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Frothin

Seeking help with gear set-up for Sony a1

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Hey everyone!

I am a wildlife photographer and diving enthusiast, and I finally want to combine both of these passions. I have to admit that I am a bit overwhelmed by trying to figure out all of the gear I’ll need in order to do so, and I am thus seeking a little bit of help with some questions and with ensuring I don’t make any mistakes buying my first round of gear. If I state anything wrong in my post please correct me, as I am here to learn!

Camera
I own a Sony a1 Camera.

Lenses
From my research, the 2 most important lenses for underwater photography are a wide-angle and a macro lens.
I currently don’t own a macro lens, but I would probably buy the Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro lens sometime in the future.

For now, I want to start with a wide-angle setup. From my understanding, the Sony 16-35mm F4 is highly recommended. I already own the Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM and believe I should be able to find a suitable dome for it?

Housing
I have been researching different housing options and so far there are 3 housings I am debating:

  • Ikelite 200DL Underwater Housing: This is the cheapest option, with the biggest downside being that it’s heavier and not as sturdy as a full aluminium housing.
  • Nauticam Sony a1 & a7S III Underwater Housing NA-α1: The most expensive option. With Nauticam being the biggest player in the underwater housing world, it seems to be an amazing option with the only “downside” being the price and that it’s hard to fix any problems with it myself, since the internal workings are very complex.
  • Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing: Priced between the Ikelite and the Nauticam. What I currently think may be the best option for me- if anyone has any experience with this housing, or a reason I shouldn’t get it, I would love to know more!

Strobes and TTL
This is what I’m struggling most with. I tried to make a list of all of the gear I need for a full working wide-angle set-up with an Ikelite Housing and Ikelite Strobes:

  • 200DL Underwater Housing for Sony a1, a7S III Mirrorless Digital
  • Right Hand Quick Release Handle with Extension
  • Vacuum Pump with Gauge
  • ikelite DL 8" Dome Port for Wide-Angle and Zoom Lenses in DSLR and Mirrorless Housings
  • ikelite DL 28mm Port Extension
  • DL 50mm Port Extension
  • Zoom / Focus Gear 5509.16
  • Ikelite Anti-Reflection Ring for Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 (Type I) GM Lens in Underwater Dome Port
  • 2x Ikelite DS-161 Strobe with NiMh Battery 
  • DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter Ikelite ST1 Hotshoe Kit
  • Sync Cord Two Ikelite Strobes to Ikelite Bulkhead
  • 2x Wide Angle Ball Arm for Quick Release Handle

So what I am not completely understanding is:

  • Do I need the DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter Ikelite ST1 Hotshoe Kit and the Sync Cord Two Ikelite Strobes to Ikelite Bulkhead to make the Strobes and TTL work?
  • If I use the Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing, what would my set-up look like and what dome port can I use? Apparently, Aquatica works with Ikelite Strobes TTL? Do I also need the Ikelite Hotshoe Kit and Sync Cord or is something like this already included in the underwater housing?
  • Could someone help me with a list of suitable strobes, the required cabels and TTL adapters and with a dome for the Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM when using the Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing?

Also, does it even make sense for me to invest this amount of money at the start and take my a1 underwater? Since I already own the G1 it feels like it, but I know it’s a big and expensive set-up. So far, I have only used a GoPro underwater and I was debating if I should start “smaller” before going for an a1 Housing. Maybe a point and shoot like the Olympus Tough TG + Housing or a cheaper Sony full-frame camera. Perhaps someone with a bit more experience could help guide me on what the best option is.

I appreciate any help!

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1 hour ago, Frothin said:

Hey everyone!

I am a wildlife photographer and diving enthusiast, and I finally want to combine both of these passions. I have to admit that I am a bit overwhelmed by trying to figure out all of the gear I’ll need in order to do so, and I am thus seeking a little bit of help with some questions and with ensuring I don’t make any mistakes buying my first round of gear. If I state anything wrong in my post please correct me, as I am here to learn!

Camera
I own a Sony a1 Camera.

Lenses
From my research, the 2 most important lenses for underwater photography are a wide-angle and a macro lens.
I currently don’t own a macro lens, but I would probably buy the Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro lens sometime in the future.

For now, I want to start with a wide-angle setup. From my understanding, the Sony 16-35mm F4 is highly recommended. I already own the Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM and believe I should be able to find a suitable dome for it?

Housing
I have been researching different housing options and so far there are 3 housings I am debating:

  • Ikelite 200DL Underwater Housing: This is the cheapest option, with the biggest downside being that it’s heavier and not as sturdy as a full aluminium housing.
  • Nauticam Sony a1 & a7S III Underwater Housing NA-α1: The most expensive option. With Nauticam being the biggest player in the underwater housing world, it seems to be an amazing option with the only “downside” being the price and that it’s hard to fix any problems with it myself, since the internal workings are very complex.
  • Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing: Priced between the Ikelite and the Nauticam. What I currently think may be the best option for me- if anyone has any experience with this housing, or a reason I shouldn’t get it, I would love to know more!

