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Author Topic: Advice on inexpensive underwater system  (Read 6952 times)

kirispupis

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Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« on: December 19, 2012, 01:02:22 PM »
I am looking for a decent underwater system and could use advice in what to choose.  The following is what I am looking for.
  • I do not plan to take underwater photos very often - mainly on vacation.
  • I do not need a high depth rating.  The vast majority of my photos will be in the pool and snorkeling.
  • I am interested in taking photos where part is above water and part is underwater
  • My budget is not very high. I did look into a sport housing for my 5D3 but that was running about $3k.  I would really like to keep my budget for the underwater part under $1k
  • My current thought is to buy a compact camera and put it in a housing.  The housings for these cameras are much less expensive
  • I have high standards on image quality.  I have an X10 and that is about the minimum in terms of quality that I can tolerate.  I imagine though that underwater I would have to use it at an unacceptable ISO
  • If I buy a new camera for this, it would be nice if the camera is usable above ground too

I will greatly appreciate any recommendations.
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Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« on: December 19, 2012, 01:02:22 PM »

florian

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2012, 03:04:21 PM »
There is no easy way to put it. You will get the best quality with your SLR. I took my 5D II always in a Ikelite housing and was very happy with the results. It might be possible you can rent a housing. We in Germany can, and it´s not to expensive. 120 EUR first week and 70 EUR every other week. Or get yourself a Ikelite Housing they are retailing at 1600 USD.

The only X10 housing I know dows cost 1600 USD too.

With both you need a port, to save money you get Ikelite standart port cheap on the used market.
My favorite lens for snorkeling is the EF100 L IS.

And to make it easier to get the shot I love the Inon 45 degree viewfinder.

If you don´t like that you can always get yourself a Canon PowerShot D20 a lot cheaper and waterproof to 30feet but you might not be happy with the quality but that is only 280 EUR. No housing needed.
I got one for my wife.

But you loose RAW  and that what you need to get good colors in post. And more if you don´t have a Underwater strobe with you.

I hope this helps you a little.


neuroanatomist

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2012, 03:36:17 PM »
For shallow uses like you're discussing, I'd look at a G1 X and the Canon housing - that will be less than $1K.  A decent second offering would the Sony RX-100 and the Ikelite housing for it.  For deeper work, I'd get the Ilekite housing, and you'd need underwater strobe(s) as well.  That combo will set you back a little over $1K.    The idea in both cases is to get the biggest sensor you can.

Personally, I'd likely choose the RX-100 since I'm not a fan of the G-series form factor (too big for general use).  I love my Canon S100...but if it breaks, I'll buy an RX-100 to replace it.
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Brendon

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2012, 03:53:05 PM »
I have done quite a bit of underwater photography over the years.  Unfortunately not much during the last few due to other expenses in life.  My family started underwater photography in the film days and have gone through many iterations....

Point and shoot (film)
Dedicated Underwater film P&S w/ strobe (Sea & Sea)
Digital P&S with small housing
Added slave strobe
Digital SLR (canon 20D) w/ Ikelite housing and DS50 strobes
Upgraded with macro port
Upgraded strobes to DS125 and upgraded to buoyancy arm sets
Upgraded to 8 in dome port
Next????  Maybe a housing for my 5Diii????

As you can see, there have been many trials and tribulations over the years of getting something that did the job but just didn't quite meet expectations.  The film cameras were disasters and ridiculously expensive because of all the film  The digital P&S just didn't get the image quality we wanted and the slave flashes were hokey at best.  Finally with the Ikelite housing and the smaller strobes we had a good macro setup with a sigma 50 mm macro (easily the sharpest lens in my bag among lots of L glass).   The DS125s allow us to graduate to more wide angle work.  We still keep the digital P&S around for shooting movies. 

