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bghazzal

Choosing a compact for underwater video only - LX100ii, RX100 V/VI, LX10?

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Posted (edited)

Hello all,

I'm trying to figure out what compact would work best for underwater video only.

I've been looking at specs, reading reviews here and also wherever else I could find them, including for older RX100 models, watching side by side videos and whatever uw clips I could find,
but unfortunately the mass of contradictory information found online is a little confusing.

To summarise what I'm looking for:

I'm only interested in a compact for shooting underwater video clips only, not stills.

I'd shoot in 1080 and/or up to 4k, 24/30 to 60 fps - mainly with shallow ambient light in the tropics - and mainly wide angle general reef scences, with a red filter (primary),
and less commonly with lights for macro/closeups (secondary) -  I don't really care much for slow-motion.

As a side-note I'm well aware of the limitations but have decided to focus on on compact-sized cameras for now,  for specific practical reasons,
- mainly to have something with manual controls and of reasonable size to work with for a couple of years before eventually upgrading to
something bigger and more efficient like a dedicated camcorder or mirrorless.

Main points of interest to me:

    •    white balance for video
in camera white balance (I'm partial to Lumix cameras on this), possibility to do a manual white balance, possibility to shoot in a flat profile to white balance in post
(I don't think there is a compact capable of shooting raw video, but a flat/ flatter profile option would be very useful)

    •    low light capacities for video
how efficient is the video in lower light conditions - ie how will the camera handle darker days, going a little deeper, say with a red filter, what are the manual options

    •    efficient video autofocus
how good is the autofocus when shooting video - some cameras (LX series) have touch screen focus controls to set focus, but this is not really a practical option in a housing.
How good is the camera at tracking in the sort of environment we shoot in underwater etc...

    •    video image quality
how defined is the video image, dynamic range etc - these compact cameras come with 2 sensor size options, four thirds for the  LX100ii and 1" for the others,
but it's not clear what really works best due to cropping, processing etc
Not a major difference in apertures for these cameras, but there might be something to lookout for in lens quality

    •    video stabilisation
these compact cameras offer 2 types, lens and in camera - the RX100 seems to have a slight edge on this

    •    battery life
how does the battery hold when shooting video - I've heard that the RX series drains batteries very quickly when shooting 4k videos 
this is less of an issue on land, but underwater and in housing,  for one hour dives shooting short clips, more so

    •    overheating when shooting video?
I've heard this is/was a major issues when shooting video on the Sony RX series. I shoot to edit 10 to 30 seconds clips,
might go up to 1 minute for very specific reasons but not beyond, so a 5 minute cap like the RX100's 4k mode doesn't bother me for instance
however the camera will indeed be used for underwater video only, in a housing, so  reallynot very practical if it overheats easily

---------

As mentioned in the title, I've narrowed down the search to 3 classic compacts:

    •    Sony RX100 V or VI (or higher)
    •    Lumix LX100 ii
    •    Lumix LX 10

But I'm open to other recommendations for good video cameras of of similar size.

I am quite partial to the Lumix series, have seen some good really good and helpful feedback here (thanks again), but have been reading contradicting information on video performance,
especially when compared to the RX series.
It doesn't really help that most of the video info found elsewhere online is focused on vloggers shooting in very different conditions from what we would find underwater,
and that most commercial showreels focus on closeup scenes with a great light rig, which is not what i'll be using the camera for most of the time, and hardly mention white balancing

Some info i've picked up along the way on these cameras:

The older Panasonic LX10 seems to have focusing issues, and stabilisation is not great

The Sony RX line (V, VI, VII....) is also very interesting, but I have heard of the overheating issues, which seems to be a common problem for other users shooting video.
Since I'll be using this camera for video only, this does seem like a major problem. Not clear if this is major issue really fixed with the RX100 VII - found tests saying that it is, others that it isn't...
Apparently in a studio, 40 minutes of continuous shooting is possible, but not sure what this would translate to inside a UW housing.

RX100 battery life is also supposed to be quite dismal when shooting video, again not great underwater, and not sure what to make of its white balance options

The Panasonic LX100 ii seems like a good alternative without the overheating issues and with better battery management, but what of autofocus, low light and image quality? It's also not clear how its bigger sensor really performs>>>

-------

Beyond dry camera specs, it would be fantastic if people with real-life underwater video experience with these cameras could give opinions to help me make a more informed decision
on which compact to get for shooting uw video clips.
 

