E-PL1 Underwater Photography Help Needed ASAP!!

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Gusnyc, May 2, 2010.

  1. Gusnyc

    Gusnyc Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    306
    Mar 9, 2010
    New York
    Hello Everybody!

    One week before my trip to Australia I received as a gift the underwater case for my E-PL1. (my partner is the best!).

    The thing is that I have no experience at all with underwater photography. I read in a few websites that a strobe is almost mandatory. But then, I would also need an arm to attach the strobe to the case, a cable connector... etc, etc, etc.

    There is anybody here with underwater photography experience who could tell me what is the absolutely minimal equipment necessary to get decent pictures? The thing is that I am not sure what DO I NEED to get besides the case.

    I am in a leisure plan, and I think underwater photography will be fantastic to learn, but I don't want to spend a lot of money in equipment or get a set that would take a lot of space. The underwater case is pretty big already.

    I will be leaving in 6 days, so I have to get this things together soon. Luckily I live in Manhattan, so I can go to B&H, Adorama, 17th St. Photography etc.

    Thank you very much for your help. I feel lost before reaching the sea.

    Gus
     
  2. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus Charter Member

    Gus, I bet the B & H folks will be of help to you. I know they want you to buy things but I don't think they'd push you.

    Any info on the Olympus site about this for the E-PL1?

    Oh yes, and by the way - lucky you on being give the case as a gift and the vacation, too!
     
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  3. cosinaphile

    cosinaphile Mu-43 All-Pro Charter Member

    Dec 26, 2009
    new york city
    from c-net site

    Olympus announces underwater case for E-PL1 - Digital Cameras - Crave - CNET Asia

    The press release states the PT-EP01 is 47 percent smaller and lighter than conventional housings made for dSLRs, and is able to dive to depths of 40m. The lens barrel can accommodate either the 14-45mm kit or the new 9-18mm wide-angle optics. The Olympus casing also supports the UFL-2 dedicated underwater flash unit which offers wireless flash control.
     
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  4. cosinaphile

    cosinaphile Mu-43 All-Pro Charter Member

    Dec 26, 2009
    new york city
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  5. digitaldan1

    digitaldan1 Mu-43 Regular

    78
    Mar 22, 2010
    I'm no expert on underwater photography, but I do know your problems increase dramatically the deeper you go (both in light falloff and loss of some color wavelengths before others).

    If all you're doing is snorkeling, you're fine. If you're going much deeper than five or 10 feet then the strobe unit is pretty important and the Olympus model looks like the easiest option.

    Best of luck!
     
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  6. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran Charter Member

    403
    Jan 26, 2010
    It depends on how deep you're going... it also depends on your philosophy about flashing wildlife (kind of serious about that point).

    If you're in shallow water it's pretty easy to get decent pictures with out a flash (especially in most of Australias clear waters). If you're in murky waters... well you're out of luck anyways. You need to keep in mind not to kick up mud from the bottom though.

    Here's some pictures I took a few years back with an old olympus C-740
    Picasa Web Albums - 10961738469521058... - scuba

    I don't like flashing fish, and I especially don't like flashing sharks or anything too dangerous...

    I also looked into the coloured filters... as far as I can tell, you don't need them (unless you're serious serious maybe). When you take the pictures, some of them will look blue/green hazy, don't delete them. Open them up in your favourite editor and do a colour adjustment on them. I use the Gimp, it's just a 1 button click on "auto" in colour levels, it can often clean up a lot of the blue/green haze.

    Keep in mind, water has a lot of particulates. You will not really be able to shoot anything too far away (even if you had a telephoto lens), there's just too much water debris in the way. The good clear pictures I've had have been fairly close, like 2 feet away or less - obviously depends on the danger level of the subject.

    My favourite moment was picturing the shark, I was floating upside down above it, trying not to crash land on to him, while trying to take a photo, and not scare him or provoke him. The shark pic didn't come out too good but the experience itself was fun.

    I'm some what disappointed that the onboard flash can't be used with the housing... They made it work with the old C740 and it's housing. oh well...
     
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  7. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran Charter Member

    403
    Jan 26, 2010
    Where specifically are you going? and are you scuba diving or snorkelling? and how deep do you plan on going?

    Anything less than 4 metres and you won't really need a flash. Half the time the best plants and fish are around that depth.

