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SLR to Mirrorless - Macro or WA first?


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So I recently made the switch from shooting Nikon DX SLR cameras for years, to Sony Full Frame Mirrorless. I've been playing with just the camera for a few months and about ready to get the first UW housing setup. There's many reason why I made the switch including the desire to review in viewfinder, and more reliance on the auto-focus system as my eyesight changes with age. 

 

Because of the many variables in this change - DX sensor to Full Frame, SLR to Mirrorless, Nikon to Sony, TTL strobes to Manual - I'm wondering if my initial setup should be Macro or Wide Angle. Leaning more to Macro first because is more compact and where I live (Pacific Northwest) there's more opportunities for Macro photography than WA. But I'd like to hear others opinions:

 

Have you gone through a similar switch?

Anything I should consider in my decision and next steps?

 

Definitely want to purchase one setup first, get comfortable with it, then add the next setup.

 

Thanks!!

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Hi scuba_jc

 

Congrats on the new gear. Nice! I'm still a Nikon DX shooter but I hope the following may be a bit of help:

 

I'd suggest only you can decide whether you should go with macro or wide-angle to start with. You know what types of subject you are likely to see on your dives and what you enjoy photographing. Hard to say which is "easier" to start with. As far as compact size goes, maybe macro is a little more compact if you are going to use a large domeport for wide-angle (see below). More generally, I always reckon that there are more opportunities to shoot macro as you don't need reasonable viz.

 

A couple of other thoughts:

 

- mirrorless v DSLR aside, the big difference between DX and FF is the issue of wide-angle lenses. I'm sure you've read here that housing a wide-angle on FF is more complicated and costly than on DX. Maybe you were a Tokina 10-17 shooter (like me) on DX. But that won't work now - on FF or a Sony. If you don't go the wet lens route, (eg the Nauticam ones) you will likely need a big domeport (usually a 230) to house a wide-angle lens and produce reasonable corners. 

 

- macro: if you've been shooting a macro lens on a DX sensor you will have seen that a 60mm macro lens performs on DX like a 90mm; and a 105mm like a 150mm. So the DX gets you closer and with DX you get greater depth of field. Moving to a FF the depth of field reduces quite considerably for macro and you wo';t get the reach that you had with DX. If you are used to using a 60mm on DX, I'd suggest you need to go for a 105mm length lens on FF.

 

Whatever you choose, I hope you have fun with it!

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You can always start with just the kit lens and maybe some wet lenses to get the feel of it underwater and then move in the direction that fits you better.

I started with the Sony A6300 (fantasea housing) and Sony 16-50 kit lens with the AOI +12.5 diopter. I then realized I liked macro better and bought the Sony 50mm macro (which now I replaced with the Sony 90mm macro).

 

Which housing are you using and which FF body do you have?

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I went from a D500 to a Sony A1. You will be aware of the potential IQ differences (although if you only post on the web, you're unlikely to notice a huge difference) so we can skip that. 

 

Shooting wise I don't see a massive difference with wide angle. If anything, the D500 is easier as the viewfinder has more scope shooting with the dynamic range. 

 

However, once it comes to macro, its another story. Being able to look for tiny critters, stay imposition, then review the shots and make strobe adjustments without moving and losing the critter is invaluable. 

 

In your situation I'd only got Sony full frame for macro and once you're happy with that consider WA

 

Mike

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Ultimately, if you prefer shooting one over the other, you should go with the one you like more.

 

If you don't have a preference, I'd be biased towards macro. As others have mentioned, it's easier to travel with a macro setup than a big dome port, and you'll probably appreciate the advantages of full frame mirrorless over DX SLR when shooting macro. Aside from that, Sony doesn't have a native fisheye lens yet, so it's arguably a little more future proof to buy a native 90mm macro lens that's less likely to be replaced soon than Canon 8-15mm fisheye + adapter that might become less desirable if Sony ever releases their own fisheye (or if you ever decide to splurge on a FCP).