Thanks in advance for your help and pointers :)

cheers

ben

 

Edited by ben gazzal

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Ben, I've been down this road. So, don't claim to be an expert, just can share what I learned along the way. 

I will start with the end first. Nothing I have shot handles video like a dedicated video camera. That is what I shoot today.

Key factors I discovered:

  • Sensor size is king. the larger back lite sensors are tops in ambient light (my favorite as well)
  • Frame rate separate from shutter speed settings. Video quality is about proper frame rate, period.
  • Wide angle port and housing WITH the ability to shoot very close or add diopters to port
  • Easy to use white balance WITH the housing

Housing is important up to a point. You can spend into the poor house. However, having access for shooting Manual became my most important feature. I like an in housing flip adapter for blue water below 20-30 feet.

New or use? I see good set ups on this forum for video only. Check them out. Further, A good set up will future proof you and likely having you shoot the system for many years. I notice you left off the Sony alpha line in  your list. Take a look. You will like the specs, I'm positive.

Here is a clip I shot years ago with a simple Olympus OMD set up. Uner $2000 Ambient light and whit balanced. 

https://youtu.be/ONUy-xMeuo0

Good luck,

Bill

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the insights Bill.

I'm well aware of the limitation and also looked into dedicated cameras, but size (and, to a certain extent, cost) is of the essence.

I'm thought it through. Until I get into a position where I'm sure I can use a larger camera regularly, I would need something portable enough to carry on pretty much every dive, as I was doing with the GoPro. A compact would allow me to this, and it's also travel friendly, and given the current situation we might need to stay mobile for the next 24 months.

Another good thing about compacts it that you can shoot relatively wide and reach macro range, and have wet lens options like a camcorder.

I was shooting on Lumix compacts such as the TZ10 a few years back and getting nice results with a UR Pro filter and manual white balancing.
I then jumped to 1080p and 2.7K with the GoPro + UR PRo filters. First a GP4 silver , then on a GP6 black then a Hero 7 black or this here for example , all shot in ambient light on a similar profile ((flat colors/native WB, 60 fps, max iso 400, medium or the yucky linear fov, other pro tune manual settings + a UR Pro filter) -
I'm not using my tray + handles on most as most sequences were shot on the fly while guiding, which is often possible with 10 second clips. A compact housing would be more stable.

While I already know that a compact setup will definitely run into many limitations compared to a dedicated camcorder, camera or mirrorless, I'd like something more of a camera to work and experiment with, and offering better quality than what I'm getting in these examples shot on Gopro, and also lose the distortion that popped up when GoPro introduced their new linear fov...

I'm quite confident the compacts would work for this. Then, in a couple of years, if the context is right, I'll probably go for a mirrorless or dedicated camcorder - but now is not the time.

To return to the compacts at hand :

Sensor-wise the LX has a 4/3" sensor, but it's unclear how much of an advantage this is over the RX's 1" from what I've read - details are over my head.
The housing choices would be Nauticam (LX / RX) or Nauticam / Fantasea  for the RX, and I think they give access to all manual and programmable controls. And they all have vaccum leak detectors, which I do want.

I've been reading up on the camera manuals, and from what I saw both manually white balance, both give manual access to shutter speed and frame rate and a relatively flat frame rate (not raw, but I don't really have the processing power at the moment anyway). Unless I missed something the frame rate and shutter speed are independent on all these cameras.

Question is still which one to get  - After reading the manuals, I'm leaning towards the RX100 VIII now, which seems to offer more options, but it's hard to tell without more video user feedback on these recent models

I haven't looked into the Sony Alpha line - have you got any model recommendation for specifically for UW video?

Second-hand is unlikely - I'm currently still in Thailand and probably going back to Indonesia if the situation evolves, so not that many second hand options I'm afraid. Not even sure if I can source the housing easily in this locked-up world we're in.

Thanks again
ben
 

Edited by ben gazzal

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HI Ben,

Have you considered a video-centric kit like the Sony AX700?  The housing / camera system is optimized for video (not photos) in many ways.  

https://www.gateshousings.com/ax700-z90/

Size, battery life, trim / balance, control layout.  And the optical versatility is umatched.  GP34 Wide Angle port supports full zoom through.  Add the SAGA double flip macro and you get macro to super macro, all in a single setup.  

