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Advice on upgrade path: TG-6 to RX100VII, OM-1, a6700 ???


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Posted (edited)

Hi,

 

New member here, experienced on-land photographer (wildlife now + portraits/weddings in the past), but a "brand new" underwater one 🙂

 

We went to Galapagos and I used the following setup:

- TG-6 (shoot raw, Av mode, wide angle for photo and 4k30 for video)

- PT-059 housing

- Kraken KRL-11 90deg wide angle wet lens (52mm thread) and Backscatter Air Lens - did not like either btw.

 

We took both photos and videos, some photos here: https://www.markgerlovin.com/Galapagos-2024

and a 2-minute video compilation here: https://www.markgerlovin.com/Videos

 

I really liked the snorkeling and taking photos/videos with available light, shallow water.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for diving just yet, although I do have 2x Inon S-2000 flashes, arms, and tray. Did not use them in Galapagos.

 

I'd like to upgrade to better quality photo and video and would like to do so economically, as I have a lot (a LOT) of gear already for my on-land wildlife excursions 🙂

 

I have a few cameras on hand that I could use:

 

1. RX100 VII + Ikelite housing ($600) + possibly a wide angle dome ($300)

Pros: good AF, pretty good photo quality, OK video

Cons: no IBIS, only 4k30, no 4:2:2, no fisheye, future flash additions are limited in performance

 

2. OM-1 Mk2 + Ikelite housing + 8mm Panasonic or 8mm Oly fisheye + a dome. (probably $1000 more than RX100VII setup)

Pros: good photo quality in raw, good video 4k60, 4:2:2, log + flat profiles, IBIS

Cons: AF not as good as Sony, at least on land. Not sure how it would perform with external flash if that was the next step.

 

3. Sony a6700 + E/EF adapter + Tokina 10-17 (or Canon 8-15) + TBD housing + TBD dome

- Best photo and video of the three

- Not sure if adapted lens AF will be good, external flash performance? Flash sync low.

 

Another option would be to get a different camera + housing etc. I read that Canon R7 is pretty good.

 

I'd like to keep the setup manageable in size, not too heavy which is why I am avoiding FF.  Again, I'd like to limit the scope for now to ambient light and shallow waters. I love getting close to the animals and fill the frame.

 

Sorry for the long post!  Any thoughts/suggestions on the options above and/or other ones?

 

Thanks very much!

Mark

 

Edited by MarkG2
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A few points, you seem to want to do wide angle shots, firstly be aware that a fisheye is is not apples to apples with a RX100 with a wide lens.  The fisheye is a lot wider and challenging to fill the frame with compared to a typical wide angle lens on the Sony.   With fisheyes for general wide angle work the AF won't be a problem and any combination should just snap in, you may notice some problems with CFWA work where you are in very close.  I would look at an RX-100 V if the primary interest was wide angle.

 

I would also suggest that photography while snorkelling at least to me when compared to diving is quite different.  Apart from seals and animals that might want to interact with you fish often swim off as you swim over them.  I was struck by how approachable fish were when diving in comparison.

 

the m43 systems have a good range of UW lenses, better than Sony APS-C IMO and the lenses are a lot smaller.  see for example this macro comparison:

 

https://admiringlight.com/blog/macro-battle-sony-90mm-vs-olympus-60mm-vs-fuji-60mm/

 

Smaller lenses often means smaller ports and are certainly lighter to travel with.    I would suggest looking at second hand EM-1 MkII systems in either Nauticam or Isotta, they can often be picked up for a bargain price and have more flexibility in lens and port choice.  They also use fibre optic flash triggering with the accessory flash to trigger which works really well.

 

On the ikelite housings, they certainly work, however the dome offered for fisheye is an 8"dome that can't be positioned optimally as it's not a full hemisphere and is not so good for CFWA  due to the size.  The m43 fisheyes however work very well with the little 4"Zen dome or the Nauticam 4.33"dome much smaller and easier to deal with in the water.  If you are snorkelling getting a housing that allows using a vacuum system is a big plus, counter-intuitively leaks on housing are more likely at the surface.  Vacuum systems pre-load the o-rings making a leak at the surface less likely.

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2 hours ago, MarkG2 said:

 

3. Sony a6700 + E/EF adapter + Tokina 10-17 (or Canon 8-15) + TBD housing + TBD dome

- Best photo and video of the three

- Not sure if adapted lens AF will be good, external flash performance? Flash sync low.

