arms, but try your new rig with standard arms and add custom made floats should should you need any.

 

All the Best ...... Francesco

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm only an amateur, but it seems to me that the constant upgrade route is unneccessary, especially if you are new to underwater shooting. I'm not sure that a strong terrestrial or studio background is going to sharpen the learning curve much, and whilst 1000 dives mean that your diving skills are innate, 100 dives don't. With all that going on, I would recommend housing a current model, a D700 is fine, for a couple of years, using (for the D700) a 15mm and a 60mm micro Nikkor with a dome and a macro port: go for an aluminium alloy housing and quality strobes (but maybe physically small ones rather than big ones) with variable manual power settings, and get in the water. For the first few thousand shots your diving skills, the optical environment underwater and the behaviour of your camera gear are going to mean that you don't get close to the theoretical performance of your set-up. The learning curve of a compact camera is so different that if you want to shoot DSLR, then go DSLR, and use an ergonomic housing from the outset; the learning curve for video, both in shooting technique and, particularly, in lighting is so very different that mixing the two up is likely to be real struggle.

 

Tim

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a D700 in a hugfot housing and I repeat ad nauseum that the reason I chose Hugyfot was for the non-destructive HugyCheck leak check system. On the other hand, although the 20mm is a fabulous lens on land and nearly all my 35mm underwater pics were taken using one, the Tokina 10-17 is special when it comes to underwater use. I would even suggest forgetting about the D700 and getting a used D200 in an aluminium housing (to save money over a D300) with an optical glass dome port. You won't be disappointed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ryan,

 

I would definitely scrap the idea of buying a point and shoot camera. You may find it OK at first, but I think you will soon regret buying a P&S instead of a DSLR. This is especially true as you are used to a DSLR topside. Shutter lag is more important underwater than you can imagine. Fish move quickly underwater and when you think you're getting a perfect shot of the eye of the fish, you wind up getting an awesome shot of its tail. This doesn't make for great uw photography :)

 

I would advise against using the 20mm lens, but would recommend the very versatile and awesome underwater lens, the Tokina 10-17. There is a reason that this lens is the darling of underwater photographers. Because there are virtually no straight lines underwater, fisheye lenses excel. Then there is also the issue that wide rectilinear lenses (such as I believe the 20mm lens to be) often have problems when shooting uw behind a dome port. The specific problem I am referring to is corner sharpness. I personally have avoided using wide rectilinear lenses uw, going instead for lenses like the 10.5mm FE, the 16mm FE and the Tokina 10-17.

 

There have been articles written that state a DX camera is often better for uw use than the D700. I would purchase a used D300 (which can be purchased for around $1000 or less) and a used housing like Subal, Aquatica, etc or other aluminum housing. You will not regret going this route. Check out Reef Photo, one of our sponsors to see what used housings they have. Also, used D300 housings pop up in Wetpixel's classifieds from time to time.

 

The Inon Z240 is an awesome strobe. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this strobe.

 

I would advise against going with a y cable for the strobes. As you will soon learn, if you haven't already, strobe cables are the weakest link in the system and are prone to failure. If you purchase two single strobe cables and one fails, you still have use of the one strobe. If you are using a y cable serving two strobes, if it stops functioning, you've lost the use of both of your strobes. Strobe cables are not too expensive. Always carry a spare. As an uw photographer friend of mine once said, "Two is one and one is none". :)

 

 

UCLS arms will serve you well for many years as others have stated.

 

One other thing, TTL is often overrated. I've never used TTL for my DSLR (although I did with my Nikonos V) and I've never felt I was at a disadvantage. Shooting in manual works fine underwater. Besides, TTL is only really useful for macro and subjects which completely fill the frame. TTL does not work very well for wide angle shots. You seem to be interested in wide angle since you mentioned buying WA lenses and I think you would be very disappointed with using TTL when shooting with those lenses.

 

I also strongly advise purchasing Martin Edge's book The Underwater Photographer. His fourth edition of this book came out just a few months ago. It is THE BIBLE for underwater photographers and many of us here on Wetpixel consider it as an indispensable book to have.

 

Those are my thoughts, FWIW. Welcome to uw photography! Please feel free to come back with additional questions you have.

 

 

Ellen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ryan,

 

As a pro i think you would best be served by an aluminum housing at the cheaper end. I use Aquatica, no experience with others, but the D700 housing is fantastic.

 

20mm is generally not wide enough UW, at least for seascapes/wrecks etc. Close focus is also very important, as you need to be much closer to things than you might imagine (usually within 1-3ft) and with the dome ports virtual image appearing much closer, super close focus lenses are very useful. The sigma 15mm fisheye is great, near macro focusing. Add a kenko 1.4x TC and its an excellent general wide lens. I bought the nikon 16mm but didn't focus nearly close enough UW.

