AOI Housing for Olympus OM-D E-M1 III
Ikelite Housing for Sony a7 IV
Panasonic Lumix GH6
If your goals are high-quality results and full control over the image and the picture-taking process, you’ll need to step up from a compact to a camera that allows you to mount different lenses for different situations in order to produce photos that are sharp, detailed and with minimal distortion. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILCs) use an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one, and an on-sensor autofocus system rather than the separate autofocus sensor found in DSLRs. These differences mean MILCs have different strengths and weaknesses compared to DSLRs, but mirrorless designs are gradually becoming the new standard for interchangeable-lens cameras.
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1. Nikon Mirrorless Cameras
Showing it was serious about video with the D850 and then the Z6 and Z7, Nikon has still been playing catch-up as Canon threw down the gauntlet with the release of the 8K-capable EOS R5. But with the Z9, Nikon has itself created a game-changing camera in various ways. Doing away with the mechanical shutter entirely, the Z9 boasts a stacked CMOS sensor and image-processing engine that combine to achieve breathtaking specs: 20fps RAW continuous shooting with a buffer of more than 1,000 frames, 8K/30p (for more than two hours continuously) and 4K/120p recording from the full width of the sensor, and flash sync at up to 1/250s and up to 1/8000s with high-speed sync (HSS) enabled. $5,500 | www.nikonusa.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With its 45.7MP images, off-the-charts burst shooting, and 8K/30p video capabilities, the Z9 is a hybrid camera for serious pros—with a price tag to match. Nikon’s promised firmware update even adds 8K/60p video capture in 12-bit ProRes RAW. Imagine sumptuous cinematic slow-mo underwater action on your 8K TV… No, neither can we!
- Nauticam: Much as it has done with its R3 housing, Nauticam has created the ultimate pro aluminum housing for the Z9. Optimized for use with the company’s high-quality water-contact optics like the WACP-1/2 and CMC-1/2, the NA-Z9 housing offers a comprehensive selection of controls within easy reach of the integrated handles, including double thumb levers for PLAYBACK/DISP and AF-ON/REC, and levers for the Fn1/Fn2 customizable buttons and the AF-Mode button. As you’d expect, you can hook up your external monitor/recorder via the housing’s M24 bulkhead, and there are M16 and M14 bulkheads for strobe triggering, vacuum systems, and more. $7,223 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Nikon Z7 II
When we went to Mexico to test Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the Z7, in 2019, we discovered a capable camera that came close to living up to its “mirrorless D850” spec sheet. The performance-boosting Expeed 6 processors in the Z7 II take that promise a step further, with 10fps continuous shooting and a threefold increase in buffer capacity, improved low-light autofocus performance, and the ability to capture 4K/60p video (albeit in cropped DX format). A $200 upgrade allows you to output Blackmagic RAW as well as ProRes RAW to the Atomos Ninja V/V+ external recorder. $3,000 | www.nikonusa.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With its 45.7-megapixel sensor and 10fps burst shooting, the Z7 II makes an awesome tool for still photographers. And while the video specs are decent, the Z6 II—boasting full-pixel readout of its 24.5MP sensor and advanced video features—is a better choice for serious filmmakers. You could always get both, of course, since each would fit any housing you buy…
- Ikelite: As with all housings for the Z7/Z6 (Mark I or II, or both), Ikelite’s Dry Lock port system is designed to accommodate lenses using the new Z-mount as well as your old F-mount glass via the FTZ adapter that was launched with the Z-system. And as with all of Ikelite’s recent housings, TTL exposure is an optional but simple addition: The DL1 DS Link Nikon TTL Converter allows you to toggle between TTL and manual exposure with the press of a button. $1,895 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Sea&Sea: The MDX-Z7II has much in common with its predecessor housing for the first-generation Z7 and Z6. Made from aluminum and featuring integrated aluminum handles, the housing can accommodate Z-mount lenses as well as F-mount lenses via Nikon’s FTZ mount adapter, and there’s even a window for viewing the Z7’s top LCD panel. Manual strobe triggering is possible out of the box, and you can optionally install a converter that allows you to trigger Sea&Sea strobes in both TTL and manual modes. $4,000 | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
- Isotta: If you like your aluminum painted fiery red, this made-in-Italy housing for the Z7 II (and Z6 II) is a great option. You get Isotta’s signature one-handed opening-closing knob, dual O-ring seals on all buttons, and an integrated moisture alarm thrown in for good measure. The housing comes with two fiber-optic ports, but you have the option of adding bulkheads for strobe connection via electrical sync cords. Three M16 ports allow accessories such as a vacuum valve and external monitor to be installed. $2,830 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The NA-Z7II is part of Nauticam’s N120 port system, which supports native Z-mount optics as well as F-mount lenses with the Nikon FTZ adapter (using the same ports needed for their application on Nikon DSLR housings). As usual for Nauticam, complex internal rerouting of controls ensures that levers and buttons are exactly where they need to be next to the integrated handles. Optical bulkheads are included, as is the circuitry required to manually trigger your strobes, and you have the option of upgrading to a TTL converter if desired. $5,056 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Aquatica: Machined from high-grade aluminum, anodized, and finished with tough powder coat paint, Aquatica’s housing allows you to mount and unmount Nikon’s FTZ adapter without removing the camera, and there are separate lens releases for both F- and Z-mount lenses. The company’s Surveyor vacuum system is included as standard equipment, and the housing is available in three configurations: with double Nikonos bulkheads, with single Ikelite bulkhead, and with dual optical bulkheads and LED trigger. A large-bore 24mm bulkhead allows you to hook up a monitor/recorder via HDMI 2.0 cables. $3,200 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
- Subal: Built to last from aluminum alloy that’s hard coated and finished with powder coating paint, Subal’s Z6 II/Z7 II housing features a special sled for mounting the camera to allow quick and precise insertion. Users can choose from a range of viewfinders and strobe triggering options, including TTL exposure with compatible Sea&Sea and Inon strobes. $3,800 | www.subal.com | www.backscatter.com
- Hugyfot: Belgian housing maker Hugyfot offers their Z7 housing with a special ceramic polymer based thin film coating (which is highly resistant to scratches, chemicals, heat, UV light, etc.) in four different colors—Graphite Black, Titanium, Blue Titanium and Pink Champagne. The standard configuration includes dual aluminum handles with one-inch ball mounts (plus an additional ball mount on the top), twin optical ports for strobe triggering, an M16 port for accessories, and a vacuum and leak detection system. €3,450 | www.hugyfot.com
If Nikon’s first forays into full-frame mirrorless—the Z6 and Z7—were a little beyond your budget, the much more competitively priced Z5 could well be the entry-level full-frame model in your future. For considerably fewer dollars, you get a sensor with a very similar resolution to the Z6 (and Z6 II), as well as the same 5-axis in-body image stabilization, hybrid AF system, and high-resolution 3.69M-dot viewfinder found on the older models (and also the second-generation Z6 II/Z7 II). $1,300 | www.nikonusa.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Unlike the Z6/Z6II and Z7/Z7II, which are all equally accomplished filmmaking tools, the Z5 may well disappoint in the video department. Only Full HD (1080p) capture uses the full sensor width, while 4K video comes with a heavy 1.7x crop—all but unusable for wide-angle subjects. For still photography, however, the Z5 is a lot of camera for a modest outlay.
