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MasonH

Help choosing UW set up

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Hi, I am new to the world of underwater photography and am looking to purchase a digital camera that will be well suited to underwater use as well as regular use. I know people ask this question all the time and I apologize if its repetitive, but I have done a fair bit of research and but would like to here some opinions from experienced uw photographers.

 

I would like to purchase a camera, housing, and strobe in $1000 range all together. So far I'm favoring the Sony V3 (not for any particularly good reason), but am clueless about housings or a strobe. I live in Canada and ocassionally dive in some very cold water so I would like equipment that will hold up (I'm not sure if or how much cold water affects this type of equipment?). Also I'd like to hear any reccomendations on where to buy this stuff online. I'm leaving for Cuba May 8th so I need to make a decision very soon.

 

Thanks very much in advance to all that reply and I hope to become a regular visitor to this forum as there seems to be some very knowledgeable and skilled people here. :D

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Hi Mason,

 

I usually don't answer these types of questions, but you caught me on a good day...:-)

 

It might be a little bit tight to make it in under $1,000.

 

I'd recommend the Olympus 5060 with Ikelite housing and DS50 strobe. I think you can pick up a used or refurb'd 5060 still and when you want to upgrade later, you can fit the 7070 in the same housing.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Cheers

James

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James' suggestion is good in that there are regularly good deals on used C5050 setups in the classifieds here and on digitaldiver.net. I would suggest also looking at a Fuji F810 with the Ikelite housing and a DS-50 controlled with the manual controller. Newer camera than the 5050 with less shutter lag. Housing is less money, too. For about $1100, that's probably what I would do if I was starting out right now and didn't see anything in the classifieds I couldn't pass up. Only thing you sacrifice is the hard-wired TTL the Ikelite Olympus C-5050 housing gives you.

 

One other note: James, do you know for sure if the C7070 retrofits into a C-5050 housing? Or is it C5060?

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Sorry, I should have said 5060 - I'm going to go back and edit my original post.

 

Yes, the camera retrofits right into the 5060 housing.

 

James

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Thanks for your responses. I looked at an olympus 7070 today. I would prefer to purchase my equipment new for warranty and convenience purposes. The camera that caught my eye was the Canon S70, primarily due to its size and 28mm wide angle lense (which I understand is more desirable than the standard 35mm when shooting underwater...). It appears to priced pretty well for its features. I am still very open to other suggestions but I do need to make a decision soon since I will have to order the housing for whatever camera I buy as they are not readily available in my area. Any comments on the S70 or any other suggestions? Thanks again!

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Only thing with the S70 is that it reportedly struggles to focus in lower light like that found UW. Also, although it has a 28mm lens, most people eventually find they want to add a WA adaptor lens and currently there isn't one available for the S70 (whereas there is the for the F810 and 5060/7070 already mentioned).

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Thanks for pointing those things out, I really would never have even considered that. I'm completely new to underwater photography. To be honest size is major factor for me since this will also be my everyday use camera and I would like it to be easy to carry, which is why Im not too interested in the 7070. Something closer to the size of the s70 is more appealing to me.

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The Fuji F810 is the same size as the S70 and has good low-light AF performance, excellent RAW performance, a relatively wide lens (32 mm) and two housing options (OEM and Ike).

 

To see some images taken with this setup see Ikan Images or this thread on digitaldiver

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Seems like the link on Karen's page is broken, so...

 

for macro images taken with the F810 - look here

 

and for wide angles with the F810 - look here.

 

Hope this helps...

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Thanks everyone for your advice. I think I'm sold on the Fuji F810. Which housing should I go with? Sorry for all the questions. :D Your responses have a been a great help in the decision making process!

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I would recommend the Ikelite housing It will run you less than $300. If you go over to DigitalDiver.net and look in the forums there you can see some threads with info on a pre-production unit. All that is left then is to get a tray and handle, decide between the Ikelite and INON strobes, and plan for future add-on lenses :D.

 

Mike

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Mason, the Fuji housing is fine (I've used one several times), but the Ike housing looks like it might have the advantage of being able to spare some room for an external battery pack. The battery life on the Fuji F810 isn't brilliant (roughly 60 shots) depending on flash use - so this could be an advantage.

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After talking to a few people at the local diveshops, I've decided to stick with my current camera, an olympus C 720 and get an ikelite housing for it. It seems to be the most cost effective decision. I looked into the ikelite housing for the f810 it was going to run me over 400$ (canadian), plus an addition $650 for the camera itself and necessary accesories.

The best price I have found on the ikelite housing is $510us through BHphotovideo.com. If anyone knows where I could get a better price, please let me know. I figure I'm better off getting a good housing that I can add a strobe (or two) to and the ikelite housing i believe comes with a tray and handle and it will accept add on wide angle lenses.