Lots of users out there to give you opinions.  Message me, I'll share a good one. 

J-

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Posted (edited)

Hi John and thanks for the tip.

I have indeed considered it, and it's on top of my list, along with the GH5 for what I would get in two or three years, but at the moment it seems a little too big to be practical.

This is a purely human factor, not related to camera perfomance - I work in diving, and can't see a housing like that clipped on to me on most dives, like I can / have done in the past with a compact.
It's also quite a lot of extra dry land luggage, in a situation where we've already maxed out what we can'carry (the wife and I have been moving around seasonally for the past few years with no fixed base to store equipment) - we'll be looking for longer term positions in the industry but the work environment, if any, might be volatile for the next 12 to 24 months, which is why we have to remain mobile.
This is why I decided to compromise and focus on compacts rather than bigger rigs. If I was doing most of my shooting on holiday dive-trips, this would be a completely different matter.

Plan is to get a portable manual compact to work with for 2/3 years then, if the context is good, invest in a more serious equipment

Thanks again
Ben


 

Edited by ben gazzal

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Posted (edited)

As an update, I've received advice elsewhere to go for the.... LX10 instead of the LX100 ii or RX100 vii for UW video.

Reasoning was that the overheating issue on the RX100 series is a no-go for video, and white balancing isn't good, even though the newer camera models have improved.

The LX100ii apparently has very frustrating control access for UW video, because of its retro design - I hadn't heard of this issue before.

Precious advice, but making things a little more complicated at atime where I was about to settle for the RX100 vii.... :wacko:

Would anyone have more info on overheating and white-balancing for recent models of the RX100 series?
From what i gathered on previous RX100 models, you couldn't set the white balance in video mode but could shoot video from any of the WB-capable camera modes.

Also started looking into the Sony a6500 as a potentially better compact sized option for video.

thanks

ben

Edited by ben gazzal

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I'm stalling - kind of resigning to give up on this idea for now as I can't find enough information on how these cameras would perform in the kind of context I would be using them in, ie ambient light.

If I've been getting reasonable/useable/gradeable results in such a context with a GoPro, it seems unlikely that these compacts would underperform in terms of overall image quality, dynamic range and sensitivity, and I would gain manual image control and white balance, which is something I miss and that I could work with and expand on as a hobbyist.

But to what point? Hard to tell from what I've been reading so far. Maybe the middle-ground between a point-and-shoot and a mirrorless doesn't really exist in this kind of context.



 

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Regarding Sony cameras and the lack manual white balance, found this workaround which seems to offer interesting results:
 

 

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Posted (edited)
Quote

The LX100ii apparently has very frustrating control access for UW video, because of its retro design - I hadn't heard of this issue before.

I had the first generation of Lx100 and used it almost only for video. I loved the fact you could easily access aperture and shutter speed. The rotating knob, focus wheel are nice to use as there's no need to navigate to some menu to access some basic functions. For UW video, a poor choice of housing makes a big difference with this camera because you may be unable to properly access those settings. The Nauticam housing provided a full control underwater while it was not the case for Ikelite and Meikon/Seafrog. I initially had an Ikelite housing and that what  a bad choice as I didn't have any control to manual focus and then happily switched to Nauticam.  

What I disliked the most with the LX100 was some dust appeared on the sensor after some time. This is a plague for this earlier model requiring servicing at some stage. I don't know about Lx100ii but it's worth checking if this issue still exists. Other than that, I loved this camera and sometimes miss it (I moved to GH5s which is way bulkier underwater). 

Edited by Scubacastor
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Posted (edited)

Interesting thanks!

This info on the controls came from one of the major US based UW photo gear vendors, and was actually refering to the Nauticam housing - I quote:

Quote

As attractive the LX100 Mk II is with it’s Micro 4/3 sensor, the controls are very frustrating. Especially when interfacing with the Nauticam housing. Panasonic made the controls more like a retro film camera, and not very conducive for us underwater shooters, and especially for video. This leave the LX10 on the top of my list for a compact camera just for shooting video.

It's good to know you had a positive experience with the LX100 for UW video.

I had the dust on the sensor issue two on an older Lumix compact as well, really annoying. I'll definitely look into it!

