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Pomacentridae

Advice on selecting a Camera System

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Hi All,

Was hoping to get your thoughts and insight into a system that is suited for me.

Originally, I wanted to upgrade and get mirrorless system, either the Olympus EM-10III or EM-5III in a Nauticam Housing. But given the cost of the housing + port + focus gear is already 2,500 USD alone, add to that the cost of the lens and body you are looking at about 3,000-4,000USD. This is beyond what I am willing to spend.

I had decided to go with the LX100II in a Nauticam Housing because the housing + camera + short port is about 2,300USD, plus I already have the necessary wet lens to use with this for both macro and wide angle. It fits my budget.

A bit of background, I am a research diver in the Philippines and travel to very remote locations. I usually dive for photography during my “spare” time while out in the field. But given the random and remote locations I don’t really know what to expect when I dive, so the criteria in picking was:

  • Ease of use - quick access to manual controls, back button focus, fast focusing, fast access to white balancing, can set the temperature to match my strobes and small size for travel. This allows me to react quickly to situations and unexpected subjects or behaviors I encounter. My frustration with my old Canon G15 was I could not change settings quickly and focus fast.
  • Versatility - need something that will allow me to do the following photography during a single dive. Again I do encounter random and very different subjects. I am very opportunistic when I photograph and take pictures of things that present themselves well as I encounter them. So being able to capture different scenes is a criteria for me.
    • Macro = subjects 2-3 cm in size, I don’t do really super macro subjects.
    • Fish Portraits = subjects 10-30 cm in size
    • General Wide Angle = various macro fauna.
  • Performance
    • Great Lens: for the LX100II it has a useful focal length of 24-75mm and is very bright at F1.7/2.8. I have the wet lens to augment this already.
    • Sensor is a Micro 4/3
    • Fast focusing mainly for fish and small subjects. My Canon G15's focus would hunt a lot.
    • Allows for rapid flash triggering. I am keen on behaviors, typically I would shadow my subjects or stay in a single spot waiting to capture behavior. Been frustrated at the slow recycle time of my current compact camera.
  • Life span and longevity - I don’t upgrade equipment often (hard to afford as a researcher), but I have used a polycarbonate Canon DC-WP48 case for my Canon G15 for about 8 years. So far it has held up and I have never flooded it. I have just meticulously cleaned it after every dive but given there is no maintenance or repair support for the housing, I am in constant fear of flooding as it ages from wear and tear. That is why my criteria for a new housing is:
    • Housing preferably aluminum
    • Has a vacuum valve
    • Easy to maintain in the field
    • Maintenance Service in the Philippines.

I was about to purchase the LX100II when I saw on Backscatter a review on the Olympus E-PL10 with the AOI housing (here is the Review and here is the System Chart). This made me stop as the E-PL10 in AOI housing falls well within my budget and seems to tick all my boxes. I really like:

  • For 650USD, it come with the LED triggering and vacuum valve system. This ticks two of the things I am looking for.
  • It has the ability to have dedicated macro or wide lens, aside from the 14-42mm kit lens, if I choose to or ever need it. This gives me the ability to expand the lens I use. And given that the housing only costs 650USD I have enough left over in my budget to get those additional ports and lens.

I do have some major hesitations and would like hear people's opinions on these:

  • Life span and maintenance given E-PL10 is a polycarbonate housing. Are AOI cases repairable or serviceable (especially the buttons and led triggering electronics)? I don't want to have a breakdown and not be able to repair a system I have invested in. I understand over time things fail, but I just need it to last like 7-8 years, aluminum housings definitely last this long but are polycarbonate housings good enough?
  • Versatility and quality of Olympus 14-42mm lens versus the 24-75mm lens of the Panasonic (in conjunction with the CMC-1, CMC-2 and WWL wet lens). Which would be a better setup? I am weighing this because most of the time I will be diving in that configuration.
  • Performance of the LX100II versus the E-PL10 in terms of WB, Focusing, and Manual Controls?
  • Given Olympus just got sold, is it advisable to begin investing in the Micro 4/3 line up?

Would love to get your insights on this. Happy also for other recommendations.

Cheers,

Pomacentridae

Edited by Pomacentridae

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The EPL-10 seems like a neat package.  Though I don't have experience on how good the AF is I would guess it's the same as my old EM-5 mkii which was OK but would hunt a bit on the 60mm macro.  The EM-1 MkII I have now is a lot better at AF.

