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adamhanlon

Which full frame camera would you chose?

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I'm interested to find out the Wetpixel community's views on current (and older) full frame cameras for underwater use.

If you had the choice of any one full frame still camera on the market and expense, current lens ownership, housing choice etc. were no object, which would you chose and why?

When responding, please ignore space/size/weight as a selection criteria as all full frame system housings and ports all seem ultimately pretty much the same in terms of weight and bulk. The weight of the camera itself seems to be largely irrelevant!

My purpose on this is just to get an idea of what people are thinking. It has no purpose beyond this and I must confess that I am personally very happy with my current choices. Several recent discussions have raised some interesting ideas however, and I think it is a topic that would be useful to explore?

Thanking you all in anticipation.

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Well, I would start with a Nikon D850 with a few choice lens for macro and wide angle, including a modified Nikonos RS R-UW 13mm that could be used with it in Nauticam housing and..... Wait a second! I already have that.

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5 minutes ago, Walt Stearns said:

Well, I would start with a Nikon D850 with a few choice lens for macro and wide angle, including a modified Nikonos RS R-UW 13mm that could be used with it in Nauticam housing and..... Wait a second! I already have that.

Thanks for starting us off Walt...why would (did) you chose the D850? 

I understand you wanting to use the RS, but you could use this with a D5, a D500 or an older Nikon full frame? I'm really wanting to drill down on why people are chosing cameras..

Entirely separately, are you at DEMA?

Adam

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I have always liked the shooting experience with Nikons for underwater work, and I have had plenty of experience shooting with both Nikons and Canons. The primary attraction with the D850 is the dynamic range and resolution (in that order) with the raw files. The autofocus is pretty awesome as well, although I feel the Nikon D500 is a little quicker.

 

O.K. Adam, do I get my cookie now?

Oh yes, I will be at DEMA the first three days representing a new magazine called Destinations published by the same group that Scuba Diver in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

 

 

Edited by Walt Stearns
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If I had to get a single rig for the best still images it will have to be the Nikon D850
While in terms of pure image quality there are other options on the mirrorless full frame camp and the choice of lenses and ports is catching up too on the ergonomics and shooting performance a traditional DSLr is still much stronger and considering how complex is to take pictures underwater this is a deciding factor



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I think that making such a decision is rather complicated today since we appear to be in a transition between single-lens reflex cameras to mirrorless cameras. As well, 2020 is a summer Olympics year when Canon and Nikon have historically started new generations of SLR cameras. Both companies have already pre-announced their new top tier sports cameras, the 1Dx3 and D6. These cameras will no doubt have superior AF among other particulars when compared to the current cameras. This new AF technology will likely percolate down to the lesser models, much as the D850 uses some of the technology of the D5 and the 5D4 uses some of the technology of the 1Dx2.

In my 1.5 decades of digital underwater photography I have only been current for about 3 to 4 years. Right after getting the D2X and right after getting the 1DX; I am still using the 1DX. It is very challenging to keep up with the technology unless one has rather deep pockets. The old model depreciates rather quickly as well. Since a new housing is generally required the old housing depreciates alongside. It is something like 50% per generation (but there is a lot of variability here). So buying the latest and greatest today needs to be done with this caution in mind.

I have preferred the integrated grip large battery models. These are more expensive as well as larger in size and weight. The overriding reason is that I shoot a lot in water that measured on the C scale is generally in the single digits, i.e., < 40F. As well I may keep the housing submerged for many hours at a time in one spot - shooting by remote control. The big batteries loose about 30% of their capacity due to temperature - Based on the rise in % displayed in the camera upon warming up to room temperature after a shoot (I give a housing several hours to warm up before opening to remove the memory cards).

The reason for me shooting both Canon and Nikon has more to do with the histories of their product lines over the last 1.5 decades than what is current. If I was choosing today Nikon would be ahead due to the availability of modified Nikonos RS lenses as well as the 60mm AFS lens which I have found useful. The normal focal length Canon macro lens, which I have, does not allow for full time manual focusing. Other lenses are about the same right now but Canon had the 8-15 for quite a few years before Nikon came out with theirs (I now have both).

I think what is needed for mirrorless is a killer app lens for us UWPs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_application

Such a lens could be a 50-150mm macro zoom that went to 1x at 50mm and 3x at 150mm. It will be expensive 2 to 3K, maybe even more.

