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OM-D rig step by step

Discussion in 'The Olympus Outlet' started by Storker, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Storker

    Storker M.O.D. Staff Member

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: near a Hell which occasionally freezes over
    5,327
    2,623
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    Being a rather inexperienced diver I've been looking for a camera rig that I can clip on my BCD and forget whenever my task loading exceeds the bare minimum, but still delivers better quality, flexibility and control than my current Canon G9 w/DC-WP21 housing. I don't think I'll ever want a full dSLR rig, since I like to do more than just photography when I'm underwater. Thus, the OM-D seemes like a perfect compromise between compactness and control/quality. So I'm planning to ask Santa for an OM-D and a Nauticam NA-EM5, and I've been thinking long and hard about lens and port choices. My budget isn't unlimited, so I can't buy everything I want at the same time, and I need some time to familiarize myself with a limited set of gear before buying too much "stuff".

    After a lot of googling and thinking and whathaveyou, I've come to a preliminary conclusion about what to buy, but I'd really like some opinion on whether this is a good plan:

    • Step 1: OM-D, 14-42mm f//3.5-5.6, 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6, NA-EM5, 4" WA port 36137.
      Reason: Minimal initial investment except for the 40-150 which I plan on using only topside, since the OM-D will double as a lightweight travel camera when I can't (or don't want to) pack my D300. The 4" WA port is really universal and fits a lot of different lenses, and 14mm at the wide end is not extremely wide, but it's a familiar FOV from my topside photography.
    • Step 2: 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, 4.33" dome port 36132.
      Reason: Wide angle. Really wide angle. Still sceptical to fisheyes, since I've never seriously considered a fisheye topside (and I've got a serious case of chronic GAS!), but I've been told that the fisheye perspective isn't as overwhelming underwater as it is topside.
    • Alternative step 2: 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6.
      Reason: Wide angle. Smaller investment, since I can use the 4" WA port. But the lens is slow. Perhaps too slow? My photographs so far have been at 1/10-1/30 sec, f/2.8 and 160-800ISO. We don't have too much light up here at 63 degrees North.
    • Step 3: A strobe. Maybe the Inon S-2000.
      Reason: More light. We need that up here. With a strobe mounted, I probably can't clip the rig to my BCD and forget it, so this'll be for dedicated photography dives.
    • Step 4: Diopter holder for the 4" WA port, a closeup lens. Macro capabilities.
    • Step 5: 12mm f/2.0.
      Reason: Fast prime glass. Good sharpness, even at f/2-f/2.8. I really like the 24mm equivalent perspective, have been shooting with that for more than ten years. Seems to deliver good results behind the 4.33" dome, so no new port is necessary.


    So, all you gurus on ScubaBoard: Does this look like a good plan? Would you do it differently? If so, what and why?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2013
  2. tamas970

    tamas970 Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Switzerland - way too far from warm seas:(
    588
    55
    28
    Not being a guru neither in underwater photography nor in diving - just my two cents:

    You mentioned, budget is an issue. There is a substantially cheaper option to get an OMD-class sensor underwater:
    E-PL5 + PT-EP10. You have access to great ports (e.g. Zen WA100, which is great for the 9-18 AND 14-42, and the Precision fisheye port), and all the lenses you would use on the OMD. According to the system chart, strobe connection is not a problem either: http://asia.olympus-imaging.com/products/dslr/accessories/underwater/pdf/systemchart_ptep10.pdf .
    Basic costs: OMD+NA-EM5=2300+$, E-PL5+PT-EP10=1450$.

    If you are reluctant to buy the plastic Olympus housing (so am I), and the project is not urgent, wait and see if something surfaces from 10bar for the E-PL5. (or if somebody reports that the EPL5 fits into their E-PL3 housing - just like in case of the EP05L)


     
  3. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Florida, USA
    1,614
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    While this system is compact compared to a dslr, it is not a "clip to your BC" compact. You will end up carrying it. It is a serious piece of professional photo gear in a small package, and very easy to carry especially with the hand strap. As for your plan,

    Step 1: perfect start, but, you should add the strobe. This is the time to spend a little more and a strobe is essential for any quality at all. Sell your canon stuff to pay for it, or look for a used YS-01 (a new one is $430, still not that bad).