 

The other key lens is the 60mm macro, an UW workhorse.

 

i wouldn't bother with a S90 & FIX housing, while its a great system, I doubt any full time pro would be satisfied with its performance. Cheers,

 

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you everyone for your replies and insight. You have definitely given me a lot of food for thought...and increased the price tag of this "little hobby" at the same time (but I expected that).

 

Okay here is what I have gleaned:

- the 20mm Nikkor is out

- the Tokina 10-17mm rocks as a DX lens but won't serve me unfortunately with a FX sensor unless I am a fan of 5MP, Ellen as much as I'd love to get a dedicated DX UW system, my land D700's have me anchored there for now, I can't justify another DSLR right now (also thank you for the advice about the y vs straight cables...that makes perfect sense now, for some reason I was thinking that I could not use 2 single cables with the Inons on an Ikelite)

- so it looks like I will settle with a Sigma 15 FE, I have a Nikkor 1.4 TC that I can try on it

- 60mm macro is definitely next on the list

 

A few of you mentioned that you would NEVER place a D700 in an Ikelite housing, is this simply from a "safety" perspective with worries about flooding the housing? If so, I am a big fan of insurance, so that is not to big of a concern for me. Or is this simply a matter of build quality and ergonomics.

 

Understandably an aluminum housing will be a much better product...I am trying to get a quote for a Sea & Sea though a friend that is a dealer...we'll see how that works out. Unfortunately If I were to purchase an aluminum housing it increases the prices of the ports as well...I'd either have to shoot only ambient (EEEK) or wait a quite a while longer before I could make this purchase. I should shoot more weddings ; )

 

A few others have brought up the fact that UW shooting is an entirely different game as is diving with a camera (you're right 100 dives really isn't that many), I completely understand this and I am leaving any confidence I may have as a photographer on shore. I am definitely open to the new learning curve.

 

Thanks again for the help. I will update you all with what the final outcome is. If you don't hear from me for a while I'll be counting pennies and eating ramen.

 

Cheers,

Ryan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL, good luck with it, Ryan. I think a lot of us just live on beans on toast and just hand our salaries to Subal, Inon, Nikon etc. It just seems to make more sense....

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also shoot a D700 topside, and wanted to make the transition from Compact camera to DSLR underwater.

 

I ended up getting a refurbished D90 + Nauticam housing for the same cost as the D700 housing alone would have been. Combined with the Tokina 10-17 it was an awesome combination.

 

Having made the jump to DSLR, and even while I'm still paying off the credit card, I would not switch back to the compact camera if I had to make the choice again.

 

You CAN create some fantastic images with a compact camera, especially something that shoots RAW like the S90, the process of making the pictures is so much more enjoyable with a DSLR.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A few of you mentioned that you would NEVER place a D700 in an Ikelite housing, is this simply from a "safety" perspective with worries about flooding the housing? If so, I am a big fan of insurance, so that is not to big of a concern for me. Or is this simply a matter of build quality and ergonomics.

 

I shoot a 5DM2 (fullframe sensor) in an Ikelite housing. I simply have no idea why you shouldn´t do that. Ike´s, especially with the new four lock port system, works very well and adds a well working ttl to the housing which most other housings doesn´t. But the suggestion not to use Ikelites comes up again and again, however very seldom backed up by any hard data what the defining difference between Ikelites and the aluminum housings should be.

 

That said, if I was insanely rich, I would without doubt go with an aluminum housing, and probably with the Hugyfot. The Hugycheck would be such a great piece of equipment to have. But, as I am not insanely rich, I prefer to be able to afford to upgrade my underwater housing as I upgrade my cameras. Ikes give that option.

 

I also lately have been shooting a 15 mm FE with a1,4 extender. For some examples you san check out pictures from last weeks trip on http://www.pbase.com/borneobent/marsashagra2010

 

Regards

 

Bent

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is the update for all interested. I recently got a 3 - 4 month gig shooting in Costa Rica... it is all travel related stuff and all on land with minimal free time / dive time and luggage space. So I purchased 1 Inon Z-240 and ULCS hardware and then an enclosure for a Panasonic point and shoot that I already have. I will be putting together a DIY tray, grip and optical sync cable. When I get back, I'll be able to pitch the Panasonic and look at upgrading to a pro housing.

 

I figure this gets me started (at least it satisfies the itch to get into UW photography) with minimal loss interms of what I spend now and don't use later. The Inon and ULCS hardware are of course be great investments and I can easily add to that setup in the future when I have a chance to spend more time UW.

 

Thanks again for the help.

 

Ryan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds an excellent trip, Ryan. Have fun!

 

The Inon and ULCS are a very good choice. They'll go well with any SLR system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...