It may be that 16-35 mirrorless lenses are less problematic behind domes than SLR lenses but we need more data before making this generalization. A bit of good news on the Nikon 24-70 Z kit less is that it focuses close enough that a diopter is not needed for smaller domes. It is quite good for topside close-ups based on my experience. Forget the more expensive 2.8 24-70 that focuses to 0.38m like its SLR cousins.

Edited by Tom_Kline

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Full frame camera choice:
Nikon D850: Super sharp focus, excellent colors.

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Currently, I’m very tempted to house my Z6. Solid AF, excellent colors, solid video functions. If I was walking into a store tomorrow with a ‘fist full of dollars’, I’d likely walk out with an NA-Z7v, a Z6 AND a Z7, and would then grab a converted RS-13 for fun.

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26 minutes ago, Akoni said:

Currently, I’m very tempted to house my Z6. Solid AF, excellent colors, solid video functions. If I was walking into a store tomorrow with a ‘fist full of dollars’, I’d likely walk out with an NA-Z7v, a Z6 AND a Z7, and would then grab a converted RS-13 for fun.

You would not be able to focus the RS 13mm on a Z camera with the current FTZ adapter. The RS used a screw drive AF.

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15 hours ago, Tom_Kline said:

You would not be able to focus the RS 13mm on a Z camera with the current FTZ adapter. The RS used a screw drive AF.

Quite right Tom! I forgot that the RS system is a screw drive. I'd still get one though to go with my current rig.

 

Edited by Akoni

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I would (and did) choose a Nikon D850 in a Nauticam housing.   I had previously been using a D810 in a Nauticam housing for the previous 3 years, so the upgrade was a natural one.   I had a Nauticam-housed RX100 before the D810, so the Nauticam part goes back.  Previous to that a series of Canon point-n-shoots in matching housings.

Why the D850 now?  After all, not only is the D810 just fine (same lenses and strobes), it also has a pop-up flash, which allows me TTL flash control.  (There is no pop-up flash on the D850.  The new housing has to include a non-TTL flash trigger, at extra cost.)  I upgraded partly because after 3 years and more than 100 dives on the old housing it was due for an $800 overhaul.  And I wanted my D850 underwater anyway.  It turned out to be a significant upgrade as the autofocus system is just amazing on the D850.   The D810 wasn't bad, but there were some types of shots where I took many with the D810 hoping some to be in focus and one to look great.   (Blennies in surge current) With the D850, all the shots were in focus.  Made a big difference with the 105 macro, not so much with the 16-35.

I only have two lenses for the D850 underwater, because there are basically very few choices for FX.  I don't like fisheye, which rules out about 1/4 of my options, and I find the 60mm too short for FX, which takes out the other 1/4.   The 16-35 is ... ok, bare, but it's really nice with a Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens screwed on, behind a 230m dome port and a 90mm extension.  Those who have not held one of these rigs (FX DSLR with 230mm dome port) have no idea how big they are.   The big dome may give great images, but it's a significant - in fact it is the most - single biggest logistical challenge to move it around.  Packing it, carrying it, or using it underwater.  

The Nikon 105vr is a near-perfect lens underwater.   Very sharp, focuses accurately (and quickly with the D850), has useful VR, OK working distance.   My only complaint is wanting a bit more focal length, for extra working distance.   I like the working distance of the 105 with a 1.4tc on it (and 30mm extension), but I didn't like the drop in focus speed and sharpness.

I've only used a pair of Sea and Sea YS-D1 strobes for the past 5 years, starting with the RX100 rig.   One of them recently failed, and I bought a pair of used ones for spares.   I generally have no issues with the strobes.  I don't know why the one died, but I had flooded the battery compartment on it a couple years (and 50+ dives) earlier.

I had a Fishlite V24 focus light on the D810 (and the D810 needed it).  It was giving me problems, so I replaced it last year with a Kraken 3500.  Nice, bright light (with red and UV/blue light settings).   Battery life on the Kraken at least double the Fishlite.

