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Dive Photo Guide


Top 10 Underwater Photography Stories Of 2009
By Matt J. Weiss, January 2, 2010 @ 05:45 PM (EST)
Another year has passed and once again a lot has happened in the underwater imaging world. Here are DivePhotoGuide’s top underwater photography stories of 2009 (in no particular order)

HD Video For SLRs Becomes Standard

It was 2008 that we first saw HD video on an SLR camera, but it was 2009 that the feature became standard.

Nikon cameras like the D300 and D3 that were previously "videoless" saw upgrades to include video capabilities. Still though, Nikon cameras only have 720p resolution, which has let Canon lead the way in this revolution.

Nikon D300s
Nikon D300s

Starting with the Canon 5d Mark II (in 2008), and recently the EOS 7D and 1D Mark IV, Canon has changed the way we can shoot full 1080p HD video.

Canon EOS 7D
Canon EOS 7D

SLRs video shooters can take advantage of lenses that can shoot in low light and extremely low depth of field, bringing a whole new feel to cinematic movies.

First Hybrid Strobe/Video Light Hits The Market

A major obstacle for utilizing the new HD video capabilities of SLR cameras underwater is lighting.  The industry had been waiting all year for a solution for SLRs that need both a flash for still photography and continuous lighting for video.

At DEMA 2009, Ikelite gave us the first solution, the DS161 Move Substrobe. The strobe has the flash capabilities of the DS160 for still photography, but also has  3 LEDS that output 500 lumens at 5000-5500k with a 45 degree beam angle for continuous lighting when shooting video

Ikelite DS161 Movie Substrobe
Ikelite DS161 Movie Substrobe

It is certainly not the most powerful video light, but it is the first solution for shooting video and stills underwater with a single strobe unit.  Ikelite was fortunate to have a strobe design that was conducive of adding continuous lighting and were able to hit the market first, but I imagine the other major strobe manufactures are at the drawing boards.

Ikelite DS161 Movie Substrobe LED light
Ikelite DS161 Movie Substrobe offers flash for still photography and LED continous lighting for video

Micro Four-Thirds Format And The Nikonos Challenge

The people wanted SLR quality in a compact camera size. The industry's response was micro four-thirds cameras. Panasonic and Olympus have both come out with micro four-thirds models, including the Olympus EP-1  and EP-2 and the Panasonic G1 and GF1.  So far, housings for these for these cameras have been pretty limited.

Olympus EP-1 Micro Four Thirds Camera
Olympus EP-1 Micro Four Thirds Camera

So while 2009 made the format main stream, I am expecting that 2010 will see more cameras and lenses, and hopefully, more housing.

It also just so happens that the micro four thirds format was the solution to the DPG Nikonos Challenge. PiratePro answered the challenge by creating a housing for the EP-1 and a series of adapters to use the Nikons lenses with the housing.  Here is a clip from DEMA describing the Pirate Pro housing...


As it turns out, the micro four thirds format's biggest contribution to underwater photography may be its ability to allow us to use Nikonos lenses on digital cameras.

Waterproof Cameras Make a Big Splash

Man did waterproof cameras blow up in 2009. The line of cameras that can go underwater without a housing grew because they have become  popular for  beach lovers.  In turn, underwater photography has become very accessible, allowing vacationers to pack one small camera without the bulk or extra cost of a housing and still photograph the underwater world.

Canon Powershot D10 Waterproof Camera
Canon Powershot D10 Waterproof Camera

Problem: So far the max depth for a waterproof camera is 33ft/10m, not quite deep enough for most dives. Therefore, these are really snorkel cams, secondary cameras for wet boat rides, or if you need to jump into the water because there is a humpback swimming by and there is no time to get your main rig (a situation we often find ourselves in, right?).

Another feature I hope to see in 2010 is depth rating increase for waterproof cameras to 90ft/30m.

Fiber optics becoming the new standard?

Fiber optics had previously, for the most part, been reserved for point and shoot cameras. This changed in 2009. Aquatica, Nauticam, Sea & Sea and Epoque released housings for SLRs that came standard with fiber optic ports. Nauticam, the newest housing manufacturer, offers wired connectivity only as an additional add on.