Strobes and TTL
This is what I’m struggling most with. I tried to make a list of all of the gear I need for a full working wide-angle set-up with an Ikelite Housing and Ikelite Strobes:

  • 200DL Underwater Housing for Sony a1, a7S III Mirrorless Digital
  • Right Hand Quick Release Handle with Extension
  • Vacuum Pump with Gauge
  • ikelite DL 8" Dome Port for Wide-Angle and Zoom Lenses in DSLR and Mirrorless Housings
  • ikelite DL 28mm Port Extension
  • DL 50mm Port Extension
  • Zoom / Focus Gear 5509.16
  • Ikelite Anti-Reflection Ring for Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 (Type I) GM Lens in Underwater Dome Port
  • 2x Ikelite DS-161 Strobe with NiMh Battery 
  • DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter Ikelite ST1 Hotshoe Kit
  • Sync Cord Two Ikelite Strobes to Ikelite Bulkhead
  • 2x Wide Angle Ball Arm for Quick Release Handle

So what I am not completely understanding is:

  • Do I need the DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter Ikelite ST1 Hotshoe Kit and the Sync Cord Two Ikelite Strobes to Ikelite Bulkhead to make the Strobes and TTL work?
  • If I use the Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing, what would my set-up look like and what dome port can I use? Apparently, Aquatica works with Ikelite Strobes TTL? Do I also need the Ikelite Hotshoe Kit and Sync Cord or is something like this already included in the underwater housing?
  • Could someone help me with a list of suitable strobes, the required cabels and TTL adapters and with a dome for the Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM when using the Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing?

Also, does it even make sense for me to invest this amount of money at the start and take my a1 underwater? Since I already own the G1 it feels like it, but I know it’s a big and expensive set-up. So far, I have only used a GoPro underwater and I was debating if I should start “smaller” before going for an a1 Housing. Maybe a point and shoot like the Olympus Tough TG + Housing or a cheaper Sony full-frame camera. Perhaps someone with a bit more experience could help guide me on what the best option is.

I appreciate any help!

First I would suggest that just because you own a camera doesn't automatically make it the best option to take underwater.  A few points to consider:

Not all wide angles UW are created equal.  the 16-35 is a rectilinear lens and needs a large dome port to get the best out of it.  The corners will be soft due to dome port optics even when stopped down to f13-16 range in an 8" dome.  Other options include the water contact optics including the Nauticam WWL with Sony 28-60 or the WACP-C is also an option.  Then there is are fisheye lenses, Sony doesn't have a native fisheye so you would be looking at adapted Canon 8-15 or Sigma 15mm.  The WWL, WACP-C and fisheye options will all be optically superior to the 16-35 even behind a 230mm dome.

You talk about starting off with wide angle - but what do you want to shoot with it?  Reef-scapes?  Wrecks?  large animals like sharks etc?  Close focus wide angle or wide angle macro?  This will influence your wide angle choice.  Fisheye for reef scapes, possibly rectilinear for wrecks etc.

Next is where do you plan to dive - mostly local?  or flying to a dive spot?  Traveling with things like a 230mm dome can be difficult if you want to fit it all in a carry-on. 

An additional consideration is what you plan to do with the shots.   Shooting through water and limitations of underwater optics does tend to level out the difference between formats and it's not as pronounced as it might be on land and except for some special considerations, you are not needing high ISOs.  As you may have found UW photo gear is pricey and especially with aluminum housings the prices scale with sensor size.  The housings are cheaper with smaller formats and domes you need are smaller.  Smaller formats are practical to load into a photo back-pack and carry on the plane for travel, while a full frame setup might have you considering pelican cases and checking the gear.  You can use smaller strobes like the INON Z-330 - the ikelite strobes are good but quite big and bulky.

I have Canon gear but I ended up with Olympus for underwater use.  I could buy the Olympus Nauticam housing, the camera and the dome port for around the price for a full frame DSLR camera housing.  The lens range is complete with good rectilinear mid range zoom, macro and fisheye options. 

If you tell us a bit more about what you are thinking you would like to shoot we could guide you further.

 

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2 hours ago, Frothin said:

Do I need the DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter Ikelite ST1 Hotshoe Kit and the Sync Cord Two Ikelite Strobes to Ikelite Bulkhead to make the Strobes and TTL work?