- Ikelite: Nikon’s affordable full-frame camera is a perfect match for Ikelite’s eminently affordable housing, with its ABS-PC construction, transparent back, and robust, well-designed controls. As you’d expect, the housing can accommodate Z-mount lenses as well as F-mount lenses along with Nikon’s FTZ adapter. Out of the box, you get electrical triggering of various brands of strobes in manual mode, and by adding the optional DL1 DS Link TTL Converter, you can enjoy industry-leading TTL flash exposure with a compatible Ikelite DS-series strobe. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
A little over a year after Nikon introduced its first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z7 and Z6, to broadly universal acclaim, the Japanese company recently unveiled the Z50, hoping to perform the same trick in the APS-C realm. The result, as you might expect, is a sort of “mirrorless D500” boasting a 21MP BSI-CMOS sensor, 11fps burst shooting with continuous AF, and both crop-less 4K video at up to 30p and Full HD at up to 120p. In other words, plenty of camera for a mere… $860 | www.nikonusa.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If you love your F-mount lenses but want to dip a curious toe into mirrorless waters, the Z50 is the way to go (with the help of the FTZ adapter, of course). D500 users who dabble in video will appreciate the Z50’s impressive movie capabilities—especially 4K shooting without the D500’s heavy crop.
- Ikelite: Highlights of Ikelite’s Z50 housing include the company’s signature ABS-PC blend construction and a clear back, ergonomically shaped levers for shutter and the AE-L/AF-L button, and an M16 port for an accessory like an HDMI bulkhead. Unusually for Ikelite, there’s also fiber-optic strobe connectivity on offer, as the housing makes use of the Z50’s pop-up flash. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The NA-Z50 makes it easy to use both native Z-mount lenses directly and your trusty F-mount lenses with Nikon’s FTZ Adapter. For the latter, just add Nauticam’s N100 to N120 Port Adapter along with the corresponding N120 port recommendations. Fiber-optic bulkheads give you TTL strobe triggering out of the box using the Z50’s pop-up flash, but there’s also the option of installing a TTL converter via the hot-shoe for faster recycle times and reduced battery strain. $3,715 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
2. Canon Mirrorless Cameras
Canon EOS R3
To much fanfare, Canon and Nikon, released their first full-frame mirrorless cameras back in 2018—the EOS R and Z7/Z6, respectively. A few years later and the Big Two are going head to head again with flagship cameras boasting jaw-dropping specs, Nikon with the Z9 and Canon with the EOS R3. But these dual-grip beasts are very different cameras. While the Nikon’s specs compare better with those of the R5, the R3 is all about speed, very much in the vain of the 1D X Mark III, Canon’s top-end DSLR for sports photo pros. The R3 shoots continuously at up to 30fps in electronic shutter mode (with no blackout) and up to 12fps with the traditional mechanical shutter, captures 6K/60p RAW as well as 4K/120p 10-bit video (with no crop), and is equipped with Canon’s most sophisticated autofocus system yet: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with more than 1,000 AF points. In a word: fast. $6,000 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The EOS R3 isn’t for everyone, not just because of the $6K price tag. This is a camera designed to freeze fast action no matter how challenging the conditions. If you love capturing a shark feeding frenzy or marlin attacking a baitball, this could be the workhorse for you. Otherwise, you will probably be better served by something more modest.
- Nauticam: Blending elements of Nauticam’s 1D-series and R-series pro housings, the NA-R3 sports an extensive range of controls exactly where you need them while gripping the built-in handles. M24, M16 and M14 bulkheads allow for strobe triggering, external monitor/recorders via HDMI 2.0, vacuum systems, and Ethernet control, while the fiber-optic bulkheads can be used with an optional manual LED trigger or TTL-flash trigger. $7,223 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Canon EOS R5
Canon joined the 8K club when it introduced the R5, which is capable of capturing 8K/30p video internally at 4:2:2 10-bit quality—without cropping. It’s no slouch in the 4K department either, with 4K/120p 4:2:2 10-bit recording on offer for super-smooth cinematic playback at quarter speed. You can also shoot 45-megapixel images at 12fps with continuous autofocus (via Canon’s second-generation Dual Pixel CMOS AF system), and enjoy image stabilization with shake reduction of up to eight stops when using some RF lenses. $3,900 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The R5’s video will no doubt look breathtaking on your 8-foot 8K TV, but for most of us, 4K will do just fine, thank you very much. Having said that, with 8K footage, you’ll have the ability to crop extravagantly, giving you more options in post-production. There is also that small matter of the R5’s well-documented heat buildup, which severely curtails record time. For underwater cinematographers, however, that’s very unlikely to be a concern, since you’re only capturing mere seconds of footage at a time.