If you are planning on adding wet lenses for wide angle I would suggest looking into how well they perform on the LX-100 - the WWL-C which is designed for 24mm lenses only gets full range by using the short port option on the Nauticam housing which means it will be compromised on macro when diving with that setup.  You can use it with the standard port but you need to zoom in to stop vignetting and you lose field of view as you zoom in.   You can zoom into about 30-32mm on the WWL-C and still get decently wide but with a 100° wet lens (18mm equivalent ) you would only have about 84° of equivalent to a 24mm lens .   This problem will occur on whatever wet lens you use - they all use M67 attachment thread on the port and this is what causes the vignetting and you zoom in till you can't see it to get rid of vignetting.  I use the WWL-C as an example as it has data on what the field of view is - but it applies to other wet wide lenses. 

With the 14-42 lens in a flat port wide is not that wide - about equivalent to a 35mm lens and it only gets 0.32x by itself so  could fill the frame with something maybe 60mm long.  It's about the same range as you G15 without the close focus macro capability.  So you would need a wet diopter to get closer for small subjects.

As far as longevity goes - it's anyone's guess and probably only time will tell.

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Hi Chris,

On 10/4/2020 at 7:03 PM, ChrisRoss said:

Though I don't have experience on how good the AF is I would guess it's the same as my old EM-5 mkii which was OK but would hunt a bit on the 60mm macro.

Thanks for that insight, if the EPL10 and the EM-5 MKII are similar, I think I will be okaywith that AF. I've used the EM-5 MKII for bird photography (not the best but reasonable), it will definitely be better than my current compact.

Agree, I am aware that the LX100II isn't an ideal solution since there are limitations when using the flat port with wet lens. It really is a compromise solution. I figured I could use two combinations with the LX100:
(1) Macro x Fish Portrait combo with the Standard Port and Wet Macro Lens.
(2) Wide Angle x limited macro/fish portrait combo with the Short Port and Wide Wet Lens.

On 10/4/2020 at 7:03 PM, ChrisRoss said:

With the 14-42 lens in a flat port wide is not that wide - about equivalent to a 35mm lens and it only gets 0.32x by itself so  could fill the frame with something maybe 60mm long.  It's about the same range as you G15 without the close focus macro capability.  So you would need a wet diopter to get closer for small subjects.

Do you think that the 14-42 lens in a flat port augmented by wet macro and wide lens would be a better solution versus that LX100II combinations I talked about earlier?

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56 minutes ago, Pomacentridae said:

Do you think that the 14-42 lens in a flat port augmented by wet macro and wide lens would be a better solution versus that LX100II combinations I talked about earlier?

Maybe - it should allow you do a more or less true multi purpose rig - as the lens length doesn't change much as you zoom as far as I am aware - so you could use a double flip holder with a wide lens and a macro lens - the wide lens would be something like an INON 100° model smaller and cheaper than the Nauticam WWL options which are too big to keep on flip holders.  They would both work well as the end of the lens remains at the minimum distance from the port glass.  The INON wide lens is not zoom through so you pop it on, use it then pop it off.   Something like this one:  http://www.inon.jp/products/lens/uwlh10028ld/top.html 

You can also add a dome to this lens for still wider field - but not underwater - it is a dry dome with an o-ring seal

With the LX100II you would lose too much wide angle off anything but the big 130° WWL options to make using a WWL worthwhile without changing to the short port - and because the port is short you have either the WWL field of view or  24-30mm equivalent as the lens can't zoom in anymore because it hits the port.  When it hits the port it will probably throw an error requiring you turn the camera off and on again.  So it's either very wide or sort of wide - probably too short for any but the most tolerant or very big fish.

The bonus with the EPL-10 option is you can get ports to do macro and also the 8mm fisheye  if you want to down the track. 

Also on the AF - I am guessing it should be similar to the EM-5 II which will hunt a little with macro and give you problems if there are particles in the water that it wants to focus on.  Usable - but not perfect.

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Thanks Chris this sounds like the most versatile solution for me at the moment. I really like the idea of inon wet lens, small and compact enough for my use. Will look into it. The mirrorless track is starting to look a bit more promising to me than the compromise compact route. Just need to balance the costs to get the most bang out of my buck.


