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jjmochi

Help on my first dslr setup

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Hi all,

I'm currently using a TG-5 in Olympus housing with 2 Inon S2000 strobes, a focus light, and the AOI UWL-400 wide angle lens. After taking 3 dive trips with the camera I've decided to upgrade to a dslr setup since I was pretty frustrated with the TG-5's lack of manual control, shutter speed, and low light performance. The deciding point was when I went to Malapascua and couldn't take a single good picture of the thresher shark over 3 days, as no lights or strobes were allowed. I also had a lot of trouble taking good pictures of the mandarin fish mating since they moved so fast and I couldn't shine a focus light on it.

So I've decided on a Nikon D7500 since it seemed to be a good mid-range option and bought the Nauticam housing. I bought 2 lenses, the Tokina 10-17mm which seems to be widely recommended for wide angle, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm which seems like a good compromise between the typical 60mm and 105mm recommendations. I bought the recommended zoom gear for Tokina + the 4.33" dome port, and the compact port base + macro port 30 per Nauticam's port chart.

All in that already cost me over US$6000 and I'm debating whether or not I want to continue to purchase the below items, which based on my research seems to be "nice to haves" but not totally critical:

-Nauticam vacuum pump- I haven't had any issues with my TG5, and no issues with my Go Pro Hero 5 before that. We've been diving for 3 years and never had a flood so questioning whether it's worth the $200?

-Nauticam external viewfinder - either 45 or 180. I read the 45 is really good for macro but it takes a long time to get used to, and not recommended if you only take a few dive trips a year? I wouldn't mind paying for it if it's easy to get used to but I wouldn't want to pay $1000 for it if I need to waste a few dives at the beginning of every trip getting used to it

-a macro diopter, thinking through Subsee+10, Nauticam SMC-1, and Aquako III. My next trip is to Anilao, but wondering if I will take a few days to adjust to the 85mm macro lens before I can move on to supermacro anyway, so if I can push this purchase further down the line? The Aquako appeals to me the most because of its small size and price, but it's a 52mm thread. If I get a swing mount, then use a 52 to 67mm setdown ring, then attach the Aquako, will there be too much distance between the lens and the diopter to be effective?

My next trips will be 1) Anilao, 2) French Polynesia, 3) Maldives - so thinking macro lens for 1) and just the wide angle for 2) and 3)?

I will also have the standard 18-55mm kit lens, should I try to use it with the 4.33" dome port or the macro port?

Lastly I'm debating what to do with my TG5. I can 1) give it to my husband who isn't really a photographer, and who also has the go pro hero 5, 2) try to sell it- but seems like a waste for something that's only been on 30 dives, or 3) take it with me as a backup camera?

Thanks!

 

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Hi Joanna

A few thoughts:

- I really believe the vacuum valve (with the required pump) is a no-brainer and maybe the best $200 you'll spend on a DSLR housing. At some stage you will get a flood. It's not "if". It's "when". If used sensibly, the vacuum valve will stave off that day - perhaps you may even become a long-time Never Had A Flood. They have saved me a couple of times where I was "certain" I had done everything right but that little red light started flickering.... If nothing else, and you are that rare jewel of perfection, the valve will give you peace of mind. Really: no-brainer. You've got an awful lot of money inside that housing (camera, lens, electronics...). Look on the $200 as insurance.

- Viewfinders: I've had a DSLR housing since 2003 and a 45-degree viewfinder since 2008. Yes, they do take some getting used to. The angle is not utterly intuitive. But once you have made the breakthrough (and, honestly, it's not that hard) I'm sure you would find it makes a huge difference especially for macro. You can get your camera as close to the reef below you as possible without having to touch the reef yourself. This is better, in my view, than the 180-degree viewfinder. Where the 180 degree wins out is for mid-water shooting where the 45-degree is a bit of a challenge until you are really used to it. Is it worth it for a few dive trips a year? Tough one to answer. I'd say if you are doing, say, 50-75 dives a year over the next few years, I reckon it's worth it. For me the 45-degree finder is the best investment I have made in my DSLR setup - after the vacuum valve!

