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Review of GH2 & Nauticam housing

Discussion in 'Panasonic Planet' started by Kevster, Sep 10, 2011.

  1. Kevster

    Kevster Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Perth, Australia
    437
    49
    28
    Review of the GH2 & Nauticam housing

    Background
    I have been using Canon P&S cameras (S70, S80, S90, G9) with Inon UWL+dome, Inon UCLs underwater for 5 years & finally decided to upgrade. I also used the Nikon D80 topside for a few years before it was stolen along with all my Nikon glass.

    The key criteria for my new underwater system was size/weight.
    All of my diving is travel based and I did not want to carry around a large heavy set up.

    I purchased the Panasonic GH2 camera, which has now been on the market for 9 months. I was waiting to see what housings would be available before I actually purchased the camera. I very nearly purchased the Nikon D7000 as the overall price difference between the two set ups is not significant. It was the increased weight of the Nikon set-up that put me of buying the D7000.

    I purchased the 14mm, 14-140 mm & 100-300 mm lens for top side use and the 8mm fisheye and 45 mm macro lens for underwater use.

    IMG_0665.jpg
    Photo-8mm,14mm,45mm lens, NAGH2, Fisheye & macro ports

    DPreview has given the camera a good review and who am I to argue. I was very impressed with the video capability, it is really amazing the telephoto capability you can get using the video mode and the 300 mm lens. I was so impressed with the video quality I bought a fluid head tripod.

    The Camera
    The camera is small and light and is a similar size to my old G9. The lens are significantly smaller than the Canon/Nikon counterparts. It is amazing how small the 14mm pancake lens is. So far I am very happy with the GH2 as a topside camera.

    IMG_0655.jpg
    Photo - S90, NAGH2,G9 housing

    IMG_0661.jpg
    Photo- S90 with Inon dome v NAGH2 with fisheye dome

    The Housing
    I believe there are only 2 manufacturers who have a housing for the GH2. 10 Bar and Nauticam. Based on the good reviews of the Nauticam NEX housing I bought the Nauticam housing. This is my 1[SUP]st[/SUP] Aluminum type housing and I was impressed by the quality of the housing.
    The housing weighs in at a measly 1.3 Kgs. Could easily be held in 1 hand underwater. I have the 2 arm base plate. All controls are easy to use. IMHO the actual housing has been over engineered to ensure all camera functions can be used underwater. For example there are two dials that have dual functionality.
    I was a little surprised how small the housing and port o-rings are. My old canon housing o-rings are thicker than the nauticam o-rings.Also the -o-rings seem to be very easy to remove/stretch. This is a concern.
    The housing also comes with a leak detector, with a bright light and loud alarm.

    Packing the gear
    The set-up is small and light. Just what I was wanting.
    It easily fits into my lowerpro backpack.
    My Lowerpro backpack , containing the following items weighed in at less than 11 Kgs.
    GH2,
    NA-GH2 housing,
    8mm lens,
    14mm lens,
    14-140mm lens,
    45mm lens,
    fisheye dome port,
    macro dome port,
    D2000 strobe,
    S2000 strobe,
    Inon focus light,
    Inon UCl wet lens,
    Canon S90 P&S,
    13” Macbook Pro,
    Portable hard drive
    several adapters, chargers, leads, misc items

    IMG_0668.jpg
    Photo- Carry on luggage

    Diving with the Camera.
    The camera is very easy to install in the housing. The locking mechanism is very good. The port installation is also very easy to use/install. Lens can be changed without removing the camera from the housing. Unfortunately the camera has to be removed from the housing to change the battery. The based plate also needs to be removed from the camera to allow the battery to be changed. If the base plate was a little smaller perhaps this would not be necessary.
    The camera was approx neutral buoyant. With 2 strobes and a focus light I had to use 3 buoyancy arms to maintain neutral buoyancy.
    The camera is easy to use underwater. All camera functions are available and there are a couple of spare buttons that can be used as shortcut functions. Shutter lag was a non issue for me, especially comparing to a P&S. You could either use the Electronic viewfinder or the main liveview display to take photos. The viewfinder display was ok but the liveview was much easier to use. Battery life was ok for 3 dives.
    There is a couple of modes to take video. A 1 button function to allow video when you are using M,Av,S. Or there is a specific video mode. Movie quality was amazing.



