Olympus EPL7

  • Disappointments of an Underwater Camera Salesman

    Ocean Leisure Cameras specializes in underwater photography equipment. We try to match products to each customer’s needs.

    Recently, a young lady came in to buy an underwater camera. She professed to be a professional writer intending to supply articles to diving magazines. She wanted a camera that was very straightforward to use.

    olympus_epl7_packageA friend had previously lent her an Olympus EPL7 camera in a housing so she naturally asked for that. It’s a system compact with interchangeable lenses that can be matched to suitable lens ports. The salesman (an award-winning underwater photographer himself) would have been happy to take her money but once he got into explaining to her the intricacies of using it, it became clear that she just wanted to get into the water, press a button and get usable pictures. She also blanched at the price, even though the EPL7 in an Olympus proprietary housing represented remarkably good value.

    So the sales assistant then suggested she might be happier with a more basic compact camera instead. She was with him for about five hours, during which time he told her virtually everything he knew about successful underwater photography.fantaseag9x_camera_package_1

    She ended up purchasing a Canon G9X in a Fantasea FG9X housing that gave access to all the camera functions and with the possibility to add additional wet lenses later, when she felt she could afford them. It was a good choice. He also sold her an underwater strobe (a Sea & Sea YS03) with which he explained how she could get perfectly exposed TTL strobe-lit pictures. It appeared to be the perfect solution and within her limited budget although she was advised to buy a wide-angle or fisheye wet lens if she could have afforded it. She couldn’t. Both the EPL7 and G9X outfits are becoming difficult to obtain since they are coming to the end of their production runs. We hope that something else as good value comes on to the market.

    ys03_package_idas_1The company was surprised only a few days later to get an email from the customer, by now in the Caribbean, accusing it of selling her equipment that was totally unsuitable for underwater photography. She stated that she was not sold the camera she asked for (the Olympus EPL7) and that it was not possible to adjust the white-balance with the Canon she had.

    The G9X can be set up to provide a one-button manual white-balance setting – something she had been demonstrated during the hours of consultation in the shop. It can also be used to shoot RAW files, which is the professional way of shooting since many settings such as white-balance, contrast (and even exposure to a degree) can be decided on long after getting out of the water. Not only that, but the feature, properly used, should take care of a lot of the contrast and colour decisions.

    Sadly, this is a case of someone neither managing their expectations nor bothering to read the manual!idas_uwl04_1

    Famous underwater photographers like David Doubilet must despair when they hear stories like this. The years that he has devoted to learning his craft are dismissed by a new generation who think they can simply buy an item of equipment and immediately become endowed with talent such as his.

    I got my first job with a diving magazine (the very same one she intended to provide material for) because I could reliably take pictures that were correctly exposed, in-focus and nicely lit – a skill that was quite rare in the days of wet-processed film. Today, digital photography with its instant feedback from the camera’s LCD display means that it is possible to learn (by your mistakes) incredibly quickly, but learn you must. I worked as an underwater photographer for more than two decades and although I never considered I was a master of the art, I got results that were frequently published. Even so, I used a camera outfit that cost ten times as much as the budget this young lady decided she had.

    I contacted the editor of the diving magazine that this particular young lady said to which she was intending to contribute her work. He told me she was a good writer but that he’d told her she needed to be able to support her writing with good photography. He told her to buy a camera.

    It was disappointing that the editor of a magazine could think that merely buying a camera makes someone into an underwater photographer! Have the standards of magazine publishing dropped so low?

    Magazines pay extremely poorly nowadays. Not many make a living supplying original material anymore. Most take pictures for their own pleasure and are knocked out if they see their work in print. If they can get a few hundred pounds in contributor’s payment as well, that’s a bonus. For this young woman to make any return on her investment in the most basic underwater photography kit will take a great many pages published.

    Most Ocean Leisure Cameras’ customers take pictures underwater purely for their own pleasure. Digital photography has made getting good results easier than it ever has been. However, it does demand a degree of dedication in that one should be totally familiar with your camera’s functions and operation long before entering the water. Don’t buy underwater photography kit on your way to the airport and expect to come back with masterpieces in light and shade. As is so often said, “RTFM!”

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    If you're really set on wanting to be a competent underwater photographer and don’t have the time or inclination to take up an apprenticeship with a master, give us a call and we’ll try and put you in touch with someone who runs underwater photography courses.

  • Jussi Goes To Lembeh

    lembeh5 lembeh6 lembeh3Among the people at Ocean Leisure cameras, Jussi Hokkanen is particularly keen on macro life. For example, our Finnish member of staff is crazy about nudibranchs, those colourful little seaslugs that wear their feathery gills on their backs. A keen underwater photographer, when he recently visited Manado in North Suluwesi to go diving, it would have been remiss of him not to make a pilgrimage from there south to Lembeh Strait, the critter capital of the world.

    Lembeh Strait, the stretch of water between Pulau Lembeh and the busy port of Bitung, has had the dubious benefit of three thousand years of busy boat traffic with all the rubbish and detritus that only that could have brought with it. The seabed is a grey lava sand littered with rubbish but Nature being adaptive as it is has overcome all that human beings have thrown at it and creatures underwater have evolved in various ways. It may not sound very attractive but as the dive guides like to brief, “If you see a bit of rubbish, it’s probably an animal that looks like a bit of rubbish, but if it really is a bit of rubbish it will have an unusual animal living inside it!”

    Jussi's camera set-up for Lembeh Strait. Jussi's camera set-up for Lembeh Strait.

    Of course, all these critters are in the main very small so Jussi took with him a suitable underwater camera rig that would allow him to record images of theses tiny animals that were usually bigger than life-size. He successfully photographed mandarin fish, a neon clam and a hairy frogfish among numerous other subjects.

    For this he chose to use Olympus E-PL7 camera with the Olympus PT-EP12 Housing.

    Olympus EPL7 Package Olympus EPL7 Package

    With the often bought 14-42mm zoom lens it represents remarkably good value at close to one-thousand pounds. However, for the macro life found at Lembeh Jussi preferred to use the Olympus 60mm macro lens, which he mounted behind an AOI Macro port. AOI supplies a range of different ports, both in acrylic and glass, that can be used in conjunction with the Olympus PEN housings.  He then added an Inon UCL-165 wet lens

    Inon UCL165 close-up lens Inon UCL165 close-up lens

    to the front. This combination gave him the close-up six-dioptre magnification he required.  If he had needed even more magnification, he could have swapped to a twelve-dioptre AOI macro lens. To get his images recorded in a full spectrum of vibrant  colour, Jussi needed to take some white light under water with him.

    Inon S2000 Inon S2000 flashgun

    For this he chose to use two Inon S-2000 strobe lights (flashguns) triggered by twin fibre-optic cables from the flash attached to the camera. These are neat and compact and have heads small enough not to give light with too little contrast when positioned so close to the small subjects. These were mounted to the camera housing via a Nauticam Easy Tray with optional additional handle and short i-Das arms with standard one-inch mounting balls and clamps. To make it easier to see to focus on such tiny subjects Jussi added a Fisheye FIX Neo 1000 WR spotting light.

    Fisheye Fix Mini1000 Fisheye Fix Mini1000

    This little wizard of a lamp can be switched to a red mode so that the light it gives out does not disturb the animals. (Most marine life does not see red light.) Once Jussi had lined up his camera, the light pulsed from the strobe units gave him a full colour rendition. Not only that, but the focussing lamp automatically senses the flash firing and switches off momentarily so that there is no annoying spot remaining where the focussing light was pointed._DSC5312

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