    Step 2, go with the 9-18. It is a very practical and useful travel lens topside, takes filters such as polarizers and is good for architecture and interiors, where the 8mm totally is not. The9-18, 14-42 and 40-150 will cover all of your travel bases. The 9-18 is plenty fast because remember the om-d gives super-clean iso 800. Image quality is very good (that is what I used for wide angle for underwater wide angle). Also, you save the money on that expensive fisheye port. Also, even underwater, a fisheye is difficult to use and one-dimensional. The 9-18 gives great ultra-wide and can also zoom in. I used it on a week-long shark trips and got in-your-face ultra-wide close shots and also shots as the animals moved farther away. Not possible with the fisheye.

    Step 3 is essential and should be include as part of step 1.

    Step 4 diopter is good for a start in macro. Don't know how well it will work on the semi-dome port, though.

    Step 5. Trash the 12 mm. Single length semi-wides are not just that useful, even thought it is an excellent lens image-quality wise. But, the 9-18 is excellent as well and will cover this focal length. Instead, spend the money you saved not buying the fisheye port on a macro port, and get the 45mm or 60mm macro lens for about the same or less than the 12mm. This will give you a whole new dimension (true macro)to your photography that the 12mm just cannot deliver. To save more, it is possible the 60mm will work in the original 4.33" semi-dome. Talk to your dealer to be sure.

    Good luck!
     
    smoore and Storker like this.
  4. Storker

    Storker M.O.D. Staff Member

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: near a Hell which occasionally freezes over
    5,327
    2,623
    113
    Although I appreciate the advice, the E-PL5 isn't an option for me. It's not the sensor that's my piority, it's the controls. Of all the micro-4/3 cameras you can get a good UW house for (at least the ones I've looked at), the OM-D is the only one that gives dSLR-like controls and handling instead of compact-camera-like controls and handling. My primary topside camera is the Nikon D300, so I'm used to - and want - control through buttons and wheels rather than having to dig through menus.

    Duly noted and thanks. Guess I won't sell my G9, then :cool2:

    Ok. I'll look into some alternatives and prepare to spend a little more initially than I originally imagined

    I don't think I'll get very far for what I can get for an old G9 compact and a cheap polycarbonate UW house ;) I'll rather keep the old stuff to just clip onto my BCD when I'm not interested in carrying a serious rig.


    Hmm, OK. Now that I've just managed to accept just the possibility of me buying a fisheye "since everyone else is using one", you come here and turn me around again :) But you've got some very good points, and when it comes to UW photo, I defer to authority. The question is just whose authority... ;)

    Now, the next points I'll just leave alone for a while without making any final decisions. I don't think I'll find room for those items in my 2013 toy budget, so I'll have some time to get to know the basic equipment and find out what I'll need next (did I mention that I suffer from severe GAS?)

    Thanks, and thanks for your opinion!
     
  5. deeper thoughts

    deeper thoughts Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location:
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  6. tamas970

    tamas970 Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Switzerland - way too far from warm seas:(
    588
    55
    28
    I don't want to argue, judgement of handling/controlls is very personal - if you prefer the DSLR-style, go for it. I also came from the DSLR-camp, I just sold my D7000 rig last month (along a big collection of lenses - I got rid of around 5 kilos!) and using the EPL5 on land for a while: it was a big change, but honestly, I reconfigured one single button for ISO and that's it, no more digging in the menu. (99% I shoot in A, sometimes comes a bit of exp correction)

    What OMD really offers is the built-in EVF and the 5-axis IBIS: you don't really need these underwater. (However both are great on land, if you make it your primary camera!)

     
    Storker likes this.
  7. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Florida, USA
    1,614
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    I will be the first to say that there are many pros who like the fisheye. However, I emphasize the word "pros." They like the unique look and have the time and dedication to master the difficulty of shooting such an ultra-wide and one-dimensional lens for an entire dive. That being said, many other pros (Phil Rudin comes to mind) prefer the look of a rectlinear ultra-wide and I am in that camp as well. Plus, the versatility of a wide zoom underwater will be much more useful to you than a specialty lens like a fisheye.

