Gear now ready to go thanks to Camera Solutions

I now have my kit all together and packed in readiness for the up and coming Cendrawasih Bay trip on True North!

Thanks heaps to Peta and Paul from Camera Solutions for arranging the first Olympus housing to come in for me to use in time for this trip and for also arranging all the other gear in time.

In the kit I have the Olympus OM-D camera with the 12-50mm lense with Macro capability. The new Olympus underwater housing, with the port made to suit the 12-50mm lens. I have a Go Pro with a live view back and also a 1200 lumins Light in Motion video light that I also intend to use as a still light. Peta North did the research on the best light to get for my needs and she was right on the money. At 1200 lumins the light is blindingly bright and it also has a really cool function of being able to switch to red so that you don’t scare the fish…very cool!

I have chosen to go for a wrist strap that comes as an option for this light and I might get an extender arm just in case that works out to be better.

Peta also arranged other kit for me so that I can cover all bases on this trip.

I have the Go Pro Hero which I bought to video the skydive I did recently with the Old Dogs. Peta arranged a live view screen for me now so that I can set up some time lapses. I also have a Gorilla tripod that I intend to use as a handle underwater and also for time lapses.

She also arranged for another slick little tripod for the Olympus which flicks out in seconds.

One of the best things about dealing with Camera Solutions is the technical support. Both Peta and Paul North are professional photographers and after using the Camera for a while I found I had a couple of queries which Peta was able to easily sort out over a phone call. This level of support is gold.

We will be on board True North in West Papua from Thursday onwards and I will be posting most days from there on.

I will also be writing some reports on my thoughts on the Olympus OM-D and the new housing.

One thing I have found whilst putting the kit together is that the menu allows for the push of one function button to go from wide angle to macro with a push of one button! Waycool option and something that is a real issue when shooting underwater.

At a recent tutorial by Glen Cowans, one of the bits of advice he said that it was just about a given that with a traditional SLR housing where you have to select between a wide angle port or a macro port is is a given that if you jump in with a wide angle set up, a macro opportunity wil present itself an vise versa!

The OM-D overcomes that problem very easily!

New Olympus OM-D

I am so excited to hear that Peta North has arranged for me to test the new Olympus OM-D underwater housing for my up and coming trip on True North at Cendrawasih Bay on the 18th of next month!

I recently purchased the Olympus OM-D from Peta and Paul North at Camera Solutions in Perth, in anticipation of this up and coming trip and to also have a smaller camera for doing progress reports and commercial shots around Evolution Commercial.

First impressions of this camera are very good. It is quite user friendly through the menus, super sharp and the ability to focus and trigger in live view exactly where you want the focus is gold. I will do a more detailed review after my trip on True North and after I have given the OM-D a solid work out both above and below the water.

We are just researching which strobe I will get to take with me and then I will be totally kitted out with the ability to capture super sharp stills and HD video whilst swimming with the Whale Sharks of Cendrawasih Bay!

Peta tells me that Olympus are going to update the firmware to allow for Macro selection easily from a menu as well which will make this a very versatile camera indeed. It comes standard with a 12mm – 50mm lens that also does Macro. So pretty much perfect for anything you would need for underwater shooting!

Thanks heaps Peta, Camera Solutions and Olympus for arranging this!

I will be posting live off the True North with new images each day taken from the new OM-D and I will offer comments about my impressions I find on using the camera, the quality of the images and the usability of the housing itself.

Gear review: Really Right Stuff ball head and Really Right Stuff Tripod

Just before the last trip to the Kimberley on True North I needed to upgrade my tripod as my carbon Gitzo was in serious need of some parts and I was unable to get support from Gitzo, so I started to research what I could do to get a better result than using the Gitzo with the 3 way Manfrotto.

I recalled that my good mate Brent Pearson had spoken very highly of the Really Right Stuff gear and I therefore did some research and for sure all of the reviews came up trumps. I ended up going for the BH55LR1 ball head and the Really Right stuff carbon fibre tripod.

I reckon I just about halved the weight of my tripod and head by simply going for the BH55. Now this is one seriously well engineered but of kit! The adjustment knobs that either lock or release the ball or the pan function give you infinite adjustment as to how loose or tight you want it and there are no levers that hang out to get caught or smashed if you drop it.

The ball head also has some really cool grooves that are 90 degrees to the head, so if you take the time to level your tripod then vertical panos are made a cinch just by having your camera mounted in landscape mode and then simply panning up and down for your stitch.

The locking level locks the L bracket in place better than any other locking system I have seen.

Flembot reckons my tripod also came with a voice command that announces ‘tripod is level’ because every time I did get it level….I would announce ‘Tripod is Level’ and I think Dave Bettini and Flembot came to expect the announcement at the end of the Kimberley trip!

For panos I found that simply adding a level bubble to the hot shoe really helped with getting the camera level. Thanks to Jamie Paterson for sourcing mine for me…great gift mate! The head and ‘L’ bracket work really well for panos and there is no need to by the specific pano kit available in the Really Right Stuff range. I have done numerous multi level stitches with this new kit and they all worked perfectly. The biggest stitch I have done to date was a 21 shot 3 layer stitch, so if that isn’t proof it works, I don’t know what is!

The really sweet part about the Really Right Stuff kit is the custom designed ‘L’ bracket that is perfectly designed for each camera, comes with a great cut out for easy battery release and is locked in place with a SS allen headed screw into your camera. It is so light and unobtrusive, it simply stays in place. I now leave the camera level in place on the hot shoe all the time as well.

The other bit of kit that I bought from Really Right Stuff is their Carbon Fibre tripod. It is extremely solid and has the ability to lay down flat which is really handy for some waterfall shots etc. The leg locking system is also very good and works much better than the Gitzo. I also liked the 3 different position locking system in the Really Right Stuff set up that enables the legs to swing out to one of 3 positions. The Gitzo relied on a lock down friction system that worked ok when it was new, but without constant adjusting it had the potential to slip…always at the worst possible time!

The only negative I found with the Really Right Stuff gear is that they did not use lock tight on the rubber feet and I lost one very early in the Kimberley trip. A small dab of locktight on each rubber foot would stop that very annoying situation arising! Lucky I did have a spare Gitzo foot to get me through the rest of the trip.

As per my last gear review, I am not sponsored by Really Right Stuff. I am simply offering the review because I feel the gear does rate as up there as the best in the market and it works Really Really well!

Gear reviews

I thought I might do something different today and review a one of my new items in my kit that I am very happy with. I am not aligned with any shops, nor am I sponsored by these shops.

The first item is my Zacuto View Finder which I bought about 6 months ago.

I am extremely happy with this purchase and with my fading eyes especially in glair conditions, I find it almost impossible to focus without the Zacuto View Finder. I was advised by my good mate Flembot to go for the stick on clip frame rather than the heavier and more cumbersome attachment you can buy that screws into the tripod mount at the bottom of your camera and I agree that the stick on type is the way to go.

The Zacuto View Finder then simply clips into place and lets no light in and you are away. I went for the x3 magnifier and there is the option for a x2.5 as well. I would stay with the x3 as it works very well.

With this attachment you can get your focus point exactly right and you can also review the shot taken very easily and scrutinise the histogram. When Stitching I tend to get my focus and exposure where I want with the Zacuto and then unclip to do the stitch.

The only negative I have found with the Zacuto is that the rubber attracts sand like flies to a honey pot for some reason. I have found though that after a sand dune shoot or something where the Loupe does get impregnated with sand, simply pull it apart and wash in soapy water and the sand comes off very easily.

Tomorrow I will review my new tripod and head…stay tuned!