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horvendile

Lens recommendations for Red Sea trip

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Hi! So... at this time last year I bought a Sea&Sea rig for my Nikon Z6. Immediately thereafter the pandemic happened, which means the rig is almost unused (by me, I bought it used). I have since bought a Z7. I have also just booked a trip to the Red Sea this autumn, and I'm not listening to messages saying it might not be possible to travel then.

I still have about eight months to go before the trip, but this night I dreamed about what lenses to bring, so since my brain has already started thinking about it I'm asking for advice. The trip is mainly about Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, meaning wall dives, generally with current and hoping for sharks. I have the lenses and ports I have; I'm not likely to be able to afford anything more, but nor should that be necessary.

What I have:

Nikon 14-30/4 S, with Sea&Sea correction lens, to be used with a Zen 230 mm glass dome. I guess this would be the default lens for the entire trip.

Sigma 15/2.8 fisheye, behind the same 230 mm dome, manual focus only. Could be fun to try, but could also be too wide for skittish sharks and manual focus could be difficult. I have not had an opportunity to try this lens when diving.

Nikon 24-70/4 S, also behind the 230 mm dome. Normally I would expect you to say "meh" about this lens, but what about the sharks tho? An oceanic whitetip may come close enough for the 14-30. Other sharks, probably not. On the other hand I'm not expecting to photograph sharks with good quality at very long range.

Nikon 60/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. When I tried it in Swedish water I thought it was difficult to use as macro, because of the short working distance. But I figure that on this trip it could work as decent macro and also for fish portraits. Possibly sharks but not always the whole shark.

Nikon 105/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. In Swedish waters with no current I liked this for macro work (of course). I'm more skeptical for this trip. The currents I expect probably make close macro work quite difficult. For more distant, larger subjects it could work but probably not better than the 60 mm macro.

And why not bring them all? Because of space and weight. More than one of the macros seems excessive. For the three lenses using the same dome motivating bringing more than one is easier.

So, what do you say?

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I use a nikon 16-85mm lens in my aquatica housing and nikon d60. Most of the time you have one shot at each site and the zoom allows alot of variety in your shots. My trips to the red sea the dive guides swim most of the time so macro is difficult to do. When i have pointed out subjects that are macro they are not interested. Sharks is all that interest them. Your 24-70mm is the go to lens i would use. For little brother on the east side your 14-30mm is what i would use as the soft corals are beautiful. To see samples of my shots.

https://reefscenics.smugmug.com/Underwater/Red-Sea/

 

 

 

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Hi horvendile

I've done that Elphinstone, Brothers, Daedalus trip a couple of times accompanied by a D800 - so not a world apart from your Z7.

I guess like most people I dreamed of seeing pelagics. Got to say though, each time at, say the Brothers or Elphinstone, we finned off into the wild blue and hung... and hung.. and hung.... nothing. Then the dive ended. The last time I went my partner and I gave up on the Blue Hanging Thing and we got some cracking shots on the diver-on the-colourful-reef theme. The rest of the gang hung in the blue and then tried to persuade us they had seen a shadow WAY below them which was definitely maybe an oceanic.

I shot then with the Sigma 15mm. Actually these images and the dolphin shots (see below) have proved to be my best photo sellers.

The only time I found use for a 16-35 range lens was snorkelling with dolphins and then got some cracking pics too. 

Macro: I've said this before on WP before but was widely scorned, I have never found much use for a macro lens in the northern Red Sea. It's brilliant wide-angle, colourful opportunities. Macro, to me, not so much. Macro requires such a different mind-set and searching diligently for tiny critters certainly steers your attention, vision and outlook away from superb coral reef structures and colours.

If it were me, I'd pack the 15mm, the 14-30 and the 230 dome. If you're lucky in the Blue, the 14-30 will do it for you. The rest, 15mm.

Really hope the trip work out for you. Fingers crossed.

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Thanks for the replies so far! I'll get back to you, hopefully tomorrow.

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There is a good chance of turtles along the sides of the reefs, usually in the shallows. Much more likely than hammerheads in the deep blue.

Keep enough gas to end dives hanging out shallow blue behind where all the boats moore. A wide angle zoom offers some flexibility for the oceanic white tips.

Its easy to get swept down current from the boats, so be prepared to pop a delayed SMB early enough to be followed.