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I have a D850 in Nauticam housing. I had the D500, also in a Nauticam housing since it was released, but also had the D850 for topside photography. This year I decided to sell the D500 and the housing, to have only one system. The D850 has better IQ, obvious better resolution, better dynamic range and with the battery grip (altough only topside) 9 fps. So it was a rather easy decision. I think the D850, at least for me, is the best Allrounder, over and underwater, which is why I decided to make this my current setup.

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Hi Simon,

Which wide angle lenses do you use underwater?

Adam

 

 

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I was definitely looking at the D850 too... but ultimately went with the Sony A7rIII. A significant factor for me was the cheaper housing cost, and smaller size / weight, although both factors were then cancelled out by having to buy adapters for the port and fisheye lens!

Still, I'm actually happy with the choice – I was moving up from m4/3 and had only shot by composing through the LCD. I find an OVF very difficult to use underwater, as I'm just not used to it, and on land the inability to access good AF via "live view" would also be a pain for me (I shoot a lot of wildlife too, often at low angles where the flip-out LCD is brilliant).

I do really like the A7rIII, but I'd certainly go with the A7rIV if I was buying new today. The autofocus on the Sony 90 mm macro is hopeless on the A7rIII, and it sounds like that has been substantially improved. For wide-angle, the ability of the A7rIV to use phase-detect autofocus in continuous shooting at >f/8 is a clear win too. It's a pain having no native fisheye, but the Canon 8-15 mm works pretty well. 

The Nauticam housing for the A7rIII is excellent, but the A7rIV housing has a higher gear ratio for manual focus – manually focusing the 90 mm is rather laborious, so that's a win for the new camera too.  

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Hi Adam,

at the moment I am using the 105 for macro (additionally SMC-2 for supermacro) and the 16 fisheye, altough I will upgrade in the near future to the 8-15 because of the better mfd. Also tried the tokina 10-17 above 15mm, but the IQ gets a noticeable kick compared to the 16 fisheye. And what I read so far about the 8-15 the IQ is also noticeable better than the 16 fisheye. Do you have the 8-15?

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I use the Nikon 8-15mm for fisheye. The 10-17mmTokina look horrible (and is a DX lens...) The Nikon 16mm doesn't really focus close enough.

The 105mm is great for macro, although it has a horrible working distance compared to the 60mm on a cropped sensor.

My question was more aimed at wide angle as opposed to fisheye.

The reason for asking is that my "go-to" underwater camera is the D500. I do have a D850 and housing, but outside of some very specific uses, I find the D500 is a much better camera (underwater).

Adam

 

 

 

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Aah ok. So at the moment I am just thinking of getting the 8-15, maybe a 16-35 later. But for now a fisheye and the 105 totally works for me :) the D500 is really an awesome camera and I was really satisfied with it. But getting in to FX (mostly because of topside photography) was the right decision for me (due to selling the housing and the D500 there was no additional cost for the NA-D850) So it was more of a gearing down decision.

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1 hour ago, adamhanlon said:

The reason for asking is that my "go-to" underwater camera is the D500. I do have a D850 and housing, but outside of some very specific uses, I find the D500 is a much better camera (underwater).

Adam

 

 

 

Adam, you're the only other person I've heard besides me, prefer the d500 over the 850 for underwater use. D4/4s is still my preferred camera to shoot underwater, not having shot a D5, but after that, d500 all day. I don't think the 850 has a significant advantage underwater in terms of IQ (IMHO) and the d500 edges it out everywhere else I think. 

The RS13 is fantastic on any of the Nikon bodies, significantly sharper than anything else I've used for WA (exception being the WACP which matches it)

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@Matt Sullivan

There are actually quite a large group of shooters that prefer the D500. D500's AF is light years ahead of the D4's. Compared to full frame cameras, it also has better (and cheaper) lens options (for underwater) and will work with smaller domes. The only downside is the amazing high ISO performance of the big sensors, but given that corner performance is better with cropped sensors, this is not as big a deal as many think. 

In my mind, the only option that gives acceptable performance for wide angle (not fisheye) with high resolution cameras like the D850 is WACP. While amazing, the 13mm RS is actually pretty curved. 

I think the weight/bulk argument in favor of mirrorless full frame is completely moot when you have to add a WACP or 9" dome!

@SimonPierce

Just to be sure I am understanding your reasoning...

You are willing to forgo effective AF for macro and a native fisheye option in order to use an LCD? How do you check for critical focus with the LCD? Peaking?

