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Valtman

Thoughts on E-mount lenses / Budget rig

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I currently have a Sony A6000 and a Meikon fixed port housing. Since I discovered the SaltedLine I started searching for lenses.

I was almost certain that the 18 - 135 mm + a wet diopter, maybe a wet wide angle lens would do everything for me, but then I read a bit and found out that is not the case at all. 18 - 105 mm would be better as an all-around lens, but neither that is good for anything. I also read that doing one thing per dive gets the job done better than trying to do everything, even if you had the gear to do so.

So dedicated wide angle and macro lenses. Currently I'm thinking 10 - 18 mm for wide angle and Sigma 70mm f/2.8 A DG HSM for macro. The latter is less than half the price of the Sony 90 mm. Might not be perfect, but the 90 mm is out of the question due to the price.

The 10 - 18 mm is also not that cheap and that got me thinking, do I really need to go that wide very often? I really don't know what would I be shooting. I like diving in the tropics, but will be diving wherever I go. 

Do I even need the macro just yet, maybe I'll invest in those wet lenses and practise UW photography to the limits of my current housing and the 16 - 50 mm. I know the first thing to invest in is lighting and as really budget oriented person I can't justify the asking price of the lights on the market. Really, WTF? A few LEDs and a PCB to control them in a pressure resistant housing isn't hundreds of dollars, shouldn't be. Luckily I have a super multi talented friend who has built a few static/video lights, so he's gonna have to build me one or two. I've never done so much flash photography, static lighting seems easier to work with.

Am I missing something?

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Hey Valtman

You have seem to have a good read around the forums and your choice of lenses, if you were going that route,  makes good sense.

Have you seen though that LEDs are no-where near as bright as a strobe? Even strobes have a very short realistic lighting distance (that is camera to subject) of around 1m - hence using extreme wide lenses where you can get very close to the subject and still be able to light some if it.

So if you are going tor try out some home-made LEDs as your primary lighting, don't expect too much from them......

Maybe though have a look in the Classifieds for second hand strobe? That might be a better :investment".....

 

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7 minutes ago, TimG said:

Have you seen though that LEDs are no-where near as bright as a strobe? Even strobes have a very short realistic lighting distance (that is camera to subject) of around 1m - hence using extreme wide lenses where you can get very close to the subject and still be able to light some if it.

So if you are going tor try out some home-made LEDs as your primary lighting, don't expect too much from them......

 

Home made LED lights are as bright as you make them, aren't they?

Probably going for something around 10.000 lumens per head, should be enough. If not, add another. I'm not saying it's going to be for free, just that I think there's a little too much air in the strobe prices.

The friend really knows what he's doing, professional AV technician and what not, smartest guy I know. 

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Posted (edited)

10,000 lumens sounds like a lot but it's not, at least compared to strobe lighting.   Someone has tested this: 

 

This is with twin 14,000 lumen lights, they are not small items and need quite a big battery to run for any length of time.  Sure you can add more light but it gets to be a very big item, to carry and push through the water,  very quickly.  and you need to be able to place the light properly so being too big can be a real issue. 

As far as the price goes the LEDs running the 10,000-14,000 lumen video  lights are state of the art items -if it was easy to pack more lumens into a dive size item they would be on the shelves being sold right now.   Tooling up build these things costs money and that money is spread over a very small number of items, there's a casing resistant to 40+m of water pressure and optics to consider as well to get a even beam, not to mention temperature controls to shed heat - the enemy of any electronics.   The Market for these types of items is really quite small.  Yes the prices seem inflated - everything used underwater is like that - you can get cheap knock-offs of many items, they will mostly work but lights for example may be extremely optimistic in their stated lumen output.

Light that are this bright also cause issues with scaring off marine life,  The strobe is only illuminated for a short while, measured in milliseconds and you can move in close without the subject being spooked.  Where it can work is close in macro work if the lights are very close to the subject you can work with a lot less lumens and there are LED lights with a flash function so you can approach with low power.

Edited by ChrisRoss
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Consider adding a Nauticam WWL-1 to your Meikon housing. 
 

With its ability for you to zoom through it, your kit lens means the 16mm end will give you pretty good wide angle, and the 50mm end well, it won’t give you true macro, but it will let you shoot some pretty darn small things.

 

FWIW, I agree with the other posters about lights. Good strobes are not cheap. But, they are worth it. Especially if you shop with some patience and get them used.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting, I never would have guessed the strobe output to be hundreds of thousands lumens. Knowing that makes the prices seem a little bit more acceptable, but it doesn't change the fact that I really can't afford them.