The converter is required for TTL operation. You can run the strobes without the converter, but then you will only be able to shoot in manual mode. This is not as big a deal as you might think; the usefulness of strobe TTL underwater is limited, and manual operation is not at all difficult to learn.

2 hours ago, Frothin said:

If I use the Aquatica Sony a1 Underwater Housing, what would my set-up look like and what dome port can I use? Apparently, Aquatica works with Ikelite Strobes TTL? Do I also need the Ikelite Hotshoe Kit and Sync Cord or is something like this already included in the underwater housing? 

I don't think you can use TTL with Ikelite strobes and an Aquatica housing. The Ikelite TTL converter is specific to Ikelite housings, UW-Technics do not make a Sony/Aquatica TTL board, and TRT-Electronics Turtle trigger is optical only, whereas Ikelite strobes required wired sync for TTL operation. You can use Ikelite strobes with an Ikelite bulkhead, but this will be limited to manual operation. Alternatively, you can use a fiber optic bulkhead with a Turtle trigger and fiber optic capable strobes such as Inon Z-330 or Retra Prime/Pro X. The latter will also give you high-speed sync capability, although with A1's 1/400s sync speed (1/500s in APS-C crop) this is not as useful as it is on other cameras.

2 hours ago, Frothin said:

Also, does it even make sense for me to invest this amount of money at the start and take my a1 underwater? Since I already own the G1 it feels like it, but I know it’s a big and expensive set-up. So far, I have only used a GoPro underwater and I was debating if I should start “smaller” before going for an a1 Housing. Maybe a point and shoot like the Olympus Tough TG + Housing or a cheaper Sony full-frame camera. Perhaps someone with a bit more experience could help guide me on what the best option is.

The big question here is, do you dive to take photos, or do you take pictures while diving? If it's the former, i.e. photography is the main focus of your dive, and a dive without a camera is a dive wasted, then an A1 is an awesome tool. If it's the latter, i.e. you enjoy diving for its own sake, and just want to take a snapshot every now and again, then a GoPro with a torch or a TG on a handle with a small strobe, or a phone housing, which you can clip off to your BCD and forget about until you need it is a perfectly serviceable option.

As far as size and weight goes, A1 by itself is on the smaller end of things among the full-frame cameras, especially compared to things like a Nikon Z9. Still, with a 16-35mm shooting wide-angle, if you're picky about corner sharpness, you want a large dome - 230mm or more - and this is a pain in the ass to travel with. A 180mm/200mm dome is much easier to pack, but you take a compromise on image quality. A Canon 8-15mm or Sigma 15mm fisheye on a Canon EF to Sony E adapter (Metabones or MC-11) can be used behind a much more compact 140mm dome, but framing and lighting shots with a 180 degree diagonal FoV is considerably more difficult. A 'halfway house' solution is a Sony 28-60mm with flat port and Nauticam WWL-1 lens - this is still fairly heavy, but a lot more compact than a 230mm dome.

As a budget alternative to Ikelite, you can consider a SeaFrogs housing. The base A1 housing costs $643, a 90mm port + gear is $159, an 8" polycarbonate dome is $275, a 6" glass dome is $480, and a zoom gear for your 16-35mm is $30. Add a Leak Sentinel for €255 (don't use the SeaFrogs VPS-100, it leaks underwater after a while) and a flash trigger for $68 and you have a full setup minus tray, arms and strobes for less than $1500. I've been using a SeaFrogs housing with a Sony A6300 for quite a few years now, and I'm very satisfied with it. Nauticam, of course, is a whole tier above it, but I would consider it to be very competitive with Ikelite.

Note regarding strobes - don't forget arms, clamps, and possibly floats to get the whole rig as close to neutral buoyancy as you can. The exact configuration depends on your personal preferences, diving location, choice of strobes and other matters.

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I'm just about to upgrade to the A1 with the Sony 28-60 lens. I already own a WWL-1 for wide angle and the SMC-1 for macro.

FWIW, I am considering between the Nauticam and the Marelux housings. If the OP does not object, I would appreciate thoughts on these two housings included in this thread.

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@Frothin 

Be careful, you have put your hand in a gear which, in exchange for your passions, will take your time, and especially your money. But I can only say : WELCOME to the world of underwater photography.

From the previous answer to your initial post, i cannot agree more with what @Barmaglot said : "do you dive to take photos, or do you take pictures while diving?" That will make a huge difference in your investment, unless you arte very rich and do not look at what you spend. I am the happy owner of a Sony A1 system (details will follow below) because I dive to take photos, which I sell either directly or via articles in magazine (specialized or large public). And this is the reason why I am using professional material. And this what should drive your decision. If you alreday own a G1 setup, and intend to take pictures while diving, more a hobby than a semi/pro activity, be assured that you will find as much pleasure, keeping in mind that you will need to overcome all the frustrations from underwater photography. I am sure no one will disagree here about all challenges and frustrations we have all encountered. Be prepared on that. 

