Editor’s Note: We would like to thank SeaLife Cameras for supplying the Micro 2.0 64GB camera, Super Macro Lens for the Micro 2.0, Sea Dragon Duo 5000 lights, and various Flex-Connect accessories, which were used in this review.
Being a photo pro and dive guide for DNS Diving, Grand Cayman, I meet a lot of newly certified divers. It is almost second nature for even the newest of divers to have a desire to record their adventures under the waves.
But before you can start taking photographs underwater, there is an array of skills that you have to learn over the course of your diving career, including excellent buoyancy, environmental awareness, and an overall comfort level. By approaching underwater photography with a simple but capable setup in mind, you can begin documenting your experiences almost instantly, and the majority of your focus will be on diving—not adjusting settings, changing exposure modes, or checking histograms.
SeaLife first embraced this idea with the first completely sealed underwater specific point-and-shoot camera, the Micro HD (see DPG’s review in 2015), and the company has now introduced an upgraded model, the Micro 2.0, which brings the camera up to date in terms of resolution and improved video capabilities. It was time for us to get back in the water with the Micro to see if it is still one of the best cameras out there for newbies, as well as test out a great new addition to the Micro lineup—SeaLife’s new Super Macro Lens.
SeaLife’s new Super Macro Lens attachment for the Micro 2.0 makes it possible to get closer to your subject than was previously possible
1. Overview of the SeaLife Micro 2.0
SeaLife has introduced not only a high-resolution sensor in the Micro 2.0, but also a brand known for its high-quality sensors: Sony. The new 16-megapixel CMOS sensor is a step up from the Micro HD’s 13 megapixels. By contrast, video capture resolution hasn’t changed—it’s still up to Full HD 1080p video—but crucially you can now shoot at 60fps, allowing you to achieve silky smooth slow-motion shots in post-production.
Interestingly, the Micro 2.0’s lens isn’t quite as wide as on the previous model, dropping from 140 degrees to 130 degrees, but unlike the Micro HD, which lost resolution when using different field-of-view options (Super Wide, Wide, Standard), the Micro 2.0 records 16-megapixel images whichever field-of-view option you use—130 degrees, 100 degrees, or 80 degrees. Commendably, the previous model’s lackluster 1fps continuous shooting has now been upgraded to a much more impressive 5fps burst mode.
SeaLife Micro 2.0 Highlights
- Three configuration options: camera only diving, camera only snorkeling, and camera plus light(s)
- Permanently sealed and depth-rated to 200 feet (60 meters)
- 16-megapixel still mages
- Full 1080p HD video at up to 60fps
- f/2.8 fisheye lens (20mm equivalent) with three field-of-view options: 130° Super Wide, 100° Wide and 80° Standard
- Three underwater color-correction settings: deep, shallow, and green water
- 5fps burst shooting
- 12 inches minimum focus
- Piano key controls
- Internal Li-ion 2400mAh battery
- Price: $549 (64GB) or $499 (32GB) camera only; $1,499 (Micro 2.0 Pro 5000)
The Micro 2.0 comes in two flavors, the only difference being the amount of internal storage on-board: 32GB or 64GB. There is no need for external chargers or card readers thanks to the sealed camera design with its waterproof USB port for easy charging and file transfer. Want to share your images instantly? No problem: The Micro 2.0 offers Wi-Fi transfer of your images and video, too, making it a breeze to get them straight onto your mobile device or tablet—and ready for Facebook or Instagram.
The Micro 2.0 boasts a built-in 130° fisheye lens, allowing you to minimize the amount of water between camera and subject for better sharpness and color
The Micro 2.0’s Li-ion battery promises to keep you shooting continuously for up to three hours, making sure you don’t miss the next awesome encounter, and when using the supplied AC wall charger, the camera gets a full charge in also around three hours, making it a great setup for trips with multiple dives.
SeaLife has maintained the previous model’s easy-to-use “piano key” controls on the Micro 2.0, which are a breeze to use underwater, even when using gloves. And since the camera is completely sealed, there is no hassle with greasing O-rings or fretting about flooding while on a dive. You simply charge your camera, attach your tray and lights if needed, and let the shooting begin.