10k lumens on a LED light was my downgrade suggestion of the things that my friend has been building. Maybe adding a zero makes the whole system too big or expensive. Maybe not, since there are super powerful (like 100 W or more) LED chips and the batteries would not need to last for hours on full power, a few minutes would do, a few seconds at a time, so heat would not be a problem either. Maybe 10k is enough for me as a beginner. Maybe I'll start saving for proper strobes.

One thing is for sure, the search for a budget friendly light for underwater photography is far from over.

On 1/2/2020 at 4:54 AM, stuartv said:

Consider adding a Nauticam WWL-1 to your Meikon housing. 

That's an insanely expensive lens, why would I ever consider that? There's a Meikon wet wide angle lens for 189 $ which is more than the housing itself and feels expensive to me. As most things do.

I have spent ~150 $ in this hobby at this point. I try to keep the figure as low as possible. Maybe one day I could earn money with the photos and spending my yearly income on gear seems a good idea... Probably not.

Edited by Valtman

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On 1/4/2020 at 2:22 AM, Valtman said:

That's an insanely expensive lens, why would I ever consider that? There's a Meikon wet wide angle lens for 189 $ which is more than the housing itself and feels expensive to me. As most things do.

 

Well, you have a pretty good camera and a housing already. You're talking about buying a new housing and a couple of different lenses. By the time you do all that, I'm pretty sure you could get a WWL-1, which would work with the lens and housing you already have. And it would give you much better wide angle image quality than using the cheap Meikon dome. As well, I think it would let you zoom your lens to 50mm, to shoot through the WWL-1, to take pictures of pretty small things. Not true, 1:1 macro, but good quality pictures of pretty small critters, nonetheless.

 

For someone on a budget, it seems like an all-in-one solution that might actually be less expensive than the other options you were talking about. Especially if you shop with a little patience and find a used WWL-1 (as I did).

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I have to apologize, the last message might have sounded rude, but that wasn't my intention. I'm sorry.

If I'm buying new lenses (camera objectives) I don't count that money to be spent in underwater photography, at least not solely. Most of my shooting happens on dry land, and I don't do that very much either. I have to think of how much would I be using those lenses altogether and if that does justify the price. And if I hold myself from buying those lenses and the housing, it makes sense to me to not spend the money on anything else either.

So you think that the Meikon wet dome is rubbish? They do sell it bundled to use with the 16 - 50 mm. I'm not saying that the Nauticam wouldn't be much better, but maybe I could be happy with it not knowing of anything better...

Don't you think it would be much better to get a wet diopter for macro shooting? I was thinking the Inon UCL-165, fits my budget. Or just shooting small things without any wet lens, wouldn't using a dome have a negative impact? With the dome I could get physically closer to the subject and without the dome the subject would seem get closer to me, am I right? Both methods might have their uses... I'm getting really confused.

How about dry domes? I could buy the new housing and save a little not buying any lenses just yet if the 16 - 50 in fact is a good beginner all around lens. And what you're saying is one could shoot macroish through a dome... I am still very fond to the idea of being able to do different things on a single dive, even if the 18 - 135 mm wouldn't be any good. I might be shooting surfing, snowboarding or other things above water but not dry in which the new housing could be a lot better. Who knows.

Heavy editing of the photos is part of the fun and what I tend to do anyway regardless of the image quality, so I'm not afraid of minor weaknesses in gear. And as said, I'm not a pro, just for fun.

I will check the second hand offerings, thanks for pointing that out. And sorry again for being like this. :D 

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If you want to go high quality but strictly budget than the used market is your best bet. I did the same thing. 
 

However, for it to really be useful it might be better to not be decided on a specific brand and model. Older models often can be had significantly cheaper and I consider most cameras from about 2014 or so to be capable enough. Most advances since then have been in AF technology, not image quality. 
I myself shoot a 2012 Olympus EM5. I got a nice Aluminium Housing with Ports and Camera and one lens for less than 1000€. I recently saw a similar deal for the EM1mk1 here on the forums. Maybe it’s still there. If you want the latest tech things will be very expensive though. 

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10 minutes ago, Valtman said:

I have to apologize, the last message might have sounded rude, but that wasn't my intention. I'm sorry.