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16 hours ago, horvendile said:

 

Hi Horvendile,

I dive a lot in the Red Sea since the 80ies and can comment generally on the focal lengthes and lens types (that I personally like), but cannot talk specifically about Nikon FX lenses (I have a MFT system). First, autumn is a great time for seeing and photographing sharks, but on a one (?) week Safari it may happen as well that you do not see any of them and/or just very far away. So it is advisable to make plans for other photography as well...

"Nikon 14-30/4 S, with Sea&Sea correction lens, to be used with a Zen 230 mm glass dome. I guess this would be the default lens for the entire trip."

=> great for longimanus, big reef scene and caves. Too wide for other sharks as e.g. thresher or hammerhead that do not come close (the sharks must not be baited/feeded in Red Sea)...

"Sigma 15/2.8 fisheye, behind the same 230 mm dome, manual focus only. Could be fun to try, but could also be too wide for skittish sharks and manual focus could be difficult. I have not had an opportunity to try this lens when diving."

=> As above, even better for reef scene and caves. When longimanus come close they not seldom come very close. Optimum for longies will be with 1.4x Kenko TC, in case you have it and this lens/domeport combination gives good results...

"Nikon 24-70/4 S, also behind the 230 mm dome. Normally I would expect you to say "meh" about this lens, but what about the sharks tho? An oceanic whitetip may come close enough for the 14-30. Other sharks, probably not. On the other hand I'm not expecting to photograph sharks with good quality at very long range."

As you suppose this lens will be very good for other sharks (e.g. hammerhead; but be aware that you have to be lucky and have a very good guide, who knows where to find them (e.g. on Deadalus there can be many dozens with good luck). This focal length range behind a domeport is also great for fish portraits and turtles, night dives etc. I would not want to miss this range on a trip to the Red Sea, I think this range is often underestimated...

"Nikon 60/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. When I tried it in Swedish water I thought it was difficult to use as macro, because of the short working distance. But I figure that on this trip it could work as decent macro and also for fish portraits. Possibly sharks but not always the whole shark."

This lens I would leave at home. Too short for real macro and for fishportrait the 24-70 behind a domeport is much more flexible and probably (I do not know this specific lens) also offers better IQ...

"Nikon 105/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. In Swedish waters with no current I liked this for macro work (of course). I'm more skeptical for this trip. The currents I expect probably make close macro work quite difficult. For more distant, larger subjects it could work but probably not better than the 60 mm macro."

Macro photography in the Red Sea is great fun and this is the lens for it (if you have, also a close-up lens on a flip adapter). Even on a Safari to the offshore reefs you may want to make one macro dive per day (out of 3-4 dives; Bad luck for the whaleshark in case it comes then, but we cannot please everyone :)). Why not spend an extra week on a resort with great house reef (e.g. Mangrove Bay or Rohanou) and celebrate macro while housereef diving? The extra cost is almost negligible, you just need to have the extra time...

 

Wolfgang

 

 

 

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Best lens for the big animal encounters on a Southern Egypt Itinerary on full frame is WACP. As an SLR user I use Nikon 28-70mm and WACP1. On Z6 the only option is WACP2 - which would be great, but their goes your baggage allowance!

https://www.amustard.com/library/Stock65/RS19_am-21000.jpg

The oceanics do come close enough for the full fisheye. But it is not the best option for the other sharks - nor is it really for the oceanics. But it is the best option for the reef scenery, wrecks, caverns and dolphins etc.

https://www.amustard.com/library/Stock65/RS19_am-22121.jpg

For macro and fish portraits - the 105mm is the way to go in the clear water. 

https://www.amustard.com/library/stock69/RS19_am-23001.jpg

If you click image info below the shots you can read the lens and camera settings.

Alex

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Er, thanks for even more replies... this day did not turn out as planned, so once again I will say: I'll get back to you, hopefully tomorrow.

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Hello again! I've visited these reefs maybe twice before (could be thrice for Elphinstone) so I have some idea what to expect. In my limited experience, if I see the longimanus it will probably be at the end of the dive near the boats. As for other sharks, apparently once I almost sat on a hammerhead when jumping from the zodiac but I've still never seen one...

I'm still a bit skeptical about the fisheye because of the manual focus. Maybe no biggie for reefscapes, but for a quickly approaching longimanus I expect to miss focus. Then again, I think bringing both 14-30 and 24-70 sounds recommended. I'm inclined to bring both cameras also, meaning I can use one of the lenses topside. Anyway, if I still have baggage capacity to spare throwing in the fisheye too is no huge addition.

As for the macros I expected more recommendations of the 60 mm, but okay, if I am to bring a macro maybe 105 mm it is. I can easily see this being left home for weight reasons though. Would be kind of a pity, a little macro could be fun. We'll see.

