Sealife 3.0?

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Ryan Neely

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I have also recently acquired a Micro 3.0. The decision was made by my wife who said, "Get the thing that is fully sealed so you don't have to worry about flooding."

I've had it in the lake twice. Once to snorkel and once on a dive. Already I can see that the lack of strobes is going to be an issue while shooting in the murky waters of northern Minnesota. The twin 2500 lights aren't nearly powerful enough to freeze movement (fish or my own). I'm also noticing quite a bit of distortion around the edges of the lens. This isn't the standard distortion I would expect from a true wide angle lens, this is more like the distortion you get when screwing on one of those cheap aftermarket "wide angle" filters onto an SLR lens. It's a nice stretched look.

Clearly I'm going to need to work with this camera a bit more to find the "sweet spot" as relates to focus. I don't how it chooses it's focal point. There is a metering option that I can change, but I wouldn't image that has anything to do with focus. Some images come out with great focus on the subject, some not so much, and several seem to suggest the 12" minimum focal distance is really something like three feet.

I did speak with SeaLife a few times prior to purchasing the unit, however, because I had the same thought as @BrewingDiver about waiting for a new DC. I was informed that SeaLife did not have plans to continue the DC line. The quote I was given was, "Sadly, people just aren't making cameras anymore because everyone has cell phones," which carried into a conversation about how there wasn't much sense in creating a product that was in decline.

I don't know that I agree with that, but I'm no longer in that industry so what do I know?

After really only a single test in some very dark and murky water, the only thing I can say is that I need to work with the camera more to understand how it operates, but I think it will work "okay" for my needs now.

For reference:

MICR0198.JPG

This image is SOOC. I'm at a depth of about 15 feet. It is overcast. Visibility is probably fifteen or twenty feet. I wouldn't expect miracles in terms of clarity or light quality here, but the lens distortion around the edges (especially in the lower right corner where there's actual detail) is a bit disappointing.

MICR0187_1.jpg

I'm trying to photograph this snail (the purple smudge near the center of the frame). This is the same dive as above. Unless I've become an absolute disaster at gauging distance, I'd say I'm about eighteen inches from the snail (which, if I read the manual correctly, is greater than the minimum focal distance for the native camera) and the only thing in focus is some lake weed an additional two feet behind the snail.

As I said, I will need to practice more to figure out how it's deciding to focus on what.
 
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gqllc007

gqllc007

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I have also noticed the minimum focus distance is much longer than they state.
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gqllc007

gqllc007

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Those were with the TG6. The diver is holding the SeaLife
573DD202-917D-462C-AC9C-5753EE4563E3.jpeg
 

Ryan Neely

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It's interesting to see the difference between the two. The TG6 seems to have the same color range as my fauxPro, which isn't saying much. That could probably be helped with strobes. The SeaLife appears to have a better color range but looks flatter. That's something I noticed, too. I'm definitely spending time boosting contrast. (That could be an artifact of poor lighting conditions, though.)

I spent time with a dive instructor on Bonaire who used the DC2000 and I loved the color fidelity it provided at 40-feet with no additional lighting, but that's the Caribbean and not murky quarries and mines.

I'll keep playing with mine and report back if I make any progress.
 

Ryan Neely

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I had an opportunity today to test the Micro 3.0 out of the water. It was bothering me that the focal distance wasn't what I thought it should be. I had previously erroneously stated that the manual says the fixed focal distance was twelve inches. That is incorrect.

From page 54 of the manual:

The ideal shooting distance is within 4ft (1.2 meters). This distance will result in greater detail. The camera's minimum focus range is 15" (38cm). For shooting closer shooting [sic] distances of 6" to 24" (15cm to 60cm), consider purchasing the optional 10X close-up lens (item # SL572).

and again from page 65 of the manual:

The camera uses a fixed focus lens that is sharp from 15" (38cm) to infinity. Make sure to maintain at least 15" (38cm) distance between the camera and the subject. For close-up shooting distances of 6" to 24" consider purchasing the SeaLIfe 10X Close-Up lens (SL572).

and, finally, from page 70 of the manual:

Fixed-focus lens
15" to infinity (40cm to infinity)

Just to clarify, I was wrong about the 12" minimum focal distance. Clearly it is 15".