- Ikelite: With the R5, all the magic happens internally, so there’s perhaps no pressing need to record video to an external recorder, but if you like using a nice, big external monitor, Ikelite’s housing has an M16 port for an HDMI bulkhead. Install the company’s dedicated TTL converter to enjoy automatic exposure using compatible strobes from Ikelite’s DS series. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Aquatica: With Aquatica’s housing for the R5, you get anodized aluminum construction with integrated grips, ergonomically laid-out controls for the camera’s most important functions, compatibility with Aquatica DSLR sized bayonet mount ports, and the Surveyor vacuum system installed as standard. Dual Nikonos connectors enable attachment of optional external strobes via sync cords. $3,200 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
- Sea&Sea: This machined aluminum housing features a 24mm HDMI 2.0 bulkhead for connecting an external monitor/recorder, a built-in leak sensor, and a bulkhead that accepts a vacuum sensor such as the Vivid Leak Sentinel V4. Not to mention some rather attractive yellow bits! $3,295 | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The NA-R5 housing offers everything you’d expect from a Nauticam: ergonomic control placement around integrated handles, multi-direction pad mirroring that found on the camera, and a port system supporting both RF-mount lenses and EF-mount lenses via Canon’s adapters. You can make use of the twin fiber-optic bulkheads by adding a TTL trigger or manual trigger. You can also add an Atomos Ninja V/V+ in Nauticam’s monitor housing. $5,159 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Seacam: Depth-rated to 260 feet, Seacam’s Silver housing for the R5 is milled from a saltwater-proof light metal alloy that is twice hardened and anodized, and features removeable handles. The housing can be configured with S6 or N5 bulkheads for electrical strobe triggering, and there’s the option of connecting a monitor/recorder via HDMI. A leak detector is fitted as standard (with the vacuum valve and pump purchased separately) and the housing is compatible with Seacam’s various high-quality viewfinders. $5,100 | www.seacam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Inon: If you want a housing to match your Inon strobes, the Japanese company—which is pretty selective about the cameras they choose to make housings for—has obliged in the case of the EOS R5. Their “X-2” housing has a lightweight aluminum construction and ships with a tray, handles, and quick mount brackets—cleverly allowing you to switch between horizontal and vertical shooting orientations. The housing features an integrated TTL converter, calibrated for use with Inon strobes, that gives you the ability to control strobe power manually from the camera. $3,550 | www.inon.jp
Canon EOS R6
The R5’s less-well-endowed sibling may not have big brother’s headline-stealing specs, but there’s still plenty of camera left after shaving $1,400 off the price of an R5: the DIGIC X processor, the Dual Pixel CMOS II AF system, and the image stabilization system. While you won’t be able to shoot 8K or 4K/120p video, you can still capture 4K/60p internally at 10-bit 4:2:2 (albeit with a slight crop, unlike the R5). Plus, still shooters won’t be disappointed with the impressive 12fps burst shooting with continuous AF, or 20fps with the electronic shutter. $2,500 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Not too long ago, the number of consumer-level cameras that could shoot 4K/60p video could be counted on a couple of fingers. So, the fact that the somewhat-affordable R6 can capture that at 10-bit 4:2:2 quality internally is still nothing to scoff at. And if picture taking is your thing, this is one midrange option that should definitely make your short list.
- Nauticam: Very little separates Nauticam’s housings for the R5 and R6. With the NA-R6, you get integrated handles, the company’s famed ergonomic control placement (right thumb levers for AF-On and Q with sub-levers for M-Fn and Record), and the multi-direction pad mirroring that found on the camera. And most importantly for serious underwater filmmakers, there’s a large-bore M24 port for connecting an Atomos Ninja V/V+ monitor/recorder via HDMI 2.0—to make full use of that lovely 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit output. $5,159 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: This housing for the R6 offers all the good stuff you’ll find in Ikelite’s housings for top DSLR and mirrorless models: ABS-PC body with transparent back; Dry Lock (DL) port system, which accommodates both RF-mount lenses and EF-mount lenses with Canon’s EF-EOS R mount adapter; and large control levers for shutter release and autofocus. In addition, after fitting the optional DL5 DS Link TTL Converter, you can get automatic flash exposure using one or two compatible Ikelite DS-series strobes. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Canon EOS R
Like Nikon, Canon built its first full-frame mirrorless camera around the same sensor found in one of its DSLRs—in this case, the EOS 5D Mark IV’s 30.3MP Dual Pixel CMOS affair. And like their Japanese rival, they introduced a new lens mount for the series—the RF-mount—and an adapter to avoid all your precious EF-mount glass going to waste. High-speed shooting is a respectable 8fps shooting (5fps with continuous AF), but 4K video is captured with a 1.8x crop, essentially ruling out wide-angle underwater 4K footage. $1,800 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With Canon’s highly regarded Dual Pixel AF on board, autofocus performance is comparable with that of the company’s DSLRs, making the EOS R an attractive option for still photographers who want a smaller, lighter full-frame system. Underwater videographers should look elsewhere.
- Ikelite: You’d be hard pressed to see the difference between Ikelite’s EOS R housing and its DSLR varieties: It has the same durable, lightweight ABS-PC construction; the same Dry Lock port system; and the same strobe connectivity options, including TTL exposure with compatible DS-series strobes. The DL port system can accommodate EF lenses as well as the new RF lenses using the EF-EOS R Adapter. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Sea&Sea: If a machined aluminum housing for the EOS R is in your future, then consider Sea&Sea’s offering, which features integrated handles and a window for viewing the camera’s top LCD panel. Cleverly, the housing’s focus/zoom dial has two gears—one for the new RF-mount lenses, and another for your good old EF-mount lenses. TTL and manual exposure photography is possible via an optional converter. $3,495 | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
Canon EOS RP
Six months after unveiling the EOS R, Canon followed up with a slimmed-down and much more affordable version in an even smaller body. For $500 less, you lose the in-body stabilization and the top plate LCD, but the other specs should prove more than enough to cater to the needs of those looking to enter the full-frame game. Packed into this tiny box, you’ll find the latest DIGIC 8 processor, a 26MP sensor, and a Dual Pixel AF system with 4,779 selectable AF points. $1,300 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
As with the EOS R, this is an incredibly small and lightweight full-frame camera, and all underwater shooters who travel—that’s pretty much everyone—will reap the benefits. Plus, the EOS RP’s full-frame sensor is an invitation to make full use of Canon’s impressive full-frame EF-mount lenses—and the $500 you save over the EOS R will get you started nicely!
- Ikelite: Beginners will love Ikelite’s signature transparent back, which allows you to check the camera is sitting pretty and the integrity of the seal is sound. To enjoy Ikelite’s excellent TTL automatic exposure, all you need to do is add the converter kit and one, or preferably two, DS-series strobes. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com
Canon EOS M6 Mark II
Canon did something interesting when it released the update to its cropped-sensor mirrorless EOS M6: The company gave us basically the same camera in DSLR and mirrorless forms. Both the 90D and M6 Mark II boast 32.5-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensors, DIGIC 8 processors, Dual Pixel CMOS AF with 5,481 manually selectable AF points, and the ability to record both 4K/30p and Full HD with no crop. All else being more-or-less equal, though, the M6 Mark II will save you a few hundred bucks and give you an overall lighter, smaller system—the reason why mirrorless will one day be king. $850 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Unless you’ve already got a shelf full of awesome EF-S and EF lenses, the EOS M6 Mark II makes for a fine centerpiece of your new underwater rig—whether you shoot stills only, record the odd video clip, or put together fully-fledged underwater films.
