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GabrielTidswell

First time setup tips + advice

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Hi.

I'm looking invest in my first rig as I would love to get into underwater photography, particularly underwater macros. Currently weighing up a couple of different options, balancing cost with features + upgradability, but always open to other recommendations. 

Option 1: Buy dive housing for existing camera

I currently own a Fujifilm XT-20 which Meikon produce an underwater housing for (https://meikon.com.hk/products/fujifilm-x-t10-16-50-40m-130ft-meikon-underwater-camera-housing).

This is probably my most cost effective option but only supports my 16-50mm lens. With seemingly limited options for other lenses/wet lens ports I'm unsure how good this would be for macros and how much room for growth this setup would have.

 

Option 2: Compact camera and dive housing 

The other option I'm exploring is to buy a reasonably priced, used compact camera and dive housing. I'm currently looking at the Cannon G7X II and Sony RX100 IV. This seems to provide more options for housings and wet lenses however I'm unsure how images and macro performance would compare with the Fuji. Also involves buying another camera.

 

As someone who is new to the subject of underwater photography any information/advice on these options would be greatly appreciated. I would also love to hear other recommendations that people might have.

 

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Hey Gabriel

I can't comment on those two particular models but I'm sure others will. But a couple of thoughts:

- in some ways maybe you are answering your own question: if you have a strong interest in macro, you obviously need to make sure the system you choose caters for that. Otherwise disappointment is going to come pretty fast!

- as you might have seen a number of times in various posts, you need too to look at the total system and its costs - not just camera and housing. There is a huge investment in strobes/lights (a critical factor), arms and myriad other bits and pieces which add up significantly. Having a slightly longer term view of what you want to do will help avoid the mistakes that are easy to make in the early stages. So plan on arms/strobes which can grow with you (these are some of the few elements that do!) and get a good feel for the total package you want. You can always build it then bit-by-bit.

- the second hand market, if you don't want the very latest technology, can be very useful. Prices drop hugely from new - maybe worse than cars! So you can get some really good deals buying second hand equipment in good condition. Check out the Wetpixel Classifieds.

So housing a camera you already have might not necessarily be the best way to go.

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Your current camera just won't work well, and won't be practical.

There appears to be only that Meikon/Seafrogs housing option, so you're stuck with the 50mm max lens, and that's not going to maximize your macro potential due to modest magnification. You can't use a true macro lens since there's no housing option that will let you swap ports and lenses.

Next, you'll have to pay at least $250 for a flash trigger to mount in the hotshoe and work the strobes. If you already have a compact attachment flash, that could work but will eat up batteries quickly.

And you'll need to buy a wet lens adapter to use the Macro diopters on that square housing port. Not sure if they'll work for wide angle lenses also, but that would be a very unstable, precarious setup. So not only will you spend another $150-200 here, you may still not even be able to use wide angle wet lenses, but if you don't care about WA then it doesn't matter.

For comparison, you can probably find a good used RX100 or G7X setup for well under $1000, which will get you a camera, housing and tray+handles, and maybe even arms.  I would estimate that camera + housing is about a $500-600 expense, if you want to compare it to keeping your current camera + buying housing, TTL trigger and wet lens adapter.

Btw, one last option, if you already have the Fuji lenses and want to get best quality, is to buy another Fuji body that has better housing selection. I took a quick look ant XT 2 through XT4 seem to have good options. You can possibly find a used body + housing but definitely will cost you much more than something like RX100. You'll have to pay for ports possible, etc.

 

Edited by pygmy_whaleshark

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10 hours ago, GabrielTidswell said:

Hi.

I'm looking invest in my first rig as I would love to get into underwater photography, particularly underwater macros. Currently weighing up a couple of different options, balancing cost with features + upgradability, but always open to other recommendations. 

Option 1: Buy dive housing for existing camera

I currently own a Fujifilm XT-20 which Meikon produce an underwater housing for (https://meikon.com.hk/products/fujifilm-x-t10-16-50-40m-130ft-meikon-underwater-camera-housing).

This is probably my most cost effective option but only supports my 16-50mm lens. With seemingly limited options for other lenses/wet lens ports I'm unsure how good this would be for macros and how much room for growth this setup would have.

 

Option 2: Compact camera and dive housing 

The other option I'm exploring is to buy a reasonably priced, used compact camera and dive housing. I'm currently looking at the Cannon G7X II and Sony RX100 IV. This seems to provide more options for housings and wet lenses however I'm unsure how images and macro performance would compare with the Fuji. Also involves buying another camera.

 

As someone who is new to the subject of underwater photography any information/advice on these options would be greatly appreciated. I would also love to hear other recommendations that people might have.

 

Just because you own and like a camera for surface use doesn't mean it's a good choice for underwater use.  You need to look at it from a total system perspective.   Fuji cameras are not that popular UW mainly due to limited lens choice suitable for UW work.  The Meikon housings work and some people are happy with them but they often don't optimise the ports for the lenses used and as you noted it lonlu allows one lens option.

If you are interested in macro the 16-50 is not a great starting point and you need to add wet lenses.   This will work, but when the lens is in place your available working distance is restricted.  For example with Nauticam CMC-2 you working distance is 87-122mm from the lens - outside this range the camera will not focus.  This will fill the frame  with a 31 x 27mm object at closest focus.  So you need to manoeuvre into this range to shoot.   All wet lenses will have similar issues with working range, the working distance goes down as magnification increases. 

If you were to go with the AOI EPL-9/10 package and a 60mm macro lens you could get down a 18 x 13.5mm subject (1:1)  at 88mm working distance and you can focus on any subject between 88mm and infinity from front element.  This is a lot easier to work with as you can for example frame the subject at a greater distance and slowly move in and focus as you inch closer.   You can also add ports to use a fisheye or other wet wide lenses.  So it is a lot more flexible.  This housing also has a built in flash trigger and vacuum system and is well thought out.

You could buy a Nauticam housing for an XT-2/3 for example but you could buy something like the AOI setup with camera/housing/lens and a strobe for significantly less than the cost of the housing alone at new prices.  Second hand may be an option but there's not many of these housings around as Fuji is not a popular UW choice.

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I think the suggestion of the AOI EPL-9/10 is a good one. If you're focused on macro, I feel compact cameras are not the best, because like a kit lens on your fuji they generally don't have true macro lenses, with the exception of the Olympus Tough series, which has a much smaller sensor to allow for that. 

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What is your budget?

I tried an RX100 II in a Nauticam housing for a year.   For macro - extreme macro - I had a wet lens, but never got the hang of using it.   Had a little wide angle wet lens as well for it.  That gave it a pretty fair amount of versatility, particularly if you change wet lenses underwater.

My rig had dual YS-D1 strobes and a focus light.  Along with the camera the whole thing cost about $5000 new.

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I recently sold a complete Sony RX100 III setup and switched to Nikon D500. While the Sony produced very nice and sharp images (used it with AOI UWL-09 and Nauticam CMC-2 wet lenses), it was very limited for macro use. As it has been mentioned above: the native lens by itself isn't good enough for macro (doesn't focus close enough), so you have to put the macro wet lens in front of it. But this drastically reduces your working distance, so you can only shoot stuff that doesn't swim away too fast, such as nudibranches, scorpion fish, etc. But I still managed to produce some very nice shots with it, so it's not _that_ bad, you just need to have more patience. As for wide angle, this was a very nice setup and I really liked shooting with it.

So if you're really into macro, I'd suggest buying something with interchangeable lenses.

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