Saturday, July 4, 2015

Gopro and Sidekick in Laguna Beach

I took the sidekick out for the first time last weekend. Unfortunately, the conditions were not good enough to really make a good evaluation of it. With 10-15 foot visibility it is hard to get good pictures and backscatter gets worse in low visibility taking away some of the advantage of a light.

Still, I did get a few pictures which were clearly improved by the light:

In those cases, it was clear that the subject was just too dark. Particularly with the two Garibaldi photos, I would have never got the shot to come out sharp without the light. Under ledges or kelp beds the light really helps.

There is a down side though, a few pictures show quite a bit of backscatter near the top of the image. This is because the light is too close to the camera when using the dive arm:

Fortunately, the effect is only seen near the top of the image. In a large number of photos, it is hidden by blue water:

This is likely to be as far as I go with modifying my setup. It is true that a dive tray with two sidekicks would have some real advantages, particularly for video, but this is starting to get to be a lot of money for little improvement.

Going any farther, it seems like the Gopro needs to be replaced for something else. A mirrorless camera like a Olympus E-PL5 or a Olympus OM-D E-M1 probably makes the most sense for underwater use. A setup for the E-PL5 ends up at $750 for the housing and $400 for the camera while the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is $1300 for the housing and $1000 for the camera. There is probably another $700 before you have a full dive rig, so it is more like $2000 to $3000 for a full mirrorless setup.

Unfortunately, since I use a Sony HX400V superzoom for most my iNaturalist submissions a mirrorless camera would end up dedicated entirely to underwater use or at best a few photos of kids. Since no mirrorless cameras have built in GPS and all require changing lenses to go back and forth between macro photos and photos of distant birds; they just don't make sense for the majority of my photography.

Maybe a DSLR with built in GPS like a Nikon D5300 would work for both the above water, and underwater photography I do. This gets expensive fast though. The camera will be $950, the housing with a flash will be $2000. Then it would be another $1000 or more in lenses to make it work for both the macro and telephoto photography I do on land. Also, all the reviews suggest that the camera has worse GPS than my Sony HX400V. So more than likely, it would only see use underwater.

If I better understood what I wanted, I would have bought an Olympus TG-4 instead of the Gopro. It is optimized for photos rather than video and is in a similar price range. It is too small an upgrade for me to justify while I own the Gopro though. Perhaps in two years I will change my mind once the Gopro is starting to be dated and we have an upgrade or two to the TG-4.

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