My Digital De-Evolution (DX - 4/3 - FX - Compact)

This is a reworking of a piece I wrote on moving from a traditional DX system to 4/3s three years ago.  That migration has continued.  My first system was a Nikon D100 with all the lenses, Aquatica housing, and Sea & Sea YS 250 strobes.   Then on to the Nikon D200, D7000, Olympus OMD EM5 & Nauticam housing, Sony A7, Sony RX100 and now the Sony RX100II.

In the previous piece the trigger to this journey was looking in my camera closet and thinking: “wow, how much camera gear do I really need?”  Then I thought “what am I REALLY doing with my photos that requires this much stuff?”

I have never sold a photo.  I have yet to make a wall sized print.   I am not a pixel peeper and I do not obsess about corner sharpness.  

Good enough corners for me

How about you? What are you really doing with your photos???


The majority of people who are kind enough to look at my photos do so online.  Either at my website, www.aquabluedreams.com or sites like this.  I print less than 2 dozen images a year, none larger than 16” x 24”.  The rest are included in HD videos posted on line or burned to DVD to watch at home.


Until 4k becomes the standard the deciding factor (for me) is megapixels needed to get a high quality print.  Prints using 300ppi are considered an “Art Print” of the highest quality.  At 150ppi you can get a very good quality print viewed “at arms length” and who gets closer than that to a poster sized print?  In addition most of the better online printing companies can “upscale” your file to give you excellent quality poster size print.

Mega pixels

Pixel Resolution

Print Size @ 300ppi

Print Size @200ppi

Print Size @150ppi

6

3008 x 2000

10.02” x 6.67”

15.04” x 10.00”

20.05” x 13.34”

8

3264 x 2448

10.88” x 8.16”

16.32” x12.24”

21.76” x 16.32”

12

4290 x 2800

14.30" x 9.34"

21.45" x 14.00"

28.60" x 18.67"

16

4920 x 3264

16.40" x 10.88"

24.60" x 16.32"

32.80" x 21.76"

18

5184 x 3456

17.28” x 11.52”

25.92” x 17.28”

34.56” x 23.04

24

6408 x 4032

20.16” x 13.44”

30.24” x 20.16”

40.32” X 26.88”

Theoretically for online sharing any camera over 3 megapixels will “work.”   For prints 12 megapixels should suffice for most.  We forget not so long ago it only took 6 megapixels to get pro shooters to dump their film cameras and start moving to digital. 

Costs

Most all of us have some form of budget.  For me the question was cost vs. final result; given what I am really doing with my photos.

All systems include the cost of the camera body, aluminum housing with tray or handles, 2 strobes, 6 clamps, 4 strobe arms, 2 sync cords, associated zoom gears, wide angle dome, flat port or wet lens equivalent. For the DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras 3 lenses are assumed, wide angle, macro and a generalist.  For the Compact the equivalent in top of line wet lenses were included.

Full Frame DSLR System                                                                          $15,000

Cropped Sensor DSLR System                                                                  $12,000

4/3 or Mirrorless             System                                                              $9,000

Compact Camera System                                                                                       $5,500

For the full frame class think Nikon D810 or Canon 5D Mark III.


Traveling with "The Precious"

Traveling with underwater photo/video systems has always been a project. We have always carried on our photo gear.  You can almost always rent dive gear at your destination if bags go missing.  Many airlines are now weighing carry-ons, with most capping weight at 17lbs.  For smaller regional airlines I was never able to find a carryon bag for a DSLR system that fit in the small overheads. 

Here is a quick break down on rough weights for carrying on a “full system”.  Includes everything you would need to shoot from lenses to battery chargers. If you are packing an 8-10” dome and flat port you will need a second carry on.

DSLR                                             40lbs

4/3                                                25lbs

Compact                                      14lbs

 

From DSLR to Compact, the Experience

At this point I have now spent over +200hrs shooting a Sony RX100/II and Nauticam systems underwater.  Previously I compiled thousands of hours underwater shooting some form of DSLR.  When I decided to leave the DSLR at home I packed the following with much trepidation.  

 

Sony RX100II

Nauticam Housing

2x Sea&Sea YSD1s

L&M Solo 4000

Inon UWL H100, 100-degree WA Wet Lens

I-Torch focus/night dive light

Subsee +10Diopter

Misc +5Diopter

Nauticam CMC 1 Diopter

Nauticam Flip Diopter Holder

Stix Floatation Blocks

Assorted clamps, trays and arms

Note: Typically do not go out with vidoe lights mounted.

 

Positives of shooting the Sony RX100/II Compact.

