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UW Imaging Evolution Thoughts.......


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Posted (edited)

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 As an old guy who's been around the block for decades I thought about evolutions in underwater imaging especially in the last year or so.

 

Below are categories and changes I see as "coming soon". These musings apply to any ILC camera from dSLR, new mirrorless both APS-C, Full Frame and compacts.

 

Feel free to disagree!!!!! 

 

As long as people are having fun creating images and videos go for it!

 

Category #1 - Lenses and Dome Ports and Wet Lenses for wide angle shooting.

 

* While wet lenses and their optical ability have been the rage for awhile I think many shooters are considering going back to optically good rectilinear lenses paired with dome ports, extensions, etc.    Witness the interest in the Laowa 10mm with a 140mm smaller dome. This simplifies amount of gear for traveling plus a lens you might use for above water shooting. Plus split shooting which is difficult (impossible?) with a wet lens or at least not easily achieved.

 

* One well known shooter recently schooled me on choosing a rectilinear WA lens for UNDERWATER use. He recommended rectilinear lenses with a minimum focus distance of 22cm (7.48") or closer. This will allow smaller domes to rival large domes image sharpness.

 

* Fisheye lens corner sharpness is an obsession for some. Others hate the "fisheye / sperm" look of fisheyes.  Many do a simple crop of objectionable corners and  I personally would die on the hill proclaiming every photo could and should be cropped to improve the look!  In WA shooting things happen quickly. It's the rare shooter who will swear the image was composed exactly as they wanted!

 

Category #2 - Strobes

 

* Sizes keeps coming down. Flash tubes in many new offerings are back to more straight tubes whatever the configuration. Diffusers, filters, etc. are options in all shapes, colors and sizes.

 

* Batteries will evolve to LION despite the 88+ replies in recent threads on battery packs versus individual batteries, cheap versus "good"  or "Safe" battery brands etc.    I never understood someone buying an expensive $$$$$ strobe then buying cheap batteries 😞     LION has been in video lights a couple decades or more?   Whether it's an 18650 or 21700 or whatever LION will become a standard.   My own small LED flashlights and a video light have used individual 18650 for over 7 years and no problems traveling, charging, etc. 

 

* I was shocked reading the new Backscatter HF-1 strobe, Marelux Apollo models and others INCLUDE some form of S-TTL or TTL after years of people dissing automatic but + / - adjustable output automatically! LOL....Variety of shooting modes (plus the 5,000 lumen HF-1 LED Video light) are all welcome developments.   I wonder if Inon whenever their Z440 or whatever will stick with AA NiMH or maybe also go with LION (?????) 

 

* Cordless firing (yes, it requires line of sight for triggering, but it works!)  Marelux has introduced is amazing and I'd expect others may follow.

 

Category #3 - Post Production and Editing

 

* The elephant in the room is of course AI. For better or worse it will be used more and more if only by those who DON'T enter contests with rule restrictions,  are "purists",  etc. 

 

* Editing in programs whether Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or ???? will make "getting it right in camera" almost obsolete.    I use the lowly Apple Photos which has 90%+ of  Apple's previous PRO program Aperture contained. Thousands (millions?) are happy with finalized photos edited quickly to share with family and friends. 

 

* Evolving tools will automate backscatter removal,  color correction whether a JPEG, RAW, DNG or whatever.   I personally have used a FREE App on my iPhone called SeaReal (currently iPhone only) but might be available for Android platform soon.    One simple color slider on my iPhone underwater photos or  "old digital camera pictures"  has me editing easily.  For Apple users I AirDrop back and forth from my Mac computers (iMac desktop and M2 MacBook Air laptop) which is so easy it is obscene 🙂   You can then use either the native Apple Photos App or on my iPhone the SnapSeed App.  Share any image immediately from the phone or pop it back to a computer and create whatever art you desire.

 

*The SeaReal App developer may create a backscatter removal App.        I told him color, backscatter then "effects" is all most UW shooters might ever need.    The  "effects" tools would eliminate Snooting, HSS (High Speed Synch) for brighter or darker backgrounds plus more.   While such effects are available via Lightroom or other programs editing will be faster and easier.