If I'm buying new lenses (camera objectives) I don't count that money to be spent in underwater photography, at least not solely. Most of my shooting happens on dry land, and I don't do that very much either. I have to think of how much would I be using those lenses altogether and if that does justify the price. And if I hold myself from buying those lenses and the housing, it makes sense to me to not spend the money on anything else either.

So you think that the Meikon wet dome is rubbish? They do sell it bundled to use with the 16 - 50 mm. I'm not saying that the Nauticam wouldn't be much better, but maybe I could be happy with it not knowing of anything better...

Don't you think it would be much better to get a wet diopter for macro shooting? I was thinking the Inon UCL-165, fits my budget. Or just shooting small things without any wet lens, wouldn't using a dome have a negative impact? With the dome I could get physically closer to the subject and without the dome the subject would seem get closer to me, am I right? Both methods might have their uses... I'm getting really confused.

How about dry domes? I could buy the new housing and save a little not buying any lenses just yet if the 16 - 50 in fact is a good beginner all around lens. And what you're saying is one could shoot macroish through a dome... I am still very fond to the idea of being able to do different things on a single dive, even if the 18 - 135 mm wouldn't be any good. I might be shooting surfing, snowboarding or other things above water but not dry in which the new housing could be a lot better. Who knows.

Heavy editing of the photos is part of the fun and what I tend to do anyway regardless of the image quality, so I'm not afraid of minor weaknesses in gear. And as said, I'm not a pro, just for fun.

I will check the second hand offerings, thanks for pointing that out. And sorry again for being like this. :D 

 

Thank you for that. I wasn't quite sure how to take your other post, so I decided to take in the best light, rather than the negative. I'm glad that's how you meant it. :)

 

I have no real experience with shooting macro or using diopters. I have only shot small critters through a dome, by zooming my kit lens. 

 

The Meikon dome is decent. I used that for 2 or 3 years before I upgraded to the WWL-1, and I was pretty happy with it. It took a while before I got to the point of feeling like I really wanted to do something to improve my image quality. So, it might be fine for you. But, if you want to shoot macro and WA in the same dive, I think the WWL-1 and it's ability to zoom through it might give you something closer to an all-in-one solution.

 

My personal feeling - for ME - is that I would zoom my camera in and out during a dive to switch from shooting WA to shooting something small and close. But, I personally would not try swapping between macro and WA by changing from a wet dome to diopters and back during a dive. With that setup, I would get in with either macro or WA setup and only shoot that during the dive.

 

 

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If you are really on a budget then going with any sort of dome is probably not what you want to do.  16mm on an APS-C is not that wide, the 10mm on the 10-18  is but the 18mm end is not that long and only gets 0.1x at maximum magnification.  This means you are only doing wide angle and large animals on the dive.  Unless you want to invest in strobes wide angle shots will be record shots, you can colour correct if you are shallow enough but they are really not that vibrant for the most part.  

If you do want to go wide a wet lens on the 16-50 is possible but as they are mostly designed for 28mm focal length and don't work well at other lengths, you need to zoom to 28mm equivalent  - apart from the WWL.  The WWL will vignette below 19-20mm focal length on the 16-50 and you can use the rest of the range OK.

There's plenty of critters on almost any dive site to photograph, the issue with your 16-50 is max magnification is only .23x.  Add a diopter and you can fill the frame with smaller subjects.  At min focus you can fill the frame with about a 100mm subject on the 16-50.  Put the diopter on a flip frame and you can easily switch between small subjects and larger.  The other benefit of this approach is the light needed is much less as you are generally a lot closer to your subject.  With the diopter a decent dive torch can provide lighting because you are so close to the subject and the beam angle needed is quite narrow.  A small strobe would still be better and hunting around for a second hand model could be a good solution.

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On 1/7/2020 at 6:30 PM, hyp said:

If you want to go high quality but strictly budget than the used market is your best bet. I did the same thing. 
 

However, for it to really be useful it might be better to not be decided on a specific brand and model. Older models often can be had significantly cheaper and I consider most cameras from about 2014 or so to be capable enough. Most advances since then have been in AF technology, not image quality. 
I myself shoot a 2012 Olympus EM5. I got a nice Aluminium Housing with Ports and Camera and one lens for less than 1000€. I recently saw a similar deal for the EM1mk1 here on the forums. Maybe it’s still there. If you want the latest tech things will be very expensive though. 