Using Metabones IV adapter with a6700 and Tokina 10-17mm, it has two modes: green and advanced. Green mode has good AF in stills, but no AF at all in video. Advanced mode has limited AF (slower and only middle of the frame) in stills, but does have similar AF in video.

 

I haven't found the 1/160s flash sync speed to be a significant limitation; most of the time my shutter speed is slower than that anyway.

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Posted (edited)

I don't like the Ikelite housings but have very good experiences with the Isotta housing and RX100 VA. Very small form factor, very acceptable photo quality. Only downside is the poor battery life.

Regarding wide angle the combination of UWL-95 and dome IIIG from INON is very versatile and has no limitations over the whole zoom range. But you should use the RX100 V rather than VI or VII because the newer versions do not harmonize with the UWL. In the picture below you can see my former equipment, which I sold in favour of full format.

 

Also attached a picture with this combination, the difference in image quality to the large equipment is less than you might expect.

 

Isotta komplett.jpg

DSC01298(1).jpg

Edited by fruehaufsteher2
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8 hours ago, Chris Ross said:

 

 

On the ikelite housings, they certainly work, however the dome offered for fisheye is an 8"dome that can't be positioned optimally as it's not a full hemisphere and is not so good for CFWA  due to the size.  The m43 fisheyes however work very well with the little 4"Zen dome or the Nauticam 4.33"dome much smaller and easier to deal with in the water.  If you are snorkelling getting a housing that allows using a vacuum system is a big plus, counter-intuitively leaks on housing are more likely at the surface.  Vacuum systems pre-load the o-rings making a leak at the surface less likely.

 

Hi Chris,

 

Thanks for your comments.  I like the idea of the OM1 + 8mm FE lens, since I already have OM-1 and like its photo and video capabilities.  The Zen dome you mention is very expensive though ($900), do you know of any other cost-effective housing+port/dome combos that would work well enough for CFWA with 8mm FE?  Yes, you are correct, my main goal is WA with, for example dolphins or turtles.  

Thank you.

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8 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

Using Metabones IV adapter with a6700 and Tokina 10-17mm, it has two modes: green and advanced. Green mode has good AF in stills, but no AF at all in video. Advanced mode has limited AF (slower and only middle of the frame) in stills, but does have similar AF in video.

 

I haven't found the 1/160s flash sync speed to be a significant limitation; most of the time my shutter speed is slower than that anyway.

Sounds like FishEye on a6700 could be very limited in AF capabilities.  I wonder if there are rectilinear alternatives + housing/dome combos that would work with a6700?  Sony has 11mm APS-C rectilinear for example. Maybe not as good as FE but maybe still quite good? Thanks!

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MarkG2, the Panasonic 8mm fisheye is quite good, and available used for good prices.  The Nauticam 4.33" acrylic dome is small and up to Nauticam standards.  I've not seen anything convincing that says the Olympus fisheye is better, but others may differ.

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I had the Pana 8mm and Nauticam 4.33" and it's really a good combo.

 

Going rectilinear a more expensive and good combo is the Panaleica 8-18mm and Nauticam 7" acrylic dome. Way better than 7-14mm.

 

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Hi Mark,

 

All great comments above. I've used iterations of all three systems you mention. I would hold on to the TG camera because it's really small and has incredible macro if you ever get into that. And, as Chris Ross said, scuba diving is quite different from snorkeling. Far less physical once you're in the water, generally, and you can hang out with the fish in a more meaningful way.

 

I have found the TG system harder to get great exposures, and it doesn't follow focus. But again, really small and portable. I had the Olympus OM-1 mk2, and like an idiot, developed an acute case of Sensor Envy and sold my kit with 8mm fisheyes (both Olympus and Panasonic (get the Panasonic - smaller and just fine)); 60 macro, standard zooms. They have the best lens selection and unless you need giant file sizes, or you can't shoot tight enough and you're cropping a lot, the half-frame M43 is great. Especially size and portability. I had mine housed in a Nauticam.

 

I do shoot with a compact Sony A7c in a Nauticam housing now. Pretty good, with a decent lens selection, but no full-frame fish-eye. Do consider Nauticam's water contact optics, as they work beautifully. Nauticam have a new fisheye conversion port now but too pricey for me at this time. I think Sony has the best focusing system (e.g., continuous tracking) and the look of Sony's stills, plus pretty good video, are selling points. I don't love the 1/160th sync speed, but I get around that dialing down my ISO. The A7c is about the same size as the a6700, but APS-c lenses are way smaller.

