With the first dive trip with my new underwater photography rig in the bag, I return with my impressions of my current dive photography rig: Sony DSC-RX100 in a Meikon Housing, an Inon UWL-100 Type 2, and a Sea&Sea YS-01. It is safe to say I am quite happy, but not without a few complaints.
Just a few, short months ago I was diving with the same camera and housing I owned for the better part of 10 years. The trusty Ikelite housing kept my Canon A720 IS safe from salty death. It’s 67mm threaded aluminum port allowed me to slide my Inon UWL-100 wide angle lens on quite easily both above and below the water’s surface. However, this camera was quite dated and touted a mere 8 megapixel resolution and an abysmal (by today’s standards) 640 x 480 @ 30fps video resolution.
The Sony DSC-RX100 is the first of three generations of the RX100 product line. While not the hottest “prosumer” compact camera, the initial reviews raved of it’s 20 megapixel resolution, large sensor, and HD quality video capture. The features and functions of this camera can be found elsewhere so I won’t go into great detail here. But what I will do is explain the experiences of an amateur underwater photographer with 10 years of experience behind him.
Meikon Housing (via Monoprice.com)
Combining the camera with the Meikon underwater housing nets you a very compact package. However, unlike the Ikelite and Sea&Sea housings, the Meikon housing does not afford you the opportunity to control the jog wheel on the back of the camera. This means if you have to commit to a few extra maneuvers to control the aperture and shutter speed in full manual mode. I did find that once I was able to dial in the highest shutter speed for the depth of my dive, changing the aperture was very easy to do with the front program ring.
What I really enjoyed about this housing was the 67mm threaded port on the front of the housing. It’s close proximity to the RX100’s lens virtually eliminated the vignetting in the UWL-100. This was quite a shocking difference from the Canon/Ikelite combo I previously used. However, that very same port does not have any drainage holes like the Ikelite housing. The pros and cons of this missing element cancel each other out, in my opinion. The good thing about not having drainage holes in the port means you can create over-under shots much more easily. The bad thing about those same missing drainage holes forces you to mount your lens underwater. The potential of dropping your ‘glass’ underwater and potentially scratching the lens is nerve wracking. However, I found having water between the lens and the housing’s flat port dramatically increases your field of view.
Another thing I am not too happy about with the Meikon housing is the position of the closing hatch. The hatch was placed on the right of the camera. The unfortunate thing about this placement is that I found myself unintentionally fidgeting with the top release button. Of course if I were to depress the button my mistake I would have most certainly had a flooded camera on my hands. It took a little bit of conscience avoidance to keep my hands away from the dangerous flood gates. Furthermore the latches that are used to close the housing are made of a high density polycarbonate. While I had no issues with these plastic latches in particular, I would think that over time they may wear down and make the housing door more difficult to keep closed. This is something I will have to keep my eye on over the next few months.
The Sea&Sea YS-01 worked flawlessly with both the camera and the housing. This reliable little beast served me well by supplying plenty of light for two dives on a single charge. In fact, I found for most of the photographs I had taken only needed 1/3 of the full power to illuminate my subject. While I did not splurge for the Sea&Sea fiber optic sync cable, I was able to take a cheap optical audio cable to perform the same function. In fact, I used a 1″ pvc pipe and a hair dryer to create the pig-tail in the otherwise straight cable.
In all, I feel that the combination of camera, housing, lens, and sub-strobe fit nicely to create a compact and powerful rig. The vignetting with the UWL-100 is minimal, yet mounting the threaded lens to a plastic thread is somewhat frustrating. The Meikon housing does not provide access to all the functions of the camera, but your creativity can be unleashed with a few extra clicks and twists. The price of this setup is relatively cheap considering just how expensive other RX-100 housings on the market are today. However, it is safe to say Meikon has put together a sold housing that is acceptable to the amateur underwater photographer.