 

If you also do any topside photography, a factor that might encourage you to start with wide-angle instead is that common rectilinear wide-angle options like the Tamron 17-28mm also have broad applicability above water, while fisheye and macro lenses are considered pretty niche and have better alternatives for most other use cases (eg. 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 is generally preferred over the 90mm macro for most situations unless you need close-focus capability).

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If you are shooting a WWL port for wide angle, it's no more difficult to pack than a Macro port.  They are quite a great solution with amazing quality. I've been using a WWL-C for a few months with a Z8 and it is fantastic. 

 

And the Mirrorless EVF advantage is just as important as with Wide Angle as with Macro. Add a 45deg viewfinder and it's incredible how much better than a DSLR it can me. 

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Wow so much great feedback! Apologies for the slow response - work got in the way. 


You’ve all given me a lot to think about, but also validate my inclination to start with Macro first. 
 

To answer some of the posted questions, you m shooting a Sony A7RV and already got a 90mm I intend to use UW. Also considering a wet magnifier since - as someone already pointed out - I’m use to the extra magnification I’d get on my DX with the Nikon 60 and 105 lenses. 
 

For WA I intend to start with a kit lens and a WWL - but realizing I got a little more to research in that regard. 
 

So sounds like Macro at first. Nauticam housing with a 45 viewfinder. Now I gotta think about strobes 🤔 . . .

 

 

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6 hours ago, scuba_jc said:

Wow so much great feedback! Apologies for the slow response - work got in the way. 


You’ve all given me a lot to think about, but also validate my inclination to start with Macro first. 
 

To answer some of the posted questions, you m shooting a Sony A7RV and already got a 90mm I intend to use UW. Also considering a wet magnifier since - as someone already pointed out - I’m use to the extra magnification I’d get on my DX with the Nikon 60 and 105 lenses. 
 

For WA I intend to start with a kit lens and a WWL - but realizing I got a little more to research in that regard. 
 

So sounds like Macro at first. Nauticam housing with a 45 viewfinder. Now I gotta think about strobes 🤔 . . .

 

 

 

A little tip I learned about WA- bigger isn't better (dome wise..)

If you want something nice for traveling then consider fish lens (canon 8-15) and a 100mm / 4.33" dome.

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1 hour ago, Sarthur1 said:

A little tip I learned about WA- bigger isn't better (dome wise..)

If you want something nice for traveling then consider fish lens (canon 8-15) and a 100mm / 4.33" dome.

 

That's a good point. The wide-angle problem is pretty much solved by using a fisheye lens. It works with a small dome which, in turn, makes for easier travel, it's not so expensive (well, ok, an 8-15 isn't cheap!) - and the corners are good.

 

I know some folks don't like the look of an FE but it solves so many FF wide-angle issues and it's a rare underwater image where the FE effect is really noticeable and distorting. 

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Just a consideration as a Puget Sound shooter, I shot the kit Sony 28-60mm with FF with the shorter port and bayonet fitting, adding the CMC-1 for macro, and that worked really well, but you need to get close. Coupled with a WWL-1B, it's a flexible kit that allows for days when viz and particulates in the water are better than expected. Later, I did move to the 90mm for a bit of stand-off capability, and that seems to be the time that a GPO shows up (it's always when you have the wrong lens). Just a thought. 

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I’ve thought of the Canon FE as a third iteration of the kit. Right now I’m thinking, in order:

 

• macro w 90mm and CMC

• 28-60mm w/ WWL (and hadn’t thought of adding CMC to that, great idea @RVBldr)

• 8-15 Canon with Dome

 

I think starting with Macro will also facilitate a smaller/simpler strobe setup so I can get used to shooting manual strobes. I relied heavily on TTL on my previous Ikelite/Nikon setup. 
 

thanks again for all the amazing insight. What a great community. I owe you all a pint 🍺 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, scuba_jc said:

28-60mm w/ WWL (and hadn’t thought of adding CMC to that, great idea @RVBldr)

 

I film with a completely different system: MFT but this association is similar. I use the kit lens with the flat port. A 14-42mm (FF 28-84mm) to which I attach WWL-1B for wide angle or a CMC-2 for macro.
I never thought of removing the WWL in water. Too dangerous for the diving I do but I know some do on shallow bottoms that allow it.