With that being said as a preamble, i own a full Sony A1 setup, and without any commercial promotion intention (i am not paid by any manufacturer)

  • Sony A1 with from wide to macro : 15mm FE (Sigma), all Sony 12-24 F/4, 16-35 F/2.8, 14 F1.8, 24-70 F/2.8 and 90 Macro F/2.8 and , 20 F2.8 Macro 1:2 (Tamron)
  • Nauticam Housing with Macro Port, 100mm Dome, 140mm Dome and 230 Dome. What ever we talk about corner softness, never a customer, client has complained about this... Come on, we are talking about underwater photography and not architecture photo. I had used the WWL-1 in the past, but sold it as i did not see the benefits, but the weight while travelling!
  • 2 x Inon Z240 for Macro, in TTL (with TRT S-Turtle TTL trigger) and 2 x Subtronic Nova (15 years old) for Wide Angle in Manual mode, with different sets of buoyancy arms and clamps from Nauticam (too expensive) and SeaFrog (great and cheap). Plus a backscatter Mini Flash for Snoot Macro (really great)

I have been using this setup for now 18 months with much pleasure and satisfaction having upgraded from Sony A7rII in the same setup (only changed the housing, keeping all my ports and other accessories). Honestly, doing underwater photography for now 25 years, there is nothing I am missing with this setup, setup that took more than 10 years to build. I did not buy it in 1 shot. I.e., the Subtronic strobes that i bought 12 years ago. Same with the port...

As a conclusion i would say and emphasize that underwater photography is like a love story. With HIGH and LOW (same as any pictures, with highlights and shades). It will give so much fun and plasure, proudness, but also will trigger so many frustration : Underwater photography will give you challenges that you wouldn't have faced had you not started with it... But so much pleasure as well

Feel free to visit my website www.colorsoftheblue.com (unfortunately, not updated for the last 2 years)

Eric

 

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I'm sure that this wonderful community will reply regarding options for housing and using your camera underwater, but I would urge you to immediately start developing a productive relationship with your local specialist underwater photography store. If you don't know who this might be,  this might be an excellent question for the community.

There are so many (very) expensive pitfalls with lens choices/dome options/strobes/triggering/housings etc. that you really need a specialist retailer's advice. The advice given on the forum is amazing, and is a great way of validating information you are given, but at some point you are going to need to ask a human being about to how to put it all together and make it work properly!

 

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Lots of valuable information was posted already, and although I agree with @adamhanlonfor me the next housing dealer would be about 2h drive by car. 

As this is your first step into a large UW housing, it might be a good opportunity to buy used. Maybe even getting a used Sony FF housing so you can reuse ports if you decide that you want to take your A1 underwater. Housings lose a lot of value the moment they leave your dealers door and sometimes full sets get posted by people who realised after a single dive trip that a FF camera is too much underwater. If you get a setup that uses the WWL-1 you can even go to an entirely different format and reuse the lens if you upgrade. 

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I would like to thank each and every one of you for your responses. I can already see this is a great community with a lot of very friendly and helpful members! I appreciate the time all of you took to answer my questions!

I currently think the Nauticam Housing with a Nauticam N100 Flat Port 45, the Sony 28-60 and a WWL + CMC might be a good housing option in combination with a TRT-Electronics Turtle trigger and INON Z-330 strobes. 

@ChrisRoss

Quote

First I would suggest that just because you own a camera doesn't automatically make it the best option to take underwater.  A few points to consider

Yes, I thought that may be the case. I travel internationally a lot and was afraid the Sony a1 set-up would be a bit big. The downside of buying a dedicated underwater system is that I would have to carry it in addition to my a1. I do also have a Panasonic LUMIX G9 which could be a potential option for a dedicated underwater set-up. 

Quote

Not all wide angles UW are created equal.  the 16-35 is a rectilinear lens and needs a large dome port to get the best out of it.  The corners will be soft due to dome port optics even when stopped down to f13-16 range in an 8" dome.  Other options include the water contact optics including the Nauticam WWL with Sony 28-60 or the WACP-C is also an option.  Then there is are fisheye lenses, Sony doesn't have a native fisheye so you would be looking at adapted Canon 8-15 or Sigma 15mm.  The WWL, WACP-C and fisheye options will all be optically superior to the 16-35 even behind a 230mm dome.

Thank you for this information. I was actually looking into the Sony 28-60 in combination with a flat dome and the Nauticam WWL-1b and the CMC-2. I was thinking this could provide me with a somewhat travel friendly set-up and give me the flexibility to swap underwater between wide-angle and macro. Do you have any experience with this set-up? Would this provide satisfactory results? 