- By contrast, I have really struggled with a +10 Subsee and just cannot get to be comfortable with it. I think your choice of the 85mm macro is a good one and I'd be tempted to get used to that before thinking about adding a +10. They are hard work. I can sell you one if you are interested!

- Next trips: I've dived all three and would suggest macro for Anilao and Maldives; WA for Maldives and French Polynesia. I'm sure Robert (troprobo) will say WA for Anilao too. I was there 18 months ago and have to admit the weather was pretty crappy and WA was a struggle. I did a bit of CFWA. But Robert reckons WA is good there. Macro is excellent for sure. There is macro life in the Maldives and if you are diving from a resort (as well/or rather than a liveaboard) there's lots of time and opportunity for macro.

- Your TG5: you could try advertising it here on the WP Classifieds and see what interest you get.....

Most importantly, enjoy those trips and your new gear. Sounds great!

 

 

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[jjmochi has agreed that I can cut and paste her reply into the thread - maybe more new website teething issues its preventing her seeing the Reply option]

 

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your advice! I couldn't figure out how to Reply to my own thread, so figured I'll IM you instead. (Noticed you're a Mod as well, how come I see a Reply option to certain threads but not others?)

I'm convinced on the vacuum pump, and will hold off on the diopter, but I am still a bit confused/undecided on the viewfinder. Are you saying it actually makes it harder to shoot wide-angle and mid-size stuff with the 45 degree viewfinder, even after the adjustment period, and so it should only be used for macro dives? Unfortunately my local dive shop doesn't have one so I can't try it in person. You mentioned your first 5 years were without the viewfinder, what ultimately made you purchase it? Do you think I'll have an easier time adjusting to it if I start off with it from day 1, vs diving with the built in viewfinder for a while, then switching? Will practicing with it on land help? 

I'm surprised to hear Maldives is a macro spot as well- but is that only land-based? I am doing liveaboard only this trip (classic best of Maldives route). 

Also I was wondering, for dives with large current and surge, like French Polynesia and Maldives, where it may be difficult for the crew to hand you the camera, how do you jump with it? I currently just hug my TG5 with one hand to my stomach and take giant stride entry but I'm not sure I can do that with the much larger and heavier D7500?

Thanks!

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Hi!

There should be a Reply option below the final post on the thread. If it's not there, could you let me know please. As you may have seen, we've just moved to a new web format and, inevitably, there are teething issues.  In addition, we do like to try and share info with everyone. Would you mind if I cut and paste your IM to me on to the website? I'll make small edits to depersonalise it slightly; then add this reply.....

So:

Yeah, do get the vacuum valve. That's one "investment" you will not regret!

On the ViewFinder (VF): It is slightly harder (slightly) to shoot things mid-water with a 45-degree VF than it is with the standard or 180 degree. This is because you are not looking straight at the subject as you feel you should be. If you are low down - as in macro or close to, say, a wall, it's not an issue at all. But as I said, once you get a feel for it, it's no problem shooting anything with a 45VF.

I use mine for everything and, as I say, I really, really love it and would never go back to a standard or 180. 

What made me switch to a 45 VF? Good question! I think I read on WP how useful they were and I just made the leap of faith. I have never regretted it and have moved mine as I have changed housing from D300 to D800 to D500. And yes, I would get one from the get-go if you have the cash. But just bear in mind there will be a transition period and try not to get frustrated if you can't immediately "find" your subject. It does take a little while to get used to but it's not that hard and, honestly, it's so worth it!  Is it worth practising on land? Yeah, it probably is, if you can. At least then you'll see what I mean about shooting "straight" and shooting low.

Maybe if you are only doing liveboard there isn't so much macro in Maldives as the operator may well steer towards the soft corals and mantas: WA territory. But there is good macro in the Maldives - whip coral shrimp and goby, some nudis (I think). So I wouldn't rule it out and if you have the space, take the 85mm and a port for it. It'll make a nice change and you can really go for it with the 45VF!

