By Stephen Frink
Photography by Joseph Byrd
I've been a professional underwater photographer for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say there's never been a better time to be an underwater shooter than today. The digital photo revolution is in full swing, making underwater photography ever more accessible and enjoyable. Film and slide photography are fast becoming as outdated as 45 rpm records and eight-tracks. These days, it's all about the computers, from the microprocessors and storage abilities of the new breed of digital cameras to the computers, software and image processing techniques now required to showcase great images.
As the technology evolves, photo manufacturers are constantly developing innovative new products of extraordinary quality and capabilities, and at a variety of price points, helping underwater shooters of all experience levels capture the beauty of the undersea realm. Here are a few of the latest tools on the market today that will help you take better pictures-whether you're an amateur or a pro.
Light & Motion Titan d200
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Light & Motion Titan d200| Manual buttons and levers have been standard on camera housings since Hans Hass developed the Rolleimarin in 1950, but Light & Motion was bold and bright enough to realize that modern digital cameras could be operated electronically through their USB interfaces. The result is the Titan D200 housing for the popular Nikon D200 digital SLR. A masterpiece of ergonomic design and craftsmanship, this housing puts all the controls and dials right at your fingertips so you can keep your eye glued to the viewfinder at all times.
A quick-docking tray makes camera installation a breeze, and all electronics are sealed against accidental splash and purposely modular for easy field replacement. The revolutionary ROC (Remote Optical Controller) system further distinguishes this housing, with up to 12 dual strobe power increments, controlled either in synch or independent of one another for optimal lighting control-all within easy and logical reach of your thumbs. Simply put: The Titan D200 housing is revolutionary in concept. Price: $4,499 without ports. www.uwimaging.com.
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Sea&Sea DX-1G| Many of the compact digital cameras out there are challenging to use underwater because of digital lag and primitive integration of external strobes. Enter the Sea&Sea DX-1G, a promising point-and-shoot solution to all these problems, and more.
This sophisticated 10.1-megapixel camera offers extraordinary macro capability (focusing down to just a half-inch away), a shutter response of just one-tenth of a second, a 24- to 72mm zoom capability and an oversized 2.5-inch LCD display. Additionally, it records in a variety of still and video formats, including JPG and RAW, using Adobe's open standard DNG format to ensure all the camera's capture data can be extracted in post-production. Manual exposure mode, as well as two automatic and two custom modes, assures optimal flexibility for creative underwater imaging.
The housing is depth-rated to 180 feet, and is brilliantly designed to maximize the unique characteristics of the camera. Dual receptacles are molded into the housing to provide secure fiber-optic synch cord installation, and the bayonet port mount accepts a 16mm wide-angle conversion lens that can easily be added or removed while underwater. Price: $1,049 for camera and housing. www.seaandsea.com.
Underwater Photography Educational Materials
| Underwater Photography Educational Materials|
Your Guide to Creating Underwater Video
Underwater filmmaker Annie Crawley and veteran multimedia editor Jeff Morse team up on this instructional DVD on how to shoot an underwater story. Price: $40. www.thecameracoach.com.
On this instructive DVD, host Doug Sloss uses video-based tutorials to guide shooters through Adobe's Photoshop program. Price: $89.99. www.uwphotoshop.com, www.oceanmagicproductions.com.
The Underwater Photographer
Now in its third edition, this beautifully illustrated, 371-page guide remains a timeless reference. Price: $39.95. www.focalpress.com.
Inon D-2000 Strobe
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Inon D-2000 Strobe| After reading a recent article I wrote about point-and-shoot strobe options, a reader complained that I'd omitted the one solution that worked best for him-the Inon D-2000. I'm surprised I'd overlooked that one, because I use the Inon Z-240 strobes with my D-SLR system and find them to be highly reliable, offering an excellent quality of light in a small, easy-to-pack strobe head. The D-2000 offers all of that and more to shooters with compact digital cameras in that these strobes integrate S-TTL technology as well.
Developed in 2004, the S-TTL system uses the camera's preflash to trigger the D-2000's preflash. The preflash from the D-2000 is measured by the camera in order to calculate the flash intensity required to achieve proper exposure. The optical control signal is picked up by a multi-filament core fiber optic cord, and so long as the cords can read the camera's preflash, multiple strobes can be used simultaneously. The beauty of the Inon system is that the strobes function very well with point-and-shoot cameras, and they provide very sophisticated trays, mounts and fiber optic attachment systems that work with most camera housings. Price: $539. www.inonamerica.com.
Olympus Stylus 770 SW
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Olympus Stylus 770 SW| The Frink family has a new favorite compact digital camera for use around the water: our Olympus 770 SW. This 7.1-megapixel camera is waterproof-without a housing-to 33 feet, making it perfect for snorkeling or topside use in an aquatic environment. It's also shock-resistant, designed to survive a five-foot drop, to be crush-proof to 220 pounds-force, and freeze-proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. For use at greater depths (up to 40 meters) and to add an external flash, we've added the optional Olympus PT-035 housing.