 

Before i pull the trigger and spend the money on the Ikelite housing for my current camera, is there any reasons I shouldn't do this? I know the housing will only work with this camera, but if my skills get good enough to justify a new camera I assume should be able to get a decent resale for the housing, since olympus discontinued their housing for it.

 

 

Thanks again to all those who respond, you're advice is appreciated.

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Hi again,

 

While as a member of wetpixel, it is my constitutional duty to try to get everyone to spend as much (if not more) on equipment as me so I don't feel like I'm so crazy, I still respect arguments that try to reduce costs. However, I wouldn't be so quick to assume that you will be able to recoup much on the housing. This is because, in general, though nifty cameras for family snapshots above water, the C7xx series isn't all that well suited to underwater photography. There are several reasons for this including: 1) it doesn't have a very wide lens; 2) it only takes SmartMedia, which topped out at 128MB limiting the number of pictures on a card; 3) shutter lag on the older ones is not exactly optimal. Consequently, there isn't that great a market for the housings for them, especially given that the camera is now at least a couple generations old. In my opinion, $510US (which is something like $635CA) is a steep price to pay to house an older 3MP camera that may not be able to grow with you as a photographer. If you could still get the Oly housing for $200 I would probably sing a slightly different tune. I've seen classified ads on this forum and at digitaldiver for used C3030 and C4040 setups (those cameras are better underwater) for what you'd pay for that C720 Ike housing. You might even be able to get a newer D-series camera and Oly housing for that, but those cameras have trade-offs as well.

 

 

Now, $625CA does seem like a good estimate for the Fuji camera plus extra batteries and an extra xD card, though $400 looks just a bit high to me for the housing ($269.95US at B&H --> $340CA), though not if you are including Ike's tray and handle (which solves the tray and handle issue). So, you are paying more up front for the Fuji. But keep in mind that the Fuji has a lens better suited to UW photography, very little shutter lag, a bigger LCD and, most importantly, twice the native resolution (6.3MP) and a very, very good 12MP interpolated resolution plus the ability to use cards up to 1GB and RAW capability.

 

I realize that it is easy for me, who, while not completely obsessed, is really into this, to preach about this stuff. It isn't my money at stake here. However, if this is something you might think about doing seriously several times a year I would think about getting the better setup now. Unless you fall in love with a much more expensive DSLR setup, the F810 will probably last you quite a while.Your photography would grow with the addition of the external lenses. If there is potential that this may be a passing fancy (if you are thinking of strobes and such, i would bet not) then maybe another avenue makes sense. The only thing that would concern me about the Fuji is the battery life. If it really is only 60 shots on a charge then I might think a bit harder about it.

 

Finally, I really don't mean to beat you up. I could be way off base with my assessment of the housing's value on the used market. It might be worth a post over on digitaldiver.net, where there are more point and shoot users, to see if there are any C720 users there you can ask for advice. Just want to make sure you're happy with your eventual decision.

 

Mike

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Mike,

 

Thanks for posting this in such detail. I read Mason's post late last night but just went to bed, when I really wanted to post what you just said...:-)

 

When looking at an underwater setup, it is NEVER satisfying to first buy a camera, and then try to "make it work" for underwater use. It's much better to look at the whole setup as a system.

 

This includes, type of media, add-on lenses, housing, strobe use, and size and weight.

 

The C-720 falls short in just about every area above. It may only cost slightly more to go with an Oly 5060 or Fuji 810 and you'll end up with a much better camera for topsides use.

 

HTH

James

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If you want bad AF speed, and horrible final shutter lag, go with the Olys.

 

Your original idea of the Sony V3 is really the right one - AF speed very close to a nikon D70, and final shutter release lag of 14 milliseconds.

 

Ikelite housing, and ds50.

 

It'll add up to more than $1000 though.

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Hi Don,

 

Quick note though I'll be quick to poin tout that I've never used the Sony underwater or known anyone who has (making the Fuji a known commodity for me). The specs are impressive, but no moreso than the Fuji (if the marketing stuff is to be believed). What would concern me about the Sony in this particular situation is the disclaimer on Ike's site about adding a wide angle lens as being possible but not recommended (vignetting) limiting its "growth" potential, the added expense of the camera and the price of MemorySticks.

 

Mike

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Thanks again everyone for your replies. I totally agree with what has been said, my old school olympus is far from the ideal camera.....But the problem is I simply can't afford the camera I want right now since I have also recently upgraded my dive gear. I have decided to go ahead and purchase the ikelite housing since I found out that I will be able to claim it as a research expense, which means I won't own the housing. But I'm really only concerned with using it on my trip to Cuba and a few other dives this summer, then I think I will just donate my olympus to the department so they have a uw setup available for other students. In about 6 months I should be able to purchase a much better uw camera setup that I will be happy with. In the meantime this will hopefully let me take a few half decent pictures on my dives.