I use the CMC-2 with a flip adapter. This is a great setup to have more flexibility and not be tied exclusively to macro. With just the 14-42mm I can take portraits of fish or even small whole fish or corals and by adding the CMC I can switch to macro.
However, there is one small detail to keep in mind (which I admit I missed at first). With an additional macro wet lens you can focus only in the small specific range of the lens (80-120mm for the CMC-2 in this configuration). So it's not like having an actual macro lens that allows you to focus (in theory) at any distance.
Maybe my point is superfluous and may not be a limitation. It depends on the type of subjects being photographed/filmed. 
When I want to engage in macro I prefer to mount my 45mm Leica (90mm FF) and optional CMC-2 on flip adapter.

 

P.S.

 

Of course as @RVBldr wrote, Murphy's law is always lurking and a GPO always appears when you have the wrong lens.
In my experience here in Italy, never never never mount macro lenses in the spring. A one meter anglerfish waits calmly for you expecting an entire photogrammetry session to take it all in 😁

 

A 4K frame of her, taken with the 45mm PanaLeica.

 

171512751_3920607317987819_8546015689401253895_n.jpg

 

Edited by Davide DB
small typo
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, scuba_jc said:

• macro w 90mm and CMC

• 28-60mm w/ WWL (and hadn’t thought of adding CMC to that, great idea @RVBldr)

• 8-15 Canon with Dome

 

Congrats on the new rig; I know you'll love it!

 

As a previous long-time APS-C photog, here are a couple points I found when I switched to Sony 61MP:

 - The focus point with the a7rV must be spot on!  The lower MPs of a DX system are much more forgiving.

 - Anything not exactly in focus will be noticeable when you review on a bigger screen.

 - Set up custom menus and the "C" buttons.  The Sony menu is not the easiest to quickly change on its own

 - Alex Mustard has a great YouTube video on suggested a1 settings (same menus as a7rV) 

 

Regarding lens choices:

 - The Sony 90 macro actually mates to the SMC, not the CMC.  SMC-1 has a very limited working distance of only 45-93mm from subject.  Outside that range the 90 only would be used. 

 - The Sony 28-60 would use the CMC, but it also requires the lens to be extremely close to the subject to focus.  (83mm-135mm for CMC-2)  A normal macro lens has a much wider focus range as needed.  I have a buddy that uses the CMC + 28-60 and produces some beautiful images.  Just mention to set expectations.

 - The best small dome choice for the Canon 8-15 on FF is the Nauticam 140 (or much bigger 230).  The 100 dome works for APS-C, but does not give good corner sharpness on FF, especially the ultra high 61MP.  (Per Alex Mustard)

 - Good choice on the WWL.  It is affordable and extremely versatile.  I have owned one for 4 years.  I personally prefer to have some zoom range, and this does!  It also does terrific CFWA.  I have been able to do an almost-macro image of a flamingo tongue due to the ability to focus so close.  For a small travel size + image quality combo, I feel it can't be beat.  As an FYI, splits are not possible due to the dynamic water line between the port and WWL.

 - Important Note:  Be sure to "burp" (remove / replace) the WWL immediately upon entry.  This eliminates the possibility of tiny bubble getting trapped between the port and WWL.

 

Regarding strobes:

 - The Inon Z-330s have been extremely popular.  Unfortunately, they are no longer being produced.  You may be able to find some nice pre-owned.

 - The new Marelux strobes look interesting.  They also do HSS, which is a huge bonus.  Connect with Phil Rudin for his thoughts if you are curious.

 - Retra strobes are the top-end performance, with top-end price.  Includes HSS compatibility. 

 - Backscatter MF-2s are great for macro, but not nearly as good for wider images due to small size.  They too are capable of HSS if the trigger supports it.

 - Regardless of the strobes, the UW Technics trigger works well for both manual and TTL, should you want to go there.  It also supports HSS provided the strobes are capable.  The Nauticam trigger is manual only.  I started with it, but later moved up to the UW Technics and have been happy. 

 

Enjoy the new toys!  We look forward to seeing some of your pics.  