 

As I mentioned in opening these thoughts are mine and mine alone !!!!

 

I still enjoying being underwater, marveling at the beauty after diving for 55 years. I may grab a shot to enhance my experience but the days of "working hard at it" for what the majority of UW image hobbyists are over...... 

 

I wouldn't be surprised if Apple   (love it or hate Apple)   comes up with an UW mode in coming years.

 

Housings for smart phones are everywhere. On my trips more and more folks have ditched any type camera for a smartphone.   Maybe they add a video light for nighttime / close up shooting.

 

Let's hear your thoughts where YOU think UW imaging is going!    The speed of evolving tech is increasing.

 

It's still an exciting time to capture the underwater world!

 

Just some old guy;   David Haas 🙂

 

 

Edited by dhaas
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Excellent summary.

 

We are an extremist niche here. Photography Taliban and we are definitely not indicative of the market. Simply put, we are at the edge of Bell curve.

As you wrote, you see more and more people taking a smartphone underwater. Action cameras are everywhere. And while the quality of the videos and photosuck for us, for the majority of people they are perfect.

We have already discussed this several times, including on WP. There is a global orientation that we can call 'low resolution' Lo-Fi. People are also looking for new ways to interpret reality authentically: film cameras, o⁵ĥĥld point-and-shoot cameras, old camcorders. Music on vinyl and fuck the CD. This is the other side of the Bell curve. In the middle are smartphones and action cameras.

 

But wherever you are in the Bell curve, if you want to improve the quality of your images, A.I. will take care of it. Have you seen what A.I. is capable of generating by providing a source image?

The problem is that someone will soon have to pay for the huge datacentres needed to run A.I. and the business model is not sustainable in the long run.

Once we have these functions available in the processors of our phones, that's it. There will be no more blurred edges, loss of resolution, chromatic aberrations and other defects.

So in my opinion the next big step will be computational photography.

 

The only losers in this evolution will be us with our high-end devices. The market will shrink even further.

 

And the prices?

 

P.S.

I love your Cressi Rondine fins

 

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Posted (edited)

Most excellent and on-point comments by you both @dhaas and @Davide DB !  I've been giving PADI my annual instructor dues for over 30 years, and have had either a uw video or still camera in my hands the entire time.  While I didn't jump at every new iteration, I certainly have done my part to contribute to camera, housing, and bits and bobs manufactures. 

 

I remember being shocked at the condescending comments in a local camera shop by the owner.  He grew up learning to process on film, and he had a fair amount of frustration to share about the rise of these new DSLRs.  He ranted about the "art" being taken out of photography by people using computers to both take the images and then process them.  "Anyone can now take pictures, but it's not real" he exclaimed!  (Quite odd for a shop owner to tell a potential customer looking to buy a new DSLR 😆)

 

Year later, I can kind of understand perhaps a bit of what he was feeling.  But then again, "art" is what you make with the tools at your disposal.  AI and technology in general has dramatically put a hurt on the commercial photo industry.  Honestly, most images needed for online sales can easily be made on a iPhone and some minor lighting, and that may not even be needed.  

 

With that said, I still find joy in the hunt.  The hunt to make the best image I can from the same scene 20 others on the same dive boat may see.  I still thrive on creating a unique view that others may pass right over.  What we hold in our hands is nothing more than a tool.  What we do with it, and how we finish it, is the creative part that not everyone or every technology can replicate.

 

Would I be disappointed to dramatically reduce the size and weight of my 26 lbs rig, and get similar results?

Absolutely not!  

 

Will I still be driven by the hunt, the creative processing, and the joy to share the results with others?  

I believe all of us in this community will respond with a resounding "yes", regardless of the tools we may use.  That is the "art" we create.

 

...and yes, music sounds way better on vinyl with proper speakers!  I am saddened by those that have never experienced it. 😎 

 

 

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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I think there is plenty of runway left for creating art with photography. I see a lot of really crappy photos made with top of the line gear after all. It's not the gear, it's the artist that makes images pop. 

