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strandbygaard

Practical size and weight differences between different camera formats

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I'm looking to get a uw camera, and is currently stuck in the trade-off between weight and performance. Smaller size may be a bonus, but not a selection criteria for me.

  • Does anybody have real world experience with actual weight differences between different rigs?
  • How much more/less does equal configurations weigh depending on camera format?
  • If you traded up or down due to weight - was thet compromises worth it?

I use Sony FF topside, and size/weight not being an issue, I would prefer diving with that. But weight is a significant consideration when travelling, so I have to take that into account.

I have been reading that smaller formats yield "much smaller rigs", but depending on the configuration I'm only seeing about a 20-30% difference in overall weight. My observations for wide angle configurations:

  • An Oly 9-18mm m43 requires an 180mm dome. As does a Sony 16-35 FF, so only difference is down to lens and port extension, which does not amount to much.
  • Weight difference between a housed (Nauticam) RX100 and A7RIII is about 1kg.
  • Total weight difference between an RX100 rig and an A7RIII rig both with WWL is about 1,4kg (from camera, housing and lens). 

An RX100 rig with dual Inon D-200 strobes versus an A7RIII rig with dual Retra strobes both in NA housing is almost 2kg difference so that is starting to be meaningful, and the difference for macro capability is an additional 800g or so.

Price is of course also a factor but for equal configurations, it comes down to the cost of housing (assuming I have the camera and lenses), and the difference there is an acceptable trade-off to me for the better handling and performance. 

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There definitely seems to be a general move to smaller rigs for many beginner/intermediate type underwater photographers.

Most of the "old timers" (of which I am one) still lug around DSLR's (or equiv) and housings, dual strobes, etc. My experience in playing around with smaller cameras is that for some set of targets they can deliver the equivalent quality image with a smaller system, however there will also be a class of images they won't be able to capture at all (or at best, sub-optimally). The larger systems still provide the most flexibility across wide-angle, macro, super-macro, split images, etc.

One example: lots of compact systems with single strobes can now capture quality 1:1 macro (and even in some cases, some super-macro) at levels almost indistinguishable from what a DSLR or high-end mirrorless can capture (the reality is that the skill/experience of the photographer becomes the biggest differentiator for systems that have somewhat similar capabilities).

My daughter and son both started shooting u/w in the last 5 years. My daughter started with an Oly m43 system in an Oly (plastic) housing with a single Inon strobe). She developed her technique well enough shooting only macro  to the level she won several (novice/amateur) contests. About 18 months ago she graduated to a Sony A7III in a Nauticam housing (still single strobe) which has provided significantly faster autofocus for macro, and the opportunity to start playing around with close focus wide angle (a clear strength of this system).

My son inherited the Oly system and followed a similar path (also eventually winning a novice category in a contest) and is just now stepping up to a Nikon D500 in a Nauticam housing (I only gave him 2 choices - a system like his sister's, or a system like mine - D500/Nauticam... saves on spare parts. context switching during set up, and learning). He chose the D500 after diving with my system because of the faster autofocus, the availability of a [great & versatile] 60mm lens,  and likely because he didn't want to be seen copying his sister.

I think the future of u/w photography is starting to emerge - mirrorless is going to be the way to go (eventually). Some have already made the jump (the Sony cameras are really good), but after trying out the Nikon Z6 on several dives my personal take was that they are at least still 1-2 generations away before I'll be willing to give up my DSLR. Mirrorless allows for slightly smaller rigs without losing flexibility. 

Weight is an issue, and has been on every dive trip we've taken as a family. So far I've been able to get the kids to carry their own carry ons with cameras & housings inside. We are definitely at the point where our camera systems outweigh our dive gear - and it's likely not even close anymore. 
 

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Size difference varies widely depending on what you shoot. With macro there really isn't that much of a difference between setups, because it really is only the housing itself that is larger. With Fisheye lenses you can mostly get away with fairly small domes so while there is a difference, it will be minor. The biggest difference is with rectilinear wide angle, where generally a 230mm dome is recommended for FF and 180mm for mu43.That is a big difference! For myself (shooting mu43) I have found that prefer fisheye for most situations and I will only bring the rectilinear lens and dome when I know it will be needed (Mantas, Sharks). For all other wide angle needs the fisheye dome will have to do. 

Problem with Sony is, that they don't have a native fisheye, but I think the adapters (while being expensive) are fairly good. 

Compacts with Wetlens setups are a completely different game. That said, something like the WWL-1 is not exactly small and light either. Personally I prefer focusing on one subject at a time, so the interchangeable lens style suits me better. 