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I just saw this thread. For what it is worth, I have the LX100 II in a Nauticam housing.  I actually like the setup.  I had the original LX100, and upgraded the camera to the LX100 II, and since the cameras are almost identical physically, I could use my original Nauticam LX100 housing (there is a conversion kit that costs about $30 by Nauticam to work the zoom lever on the lens).  I have the Nauticam WWL1 (I picked a used copy not long before my last dive trip), and at the wide end, the camera performed admirably.  I also have the Nauticam CMC for macro, though I am not as skilled a macro photographer.  Backscatter has a pretty accurate of the whole setup on their website, which you probably already saw.

In terms of image quality between the two, it should be a wash.  The EPL-10 uses a 4/3 sensor, but it is the older 16 MP model (more megapixels is not always better - more resolution can give more noise in the shadows), and it may have an advantage in lower light, which is what we encounter underwater.  The LX100II has a newer 20 mp  4/3 sensor, but because the camera is engineered to use multiple aspect ratios without losing resolution, you wind up getting about 17 mp worth of resolution - the image circle created by the lens covers about 80% of the sensor.  Panasonic did this as a tradeoff - it allowed them to design a really small zoom lens that still had a fast aperture (F1.7-F2.8), and enable photographers to play with different aspect ratios (switch on the top of the lens), but you are losing a bit of light gathering capability because the camera isn't using the entire sensor.  Other things being equal - bigger sensor generally yields better image quality.  But other things are never really equal. In the case of the LX100 and LX100 II, that zoom lens is fricking fantastic. It is F1.7-2.8 over the full frame equivalent of a 24-75mm zoom range (the lens is actually 10.9mm-34mm - I hate it when manufacturers do that full frame "equivalent" nonsense).  By comparison, a high end standard zoom on a micro 4/3 camera from Olympus  or Panasonic would be 12-35mm F2.8 (Panasonic) or the 12-40 F2.8 (Olympus) - they are much bigger as the cover a slightly bigger sensor, but the zoom lens on LX100 II is actually a bit brighter/faster.

The other key aspect, relevant to underwater photography, is that the LX100 II's lens is very close focusing particularly at the wide end. If you are into close focus wide angle photography, it works really well! The camera at the wide end can focus on things that are an inch in front of it. 

In terms of white balance, which is super important for video, Panasonic cameras handle that really well (that seems to be a strength for Panasonic and Canon, other manufacturers seem to be limited in this respect). You can nail a good and accurate custom white balance at depth, and the video footage will look really nice. It's not Panasonic's video focused camera (like the Gh5 or the G9), but it shoots decent 4k.

One other consideration is flash synch speed.  Most DSLR's and mirrorless cameras top out at 1/250th of a second.  Beyond that and you start getting the black bars of the shutter curtain across your image.  However the LX100 II has a leaf shutter - something that compact cameras often have, as well as medium format cameras.  The aperture blades are in the lens. The camera will synch at any strobe speed, at least up to 1/2000 of a second.  I was exploring this a bit on my last trip.  Where this comes in underwater is if you want to do one of those shots where you have a subject lit by your strobe, with a black background.  You can just keep bumping up your shutter speed and really kill the ambient light in the background and make it black. So it is some additional flexibility.

But with the EPL10, you get a lower cost housing, and access to the full catalog of micro 4/3 lenses.

Money is an object!  For me it was a no brainer, I upgraded cameras but could use my LX100 housing.  So if you spend less on the housing, you can spend more on dive travel, and that is a perfectly reasonable choice.

 

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I also just found this thread. I wanted to chime in because I just bought the Olympus E-PL10 and AOI housing from Backscatter.  I also bought the Panasonic 8mm fisheye and Olympus 60mm macro along with associated ports; backscatter did me a solid and got me an extension ring for the standard port for the 14-45 kit lens so that I could use the 60mm macro (its was like half the price as the dedicated 60mm  port).

I upgraded from the Sony RX100Va (in a fantasea line housing without any strobes) to the Olympus Epl10 kit.  I am pairing it with dual backscatter mini flash 1 strobes.  I have been on 3x dives with this kit and I have really liked the performance of the 60mm macro.  My next few dives will be with the 8mm fisheye to see if I like CFWA or Macro better then I will focus on learning that skill set this year.  I dont find the olympus menu system too confusing (i came from sony so anything is better).  I find the camera easy to handle and straight forward to use.  I really like that I can use back button focus (i couldnt use is on my sony rx).  I am still learning how to use strobes, i havent done any strobe photography in the past. 

 

If you have any questions feel free to reach out.

 

If you do any topside photography then you will also have access to the amazing line up of micro4/3 lenses.

 

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PXL_20201212_031542698 (1).jpg

Edited by Dann-Oh
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