PDA

View Full Version : Newbie ready to start buying gear



bostondiveguy
03-23-2008, 12:55
Last year we did a trip to Bonaire and rented a Sea & Sea 8000G for a few days. After 500+ photos and a lot of pictures of fish butts, I'm hooked. I'm looking to jump in and make the investment in some good equipment. Everything I've read so far says buy a system you can grow into, but I still want to understand the limitations of a PNS vs. DSLR.

For example, here is a picture of scorpion fish I took close to the surface, no flash, ISO 200, shutter at 1/440, f/7.1. What I'm noticing is a lot of noise/red artifacts especially at the eye. I originally thought that it was because of low or poor lighting, but the light in this picture, to me at least, seems ideal. Is this a limitation of the camera, or the photographer?

I've also included a touched up picture using color correction techniques in Doug Sloss' "Underwater Photoworkshop." Well worth the money, BTW.

I'd appreciate any and all comments.

mpd525
03-25-2008, 19:47
i'm by no means an expert, but you could lower your ISO even more, if possible. I'm quite a newbie too, but i bought a oly fe-280, with the Pt-038 housing, and i think the pics turned out good for my first try. It doesn't have alot of manual settins, but it does pretty good doing the auto adjustments. Wish i could help more.

bversteegh
03-28-2008, 23:32
I would guess that your white balance setting was wrong for the ambient lighting.

Even just a few feet of water absorbs most of the reds - if you do a manual white balance at the depth you are shooting at (assuming decent light); you can recover some of the reds. But obviously, an external strobe is the best way to get vibrant colors.

re a point and shoot vs a DSLR -

Point and shoot is significantly cheaper, smaller, easier to pack. Housings are also smaller and significantly cheaper. Some of the newer P&S cameras like the Canon G9 or S&S 1000 have reduced shutter lag - the biggest drawback of P&S vs DSLR's (ie fish face vs fish butt).

P&S have the flexibility of zoom optics, and you can usually add wet lens to do both wide angle and super macro on the same dive - a big plus. But the optics aren't as good as DSLR, and the sensor's are smaller; so typically higher noise than a DSLR (although getting better with every generation).

Autofocus is not nearly as good on the P&S as a DSLR.

Things to look for on a P&S that will keep you satisfied for a while:

Minimal shutter lag
User control of the camera (manual, Aperture Value, Shutter Value)
Available Housing that will accept wet lenses (both macro and wide angle)
A hot shoe is nice - allows Ikelite TTL using a sync cord to external strobes. Means you can disable the internal strobe, saving battery and heat. But the new Inons shoot pretty accurate TTL using fiber optics, so this is not as important as it used to be.
Shoots RAW, and has reasonable write speeds. Not essential, but nice to have.

First accessary should be decent external strobes - the key to nicely saturated colors, and low noise pictures underwater.

DSLR's

Virtually no shutter lag - huge advantage. More keepers.
Superior Optics
Larger sensors, lower noise,
much better autofocus - especially in lower light levels
Fixed optics for a given dive force you to focus on one type of shot per dive (versus constant zooming, switch wet lenses, can be distracting). But the downside - when the unexpected whale shark swims buy and you have a 100mm macro lens on, all you can do is dream about what might have been

Downside:

Large, heavy, lots of pieces to carry (body, multiple lenses, housing, ports, arms, strobes, focus light). Expensive. Don't even consider a DSLR system if you aren't willing to spend $3000 minimum; and $ 5000 is probably more likely (depending on if you already have strobes, lenses, etc).

Finally, one word of caution wrt expectations - Don't assume an expensive camera automatically equals better pictures. If you go to my Flickr link below, all the shots in the Sulawesi May 2005 set were taken with a point and shoot (either an Olympus 5060 or 7070); still some of my favorite photos. The newer sets were taken with a DSLR - not necessarily any better shots (other than I just became better as I got more experience) - but the major difference is the number of keepers. With a P&S, I was lucky to get 20% "keepers" (in focus, decent composition - ie no butts). With a DSLR - many more "keepers" (ie in focus, decent exposure); but a nailed shot (focus, composition, exposure) from either camera can be equally as good. There is no substitute for learning (books, other photographers, experience), good bouyancy skills, being critical of you work, and knowing where to look for your subjects. Can't get that killer shot if you never find interesting subjects.

HTH

Bruce

bostondivegirl
03-30-2008, 07:38
WOW Bruce,
those pictures shot with a P&S are amazing. I guess the photographer has a lot to do with it.

bversteegh
03-31-2008, 22:40
WOW Bruce,
those pictures shot with a P&S are amazing. I guess the photographer has a lot to do with it.

Thanks for the compliment. I think 2 things helped me come up the learning curve quickly -

1) I never shot without strobes - that really limits the sharpness and color saturation you can achieve uw. A decent strobe is the first accessary you should buy.