 

And you are definitely being nostalgic about the Vinyl but you are right about the speakers. Vinyl was never great quality, not a match for a high-quality digital recording like a 40 year old CD. FYI Vinyl records have been recorded from Digital Masters for at least 40-50 years now, so it just gets crappier as it's pressed onto the record.

 

Let's not talk about low bit-rate MP3s of the early 2000s and bluetooth ear buds...

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9 minutes ago, Davide DB said:

Maybe this article gives some insight on a term somehow 'exotic'.

There are some interesting comments too.

 

https://petapixel.com/computational-photography/

 

P.S.

some of the new Adobe tools you are already using for postproduction, fall under the 'computational photography' term...

 

 

This 3 part article is even better and the opening is terrific:

 

https://m.dpreview.com/articles/9828658229/computational-photography-part-i-what-is-computational-photography

 

It's impossible to imagine a smartphone presentation today without dancing around its camera. Google makes Pixel shoot in the dark, Huawei zooms like a telescope, Samsung puts lidars inside, and Apple presents the new world's roundest corners. Illegal level of innovations happening here.

DSLRs, on the other hand, seem half dead. Sony showers everybody with a new sensor-megapixel rain every year, while manufacturers lazily update the minor version number and keep lying on piles of cash from movie makers. I have a $3000 Nikon on my desk, but I take an iPhone on my travels. Why?

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There seems to be a gravitation towards "good enough", some examples include MP3 music, Phone pics, Go pro videos etc.  That's not to say that you can't take rather acceptable photos on your phone etc. it's just that there are so many crappy-average photos and videos getting posted.  Granted these tools are constantly improving

 

AI certainly is coming but whether it's a panacea for poor technique remains to be seen.  If the tools are built the same way as the large language models by scraping the web for images the risk that it will produce average-mediocre images as that's about the standard on the web by weight of numbers.  Even it receives more expert training it seems possible it will produce a certain sameness among images at least initially.  It's booming right now but who knows what the future might bring?  The boom may continue but there could also be a dot.com equivalent bubble burst when the returns on the investment aren't what was expected.

 

Also whether it takes over or not depends on a lot of things such as some people just want the image, others want to put their own stamp on it and develop the skills needed to get the image they want and enjoy doing the processing.

 

On strobes straight tubes are used most likely as they are cheaper and while sizes are reducing there will be physical limits to hold enough batteries and accommodate the electronics.  Size has some advantages - currently bigger bodies and strobes use bigger batteries and can do more shots without needing to be changed.  If things get too small they are generally less buoyant so you deal with a heavier rig underwater.  The other limitation is button and dial size and placment.  The only real complaint about the otherwise nice S-220 strobe if the small controls.

 

Don't want to come across as all negative, certainly some things will get easier as better tools evolve.  The limitation for us UW shooters is that the market is relatively tiny and anything on the camera/lens size that benefits us is accidental.  Smaller and lighter gear of course is always welcome and everyone will find their won sweet spot of size/weight vs performance.

 

Some of the computational photography tools OM system is coming up with are indeed quite amazing, not all of them are that applicable to UW imaging but its good to see them being developed.

 

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Some great thoughts....

 

Whatever the tools used, isn't much of what we do all about creating something that gives us pleasure and a sense of satisfaction? Whether that's done with film, digital, AI or a wet finger, does it really matter?

 

Explain Jackson Pollock to Vermeer.......

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1 hour ago, Chris Ross said:

There seems to be a gravitation towards "good enough", some examples include MP3 music, Phone pics, Go pro videos etc.  That's not to say that you can't take rather acceptable photos on your phone etc. it's just that there are so many crappy-average photos and videos getting posted.  Granted these tools are constantly improving

 

AI certainly is coming but whether it's a panacea for poor technique remains to be seen.  If the tools are built the same way as the large language models by scraping the web for images the risk that it will produce average-mediocre images as that's about the standard on the web by weight of numbers.  Even it receives more expert training it seems possible it will produce a certain sameness among images at least initially.  It's booming right now but who knows what the future might bring?  The boom may continue but there could also be a dot.com equivalent bubble burst when the returns on the investment aren't what was expected.