    If you're snorkelling, you probably won't need a flash. If you're scuba diving... what's you're certification? i.e. 10 metres or 40 metres? If you're only certified for 10 metres then you can probably get away with out a flash if you're trying to save money / weight. At 20+ metres things start to get dimmer and greener.

    P.S. when you enter the water, don't throw your camera in, best to try to jump in yourself them get some one to hand the camera to you. Some people have had cases pop-open on them when they jumped in or threw it in...
     
  8. Gusnyc

    Gusnyc Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    306
    Mar 9, 2010
    New York
    Thank you for all the answers!

    I will definitely be diving. We are going to Australia, to the great barrier. We booked on a live aboard for 4 days (that will be around 18 dives). I have the advanced diver certification, therefore the maximum depth will be 40m/130ft.

    I am learning as fast as I can about how the the technicalities of underwater photography. Getting a little overwhelmed with the equipment side of things.

    About the Olympus strobes, there is the model that Cosinophile suggests and also the previous model (for $300 less). But I see that I need the tray, the arm, the cable connector... ahhhhhg. I have to say... this thing about switching from a P&S to an "exchangeable lens system" is eating my wallet alive. There are so many options now, but everything comes to a cost.

    I just came back from Adorama. They have their specialized scuba shop upstairs. They showed me a set from Fantasea (the nano set) that comes with everything for $210. That seems like a good deal Now it is hard to know how good it is. Not a lot of reviews online.

    Thanks Squeegee for your point of view. I didn't think about it. That is something to consider, I am not sure how do I feel about it (yet). Of course I wouldn't use flash if there is a chance to hurt the ecosystem in any way. I will get more info to make an informed decision.

    Again, thanks for your answers and suggestions.
     
  9. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran Charter Member

    403
    Jan 26, 2010
    Be sure to post back pictures and results!

    I'm actually heading that way "soon" too. (soon being a complicated relative word for me).

    I've been thinking about the UW case dilema for quite a while. When the time comes... I might buy a P&S + underwater case. The reason being a P&S + UW case will be "cheap" compared to sorting out a UW kit for the E-PL1. The second reason is because some of my friends have had leaks in their cases. I've never had leaks but apparently at around 35+ metres, a small cat hair in the seal will cause it to leak through. The cost of a P&S will be far less than the lens or body (let alone both).

    Having said that... I won't know till the time comes. I'd really like to have my :43: down there.
     
  10. Gusnyc

    Gusnyc Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    306
    Mar 9, 2010
    New York
    I promise I will post pictures... if I can make them happen. This is an accelerated learning experience. I love diving, and I always wanted to take pictures. I was intimidated by the equipment, but well... now that I have it, I better jump into the water.

    I will go tomorrow to B&H.

    I am deciding between that Fantasea Nano double set or the Olympus UFL-1 (the old model).
     
  11. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    Gordon
    The Fantasea stuff is worth what you pay for it. Not much generally.

    As you would already be aware as you go deeper you loose the red end of the colour spectrum fairly quickly, then yellow, green etc until all you've got left is blue. Unfortunately it's not just a matter of white balance as there's actually no red left. A strobe is overly red when it fires so you actually add the red, yellow colours back into the water column. Water is dense though so even the most powerful strobes will give you a couple of meters of "white" light until the colours once again start to be absorbed. Also the greater the water column between you and your subject will significantly and quickly degrade sharpness, colour and contrast. You'll want to be close as possible to your subject to get good image quality. This is why the two lenses of choice for underwater photographers are the ultra wide angle and the macro, macro being the easiest to learn.

    So you've got four choices.

    1. Stay shallow. White balance will work adequately to about 6-8 meters.
    2. Use a strobe. "Flashing fish" as mentioned above has virtually no impact on marine life. there have been studies done. The recharging of a strobe may deter sharks from approaching you as they are very sensitive to electric current. (I actually spooked a 2.5 meter whaler once by firing twin strobes at it repeatedly when it was stalking our group.) Since the range of the flash is limited you can just basically set and forget. I almost always shot with primary subjects between 1 and 1.5 meters. It's simply physics. Water is 800 times denser than air and there's no way around that.
    3. Use a video light. Often cheaper and always easier to use, but the don't have the stoping power of a strobe and you may get subject blur/camera shake. Video lights are great for macro.
    4. Natural light. What will happen is that you'll get only the blue end of the spectrum at depth. It will be more severe on your sensor than you see as your brain can "add" colour information while a sensor can not. What you need to do is embrace monochrome, possibly even converting shots to black and white. It can be a very powerful way to shoot, working with shape and form rather than colour. Some David Doublet's best work was the blue and black, shot for National Geographic.