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24 minutes ago, hyp said:

230mm dome is recommended for FF and 180mm for mu43

I guess the NA port chart does say that a 230mm is the recommended option for a 16-35mm FF. I missed that part, thanks. That port is far bigger and heavier than what I will be able to travel with.

Any idea how much compromised a 16-35mm FF would be in a 180mm dome? At least NA does list it as an option :-)

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Interesting question and two very thoughtful replies from hyp and oneyellowtang. 

On the weight issue certainly for FX/DX, much depends, I'd suggest on the lens choice for WA and the implications for the port to house it. So much of the rest of the weight of the system: arms, strobes, connections, and cables/FO, is common to whatever format you choose.

As hyp suggests, if you use fisheye the choice of a smaller dome port is easier. If you want rectilinear then the choice is more dependant on camera format: essentially the bigger sensor the bigger the dome port needs to be.

My experience of moving between FF and DX as regards weight - and, frankly, image quality is that there is minimal difference other than the WA rectilinear port issue. I suspect the mirrorless evolution will not make that much difference to weight/size. Yes, the camera body is slightly smaller but  the scale of the amount and weight of gear to move around is still large.

Compact camera systems are generally less weighty and can indeed produce great results - perhaps within certain limits as oneyellowtang points out. They are not quite as flexible either.

I do wonder if it might come down to what satisfies each individuals personal preferences. Would you be happy with having something that's good enough? Or would you always be hankering after - and regret not buying - the all-singing-all-dancing system with room for growth? I think lots of us go through that! 

 

 

 

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@TimG thanks for the input.

I would essentially expect the same format performance trade-offs as top-side. Most of my diving is in dark, low visibility waters where the larger sensor would make a difference, and cold waters (dry-gloves) where the larger housing would be a benefit (I think). My subjects are primarily wide angle where the larger sensor also has an advantage.

Looking a the housings for compacts and most m43, I just don't see them being very easy to operate wearing dry-gloves? (I have no practical experience to support this)

When travelling, it's mostly in warmer waters (no gloves) with more available light, so a smaller sensor would be less of a compromise.

My subjects are mostly be wrecks and caves so wide angle is my main concern. 

I'm trying to find a compromise so I only need one system :-) But I'm beginning to realise, I should probably only optimise for one of my use cases. 

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2 hours ago, strandbygaard said:

@TimG thanks for the input.

I'm trying to find a compromise so I only need one system :-) But I'm beginning to realise, I should probably only optimise for one of my use cases. 

Yeah, I think you come to a good conclusion here.

If folks are content with good-enough, then fair play to them and use a system which will deal with most situations. But if you really want to try and get the best you can out of any situation, then, sadly, I came to the conclusion too that optimisation is the way to go. So, set up for macro and don't worry if there's a whale shark on the dive: just enjoy the moment rather than the moment-through-a-viewfinder which, I fear, we do maybe too much (well I do anyway!).

I suspect wrecks and caves are even trickier as, I'd guess, you'd prefer not to use a fisheye as it distorts maybe too much. So rectilinear which equals a big dome with FX; not too bad with DX and probably ok with compact. But then, yes, not so easy maybe to operate with dry gloves etc.

Life eh? 

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I say "avoid buyers remorse"! It is terrible. Between smaller sensors and FF, it is both weight and size. I strongly suggest "try before you buy". Many shops will rent gear. Or, while on a trip, try to borrow gear you "think" you may buy. I've seen this often and other Photographers are eager to help.

After going through the above, my wife and I ended up getting m34 systems. We shoot in raw. I can get all the gear without exception into one small roll-aboard. As for shooting. My wife shoots a Zen lens with the Oly 9-18. Pics are great. As for sensors, the real difference is the crop factor. On land, I'm a FF guy; l landscape and wild life. Detail of the field of view definitely favors FF. Short story? People cannot tell what format I shoot UW. It is less about the system than the 8" behind the view finder.

Tim, makes a good point. Choose your format and then get as small and low weight as you can.

My two cents.

Good Luck

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The major difference in weight/size is for wide angle. When using rectilinear WA lenses and a small sensor (MFT) a 180mm dome is o.k. with e.g. Pana 8-18mm, while for FF you will want at least 230mm dome, better one of the monstrous WACP's. Similar with Zoom fisheye lenses: I use the Canon 8-15mm with 1x adapter and 140mm dome on my MFT camera and it covers all my WA desires in very high quality. With FF sensor the same lens can be used with same dome and the rig would be very similar in size/weight, but the angle of view would be either circular fisheye or 180o diagonal fisheye, but nor narrower angles...