Oh, and unfortunately staying one more week is not on the table. With two small kids even this one week is pushing it.

Edit: 
One more thing - I would love a WACP solution, but there is absolutely no budget for that. I kind of gave that up when opting for a Z solution. Out of pure curiosity though, is it possible to mount a WACP2 on a Sea&Sea housing? With some sort of adapter?

Edited by horvendile

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6 hours ago, horvendile said:

Edit: 

One more thing - I would love a WACP solution, but there is absolutely no budget for that. I kind of gave that up when opting for a Z solution. Out of pure curiosity though, is it possible to mount a WACP2 on a Sea&Sea housing? With some sort of adapter?

Google is your friend:  https://www.backscatter.com/Nauticam-Sea-and-Sea-3-Lug-Bayonet-Ring-Converts-N

I would still try and check someone has tried this - presumably the ID of the Nauiticam and SEA and SEA port opening is the same as the WACP o-ring would be sealing against the S&S port opening.

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On 2/15/2021 at 4:23 PM, horvendile said:

Hi! So... at this time last year I bought a Sea&Sea rig for my Nikon Z6. Immediately thereafter the pandemic happened, which means the rig is almost unused (by me, I bought it used). I have since bought a Z7. I have also just booked a trip to the Red Sea this autumn, and I'm not listening to messages saying it might not be possible to travel then.

I still have about eight months to go before the trip, but this night I dreamed about what lenses to bring, so since my brain has already started thinking about it I'm asking for advice. The trip is mainly about Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, meaning wall dives, generally with current and hoping for sharks. I have the lenses and ports I have; I'm not likely to be able to afford anything more, but nor should that be necessary.

What I have:

Nikon 14-30/4 S, with Sea&Sea correction lens, to be used with a Zen 230 mm glass dome. I guess this would be the default lens for the entire trip.

Sigma 15/2.8 fisheye, behind the same 230 mm dome, manual focus only. Could be fun to try, but could also be too wide for skittish sharks and manual focus could be difficult. I have not had an opportunity to try this lens when diving.

Nikon 24-70/4 S, also behind the 230 mm dome. Normally I would expect you to say "meh" about this lens, but what about the sharks tho? An oceanic whitetip may come close enough for the 14-30. Other sharks, probably not. On the other hand I'm not expecting to photograph sharks with good quality at very long range.

Nikon 60/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. When I tried it in Swedish water I thought it was difficult to use as macro, because of the short working distance. But I figure that on this trip it could work as decent macro and also for fish portraits. Possibly sharks but not always the whole shark.

Nikon 105/2.8 macro on FTZ adapter. In Swedish waters with no current I liked this for macro work (of course). I'm more skeptical for this trip. The currents I expect probably make close macro work quite difficult. For more distant, larger subjects it could work but probably not better than the 60 mm macro.

And why not bring them all? Because of space and weight. More than one of the macros seems excessive. For the three lenses using the same dome motivating bringing more than one is easier.

So, what do you say?

As the port for your wide angle lens is the same take them all

There is not a lot of macro in the red sea but 105mm will work fine for portraits as the water is clear. You don't need the 60mm

Sharks would benefit from a wet lens if you cannot afford a WACP is there a fixed 28mm prime you can use with the WWL-1? Results are good

You can use your 14-30mm at 18-20mm in shot in clear water with sharks as blurred edges will not be a major concern. This lens however will most likely be bad for reef shots where you will use your fisheye

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1 hour ago, ChrisRoss said:

BTW - why is the sigma 15mm MF only?

No he has a Z mirroless and the adapter does not support autofocus

It is an issue of all mirrorless full frames and the reason not to buy one lol

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7 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:

No he has a Z mirroless and the adapter does not support autofocus

It is an issue of all mirrorless full frames and the reason not to buy one lol

I didn't realise the Sigma wouldn't auto focus with the Z-system FTZ adaptor. But then lack of AF is hardly a problem with the Sigma 15mm.  Set it just before infinity at , say, f11 and you're good to go!

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8 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:

No he has a Z mirroless and the adapter does not support autofocus

It is an issue of all mirrorless full frames and the reason not to buy one lol

The adapter does support autofocus, but only for lenses with AF motor. That means practically all modern lenses. The Sigma macro however is screw-drive AF, relying on focus motor in the camera.

For me personally this is of almost no importance topside, but yes, underwater it does limit some options.