Camera handling: a DSLR setup with twin strobes is, in my view, not something to "jump" in with. I always get a liveboard crew to hand it down. Large surge or waves could be an issue but you could always get the crew to lower the camera down to you away from the potential slap of the dive platform. I guess you just have to take a view based on the conditions but I really wouldn't want to jump with it! It's possible too that your operator might use a RIB for the dives. Again, I'd get them to pass the camera to you even if they insist it's a quick descent dive because of surface current. Just be ready to grab the RIB side grab line and your camera once you backward roll. 

One thing I would suggest, is a cheap and cheerful tether between, say, a carabiner on your BCD and a carabiner on your camera. It really doesn't need to be fancy - just, say, 12"-18" of paracord. You can get the stainless steel carbiners from a ship's chandler. I can't just see where you are located but if in the US, West Marine have them; and some paracord from a hardware store. I always feel with a DSLR sized setup a tether which can be unclipped rapidly is worth having.

Any other thoughts or questions, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sure you'll find WP is a great source of knowledge and advice and folks are very happy to share.

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[cut and pasted from an IM from jjmochi]

Thanks Tim, this is super helpful

I don't see a "Reply" option on the thread. I looked through a few of the other threads and also don't see that option, but wasn't sure if it was because my account was newly created today and certain features were locked. Happy for you to paste our convo on the actual thread itself so others can read it as well.

Thinking on the viewfinder a bit more I think it probably does make sense to get it now vs. wait and have to un-learn/re-adjust after shooting for a while. But now I'm wondering if there will be an adjustment period everytime you switch between underwater use with the 45 viewfinder, vs. land use with the "straight" built in viewfinder? I haven't used a DSLR in around 5 years so I think I can re-learn with the 45 directly for underwater but I do intend to use the new camera for topside as well. In that sense does a 180 degree viewfinder make more sense, so it's easier to switch between land and underwater use? 

Even for dives that require negative descents, do you still ask the crew to pass it down to you? I'm reading it is quite common to have to do negative descents on the Maldives liveaboards... 

Luckily I have a lanyard that I use to clip my current camera to my BCD already, so will definitely be using it here. It's something like this: https://www.backscatter.com/Cetacea-Housing-Coiled-Lanyard-with-Brass-Snap. I have not tried this but wondering for negative descents, if it would be feasible to clip the camera to my bcd bottom d ring, undo the snap buckle and lower the camera gently into the water first (provided it is properly weighted and does not sink like a rock), and then backflip, thus avoiding the impact? 

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I don't think you'll find there is much of an adjustment to make between using a housing u/w with a 45VF and using an SLR topside. It's just not the same thing and I'm sure the topside SLR will just be intuitive. The housed SLR underwater will become the same way once you are used to it.

Yep, even on negative descents I get the crew to hand my housing down to me. I backward roll or giant stride ready to turn around quickly, grab a line if available, grab the camera and downnnnnnn.... clipping my camera on to my BCD as we gooooooooo. 

Sounds a bit risky to me what you suggest for an extended clipped housing. I guess much depends on how far into the water you drop following a backward roll but the possibilities of landing on the housing, ripping out a fibre optic cable or sync cord, to me, are just too great. Not something I'd want to try.

[On the Reply issue could you just confirm please you have scrolled down well below the text of the last thread to see if the Reply option is there. I'm not sure there is a problem we have seen elsewhere. Yet!]

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I just sold a d7200 system (Subal). Never a drop of water in any of my DSLR housings, but with my new d850 system I have my first leak detection system the manual Backscatter Airlock  one and it’s simple and great. No reason not to get one!

I mainly shoot manatees and springs and a 45 viewfinder is completely awkward for that. I feel it’s best for macro and maybe some reefs, but that’s me. I have to be eye-level with my subject to get a good shot (or lower) and I can’t do that with 45 degree looking down. I need to maintain my perceived communication line to the subject for a meaningful shot that captures the essence of the creature. I’ve had the 180 degree straight enlarging  viewfinder since 2006 and I’m in love with it. If I shot more macro I’d probably switch between them as the 45 helps keep you above the substrate. I think Nauticam has a nice straight enlarging viewfinder, don’t they? Or Saga? Subals 180 is the bomb in my opinion.

i think you will miss having a 60 as it’s the perfect frogfish lens on crop sensor. I actually thought the 60 wasn’t even wide enough for frogfish and rhinopius but it depends the size you are photoing. Plus if you want to ever do any Blackwater you must have the 60s on a 7500. Fastest focusing for black water.