Quote

You talk about starting off with wide angle - but what do you want to shoot with it?  Reef-scapes?  Wrecks?  large animals like sharks etc?  Close focus wide angle or wide angle macro?  This will influence your wide angle choice.  Fisheye for reef scapes, possibly rectilinear for wrecks etc.

Next is where do you plan to dive - mostly local?  or flying to a dive spot?  Traveling with things like a 230mm dome can be difficult if you want to fit it all in a carry-on. 

I do not have a fixed address. I travel full-time. I am currently in South Carolina. After that I will be in Costa Rica for 1 month. My next big trip is to the Galápagos Islands in May 2023. I usually like to dive with larger (pelagic) animals like manta rays, whale sharks and different kinds of sharks. I am currently debating staying for multiple months in the Maldives to work there (tiger sharks and manta rays). Other than that, I do like the idea of being flexible with what I am shooting since I am traveling a lot and visit very different dive sites. For example, I lived a year in Indonesia and dived Raja Ampat where I would have loved to have had the possibility to shoot macro. 

@Barmaglot

Quote

The converter is required for TTL operation. You can run the strobes without the converter, but then you will only be able to shoot in manual mode. This is not as big a deal as you might think; the usefulness of strobe TTL underwater is limited, and manual operation is not at all difficult to learn.

I don't think you can use TTL with Ikelite strobes and an Aquatica housing. The Ikelite TTL converter is specific to Ikelite housings, UW-Technics do not make a Sony/Aquatica TTL board, and TRT-Electronics Turtle trigger is optical only, whereas Ikelite strobes required wired sync for TTL operation. You can use Ikelite strobes with an Ikelite bulkhead, but this will be limited to manual operation. Alternatively, you can use a fiber optic bulkhead with a Turtle trigger and fiber optic capable strobes such as Inon Z-330 or Retra Prime/Pro X. The latter will also give you high-speed sync capability, although with A1's 1/400s sync speed (1/500s in APS-C crop) this is not as useful as it is on other cameras.

Thank you for all this information. Chris mentioned that the INON Z-330 strobes are more compact and after looking more into them, they seem to be a great option! In this case I would need the TRT-Electronics Turtle trigger and a case that supports fiber optic bulkheads if I want to use TTL, is that correct? 

Quote

The big question here is, do you dive to take photos, or do you take pictures while diving? If it's the former, i.e. photography is the main focus of your dive, and a dive without a camera is a dive wasted, then an A1 is an awesome tool. If it's the latter, i.e. you enjoy diving for its own sake, and just want to take a snapshot every now and again, then a GoPro with a torch or a TG on a handle with a small strobe, or a phone housing, which you can clip off to your BCD and forget about until you need it is a perfectly serviceable option.

That's a great question! I do make a (small) part of my living from my above-water photography and I definitely would like to transition to diving to take photos, but I am also aware that I am at the beginning of my journey and will need a lot of time and practice to get where I want to be. The biggest concern with the a1 is that the underwater set-up is on the bigger side. Since I travel full-time, I would rather not have to carry a pelican case with me everywhere - the a1 itself with the telephoto lenses are already painful to carry. 

Quote

A 'halfway house' solution is a Sony 28-60mm with flat port and Nauticam WWL-1 lens - this is still fairly heavy, but a lot more compact than a 230mm dome

I am looking more and more into this and it seems to be a great trade-off between weight, size and quality. 

Quote

As a budget alternative to Ikelite, you can consider a SeaFrogs housing. The base A1 housing costs $643, a 90mm port + gear is $159, an 8" polycarbonate dome is $275, a 6" glass dome is $480, and a zoom gear for your 16-35mm is $30. Add a Leak Sentinel for €255 (don't use the SeaFrogs VPS-100, it leaks underwater after a while) and a flash trigger for $68 and you have a full setup minus tray, arms and strobes for less than $1500. I've been using a SeaFrogs housing with a Sony A6300 for quite a few years now, and I'm very satisfied with it. Nauticam, of course, is a whole tier above it, but I would consider it to be very competitive with Ikelite.

I appreciate this information. You are probably right, but I have to admit that I don't think I feel confident enough to use a SeaFrog Housing with my a1. I already feel this way with the Ikelite, which is probably why I will just save up a bit longer and go for an aluminium housing. I don't want to end up saving money in the wrong places. 

 

@WK's Gone Divimng

Quote

I'm just about to upgrade to the A1 with the Sony 28-60 lens. I already own a WWL-1 for wide angle and the SMC-1 for macro.

FWIW, I am considering between the Nauticam and the Marelux housings. If the OP does not object, I would appreciate thoughts on these two housings included in this thread.