- chip

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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Yeah on my old Ikelite setup, I'd mount a GoPro on top of my macro setup to help alleviate the FOMO effect. 

 

@Davide DB cool shot and the idea of using one the CMC with a kit lens becoming more appealing. Although as @ChipBPhoto mentioned I would need the SMC for my 90mm instead of the CMC. So many possibilities! Glad I went with the Mark V camera because I don't see my budget accommodating another switch in many years 🙂

 

 

38 minutes ago, ChipBPhoto said:

The new Marelux strobes look interesting.  They also do HSS, which is a huge bonus.  Connect with Phil Rudin for his thoughts if you are curious

What's HSS? Can someone educate me?

 

I think I will start with one or two or the Backscatter MF-2 for the initial macro setup. Reviewing the list Backscatter put together for me and cherry picking the first part - This is on e of the few hobbies I've had where shopping is part of the fun. Never got this excited about buying tools to remodel the house.

 

Thanks everyone.

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24 minutes ago, scuba_jc said:

What's HSS? Can someone educate me?

 

 

High Speed Sync. Think of those situations where you are shooting into the light but want the strobes to light the subject in the foreground. So you set the shutter at a high speed (because of the ambient light) but also need the strobes to sync at speeds above those of the camera's sync speed. So with HSS you can shoot at, say, 1/2000 of s sec and still get the strobes to fire in sync.

 

I don't think you'd use this very often for macro but I find it very useful for wide-angle shooting where, for example,  you want the sunburst. Here's an example - not a great pic but it gives you the idea. This was shot at 1/320 of a second.

 

The Retras are superb for this. As Chip says, pricey, but they are really good.

 

 

TG54589.jpg

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, scuba_jc said:

Glad I went with the Mark V camera because I don't see my budget accommodating another switch in many years 🙂

 

That's actually very true!  I used my last APS-C rig for 11 years.  Of course I added to it - viewfinder, new strobes, different lenses/ports, etc.  The a7rV is a remarkable camera.  With the durability of the Nauticam housing, it will last you for many years!  That helps that "cost per year" amortization when the credit card bill shows up. 😆  

 

Seriously, if you soak your rig in a tub/bucket of warm water, articulate the buttons under water, and then dry it, you'll be surprised how long it will last.  Also, get an electric air blower (~$35 on Amazon) and blow the water out from under the buttons/levers after you clean it.  It's shocking how much water and resulting build up can remain without doing this.  My current housing has several hundred dives and still looks new.  Yes, mom taught me to take care of my toys, especially when they cost this much!  😎 

 

Other tip, if you go with the MF-2s, I wouldn't jump straight into trying to snoot with them.  Trying to direct a pin-point light while you're learning a new camera/strobes is an entirely new level of hell !

 

 

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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@TimG Ah yes! That makes sense. One of the compromises going from Nikon to Sony is that they have slower sync speed (although not by much). Didn't know you could adjust fro this on the strobe side. Lots to learn there. Seems the Retras are something I'll need to grow into, cause my skill level is currently will not do them justice. Thanks for the perfect explanation.

 

@ChipBPhoto Agreed! Trying to keep it simple and add to the rig as my skill and familiarity with it improves. Love the fan idea. We have a Scuba closet in our house with a rinse tub and dehumidifier that def helps keep all gear in tip top shape. However we just sold the house and are downsizing so we'll see what I can rig at the next place. Thanks!

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On 5/2/2024 at 1:31 AM, scuba_jc said:

Ah yes! That makes sense. One of the compromises going from Nikon to Sony is that they have slower sync speed (although not by much). Didn't know you could adjust fro this on the strobe side. Lots to learn there. Seems the Retras are something I'll need to grow into, cause my skill level is currently will not do them justice. Thanks for the perfect explanation.

 

Sorry, one thing I forgot to mention: HSS needs a HSS-capable trigger to initiate the strobes and communicate with the camera.

 

I use the UWT one to talk between a D500 and the Retras and fit in my Subal housing.