- Ikelite: Ikelite’s housing for EOS M6 II gives you the US-based company’s Dry Lock Micro port system, ergonomically fashioned levers for shutter release and AF-ON, and laser engraved control symbols on the back panel. Plus, like Ikelite’s recent housings, installation of TTL is left up to the user, rather than being integrated. $775 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
3. Sony Mirrorless Cameras
Almost a year after Canon announced the development of its 8K-capable R5, Sony unveiled its own full-frame camera with the ability to capture 8K/30p and 4K/60p at 10-bit quality—using the full sensor width. Like the R5, the α1 can also record 4K/120p (though there’s a 1.1x crop) for smooth cinematic slow motion, which really takes underwater footage to the next level. At 50MP, the α1 has a few more megapixels than the R5, while matching the Canon’s 20fps burst shooting with the electronic shutter. You can even increase that to 30fps if you shoot with lossy compressed RAW as opposed to lossless compressed/uncompressed RAW. $6,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The α1 offers Sony shooters next-level video features, not to mention being no slouch in the photo department, but it comes at a premium. If 8K doesn’t do it for you, you can save a ton of money and go for one of Sony’s excellent α7-series cameras.
- Ikelite: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Sony α1 has an almost identical control layout to its videocentric sibling, the α7S III, and Ikelite’s housing can accommodate either camera. Users can take full advantage of the camera’s impressive continuous shooting speeds, with out-of-the-box manual triggering of strobes by Ikelite, Sea&Sea, Inon, and Retra, as well as optional TTL exposure with Ikelite DS-series strobes. There’s also an M16 port for attaching accessories such as an external monitor. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: Built around the N100 port system, like Nauticam’s other Alpha-series housings, the NA-A1 offers all the features the company is known for: aluminum build with integrated handles, highly ergonomic controls, and a built-in vacuum check and leak detection system. There’s also a large-bore M24 bulkhead, which supports HDMI 2.0 and allows you to hook up an Atomos Ninja V/V+ external monitor/recorder—which, of course, Nauticam also has a housing for. $4,540 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Sony α9 Mark II
This top-end model from Sony is a full-frame mirrorless camera geared towards professionals shooting fast action such as sports—and sharks. While the sensor is a relatively modest 24.2 megapixels, the rest of the camera’s spec sheet give the competition a run for their money: “blackout-free” continuous shooting at an impressive 20fps (and a respectable 10fps with the mechanical shutter), a massive buffer of 241 RAW images, and an autofocus system featuring some 693 AF points—covering nearly 93% of the frame. $4,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Professional underwater photographers (with deep pockets) chasing the ocean’s fastest swimmers—in natural light—will relish the α9 II’s blistering speed. Videographers will also appreciate the decent video capabilities—4K/30p and 1080/120p recording at 100Mbps—though the pro-level video tools found in the Sony α7S III aren’t on offer here.
- Nauticam: Depth-rated to 300 feet, this rugged aluminum housing features ergonomic rubberized handles, a patented port locking system, and integrated vacuum monitoring and leak detection. The port system supports more than a dozen Sony lenses as well as Canon EF lenses via a port adaptor and lens converter. $4,127 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: This “200DL” series housing features the American company’s signature ABS-PC blend body and transparent back, Dry Lock (DL) port system, large soft-touch knob for zooming, curved levers for shutter and autofocus, and hard-anodized aluminum buttons. To enjoy Ikelite’s industry-leading TTL, you’ll have to add the optional DL2 DS Link TTL converter. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Sony α7R Mark IV
While the likes of Nikon, Canon and Panasonic have been playing catchup in the full-frame mirrorless game, Sony has been steadily refining its highly regarded Alpha 7 line. Now in its fourth incarnation, the α7R is unquestionably the one to beat: The new 61-megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor leaves the competition in the dust, the mature autofocus system is among the best around, and you can shoot a burst of 68 shots at 10fps with continuous AF. Add to that a high-resolution 5.76M-dot EVF, 4K/30p video at 100Mbps, and 5-axis image stabilization, and you’ve got a hybrid beast that will give rivals a run for their money. $3,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The Sony α7R IV is a serious camera for serious money, and the massive 61MP files it creates will be overkill unless you’re a pro or planning on doing some heavy cropping or hanging stuff on the wall. Pro videographers might want to look elsewhere, since there’s no 4K/60p on offer here.
- Aquatica: Built from “aerospace grade” aluminum with an anodized coating and powder coated paint, Aquatica’s housing aims to put every control in just the right place, and even offers full access to the new joystick for AF point selection. The Surveyor vacuum system comes installed as standard, and there are three possible configurations: with dual Nikonos connectors, a single Ikelite connector, or twin optical connectors. $3,200 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
- Isotta: With its signature red anodized aluminum construction and integrated adjustable handles, Isotta’s housing offers a high-quality home for your precious α7R IV. It’s also set up for videographers who are serious about their movie making: Its large-bore M24 port is ready for bulky HDMI 2.0 cables for connecting up a 4K external recorder like the Atomos Ninja V/V+. $2,790 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
- Sea&Sea: If you prefer your machined aluminum housing with a splash of yellow, check out Sea&Sea’s eye-catching MDXL-series housing with its uber-cool lemon-colored silicone handle inserts (for improved grip). Optionally pop in the Optical YS Converter for fiber-optic connectivity with compatible Sea&Sea strobes in both TTL and manual modes. $3,895 | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
Sony α7R Mark III
In considering Nikon’s and Canon’s first forays into mirrorless full-frame, it’s worth remembering that Sony has a five-year head start with their α7 series. The third-generation models include the resolution-focused α7R III, featuring a 42.4MP sensor, 10fps continuous shooting with AF, and 4K/30p video capture from the full width of the sensor—though 4K full-pixel readout is only in APS-C/Super35 mode. With this number of megapixels at your disposal, potential shooters should remember the quality lenses you’ll need to pair with this camera to extract its full potential. $2,800 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Our reviewer, Joe Platko, deemed the α7R III “a phenomenal camera if you’re photographing big animals and fast action,” but suggested that the disappointing autofocus performance with macro lenses makes this a less-than-ideal tool for shooting the small stuff.
- Aquatica: The Canadian company has put great emphasis on their α7R III housing’s ergonomic design. In particular, there’s a redesigned joystick that makes accessing the camera’s 425 AF points a breeze, and a carefully positioned control for back button AF. They’ve also made it easy to insert the camera into the housing, with self-centering, spring-loaded controls. $3,100 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: Nauticam’s housing for the α7R III combines many of the features that have made the company’s DSLR line so popular in recent years. The red port-locking lever, built-in vacuum seal, and a highly ergonomic control layout are all niceties that demanding pros making the switch from DSLR to mirrorless will appreciate. $4,127 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Sony α7S Mark III
The Alpha 7 series is the standard by which every other full-frame mirrorless camera has been measured, with steady improvements to each new generation of cameras. We’re up to the third iteration of the all-rounder model (α7 III), the fourth incarnation of the high-resolution model (α7R IV), and finally, after a five-year wait, we have the α7S III, the videocentric powerhouse that shoots 4K/120p 10-bit 4:2:2 internally and outputs 4K/60p 16-bit RAW video over HDMI. $3,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
It doesn’t need to be said that the 12-megapixel still images from the α7S III aren’t likely to excite photographers; this is a camera for making movies. At the same time, there’s no 8K on offer here, but the “cool” 4K output from the α7S III is going to be of the very highest quality.
