OM-D rig step by step

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

  1. Storker

    Storker M.O.D.

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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

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    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

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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!
     
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  4. Storker

    Storker M.O.D.

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    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 Orca

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  6. tamas970

    tamas970 Regular of the Pub

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    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!)

     
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  7. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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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

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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.

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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

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    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
     
  11. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    All right! Please share with us once you have made your decision.
     
  12. Storker

    Storker M.O.D.

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    I can't answer for Guy, but from my experience with topside photography, just having two control wheels is a major improvement. In manual, you control both shutter speed and aperture directly without pushing buttons or digging through menus. In A or S mode, you can have shutter speed (or aperture) on one wheel and exposure comp on the second wheel. Again, the basic control at your fingertips, directly without any menu-diving.

    Add a few dedicated control buttons for e.g. focus, ISO control and flash comp, and you'll be able to handle >95% of your camera controls without ever going into a menu. If I want to focus on composition and catching the decisive moment, that's vital for me. Even if my images hardly ever reflect those ambitions...
     
  13. jetlife2

    jetlife2 Angel Fish

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    That's what I don't understand. In the EPL2 in manual, the aperture is L-R on the wheel and the shutter is up-Down on the same wheel. (or possibly the other way around, I am on an airplane without the camera in front of me!) No menu. So I am not sure what I am missing.
     
  14. BurhanMuntasser

    BurhanMuntasser NAUI Instructor

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    What about the 12-50mm Lens, isn't it more versatile than the 9-18 lens?
     
  15. tamas970

    tamas970 Regular of the Pub

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    Same here, with the E-PL5 on land I don't miss any controls - even coming from a D7000. As for IBIS: Given that most stills are shot with strobes, IBIS is only an issue while shooting video. Here the OMD is great, it uses the full potential of its 5 axis IBIS. However, if video is important, I'd definitely go in the Panasonic direction (GH2-3). The GH3 is also a pretty nice camera... (no housing yet though)


    Apples and Oranges. 9mm will never replace 12, 100 vs 84 degrees FOV diagonal. The 12-50 is a very limited "macro" with 1:5 magnification - this won't help much with those few mm-sized beauties, you need a real macro or a close-up lens for them anyway. BTW is there a good port for the 12-50, which gives good IQ in the whole range? (most probably has to be a dome or semidome...)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  16. Storker

    Storker M.O.D.

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    It's definitely more versatile than the 9-18, which is a WA zoom. It's probably also more versatile than the 14-42. But it's also pretty darned long, making the camera too nose-heavy topside for my taste. For an old geezer like me, some of the emotional appeal of the OM-D is the retro design and the SLR-like handling. Quite reminiscent of the old OM-2, AE-1 or FM with a nifty fifty. With the pretty long 12-50, the setup becomes a bit more cumbersome in terms of "stuffability" (did I just invent a new word?). I might be happy with the 12-50 underwater, but topside the setup becomes too unbalanced for my taste.

    YMMV, de gustibus non est, etc., etc.
     
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  17. BurhanMuntasser

    BurhanMuntasser NAUI Instructor

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    "Stuffability" is the word for the day!!!

    :)
     
  18. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    The 12-50 is an alternative to the 14-42 for general purpose shooting. It is not an alternative to the 9-18 (more on that below). As a lens, it is not that much more costly than the 14-42 and I do recommend it highly for on land use as it is weather-sealed, has better optical quality, and a very, very nice macro function that is "true macro". It also has a power zoom option which is excellent for video, if video is important to you. Once I got mine, I sold my 14-42 and not only don't miss it, I am very glad I made the switch. Actually, although it is that much longer than the 14-42 which extends in shooting mode, it is very light weight and does not off-balance the camera, although it does not "shrink" like the 14-42 for non-shooting storage.

    For UW use, it is the best all-around lens going, but only in the dedicated Nauticam Port/Gear. Nothing else even comes close. I went with this set-up and I can say from using it that it is beyond amazing with its versatility and ease of use. However, I know that cost is an issue for Storker and the Nauti port/gear is $800US.

    Storker, before you say that is too much, let's compare the numbers for "Step One":

    12-50 lens versus 14-42, $200 more (comparing prices of the camera/lens kits) and you have all the advantages inherent in the 12-50.
    The dome port for 14-42 is $450. The 12-50 port is $450. So, equal.
    Adding the dedicated macro/zoom gear for the 12-50 is $350 more if you get the gear "packaged" with the port. BUT, that replaces the diopter and macro adapter for the dome port of your 'step 4', which will total about $400 (200 for a quality diopter, 200 for the adapter). In addition, you have full macro capability at "step one"

    So, you have $550 more up front, but avoid the need to spend around $400 later on, and you have instant switching between semi-wide, a versatile zoom range, and true macro for tiny things (you can fill the frame with a 24x35mm object like an SD card). So, in the end, a $150 or so extra cost. There is just no comparision in terms of the benefit you receive for this small extra expenditure (small in comparison with all of the gear).

    So, if I really wanted to offer what I believe is best, Step One would be the 12-50 with dedicated Nauti port/gear, and a strobe. This will cover probably 70% of everything you will shoot, with one lens and one port that you never have to change, and no diopters to carry during the dive, screw on and off, or use with an expensive flip adapter. It would be as "seamless" an operation as you could ever imagine and, really, I can't imagine you needing anything else for quite a long time.


    If, later and as you get more experience, you become more dedicated to macro and ultra/macro, the Oly 60mm macro fits in the same port.

    If, later, you want to add wide/ultrawide, get the 9-18 and port and you are done.

    But, with the 12-50, there will be no hurry to take these steps.

    There is a post above that says the 12-50 only gives 1:5 magification. THIS IS WRONG. In macro mode, you fill the frame with an object 24x36mm. I have a full-frame-filling shot of an SD card. On a 35mm camera, this would be 1:1 magnification, equal to the very best 35mm macro lenses. This is an incredible feat and capability to have in such a useful general-purpose zoom, both above and under the water.
     
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  19. BurhanMuntasser

    BurhanMuntasser NAUI Instructor

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    guyharrisonphoto

    Between the 8mm and the 9-18, what do you think on which way to go?
     
  20. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    9-18 no contest. Fisheye is very difficult to master. It can give unique and dramatic looks that no other lens offers, but it offers a one-dimensional perspective that must be mastered, and then followed through the entire dive. 9-18 gives much greater versatility. Personally, I like the rectlinear wide angle look better than the curved fisheye look. The best fisheye shots are those that are framed so as to minimize the curved field of view (ie water or irregular shapes at the edges) and emphasize the ultra-wide angle view of the lens. I do not, however, have any desire to own one in the near future.
     
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