I just got an SMC-1. The quality is amazing but it is a bit to learn. It can turn your macro from ok to wow wow!! once you get the hang of it. It’s heavy though so you must test and balance it out. Works best on a 105. Manual focus helps greatly.

Tokina lens is great and versatile. It became too much CA for me to bear on the 7200 but the Nikon 8-15 is pricy (although I got it 150 off around Fathers Day) and it doesn’t have the same zoom range. The Tokina will be great for you. Just become proficient at removing fringing in Lightroom. It has to be done manually with a brush sometimes in LR. You can even get great video with the Tokina/7500 using the crop mode to remove the fisheye, manual focus for big stuff. Photos/video in same dive, just have video settings entered in ahead of time, flip the switch, pre focus and it’s easy!

Thats input from me! I’ve housed d200/d300/d7200/d850

Goid luck! You will love the quality of your pictures now!   Best Carol

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Tim, thanks for the shout-out!

Joanna, if you enjoy shooting WA, there are definitely opportunities in Anilao, but it is dependent on conditions.  We generally get very good visibility from about December through March.  But it can vary by site and season - we had fantastic vis 2 weeks ago.  But now the rainy season has started so it's macro only until the end of the year. Good WA sites are Sombrero, Beatrice, Kirby's, and Saddle, and sometimes Bahura, plus the Dari Laut wreck. I am personally tending more toward close focus WA as a way to broaden my macro habit, and there are unlimited opportunities for that in Anilao 

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4 hours ago, troporobo said:

Tim, thanks for the shout-out!

Joanna, if you enjoy shooting WA, there are definitely opportunities in Anilao, but it is dependent on conditions.  We generally get very good visibility from about December through March.  But it can vary by site and season - we had fantastic vis 2 weeks ago.  But now the rainy season has started so it's macro only until the end of the year. Good WA sites are Sombrero, Beatrice, Kirby's, and Saddle, and sometimes Bahura, plus the Dari Laut wreck. I am personally tending more toward close focus WA as a way to broaden my macro habit, and there are unlimited opportunities for that in Anilao 

:good:

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Just to chime in a bit late - get the vacuum!

On jumping with cameras, I see more risk of knocked or dropped rigs in trying to get someone on the boat to pass it to you, particularly in tricky conditions. I tend to giant stride and use my fins to slow my entry. I'm holding the camera at chest or chin height, so by the time that bit of me gets wet I'm not descending particularly fast. The main thing to avoid is smacking the dome port into the surface of the ocean or your tanks on the way down.

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Very helpful, thanks everyone! Have ordered the vacuum and can't wait to test everything out in Anilao next month

 

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Posted (edited)

Try the subsee +5 before the +10 or smc. I use both the subsees  and the learning curve on the +5 is very minimal compared to the +10. The +5 is very handy and has great image quality 

Edited by Chris Kippax

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So having played around with the camera and housing a bit on land, I am leaning toward biting the bullet for a external viewfinder as well. With the mask on and the regulator in, even on land, I'm finding it quite hard to put my eye flush against the housing. The housing viewfinder image is quite small and I have to tilt my head slightly so my regulator isn't in the way.

With that said, I'm still a bit torn between spending the cash on the 180 or the 45. From what people have said and what I can dig up from other threads, I am leaning toward the 45, but want to make sure I fully understand the trade offs? 

-Better for macro in general

-Easier to get low and shoot up, more ergonomic as a result

-Not as good for super macro because harder to find the subject

-Not as good for night dives or open water where there is little visual reference

-Not as good for fast moving objects

-Ok for general wide angle/reef scenes

-Slightly harder to get used to but not an issue once you adjust

-$200 cheaper

For the less ideal scenarios, is it better to leave the 45 on or switch back to the housing viewfinder? 