- Nauticam: If you’re sold on the α7S III’s ability to output 16-bit RAW to an external recorder, the NA-A7SIII will cater to your needs: The housing features the required large-bore bulkhead that supports HDMI 2.0, and of course, Nauticam also produces an underwater housing especially for the Atomos Ninja V/V+. Bonus: You’ll be ready to snap on the company’s awesome Wide Angle Conversion Port (WACP) or Super Macro Converter (SMC). $4,127 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Isotta: Housing your 4K powerhouse in Isotta’s signature red anodized aluminum won’t just get you noticed; you’ll also benefit from a host of handy features at a not-too-obscene price: integrated adjustable handles, single-handed open/close, built-in moisture detector, and most importantly, a large-bore port for the hefty HDMI 2.0 cable you’ll need to pipe that 4K/60p ProRes RAW output to an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja V/V+. $2,850 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
Sony α7 IV
The “entry-level” α7-series camera offers higher-resolution stills, lossless RAW compression, and higher-quality 4K video capture than its predecessors. Built around a new 33MP BSI-CMOS sensor as well as Sony’s latest Bionz XR processing engine, the Mark IV boasts a higher-resolution 3.69M-dot viewfinder, borrows the menu system from the α7S III, and inherits the α1’s autofocus algorithms. On the video front, the camera shoots 4K/30p 10-bit 4:2:2 from the full width of the sensor as well as 1080/120p with no crop. $2,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With nearly a dozen models to date, the Alpha 7 series is a tried-and-true system that offers excellent all-round performance in a business-like body. The fourth incarnation of the “basic” model is the best yet and a no-brainer if you want to transition to full frame, especially for users of Sony’s α6000 series of APS-C cameras.
- Ikelite: At first glance, the α7 series cameras all look alike, but there are various differences with regards to control placement. Ikelite’s dedicated housing for the α7 IV shares all its main features with the company’s other housings in the series: ABS-PC blend body and transparent back, Dry Lock (DL) port system, and out-of-the-box manual triggering of strobes as well as TTL exposure with Ikelite DS-series strobes after adding the optional DL2 DS Link TTL converter. You can also custom-order the housing with a large-bore M24 bulkhead to allow you to connect an external monitor/recorder via HDMI 2.0. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: Like Nauticam’s other Alpha-series housings, the NA-A7IV is built around the N100 port system, features ergonomic control placement, and boasts a built-in vacuum check and leak detection system. The housing comes with an M24 bulkhead supporting HDMI 2.0, which allows you to connect an Atomos Ninja V/V+ and record 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:2. Fiber-optic strobe triggering requires the addition of the company’s Mini Flash Trigger, while electrical triggering is possible with an optional Nikonos bulkhead. $4,127 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Sony α7 Mark III
In case you missed it, Sony’s been monopolizing the full-frame mirrorless market for years, and it shows: Their Alpha 7 series is several generations in, and whether you go for the high-resolution option (α7R), video-centric model (α7S), or the all-rounder (α7), you’re getting a refined piece of kit—very much in contention alongside Nikon’s and Canon’s recent offerings. With the α7 III, Sony made improvements in key areas, especially the new backside-illuminated 24MP sensor and beefed-up processor for faster and more-accurate focusing in low light. $2,000 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Sony’s Alpha 7 series are still the “hybrid” full-frame mirrorless cameras to beat: If filmmaking and picture-taking are equally important to you, the α7 III should probably be the first camera you check out.
- Subal: For a pro-grade housing built to stand the rigors of the road, Subal’s α7 III is a top choice. The company offers a ton of customization options, from high-quality viewfinders to bulkheads for different strobe brands. There are different color choices and there’s also an upgraded version that’s good down to 120 meters (almost 400 feet). $4,188 | www.subal.com | www.backscatter.com
- Aquatica: Ergonomic design is at the center of Aquatica’s housing for the α7 III/α7R III. With its self-centering, spring-loaded controls, they’ve made it a breeze to insert the camera into the housing. There’s also a nicely positioned control for back button AF and a redesigned joystick, making it easy to access the camera’s 425 autofocus points. $3,100 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
What do you get if you put two of the most successful camera series of the last decade—the cropped-sensor Alpha 6000 series and the full-frame Alpha 7 series—in a pot, sprinkle fairy dust, and stir? The Sony α7C, of course! With its α6000-series styling and innards borrowing heavily from the α7 III, the α7C crams a lot of camera into a tiny body, including a 24MP BSI-CMOS full-frame sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, and 10fps continuous shooting with autofocus. Sony were even generous enough to use the same high-capacity battery found in the latest α7-series models, promising an impressive 740 shots per charge using the LCD. $1,800 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If compactness matters to you, the α7C has the edge over the slightly chunkier α7III. But while these two models are essentially the same excellent tool for still photography, videographers may want to look elsewhere: Like the α7III, the α7C shoots 4K/30p at only 4:2:0 8-bit and with a 1.2x crop.
- Ikelite: Depth-rated to 200 feet, this “200DL” housing features ergonomically designed levers for shutter and autofocus, a large soft-touch zoom knob, and hard-anodized aluminum buttons. As well as getting out-of-the-box manual electrical triggering of strobes by various manufacturers, you have the option of adding a TTL converter for automatic strobe exposure with Ikelite DS-series strobes. The M16 port means you can attach an Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder via HDMI, allowing you to capture the a7C’s best quality 4K/30p 4:2:2 8-bit video. $1,595 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: Built around the same N100 port system used for the α7 series, the NA-A7C features the company’s usual high-quality aluminum construction, integrated handles, and as-standard vacuum check and leak detection system. A large-bore M24 bulkhead supporting HDMI 2.0 output to an Atomos Ninja V/V+ external recorder allows you to squeeze 4K/30p 4:2:2 8-bit video from the camera, and strobes can be triggered via fiber-optic cables with the addition of an optional LED flash trigger. $3,508 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
The α6000 series is to cropped sensors what the Alpha 7 series is to full frame. That is to say, Sony makes pretty awesome mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors. The cream of the crop is the α6600, which takes everything that made the α6500 such a great flagship camera and makes it just a little better. Notably, the α6600 has a chunkier grip that houses a much higher-capacity battery (the same one that you’ll find in the newer Alpha 7 cameras) for an impressive 800 shots per charge, more than double that of its predecessor. The α6600 also borrows the updated AF system from the α6400, which is among the best on any mirrorless camera. $1,400 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If you use any of the α6000 series cameras for underwater photography (and/or video), your next camera should probably be from the Alpha 7 series. The α6600 is an upgrade for deep-pocketed compact shooters, but if you want to save a few dollars, just snap up the equally capable α6400.