How do you like the WWL-1 and SMC-1 so far? Also what made you decide between these two housings? I have to admit I didn't look a lot into the Marelux housing. 

 

@lambee01

Quote

Be careful, you have put your hand in a gear which, in exchange for your passions, will take your time, and especially your money. But I can only say : WELCOME to the world of underwater photography.

Haha. Thank you very much. Yes, I can already tell that this won't be a cheap passion to pursue :) 

Quote

Nauticam Housing with Macro Port, 100mm Dome, 140mm Dome and 230 Dome. What ever we talk about corner softness, never a customer, client has complained about this... Come on, we are talking about underwater photography and not architecture photo. I had used the WWL-1 in the past, but sold it as i did not see the benefits, but the weight while travelling!

That's actually very interesting. I feel like everything in this thread has convinced me more and more to go for the WWL-1 as an option over a 230 Dome and the 16-35. Can you talk a little bit about your experience using both of these set-ups? I would highly appreciate that!

Quote

 

As a conclusion i would say and emphasize that underwater photography is like a love story. With HIGH and LOW (same as any pictures, with highlights and shades). It will give so much fun and plasure, proudness, but also will trigger so many frustration : Underwater photography will give you challenges that you wouldn't have faced had you not started with it... But so much pleasure as well

I feel this way about photography in general and I can't wait for the highs and lows of my underwater photography journey. Thank you very much! 

 

@adamhanlon

Quote

I'm sure that this wonderful community will reply regarding options for housing and using your camera underwater, but I would urge you to immediately start developing a productive relationship with your local specialist underwater photography store. If you don't know who this might be,  this might be an excellent question for the community.

Thank you Adam. I will keep this in mind. Since I don't have a fixed home address, It' sometimes quite difficult to develop a productive and lasting relationship with someone local to help. I will see if I find an option here in South Carolina where I am currently at. 

Quote

There are so many (very) expensive pitfalls with lens choices/dome options/strobes/triggering/housings etc. that you really need a specialist retailer's advice. The advice given on the forum is amazing, and is a great way of validating information you are given, but at some point you are going to need to ask a human being about to how to put it all together and make it work properly!

I definitely understand that this is the case. I very much feel this way about photography in general and underwater photography is just a whole new level of it. For this reason, I will try to research as much as I can before I commit to anything.
 

@hyp

Quote

Lots of valuable information was posted already, and although I agree with @adamhanlonfor me the next housing dealer would be about 2h drive by car. 

Yes that's very similar to my situation and the reason why I am trying to find as much help as I can here.

Quote

As this is your first step into a large UW housing, it might be a good opportunity to buy used. Maybe even getting a used Sony FF housing so you can reuse ports if you decide that you want to take your A1 underwater. Housings lose a lot of value the moment they leave your dealers door and sometimes full sets get posted by people who realised after a single dive trip that a FF camera is too much underwater. If you get a setup that uses the WWL-1 you can even go to an entirely different format and reuse the lens if you upgrade. 

I will look a bit more in used UW Housing options. It's a bit difficult for me, since I move spots so often. I really like the Idea of the WWL-1 since it allows me so much flexibility with changing my set-up later on and not spending a large chunk of money for something I won't be able to use in the future. 

Edited by Frothin

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I just jumped ship on Canon and went to the Sony A1. Have not even had it in the water yet. Hoping to practice in the pool soon. 

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3 minutes ago, billmcdavid said:

I just jumped ship on Canon and went to the Sony A1. Have not even had it in the water yet. Hoping to practice in the pool soon. 

May I ask what housing, strobe and dome/lens set-up you got for the A1? 

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4 minutes ago, Frothin said:

May I ask what housing, strobe and dome/lens set-up you got for the A1? 

Sure! I bought two Inon Z-330s for strobes. I bought a Nauticam housing with the N100 Flat Port 45 and a WWL-1B which will be used with the Sony 26-60mm lens. I also got a macro port to use with the 90mm Macro Port I bought. I still have my SMC-1 which I will use as a wet lens with the Macro lens. 

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I'd like to weigh in, though with a few general comments rather than very hardware-specific stuff.

First, absolutely take your best camera underwater.  You will never be satisfied until you do.   And then do not cheap out on a cheap housing.  (I like Nauticam).  

Second, wide angle and macro are not just your most important choices, to some extent they are your only choices, along with fisheye.   The midrange isn't really used that much underwater, though I sure miss it for some subjects.   I shoot Nikon FX, and my choices are really limited.

Third, about that macro lens choice...  I've been shooting 105mm macro underwater since 2015, and I can tell you that I end up cropping the vast majority of my macro shots.  Why?  Because I can't get close enough without spooking most of the subjects.  I've found that 150mm works best for me, a discovery I made looking how much I cropped, and confirmed when I put a 1.4TC on my 105mm.  I just didn't like the IQ with the TC attached so I went back to cropping.