 

Thanks again to everyone who responed!

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Wow, you outsmarted all of us on this one! Sounds like a good plan, and it's free for the time being! Be sure to post pictures when you've got some!

 

Mike

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Sounds good Mason.

 

Mike - the V3 has a hotshoe, and the AF blows away the fuji. I can't find the final shutter lag spec, for the fuji anywhere on line, but suspect that it is closer to 100 milliseconds, than 10.

 

Apparently, the fuji also vignettes in the ike housing, but you just have to zoom in one step...

 

Don

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Well I changed my mind again :D .... I found a good price locally on a canon A95 and the canon housings are very reasonable. I think something like this will work out cheaper than buying the ikelite housing for my old olympus, and probably take better pictures.

 

Thanks for talking me out of buying a great housing for an unworthy camera :lol:

 

I'm going to visit a view stores today, I want to take a look at the Nikon coolpix cameras as well.

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Well after looking at a number of point and shoot cameras, I've picked up a Canon SD500 and its accompanying WP-DC70 housing. I've only had it a few hours but it seems like a great camera, and its about 1/3 the size of my old olympus and much, much faster. I can't wait to try it out underwater!

 

Anyone have any experience with this camera? Anything particular I should know about this model?

 

Thanks again!

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I don't know if you made up your mind yet. I just put out a post on the S70 you may find interesting. It is in the same forum.

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The SD500 is a horrible choice for an underwater camera - no manual modes. It will choose f2.8 or lower every time...:-( Do a search here on the digital Elph cameras here and you will see that they are very disappointing underwater.

 

You got lots of good advice in this thread Mason, but you rejected it all. Why?

 

Cheers

James

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Hi Mason,

 

I will endeavor to explain what James meant to say :D. One of the caveats that must accompany an underwater photography discussion now that we have entered the digital age is that just because a camera is the bee's knees for use topside or for portability doesn't mean it is well suited for this particular specialized application. Perhaps this should have been the first reply to your initial query rather than our usual immediate jump to our own favorite bit of technology (a common occurrence with us geeks!). With film cameras, you either chose a dedicated underwater point and shoot (Nikonos, Motomarine, etc.) or you chose a film SLR, which had manual controls for topside that worked just as well underwater. Now that digital point and shoot cameras have become much more capable than film ones ever were, and housings have become so inexpensive more caer ust be taken in equipment selection. In order to make the digicams more accessible and easier to use, maunfacturers have been making them smaller and more and more automatic -- this is particularly true with the cameras like the ELPH series which are marketed to an audience that values small size and ease of use. Remember, now, that the market for serious (and I use the term loosely to mean everything other than people who want to just point the camera at a fish and pull the trigger) underwater photography equipment is tiny compared to the parent/grandparent snapshooter market. So the bottom line is that there just aren't any digital cameras designed with the underwater market in mind. Rather, the cameras that tend to work best underwater are lucky accidents based on the features the manufacturers have added to their land cameras.

 

One of the features that is highly recommended for underwater photography is the ability to control exposure manually. This allows you to override the camera's internal meter to control the background exposure and let the strobe fill in the foreground with artificial light. It also let you control depth of field. It is particularly critical for wide angle as without it, the camera will almost always give you a washed out look to your blue water.

 

It would appear from the SD500's specifications that the manual mode only lets you control ISO and white balance. It appears that shutter speed and aperture cannot be controlled directly, though perhaps you can affect them through the exposure compensation to a certain extent. So, as James says, the camera will most likely pick the lowest (most wide open) aperture value in lowlight situations. This may be mitigated somewhat in macro mode as most cameras tend to have lenses whose minimum f-stop increases with focal length. In macro mode, you'll most likely be zoomed in so the aperture value might well be acceptable in that case. However, for wide angle shots, you likely won't be afforded much creative control of background exposure. As for shutter speed -- many of the small automatic digicams default to an unacceptably low shutter speed when the flash is enabled (1/30 in most cases). Without the ability to override this, you run the risk of not being able to freeze the action. I note as well that the camera does have an "underwater" mode. Unfortunately, this is most likely just a white balance adjustment more than anything else. It might well be helpful in putting some red back into the image if you're not using strobes, but might do more harm than good if you are using external lighting.

 

Again, if your plan is to have something small and cool to play with before deciding where to go in the future, or want a digicam cheifly for topside use and occasionally for close-in snapshots while snorkeling or diving then you may have found what you're looking for. However I would try to limit expectations if you want to make the camera an underwater workhorse.

 

Mike

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