    In addition, price is a concern for you, and you are going to use the lens topside maybe even more than UW. With that in mind, the decision is a no-brainer. A fisheye is a purely niche lens on land and I guarantee you will quite possibly never use it, and pay quite a bit of money. Topside, I have never owned a fisheye and never wanted one. I say that being a serious landscape photographer for many years. The 9-18 however you will use quite a bit, for cities, interiors, architecture, and many types of landscapes. Also, a fisheye requires an expensive dedicated port while you can use the 9-18 in the same port as the 14-42. Finally, a fisheye requires a two-strobe set-up for optimal lighting due to its 180 degree view. The cost of lens/port/strobe will be substantial and not that useful at your stage as a photographer.

    For you, I just believe the 9-18 is a WAY better choice topside, for most shooting underwater, and definitely with a single-strobe rig.

    Like I said, if you want to add a specialty to your shooting, macro is much more fulfilling than fisheye. Fisheye is just a variation on the wide-angle theme. Macro opens up whole new worlds. Begin with the diopter (which you can probably afford as part of step one, diopters run $150 or so but I don't know what the adapter for the semi-dome port would be)

    Go for a full dedicated macro set-up as "step 5" later when you have the funds.

    Finally, I would make the fisheye and port and extra strobe "Step 6" once you have much more experience with wide angle shooting.

    As for controls, I shot a PEN series (E-PL2) for two years before getting my set-up a month ago. I loved the PEN, but after one dive, I can tell you that there is no comparison. The OM-D is just a whole different class of camera it its ease and speed of use, its quality, its control versatility, and customizability. Go to Wetpixel and check out the OM-D threads. It is the hottest non-DSLR around and for very good reason.

    The EVF is invaluable underwater especially if you are shooting in shallow water where reflections off the LCD make it even harder to use. You can also focus it to your eye. You can (much later) also splurge on a dedicated magnified viewer.

    Also, the IBIS is extremely useful under water when shooting macro, and incredible when shooting video. My video has never looked smoother, almost like a steadicam rig. These are the two aspects of the camera that are game-changers, and, yes, underwater game-changers too.

    The E-PL5 is no doubt an excellent camera, and it uses the same sensor so basic image quality is the same, but it is not the same level of photographic tool as the OM-D. You get what you pay for, and you will get your full money's worth paying for the OM-D.
     
  8. smoore

    smoore Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Toronto Canada
    181
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    This is one of the most informative threads I have seen on putting together a versatile underwater system. It is a discussion I will refer to when I get some more money and am thinking about upgrading my system.
     
  9. Storker

    Storker M.O.D. Staff Member

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: near a Hell which occasionally freezes over
    5,327
    2,623
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    Guy: Thanks for expanding on your previous post. This was very informative for me and helped a lot!
    This reflects very well my reservations towards the fisheye. Topside, it's definitely a novelty lens rather than a universal tool, and I was worried - apparently quite justified - that I would have some of the same problems with the fisheye UW as I have topside.
    I didn't think about that. Thanks!
    You're reflecting my thoughts very well. I've been shooting since the late 70s/early 80s and didn't go digital until the Nikon D300 was on the market. I ended up with the D300 by chance, since at that time it was the only dSLR that gave me full use of my old MF Nikon glass (and I'll never give up my beloved 105/2.5!). However, after learning to use a dSLR instead of a film SLR, I really learned to appreciate the controls of a pro level dSLR. My son has the D60, and I'm equally frustrated every time I try to borrow his camera because I don't have the controls at my fingertips as I have with my D300. I've got a G9 compact just to be able to take pictures when I don't want to pack the D300, e.g. when hiking, and I'm never happy with the controls. This is why I, when I was looking at cameras for UW photo, quickly decided on the OM-D and won't go for a more affordable camera. I've come to the conclusion that there's just too much emphasis on megapixels and too little emphasis on user-friendlyness and control in today's camera marketing. I guess it's easier to market megapixels than ergonomics...Again, thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate the effort you've made writing up your replies.
     
  10. jetlife2

    jetlife2 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cincinnati, OH
    65
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    0
    Can you please elaborate. I have the EPL2 and love it but the sensor at high ISO is a limitation. I have been considering the EPL5. I have no issue operating the EPL2 at full manual (manual ISO, manual A+S) so why do you feel so strongly about the controls? Why is this a major discriminator between the EPL5 and OMD? PS I have the 9-18 already, Zen dome and 2 Z240's.

    Thanks
     

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