90mm is too short, in my opinion.   At least get the 100mm.

Forth, wide angle.   Wide angle is ... not easy.   You choose either fisheye or rectilinear.   If you choose rectilinear be prepared to end up with a very large dome port of 230mm.   You won't be happy with corners with less, and you may not be happy with corners here either.   Lenses like the WACP-1 are alternatives, but have their own pitfalls.   The 230mm dome port's pitfall is portability.

Fifth, you need a strobe, especially for macro.   Or two strobes, though I've been purposely using only a single strobe more and more to get dramatic shadows.

Sixth, you'll need/want a focus light, but beware shooting video or ambient with it on.  They can cause near objects to have a red sheen.

Finally, on the housing you want a vacuum leak detector. 

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8 hours ago, Frothin said:

@WK's Gone Divimng

How do you like the WWL-1 and SMC-1 so far? Also what made you decide between these two housings? I have to admit I didn't look a lot into the Marelux housing.

I currently have the GH5 paired with the Panasonic 14-48 mm. I do only video and like the WWL-1 well enough. For me, video has less demands on edge sharpness, compared to photo, as the eye is drawn to the moving subject that is generally in the center of the frame. I do wide angle with the WWL-1 when I expect large subjects such as barracuda vortexes but for smaller wide angle subjects I'm generally happy enough to just use the 14-48 with the flat port. Having said this, the A1 is a different animal from the GH5 and I will likely be using the WWL-1 on most, if not all, wide angle dives as the A1's resolution will allow greater cropping than the GH5. I have yet to use the SMC-1 but will be doing so when I go to Lembeh at the end of the year.

I started looking at Marelux because the local sole agent for Nauticam at the time that I bought my Nauticam GH5 housing has become the local sole agent for Marelux, and the agency for Nauticam has gone to two other retailers. Suffice to say that retailers do not generally recommend competitors products. So if anyone has experience of both Nauticam and Marelux, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

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10 hours ago, Frothin said:

The biggest concern with the a1 is that the underwater set-up is on the bigger side. Since I travel full-time, I would rather not have to carry a pelican case with me everywhere - the a1 itself with the telephoto lenses are already painful to carry.  

For what it's worth, here is my rig (A6300 in a SeaFrogs housing, 8-inch dome, Retra Pro strobes) next to a Nikon D850 in a Nauticam housing with a 230mm dome and Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes:

LfflzyV.jpeg

Top-down view on the same:

image.thumb.jpeg.a149531cfd9aa1356e39cf311524324a.jpeg

The Nauticam A1 housing is similar in dimensions to the SeaFrogs A6xxx one - being metal, it's thinner than plastic, and it fits the camera body inside a lot closer, so the difference in camera body size is canceled out - and a WWL-1B is somewhat smaller than my 8-inch dome (the outer diameter of the port, not including shade petals, is 22cm, whereas the WWL-1B diameter is specified at 156mm).

As you can see a large portion of the system bulk comes from arms and strobes, which is largely independent of the body that you pick, be in a D5/Z9 on the upper end (dual grip sports cameras make for a very fat housing), all the way to an RX100 or TG-6 on the lower end.

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You mention you have a G9, that could make a decent UW setup with a WWL and the 14-42 kit lens.  Though the AF of the OM-1 will be much better on the macro lens than the G9.  Note that while it is theoretically possible to swap out a WWL for a bare port or a macro lens in practice probably not so much - the WWL is big and you need to have somewhere to put it, even with the buoyancy collars it weighs around 100-200 gr UW and could cause your housing to go positive if it is quite close to neutral already.  The WWL is probably a good choice for big pelagics. 

The advantage of micro43 is the lenses are really compact and relatively inexpensive.  by way of example a set of 14-42 kit lens for WWL/60mm macro/Pany 8mm fisheye would be around $1600 (US prices) while the Sony equivalent of 28-60/90mm macro and Canon 8-15 fisheye + Metabones converter would be $3200.  Weights for the 3 lenses are 463 gr vs 1460 gr.  Ports for everything apart from the WWL are also smaller and cheaper.  You could also add in the excellent 12-40 f2.8 or 12-45 f4 lenses for intermediate range work in cooler waters - The Sony equivalent needs a diopter to focus in a dome port and a bigger dome.  The extra body is also quite compact. 

While you probably could make some money selling UW images, realistically much of the effort in selling them is promoting your images rather than taking them. 