I am not going to attempt super macro or blackwater photography yet so the only real compromise for me at this point in getting the 45 is for shooting fast moving objects like sharks and mantas. But I'm also a bit confused on which is better for pelagics as I would have thought you shoot up for sharks/mantas anyway so the 45 would have some benefits?

Unfortunately the local dive shop does not have either so I can't try (if anyone knows where in Hong Kong I can find one, please let me know!)

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---"I'm currently using a TG-5 in Olympus housing with 2 Inon S2000 strobes, a focus light, and the AOI UWL-400 wide angle lens. After taking 3 dive trips with the camera I've decided to upgrade to a dslr setup since I was pretty frustrated with the TG-5's lack of manual control, shutter speed, and low light performance. The deciding point was when I went to Malapascua and couldn't take a single good picture of the thresher shark over 3 days, as no lights or strobes were allowed. I also had a lot of trouble taking good pictures of the mandarin fish mating since they moved so fast and I couldn't shine a focus light on it."

I hear you.   I went to a DSLR after years of point-n-shoots, and a year of a Sony RX100 with dual strobes.   Lack of autofocus speed and precision was the primary driver, but since then (using both D810 and D850) I'd add in dynamic range and resolution as extremely important factors.

---"So I've decided on a Nikon D7500 since it seemed to be a good mid-range option and bought the Nauticam housing. I bought 2 lenses, the Tokina 10-17mm which seems to be widely recommended for wide angle, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm which seems like a good compromise between the typical 60mm and 105mm recommendations. I bought the recommended zoom gear for Tokina + the 4.33" dome port, and the compact port base + macro port 30 per Nauticam's port chart."

Sounds good so far, though I have only FX experience here and not DX.   However, DX cameras have some lens advantages that make be a bit jealous. DX cameras have a lot more options.  My FX cameras don't even have a mid-range option.

Some macro comments:   I've shot (FX) with the 60 and 105 Nikkor macros.   The 60 was an experiment to see if I could get both macro AND somewhat of a mid-range option.   With the 105, you almost can't get a whole diver pic - the strobes are too far away and water clarity becomes a big issue.   With the 60, macro suddenly became an issue - I had to be so close to my subjects that it just didn't work for me.  That experiment lasted one dive.

So I've been shooting the 105 macro for 3 years now, and the biggest complaint I have is that it's a bit short for my usual macro subjects.    Some divers can get closer, but I tend to shoot from about 3 feet away.   I tried a 1.4TC next, and while it gave me pretty much exactly focal length that worked best (150mm), it robbed enough sharpness that I was dissatisfied with the results.

Which makes me think you 85DX macro might be just right.   That said, the 60mm is no slouch and has been used successfully by many photographers underwater.  The lack of VR on it is a bit of an issue.

---"All in that already cost me over US$6000 and I'm debating whether or not I want to continue to purchase the below items, which based on my research seems to be "nice to haves" but not totally critical:"

Yes, I hear you.  I just went ahead and bought pretty much everything I wanted, with the idea that "I'm not getting any younger, and it's now or never".   I bought a 180 degree viewfinder with my first DSLR rig, along with a leak detection option (Nauticam).

---"-Nauticam vacuum pump- I haven't had any issues with my TG5, and no issues with my Go Pro Hero 5 before that. We've been diving for 3 years and never had a flood so questioning whether it's worth the $200?"

Oh, it's TOTALLY worth it!   Not even a question.   Not only will it give you great peace of mind, it may very well save your dive rig sooner than you think.  I had a couple of warnings over the years on pump-down, and one definitely saved the rig by alerting me the dome port wasn't properly attached before diving.

These are also great for those hurried-on-board-fixes or battery changes one does on a dive boat.   I always carry my vacuum pump on board with me, even if not intending to change batteries between dives.