    See link for some photos & a trip report from the Solomons using the GH2

    http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/pa...bilikiki-gizo-munda-trip-report-aug-11-a.html

    8mm Fish eye lens
    This lens is great. Really wide. During the first couple of dives I did not pull my strobes back far enough so they were in the corners of the photos. Great lens for wrecks and large fans. However its not all good. Fish & sharks had to be really close to the front of the lens for a decent shot, otherwise they look very small. For example I had framed a lion fish above the reef in blue water. However the fish looked really small as it was 2ft from the front of the dome.
    I would prefer a wide angle lens that I could zoom. Unfortunately the Panasonic wide angle lens is very expensive. I have just purchased the dome for the 14mm pancake lens. I am hoping this will be ok for sharks. The dome for the fish eye is small, about the same size as my inon dome for the S90. Unfortunately the fisheye dome is acrylic rather than glass. When I was taking over under shots water drops on the dome were more of a problem compared to the Inon glass dome

    45 macro mm lens
    Expensive, but very sharp. This lens has a dial to allow it to either have a min focus distance of 15 cm or 50 cm. This has to be selected before you put the port on. It cannot be changed underwater. The 15cm min focus was ok for nudis,small crabs etc but not great for fish. There was some focus hunting with this lens even with a focus light. Overall it’s a good lens. Would be great it you could change the min focus distance underwater. The macro port is really small. You can also attach a wet Inon macro diopter to the macro port.

    I recently bought the port for the 14mm pancake lens but have not used it underwater.

    My biggest frustration was deciding what lens to use before the dive. Using my P&S i had a wet lens for wide angle and macro.
    During 1 dive in the Solomons we found a crocodile in a cave. Unfortunately i had the 45mm lens on and i was too scared to get close enough for a good photo. If i had a P&S i would have been able to use the zoom!

    Conclusion
    I am happy with my purchase. Its expensive , similar price to housing a Nikon D7000. However the camera/housing is small light and very travel friendly.
    The video quality is amazing. I have already ordered some video lights and I can see me moving from taking photos to shooting video.

    Pros
    Small/light setup
    Excellent video
    Live view can be used for photos. No need to use viewfinder.
    Topside telephoto ability is amazing

    Cons
    Expensive
    Expensive macro & wide angle lens
    Battery life not as good as DSLR
    Small o-rings
    Deciding what lens to use before the dive
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2011
    gee13 likes this.
  2. Jesper64

    Jesper64 Angel Fish

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    Nice write up, some good info there.

    Was the viewfinder completely unusable? There's no eyepiece there on the housing, so can you actually see the picture on the viewfinder given that your eye is so far from the picture with the housing and mask in the way.
     
  3. Deep scope

    Deep scope Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Denver
    38
    1
    0
    Thanks for the review.

    Have you done any video yet? If so, can you share settings that worked well? (particularly interested in how the camera's auto focus does underwater)
     
  4. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    8,810
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    Nice review. Perhaps you could answer a few more questions?
    1. Can images be downloaded without removing the camera from the housing (after removing the housing back) or must it be completely removed?
    2. How small an image area can you capture topside with the 14-140 mm?
    3. Not that you get much more than bubble noise, but does the housing have any provisions for an external mic/hydrophone?
    4. Any words of wisdom regarding topside and underwater strobe selection?
    5. I am still new to M4/3rds. Will Olympus lenses fit the GH2? If so, are any interesting?
    6. Any thoughts on the as-yet undelivered GH3?
    7. Is there anything you can expand on or quibble over in the Nauticam NA-GH2 for the Panasonic DMC-GH2 review in UwP issue 62?

    One thing I would really like to see is a Live-View screen that can be rotated up about 45° like the Sony Alpha NEX5 in the Aquapazza housing. I might consider the Sony if I could justify separate cameras and glass for surface and underwater. The Panasonic GHs look awfully nice. Thanks again.
     
  5. Marcel Steuermann

    Marcel Steuermann Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Cologne, Germany
    48
    5
    8
    thanks a lot! Can´t wait to purchase my own Panny. Love that new style of video.
     
  6. Kevster

    Kevster Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Perth, Australia
    437
    49
    28
    Replies to some of the questions above.