2. Underwater Photography in Ambient Light with the SeaLife Micro 2.0
The brilliance of this camera is its unique simplicity: With a camera that’s this easy to use and maintain, more of your time is focused on your dive and recording the amazing marine life around you. After choosing between the two initial options of either Land or Underwater, your next menu gives you three different scene modes to choose from: camera-only diving (Dive), camera-only snorkeling (Snorkel), or camera plus lights (Light). Simply choose the right mode for your environment and camera accessories, and you’re ready to go.
The Micro 2.0 performed well in the Snorkel scene mode to capture the stars of Stingray City with accurate colors
The camera also proved to produce quality images with just the use of its underwater white-balance settings. This is great news for shooters on a budget—who aren’t ready to invest in lights—to get them in the water and taking pictures.
While photographing in natural light, I kept the camera set to the “Underwater Deep” white-balance setting. This setting worked well on the majority of my dives, which were all deeper than 35 feet. Naturally, shooting with the sun behind you—shining in the direction of your subject—really helped the quality and color of the images produced.
With the water clarity and ample sunlight we have here in Grand Cayman, I found the camera was occasionally producing hot backgrounds. No problem: The Micro 2.0 allows you to set exposure compensation as needed, and with an adjustment of –1⅓ EV, I got some beautiful blue backgrounds and wasn’t overexposing reflective fish or sandy bottoms.
3. Underwater Photography with the Sea Dragon Duo 5000
Like its predecessor, the Micro 2.0 can’t be used with strobes—a decision presumably made by SeaLife to keep the camera as straightforward to use as possible—but there’s always the option of shooting with continuous light sources when diving deeper. For this review, SeaLife provided their Sea Dragon Duo 5000 package, which comprises a pair of their Sea Dragon 2500 photo/video light heads, a Flex-Connect Dual Tray and Flex-Connect Grips (the set also includes a handy GoPro adapter, Li-ion batteries, and chargers).
I found the lights to be powerful and flexible for their size and price point, and an ideal companion to the Micro 2.0. They offer great functionality through a single button, including three power modes that you can easily cycle through. The quick LCD preview on the Micro 2.0 made it very simple to check an image and, if necessary, adjust the lighting to perfect the shot.
The dual Sea Dragon 2500 photo/video lights create an even beam without casting undesirable shadows
I spent the majority of my dives shooting the camera with Sea Dragon lights, and I found setting the underwater white-balance to “Underwater Shallow” provided an additional warmth that produced some nice natural color schemes in my images.
Once again, I discovered that adjusting exposure compensation gave even better results. By dialling in a value of –2.0 EV, I got an attractive blueness in the backgrounds of my images. It also helped to add contrast and depth to images, especially when shooting in low-light conditions such as a swim-through.
The Flex-Connect arm system allows you to easily detach a light so you can fine-tune your lighting as you get closer to your subject
4. Macro with the SeaLife Micro 2.0
Like its predecessor, the Micro 2.0 has an instant focus lens that can cover many different subjects and shooting situations, including medium-sized critters. However, the minimum focus distance is limited to 12 inches, so if you get any closer than a foot away from your subject, the camera will not be able to focus.
While that puts traditional macro subjects out of reach of the camera, the Micro 2.0 still allows you capture larger macro life such as lobsters, eels, and scorpionfish. For such shots, I found the use of additional lights was very beneficial, and I stuck with the “Underwater Shallow” white-balance setting for an additional pop of color.
This big green moray eel made for a good macro-type subject for the Micro 2.0
Super Macro Lens
While Micro users have been able to capture the small stuff using SeaLife’s 10x Close Up Lens, they still haven’t been able to get really close to shoot the tiniest critters, that is until the recent introduction of the Super Macro Lens, again specifically designed for the Micro series cameras. With the addition of the lens, the minimum focus distance of the Micro 2.0 is decreased even more—anywhere from 7 inches to 3.5 inches from your subject.
