Sea & Sea DX-1G Underwater Camera

July 5, 2007

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My off-by-one nerdish juices are flowing after reading the press release on Wetpixel about the Sea & Sea DX-1G underwater camera and housing. There is alot of interest on the Wetpixel forum regarding the system. Adorama has a post about the DX-1G and says it will have a $1000 price which includes a Sea & Sea branded Ricoh GX100 camera plus the housing. Adorama lists the price of the Ricoh GX100 at $600.

Who cares right? Well, I do and if you are into photography but never plan on shooting underwater you may still be interested in this topic as well.

I am still using a film SLR underwater despite using a digital SLR topside since the original Canon Digital Rebel was introduced (I’m a bang-for-the-buck kind of guy… sue me). I’ve decided to stick with my current housing/FilmCamera/strobe setup until I can no longer buy and develop slide film reasonably.

So what intrigues me about the DX-1G is that it looks promising as a second underwater camera that plugs some of the functionality gaps I have with my film SLR. So the question is why on earth would I not switch to a digital SLR housing.

In short, my film SLR (Canon Rebel G) and housing (Sea & Sea CX-600) is small, light-weight, paid-for, has a simple workflow path, and the TTL flash exposure is flawless. I travel with multiple camera bodies in case of a minor flood or mechanical failure. Second-hand Rebel G camera bodies are so cheap (and light by the way) that in my mind the camera body is effectively a disposable camera. There are two major compromises with this setup: 1) 37 shots per dive, 2) no instant feedback on focus/exposure/composition like you do with a digital camera.

On a dive trip it is very instructive to compare what I do on and between dives with photographers using digital SLRs. When I come across a photo worthy critter I take 1-3 shots and move on. I rarely miss with these shots partly from experience and partly because the flash/strobe TTL with film bodies are normally bang-on (as long as you compensate for overly black/white subjects). A digital SLR photographer typically honkers down on a subject for extended periods of time taking shot after shot after shot, first trying to get the flash exposure correct and then perfecting the shot. The flash exposure problem with digital cameras underwater is due to the use of a pre-flash rather than TTL. Underwater strobes have traditionally been TTL and pre-flash strobes are not quite there yet. It is not just lack of TTL though, I shoot alot of topside macro shots and the pre-flash systems (E-TTL for Canon) are finicky for macro and usually require multiple shots to nail the exposure.

Between dives I change film and then hang-out. Digital SLR photographers travel with a laptop and start a backup and processing workflow. Even though they are not limited to 37 shots they still often fill up their flash cards (normally with hundreds of shots) and need to worry about battery charging more (especially the strobes).

Here is my favorite part. When I get back home from a trip it takes about a week to get my slide film developed but it only takes me one or two nights to sort through 50-60 rolls of film to pick out the top 100 or 200 shots for a slide show. I love working with slides on a light-table. Scanning afterwards for a digital workflow is a pain but if your main goal is to capture high quality images and show them to groups of people, slide projection can’t be beat.

So what does the DX-1G buy me? It is small, light, inexpensive (relatively), and with slave and/or fiber optic sync I should be able to use the same strobes with two systems underwater. It is an alternative backup system that should fit my carry-on requirements. I often take “memory shots” with the film SLR of interesting behavior or critters I want to identify later that I know are not “money shots” (i.e. interesting photos vs. great photos). With two systems I can save the SLR for money shots while memory shots can go on the digital camera. Of course, the digital camera is used for money shots when I’m out of film or I have the wrong lens. Being able to shoot both macro and wide with the DX-1G is an advantage it has over all SLRs (digital or film). The downside is lower image quality (normally noise).

So what does the DX-1G offer over other point-and-shoot digital cameras? The Ricoh body takes an external flash and it looks like Sea & Sea has created an external flash-like accessory that will trigger an external strobe (via fiber optic sync cord). With this setup you gain camera controlled flash exposure without wasting batteries/recycling-time on the camera flash. Good idea. It also offers decent wide angle (24mm equiv.) which is rare for point and shoots. There is low shutter-lag which also plagues point-and-shoots.

A few years ago I came across a lizard fish trying to eat a juvenile puffer. In my mind this was the money shot of money shots…. and I was out of film. I watched for about 20 minutes. The puffer got out 3 times. For a money shot of money shots, the lower image quality of the DX-1G is meaningless if you don’t get the shot (the digital SLR shooters on that dive did not get the shot either…. they were elsewhere taking lots of shots of something else).

There are many unanswered questions with my fantasy film-SLR-plus-DX-1G scenario (handling and strobe configuration for instance) but I like this happy little idea for now.

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2 Responses to “Sea & Sea DX-1G Underwater Camera”


  1. […] has a review of the Ricoh Caplio GX100 which is the Sea & Sea branded camera inside the announced DX-1G underwater system. There are no big surprises in the review for someone, like myself, considering the DX-1G. It takes […]

  2. Howard Kim Says:

    Hi!

    I would like to purchase the underwater casing for the ricoh GX-100.

    Pls advise.

    Thanks,

    Howard…from Singapore


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