A short clip depicting the ecology and biodiversity of the marine life in the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. The video pays particular attention to eggs and incubation of macro life commonly seen while diving there.
This video was shot using the Sony A7s and Atomos Shogun, recorded in 4K UHD ProRes HQ and rendered in 1080p for upload to social media. Lens used was a Canon 100mm IS F2.8L Macro on a Metabones electronic adapter. The video was shot in manual focus. Video lights were by Fisheye Japan (FIX NEO 2000 SWR) with fiber optic remote controls for activation and power settings.
As the video was made as a test of the Shogun’s abilities underwater and recording quality, non of the clips used were cropped from the native UHD resolution. Instead if more magnification was needed, I shot in Super 35 (APS-C) mode which still records in 4K, followed by adding wet diopters. I used the excellent Nauticam Super Macro Converter SMC and the Multiplier as a stacking diopter. The Multiplier is very sharp in the center but as is normal with having this extreme level of magnification, corners tend to be very soft and with some signs of chromatic aberration. It was still however extremely useful for what I needed to accomplish.
I can’t begin to explain how awesome it is to have a monitor this size for underwater macro use! Divers passing by and even my guide would come by to take a look to see what I was recording. At times with timid critters, I would leave my setup on the tripod to move far away, and still be able to see what was happening at the camera. The housing from Nauticam is fairly large for what it holds. It was designed like this to accommodate larger batteries and for heat dissipation, allowing the hot air to circulate. Speaking of heat dissipation, the Nauticam Shogun housing has two internal fans built-in to help draw heat away from the Shogun’s heat sinks. A vacuum and leak sensor is also included as standard fittings. Being a fairly large housing, the setup is fairly buoyant in the water. This is countered by the mounting system and base tray which are sold separately by Nauticam. I found that for macro tripod work, I still had to add a weight pouch with a 1kg weight which I zip tied to the bottom of the plate.
In ProRes HQ, file sizes are massive. 1Tb holds approximately 2.5hrs of video. I had to transfer the files out from my 1Tb SSD every two days on average. The process takes a few hours even with fast read and write times. Quality is awesome as most would already know. The latest addition of the “Pre Roll” function in firmware 6.4 allows me to hit record just after certain behavior has taken place and yet have the prior 2 seconds captured as well. No more long cuts and wasting precious storage media waiting for something to happen!
Focus peaking functions are a godsend to any macro photographer or cinematographer. Sadly, the peaking on the Shogun is very very weak, resulting in what looks like a poorly white balanced image when viewed underwater. I have sent feedback to Atomos, trying to get them to include peaking strength options in future firmware updates. It can’t come soon enough. The peaking on Sony cameras is adjustable for strength and is at times so much better to use for following focus than the monitor is itself. My other gripe is the 25% low battery warning that seems to be new with the last firmware update (unless I am mistaken). There is no way for me to close this pop up that obscures most of the screen while the monitor sits in the housing. Even if I were on land, I would be terribly annoyed to have something pop up mid shoot and having to remove my hands from camera controls to tap the box shut. EVERYONE hates popups! Even on websites! Please get rid of this Atomos, let it time out after a set period or let us disable the warnings completely. Finally, the ability to delete a single file straight from the recorder would be nice.
As for the Nauticam Shogun housing, there is only one thing that I would love to see changed and some areas where improvements could be made. Firstly, playback controls. You can currently only play back the last clip that was shot. There are no controls to choose previous or next clip. This may easily be modified by perhaps adjusting the swing arm that provides contact to the zebra and peaking controls. While these controls are important, I would rather set these aids and leave them on the whole dive, than lose the ability to playback any and all the clips I shoot underwater to confirm I nailed a shot. Even at the surface, I would much rather be able to playback video captured without having to open the housing and remove the monitor. It’s a minor inconvenience at this point.
That summarizes my test of the Atomos Shogun for underwater use. I do hope you enjoyed the short clip. For those that don’t dive, I added brief descriptions of the critters that were shot in this clip.
By Kay Burn Lim
Featured on Votiv Earth on September 8th, 2015