    The Olympus strobes are made by Sea and Sea. You can also look at them. However I would look at getting a couple of big manual strobes. Manual underwater flash is quite easy compared to above water. It would only take a dive or so to get the basics down. These can be had for a lot less than a auto/fibre optic triggered slave strobe like the Olympus. As you're going to be puting your subject 1-1.5 meters from you, you can just set and forget a manual strobe at f8-16 and go diving.

    Hope this helps.Alos I've considered getting an EPL-1 and housing as a lightweight alternative to my SLR housings. WOuld love to hear your opinion when you get back.

    Regards

    Gordon

    p.s. one last thing. no matter what you get make sure it has a quick release so you can get the strobe off the base plate and move it around in your other hand. The closer the strobe is to your lens the more backscatter issues you'll have. The easiest way to solve this is to move your strobe away from the lens.
     
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  12. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer Charter Member

    Hey Gus i don't think you'll have too much problem in the great barrier reef as it's pretty clear. And i just wondered if you got like a high powered LED waterproof torch- that might give you a bit of light. But i really doubt you'll need much if it's a sunny day.


    icon
     
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  13. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran Charter Member

    403
    Jan 26, 2010
    I wasn't so concerned about "damage" to the environment, I just don't like scaring wildlife (in general, land based or underwater) (or perhaps provoking it). I still use flashes when I have to, I just try not to. Believe it or not I've seen pretty severe behaviour changes from fish sometimes when I do things with a camera. I'm not entirely sure why yet, it may have to do with the electrical current thing you mentioned. I've had small fish swarm me and the camera like a second rate hollywood actor trying to get publicity.
     
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  14. jd950

    jd950 Mu-43 Rookie

    19
    Apr 23, 2010
    Gus:

    I suggest you contact the following specialists in underwater photography and who are familiar with the Olympus products:

    Reef Photo & Video 877.453.8927
    Optical Ocean Sales 800 359-1295

    In my opinion, the first significant accessory you will want to add is an external strobe and that will require a tray, arms and brackets with which to mount the strobe to your camera.

    If you buy too cheap a strobe now you will simply want a better one soon and have a hard time recouping your costs for the cheap one.

    I would suggest at a minimum either a Sea & Sea YS-01 or an Inon S2000.

    If the costs for the strobes I mentioned are too great right now, or you just don't want to be overwhelmed with new gear on your trip, see if you can get a UR Pro filter to mount on the front of your lens port to help with the color shift underwater.

    Shoot in RAW so you can correct white balance later.

    Take a look here for more tips:

    Underwater Photography Guide
    Wetpixel :: Underwater Photography Forums -> Beginner Forum
     
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  15. Gusnyc

    Gusnyc Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    306
    Mar 9, 2010
    New York
    Thanks for the very useful answers. It really helps.
    I have a couple of questions:
    - Manual Strobes, I searched online but I couldn't find specific information. Could you please tell me how that works? Is that something like the torch Iconindustries mentioned? If that is the case, something like the torch from the link work?

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...300_Tusa_TUL_300_Wide_Angle_42_.html#features

    - I saw there are different "magic filters" for the camera. What kind should I get?

    Thanks for your help. It is getting harder to get everything before I leave because I can't leave work! (damn it!).

    :)

    I apologize for my noob questions. I have no experience at all with underwater photography.

    Gus
     
  16. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    Gordon
    For more information on brands/models of available strobes try

    digideep.com :: list of all underwater housings suitable for digital photography and videography...

    A manual strobe is just that. Manual. It usually has a couple of power settings to choose from. Once set it simply outputs the same amountof light every time. You then adjust your aperture to get the correct exposure and shutter speed to control background exposure. It's easier than it sounds. And they're cheaper than auto/TTL strobes which either "talk" to your camera (not in the case of the EPL-1 underwater) or they have a sensor built in that changes output based on a simple exposure meter built into the strobe.

    Gordon