Anyway, what you'll see below is a tape measure laid out across a table with some metal dice interspersed along the tape to indicate distance. These are the jpegs straight out of camera and not the raw files. (The raw files look a bit better in terms of the sharpening applied to them. The jpegs are a bit over-sharpened for my taste).

However, this was just a test of the focal distance.

The dice were positioned so that their faces are aligned with the distance indicated, putting the entirety of the die behind the focal distance to ensure proper focus. They are laid out as follows:

Bismuth: Six inches
Copper: Twelve inches
Gold: Fifteen inches (the minimum focal distance)
Palladium: Eighteen inches
Silver: Twenty-four inches
The end of the tape is a thirty-two inches.

One thing to note: The tape begins at the front of the lens and not at the sensor (which is where it should being, however there is no indicator on the camera to show where the sensor is located). The difference here might be up to an inch but would increase the focal distance shown on the tape, putting each of the dice at a greater distance away from the point of focus on the sensor.

Herewith the results:

MICR0215.JPG


If you can open this image and zoom into it, you will notice that the gold die (at fifteen inches) is still out of focus. Even the palladium die (at eighteen inches) is soft. This could be an optical artifact of the metallic sheen and the rounded edges of the die, but I don't think so. Silver, at twenty-four inches, appears to be in critical focus.

The above image was shot with Auto ISO and average metering without any other adjustments to the camera. The exif data shows that the settings were 1/60" shutter speed, f/2.8, ISO 200. I was inside a three-season porch on a cloudy day illuminating the scene with a single Sea Dragon 2500 F.

In the second image (below) the only change is that I added the 10X Close-Up diopter "wet lens" to the camera. The materials for this lens indicate that it allows for a closer focal distance of six inches to twenty-four inches. (Note: it is not a macro lens, it merely allows one to focus on objects that are closer to the lens.)

MICR0224.JPG


As with the first image, the tape begins at the edge of the lens. With the diopter on, this might add an additional 3/4" to the true focal distance to the sensor, but (as with the previous image) this would merely increase the focal distance.

The materials for this diopter lens specifically states that it provides

a focusing range of 6 to 24 inches (15 to 60cm) underwater and 3” to 6” (8cm to 15cm) on land

Which actually holds true for land. The bismuth die, the face of which is right on the six-inch mark, is soft. Meanwhile, the numeral 4 on the tape is critically sharp.

This makes me wonder if the native focal distance for the camera on land also changes compared to in the water (which could explain the soft focus at the fifteen inch mark in the first image).

That being said, the range change is interesting to consider. If the diopter has a range of 3" to 6" on land, what is it about being in water that not only changes the minimum distance from 3" to 6" but increases the focal distance range by a factor of six? (On land, the focal distance is three to six inches, a total range of three inches. In water, the focal distance is six to twenty-four inches, a total range of eighteen inches.)

Is this same effect happening with the native lens without the diopter?

I will need to find a cloth tape I can take in the water the next time I go diving to investigate further.

(One final note: The distortion along the perimeter of the image while using the diopter should be expected. The addition of another lens element for the sole purpose of shortening the focal distance requires an extreme bending of light which will always result in this type of distortion. The only way around this is to shoot with lens originally designed for macro photography . . . which would require a different camera body and a housing and said lens.)
 

ssssnake529

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I have the Sea Life Micro 3.0

I am new to diving and am struggling with all of the tasks involved with taking photos underwater. However, it appears to me that the Micro 3.0 is capable of capturing decent photos if I do my part. The lens is reasonably sharp, and the sensor seems decent.


Here are some links to pictures I've taken. Image quality is decent, even if composition and lighting could use work. I think the camera has potential. Particularly for someone like me, who is new to diving and underwater photography, it seems like a good tool.

https://flic.kr/p/2mk6y5X

https://flic.kr/p/2mk96CU
 

Ryan Neely

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@ssssnake529, take your time to get used to diving before going too crazy adding other tasking to your attention list. We can only focus on so much at a time.

As you say, the lens is sharp (closest toward the center) and the sensor is decent. I agree that it will be a good little fun camera to have around. It doesn't require a lot of manipulation and reproduces mostly acceptable image quality given the photographer pays attention to all the important bits.