- Nauticam: The NA-A6600 is machined from a solid block of aluminum and features integrated handles with the all-important shutter release and AE-L/AF-L lever perfectly placed alongside the right grip. To make use of the fiber-optic bulkheads, you’ll need to purchase Nauticam’s dedicated LED flash trigger, since the α6600 has no pop-up flash, unlike its predecessor. The housing is compatible with the company’s WWL-1, CMC-1, and CMC-2 wet optics. $2,683 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
While it doesn’t have the α6600’s in-body stabilization, the α6400 does match the flagship model in key areas: ultra-fast focus acquisition speed (“world’s fastest AF” according to Sony), and super responsive tracking and Eye AF. Otherwise, the α6400 sticks to the much-loved formula: 24MP APS-C sensor, 4K/30p video capture (no crop), and speedy continuous shooting—up to 11fps. $900 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Any one of Sony’s α6000-series cameras is a no-brainer for underwater photography, but if the price differences aren’t a consideration, the α6400 is the obvious choice.
- Ikelite: As you’d expect, Ikelite’s dedicated housing for the α6400 is very similar to that for the α6600. Most notably, you get the big, easy-to-operate control levers for the shutter release and the AF/MF button for the all-important back button focus. TTL can be optionally added via the DL2 DS Link Sony TTL Converter. Interestingly, the housing is also able to accommodate the α6100, α6300 or α6500, if you have one of those older models. $775 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: If you want to splurge on an aluminum housing, Nauticam’s NA-A6400 won’t disappoint, with its integrated handles and ergonomically arranged controls. Keep shooting (or recording) for longer with the handy optional 2500mAh battery pack, which is hooked up to the camera via USB. Optional magnifying viewfinders (45º and 180º) further enhance the usability of the EVF. $2,476 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
4. Olympus Mirrorless Cameras
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
Unlike its rivals, Olympus has opted not to hop on the full-frame bandwagon, instead choosing to refine its competent line of Micro Four Thirds cameras. At the top (not including the pro-oriented E-M1X) is the E-M1 III, offering the same 20.4-megapixel sensor and 18fps shooting speeds (with AF and AE) as its predecessors, but improving its class-leading 5-axis image stabilization. DCI 4K/24p video is also on offer, as is 120fps high-speed recording in Full HD for slow motion playback. $1,600 | www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Micro Four Thirds (MFT) is a smart upgrade for compact users accustomed to travel-friendly camera systems, and Olympus and Panasonic offer some great glass to pair with the E-M1 III. If you’re more of a video shooter than a photographer, you might want to consider Panasonic’s MFT offerings, which offer slightly better movie performance and more-advanced video tools.
- AOI: This polycarbonate housing features an integrated optical trigger that allows underwater shooters to make full use of the camera’s Super FP mode. With this high-speed flash sync option, it is possible to use a faster shutter speed than the maximum sync speed of 1/200s—useful when capturing fast action or when using wide apertures. AOI’s Vacuum Analyser & Wet Detection System comes pre-installed, giving users audio and visual alarms should the housing seal become compromised. $1,000 | www.aoi-uw.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: If you want your E-M1 III cloaked in metal and with every essential control at your fingertips, Nauticam’s housing is an excellent choice. Integrated fiber-optic bulkheads give you the option of manual flash triggering via the optional Mini Flash Trigger, or TTL flash triggering by using the Olympus FL-LM3 flash, which Nauticam has somehow made space for. Be warned: You may be tempted to add the company’s awesome—and awesomely expensive—Wet Wide Lens (WWL-1) to complete your setup! $2,786 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: This E-M1 III housing is a great choice if you want to start taking perfectly exposed images: All you need is the DL3 DS Link TTL Converter, a compatible DS-series strobe (or two) and an electrical sync cord, and you’re good to go. The housing also offers manual strobe triggering via fiber-optic ports on the top of the housing. $950 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Olympus OM-D E-M5 III
The Mark III of Olympus’ midrange mirrorless arrived with some serious upgrades: increased resolution of 20MP (up from 16MP), improved autofocus system (similar to that in the E-M1 III), much faster burst shooting (10fps vs 5fps with continuous AF), and naturally, the addition of 4K/30p video capture (both UHD/DCI). Bonus: It’s still very competitively priced. $1,000 | www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The E-M1 III wasn’t a huge leap forward compared to the Mark II, which makes the midrange E-M5 III an even more attractive proposition. Use the money saved towards one of the awesome housings below.
- Nauticam: Built around Nauticam’s N85 port system, the NA-EM5III offers not just access to a wide range of Micro Four Thirds lenses but also easy compatibility with the company’s impressive corrective optics. Videographers can also easily make use of the camera’s 4K/30p 8-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output by adding a Nauticam-housed Small HD monitor. The housing supports either the Olympus FL-LM3 flash for around 3fps bursts or the Nauticam Mini Flash Trigger for up to the maximum 10fps—if your strobes can handle it. $2,373 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: If you want to enjoy the industry standard in automatic TTL flash exposure, Ikelite’s E-M5 III housing is the way to go: Just add the company’s DL3 DS Link TTL Converter and one or two compatible DS-series strobes for nifty in-camera exposure compensation as well as the ability to switch between TTL and manual modes at the press of a button. Other highlights include ergonomically shaped shutter release and AE-L/AF-L levers and laser-engraved control symbols on the back. $950 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark IV
The latest iteration of OM System’s mid-level mirrorless model shows the refinement of features and specs from nearly a decade of evolution. Built around a new, higher-resolution 20-megapixel sensor, the E-M10 Mark IV aims to compete with the competition by adding 4K video at 30p as well as Full HD video at 60p. There’s also an increase in autofocus points and performance, which is critical for video shooting. $700 | www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Olympus has marketed the E-M10 series as an upgrade for smartphone photo fanatics. While that may be a bit of a stretch, the price point and size of the camera make it a good option for compact shooters looking to get into the mirrorless game—without spending an arm and a leg.
