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New to UW Photography - Looking to get some gear advice

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Hi All:


I'm a tech diver in the deep cold waters of the Pacific Northwest so I'm always in a dry suit with fairly bulky gloves (DUI Zip Gloves and liner(s)). My max depth is never below 170'.


I'm looking to get into UW Photography and I'd like to buy a rig that will last me a while and, most importantly, not require me to upgrade the day after I get it and discover I bought the wrong stuff. Whatever I get, I'd like it to have some reasonable video capability also, realizing that this will require its own lighting.


The cameras I've been looking at are the:

--Sea and Sea DX-GE5 and 2G,

--Canon G12 with housing/strobe package (I hear its gotten great reviews), or

--A housing and strobe setup for my Wife's Nikon D3100


So what to do?


I'm tempted to drop the $$$ on a housing for the D3100 as she has a Nikor 18-55 lens which should give me fairly wide angles. I presume, however, that I will need a dome port for this. Is this so or will a standard port do?


For the D3100, the housings I've been looking at are Ikelite and Nimar. I know Ikelite has a great name. Any opinions on Nimar? Are there any other recomendations?


In looking at housings they all seem to have their control buttons fairly close together. Is this an issue in dry gloves or will I seldom fiddle with camera settings underwater? I do some tropical diving but that's a rarity.


Based on advice from a friend, I'll start with one strobe. Any suggestions for strobes for the D3100? Given our dark, and often murky, waters: Should I concern myself with guide numbers? I think I should but I really don't have a clue.


I've seen on the board recomendations that newbies buy used. I've looked at EBay but it all seems to be new stuff at full retail. Do you have any pointers for sites I should look at for used gear?


What else should I be thinking about?


Lastly: What are the top 1 or 2 things that I should absolutely avoid doing or buying?


Thanks in advance.



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The canon g12 has good IQ, but has other very frustrating aspects. Like not letting you use automatic flash metering, when the ambient meter is set to M mode! And also the g12 has much worst autofocus performance than the competition.


The nikon p7100, and pany lx5 and oly xz1 are much better in many ways.


For little, if any more money, you can buy an oly epl2 and oly housing, and get started on an interchangeable lens system.


For underwater, I really like using a high end compact, as it allows me to shoot everything from moderate close ups, to moderate WA, and the to do full macro and full wide angle with wet lenses, on the same dive.


If you go the SLR or mirrorless route, you will be spending a whole dive with macro, or with wide angle, no doubt getting better IQ images. But not getting the diving tourist capability of shooting whatever shows up.


For shooting macro or fish portraits, a single smaller strobe will be fine. For shooting wide angle, 2 big honkers are really required.


Lots of used gear here in classifieds.

Edited by derway

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First, do NOT consider a camera that doesn't shoot in RAW. That is the single limiting factor in inexpensive cameras that causes early upgrades.


I jus dove with someone who had a compound lens on a mirrorless camera but use a +10 wet diopter to get macro shots. I think that may be the best starter point. One strobe was enough.


Probably the most cost-effective new gear solution (not the best) is an Oly epl2 in an oly housing and a single Inon s-2000 strobe with UCLS tray and arms.


However, used gear in the classifieds could easily be a better solution

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I'm a big fan of the Canon G Series which I consider to be 'compacts which think they are DSLRs'... They and the add on wet lenses will offer you enormous functionality and scope to develop your photography. The only significant downside to this system is shutter lag, which is common across all compacts.




If I were starting out again, the mirrorless systems would be a big draw and I encourage you to check out the cameras, lenses and housings. Start by having a look at Nauticam's line-up and select a camera from their supported housings.


You are quite right to ask for advice. I didn't and progressed (expensively) through three compact systems before arriving at DSLR...


HTH, Tim

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Hi Dave,


I've only ever used an SLR/DSLR so I really don't have much to offer in terms of which camera. However, I really think the compact camera shutter lag issue might force a premature upgrade. A good friend of mine recently went to a mirrorless (with interchangeable lenses) and really likes it. Even housed, it has the benefit of being a smaller rig (not a minor point with respect to task-loading while tech diving!), the flexibility to add lenses as you work with the system and no shutter lag issue. You do loose the convenience of the "one lens does it all" capability of a compact, but image IQ will be much better.


Also, if you're new to u/w photography - I'd suggest starting with one strobe. Learn how to properly manage the light from one and get used to the task-loading associated. Add another later, when you're ready.


Lastly, I'm a tech diver too and while I really liked my Ikelite housing, at 170', some of the buttons were getting a bit stiff. I'd go with an aluminum hosing rated to 300' so there won't be any depth-related issues to deal with. Oh, one more thing, and likely a non-issue these days, but my first camera (that I took tech diving) did not allow viewing of the shooting info (the before shooting info - camera settings) on the back LCD. I suppose most, if not all, do these days. That will be important when swimming along a wall at 170', coming up to a great-looking cloud sponge and needing to change a setting or two - you'll be able to do it without using your primary light.


Good luck!



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Before you buy anything I would suggest buy the book "The underwater Photographer" by Martin Edge. There will be answers to your questions that you don't even know to ask yet. It's a very good read with lots of examples and a good reference manual for when you want to do new things but can't remember how.


I have had a G10 and think that the G12 could only be better. Look for a housing you can operate with your gloves, I had a Fisheye housing and a few different ports, this was a good set up. This set up will grow with you, you can just point and shoot or as you become more advanced use manual mode to become more creative. You could buy all new $3000 and have Camera, Housing, wide port, strobe and arm and tray and have a little left over.


What I did when wanting to use the buttons on my set up was use a pencil in a piece of surgical tubing for a tether with the pointed end shoved in the tubing and used the eraser end to push buttons, this would work for other cameras too. I dive in the Great Lakes with the same gloves.

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