I have given talks at local dive clubs and other places about underwater photography and I generally give people this advice.  If you own a P&S and can pick up a housing for it or even get an entire used setup on ebay then do this first.  DO NOT spend a ton of money on a setup like this.  I know many people that enjoy diving but hate underwater photography because it "takes the fun out" of diving. If you like underwater photography, don't try to "trick out" a P&S setup...but if the quality bothers you jump straight to the DSLR.

If you know how to run a DSLR and are picky about using above water because of the quality differences then make the investment and get the underwater housing for it with some good strobes.  I will stress GET GOOD STROBES that have TTL capability.  The bigger the better as you will quickly find yourself selling small ones if you want to shoot wide angle!  Run the camera in manual with 125/s and vary the aperture while letting the TTL do the work for you.  If you are trying to take pictures of fish, it's impossible to change the exposure (or flash) settings as they swimming around. 

Get a good macro lens and appropriate flat port.  You will quickly find yourself covering 100 sq ft of a reef in an entire dive with a macro lens.  If you want to do the over/under pictures like you mentioned, you are going to need an 8 inch dome port.  A little tip for the over under shots is to rain-x your port so that the water sheets off on the above water side.

Here are some photos of the equipment we use now minus the 8 inch dome port...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/braraigh/sets/72157619717802441/

And some of the results...nothing awe inspiring but good enough to cover an entire wall in my house
http://www.flickr.com/photos/braraigh/sets/72157619165504088/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/braraigh/sets/72157618955549992/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/braraigh/sets/72157621706718188/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/braraigh/sets/72157608598935019/

I'm happy to give more tips and advice if you have specific questions.

Brendon

Stewart Sy

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2012, 04:51:22 PM »
Hi,

I'm a dealer for underwater cameras and also shoot underwater a lot, I'll try to answer you questions point by point and promise not to sell you anything!  8)

"I am looking for a decent underwater system and could use advice in what to choose.  The following is what I am looking for.

    I do not plan to take underwater photos very often - mainly on vacation."


Someone already recommended that likely the cheapest option is the Canon G Series with the OEM Canon Housings.  However, there are severe limitations, but if snaps are what you want, then this will deliver.
 
    I do not need a high depth rating.  The vast majority of my photos will be in the pool and snorkeling.

OEM Housings as per above.


I am interested in taking photos where part is above water and part is underwater

You will need to use a DSLR with a fisheye lens and a big dome port, this is where your requirements start deviating from what you have listed as your budget.  This shot: http://www.sls-photo.com/aquatic_wildlife/#/7 was taken using the 7D, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye zoom at 10mm and an 6" Dome.  A larger dome would make it easier as the dome flattens out the ripples in the water and helps delineate the water line.


My budget is not very high. I did look into a sport housing for my 5D3 but that was running about $3k.  I would really like to keep my budget for the underwater part under $1k


Don't forget that you will need lighting for underwater as well, not even shooting RAW will let you fix the blue cast you get as you go deeper.  A half decent strobe system plus the arm required to hold it to your housing will run you at least 5-600 bucks.


My current thought is to buy a compact camera and put it in a housing.  The housings for these cameras are much less expensive


Very true, as per answers above

I have high standards on image quality.  I have an X10 and that is about the minimum in terms of quality that I can tolerate.  I imagine though that underwater I would have to use it at an unacceptable ISO

Then most inexpensive point and shoots won't be enough, you can get good images with a G-Series etc, but to keep under your limit, then you won't likely be satisfied.

If I buy a new camera for this, it would be nice if the camera is usable above ground too

I will greatly appreciate any recommendations


Maybe consider housing the Sony NEX-5n, given that the camera and kit lens sells right now for just around $400.  You then need a housing and port for the kit lens and that would be about $ 1900, then you'll have to budget in for at least 1 strobe etc...  this is the setup my wife is shooting and what I consider my "Backup" unit to my 7D setup.