2) I went on a 2 week trip to Indonesia right after I bought my 5060 - so I had like 35 dives in a short period of time to learn from my mistakes. Unbelieveable how much difference in my photos that trip from start to finish - I really believe having a nice length of time with the opportunity to take lots of pictures really helps you learn (Bonaire is a great place in the Caribbean to do this). You do need to have a laptop with you though - so you can review pictures between dives/at night.

And get a good uw photography book that explains the basics - provides you ideas on types of shots to take, and how to take them. Search Amazon for the books by Martin Edge, Brian Skerry, or Denise and Larry Tackett; they are all good books.

bostondiveguy
04-01-2008, 10:24
Thanks, Bruce.

I can't remember if I manually reset the white balance on that shot or let the camera do the work on that one. I eventually purchased a dive slate and became more religious with WB settings.

It's nice to hear someone say something other than "get a system that you will grow into." It sort of implies that you'll inevitably end up hating your P&S and wish you would have ponied up the cash for the big-boy rig.

That said, I've had my eye on a nice DSLR ever since I borrowed my father-in-law's Nikon D80 for a trip to Paris. The quality of the shots blew me away (I've included my favorite). So, I believe a DSLR is in my near future, and I'll build the set up from there.

We're leaving for Utila in a few days, and I plan on renting another P&S from the dive shop. I think they supply Olympus C7070 with a strobe. I'll definitely check out the books you recommended.

Your pictures are outstanding, BTW. Thanks again for the advice.

bversteegh
04-01-2008, 22:09
That is a gorgeous shot - guess they do some things right in France - heh:smiley2:.

I'll be brutally honest - this is one of the most addictive hobbies you can possibly take up. I'm lucky to get in 50 dives a year; and I'm already on my 4th camera since I got hooked - 2 P&S and 2 DSLR (my new DSLR isn't wet yet):smiley29:. For me, I usually take one Liveaboard trip a year (dedicated photography charters); and I know I have to get a year's worth of fantasies captured in that trip. Just no way I can get away from work more than that. So I have rationalized the higher "keeper" rate I get with a DSLR is justified due to limited opportunities - plus buying new gear is really fun:smiley20::smiley20::smiley20:

But that said - some of favorite shots were with a point and shoot (and the newer P&S's blow away my old Oly in several ways). I have some friends taking incredible shots with Fuji 900's and Canon G9's, so you don't HAVE to spend the money on DSLR to get great photos.

Bottom Line - decide what works for your budget/objectives; have fun doing the research and shopping for the system that meet's your requirements (whatever they may be) - make a decision, buy it, have fun and don't look back. The important thing is to have enough money left over to get out and dive/take pictures - that's how you will improve, not necessarily by having the newest toy.

Bruce

ChrisA
04-01-2008, 23:53
Last year we did a trip to Bonaire and rented a Sea & Sea 8000G for a few days. After 500+ photos and a lot of pictures of fish butts, I'm hooked. I'm looking to jump in and make the investment in some good equipment. Everything I've read so far says buy a system you can grow into, but I still want to understand the limitations of a PNS vs. DSLR.

You example picture shows the difference between a DSLR and P&S. On the P&S ISO of 200 is "high" and you see noise in the image. For an SLR ISO 200 is "low" most SLRs only go as low as ISO 200 or 100 and no lower because the images at that setting are noise free. The SLR can go up to 1600 or higher but then it looks like a P&S doing 200.

So I think the best thing you gain with the SLR is a very clean image with less noise.

The other thing you said was "fish buts". I think this means "shutter lag" the P&S waits a split second or two before it pops open the shutter. The SRL will not have any shutter lag

Before you buy any camera think about the flash setup. Once you choose a housing the flash options are limited by the housing. So think about flashes first.

One good option for you is to buy an inexpensive P&S in one of those $180 housings then buy a good flash or two good flashes. This will get you going with something you can use near home right away. Then plan to upgrade later to a DSLR. but make certain you can use the flashes with the DSLR housing. Even after you buy the DSLR you will still use the P&S because the SLR rig is just "way huge" and yo will not want to do every dive with a 20 pound monster camera that is two feet wide. The little P&S can be clipped to a BC.

Which P&S. Get one that can shoot RAW. This ives the most options for color corection. With a good flash(es) there is less need to color correct but you always have to do some. There is the Leica/Panosonic d-lux and the Canon G9 that do raw format and likely some others.

What to buy also depends on where you live. I don't live in the tropics so I don't dive there. The ocean is 10 minutes from my house so that is where I do 99% of my dives. For me, an SLR would be hard to use. Many dives are in three foot surf and half are on rocky (not sandy) beaches. If I get knocked down and rolled in the surf I'd not want to be lugging a housed DSLR. My P&S with external flash is bad enough. The SLR is best used in calm conditions or off a boat. Buy a camera that is suited to your local dive conditions.

