Good Things Come in Small Packages
A DSLR user tries out "going small" with the Olympus OM-D E-M1.
By Jim Boon
On a recent live-aboard trip to the Sea of Cortez, I had the misfortune of flooding my housing on the second dive of my trip. I was heartbroken at losing my favorite lens and a darn good DSLR camera body. At that very moment, I was looking at the next seven days of being on a live-aboard with twenty other camera-divers and I would not be taking any photos.
As word of my camera flood went around the boat, our trip leader Jack offered to loan me a new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera in an underwater housing. Pretty hard to turn down that kind of an offer! I was excited to get my hands on one these new micro four-thirds size cameras in such a robust housing.
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The Olympus TG-5 camera and housing packages have been very popular with a wide variety of divers. The camera shoots great stills as well as 4K video. It has underwater preset modes for snapshot, wide angle and other modes that make life easy.
Having a lighting system that can shoot both stills and video gives the widest possible use of this great little camera. The new Kraken Hydra "S +" lights that now come in a 2500, 3500 and 5000 lumen models, as well as the popular Kraken Macro Ringlight 3000, all support a higher lumen output in a fast "burst" mode that saves power and gives a higher output for still photos.
Nikon’s new D850 full-frame camera is proving to be one of their most popular cameras ever, and what’s not to like? A massive 46MP sensor with resolution that matches or exceeds film, fast autofocus (AF) borrowed from the pro-level D5, low base 64 ISO to better capture bright scenes and a fast 7 fps frame rate with an electronic front curtain shutter, for just a start. Matching that are improved flash electronics, TTL protocols and 4K video. For those D800 and D810 underwater photographers who fell in love with shooting full-frame images, the upgrade is intriguing. As I now have around 60 dives on this new Nikon rig, I can offer a comprehensive review.
Dropping into the warm, crystal clear water we spotted at least 3 or 4 species of sharks all in good numbers. We were on a shark dive on the remote outer reef of the Micronesian island of Yap. Grey reef sharks of moderate size, lots of smaller black tip reef sharks and quite a few larger silvertips were nosing around us looking for their afternoon snack. Good for us it was a small “chumsicle” of frozen fish, which they eagerly attacked on the bottom. For the next 45 minutes we excitedly clicked away and enjoyed the show. While the sharks were definitely curious about us, they kept their distance. Certainly, a great dive.
After many hours of flights on through the night and day, fifteen of us had arrived early in the morning the day before to this small island paradise for the first stop in our 2018 OOS South Pacific Photo Expedition.
I love shooting underwater macro – specifically super macro. One of the challenges of this discipline is deciding on which diopter to bring along on a dive. Inevitably I choose one strength lens and wish I had brought along something different. Enter the Saga Dive Trio. This innovative lens from Spanish optics manufacturer Saga Dive, combines a +5, +10 and +15 diopter in one unit, giving you the ability to shoot anything from a fish portrait to a pygmy seahorse on the same dive.
The latest offering from Kraken Sports is the Kraken WeeFine Ring Light for macro illumination. This innovative light attaches to any threaded port. It features a constant-on 1000 lumen light and is small, lightweight and self-contained.
Underwater photographers have always debated their cameras and there are always questions and continuing debates about the virtues and performance of various formats. We cover all of their pros and cons in our free Handbook: Choosing an Underwater Camera & Housing, but here's my experience.
For my next trip to Cabo Pulmo and the Socorros Islands in Mexicos, I decided to take the new Nauticam E-M1MKII housing. Although there was a strange dearth of large animals, I did get good shots.
The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII has been the darling new camera lately, with high reviews from all corners for its improved feature set. The combination of a wide range of superb PRO lenses, fast speed, and incredibly rugged build quality has everyone thinking about this m4/3rds camera as the answer for a smaller, high performance underwater platform.
Komodo National Park lies near Bali, between East & West Nusa Tenggara islands in Indonesia. Our intrepid group of Optical Ocean Sales photographers managed to survive a cold wet season dive expedition there last February on the Damai 1 liveaboard boat and take an amazing array of photos.
My first impression when seeing the Kraken 10,000 lumen Solar Flare Max underwater video light was how nicely crafted they are. The light is incredibly durable with metal construction and a strong glass dome for the LED lights that spreads the light underwater.
Divers and underwater photographers are being inundated with a dizzying array of new and different lights. Some of these have similar features like a single button for both mode and power, single lith-ion batteries instead of more reliable battery packs and chargers. Most less expensive LED arrays that have hotspots. In other words, buying lights strictly on the basis of lumens for dollars doesn’t always yield the best results.