It has been a lot of fun setting up this camera rig. From the initial online comparisons of strobes, camera housings and arms, to putting the whole system together it has been a great experience. I like being able to share the marine life I’ve encountered with diving friends and family, and as far as critter ID photos are very helpful.
Metal Distance Gauge to Set Manual Focus and Use Focus Peaking:
This metal distance gauge was a project I started because I was having difficulty using the macro wet lens with autofocus. The camera seemed to track a lot trying to focus on a subject. By setting a locked focal distance and using focus peaking I can instantly see when a macro subject is in sharp focus.
To start this project I had to take some distance measurements. In the past I had salt water aquariums, so I set up a small tank and mixed a batch of salt water. I found that the distance from the outer edge of the UCL-165 M67 macro lens to the minimum focus distance point was 15.5 cm. The ideal focal range was found to be from 15.5 cm to 20 cm in front of the macro lens. This metal bracket allows focus to be locked 16 cm in front of the lens.
To use this metal distance gauge I unfold it, which places a focusing surface (part of an old recreational dive planner) 16 cm in front of the macro wet lens. This is the minimum distance where the subject is in focus. At this point I use autofocus to lock onto the surface. Now that focus is set I switch to manual focus, which locks the focus to this distance. One feature of manual focus I really enjoy is focus peaking, which shows a bright yellow glow around areas that are in sharp focus. Once focus peaking is set, the metal distance gauge can be folded away underneath the camera tray, and I’m ready to take quick shots at the right distance.
This photo shows the back of the camera display screen when using manual focus peaking.
Primary Dive Light Clamp:
I enjoyed making this clamp to hold my primary dive light onto the camera tray. I’ve been doing more night diving lately and found it awkward holding a separate dive light in addition to the camera rig, so this solution seems to work well for me. There is a metal framework that runs through the whole clamp, which has been covered in a waterproof two-part epoxy. During a night dive, I’ll turn on the clamped primary light to find a subject, and once found switch the primary light off. Then with just the small focus light turned on I’ll slowly get closer to the subject for a photo.
The iTorch V10 focus light is mounted on top of the Recsea housing. Its purpose is to provide enough light for the camera’s autofocus to lock onto a subject. The V10 focus light has a built-in red LED light that is not recognized by fish and invertebrates, but is still powerful enough for the autofocus to lock allowing for closer photography. A powerful 1000 lumen white light with a wide 110 degree beam angle is built-in as well, which can be used for video of small subjects.
The Recsea Sony RX100 underwater housing is a perfect match for my land camera. The Recsea housing has the most user friendly rear control wheel compared to other housings, for easy operation of the control wheel on the back of the camera.
A big selling point of this housing for me is that wet lenses can be added underwater depending on the desired photograph. While on a dive the situation is always changing. You could be photographing a small subject with a macro lens and then a seal may decide to hang around for a while. With wet lenses the macro lens can be removed quickly and a wide angle or fisheye lens can be put onto the housing to capture a photo of the seal.
The RX100 housing has no vignetting with fisheye lenses! This is a nice feature compared to other housed cameras where the lens needs to be zoomed in a small amount to avoid seeing dark corners on the images. The benefit of not having to zoom in slightly means that the lens aperture can be a wide f1.8 for photographs, letting in more light for each shot.
Inon UCL-165 M67 Close-up Lens:
This wet lens was a good option for my housing, and has a +6 diopter magnification. It is made up of high quality optical glass (2 elements in 2 groups), with a 67mm screw attachment mount. I’m using a quick release system, which allows easy attachment and removal of the lens to the camera housing while wearing bulky dry gloves in cold water. I also set up a coil and bronze clip which attaches to the camera tray, so that if I get a bit clumsy and drop the lens it won’t sink into the abyss!
i-Das UWL-04 28M52 Fisheye Lens:
This lens captures a real feeling of “place” as it has a wide 160 degree field of view. I like the idea of over-under shots and hope to experiment more with this technique in the future. I think it would be great to show a rocky west coast forested shoreline above and maybe a kelp forest below. Another option in the future I’d like to try would be to show salmon returning to spawn in a stream with scenery above the waterline. Also because there is such a wide field of view with this fisheye lens I’ll be able to get much closer to the subject, and with less water between the subject and the camera the colours will be more vibrant. This wide angle lens is sharp, and has high quality optical glass lenses and a hard coated plastic dome lens element. I added expanding coils with bronze attachment clips for the lens itself and the neoprene cover so they are secured to the camera tray. A big selling point is that there is no vignetting when this lens is used with the Recsea RX100 housing. The lens hood is rotational so it can be lined up correctly to the housing, and there is a 52 mm attachment thread.
Recsea Quick Release Adapters for the Sony RX100:
These adapters have really made my diving enjoyable as a quick snap on or off of a wet lens is possible. Without these adapter parts, each wet lens would have to be threaded on with many turns and then threaded off to attach another lens. A slow process and a difficult one especially wearing dry gloves in cold water. The above photo shows the pieces that are attached to the lens port of the housing. The below photo shows the arm section (left) where an unused lens can be stored. To the right of this arm section are the pieces that attach to the wide angle and close-up lenses. This system is great to use and allows for very quick lens changes underwater.
Sea & Sea YS-D2J Strobe:
The Sea & Sea YS-D2J is a fantastic strobe for underwater photography. The colour temperature of the light is 5600 Kelvin, so it matches daylight. Included is a built in focus light, which is handy. The rear control panel also lights up, providing a visual confirmation of the current mode, and the illumination makes it easier to change settings during a night dive.
Strobe Arms and Camera Tray:
I like the Nauticam Flextray with dual aluminum arms. Each arm has a 5 inch and an 8 inch segment with three clamps. This is an ideal system to carry the weight of strobes and/or video lights. The distance between the handles is also adjustable to best accommodate the housing.
Focus Light Arm:
This six inch flexible arm, made by Beneath the Surface, secures the V10 focus light to the cold shoe on top of the camera housing. I like this option instead of a clamp for quick easy positioning of the light.
These buoyancy floats, made by Beneath the Surface, attach to the Nauticam arms and decrease the weight of the rig underwater. The floats are made of high density foam that does not compress during recreational dives and so remain very buoyant. Each segment has up to 4 ounces of positive buoyancy, so they will lighten up a rig quite a bit.