I really like my Sony. The a6000 is a 2014 camera, so not really the latest tech. Also switching to a different brand and get the equivalent (dry land) lenses just because a particular housing was cheap, I don't think I'd save money. I wouldn't switch to a smaller sensor, I wouldn't probably switch to full frame either. I definitely wouldn't switch to DSLR, because I've never had one and mirrorless just makes much more sense to me. So my switching options would be limited Fuji and Canon, and I probably wouldn't accept just any one of those.

However I might start looking for used housings for Sony as well. I could upgrade the body, especially to an a6500 for IBIS, or a6600 but that is the latest tech...

I have never touched a pro brand housing and I have no idea what it is that makes up the retail price. For me the cheap chinese seems to be doing everything a housing should do, maybe just not the exact same quality as the pro stuff. I'm not that interested in adapting lenses so the available SeaFrogs ports are enough. The same housing even lets me upgrade the camera body up to a6400/a6500. Sure I could see some of the pro stuff being the same and would be surprised if not.

Maybe that's just another future upgrade, but as of now I think I'll stick to the plan.

 

On 1/7/2020 at 6:40 PM, stuartv said:

The Meikon dome is decent. I used that for 2 or 3 years before I upgraded to the WWL-1, and I was pretty happy with it. It took a while before I got to the point of feeling like I really wanted to do something to improve my image quality. So, it might be fine for you. But, if you want to shoot macro and WA in the same dive, I think the WWL-1 and it's ability to zoom through it might give you something closer to an all-in-one solution.

Ok wow, now that you said it like the tenth time I had to take a closer look Earlier I Googled it and closed the browser tab when I saw the price. So there's more optics in this thing than just flat rear and dome front glass... I thought that all domes are, well just domes and Meikon did their best in making a chinese copy.
 

On 1/8/2020 at 12:18 AM, ChrisRoss said:

If you are really on a budget then going with any sort of dome is probably not what you want to do.  16mm on an APS-C is not that wide, the 10mm on the 10-18  is but the 18mm end is not that long and only gets 0.1x at maximum magnification.  This means you are only doing wide angle and large animals on the dive.  Unless you want to invest in strobes wide angle shots will be record shots, you can colour correct if you are shallow enough but they are really not that vibrant for the most part.  

If you do want to go wide a wet lens on the 16-50 is possible but as they are mostly designed for 28mm focal length and don't work well at other lengths, you need to zoom to 28mm equivalent  - apart from the WWL.  The WWL will vignette below 19-20mm focal length on the 16-50 and you can use the rest of the range OK.

There's plenty of critters on almost any dive site to photograph, the issue with your 16-50 is max magnification is only .23x.  Add a diopter and you can fill the frame with smaller subjects.  At min focus you can fill the frame with about a 100mm subject on the 16-50.  Put the diopter on a flip frame and you can easily switch between small subjects and larger.  The other benefit of this approach is the light needed is much less as you are generally a lot closer to your subject.  With the diopter a decent dive torch can provide lighting because you are so close to the subject and the beam angle needed is quite narrow.  A small strobe would still be better and hunting around for a second hand model could be a good solution.

Now I know what I'm doing. Thank you.
- I'll buy a diopter and a flip adapter. Shoot from quite small to medium sized subjects.
- I'll try something with the DIY lights, probably won't ever be powerful enough to do much for wide angle shooting.
- Keep searching for used strobes and eventually upgrade to those. Good ones.
- For a wet dome I'll search for a used WWL-1.
- Maybe upgrade the housing in some point and buy some lenses, but although I thought this is where to start, this is actually the last thing to worry when trying to get better shots on somewhat a low budget.

I could buy the Meikon dome for starters, but as I am traveling with two backpacks it's nice to not carry a large piece like that. I might need a bigger backpack when I start to collect more gear. If I'll get the 10 - 18 for wide angle I would get a dome port, possibly an 8" one to allow for over/under shots, so that's skipping the WWL-1.

I also need my own scuba equipment, including a dry suit for Nordic diving. Practise makes perfection and rental gear guided fun dives makes a lot of spending on practise, also won't be able to spend time on a single subject as the group will keep moving. So even if I could improve my underwater shooting with not so expensive investments, all in all I have a lot to spend on. Also my motorcycle needs a new motor. And that's just for my hobbies. Did I mention I don't make a lot of money as I mainly work to just get by? I have really chosen the worst hobbies to go with my work ethics... So I might be annoying on this forum for quite a while before I have anything to call a complete setup.

Have we come to a consensus?

Thank you so much everyone!

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