ChrisA
04-01-2008, 23:58
Thanks, Bruce.

I can't remember if I manually reset the white balance on that shot or let the camera do the work on that one. I eventually purchased a dive slate and became more religious with WB settings.

If you shoot in RAW format WB is moot. The need for it goes away. Get a camera that can shoot raw. All DSLRs can but so can many P&S cameras.

bostondiveguy
04-02-2008, 10:40
You guys have me convinced that I should look into the Canon G9. Seems to be the one best suited for my needs at the moment.

Chris, your advice on the housing and compatible strobes is very helpful. Hadn't even considered it.

BTW, this may seem like a dumb question, but why is white balance a relative non-issue when shooting in RAW? I know I could probably search online for the answer, but while I have your attention...

I don't need the dirty little details, just the broad strokes.

Thanks guys.

RoyN
04-02-2008, 10:48
You getting a strobe for the camera also?

bversteegh
04-02-2008, 21:48
You guys have me convinced that I should look into the Canon G9. Seems to be the one best suited for my needs at the moment.

Chris, your advice on the housing and compatible strobes is very helpful. Hadn't even considered it.

BTW, this may seem like a dumb question, but why is white balance a relative non-issue when shooting in RAW? I know I could probably search online for the answer, but while I have your attention...

I don't need the dirty little details, just the broad strokes.

Thanks guys.

In RAW, you are recording the "unprocessed" data right out of the camera (so without a raw converter on your computer, you can't even see the picture - it is just raw bits). Since white balance (and sharpness, contrast, and saturation) are adjustments made in the camera AFTER the shot is captured, but before it is written to your memory card as a JPEG - saving as a RAW allows you to do all that processing in a RAW program on your computer- and have complete control of the image. You are working with the full dynamic range of the image (ie 12 or 14 bits, vs 8 with a JPEG) you can manipulate the picture without losing information.

That is the good news - and if you have a good eye and learn how to use a RAW software package - you can absolutely create very nice shots out of pictures that don't look very good as shot (exposure, white balance, etc). But if you have a correct white balance and exposure in the original picture (what we should all strive for - take it right to start with), the manufacturer of the camera tweaks in the settings for a particular camera - so the as shot picture you may like better than what you create out of photoshop (because there are several parameters to adjust - and you may have a hard time getting everything tuned "just right" - whereas Canon or Olympus or Fuji has spent a lot of time developing an optimal set of adjustments specific to that camera. And Raw processing takes some time to accomplish - so it is more work.

Now that big memory cards are cheap (I shoot an 8 meg card) - I just shoot RAW + JPEG; so I can use the CANON processed JPEG for shots that I have nailed, and use RAW to tweak in shots where I like composition and focus, but missed exposure.

bversteegh
04-02-2008, 22:21
One other thing to consider - junkies like me that upgrade every couple years take a huge depreciation on the used gear they sell. If the size/weight of a DSLR is OK for your diving style (and I agree - a big DSLR rig with a large dome port and a couple strobes is NOT very fun to try and lug through 4 foot surf); try surfing some of the uw photography specific forums classified list(plus here and scubaboard - although the below sights will have more DSLR shooters by far):

Wetpixel.com :: Underwater Photography and Videography (http://wetpixel.com/)

Underwater Digital Photography - Digidiver.Net (http://www.digidiver.net/)

Digital Diver Network - Your source for digital underwater photography information! (http://www.digitaldiver.net/)

If you are willing to live with "last years" model - you can usually get the camera and housing for 50 - 60 % of new cost (I just sold my previous system for about 60% of what I paid). In the Nikon world, there are tons of D200 systems on the market now that the D300 is out; and that is a great camera. And since housings are specific to one model of camera - the housings really depreciate. I have seen D200's with Subal housings (probably between 6000-7000 new) for sale around $3000 - and there is absolutely nothing wrong with either camera or housing. And I just sold my Canon 20D Ikelite system (Camera, housing, dome port, DS125 strobe for under $2000). So kind of like buying a leased Lexus - let someone else take the depreciation, and buy a quality product with lots of life - just doesn't have the "new car" smell:smiley2:

Just another option to consider - only you can decide whether you are comfortable buying used (but in my experience, serious UW photographers take really good care of there equipment - as long as you get a gaurantee that it is all working when you get - I think you are pretty safe). And even if you decide a nice P&S like the G9 meets your needs (and it is a nice camera) - get quality strobes and arms - and that significantly decreases the cost impact if you decide to upgrade to a DSLR in the future.

And if you do decide to go DSLR - do your homework and decide which brand you want to stick with long term. Lens, strobes, and housing ports (which aren't cheap) can move from camera to camera - so make sure you buy into a brand (both housing and camera) you want to stay with (voice of experience - switching from Ikelite to Sea & Sea housing wasn't cheap).