Olympus EPL-3 is the newest camera of choice for low cost and high quality
The EPL-3 is a great camera. Like its predecessors, the Pen EPL-3 does an incredible amount of good things, easily, completely, and with a very low cost. The EPL-3, with 14 - 42 mm lens, Olympus housing with standard port, UFL2 strobe, full Ultralight arm is ONLY $2325.00!!! This is a fraction of the cost of a minimal set-up with an SLR camera or other mirrorless underwater systems.
No other camera in the world will allow you full f-stops to f22 AND the use of all shutter speeds up to 1/4000th of a second WITH Olympus UFL-2 strobe. ALERT -- If your new E-PL3 does not seem to synch with high shutter speeds with the UFL-2 strobes, check your camera's firmware in your menu. If you have not updated it to 1.3, then go to the Olympus web site for this firmware update, select your operating system and follow the prompts. You will need the USB to camera cord that is included with your camera. Remove your memory card and make sure your battery is charged. It takes only a few minutes.
• The large micro 4/3rds 12.3 MP sensor produces SHARP, clear images. They are rated above all of the smaller sensors of all compact digitals , but obviously not as good as the larger sensors of SLRS such as a Nikon D7000, or the larger sensors of the Sony NEX7, etc. but the cost of the PEN is MUCH lower than the cost of putting a Nikon SLR or a Sony or Fuji mirrorless in a housing!!
• It shoots faster than a compact digital.
• It operates easily on all auto and manual settings.
• The point of focus is easily moved.
• With the standard 14 - 42 mm lens (35mm equivalent to 28 to 84 mm) you can focus down to a subject size about three inches across. With the zoom control you can easily shoot fish or divers. There are three wet close-up lenses that gets you even closer, all the way down to a 10x magnification.
These sample photos, by Kathleen Ramage, were taken with the 14-42mm "kit" lens, with EPL-1,in 2011, but the lenses are the same today.
Taken with the 14-42 mm "kit" lens plus the macro conversion lens adapter PT-MC01
• Unlike the Canon S, G series cameras, your strobe exposure will be controlled by the camera's TTL control even when you are using manual exposure control.
• ISO goes to 3200 so you know that using ISO 200 will be just fine.
• Image stabilization is excellent.
• The HD video (1080) is wonderful.
• Like an SLR, it has interchangeable lenses, but it is not a true SLR where you are looking through the viewfinder. It is much smaller.
• The custom white balance is easy to set (best, of course, for video) and will hold it's setting as you switch back and forth from manual photo taking to program-mode video. It also holds the setting when you turn the camera on and off.
• There is also a wet add-on wide-angle conversion lens. It is large and a bit cumbersome, but it should be quite sharp. (I have not tested this yet on the EPL-3.) If you want the wide lens, you will need a pouch to carry it in as it has a fragile front lens and should not just be hung on a cord or left in a BCD pocket. Consider comparing it to a housed SLR or the EPL-2 where you have to put the wide-angle lens on in advance inside the housing. With this camera, you choose to put on the wide-angle lens for your wide dives, and take it off on the boat and leave it there when you plan to shoot close-ups. With an SLR your could not do this without opening your camera housing. When you have wet hands on the boat, you can add the conversion lens in a few seconds with no risk to the camera. Thus, this system is a wonderful, versatile system
• There is an excellent "Precision" Dome made for Olympus for the Panasonic Lumix H 8mm fisheye lens, that I have also not yet stocked or tested. It is getting good reviews. This port may also work for the other wide Olympus lenses, so I will check on that also, just as soon as I get a minute to spare. The ultrawide 180º lens is not a replacement for the add-on conversion lens as the fisheye requires more practice to use and requires two strobes. Fisheye lenses make large subjects appear way too small in your photos if you are more than just a foot or two away. The fisheye is, however, the lens of choice for shooting large wrecks, wall scenics, divers, caverns, etc. The add-on lens is better for shooting pelagics, or medium large subjects and better for beginners.
These next photos were taken with the 9-18mm lens in the standard housing port with two strobes. With the EPL-3, we will investigate the best port to use.
What it does NOT do
• The lens selection is small but adequate and easily serves the needs of those shooting subjects from about 1 1/2 inch across to medium wide subjects several feet across. Those who are shooting large wrecks in dirty water will need an extreme wide lens and an after market port with the Panasonic Lumix G 9 mm fisheye lens, which are readily available.
• It has the usual disadvantage of SLR cameras: you cannot change lenses underwater, but you can use both a macro and a wide-angle add-on wet lens.
Olympus XZ-1 is a great option for housing a compact digital camera.
• The hot advantages -- the wide, fast lens makes it the best for low light conditions.
• Full manual control
• Low cost
• Easy to use housing.
• Add-on wide angle and close-up lenses available. The wide lens is sharp, corner to corner, but to make such a fine lens, it is quite large.
Complete system with camera, housing, UFL-2 strobe and full Ultralight arm is only $1725.00.
(Don't forget that we give you a full one-hour free lesson to make sure that you have everything put together correctly.)
You can rent it first to see if you like it. Half of your rental price goes toward your purchase price.
SeaLife's 14 MP DC1400 includes HD 720p video. The wider 51º shooting angle underwater is great for many types of photography, but no longer allows a wide-angle lens add-on like the DC1200 did -- But there is a lens in development that should be available soon. Also, Sealife has finally addressed the issue of the short strobe arm by offering an upgrade. With the optional longer arm, you can now light subjects at the minimum focused distance, reduce backscatter, and be more creative.
Sealife's "piano-key" style of buttons on the housing helps divers who wear thick gloves. This continues to offer the most camera for the least money.
Nikon AW 100 - -great 1080 p video, and is a reliable snorkel camera.
(This review is under construction...)
This section is under construction: Photos do not match.
These great cameras are perfect for watersports enthusiasts -- they are shockproof and waterproof WITHOUT a housing! The maximum depth limit of the 14 megapixel Stylus TG 610 is 10 feet and the 14 megapixel Stylus TG 810 is 16 feet, so it's perfect for pool-side and for snorkelers. Free divers and SCUBA divers who keep it shallow will appreciate the 14 megapixel Stylus 610 which can go to a depth of 33 feet.
Both the 610 and the 810 fit into the PT-051 housing if you plan to exceed the cameras' maximum depth ratings and you can add an external strobe to provide full color.
Pros of Olympus housing and compact digital cameras:
• The small cases are easy to handle -- with a large shutter control, buttons that are clearly labeled and stacked at different heights, and ergonomic aids for one-hand use.
• The large 2.7 inch screen is incredible. As with many digital cameras, the screen can be difficult to see in very bright conditions.
• The built-in flash produces plenty of light for close-ups; but, as with all underwater cameras, an external strobe should be added.
• When I used this camera, after 68 photos with full flash, the battery was still fine and the housing did not fog up.
• There is no manual mode.
• It has the typical small sensor of a compact digital camera.
• The small lens required to accommodate a small camera does not have the optical quality of larger systems.
Revised April 30, 2012