 

So the sync cable goes from the camera's hot shoe to the UWT board which, on initiation, fires LEDs in the bulkheads. That LED flash runs down the fibre initiating the Retras. A dial on the strobes can be set on Manual, TTL or HSS depending on what you want to do - all of which can be changed underwater.

 

It perhaps sounds complicated but it's not. All pretty simple. Like Chip, I tend to keep my system for a good few years. So if you are setting out and plan to go with a fairly sophisticated system, it's worth factoring in HSS from the get-go rather than spending a good chunk of cash on a system without the capability and then realising you want it!

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On 5/1/2024 at 8:05 AM, ChipBPhoto said:

 

Congrats on the new rig; I know you'll love it!

 

As a previous long-time APS-C photog, here are a couple points I found when I switched to Sony 61MP:

 - The focus point with the a7rV must be spot on!  The lower MPs of a DX system are much more forgiving.

 - Anything not exactly in focus will be noticeable when you review on a bigger screen.

 - Set up custom menus and the "C" buttons.  The Sony menu is not the easiest to quickly change on its own

 - Alex Mustard has a great YouTube video on suggested a1 settings (same menus as a7rV) 

 

Regarding lens choices:

 - The Sony 90 macro actually mates to the SMC, not the CMC.  SMC-1 has a very limited working distance of only 45-93mm from subject.  Outside that range the 90 only would be used. 

 - The Sony 28-60 would use the CMC, but it also requires the lens to be extremely close to the subject to focus.  (83mm-135mm for CMC-2)  A normal macro lens has a much wider focus range as needed.  I have a buddy that uses the CMC + 28-60 and produces some beautiful images.  Just mention to set expectations.

 - The best small dome choice for the Canon 8-15 on FF is the Nauticam 140 (or much bigger 230).  The 100 dome works for APS-C, but does not give good corner sharpness on FF, especially the ultra high 61MP.  (Per Alex Mustard)

 - Good choice on the WWL.  It is affordable and extremely versatile.  I have owned one for 4 years.  I personally prefer to have some zoom range, and this does!  It also does terrific CFWA.  I have been able to do an almost-macro image of a flamingo tongue due to the ability to focus so close.  For a small travel size + image quality combo, I feel it can't be beat.  As an FYI, splits are not possible due to the dynamic water line between the port and WWL.

 - Important Note:  Be sure to "burp" (remove / replace) the WWL immediately upon entry.  This eliminates the possibility of tiny bubble getting trapped between the port and WWL.

 

Regarding strobes:

 - The Inon Z-330s have been extremely popular.  Unfortunately, they are no longer being produced.  You may be able to find some nice pre-owned.

 - The new Marelux strobes look interesting.  They also do HSS, which is a huge bonus.  Connect with Phil Rudin for his thoughts if you are curious.

 - Retra strobes are the top-end performance, with top-end price.  Includes HSS compatibility. 

 - Backscatter MF-2s are great for macro, but not nearly as good for wider images due to small size.  They too are capable of HSS if the trigger supports it.

 - Regardless of the strobes, the UW Technics trigger works well for both manual and TTL, should you want to go there.  It also supports HSS provided the strobes are capable.  The Nauticam trigger is manual only.  I started with it, but later moved up to the UW Technics and have been happy. 

 

Enjoy the new toys!  We look forward to seeing some of your pics.  

- chip

My impressions exactly! And the 28-60 kit lens makes a perfect travel companion mated to a WWL-1 and CMC-2. I traveled recently with the slow and much maligned 50 macro using the same 28-60 N100 Nauticam port, plus 30mm of extension, which worked okay. Regarding strobes, there's a bit of chatter about Backscatter's new Hybrid Flash - something to consider.

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23 minutes ago, humu9679 said:

Regarding strobes, there's a bit of chatter about Backscatter's new Hybrid Flash - something to consider.

Yeah I started reading up on it. Also curious about Light & Motion new Sola X Hybrid - not much real world reviews on it yet but very curious.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well I did it! Purchase the housing and macro setup from Backscatter - hoping to take it out this weekend. Thanks everyone for the advice and insight!!

 

 

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Yay! Enjoy!!

 

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