My Camera Equipment


I started my underwater photography with a Nikon Coolpix 3100 in a Fantasea housing, which produced very good pictures provided available light was good, which was not that often. I moved on to a Canon Powershot S70 which brought 2 major benefits.


Being able to use RAW gave me the power to do my own post dive white balancing, plus greater exposure latitude, and its manual mode made an external strobe a possibility. My first strobe was an Ikelite A35 Substrobe which produced vastly better pictures in poorer light conditions, but only when the camera managed to focus, and this was a problem in low light conditions. As a result I changed my strobe to a Sea&Sea YS-110 which has a built in focus light which turns itself off when the strobe fires. This improved the focusing no end and so very satisfying pictures resulted. However, the shutter lag typical of compact cameras, meant taking fish was very difficult as they had moved by the time the camera shutter opened. I limited my pictures to slow moving creatures such as nudibranchs, but lusted after an SLR, though the price of these was beyond me as housings were several times more expensive than the camera itself. Olympus changed this when they started to produce their own acrylic housings for their E-range of cameras. The first ones had some problems but by the time the E-520 was out they seemed to have solved them and I am currently using an Olympus E-520 in the Olympus housing specifically for it (PT-E05) using the standard 14-42mm lens in the dome port made specifically for this by Athena.


The same Sea&Sea YS-110 serves me well. It is only able to use manual mode, but this is what I would use most of the time anyway. Synchronisation is via a fibre optic cable (half an audio one costing only a few pounds, with home made connectors, rather than the much more expensive Sea&Sea one) and is as near foolproof as you can get. My latest addition is a home made adapter to fit a wet diopter in front of the lens (Athena do one but charge several hundred pounds for it!) and this gives me great versatility from moderate wide angle through to a moderate macro. While specialist lenses for each would be better still, they can't be changed underwater as my set-up can, so I don't think I will change things for a while now.


Famous last words! Inevitably things have grown while I failed to update this. I still use the E520 camera, and I have a spare body in case of floods which doubled as my land camera, though further updates have happened there as well! I also now have a two handled tray with an Olympus UFL-3 strobe on each which give full TTL exposures, and a Big Blue focus light on the cold shoe which has improved focusing speed. More ports and lenses have acumulated, so I have been using a 50mm macro and port quite a lot, and also an 9-18 wide angle zoom and port, though only when the vis is good. The standard lens tended to loose out and now probably will go completely as I have just got a 14-54mm f2.8 lens with a flat port which I think might get quite a bit of use, even though the flat front is rather large!


On land I used a Konica Minolta A1 and then A2 until I got my Olympus. Since then, while I still have the A2, I use the Olympus for the majority of pictures in combination with a 40-150mm and 70-300mm telephoto lenses (multiply by 2 to get 35mm equivalent). A monopod helps to keep things sharp (though a tripod is used in extreme conditions) and a Canon dual element close up lens enables reasonable macro shots without the expense of a custom macro lens. Along with the update above, I have upgraded the land camera. I now have an Olympus-OM-D-EM-1 mirrorless camera, and the 70-300 telephoto has been upgraded to the much nicer 50-200 zoom, with a 1.4x converter and adapter to micro 4/3 (the change to micro 4/3 has meant quite a number of 4/3 lenses have appeared on the second hand market at very reasonable prices, and I have taken advantage of this). The EM-1 is new and has a steep learning curve but I think it has great potential.


When I only need a small point and shoot I still take the Canon Ixus 70 which was a free replacement from Canon for an early Ixus I bought on eBay which had a faulty sensor. I also have an underwater case for this which has proved useful when snorkelling in Australia. This camera continues to produced some excellent shots, and when combined with CHDK software to enable it to take RAW images, leaves little to be desired when weight and space are at a premium.


My pictures are named yymmdd_hhmmss_camera so you will be able to see to the second when a picture was taken and with which camera.