For Macro I found out that, surprisingly and unexpectedly for me, there is also a hughe weight/size difference between MFT and FF. In addition to the Panasonic 45mm and Zuiko 60mm macros, I also use occasionally the Canon 100mm IS Macro lens with 0.71x or 1x adapter on MFT. While the Canon 100mm would be close to the Pana 45mm, when used on FF camera, this lens and the corresponding dome is a monster, when compared to the MFT lenses and the N85 port. The Canon on my MFT camera is the biggest rig version I have so far, even bigger and heavier than the WA configurations (With, e.g. a Canon R camera size/weight would be comparable at twice the angle of view. In case you are interested, I can make photos tomorrow, but I have to leave now towards Vienna)...

I am squinting towards a FF system, because of the good low light abilities, sharpness, dynamic range and 14 bit resolution (postprocessing!), but the WA options scare me off, so far...

Wolfgang

Edited by Architeuthis

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Fundamentally you have 4 categories

1. Compact cameras

2. Small format APSC and MFT

3.Large MFT APSC DSLR

4. Full Frame

While compact camera are significantly smaller and so are small MFT some large MFT bodies are very similar to APSC or even full frame

However the glass weight differs both for the lens and the port 

If you use dome ports glass weights almost double than acrylic and size grows with sensor size

There is a material weight and size difference once you pass step 3 for example a Sony A6xxx or a OMD EM5 are much smaller than a Nikon D500 or a Panasonic GH5 clam style housing. That becomes heavier and more expensive.

Once you go in DLSR territory not only the ports get bigger but also the lenses some are in excess of 1 Kg

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Don’t know if you dive with a significant other, friend, or child but I recently came to the epiphany that we could carry different rigs setup for different subjects. I have a WA M43 for stills with strobes (and video in good available light in the shallows), my son carries a Olympus TG6 set up for macro with a video light which provides continuous lighting and makes the rig really simple and easy to use.

 

I have to admit I partially chose to use the m43 system because I use it topside and already have some lenses and know how to use the camera. But I think it’s a good compromise UW just like it is topside. The only cameras that could tempt me are FF mirrorless like your Sony but physics being the way it is you have the huge lens issue (and very few choices of native lenses). No way would I buy a DSLR today.

 

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When travelling with my current M4/3 rig, I only need a carry-on and one 20kg bag in the hold. When travelling with my old DSLR rig, I always needed an extra 10-15kg bag in the hold. Depending on route and airline, that can be a big saving on every trip. The lighter rig is also much more convenient to carry about on location and to dive with.

Images may not be as high resolution as a full frame DSLR, but they are good enough for a double spread in magazines or for a poster sized print on the wall. I don't need any more.

By coincidence, my Mrs has a TG5 and video ring light.

 

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This thread should not transform itself into a full frame vs cropped discussion however if you are looking at high quality MFT it is pretty much the same as DSLR APSC in terms of bulk

Full frame does need small aperture which in turn means more powerful strobes and larger domes.

APSC and MFT are 1 1/3 to 2 stops less demanding this means smaller rigs and smaller strobes

So can't just consider the housing you need to think about the port system and lighting

Cropped sensor and MFT print well up to A3 unless you need more than that or you are after the best low light performance which usually is for top side you will trade the quality for less bulk

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Just as a couple of data points, not trying to sway you at all.

About the size of the Sony RX, or typical high end P&S, this being the FIX/S90. Easy carryon, the strobe arms go in my dive bag. The case holds two D/Z strobes, wide angle wet lens, macro lens, tray and odds and ends and the camera, 19 pounds:

IMG-0230.jpg

IMG-0387.jpg

 

Moving up to the NA6400 and Sony mirrorless, in the Pelican Air carryon, WWL-1 lens, CMC-2 lens, NA6400 with handles attached and two D/Z strobes, the float arms go in my dive bag, the camera and required lens in my backpack, weight is 21 pounds:

IMG-0235.jpg

I used to shoot a Nikonos III, similar size as these, I also had Ike housed SLR and they were a true hassle to carry around, not to mention filling with water regularly which tended to increase their weight notably. I would expect the same with a full frame dSLR. 

J

Edited by Captain Fathom
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@Interceptor121 agreed, my main interest is practical experiences with total weight and operating characteristics. It’s the compromise I’m trying to understand. Not which is better.

