Jump to content
kcf955

Moving from Film to Digital - First dives

Recommended Posts

Sorry for the long post in adavance, if you don't want to read the whole thing here is a summary: The housing and camera are amazing and the move to digital feels like a photographic rebirth for me.

 

Now the long version...

 

A little background

 

I started shooting underwater in 1986 on my first open water dive after certification. I borrowed my fathers point and shoot underwater film camera that broke after the first dive, but I was hooked. Capturing images of the creatures and underwater landscapes to share with family and friends became the focus of my diving. For the last 14 years I have been using an Aquatica A3 housing with a Canon F1n manual focus camera.

 

A Rebirth

 

So fast forward 14 years, the Aquatica housing served me very well and never let me down. I had not been paying attention to the evolution digital photography other than owning a Nikon Coolpix 990 for shooting photos for web sites that I worked on or for carrying around at work. Everything changed when a friend at work who does portraiture and weddings on the side (I know, all firefighters have side jobs ;-) showed me a new fangled digital SLR called the Canon 10D. I was floored by the feel of the camera, it was familiar to me and I was most impressed by the lack of shutter release lag and the fact you could take as many photos as you wanted and see the results immediately, making corrections as necessary. No more buying film, shooting and waiting for processing to the tune of $10 a roll.

 

I have spent more in the last 14 years on film and processing then what my Seacam housing cost. This is a good way to justify to your significant other why you need a DSLR and housing, "Honey, I am actually saving us money by getting into digital underwater photography." Actually, my wife did not buy into that reasoning, she just loves me a lot. No, I mean A LOT!

 

My friend from work and I flew to Vegas to attend the annual Photo Marketing Association trade show in February 2004 to get a first hand look at what was new in photographic equipment. After watching one of Canon's sponsored pros shooting with the 1D Mark II during a live model shoot Canon printed out these huge prints just minutes after the shoot that were stunning. I was sold. I spent most of 2004 selling every piece of camera gear I owned, including my underwater gear, and pre-ordered a 1D Mark II and the new Seacam housing for it. I got the Camera at the end of April which gave me several months to get aquainted with the beast. The housing came in September, perfect timing for the best time of year for diving in Northern California, Fall. Yea right, with all my gear finally, the weather did not cooperate, we had a stormy Fall and the Ocean was a washing machine. I was able to do some pool diving to test the housing and become familiar with it's multitude of controls. Real diving would have to wait until a trip to Maui in late January.

 

In the mean time, I heard that Canon was updating their full frame DSLR, the 1Ds. I was already looking at getting a second body since I do a lot of other shooting besides underwater. I had speculated that Canon would keep the same form factor and button configuration with the 1Ds Mark II that they had with the 1D Mark II which would allow seamless inter changeability between these two cameras and the Seacam housing. When the 1Ds Mark II was announced, I placed a pre order through Canon's premiere South Florida dealer, Stephen Frink Photographic and received a 1Ds Mark II in time for the holidays. Off to Maui for some real shooting...

 

The Housing

 

The housing was extremely easy to set up. I was amazed that despite the ____ number of controls on the body everyone of them lined up perfectly with the housing controls. The only controls that have to be checked for registration are the main on/off switch, zoom/focus gears (if installed) and the metering pattern control knob. This knob is a beveled disk and the housing closes more cleanly if the beveled portion goes over the camera’s metering button first. Some real nice points about buttoning up the housing: The ports screw on but have a stop pin that engages with the housing to prevent the port from screwing any tighter. This works like bayonet mount at the end of the threaded portion of the port. This is ingenious. The only time I have had water leak into my Aquatica housing was when I did not screw on a macro port tight enough. It was always a judgment call as to how tight was tight enough. With the Seacam, once the port pin bottoms out on the housing, you have positive confirmation that the port is on properly. The other nice feature when sealing the housing is that the latches that close the housing are not adjustable. The housing is either open or closed, there is not in between. My previous housing had adjustable tension latches where you could adjust the tension of all four latches independently. But you could inadvertently either not have them tightened enough for a good seal or not have them tightened evenly since all four are independent. I had 100% confidence when my Seacam was taken aboard the boat in the parking lot and put into the rinse tank for storage.

 

The controls were very well laid out and easy to get to while underwater. It took one dive to get used to using the “ * “ button to focus instead of using the shutter release. This is a great feature that gives you the best of both manual and auto focus worlds during macro dives.