 

Eons ago I shot Canon EF in an Ikelite housing. Ikelites have a great price point, work well and have great technical service, but back then you really had to use Ikelite's strobes, which I found huge and heavy, and my experience with cable connectors was not as good, in my opinion, as fiber optics for every other system I used. I had an R6 mark 1, thinking I might switch back to my old standbys, but the RF system wasn't well supported early on. I stuck with the Sony.

 

I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the three systems above. It just takes getting to understand what each system does well, and if you can't make that work for you, you can do like many of us and continue searching for the "perfect" system.

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Oh, I forgot to weigh in on the RX100. Great system if battery life was better. The Achilles heel of this system if there ever was one. I had the mark II and mark V. You would need add-on macro lenses and wide lenses.

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46 minutes ago, humu9679 said:

Hi Mark,

 

All great comments above. I've used iterations of all three systems you mention. I would hold on to the TG camera because it's really small and has incredible macro if you ever get into that. And, as Chris Ross said, scuba diving is quite different from snorkeling. Far less physical once you're in the water, generally, and you can hang out with the fish in a more meaningful way.

 

I have found the TG system harder to get great exposures, and it doesn't follow focus. But again, really small and portable. I had the Olympus OM-1 mk2, and like an idiot, developed an acute case of Sensor Envy and sold my kit with 8mm fisheyes (both Olympus and Panasonic (get the Panasonic - smaller and just fine)); 60 macro, standard zooms. They have the best lens selection and unless you need giant file sizes, or you can't shoot tight enough and you're cropping a lot, the half-frame M43 is great. Especially size and portability. I had mine housed in a Nauticam.

 

I do shoot with a compact Sony A7c in a Nauticam housing now. Pretty good, with a decent lens selection, but no full-frame fish-eye. Do consider Nauticam's water contact optics, as they work beautifully. Nauticam have a new fisheye conversion port now but too pricey for me at this time. I think Sony has the best focusing system (e.g., continuous tracking) and the look of Sony's stills, plus pretty good video, are selling points. I don't love the 1/160th sync speed, but I get around that dialing down my ISO. The A7c is about the same size as the a6700, but APS-c lenses are way smaller.

 

Eons ago I shot Canon EF in an Ikelite housing. Ikelites have a great price point, work well and have great technical service, but back then you really had to use Ikelite's strobes, which I found huge and heavy, and my experience with cable connectors was not as good, in my opinion, as fiber optics for every other system I used. I had an R6 mark 1, thinking I might switch back to my old standbys, but the RF system wasn't well supported early on. I stuck with the Sony.

 

I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the three systems above. It just takes getting to understand what each system does well, and if you can't make that work for you, you can do like many of us and continue searching for the "perfect" system.

 

Thank you for great comments.  I'm trying to be on a cost-effective side, so started looking at SeaFrogs a6700 housing with 6" dome port. https://seafrogs.com.hk/products/sony-a6700-seafrogs-40m-130ft-uw-housing-with-6-dry-dome-port-v-1-for-e10-18mm-lens-zoom-gear-included

 

It's designed for Sony 10-18 but this lens has high MFD, but I could try it with Sony 10-20 PZ F4 or Sony 11mm 1.8.  They seem to be approximately the same length, so might work ok with the dome port - what do you think?

 

I really like a6700 for these reasons: great IQ, great AF and 4k120 with 4:2:2 and SLog3.  And I already own one 🙂

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11 minutes ago, MarkG2 said:

Thank you for great comments.  I'm trying to be on a cost-effective side, so started looking at SeaFrogs a6700 housing with 6" dome port. https://seafrogs.com.hk/products/sony-a6700-seafrogs-40m-130ft-uw-housing-with-6-dry-dome-port-v-1-for-e10-18mm-lens-zoom-gear-included

10-18mm f/4 works fine in seafrogs 6-inch and 8-inch ports. I haven't tried the newer 10-20mm PZ. Another option is a 16-50mm kit lens in short macro port with a wet lens such as AOI UWL-09, Weefine/Kraken WFL01/KRL01, or Nauticam WWL-1 (not WWL-1B or WWL-C; those will not fit the SeaFrogs port).