---"-Nauticam external viewfinder - either 45 or 180. I read the 45 is really good for macro but it takes a long time to get used to, and not recommended if you only take a few dive trips a year? I wouldn't mind paying for it if it's easy to get used to but I wouldn't want to pay $1000 for it if I need to waste a few dives at the beginning of every trip getting used to it"

I thought about the 45 degree, but opted for the 180.  I don't remember the logic at the time for not choosing the 45 degree.  I bought my first rig having never used (or even seen) another FX DSLR rig.  

With the 180 viewfinder, I can easily see the whole viewfinder through my mask.  It's just a high-eyepoint viewfinder.  If it magnifies too I never noticed.    I need to be able to read the viewfinder information displays as well as the corners of my subject.

As an added benefit (?) it gives me a third stabilization point, along with both hands, as I press my mask against the external viewfinder.   Probably the same without it, but totally different than shooting Live View or mirrorless and holding the camera out in front of you.

---"-a macro diopter, thinking through Subsee+10, Nauticam SMC-1, and Aquako III. My next trip is to Anilao, but wondering if I will take a few days to adjust to the 85mm macro lens before I can move on to supermacro anyway, so if I can push this purchase further down the line? The Aquako appeals to me the most because of its small size and price, but it's a 52mm thread. If I get a swing mount, then use a 52 to 67mm setdown ring, then attach the Aquako, will there be too much distance between the lens and the diopter to be effective?"

I don't know the answer, but am intrigued with the idea.  I've gone back and forth with the thought of adding diopters, and I'll probably try something at one point.  I had wet lenses on my RX100 rig, along with a flip holder, but I could never get a decent shot with the macro adapter.  (I was probably not close enough).   And I actually never once used my wet dome lens for wide angle.

Given my TC experience with macro, I'm a bit suspicious of loss of IQ, and I'm actually looking into a 150mm Sigma macro lens, if I can marry it with a proper port and extension.

---"My next trips will be 1) Anilao, 2) French Polynesia, 3) Maldives - so thinking macro lens for 1) and just the wide angle for 2) and 3)?"

Personally I always bring both wide and macro when diving.   So far I've mostly been doing macro for morning dives, then wide angle for afternoon dives (assuming clear water) when the sun should mostly give better light for ambient.

I've not been to Analao or Maldives, but I have been to French Polynesia, and I'd say there are both wide and macro shots there in abundance.

---"I will also have the standard 18-55mm kit lens, should I try to use it with the 4.33" dome port or the macro port?"

No idea here - I don't have a standard zoom option with my D810/D850 - but I suspect the dome port is what you'll want.  No idea on extension length.

You know that dome ports do not enlarge while macro ports do?

"Lastly I'm debating what to do with my TG5. I can 1) give it to my husband who isn't really a photographer, and who also has the go pro hero 5, 2) try to sell it- but seems like a waste for something that's only been on 30 dives, or 3) take it with me as a backup camera?"

Take it as a backup camera.

 

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I shoot mirrorless, and I agree that an external viewfinder is an incredibly good investment.

I would go with the 45, for sure.  It sounds like macro is on your agenda and the 45 really shines in this area.

Don't get me wrong, the 45 is still easy to get used to for midwater shooting, similar to the 180.  But, the 180 will never get you as close to the reef and "down at the animal's level" when you are doing macro.

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On 7/29/2019 at 2:15 PM, jjmochi said:

So I've decided on a Nikon D7500 since it seemed to be a good mid-range option and bought the Nauticam housing. I bought 2 lenses, the Tokina 10-17mm which seems to be widely recommended for wide angle, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm which seems like a good compromise between the typical 60mm and 105mm recommendations. I bought the recommended zoom gear for Tokina + the 4.33" dome port, and the compact port base + macro port 30 per Nauticam's port chart

When you have the opportunity, I strongly advise buying the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM.

It's an extremely versatile lens, very useful for dives where you may find large and small creatures.

Its range is also useful when shooting large pelagic such as mantas or whale sharks. You may shoot at 70 mm when they are a bit far, or to 17 mm when they are not too shy and come close. It also works very well with small critters, and its short focusing distance enables good macro shots.

So in dive sites where you have a very diverse fauna, it's very good.

 

 

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