Most P&S cameras do well in the macro realm of slow moving subjects such as nudibranchs and coral.  Throw a darting, weaving clownfish into the mix then you'll use up all your air swearing at the camera's slow AF.  This answer may have (pardon the pun) muddied the waters a bit more, but where we think Photography is expensive, adding the word "Underwater" to the front of it just took it up quite a few notches. 

Cheers

S.

p.s.  To see more of my UW imagery: www.sls-photo.com & www.stewartsy.com


Pinchers of Peril

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2012, 05:13:04 PM »
Stewart, those pics are great! Thanks for sharing.
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kirispupis

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2012, 05:28:06 PM »
Thank you for all of the replies.  Based on these and other research, the following are some thoughts.

1) Get lucky and find a deal on underwater housing for my 5D3 on EBay.
2) Sell the X10, buy an RX100 and a housing for it + a fisheye lens for it (I have seen them for sale).
3) Buy nothing

The main reason I am looking into underwater equipment at all is we will be travelling to the Great Barrier Reef next year.  We will spend a few days on Lady Elliot Island and another on a daytrip from Port Douglas. However, as interesting as that is I cannot justify spending a lot of money just to get a few underwater shots from the trip.  Therefore it should be usable in swimming pools and half in/half out shots to justify the expense.

Question about strobes - do I need them for snorkeling?  My assumption was they are only really necessary for diving - for snorkeling there is enough light from above the water.
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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2012, 05:28:06 PM »

Otara

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2012, 05:39:22 PM »
Do not start out underwater photography with your 5d.   Your chances of a flood are highest early on in your career.

Image quality wise, your main limits on that early on are the water quality, ability, and the presence or absence of strobes unless using filters or diving under 3 meters.  A compact has many advantages when you're starting out, not least of which is portability for travel.

If you're going to the GBR, one obvious possibility is rental of housing or entire setup as an experiment, there are several uwp shops in cairns you could access.   Another possibility is olympus mirror less, they have extremely good low cost housings.

Finally, consider second hand, many people sell off extremely good systems in order to have the newest and greatest.

Otara

neuroanatomist

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2012, 05:48:19 PM »
Question about strobes - do I need them for snorkeling?  My assumption was they are only really necessary for diving - for snorkeling there is enough light from above the water.

That's probably going to depend on your snorkeling habits and abilities.  If you're trolling along the surface, with the end of your snorkel in the air, no need for a strobe.  When I'm snorkeling, I often free dive down to 25-30 feet, and at those depths, especially if the water is not crystal-clear, a strobe would certainly come in handy.
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Stewart Sy

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2012, 06:10:07 PM »
If you can dive below 15' then you will need strobes.  You can get some colour correction filters that help in the shallower depths but you will of course need to shoot with the sun behind you and you loose about 2 stops of light.

s.

andy

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2012, 06:38:41 PM »
There is an Equinox housing for the 5d mark iii.   It is $1600 though.

http://www.equinoxhousings.com/products/Canon-DSLR.html

fr8oc

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2012, 07:29:49 PM »
Why not look at a GoPro Hero 3?
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MichaelTheMaven

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2012, 07:42:22 PM »
I did a video recently on this. Hope it helps: Underwater Photography - Underwater Housings

If you are just getting started, a Go Pro really is a cost effective way to go.

M

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2012, 07:42:22 PM »

risc32

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2012, 07:58:20 PM »
just read an ad in my local paper for a nikonos. i think it was "V" model with strobes, and i believe the guy was asking $250. 

surfer57

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 08:09:54 PM »
You have two separate requests here that honestly require two different types of housings, or at least two different types of ports. Shooting over/under like said requires a large dome. If you're just getting into I'd really suggest starting with point and shoot and as you discover your specific needs. I shoot with a Canon 30D in an SPL housing. Its considered a splash housing and purpose built to shoot surf.


Full under water shot with a 10mm Sigma Fisheye


Above water with a 24mm 2.8


24mm again above water

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Re: Advice on inexpensive underwater system
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 08:09:54 PM »