Cheers

B

Edited by ben gazzal

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I have shot the Sony RX100 and other Lumix compacts since 2012 all the way to 2015 when the concept of port system needed introduction and compact made no longer sense

In terms of the requirements you have (white balance, battery life) I would recommend you stick to Panasonic

For what concerns autofocus, low light capability there is simply an issue of sensor size and technology

So while Panasonic has MFT compacts and Sony has 1" sensor you need to consider that Sony compacts are back illuminated so at the end they are pretty much equal

Consider that Sony simply does not white balance underwater and the ergonomics and color accuracy are the worst on the market but on the other hand the sharpness and focus is brilliant

I would consider and test the Panasonic LX10 that has a fixed port above all others

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55 minutes ago, ben gazzal said:

Thanks, I was just looking into your LX100 review as well
https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/56510-my-review-of-the-nauticam-lx100-housing-and-port-system/

It does increasingly seem like the LX10 in a Nauticam housing is one of the best options for this specific context.

b

 

I was quite harsh with the camera and this was due predominantly to an issue of moire

Since then Nauticam has not sent me any product for review lol. The housing was really nice but it defeats the purpose of a compact rig.

I would recommend you buy the camera first try it and then check out the housing. Most features can be tested on land

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Posted (edited)

Ben, I am not sure you come across this video for the LX100 II:

It seems to be a good choice.

It does show the Nauticam housing as well. It has similar white balance setting to the GH5. But I am not sure if they used a red filter while testing it in ambient light down to 40ft. You can ask Backscatter and they are usually helpful and prompt.

Edited by thani
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Hi and thanks Thani - One of the issue I'm having with the LX100ii is the size of the Nauticam housing, which seems to be drifting away from compact portability - It was also Backscatter also mentioned that the Nauticam+ LX100 controls were not really ergonomic (see 3 posts above), and recommended the LX10 instead.

Hard to tell... Scubacastor was saying that he found housing ergonomics real comfortable while filming on a Nauticam LX100 combo, which is pretty much the same housing as the LX100ii - but I think I'll go for the LX10

 

cheers

b

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Hi and thanks Thani - One of the issue I'm having with the LX100ii is the size of the Nauticam housing, which seems to be drifting away from compact portability - It was also Backscatter also mentioned that the Nauticam+ LX100 controls were not really ergonomic (see 3 posts above), and recommended the LX10 instead.
Hard to tell... Scubacastor was saying that he found housing ergonomics real comfortable while filming on a Nauticam LX100 combo, which is pretty much the same housing as the LX100ii - but I think I'll go for the LX10
 
cheers
b

I like smaller housing and ultralight handles compared to Nauticam
This is not an option for large rigs but for small ones is much better and the housing is much more compact


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Thanks - I think the only options for theses two Lumix compacts are Nauticam or Isotta - the Ikelite doesn't sound like viable option, bulky and apparently not a fantastic design ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRU4d5k686s ) .

I'll most likely go with the NALX10 for the LX10, easier to find - i already have my own tray and handle system (mostly Flex Arm), we''ll see what works best.

 

cheers

ben

 

 

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Thanks - I think the only options for theses two Lumix compacts are Nauticam or Isotta - the Ikelite doesn't sound like viable option, bulky and apparently not a fantastic design

I'll most likely go with the NALX10 for the LX10, easier to find - i already have my own tray and handle system (mostly Flex Arm), we''ll see what works best.
 
cheers
ben
 
 

There is one in classifieds


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If I remember well, the Nauticam housing for the LX100II is not provided with any handle so you're free to use whatever tray/handles you like (NA-LX100 was just an housing with easy/flexitray as an option). It's slightly bigger than previous ikelite (clear) housing. I don't know about the size of the new housings but I don't think you'll get full control as the manual does not mention any knob to swith from auto to manual focus for example. 

To me the only frustrating thing with the nauticam housing is their attempt to integrate a wheel to rotate the jog dial on the back of the housing (it's not available on Ikelite and probably Seafrog). The jog is impossible to rotate properly underwater without making a mess in the settings. You can still press the sides and the center of the jog to access the menu but that's all. 

 

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44 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:


There is one in classifieds
 

Yes i know - trying to see if it's possible to get it from Europe to Thailand where I'm currently holed up... :)

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