    Jesper- Viewfinder was usable.I took 30+ photos using the viewfinder. However using the live view display is MUCH better. Note you have to either use the electronic viewfinder or the liveview. There is a button to press to switch between main display & electronic viewfinder. I did not like holding the housing up to my eye/face to use the viewfinder.

    Deepscope- I did not experiment too much with video. Infact it took me a few dives to discover i could white balance in video mode. The GH2 is capable of excellent video. I need to learn more regarding the various video modes before i can give any tips. One thing i like is there is a function to take slow motion/fast motion video. Most of the video i took was with the fish eye lens. Autofocus was very fast and accurate. Did not try any video with the macro lens which will sufer more in terms of fast accurate focus.

    Akimbo
    1. You have to remove the camera from the housing to download photos(either by removing card or by USB cable) This is not a big deal as its so easy to remove the camera from the housing.
    2. Not sure i understand Q2? 14-140 mm lens is ok but it is NOT a macro lens. i.e at 140mm you are quite far from the subject.
    3. As far as i am aware there is no provision for a hydrophone. The camera has various settings to reduce ambient noise (i,e wide reduction for topside) i guess this could be used to reduce bubble noise.
    4. need optical stobes. I recommend the Inons. I have the D2000 & S2000. They both have the same power output. The S2000 is significantly smaller but i prefer the D2000 as the buttons/dials are easier to access. The S2000 selector switch is small & would be a problem if you are using gloves.
    5. Any manufacturer lens will work as long as they are M4/3 format(olympus,Sigma & now a few others) most of the good lens are Panny. E.g the Olympus 45mm is cheaper but it is NOT a macro lens. Not sure if there will be negative performance using 3rd party lens in terms of auto focus speed etc.
    6. GH3 wil lbe another 6-12 months & who knows how long for a housing. There are some hacks for the GH2 that may bring the same perfomance as the GH3(who knows). If you are in the market for a camera why wait. Sometimes the newer model is not better for underwater use.
    7. No. Review is ok. I am happy. Just wish it was not so expensive. Would be good it Nauticam will do a port for the new 14-42x lens as this lens have a new zoom mechanism that would improve video.

    I am now thinking about buying a focus gear for the 45mm as using manual focus is MUCH better for really small stuff.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011
    Akimbo likes this.
  7. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    I really appreciate your detailed response. I will also use the camera topside for a lot of engineering documentation-type photos. I suppose the question is what is the minimum size (approximate) area can you capture with the 14-140mm. A wide zoom range is very useful in the field and I'd would like to get an idea if I need to also carry another lens. I would not classify it as macro but I have seen several lenses like this that have trouble capturing a full image less than ~600mm wide. If I could get the width of the image down to ~200mm I would be good.
     
  8. guyharrisonphoto

    guyharrisonphoto ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Florida, USA
    1,951
    1,032
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    [Cons
    Expensive
    Expensive macro & wide angle lens


    I highly recommend the Olympus 9-18mm wide zoom. I use it on an E-PL2 but it will work fine on the GH2. This will give you a much less expensive wide angle zoom setup than the Pany 7-14mm (which is about $400 more than the $600 oly). I am sure Nautican has a dome that will work and if they don't, Zen does. This is much more versatile than the 8mm fisheye. It does not have in-lens stabilization (which is in the Oly bodies but not lenses) but that is not nearly as important in an ultra-wide lens and the 7-14 does not have it, either.
     
    Akimbo likes this.
  9. Deep scope

    Deep scope Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Denver
    38
    1
    0
    Not to Hijack the thread, but I have a new GH2 video from a recent trip to Kona if anyone is interested:

    Kona Dreaming on Vimeo

    Just a disclaimer that this was my first time using a DSLR underwater, so the footage doesn't represent all that the GH2 is capable of! (was also using the 14-45mm lens which is arguably the weakest lens in the panasonic lineup).

    I used the autofocus almost exclusively (as manual focus with the 10Bar housing is difficult) and found the autofocus to work surprisingly well for the most part.

    The second half of the video was shot at ISO 3200 if people are interested in the low light performance of the camera.

    Nick
     
  10. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Nick: How do you like your 10Bar GH2 Housing?
     

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