This is a huge jump from the 12-inch limit of the camera on its own. By being able to get your camera so close to your subject, you will be able to get better exposures, capture more detail, and of course make those small creatures fill the frame beautifully.
The new Super Macro Lens is very compact, lightweight and easy to dive with. Being a wet lens, you can add and remove it underwater easily: You simply press the lens onto the mount of the Micro 2.0 and its rubber edges gently form to the camera.
By adding the Super Macro Lens to your Micro 2.0, you are able to get closer and show off small subjects—like this Christmas tree worm—in a big way
I found the Micro 2.0 focused well with the Super Macro Lens within the specified range, though I really needed the Sea Dragon lights to assist with focus and provide enough light for good depth of field. The typical softness in the image corners when using macro wet lens attachments was present, but not intrusive enough to be noticeable.
When shooting just 3.5 inches from your subject, one issue that often arises is even lighting: With such a small distance between camera and subject, it can be tricky to get light into the right places. A nice bonus of the Flex-Connect arm system is the ease with which parts can be attached and removed. This made it possible to quickly detach one arm and hold the light in my left hand, allowing me to light the shadows cast by the other light.
Left: Without an attachment, the Micro 2.0 allowed me to capture a nice image of this anemone. Right: With the addition of the Super Macro Lens, I could easily fill the frame
Left: This pipefish is a little lost against a complex background when shot with the Micro 2.0 by itself. Right: Adding the Super Macro Lens got me much closer for a great detail shot
5. Underwater Video with the SeaLife Micro 2.0
Along with the increase in pixel count, the Micro 2.0 has much more processing power on-board, which is obvious from the new 5fps burst shooting mode for stills and the increase in video frame rate from 30fps to 60fps. The Micro 2.0’s Full HD 60fps video footage can now be slowed down on your computer after your dives, giving you an awesome cinematic feel.
With the camera’s instant focus and different custom white-balance settings, it was very easy to obtain quality video. For the majority of my video shooting without the use of external lights, I chose the “Underwater Deep” white-balance setting as well as exposure compensation of –½ EV.
Highlight reel shot with the SeaLife Micro 2.0 in Full HD
Like all small cameras, with the Micro 2.0 it’s challenging to achieve good stabilization for shooting video without the addition of a tray and grips. But with proper stabilization, and the new 60fps frame rate of the Micro 2.0, recording professional-looking clips was very attainable.
The addition of lights was necessary while shooting in swim-throughs and under ledges, and it made some shots of medium-sized macro life possible. The Flex-Connect arm system was particularly good for video capture, making it a breeze to readjust lighting to ensure the entire field of view received proper coverage. For my video shots using the Sea Dragon Duo 5000, I chose the “Underwater Shallow” white-balance setting to achieve the best overall color schemes.
6. Who Should Consider the SeaLife Micro 2.0 and Super Macro Lens?
If you’re still developing as a diver, the Micro 2.0 allows you to focus on improving your scuba skills in addition to producing quality imagery and video without spending lots of time surfing menus.
Despite its ease of use, the Micro 2.0 still offers users room to advance their shooting skills. With additional options such as custom white-balance, burst mode, and ISO control, new photographers have the opportunity to explore more complex and creative techniques. The Super Macro Lens attachment is the icing on the cake, greatly extending the subject matter that the Micro 2.0 can take on.
The Micro 2.0 doesn’t offer quite the same level of features as SeaLife’s more-advanced DC2000—you can’t trigger strobes with the Micro 2.0, for example—but expecting a camera that does everything misses the point. What the Micro 2.0 does do, it does well, and with the minimum of fuss for the user. For divers who want to spend more time diving and less time adjusting settings, hitting buttons and turning dials, the SeaLife Micro 2.0 is great option.
About the Reviewer: Chase Darnell is an award-winning underwater photographer and filmmaker currently based in Grand Cayman with Cayman Turtle Divers. With the crystal clear waters of Cayman at his full disposal, Chase is in the water daily with a camera in hand to document his experiences. He accounts his images to a simple theory: “More hours in the water equals more life-changing experiences.” For more of his work, visit his website.