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Is this a good setup for a complete beginner for a trip to Asia?

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I am just getting started and have never done UW photography before.. Nonetheless, I am leaving for a two to three week UW photography trip to Asia on May 4th.

Please let me go through what I have and what I think I need to buy.

I already had the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera, plus computer equipment and Adobe CC with Lightroom and Photoshop.

I literally bought my first UW photography gear from ebay yesterday:

-Nauticam CMC-1 $212.50

-Nauticam WWL-1 $531.00

-Panasonic PZ 14-42mm lens + Nauticam Port 29 + focus gear $338.33

The plan is to purchase:

-Nauticam housing for E-M1 Mark II with vacuum alert protection

-Panasonic 8mm f3.5 ( seems like a cost effective wide angle for a starter system -- compared to the 8mm PRO,)

-Nauticam 4.33 inch port for Panasonic 8mm with PF-8 focus gear (With such a small port, am I giving up the ability to do over/under split shots?)

-Olympus 60mm macro lens

-Nauticam N85 port 65 with 0-60F focus gear for the 60mm lens


-2 Sea and Sea YS-D2 strobes

-diffusers for YS-D2s

-Fiber Optic cables or sync cords

-Focus Light (is a high powered video light too strong for a focus light?)

-Nauticam Flexitray II with left and right handles.



-Floatation for arms and housing

-arm/clamp adapters for strobes

-Carrying handle

-67mm adapter for CMC-1 and WWL-1? (Are the bayonet adapters useful?)

Not sure:

Covers for the strobes and ports so they don't get scratched?

Bag to carry underwater for CMC-1, WWL-1, port covers and other miscellaneous items? How do you carry all your stuff?

Lanyards (to connect camera to some part of the body or BC)?


I plan to purchase either used (on wetpixel classifieds or eBay) or from my local dealer (Optical Ocean Sales in Seattle) in spite of the extra 10% state sales tax.

What else do I need? Please tell me absolutely everything I need. I don't want to get to Asia and not have something or discover that I bought gear that won't work well.

The strobe connectors are a little mysterious to me. Is there a housing/strobe combination which allows TTL with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II (camera does not have an internal flash)? If I stick with the Nauticam housing and YS-D2 strobes what are the best strobe connectors -- fiber optic cables or sync cords?

The accessories are still unknown and complicated to me. What is a good, high-quality arm/clamp setup for the Nauticam housing and YS-D2 strobes? Do I need floatation arms and if so, what size do you recommend for the setup above? Knowing nothing, I am thinking of a combination of Nauticam carbon fiber float arms and extra Stix floats, although I have no idea what sizes to get,

Do I need a small backup camera if I am travelling on a remote liveaboard in Asia? I am thinking Sony RX100 III and the Fantasea housing.

I am finding underwater photography is very complicated and expensive. The only reason I have gotten this far is from reading Alex Mustard's excellent book "Master Classroom," which has inspired me to take up this hobby. It is the best instructional book of any kind that I have ever read.

In general, I want a good starter system with high-quality components.

I would appreciate comments and advice from Wetpixel members. Thanks!

I am just getting started and have never done UW photography before..

Edited by bobk3333

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Honestly, I think you should keep it simple. For the first thing, taking photos underwater is orders of magnitude more difficult than doing it on land. I would suggest going into Optical Ocean Sales and talking to Jack or the other really tall guy that works there (forget his name right now) and asking them these questions. They will be able to give you a lot more help than I can here.


Most people tend to use 3 main lenses underwater. Macro, wide rectilinear, and fisheye. The standard focal range of your 14-42mm is used, but generally not as frequently. Using the 60mm macro can be difficult underwater. I think the CMC-1 will have to wait a while to be used as it is difficult to even get what you are trying to shoot in the viewfinder.


Things on the list that you probably don't need:

Diffusers for D2's (included when you buy them)

Arm adapters for strobes (included when you buy them)

Focus gears for 60mm and 8mm lenses (they autofocus. Use them on autofocus for a while until you get comfortable to use manual)

Strobe covers (not really needed)

Carrying handle (some rope or paracord and some brass snap connectors to make a rope handle, takes like 20 min)



Make sure you do get a lanyard to connect to your BC, however. You don't want to lose the camera if you have to let go of it for any reason.


Do you dive in the Sound? First things first, I would suggest getting the housing for your camera, tray, strobes, arms, sync cords, and lanyard, and doing some dives. Do it with just the 14-42mm and port for now. You will be able to figure out camera buoyancy, settings, and getting used to carrying it in the water at home rather than while you are on an expensive dive trip. Depending on where you are in the Sound, you can come out for a dive with me if you'd like. I've got an E-M5II in a Nauticam housing, set up for macro.


As a good guide for buoyancy with the macro rig, my setup uses 6 of the jumbo Styx floats and it's just a tiny bit negative at the moment. (E-M5II, 60mm macro, 65 macro port, nauticam tray, YS-01 & YS-D2 strobes, focus light)


One option for a backup is mounting a Go-Pro on the cold shoe spot on the housing with some red filters. You can let it run for video while using the main camera for photos. An RX-100 setup would likely be too bulky to carry with you. I did that for my trip to the Galapagos last year.

Edited by JMartel

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I agree on keeping it simple. For firing strobes you will use either the FL-LM3 flash or the Nauticam LED trigger. Depends on your strobe choice, using it with the D2 will need Nauticam fiber optic cables.



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Firstly, I think Nauticam housings for EM1 has handles that mount to the housing, you won't need a flexitray.


Secondly, its not a good setup for a complete beginner. Way to much to start with, not even just underwater, you'll stress out between dives just getting that thing ready. You will inevitably forget/lose/break/flood something and it will just add stress to your trip. I think it best to start w 1 strobe. I'd also wait awhile before getting the CMC1. The 60mm macro is already quite powerful, adding diopters, the depth of field is very shallow and focusing can be maddening and you'll risk ramming the reef. Also find the recommended EM setups and start learn how to use the AEL/AFL and different focus modes. It takes sometime to get to know your camera and be able to get it to "work". Once there you can add more stuff to it.


I started with EM1, 60mm macro and 1 strobe and just did sTTL. Wide angle I found to be a far more challenging than macro. Added a GoPro w red filters for wide angle video. Later, I added 8mm fisheye and a 2nd strobe and started practicing manual strobe. Most recently I got the oly 7-14mm with 180mm dome.


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Hi bobk


I think the guys have made some very good points. I'd agree that keeping it simple to start with is a very wise way to set out. UW photography is a complex and tricky art form. Combine that with the increased task loading of manipulating and controlling all your (new) gear in a challenging environment, and I'd argue there is a real risk you are not going to achieve much that you are happy with - and end up frustrated and disappointed.


The advice is good: start with the housing, a macro lens and a strobe. The CMC-type close-up diopters are difficult to use when you really know what you are doing - let alone when you set out. Similarly wide-angle stuff is, I'd agree, much harder than macro. Macro is a great place to start.


I also thought it good advice, if you can manage it, to go and talk to experts in Seattle of that's close to home. Get some hands on advice. Although I can see time is now short.


But really, don't be to tempted to load up with gear. Yeah, maybe it's a trip of a lifetime and you want to go prepared. But you also want to enjoy yourself. And, as others have suggested, tons of new UW camera gear needs a lot of management, a fairly high level of expertise, very good dive skills plus loads of patience and perseverance. Serious frustration and disappointment is often the outcome from the first few dives.


Other than that, have a great time! :dancing:

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