I'm still disappointed in the distortion along the perimeter of the lens. This is noticeable even in your images (reference the fan coral in the first image in the upper right-hand corner).

I'm also disappointed by the lack of even mild exposure control. There is an exposure value compensation setting that can be utilized, but I'd loved to have seen an exposure lock with the shutter button half pressed like we see in most cameras.

Alas, work within the limitations and the work will be better for it.

That said, I've been practicing with it over the last six weeks and will have some examples to share soon. Nothing in blue water like you have (I dive locally in mine pits, so it's green and dark), but I think I'm getting something closing in on respectable.
 

IDEngineer

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Reviving this thread....

My dear wife gave me a Sealife Micro 3.0 for Christmas, complete with their 10x diopter "macro" lens. I've since taken it diving off the Big Island (Hawaii) in both daylight and for a night Manta Ray dive. I'm coming from a GoPro in its optional diving case. My main reason for switching was to narrow the GoPro's ridiculously wide field of view, which is why I asked for the "macro" lens right up front.

So far my impressions are mixed. The Micro's user interface is straightforward and easily used underwater. Yes, it lacks a complete set of exposure controls but that shouldn't be a surprise - it's supposed to be a sort-of point and shoot camera. With adequate light the color sensitivity seems to be good, and the focus seems sharp enough.

My biggest complaint so far is the field of view is still stupidly wide, at 100 degrees(!). And the "macro" lens does not improve that... it does shorten the minimum focus length but has zero effect on the field of view. So my primary reason for getting this camera+lens hasn't been improved.

I'm not sure what most people want from a scuba camera, but I seldom want to take wide, panoramic photos. I want to get close, tight shots of interesting subject matter without having to get so close that I scare off the subject. Yes, I know the "macro" lens can focus down to 3-6 inches but I'd really rather not get that close to a stonefish, or moray, or whatever just to fill the frame. The greatest distance I'm likely to care about is 15 feet away.

That moray example is real. We found a nice fat green moray hiding in a crevasse and I'd love to have taken a closer shot, but the short distance the Micro required caused the moray to pay a bit too much attention to me and show me his collection of teeth.

I spent some time on the phone today with Sealife's staff and while they were extremely friendly, they openly stated there is no way to reduce the 100 degree field of view using an external lens nor anything else. Their suggestion was to simply take the distant shot and crop the photo later. Yeah, well... what's the point of megapixel sensors if you end up cropping away most of them?

Bottom line for me is that the Sealife is a nice casual scuba camera for wide angle shots of your entire dive group waving at you, but it is unsuitable for much else.

So... what otherwise simple scuba camera DOES have a more reasonable field of view? Say, 60 degrees? Am I the only guy out there who wants the subject being photographed to use most of the sensor's pixels?
 

Barmaglot

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So... what otherwise simple scuba camera DOES have a more reasonable field of view? Say, 60 degrees? Am I the only guy out there who wants the subject being photographed to use most of the sensor's pixels?

Look into Olympus TG-6 (or TG-4/TG-5 if you want to buy used and save money). It has a 25-100mm equivalent zoom lens, which gives you approximately 70 to 20 degrees diagonal field of view through a flat port underwater. It can also, natively, without add-on lenses, focus almost right down to the lens, giving you great macro capability. If you want to shoot wide-angle with it, you'd need an add-on wet wide lens, but it sounds like you don't have much interest in that. Also, unlike GoPro and SeaLife cameras, it can sync with strobes, so you can get an Inon S-2000 or a Backscatter MF-1 and greatly improve your shot quality. However, 15 feet away is very far underwater; don't expect anything resembling good quality at such distances, regardless of camera.
 

IDEngineer

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Yep, I've noticed the TG-6 and wondered about it. When you say 25-100mm "equivalent", is that "digital" zoom? Basically trading resolution for magnification?

15 feet was my max distance, figuring that allowed me to get the rare group shot or (say) include the entire manta in the photo. Most of the shots I seem to want are within ten feet.

EDIT: I've now read some reviews of the TG-6. They're not especially glowing. Low absolute sensor resolution, poor low light performance despite an F2 lens, bad noise handling in JPG destroys fine detail, etc. I do like the idea of "built in macro" (and the zoom is optical, not faked) but the reviews don't inspire confidence. Guess I'll keep looking around.

Thanks!
 
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