Truthfully, most of the time we don't need all the rugged and waterproof features of the camera. It's just a perfect all-purpose snap-shooter with a 2.5-inch LCD, 18MB of onboard memory (it also accepts xD memory cards up to 2GB) and 27 different exposure modes. But just knowing my daughter can jump in the pool with it or actually carry it along as she goes kneeboarding with friends makes this the perfect choice for our aquatic lifestyle. Price: $379 for the camera; $299 for the optional housing. www.olympusamerica.com/underwater.
Ikelite DS200 Strobe With Nikon iTTL Adapter
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Ikelite DS200 Strobe With Nikon iTTL Adapter| The venerable Ikelite DS200 strobe has stepped into the digital age. Distinguished from its red or black analog brethren, the new digitally enabled version is a handsome two-tone gray on the outside, but the real beauty resides within. The main strobe electronics are sealed away from the only real point of water intrusion, the battery compartment, and the LED gauge shows battery power remaining. A switch lock prevents the strobe from accidentally turning on while in transit, and the power remains 200 watt-seconds with a 1.6-second recycle. What I love about this strobe is the wide 100-degree beam (even wider with the diffuser attached) and a built-in aiming light powerful enough to guide you around the reef on night dives. Price: $1,100.
The DS200, along with the latest iterations of Ikelite's other DS strobes (DS50 and DS125), is electronically enabled to function with the innovative iTTL adapter. Designed to work with a variety of Nikon D-SLR cameras (specifically D-40, D-50, D-70, D-80, D-200 and Fuji S5), this cord allows easy toggling between TTL and manual exposure functions, and integrates the exact same iTTL conversion circuitry so popular with Ikelite housings. It also works on any housing fitted with a standard Nikonos 5-pin bulkhead. Price: $350. www.ikelite.com.
|||| |---|---|---| | | | SeaLife DC600| While cosmetically similar to its earlier iteration, the DC500, the SeaLife DC600 is a significantly upgraded camera with 6.1-megapixel capabilities and a brilliant 2.5-inch LCD screen. In its custom housing, this capable shooter is good to 200 feet, and all the necessary controls are right at your fingertips for effortless shooting. Even better: SeaLife has built a complete imaging system around the DC600. The external flash (SL962) is designed to work perfectly with the DC600 preflash system (the fiber optic bracket holds the cord at the optimal angle for reliable flash triggering), and the SL970 wide-angle lens easily mounts to the camera while underwater, bringing sharp focus from two feet to infinity and angle of coverage about equal to a 24mm lens (in 35mm equivalency). Price: $499.99 camera and housing; $899 as system, complete with digital strobe, wide-angle lens and soft case. www.sealife-cameras.com.
Ultralight Buoyancy Arms
|||| |---|---|---| | | | Ultralight Buoyancy Arms| Housing manufacturers are trying to make their packages ever smaller to appeal to divers traveling to far-off and exotic locations under increasingly strict luggage rules. While an admirable objective, the reality is that many of these small and form-fitting enclosures are very heavy where it really counts-in the water. The camera itself is heavy, and without a larger housing to provide a little buoyancy, many housings are very fatiguing to use. The new buoyancy arms by Ultralight Control Systems are the perfect solution for "shooter-wrist," with greater diameter than their normal buoyancy arms to provide up to 11 ounces of positive lift with a single 12-inch arm. Arms come in various lengths to optimize buoyancy trim. Price: $67.95 for single 12-inch section; other sizes and clamps priced individually. www.ulcs.com.
Camera Cases For Travel
| Camera Cases For Travel|
Stormcase 2400 with Lowepro Omnipro Attache Padded Case
Traveling with camera gear can be stressful, but one of the easiest ways to make sure your tools are protected is to invest in a good custom camera case like the Omni Pro Attache padded insert-case. This clever organizer allows secure protection for delicate camera gear, yet is specifically designed to fit within Lowepro's own Pro Extreme hard case. This creates a package that is small enough to fit in the overhead bin as carry-on luggage, but tough enough to ride in the belly of the beast as checked baggage. At your destination, remove the soft-pack case and you have a lightweight, go-anywhere camera bag.
Think Tank Airport Ultralight
Another elegant option is the Think Tank Airport Ultralight. This offers the advantage of backpack design as opposed to the attache concept (far more ergonomic on a grueling hike), but can be purchased as a stand-alone case to fit whatever Pelican, UK or Storm case might fit the bill. I use mine in combination with a Storm 2500, a wheeled hard case that fits the magic 45-inch criteria (length + height + width) for FAA overhead storage limits. For more info: www.lowepro.com, www.ThinkTankPhoto.com, www.stormcase.com.