@Captain Fathom I’m curious, though somewhat off-topic. What lens (and port) do you use with the A6400 and WWL/CMC?

I really appreciate the great insights. This choice is proving more difficult than I had anticipated :-)

The weight vs capability of a GX9 with 14–42 and WWL still seems to be the best compromise for my uses when travelling so that will probably end up becoming my solution.

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I have seen the GX9 with WWL-1 CMC-1 and two Inon S2000 extremely compact set up

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For travel the volume is often a deciding factor - large domes are more difficult to travel with.  The size of the dome required for a 16mm full frame equivalent rectilinear wide lens scales with the sensor size as does the required aperture.  You now have an alternative to big domes in the WWL and WACP from Nauticam - but these are heavy and expensive.    Because the aperture scales, flash power also scales with sensor size.    Fisheye lenses though are pretty much the same dome size whichever format you choose.

Here's my rig in a carry on size backpack.  It contains

top row: 4"Zen fisheye dome, Pany 8mm fisheye , Oly 60mm macro. olympus 12-40, Pany 7-14. 

Middle row:  60mm macro port, 2 x INON Z-240, Zen 170mm dome.

Bottom row:  Nauticam EM-1 MkII housing - camera inside spare batteries.  Laptop in sleeve underneath.

In selecting your camera you might also like to consider battery life; the GX9 is CIPA rated for 260 shots while the EM-1 MkII is rated for 440 shots.  I can get 3-4 dives out of my EM-1 MkII. 

IMG_2948.jpg

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What drove me away from a compact system was the lack of decent viewfinder. The EVF was fairly useless and even the lcd was barely better in many situations. Maybe that has improved sufficiently in today’s compacts but for me, if I can’t add 45* finder, I’m likely to be unsatisfied. 

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5 hours ago, strandbygaard said:

@Interceptor121 agreed, my main interest is practical experiences with total weight and operating characteristics. It’s the compromise I’m trying to understand. Not which is better.

@Captain Fathom I’m curious, though somewhat off-topic. What lens (and port) do you use with the A6400 and WWL/CMC?

I really appreciate the great insights. This choice is proving more difficult than I had anticipated :-)

The weight vs capability of a GX9 with 14–42 and WWL still seems to be the best compromise for my uses when travelling so that will probably end up becoming my solution.

The lens, actually two, for the WWL-1, I can use my Sigma 19mm f2.8 prime or the kit 15-50mm zoom. For the CMC-2 it is the same kit zoom lens. The port is the same for all, the Nauticam macro port 45 which is PN 36128. I just got this set up so I am not trying to overly sway you, just provide useful information for your choices. The CIPA rating is 410 and the Nauticam housing allows for an auxiliary booster battery to be installed. I plan to get the Trekpac system for my 1535 which will allow me to carry additional items, the lid organizer as well. Got to start somewhere.

J

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On 2/16/2020 at 8:32 AM, strandbygaard said:
  • An Oly 9-18mm m43 requires an 180mm dome. As does a Sony 16-35 FF, so only difference is down to lens and port extension, which does not amount to much.
  •  

my 9-18mm  lens requires a 4" nauticam port (100mm).

 

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50 minutes ago, nudibranco said:

my 9-18mm  lens requires a 4" nauticam port (100mm).

 

I saw that listed in the NA port chart. Any idea how it performs in that port compared with e.g. a 7" port?

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5 minutes ago, strandbygaard said:

I saw that listed in the NA port chart. Any idea how it performs in that port compared with e.g. a 7" port?

I cannot say how the zuiko 9-18mm performs behind the 100 port, but we have the lens. My wife was using it first behind a flat port (also recommended as a solution by Olympus) and now is using it behind the Zen DP170 (170 mm) port. The IQ is no comparison, flat port @9mm is ugly...

Wolfgang

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My parents are using the 9-18 in a Subal 6inch dome. Corners are alright but not great, although Subal doesn’t provide any data about extension length. My 8-18 in 7 inch dome is clearly better. 

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The 9-18mm in the 4" nauticam port works better than most other ports.  It is a semidome and much more compact than the 7" one.  However I did not have a chance to test the 7" port.  The flat parts are terrible as expected.  

However a +2 achromatic addon to the lens inside the port will improve the corners considerably if you want best quality below F8.0.

Frankly I hardly use it and much prefer the 8mm fisheye lens which focuses so close to get CFWA capability.  I can even get a reasonable nudibranch picture with the 3.5" dome port from Nauticam.  And it is a VERY sharp lens.  You can defish it if you do not like fisheye distortion.

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