Fiber optic connectivity on Aquatica's D300s housing
Fiber optic connectivity on Aquatica's D300s housing

Clearly, manufactures recognize the benefits of optical strobe connectivity.

Optical sync eliminates the potential of flooding a housing through a bulkhead, it supports emulated flash TTL exposure and fiber optic cables are inexpensive compared to sync cords.   We first reported this trend at DEMA 2009, and I expect to see a lot more fiber optic bulkheads at DEMA 2010

Interesting Innovations

Each year brings us a new set of underwater photography innovations and 2009 was no different.  From new port systems to shooting 3d images underwater, there was plenty to be excited about. Here are a few that stand out.

Nauticam's new port latch system

When Nauticam was designing their new line of housings, they noticed that with threaded and bayonet port mounting systems the port is rotated a few times when being attached, which could cause the o-ring to extrude.  Nauticam’s new port latching systems mounts a port without it ever actually rotating. Additionally, their safety release button insures that the port cannot be accidentally released.  This is a great  new way to mount ports.
Nauticam D90 underwater housing
Nauticam D90 housing- the red lever is for the new port latch system

FujiFilm's Finepix REAL 3D W1 camera with 10Bar housing

Fujifilm quietly released their first 3D camera in 2009, capable of shooting 3D movies and stills using its two lenses. Furthermore, the images don't require 3D lenses to be viewed. 10Bar came out with a housing for this camera, making it by far the easiest way to shoot 3D underwater.

10Bar underwater housing for the Fujifilm 3D W1 camera
10Bar housing for the Fujifilm 3D W1 camera

Sealife's Easy Set Up Mode

Sealife's camera models are a popular way for photographers to get started underwater. In order to help out new photographers, Sealife created the Easy Set Up Mode which takes users through a series of queries about how they intend to  use the camera in order to assign the camera with the proper settings.  This is a very nice concept for photographers who may not want to learn manual settings.

High ISO For New DSLRs

In 2009 we saw some serious advancements in sensor technology and the result is a line up of DSLRs with groundbreaking low light capabilities. High end DSLRs in 2009 are reaching ISO settings of 12,800 and higher with low-noise.  We even saw models reach an mind boggling ISO setting of 102,400.

Nikon D3s
The Nikon D3s can shoot at ISO 102,400

High ISO with low noise has allowed photographers to shoot with high shutter speeds and small apertures in low light and still get quality images.  It's changing the way we shoot photographs because we can produce images that were not possible in 2008!

End Of The Megapixel Race?

Since the beginning of the digital era manufactures have relied on a megapixels as their key camera spec to drive sales.  It has been a great marketing tool for manufactures, as a camera's megapixel count is a simple way for consumers without much technical knowledge of photography to rate cameras.  However, the megapixel race may have ended in 2009.

Canon Powershot G11
Canon Powershot G11

Perhaps the most significant sign that the race was winding down was Canon releasing the Powershot G11, its flagship point and shoot, with 10.0 megapixels, 4.7mps less than the previous model.

Kodachrome discontinued -“Nail in the Coffin for Film”

It has pretty much been a digital decade, but perhaps 2009 can be called the year film officially died, as the last production batch of Kodachrome film will expire.

Kodachome was the world's first commercially successful film and lasted for 74 years. It appears Paul Simon’s worst nightmare has come true -- Mama finally took his Kodachrome away.

DivePhotoGuide.com Relaunch

Okay, so this one is a little narcissistic, but we are pretty excited about the new DivePhotoGuide. If you are an underwater photographer, I hope you will be pretty excited, too.   The site now offers comprehensive guides to almost every aspect underwater photography, including equipment, traveling and techniques while still providing you with the highest quality and most current underwater photography content.

DPG logo
The old DPG logo, the turtle, enjoys retirement

Even though 2009 was a big year for DPG, we expect 2010 to be even bigger. So thanks for your support!



Fantasea FG7X II
Ikelite Housing for Nikon D500
I-DiveSite Venom 35s
SeaLife DC2000
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