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51 minutes ago, MarkG2 said:

 

Thank you for great comments.  I'm trying to be on a cost-effective side, so started looking at SeaFrogs a6700 housing with 6" dome port. https://seafrogs.com.hk/products/sony-a6700-seafrogs-40m-130ft-uw-housing-with-6-dry-dome-port-v-1-for-e10-18mm-lens-zoom-gear-included

 

It's designed for Sony 10-18 but this lens has high MFD, but I could try it with Sony 10-20 PZ F4 or Sony 11mm 1.8.  They seem to be approximately the same length, so might work ok with the dome port - what do you think?

 

I really like a6700 for these reasons: great IQ, great AF and 4k120 with 4:2:2 and SLog3.  And I already own one 🙂

All good reasons to stay with Sony. I also have a 6600. Seafrogs is cost-effective for the short term, and a way to dip your toes in the water without going crazy. I wonder about servicing though - can it be done, who does it, etc. Don't neglect the 16-50mm kit lens and wide wet lenses like the Nauticam WWL-1 (which is front heavy without flotation).

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1 hour ago, humu9679 said:

All good reasons to stay with Sony. I also have a 6600. Seafrogs is cost-effective for the short term, and a way to dip your toes in the water without going crazy. I wonder about servicing though - can it be done, who does it, etc. Don't neglect the 16-50mm kit lens and wide wet lenses like the Nauticam WWL-1 (which is front heavy without flotation).

 

I think with SeaFrogs is what you see is what you get. I am exchanging emails with them and they are not very helpful.  But it's very cost effective, so perhaps worth a risk.  I also have a Tamron 11-20mm F2.8 for Sony E and it also might fit into SeaFrog housing with the dome port. Not sure how critical it is to have the optical center of the lens align with the dome's.

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2 hours ago, MarkG2 said:

 

I think with SeaFrogs is what you see is what you get. I am exchanging emails with them and they are not very helpful.  But it's very cost effective, so perhaps worth a risk.  I also have a Tamron 11-20mm F2.8 for Sony E and it also might fit into SeaFrog housing with the dome port. Not sure how critical it is to have the optical center of the lens align with the dome's.

Re the Tamron 11-20, if a lens is not commonly used underwater, then it might be hard to find a zoom ring or you might have to 3D print one. The Sony 10-18 is more common, for example. I just follow the manufacturers like any good sheep. If you really get into underwater imaging, you'll be impressed by the machined aluminum housings made by a couple manufacturers. Very sexy stuff.

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6 hours ago, humu9679 said:

I do shoot with a compact Sony A7c in a Nauticam housing now. Pretty good, with a decent lens selection, but no full-frame fish-eye. Do consider Nauticam's water contact optics, as they work beautifully. Nauticam have a new fisheye conversion port now but too pricey for me at this time. I think Sony has the best focusing system (e.g., continuous tracking) and the look of Sony's stills, plus pretty good video, are selling points. I don't love the 1/160th sync speed, but I get around that dialing down my ISO. The A7c is about the same size as the a6700, but APS-c lenses are way smaller.

Just piling on to Humu's comment above, if you want to do the direction of a FF, the A7C is very close in size to the a6700, and likewise, the 1/160 sync speed doesn't seem to be an issue. 

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1 minute ago, RVBldr said:

Just piling on to Humu's comment above, if you want to do the direction of a FF, the A7C is very close in size to the a6700, and likewise, the 1/160 sync speed doesn't seem to be an issue. 

I would trade my A7c system for the A6700 if I could. I have the WWL-1 and CMCs, so I'd be good to go. I would probably only regret it if I came into some money to buy a Nauticam Wide Angle Conversion Port or the new Fisheye C.P.

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6 hours ago, John E said:

Have you thought about an AOI housing for the OM1? Maybe you would get more help from Backscatter.

 

To tag on to John E's post, if you're cheap like I am the AOI housing for the OM1 is a great option because it opens you up to the whole world of PEN, OMD, and 4/3 ports- some of which have been use for over a decade now, and can often be found used at a great price.

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7 hours ago, humu9679 said:

I would trade my A7c system for the A6700 if I could. I have the WWL-1 and CMCs, so I'd be good to go. I would probably only regret it if I came into some money to buy a Nauticam Wide Angle Conversion Port or the new Fisheye C.P.