- Nauticam: Nauticam’s housing for the E-M10 Mark IV incorporates three generations of housing evolution with pro features like a port and housing latch system shared by their DSLR housings, numerous accessory mounts, and stainless-steel handle brackets. More advanced users will appreciate easy access to manual controls and even the Fn1 button, which can be customized for a variety of uses. $2,373 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: The Ikelite housing for the E-M10 Mark IV emphasizes significant controls, as well as providing access to all main functions. For example, the AE-L/AF-L control gets a dedicated lever, which can be extended if needed for those with thick gloves or using the housing on a tray. By adding the DL3 DS Link TTL Converter for TTL automatic flash exposure, entry-level mirrorless users can focus less on lighting challenges and more on composition and subject selection. $850 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Olympus PEN E-PL10
If you’ve already spent countless hours joyously photographing all creatures great and small with your amazing Olympus TG-6—or another equally worthy compact camera—you may be wondering where you progress from here. The answer could well be an entry-level mirrorless like the Olympus E-PL10. You get a lot of camera in a tiny body for a very modest outlay: 16MP 4/3" sensor, over 8fps burst shooting, 3-axis in-body image stabilization, and 4K/30p and 1080/60p video. $650 (camera and 14–42mm kit lens) | www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With the 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 power zoom kit lens (for a mere $50 on top of the body-only price), the E-PL10 is a solid base to build a capable and versatile little rig with wet lenses. However, you still have the option of maxing out the quality of your results by trying dedicated macro and wide-angle lenses from the extensive Micro Four-Thirds catalogue from both Olympus and Panasonic.
- Backscatter: AOI’s polycarbonate housing for the E-PL10 comes in somber white or gray, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, why not go for the tentacle-wrapped Backscatter special edition “Octo” housing? You’ll be ready to start shooting immediately with the included flat port and zoom gear for the 14–42mm kit lens as well as the built-in LED manual flash trigger and vacuum detector and moisture alarm (both of which are handily rechargeable via a single USB connector). $649 | www.backscatter.com
5. Panasonic Mirrorless Cameras
Panasonic Lumix S1R
Hot on the heels of Nikon and Canon, Panasonic joined Sony’s full-frame mirrorless party with not one but two models, and it’s the 47.3MP S1R that will most interest stills shooters. In addition to the impressively high pixel count, the S1R boasts a very high-resolution viewfinder packing 5.76M dots, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, and 6fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus. As well as shooting 4K video from the full-sensor width, the S1R can capture Full HD footage at 180p, which can then be played back at 30p for buttery smooth 1/6th slow-motion. $3,700 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Producing images of up to 8368 x 5584 pixels, the S1R promises to be a fantastic camera for photographers who want to print big. True hybrid shooters may want to opt for the S1 and its more modest 24.2MP sensor because oversampling is used to achieve higher-quality 4K/30p video, unlike the S1R’s pixel-binning method. It’s worth noting that both cameras shoot 4K/60p video, but the S1 has a 1.5x crop while the S1R has only a 1.09x crop, making wide-angle shooting a much more viable option.
- Ikelite: The US company’s signature features from its DSLR housings are included here: the Dry Lock (DL) port system for compatibility with even the biggest and most professional lenses, ergonomic (and optionally extendable) shutter release and AF-ON control levers, and TTL exposure with Ikelite DS-series strobes when you add on the DL3 DS Link TTL Converter. It’s compatible with both the S1 and S1R. $1,895 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: Accommodating both the S1 and S1R, Nauticam’s rugged aluminum housing is characteristically engineered to route every camera control to the perfect position on the housing within reach of one of the integrated handles. The company’s familiar N120 port system is employed, allowing the use of L-mount lenses as well as Sigma EF-mount lenses via an EF-to-L adapter. $5,610 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Panasonic Lumix S1H
With the S1 and S1R, Panasonic’s first forays into full-frame mirrorless were video-oriented and stills-focused cameras with 24.2MP and 47.3MP sensors, respectively. The S1H is an even more cinema-centric camera, with a slew of impressive video specs: 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording, 4K/60p 10-bit recording, DCI 4K format at 400Mbps (compared to the S1’s UHD 4K at 150Mbps), and even 6K/24p. Your money is also getting you 5-axis in-body stabilization, twin UHS-II SD card slots, and “unlimited” record times. $3,500 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
It’s not only about video resolution: The S1H’s advanced video features and tools are aimed squarely at (well-heeled) seasoned videographers with the skills to make the most of them. More casual hybrid photo/video shooters will be better off with the significantly more affordable S1, which is still very well-endowed in the video department.
- Nauticam: With the NA-S1H, Nauticam has put video front and center with the inclusion of the large-bore M28 bulkhead supporting HDMI 2.0 connections to external monitors/recorders like the Atomos Ninja V/V+ and Shogun Inferno (in Nauticam monitor housings, of course). There’s also support for Sigma’s MC-21 EF-to-L adapter, which allows the use of Sigma EF-mount lenses and focus/zoom gears for those lenses. $5,366 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Panasonic Lumix S5
The “entry-level” S5 features the same 24MP BSI CMOS sensor and in-body 5-axis image stabilization found in the higher-end S1, as well as the ability to record 4K/30p video at 10-bit 4:2:2 using the full sensor width. If you hook up an Atomos Ninja V/V+ external recorder, you can record 12-bit RAW at 5.9K/30p and 4K/60p. $1,700 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
With the S5, you can start your full-frame mirrorless journey for the same price as the GH5 II. Just remember that full-frame lenses will cost you, compared to their Micro Four Thirds counterparts.
- Ikelite: Videographers can make the most of the S5’s high-quality RAW output to the Atomos Ninja V/V+ by custom-ordering Ikelite’s housing with a large-bore M24 port, which supports HDMI 2.0. Otherwise, the “200DL” housing offers a full complement of features: lightweight ABS-PC body, ergonomically levers for shutter release and autofocus, and hard-anodized aluminum buttons. You get out-of-the-box manual electrical triggering of strobes and you can have TTL flash exposure with Ikelite DS-series strobes by adding an optional TTL converter. $1,795 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
Panasonic Lumix GH6
With the release of the GH5, Panasonic quickly gathered a committed following among budding filmmakers. In the intervening period, the company gave us the GH5s and GH5 Mark II, but it took the unveiling of the GH6 to really get Micro Four Thirds users excited. The flagship MFT camera boasts a 25.2MP sensor and the Venus image processor, which opens up fresh territory for underwater “hybrid” shooters: 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:2, 4K/120p 10-bit 4:2:0, and 5.7K/60p 10-bit 4:2:0 video recording, as well as 75fps burst shooting with the electronic shutter. $2,200 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
While the aforementioned GH5 variants probably couldn’t justify an upgrade for owners of the original GH5, the new GH6 represents a significant step up in terms of video capture capabilities. At the same time, while the new camera’s “hybrid” credentials are justified, pure still shooters should consider alternatives with larger-format sensors offering better dynamic range, lower noise and higher pixel count.
