Underwater photography by Andy Kirkland

DSLR at last

I cracked.
The Olympus E-410 made it look like about the right time to go DSLR – small and lightweight and – most importantly for my aging eyes – the LiveView function means that I can still use the LCD.
The cost of the kit (including a basic lens) is actually less than the cost of my Oly C5050Z 4 years ago.
But that’s only the start, now, because there isn’t a £150 housing for this baby …
Still, the housing cost is significantly lower than for previous SLRs, with the Oly housing + basic port kit running out at about £800. This isn’t without some strings, though …

The decision I had to make was about the housing system.
That’s the main difference to compacts- each lens you buy can mean a new £300 port for the housing as well.
The two main alternatives (supported in the UK) would be Olympus’ own offering and the Ikelite system (only just announced).

So … here were the criteria I used.


The Ikelite system was marginally cheaper, but not significantly so.
Ike lens ports are quite a bit cheaper.

Depth rating

The Ike housing is rated to 60m, the Oly to only 40m.
However, I won’t be taking this past 40m – I’ll take a compact (in an Ike case !) if I’m taking a camera to that depth.

Strobe connectivity

This was probably the clincher for me.
I’ve two INON strobes (only one of them capable of a “wired” connection) and the Olympus housing can work with these. The Ikelite housing will only control Ike’s own strobes through TTL – that would mean using manual control of both strobes.


Another big factor – and one which I think will become much bigger.
Whereas Ikelite has a limited number of outlets (possibly only 2 in the UK), Oly’s underwater products are being sold through mainstream dealers.
That means there’s a much bigger dealer network – and will probably mean I can get parts in (e.g.) Sharm or Malta.
Olympus revolutionised compact housings – the first camera manufacturer to release a housing as standard on all their compacts. So they have a lot of credibility in the underwater photography “space”. You get the feeling that they’re in it for the long haul.

So what’s really interesting is that we’re starting to get third-party products to fit the housings – something that has really only happened because these are badged (if not actually built) by a major photographic company.
Athena have made ring flashes and dome ports – and now we’re now getting TTL converters to join up INON strobes.
And now INON are getting in on the act. They’ve got dome ports for wide angle and (now a macro port with a magnetic colllar for focussing – a bit improvement, I suspect, on the Olympus mechanism).
And of course, with the Four Thirds format, there are third party lenses to think about. INON make a port for the Sigma 105mm macro lens.
As well as these, there’s the TTL converter from Matthias Heinrichs – who’s been doing this sort of stuff for a few years now.

So I guess the questions are :
– Is the E-410 the true successor to the much-loved C5050Z – in terms of redefining the marketplace
– As the E-series housings have common ports, will someone else make a housing that can use the same ports ?

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