That is one of the great advantages of the Sony-ecosystem: AF is great for under water, and the 28-60 + WACP-C is a really great combination. I was wanting to buy the FCP but with all the current information I have - I will not go for it.

 

And with WACP-C and A7c or even A7 IV/RV/1 the whole  system is still relatively compact compared to Z9 or Canon-solutions with domeport

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For snorkelliking I think the TG-6 is fine and if you don't want to use wet lenses then use it outside the housing

 

I would advice against anything that has a port system if your use case is small and especially fisheye is totally not needed for snorkelling as you will be far unless you are going to shoot whalesharks and in that case a wet wide lens is ok 

I would think you can stretch as far as the Sony RX but going to an ILC is just the path to spending too much money and getting too worried about your equipment especially if you do not have a strong top side use case using an ILC is a total waste

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From my end it is necessary to consider which type of snorkeling is meant. I myself see scuba only as a necessary and noisy tool to have the ability to stay a little longer in front of some of the creatures we all love. 

 

If freediving is also included in the whole snorkeling topic it should be clear that in the range of 0 to -12m you could have around 10 to 20 sec to take the picture and go up again. That’s the range where most of the underwater life takes place, where the colors are intense and beautiful and all that without the noise of the bubbles. 

 

But for this purpose in my opinion the TG-6 is a very minimalistic solution, especially if it comes to image quality. 

 

What helped me most was an underwater photography course with many different people and many different sizes and types of gear where you can put your hands on. 

 

For example the picture below was taken while snorkeling - but I doubt if the TG-6 would have been a appropriate gear. 

DSC00459.jpeg

DSC00891.jpeg

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Like Interceptor121 says, the TG-6 is hard to beat for snorkelling (but definitely use a housing as without one the camera will eventually leak at one of the little door seals). The 130 degree wet lenses are better than the 90 degree wet lenses which Mark said he didn't like. But if you are a very experienced photographer and you already have the cameras, and you are snorkelling, your situation is different to most.

 

I suggest an important criteria is what field of view you want. The TG-6 with a 130 degrees wet lens that can come off to do great macro is unique. I also have the Ikelite TG-6 housing with small dome and the Olympus fisheye converter lens for the TG-6, which gives fisheye to macro in a tiny system.

 

But if you want better image quality, and you have the cameras already, that similar zoom range comes with a weight and size penalty that potentially impacts snorkelling fun. If fisheye alone is ok the Olympus is better due to the lens options as it is compact, but you will possibly find that too limiting. Then if you want a narrower field of view you are looking at 8 inch dome ports or a wet lens.

 

If you want zoomable fisheye then both cameras need adapted lenses and you are looking at similar sizes and quite expensive systems with adapters, zoom gears, extensions and housing manufacturers that support that option. Likewise, either system would be a similar size with a 130 degree wet lens. 

 

If the choice was Sony in Seafrogs versus Olympus in AOI, (or either in Ikelite) it really comes down to the lenses and how much bulk you want to swim with. And if that works out too much then it brings you back down a notch to the better compact systems with a wet lens, which is what I would be learning towards, pretty much just like the system Fruehaufsteher2 showed.

 

 

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1 hour ago, fruehaufsteher2 said:

From my end it is necessary to consider which type of snorkeling is meant. I myself see scuba only as a necessary and noisy tool to have the ability to stay a little longer in front of some of the creatures we all love. 

 

If freediving is also included in the whole snorkeling topic it should be clear that in the range of 0 to -12m you could have around 10 to 20 sec to take the picture and go up again. That’s the range where most of the underwater life takes place, where the colors are intense and beautiful and all that without the noise of the bubbles. 

 

But for this purpose in my opinion the TG-6 is a very minimalistic solution, especially if it comes to image quality. 

 

What helped me most was an underwater photography course with many different people and many different sizes and types of gear where you can put your hands on. 

 

For example the picture below was taken while snorkeling - but I doubt if the TG-6 would have been a appropriate gear. 

DSC00459.jpeg

DSC00891.jpeg

Free diving is not snorkeling and neither is skin diving the use case is different but still the drag is even more important in free diving as you are finning down

 

 

The post is about snorkeling which means you are at the surface colors are not an issue and you want something easy to handle 

For this use case a large sensor is not required. The sony RX100 at 24 megapixels is plenty

 

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