- Ikelite: Traditionally targeting still shooters with its industry-leading TTL system and high-quality strobes, Ikelite has recently taken significant steps to entice videographers by offering the ability to custom-order housings with an M24 port—allowing users to attach an external monitor/recorder like the Atomos Ninja V/V+ via HDMI 2.0. That option is available for this GH6 housing, while all the usual Ikelite benefits are on offer, including TTL strobe exposure with the addition of the DL3 DS Link Panasnoic/Olympus TTL Converter Ikelite PT1 Hotshoe Kit. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The Hong Kong company has a long history of supporting Panasonic’s GH series, and the NA-GH6 housing is as impressive as its predecessors. As well as Nauticam’s robust aluminum construction and plethora of controls ergonomically arranged around integrated handles, you get a large-bore M24 bulkhead for hooking up a monitor/recorder via HDMI 2.0, two fiber-optic ports for strobe triggering, and the company’s vacuum check and leak detection system as standard. $4,503 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II
While everyone waited impatiently for the GH6, Panasonic offered up a supercharged version of the GH-series flagship—the GH5 Mark II. And while it uses the same 20.3MP sensor as the original model, it got a new processor, which allowed the GH5 to be improved in key areas. Most significantly, the GH5 II can record 4K video in 10-bit 4:2:0 at up to 60p (which wasn’t possible with the GH5 without an external recorder) and the HDMI output offers 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:2. In addition, particularly important for wide-angle shooters, 4K/60p capture uses the whole sensor area, as opposed to the slight crop in the GH5. $1,500 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The Mark II upgraded the original GH5 in important ways, but it has become somewhat overshadowed by the GH6. Still, if you can forego the slo-mo possibilities of 4K/120p and the cropping advantages of 5.7K/60p, you can save significant money by opting for the GH5 Mark II.
Panasonic Lumix GH5s
It’s important to be sensitive—and even more so if you’re a mirrorless camera trying to appeal to pro-level videographers. The new Panasonic Lumix GH5s (note the “s” for sensitive) improves ISO sensitivity to a whopping 51,200 without extending beyond its native range. The only caveat? At 10.28 megapixels, that sensor in the GH5s is only half the resolution of its less sensitive sibling. $1,900 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If you’re specifically working in low-light environments, the advantages of the low-noise sensor in the GH5s may be significant. For everyone else, the GH5 II or GH6 is a much more well-rounded choice.
- Isotta: The Isotta housing for the GH5s and GH5II (and original GH5) complements those cameras’ relatively-compact form by weighing in at just 4lbs, which means it can fit easily in your carry-on luggage. Features include a double O-ring seal, manual strobe trigger, and a moisture indicator light. $2,690 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: Ikelite’s GH5II/GH5/GH5s housing is a winner for hybrid videographers, with an M16 port for an HDMI 1.6 bulkhead as well as the option of a large-bore M24 port for an HDMI 2.0 bulkhead. And if you’re armed with strobes rather than LEDs, you have the option of adding a converter so you can make good use of Ikelite’s industry-leading TTL exposure. $1,595 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: As with Nauticam’s DSLR housings, the NA-GH5SV is designed to place important controls right where you need them—of course, with particular attention paid to the camera’s video functions. Crucially, the housing features an M28 bulkhead connection that supports HDMI 2.0 for use with external recorders like the Atomos Ninja V/V+. $4,540 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Panasonic Lumix G9
Building on the strengths that made the video-centric GH5 series so well-liked, the photo-centric Panasonic G9 is built around a 20.3-megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor. A big selling point for nature and outdoor shooters is the addition of a 6.5-stop image stabilization system. Panasonic claims that the camera features the world’s fastest autofocus system: It uses 225 AF points to achieve focus in as little as 0.04 seconds. $1,500 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
The Panasonic G9 might just be one of the best “bangs for your buck” when it comes to mirrorless cameras. The camera offers a solid mix of impressive still and video specs for those hybrid (or undecided) underwater image-makers.
- Ikelite: Ergonomics and versatility are the order of the day with Ikelite’s G9 housing: The AF/AE lock and shutter receive dedicated levers and users can extend both for use with a tray and grips. As well, the addition of the PT1K Panasonic Kit makes it possible to pair the camera with the TTL exposure provided by Ikelite’s DS-series strobes. $1,895 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
6. Fujifilm Mirrorless Cameras
Fujifilm’s flagship X-T series cameras have already developed an enthusiastic following among land-based shooters, and with good reason: From image quality to autofocus accuracy to video performance, these cameras are up there with the best of them. The fourth iteration boasts a 26.1-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, burst shooting of 15fps with the mechanical shutter, and 4K/60p video and 1080/240p for slo-mo playback. There’s also in-body image stabilization for smoothing out those wobbles in your footage. $1,700 | www.fujifilm-x.com
Who Should Buy It?
With its copious dials and buttons for direct manual control, the X-T4 is very well suited to underwater photography, while the growing range of X-mount lenses includes many with top-notch optical quality. It’s also no slouch in the video department. In short, if you want something a bit different, this is a no-brainer.
- Subal: For some serious Austrian engineering, Subal has you covered with their housing hewn from a solid block of aluminum, which is then hard-coated and powder-coated. The housing is depth-rated to 80 meters (260 feet), but an upgraded version is also available that will allow you to dive to 120 meters (almost 400 feet). €3,950 | www.subal.com
- Ikelite: Ikelite began supporting Fujifilm with the X-T3, and the eminently affordable housings are a great match for what is a competitively priced camera. You get all the features found on Ikelite’s housings for DLSR and mirrorless cameras from other brands: ABS-PC body and transparent back, Dry Lock (DL) port system, and control levers for the shutter release and AF-L button. With the optional DL4 DS Link TTL Converter, you can add TTL exposure using one or two Ikelite DS-series strobes. $1,895 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The new higher-capacity battery in the X-T4 was a less-talked-about but nevertheless important upgrade, and it allowed Nauticam to make its new NA-XT4 housing substantially smaller than its predecessor by removing the need to accommodate an optional USB power pack under the camera. Serious filmmakers who want to use a nice, bright external monitor—and record top-quality 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:2 clips—will appreciate the M24 bulkhead that makes possible an HDMI2.0 connection to the Atomos Ninja V/V+. $3,921 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com