Adam

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Matt

You and Adam are not alone. Count me in too.

I thought long and hard about moving from my D800 to the D850 but, after much thought - and arguments put forward by Adam, I went with the D500. Housing WA was the big decider for me.  I liked the Nikkor 16-35 lens but lugging the 230 domeport and the 90mm EXR etc etc was just a pain. 

I'm very happy with the D500. All round less expensive, excellent macro (with the Nikkor 105), terrific WA with the Nikkor 8-15. And, if I'm truthful, I'd struggle to see any major IQ difference between that and FF.

And the three of us are not alone either. There are other WPers who have gone that route - rather than FF.

 

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The EVF of my GH5 has more pixels that my eye can resolve and there is no comparison to the OVF of my past D7000 with those ugly little dots

The benefit of the EVF is a live preview of what the sensor sees so you don’t run into situations where your eyes see one thing you then shoot and the camera sees another

The argument that an OVF has full dynamic range is absolutely laughable as your camera does not have the DR of your eyes

Other features like peaking or zebra are a must for video and to an extent useful for stills

One thing that I dislike but will soon be a legacy of the part are housing viewfinders.

With dropping monitor prices and better form factors in the near future you will be able to have a 5 or 7 inches screen where you can clearly see what is going on

 

 

 

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I've been working (yup you heard that right) with the very humble Sony A6000 for 3.5 years now. On land and underwater. Early 2020 is when I'm finally making the switch to full frame. I shoot images and video and will always try to get both on every dive.

 

If images were my only consideration. Right now, today, I would buy the Sony A7riii, Aquatica housing, Sony 28-70mm 3.5-5.6, with Nauticam WACP1.

 

Reasons:

1 - I've spent a long time using and mastering the Sony menus, and don't want to spend ages 'learning' another system.

2 - Sony AF is great (IMHO), yes I'm even happy with the A6000 AF.

3 - I'm invested in Sony lenses (although if I wasn't its easy to adapt).

4 - I'd prefer the Aquatica housing over Nauticam because it's smaller (female with small hands) and looks indestructible (only yesterday my friend had an issue with his 1 Yr old Nauticam housing video button spring going caput). Despite this I'll buy the Nauticam as there is no current way (that I know of) to adapt the WACP onto Aquatica housing (not sure if that's a deliberate move by Nauticam or there is an adapter in the post?)

5 - although the WACP is hugely expensive, when I add up the cost of how much it would cost to get wide, medium and close, with different lenses and ports, it's not hugely different in the end (especially given the savings on lens costs as I just paid £100 for the 2nd hand Sony 28-70 kit lens that coupled with the WACP gives astounding IQ).

6 - I live in Thailand and I can get Nauticam housing serviced here without having to send it, or take it, out of the country (consideration re housing).

7 - Sony A7riii is 42mp which I think is almost perfect (I reckon 36 would be the ultimate sweet spot), more than enough and probably at the limit of being able to work quickly with files and storage in terms of computer capabilities.

 

However (and I know this is a bit off topic, sorry my bad) this isn't my only consideration. I have the major issue of video which is the one thing holding me back from the above system.

 

I am one of the faithful (or foolish, depending on your views. Right now it's almost akin to believing in the tooth fairy!) holding out for the Sony A7siii. The reasons? All of the above. If it fails to materialise in the next 5 months, I will go with the Sony A7riii.

 

Common sense in terms of video (sorry again my bad).. I should be looking at Panasonic S1H but points 1 and 2 above are my main reasons (albeit not particularly valid) not to.

 

PS - If money was not a consideration, I'd get the WACP2 instead (but I'm not convinced that split shots and focusing above the water is worth an extra $2k-ish).

 

Ill submit this post and also send a copy to Santa, you just never know!! ;~p

 

PPS - This is just my opinion/thoughts but I reckon in the same way that mirrorless has shaken up the DSLR market (like I say just my opinion) I think the engineering behind the WACP is the way forward. If it wasn't for cost and weight it would have had a lot more interest.

 

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Very interesting topic...

So I have both the D500 and D850 - both housed in Nauticam housings. I like shooting with both, but given a choice I shoot the D500 for macro almost exclusively, and then use the D850 with a WACP when I know there will be significant wide-angle opportunities. 

