Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quick Guide to Using a Canon 7D in a Nauticam Housing

I’ve been shooting with a Canon 7D in a Nauticam housing for several months now. I am a longtime Nikon user, so using Canon gear has required me to relearn some habits. I’ve been very impressed with the Nauticam housing, as well as the prompt service and skilled and knowledgeable staff of Reef Photo. Being able to shoot video as well as stills with the 7D is wonderful.

Physical Setup:
Remember to remove the eyepiece from the camera (I am told by Reef Photo that this should not be necessary).
When mounting camera on the bottom plate: remember to align the pin on the bottom plate to the hole in the camera body.
Mounting zoom gear on the Tokina 10-17mm lens: the first piece, the plastic C-ring, goes on first. There is a lip on the front of this C-ring. The lip should face the front of the lens. Put the C-ring so it controls the zooming of the lens. Then put the zoom gear over the C-ring with the gears facing the back of the lens. The gear will stop at the lip of the C-ring. See the diagram and PDF from Nauticam.

When installing the port extension – turn CCW. BE sure to lubricate the O-rings so that they slide in easily and don’t get pinched.
Getting the extension ring off: use a strap wrench from an automotive store. If you have a strap wrench on the extension ring and are holding the larger dome face down on a table, you want to turn the extension ring CCW, until the dash on the extension ring aligns with the circle on the dome.

Camera settings:
Set color space to Adobe RGB
Set image review to 8 seconds

If shooting wide-angle subjects like whales and sharks in blue water, it is better to prefocus before the shot and to disable autofocus. Trying to focus on, say, a dark sperm whale in blue water can lead to a situation where the autofocus hunts back and forth, never able to lock on the subject. Deactivating the shutter-released-based autofocusing and setting prefocus at about 3 feet is the best way to get shots of big animals.
To do the above,: in custom menu, disable AF when shutter release is half-depressed. Remember to turn this back on for most other kinds of shooting, such as macro. .
Focusing on your fin sets the lens to 3 feet or so –and in 99% of situations, that focusing distance will be fine to photograph animals that are anywhere from 2 feet to 40 feet away. Look through the viewfinder and set your focus on your fin. Since you’ve disabled autofocus using the shutter release button, you must focus using the AF-On button. On the Nauticam housing, this is the first lever on your right. I prefocus when I am getting ready for an animal to approach, and I also use the AF-On lever to focus on an animal if conditions are right for autofocusing.

I strongly recommend autobracketing all images. With the Canon 7D, a custom setting allows you to keep the autobracket setting even after the camera is turned on and off again. I keep my camera set permanently so that it autobrackets my exposures.

Seeing the remaining shots left on your card is a bit difficult with the Nauticam, since you cannot see the upper LED panel on the camera body. In the viewfinder, you can only see remaning “burst shots” left, which is not an indication of how many shots you have left on your card (far more important to me, since I need to know how many shots I have left before I have to get out of the water and change cards).
There are two ways you can have an idea of how many shots you have left on your card. I use 8Gb and 16Gb cards in my 7D. I know that in general, without any video shooting, I have about 250 shots in an 8Gb card. If I do an image review, the image number shows up on the last image that I just shot. If I am on image 150, then I know that I have about 100 shots left.
The better way to see how many shots you have remaining is to activate Live View shooting. Just press the start/stop button to activate Live View shooting, and the number of shots remaining on the card appears in the lower part of the screen.

When shooting large animals in blue water without flash units, I usually set the camera to shutter priority mode, with the shutter speed 1/125 or more. I set the exposure to –1/3 stop, with autobracketing set around this point, so that exposures range from –2/3 stop to 0 stops from the automatic exposure recommendation. This generally renders blue water a nice rich, deep blue and slightly reduces the tendency to overexposure in blue water shooting. In clear tropical water, with the sun out, I’ll set the ISO speed to 160 or 320 rather than using the automatic ISO mode, since the 7D’s sensor has been proven to have much less noise when set at multiples of 160 rather than intermediate settings such as 250. I’ll review what I just shot to make sure that the exposure looks fine, and that my aperture is generally being set to f5.6 or higher. I do all these settings through the Q menu, which allows all these settings except changing the mode from, say, S to M.

I use a Tokina 10-17mm lens behind a 100mm Zen glass dome to shoot large animals. I’ve been pleased with the results. Note that you do not need an exension ring to use the Zen dome with the Tokina 10-17mm lens; I bought my Zen dome from Reef Photo and they made the dome with the Tokina lens in mind. They have a different model of the Zen dome that is customized for other lenses like the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. Ryan Canon at Reef Photo writes about this: “We have a different model for 10.5 that uses a shorter extension ring. If you were to switch back to Nikon we could convert the port back to the correct length for 10.5, but it is more difficult than you'll want to do yourself. “

When shooting video:
I first set focus by using the AF-ON button while in “stills shooting mode.” When video is working properly, a live view mode will come on. If you are recording, be sure that the red dot in the upper R-hand corner of the frame appears. This is difficult to see when the camera is in the housing. .

When shooting video, AF works, but it takes a good three seconds. Make sure when pressing the AF-ON button that the AF sensor is focused on a good point. See the manual for an explanation.

1 comment:

The Photography Indonesia said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)