  • Ability to shoot wide angle and macro on the same dive.  Having a plan for what you want to shoot and how is key to great results.  Being able to swap lenses when the unexpected happens is fantastic.  Diving in Ambon I went down set up for macro, but then found an incredible swim through teaming with glassfish.  Off came the diopter on went the Inon H100 WA and I captured shots the DSLR guys were all envious of.

    System Cost for shooting underwater.  A top of the line Compact system is 30% to 60% of its DX & FX equivalents*.  Due to low cost it is easy to rationalizing having two cameras just in case of a flood.

    Size and ease of use!  I can shoot the system in full Manual with one hand.  Easy to roll in or surf entry with.  Feels like nothing to push in a current.

    Image quality with the RX series is excellent and 20 megapixels for editing.  The rumor mill says the Sony RX100IV will have a 4/3 sensor! 

    Dependability.  Due to the nature of the cameras themselves and the simplicity of the housings they just hold up better.  Significantly fewer housing buttons and knobs to get stuck, fail or be misaligned.

    Less time dealing with the camera between dives.  Once it is set up your done, just swap out batteries and memory cards.  No more fretting what lens for what dive sites, much appreciated by dive guides. 

    Traveling is soooooooooo much easier.  Everything I need can fit in a case small enough to put in any overhead, international or puddle jumper.  Weight of said carryon is about 1/3 of its full frame equivalent.

    Disadvantages of shooting the Sony RX100 Compact

    Image quality.  Of course you do not have the same level of out of the camera image quality as a 36megapixel FX DSLR.  No denying  those buttery smooth, saturated shots you can get with a full frame camera.  But there is this thing called Photoshop.

    Interchangeable lens systems have the advantage when shooting at the extremes ends of the spectrum; 180-degree fisheye lenses and super macro. 

    One “weak” point with the Sony RX100 series is its macro abilities.  While good results can be had with diopters, super macro will have to happen in post.

    Autofocus is quicker and often more accurate with DSLRs and high quality lenses.  I hope Sony will add Focus Peaking to new models.

    "Slow” flash recycle compared to DSLRs.  With the RX100s you cannot just fire away, there is a pause.  I found I have to be more patient in when I choose to fire a shot. 

    High ISO performance is not on par with the high-end FX cameras, obviously.

 As mentioned the Sony RX100 series does not excel at macro, IMHO.  I have used a variety of 67mm threaded diopters.  Included are miscellaneous brands of +5 diopters, the Subsee +10 and the new Nauticam CMC 1.  With the Subsee +10 or the Nauticam CMC you can still capture the pygmy seahorse and fill the much of the frame.  You just won’t fill the frame with the face of the pygmy seahorse.   For general macro and fish portraits I would start out with the +5 which I found gave you good working distances.

 

 With the Nauticam CMC I got best results just zooming till the lens did not vignette.  It gave me about 4-6” working distance with small






    Shot with the CMC 1, no cropping.

nudibranch sized creatures.  Xeno shrimp you had to zoom in all the way and be within 4” to “fill the frame”.   My eyesight is not perfect and I found I had about the same amount of out of focus shots as when I shot my Nikon 105mm. 

The Sony RX100s strong suit is wide-angle photography, when supported with strobes.   Plus like all Mirrorless cameras you can play with sunballs due to being able to use higher flash sync speeds.  With the native lens and wet lens options it is just a mater of how wide do you want to go? I have developed a love hate relationship with the Inon UWL H100 and its companion dome.  The lens by itself is great for general wide angle shooting with its angle of 100degrees.  Easy to mount on a strobe arm or stash in a pocket.  When you attach the dome to it excellent results can be had at 144 degrees.  The problem is fogging in the dome as it is a two-part system and the dome must be bolted to the lens while on dry land.  


Taken with Inon H100, no cropping

 I tried putting the two halves together in just about every manner possible.  About 40-50% of the time some level of fogging would occur.  Eventually I found some Gopro desiccant pads that I could peal layers off, and just barely tuck inside the dome where there is a fingernails width of space between the inside of the dome and the metal flange.  

Over/under with H100 & 144 degree dome

  In the end the problem with fogging outweighs the utility of the lens.  I will keep the H100 lens but the dome is too frustrating.  I wish Inon would just make a sealed version of this combo.   


In the original article I came to the conclusion I would never shoot a  DSLR underwater again. Ok, clearly I did not stick to that, housing the Sony A7. But that housing and ports have all been sold.  I am content that a compact system based on a camera like the Sony RX100II is the set-up for me.  Well, until the RX100IV comes out…

 

 
 
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