As noted by others the D500 AF is slightly faster, and in situations (like black water dives) it's just better. The D850 has a number of advantages but macro isn't one of them (at least not with the current lens choices). Depending on what cameras Nikon releases as their next high end models, we'll see if mirrorless vs. next gen. SLR ends up as the best way forward. Whatever follows the D850 may end up being the last of a generation... 

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I've been working (yup you heard that right) with the very humble Sony A6000 for 3.5 years now. On land and underwater. Early 2020 is when I'm finally making the switch to full frame. I shoot images and video and will always try to get both on every dive.
 
If images were my only consideration. Right now, today, I would buy the Sony A7riii, Aquatica housing, Sony 28-70mm 3.5-5.6, with Nauticam WACP1.
almost perfect (I reckon 36 would be the ultimate sweet spot), more than enough and probably at the limit of being able to work quickly with files and storage in terms of computer capabilities.
 
However (and I know this is a bit off topic, sorry my bad) this isn't my only consideration. I have the major issue of video which is the one thing holding me back from the above system.
 
I am one of the faithful (or foolish, depending on your views. Right now it's almost akin to believing in the tooth fairy!) holding out for the Sony A7siii. The reasons? All of the above. If it fails to materialise in the next 5 months, I will go with the Sony A7riii.
 
Common sense in terms of video (sorry again my bad).. I should be looking at Panasonic S1H but points 1 and 2 above are my main reasons (albeit not particularly valid) not to.
 
PS - If money was not a consideration, I'd get the WACP2 instead (but I'm not convinced that split shots and focusing above the water is worth an extra $2k-ish).
 
Ill submit this post and also send a copy to Santa, you just never know!! ;~p
 
PPS - This is just my opinion/thoughts but I reckon in the same way that mirrorless has shaken up the DSLR market (like I say just my opinion) I think the engineering behind the WACP is the way forward. If it wasn't for cost and weight it would have had a lot more interest.
 
Sent from my CLT-L29 using Tapatalk
 
 
 
 


I share a lot of those views however full frame has no sense for underwater video. Cropped micro four thirds or super 35 are the sweet spot. The focus and depth of field requirements of a full frame camera underwater are just too much and at the end 8K is far far away. The smaller sensors are perfectly capable of 4K
The A6XXX are great little camera and for me the only issue is the 1/160 xsync speed and the ergonomics
The Sony ergonomics are atrocious and this is the reason why sony is the leader of imaging sensors but not the leader of worldwide camera sales!
Nikon makes currently the best dslr for uw use but as we can see full frame is not an easy choice
If i had to get a full frame right now would be the d850 however am not requiring large prints and full frame is not needed for video hence am staying put keeping an eye on sony and canon cropped mirrorless for the time being if I wanted to move from MFT
I think you should try the A7 for video before committing



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I share a lot of those views however full frame has no sense for underwater video. Cropped micro four thirds or super 35 are the sweet spot. The focus and depth of field requirements of a full frame camera underwater are just too much and at the end 8K is far far away. The smaller sensors are perfectly capable of 4K
The A6XXX are great little camera and for me the only issue is the 1/160 xsync speed and the ergonomics
The Sony ergonomics are atrocious and this is the reason why sony is the leader of imaging sensors but not the leader of worldwide camera sales!
Nikon makes currently the best dslr for uw use but as we can see full frame is not an easy choice
If i had to get a full frame right now would be the d850 however am not requiring large prints and full frame is not needed for video hence am staying put keeping an eye on sony and canon cropped mirrorless for the time being if I wanted to move from MFT
I think you should try the A7 for video before committing



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I hear u Interceptor121. Trouble is I also do photography and a lot of work on land. Don't have the finance for different kits for different needs so there will be sacrifices in certain areas. I've got 3 friends where I live (all full time UW photographers/videographers) who use the A7iii or A7rii. They've all made the switch in the last year or so from Canon and Olympus backgrounds and they are all delighted. I've seen their work for years and now seen the difference moving to FF has made to them. It's astonishing TBH. The great thing is about the A7riii is the super 35 mode, where you can still get the 1.5 crop if you want. It's a big commitment for me which will have to do me a very long time, so believe me, I'm not going into it with my eyes closed.

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