 

What’s not to like about this housing and camera? Well a couple of nit picks here. The first is the window over the LCD display. You have to tilt the housing forward and look up through the LCD viewing port to see the top of the LCD. This is not a big deal but just not perfect like the rest of the housing. Other than that, the housing is everything I had expected. The Seacam Silver finish is quite amazing, not sure what it is but it is tough, I mean real tough. My old Aquatica had a painted exterior that chipped and flaked off easily, though this was only cosmetic.

 

The camera worked great in the housing and for me the full frame sensor was a must. I love the large bright viewfinder and the fact that there is no field of view crop due to a smaller sensor. (If I were to start over today picking a system, I would definately give the new Nikon D2x a serious look, it appears Nikon has pulled a rabit out of it's hat.) B) I came away with 30 or so keepers from the 7 dives. In my film days, I would have huddled over a light table chucking 90% of each roll of Velvia into the garbage. Digital is just amazing!

post-1600-1109884573_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are two more shots from the trip...

post-1600-1109898361_thumb.jpg

post-1600-1109898378_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good choice on taking the Ed Robinson boat :D

 

Nice shot of the Hilton's Aeolid at the end of your gallery as well...

 

You mention a "full frame sensor is a must", but then say you would "give the new Nikon D2x a serious look", even though it has a 1.5x crop...why would this be so?

 

~Matt Segal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for checking out my gallery. Ed Robinson runs a great operation and his people are fantastic. The first 19 images in my UW gallery are from the 1Ds the other were scanned from slide film a few years back. The Hilton's Aeolid was by far the best shot I ever got with a Nikonos and extensin tubes.

 

As to the D2x, it looks promissing. Nikon obviously spent extra time getting the camera right (at least at this early stage the reports have been very positive.) I have heard the viewfinder is as bright as the Canon's and Nikon has a good selection of lenses made for the 1.5 crop including a fish eye. That said, I have absolutely no regrets with my choice of the Canon system, I just think that if one were starting over, it would not hurt to look at the newest Nikon. At the time when I did my research for a new system I used a 10D and when compared to the viewfinder of my old slr, the 10D seemed dim. Even between my 1D and 1Ds there is a noticable diference in the viewfinder brightness. I don't think most people would notice or mind, but like I said, I am used to the 35mm format so for me it is a must.

 

Keith

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree about the full frame bit. If I was thinking of a Canon the only cameras I would consider are the 1Ds and 1Ds Mk2 - because I could not take on underwater photography without a fisheye lens that offers 180 degree. This is a personal opinion - based on the way I shoot.

 

But I find this argument even more persuasive when I think commercially. Regarding my UW picture sales - about 75% of them (finacially) come from fisheye shots. Fish and macro sell, but only really for editorial - which does not pay that well. More tightly cropped wide angle is always passed over because fisheyes create space underwater - space for art eds and art directors to exploit.

 

That for me (along with consideration of the lenses I already own) is why a hypothetical camera choice for me is either full frame Canon or any DX Nikon with the 10.5mm. Until, that is, Canon produce either a 1.3x or 1.6x crop fisheye. A 35mm fisheye (Canon 15mm or Nikon 16mm) is not wide enough for my way of shooting on a cropped sensor camera.

 

Just the opinion of a Nikon shooter in a Canon discussion.

 

Alex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alex,

 

I haven't shot a test show w/ the 1DmkII but I find that the 1.25x crop is VERY mild. It doesn't reduce the FOV for the fisheye by much.

 

Cheers

James

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alex,

 

I couldn't agree with you more. After 40 years in UW photography sales, wide angle is where

the money is. I would hazard to say that nearly 90% of my UW photography sales are wide angle.

 

BTW, I've been enviously watching your work evolve over the last three years. I my estimation

you are one of the best emerging, young UW photographers in the world. I'm continually impressed

by not only your technical knowledge and skill, but by your fresh and creative approach to subject

matter. You are a serious inspiration and for this I thank you for enabling me to re-think my

creative approach.

 

For the rest of you reading this, Alex and I have never met nor communicated with each other.

 

Best regards,

 

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent points!!! Now we know why they are called fish eye lenses! :blink:

They are also good for photographing fish eyes (and snouts), see my avatar.

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In my estimation you [Alex Mustard] are one of the best emerging, young UW photographers in the world. I'm continually impressed by not only your technical knowledge and skill, but by your fresh and creative approach to subject matter. You are a serious inspiration and for this I thank you for enabling me to re-think my creative approach.

 

Heartily agree.

 

Man this sounds corny - but you're my hero too Alex! :)

 

BTW, FWIW I've never met Alex either.

 

Anyone wanna start an Alex Appreciation Society? :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...