I would suggest you sit down and add up costs for both systems and their weights and dimensions.  To give you an idea, this is my rig in a carry-on backpack (Think Tank streetwalker hard drive)  it includes Nauticam housing (camera inside) 100mm fisheye dome, macro flat port, Zen170mm dome, Olympus 12-40, 60mm macro, Panasonic 7-14, 8mm fisheye and two INON Z-240 strobes. 

IMG_2948.jpg

 

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The recommended flat port for the Sony 28-60 is the Flat Port 45 with focus knob. Does anyone know of an alternative flat port without a focus knob that will work with the WWL-1 and the SMC-1?

Thanks

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14 minutes ago, ChrisRoss said:

You mention you have a G9, that could make a decent UW setup with a WWL and the 14-42 kit lens.  Though the AF of the OM-1 will be much better on the macro lens than the G9.  Note that while it is theoretically possible to swap out a WWL for a bare port or a macro lens in practice probably not so much - the WWL is big and you need to have somewhere to put it, even with the buoyancy collars it weighs around 100-200 gr UW and could cause your housing to go positive if it is quite close to neutral already.  The WWL is probably a good choice for big pelagics.  

The advantage of micro43 is the lenses are really compact and relatively inexpensive.  by way of example a set of 14-42 kit lens for WWL/60mm macro/Pany 8mm fisheye would be around $1600 (US prices) while the Sony equivalent of 28-60/90mm macro and Canon 8-15 fisheye + Metabones converter would be $3200.  Weights for the 3 lenses are 463 gr vs 1460 gr.  Ports for everything apart from the WWL are also smaller and cheaper.  You could also add in the excellent 12-40 f2.8 or 12-45 f4 lenses for intermediate range work in cooler waters - The Sony equivalent needs a diopter to focus in a dome port and a bigger dome.  The extra body is also quite compact. 

Considering that A1 and G9 bodies are almost exactly the same size, plus the compact size of the Sony 28-60mm, I don't think that the difference in macro lens size and cost outweighs the massive advantage of A1's class-leading autofocus over G9's five year old CDAF.

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22 minutes ago, WK's Gone Diving said:

The recommended flat port for the Sony 28-60 is the Flat Port 45 with focus knob. Does anyone know of an alternative flat port without a focus knob that will work with the WWL-1 and the SMC-1?

Thanks

You can remove the focus knob if that is a concern, refer to the instructions here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eqjAuRyQbazThYDkdThLO0zsoLvzdktJ/view

If the concern is the price, probably no alternative the 45 on the port name refers to distance from port flange to the port glass and if you use a longer flat port you risk vignetting if the lens is not close enough to the port glass.  The closest is a N100 flat port 50. 

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41 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

Considering that A1 and G9 bodies are almost exactly the same size, plus the compact size of the Sony 28-60mm, I don't think that the difference in macro lens size and cost outweighs the massive advantage of A1's class-leading autofocus over G9's five year old CDAF.

I agree with this. In addition most manufacturers don't make a G9 housing. I think Nauticam made one, but it's discontinued and I think very few have been sold.

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43 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

Considering that A1 and G9 bodies are almost exactly the same size, plus the compact size of the Sony 28-60mm, I don't think that the difference in macro lens size and cost outweighs the massive advantage of A1's class-leading autofocus over G9's five year old CDAF.

perhaps, which Is why I suggested pricing up the entire kit including possible future lenses and their sizes and weights.  I'd also say either an EM-1 MkIII or an OM-1 would be a better choice to take UW than a G9.  The G9 was only raised as the OP has one.

The Nauticam A1 housing is a little over 60% more expensive than the OM-1 housing.  Similarly ports are more expensive and larger.  If you just look at the WWL options price and size is very close for the ports/WWL , but you may want to consider adding a fisheye, macro or some sort of rectilinear later on.  Size of these add-ons could well be very important if you are constantly traveling.

 

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21 minutes ago, ChrisRoss said:

You can remove the focus knob if that is a concern, refer to the instructions here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eqjAuRyQbazThYDkdThLO0zsoLvzdktJ/view

If the concern is the price, probably no alternative the 45 on the port name refers to distance from port flange to the port glass and if you use a longer flat port you risk vignetting if the lens is not close enough to the port glass.  The closest is a N100 flat port 50. 

Many thanks for that! Will be exactly what I will do.

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34 minutes ago, ChrisRoss said:

The Nauticam A1 housing is a little over 60% more expensive than the OM-1 housingSimilarly ports are more expensive and larger

True, but then you'd need to buy a new $2200 body, which will eat most, if not all, of the savings. Honestly, if I had an A1, I don't think I could imagine using any other camera underwater.

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5 hours ago, WK's Gone Diving said:

Many thanks for that! Will be exactly what I will do.

FYI - I bought this recently and removed the focus knob. Super easy and it works well. 

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