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Basil

LX100II in Saba - A really fun dive trip

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Hi Friends

I returned from a dive vacation in Saba, and wanted to share a few impressions of shooting with my setup: an LX100II in a Nauticam housing, using the WWL-1 wet lens. This was the first land based trip in awhile (vs liveaboards), and it was a very chill, relaxed week (a welcome relief from stress back home) with lots of great food, great friends and fun dives.  This is my first dive trip with the LX100II (I previously shot with the original LX100). This isn’t a proper review, just some observations/things I learned, in case it is useful to others:

Same housing (YAY!): The LX100II is physically almost identical to the original LX100, and fits in my original Nauticam LX100 housing, with the addition of a $35 conversion kit to accommodate the slightly different sized zoom lever. I am happy to extend the life of my existing housing, and not spend $1210 for a new housing (Nauticam makes an LX100II housing as well). Overall, the camera controls are the same - I didn’t have to relearn anything.

Small size has its advantages:  Backscatter did a very nice review video of the LX100II and one of their observations is that the camera and housing setup is small enough to get into some really tight spaces.  They were right about that, I got some nice shots of a nurse shark under a coral outcrop that probably would have been impossible with a larger camera setup.  Maneuvering the strobe into a good position was actually more difficult than maneuvering the camera and housing.

Nauticam WWL-1 convert:  I splurged and picked up a used WWL-1, but I was really dubious about it, because sweet Jesus that thing is heavy. But I got the buoyancy collar and hard cap — the whole package was a bit unwieldy topside, but underwater it was fine. Optically, I was pretty pleased, it is a sharp lens. I wound up using that combination a lot, and really enjoying it.

Trying to master the strobe: I shoot with 1 strobe (YS-D1) and 1 video light. I have been hesitant to add another strobe, until I have really mastered the art of strobe positioning. Until then, it would be a bit unwieldy and overwhelming (though having more light is always better in photography). With that background in mind, I loved playing with this existing setup. I got better over time using the strobe on Manual, with the flash on the camera set to 1/32 or 1/64 power — that enabled me to fire off shots as fast as the strobe would let me, because the camera flash took almost no time to recycle. With practice, I got better at getting the strobe positioned correctly - minimized the backscatter while still lighting my subject, and I got some really pleasing images. 

Leaf shutter:  Like some other compact camera, the LX100II has a leaf shutter. Without discussing the mechanics,  it greatly raises the limit on flash synch speed for the camera, and adds an extra element of creative control as a photographer.  Shutter speed controls the background ambient light.  Using the higher shutter speed, you can effectively darken your background and isolate the subject further (which is lit by your strobe) - this can very useful for macro photography.  I’ve tested shots with this setup at 1/1000 of a second, I think the notional synch speed limit is either 1/2000 or 1/4000. I was mostly shooting wide angle, but even then higher shutter speed is helpful to freeze action and get a sharper subject, and/or to darken the blue water in the background. 

Image quality/Size ratio:  When I got the original LX100, I was focused more heavily on shooting 4K video - which Panasonic cameras generally do very well.  Over the last few dive trips, I have been more interested in exploring the LX100’s capabilities for still photography.  That trend is continuing with the LX100II - I shot almost no video on this last trip.  That is also a function of dive topography: it is easier to shoot video is shallower water and the diving in Saba is pretty deep.  That said, I was just really grooving and trying stuff out photographically, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Practice is fun and it makes me a better photographer. For a little tiny camera, the image quality is fantastic. The new model seems to have a better color palette: the blues seem more true, and the reds are touch richer.  The extra resolution is nice, as I got some nice detail, even when I crop images. 

I have toyed with the idea of a larger sensor camera (I shoot APS-C (Fuji) on land, I used to shoot full frame), because other things being equal, a larger sensor gives better image quality.  But other things are rarely equal.  FOR ME, I find that the marginal gain in image quality with a larger sensor camera could not possibly justify the extra expense, size, and weight. Others have different views (there is no right or wrong).  With that in mind, I had a lot of fun with my little LX100II setup, and I can’t wait for the next dive trip.

The link below is a gallery with a few of my most recent underwater pictures.

https://www.basilkiwan.com/Nature/Saba-Dive-Trip/

Edited by Basil
Correcting a previous statement about the button layout of the LX100

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Late reply, but thanks for the review! Interesting for me - I dive with an LX100 in an Ikelite housing. Seeing as the LX100II would fit in the same housing upgrading has been quite tempting. The improvement would not be big but the cost would be negligible compared to upgrading to a full frame system. 

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I can't say that I tested the LX100 II much in terms of video, though I did get a nice clip of a turtle near the surface.  But for stills, I liked it quite a lot.  It is not  a huge improvement over the LX100, and it may just be that I am getting more practice in... but, it sure seemed like the color that the LX100 II is capable of producing is really  nice.

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