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which Cam for underwater ?

underwater scuba diving water

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#1 christian mann

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 06:29 AM

Hi guys,

 

we might do a 2 weeks underwater shoot off the Wild Coast in South Africa...

As I'm not really experienced underwater I was wondering which camera(s) would you choose?

 

What would be the options? We are looking at using about 5 cams in total. Due to budget restrictions we are likely to use one "proper" cam (ALEXA Mini or RED Dragon?) and about 4 smaller/cheaper cams...I thought of either SONY FS-7, Canon C300 Mark II, Blackmagic URSA (mini) and SONY AS7 II.

 

Does anyone have experience with either of the cams under water, what is the performance is like and what would be the best option in terms of handling? Which underwater housing can you recommend ?

 

Any thoughts/input on the suggested cams? Any other recommandations?

 

We'll be shooting up to 20m below the surface but obviously also be shooting interviews on land/on the boats. It'll be broadcasted on TV.....

 

Thanx for some input form the underwater cracks :)

 


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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 10:59 AM

It really depends on what you're going to be shooting and how much surface support you'll have.

Remember that the bigger the camera, the more difficult and expensive it is to use underwater. You mentioned the A7SII, that MAYBE a great choice. However, unlike shooting on land where maybe only a few things in any given shot are moving, underwater everything is moving all the time, even in a static shot. So MPEG long gop cameras tend to have problems dealing with being underwater. They will smear a lot and not give you as crisp of an image. Plus, the 8 bit nature of that format, will leave you with visible steps in the image. I'm also not sure if the A7SII battery is up for the challenge either. Some housings have built in battery doublers, but I haven't found one for the A7S yet.

I've done a little bit of work with the blackmagic pocket camera and housing. It's not as sensitive as the A7SII of course, but the Nauticam housing is inexpensive, holds many batteries and is super small. Plus you can shoot everything in RAW with a 128gb card and get some amazing workable images. http://www.backscatt.../na-16103.lasso

I'd personally aim for cameras that shoot actual RAW because they will give you the dynamic range to color correct and match later. If you are going to use lights, the pocket will be fine. If you can't use lights, then you should be finding a more sensitive camera, but I don't know of a small, sensitive, 12 bit RAW shooting camera other then what blackmagic makes.

If you can tell me more about the production, I can do some research and let ya know.
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#3 christian mann

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 04:51 AM

Hi Tyler,

 

thanx for the infos thus far.

 

I also got more infos by now from production so the requierments have change and it looks like this: it is a reality show where only 20% are filmed in/under water and the rest will be on the boats and on land.

I scrapped the RED/Mini idea (budget) and also Cams like C300 are too epensive. We've shot a reality show before with the FS-7 and I actually like it quiet a bit (and the producer too ;) )

So in terms of underwater filming: we won't have lights but the BM Pocket Camera still looks interesting......I guess the Metabones adapter won't compensate when it comes to sensitivity....it's just one stop. But I guess the difference in terms of sensitivity between AS7 II and BMPC is more than just one stop....

 

Now that I know that only 20% will be filmed underwater I am more willing to make a compromise  with the underwater cameras. In an ideal world I would be using the same camera for all the shots but this is just not happening....so I'd rather go the best option available for the cameras "on land" and most likely settle for 2nd best in terms of underwater cameras...

 

Re. the AS7II : isn't the color sampling 4:2:0 also an issue? Isn't that going to be a problem when grading the shots? Or would it not be a big issue as colorspace isn't top priority underwater.....

 

How about the Black Magic Production Camera? 4K, 12-bit RAW, 35mm sensor.......what is the performance in low light compared to the AS7II ?


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#4 Akos Baranya

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 05:36 AM

There was some info over at the blackmagic forum about it, and apparently the URSA mini will not be getting an underwater housing according to the one of the housing manufacturers, because the power button is behind the flip-out lcd screen and thus the camera cannot be powered when inside a housing. A bit of a design snafu by Blackmagic. Read up on the production camera and noise, it is not a good performer in low light, with all kinds of noise issues coming up. The Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera might be something suitable for your needs, its super small and has the pocket sensor.

 

Something to consider with underwater filming is that you will want to be shoot with wider lenses because the water affects the focal length of your lens, and it may be easier to find suitable wide-angle lenses for cameras with bigger sensors.


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#5 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 09:49 AM

Re. the AS7II : isn't the color sampling 4:2:0 also an issue? Isn't that going to be a problem when grading the shots? Or would it not be a big issue as colorspace isn't top priority underwater.....


Sure, the color sampling is part of the issue, but the stepping or banding from 8 bit recording is the main issue. 10 bit 4:2:2 would be the lowest quality I'd ever shoot in, above or under water and with below the water, it's a huge problem due to banding.

Here is an example of banding:

Look at the rings which emanate from any bright source. You don't get that issue on land anywhere near as much, unless of course you're shooting through fog/smoke at a bright source.

Also, you can only use automatic M4/3rds glass with the pocket camera in the housing. Nobody makes a housing big enough to support big glass.

 

How about the Black Magic Production Camera? 4K, 12-bit RAW, 35mm sensor.......what is the performance in low light compared to the AS7II ?


Naa, the production camera is a real pain, forget it.
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