 

On the generation of new images, you are absolutely right, but what I was referring to were the computational photography tools we already use when taking photos (with a smartphone or camera) or in post production. As you mentioned the OM-1 and beyond already has built-in tools (pixel shift) that allow you to take huge pictures by combining several shots. 
The night shot function that all mid to high-end mobile phones have now is another example. On video, the night shot functions of the latest DJI and Insta action cameras are scary.
In post production, most of the big new features in the April version of Lightroom are all about A.I. (actually computational photography). Denoise, automatic masks, object removal with missing background generation, are just some of the new features that will certainly also have an impact on the post production of underwater photography in the medium term.

 

Of course, they are only tools and perhaps the difference will be seen by those who know how to use them skilfully and, above all, intelligently.

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This wave of innovation reminds me of the epochal change that took place in the transition from film to digital. Not everyone emerged intact. I remember very well that some underwater photographers who were very popular with film almost disappeared with digital. The transition to digital forced them to post-produce the photos themselves (light room), whereas with film, post-production was the sole prerogative of the development lab (dark room). Now it seems normal to know how to use a computer and talk about memory cards, digital storage, hard disks, ssd but the impact on digital immigrants has been merciless. Only those who were able to quickly learn the new digital skills survived. And age has counted for a lot and many young photographers have appeared on the scene.

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Source: Nikkei via 43 Rumors

 

Quote

 

The penetration rate of digital cameras among households at the end of fiscal 2023 will fall below 50% for the first time in 19 years since the end of fiscal 2004. The demand for compact digital cameras has fallen as smartphone ownership has increased. Japan once had a strong presence in digital home appliances, but is now in a notable decline.

The Cabinet Office conducts a survey of the penetration of durable consumer goods once a year among approximately 5,000 households with two or more people nationwide. The results of the survey, released in April at the end of fiscal year 2011, showed that only 48.6% of households owned digital cameras...

 

 

Nikkei-Japane-digital-camera.jpg

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I only shared my musings as subject of discussion and not to dissuade anyone from buying or using whatever device they prefer!

 

Davide's graph and information has been out there for quite awhile and those unaware how compact cameras (even the nice 1" sensor models) have virtually stopped development likely weren't considering downsizing to such a choice anyway. 

 

I still enjoy shooting my Canon G7X II (presently camera less)  and currently shopping for a "new to me" clean used one. There's thousands out there and I'm of the mindset electronic devices either work or don't. I don't fret over a few cosmetic blemishes as long as the lens is clean and it records a decent file for me to edit a bit. 

 

My choices push me into "different shooting" with a compact camera or iPhone.

 

As I've previously shared I am also extremely lazy in my approach these days LOL.......If it's not easy I'm not interested in participating in the process!

 

I wish camera manufacturers would embed certain AI the smartphones have been doing for ages like dynamic range algorthims.  

 

David Haas

 

IMG_0600 (1).jpeg

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, dhaas said:

wish camera manufacturers would embed certain AI the smartphones have been doing for ages like dynamic range algorthims.  

 

Sony hear you!

The new ZV-E10 Mk2 vlogging camera has a dedicated bokeh switch which creates a defocused background.

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More thoughts........

 

Last night I re-watched the 19 year old movie Into the Blue.

 

Paul Walker is no longer with us and back then actors including Scott Chan and Jessica Alba were all very good accomplished free divers. I think it was reported Caan, Walker and Alba could easily free dive to 100' / 33 meters.

 

What I always loved about the movie was the incredible cinematography done by industry veteran Pete Zuccarini. A master of the craft a lot was shot of course in shallow bright water and it's stunning. 

 

I share this to somewhat promote shallow diving as another consideration for creating stunning images. It's easier to explore using ambient light with or without flash added. You can spend more time nd also incur less deco or no-decompression obligation.

 

I realize many diving deeper wrecks, caves, etc. make for dramatic photos too and if that's your thing go for it!

 

At my age I pretty much dive a max 33M / 100' and mostly shallower than 70'.  There's plenty to see in the shallows and being closer to the surface I leave behind a lot of gear making diving simpler for me. I still feel I can capture interesting photos and enjoy myself!

 

Just some more musings 🙂

 

David Haas

 

DolphinLargeVer2SME.jpg

 

 

 

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