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1 minute ago, TimG said:

I didn't realise the Sigma wouldn't auto focus with the Z-system FTZ adaptor. But then lack of AF is hardly a problem with the Sigma 15mm.  Set it just before infinity at , say, f11 and you're good to go!

That was my first thought! But then I thought no, it shouldn't be that way, given that I focus on a virtual image quite close to the dome. 

I'll just have to try, when I get the opportunity. I do have the collar for doing manual focus.

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3 hours ago, Interceptor121 said:

Sharks would benefit from a wet lens if you cannot afford a WACP is there a fixed 28mm prime you can use with the WWL-1? Results are good

You can use your 14-30mm at 18-20mm in shot in clear water with sharks as blurred edges will not be a major concern. This lens however will most likely be bad for reef shots where you will use your fisheye

Sorry, no budget for additional purchases unless they are very minor. 

We'll see about the corners of the 14-30. I've tried it in Swedish waters, and with the Sea&Sea correction lens and @ f/8 I thought the corners looked good enough. f/8 with correction lens should correspond to about f/16 without correction lens. On the other hand, tests were not extensive. Time - or rather, more tests - will tell.

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50 minutes ago, horvendile said:

The adapter does support autofocus, but only for lenses with AF motor. That means practically all modern lenses. The Sigma macro however is screw-drive AF, relying on focus motor in the camera.

For me personally this is of almost no importance topside, but yes, underwater it does limit some options.

Is this the 105mm the 60mm or both?

I have a L mount full frame with Sigma MC21 and so far worked with all canon EF but there is an l-mount native 105mm so am suprised about focus motor is this an old lens?

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3 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:

Is this the 105mm the 60mm or both?

I have a L mount full frame with Sigma MC21 and so far worked with all canon EF but there is an l-mount native 105mm so am suprised about focus motor is this an old lens?

The Nikon 60 mm macro and 105 mm macro (both AF-S f/2.8 G) both have focus motors and work great with the FTZ adapter. 

The Sigma 15 mm fisheye relies on screw-drive AF. I can use it on the FTZ adapter, electrical communication works for eg aperture, but focus will be manual.

All Canon EF and EF-S lenses with autofocus have AF motor in the lens, so this is not a problem on the Canon side.

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1 minute ago, horvendile said:

The Nikon 60 mm macro and 105 mm macro (both AF-S f/2.8 G) both have focus motors and work great with the FTZ adapter. 

The Sigma 15 mm fisheye relies on screw-drive AF. I can use it on the FTZ adapter, electrical communication works for eg aperture, but focus will be manual.

All Canon EF and EF-S lenses with autofocus have AF motor in the lens, so this is not a problem on the Canon side.

Ah ok so it is the sigma 15mm fisheye which I do not consider as I have a canon 8-15mm

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7 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:

Ah ok so it is the sigma 15mm fisheye which I do not consider as I have a canon 8-15mm

Precisely. Specifically the Sigma 15 mm for Nikon. The same for Canon - which I assume exists - probably has built-in motor.

If I really want fisheye with AF there's the Nikon 8-15 mm for F-mount, which is said to be excellent and works just fine on the FTZ adapter. But it's expensive, so I'm holding off.

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1 hour ago, horvendile said:

Precisely. Specifically the Sigma 15 mm for Nikon. The same for Canon - which I assume exists - probably has built-in motor.

If I really want fisheye with AF there's the Nikon 8-15 mm for F-mount, which is said to be excellent and works just fine on the FTZ adapter. But it's expensive, so I'm holding off.

Yep, the Nikon 8-15 is excellent but, as you rightly say, kinda pricey. I've been using it on my D500 and D6 topside

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1 hour ago, TimG said:

Yep, the Nikon 8-15 is excellent but, as you rightly say, kinda pricey. I've been using it on my D500 and D6 topside

Yes. It's possible the Tokina 10-17 works with AF on FTZ, I haven't looked into that. My plan for fisheye is to wait until there's a native Z fisheye. Fisheye should be a type of lens for which the Z mount has significant advantages over F mount.

No Z fisheye is yet announced so if fisheye really takes my fancy I might have to reconsider somehow.

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2 hours ago, horvendile said:

Yes. It's possible the Tokina 10-17 works with AF on FTZ, I haven't looked into that.

I've just tried it. That won't focus either with the FTZ.

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49 minutes ago, TimG said:

I've just tried it. That won't focus either with the FTZ.

Oh well. Not unexpected. But thanks! Then I won't have to think about that.

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