View Full Version : Accessories Olympus PT-E02 - Taking the E-330 underwater

03-15-2008, 06:21 AM
As underwater users of compact cameras we were tempted by SLRs but wedded to the idea of live view so the E-330 was of great interest, we could also reuse some of the accessories from our C-7070s. We were looking to increase our range with better macro and wide angle performance and not least faster focus.

How much?
The camera and housing kit was 1399 when we took the plunge. The additional 50mm and 7-14mm lenses were going for 350 and 1100 respectively. The flash and housing combination were a hefty 600. I always said it was never going to be cheap moving to using an SLR underwater… and I was right J<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Likes and dislikes
After using a C-7070 the E-330 feels quite familiar. The menus are comprehensive but not especially memorable – unavoidable in a camera that can be configured in almost every respect. Almost everything can be accessed via menus and buttons and the only picky change I would want to see is an easier control to swap between shutter speed and aperture on the dial control in manual as although while the button is fine on land it’s awkward in the case.

The kit lens isn’t bad on land but not very versatile underwater, its weakness is the minimum focus distance of around 50cm, no macro lens! <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Olympus</st1:place>’ new kit lens focuses much closer. The ‘kit’ port is tailored closely to the ‘kit’ lens and vignettes the shorter 14-42mm and is too short for the longer 14-54mm lens. This reduces the value of this port, unless you particularly need it.
The first choice of upgrade lens is <st1:place w:st="on">Olympus</st1:place>’ f2 50mm macro, famously one of the sharpest lenses available for any camera. For extra magnification it can be paired with the 1.4x teleconvertor. This combination is now my weapon of choice for macro. The very compact 35mm macro offers greater magnification, if you can get closer - excellent for slugs but not so good for fish portraits. It is considerably cheaper than the 50mm but needs a bit more light. The port for the macro lenses is quite a subtle affair, giving the housing a ‘pig snout’ which enables the whole rig to get into tight spaces.
As an underwater genre ultra wide usually comes next after macro… The ‘cheap’ option is the 8mm fisheye which captures 180 degrees diagonally but the top of the range is the remarkable 7-14mm lens, the widest ‘made for digital’ lens available. It’s not a fish eye and has very, very little distortion, this beautiful lens costs around 1,100. It is surprisingly difficult to use a lens like this in everyday photography - but that’s not what it's for. It's for those unique shots which capture a whole scene or defeat impossibly bad visibility. The dome port to match it looks like a cooking utensil to a diver used to small snappy cameras. It’s par for the course size-wise – it’s a 6” dome – and rumoured to be made by Athena who make the best ones and supply many housing manufacturers. It hard not to spend time simply looking at the crazy world reflected in the surface but after that paranoia sets in and you are very conscious of all the scratchy things which could damage it. The pre and post dive routines now include fitting and removing the dome port’s ‘knickers’ – a neoprene cover – to minimise the risk. As a dive couple who’ve managed to scratch the tiny port on a compact I’m painfully aware that these things happen.

The internal flash cannot be raised inside the case so the only means to trigger a flash is through the bulkhead connector. The FL-36 is bulky once housed and a little slow to recover but works well. <st1:place w:st="on">Olympus</st1:place>' TTL is impressive, in fact the strobes will still run TTL in manual mode - allowing you to choose shutter and aperture whilst the strobes supply the light you need. The <st1:place w:st="on">option to </st1:place>sync at up to 1/4000th certainly cuts down motion blur!

After the 7070 the E330 was a definite step up from an already very pleasing base – not so much technically as aesthetically. The pictures from the E330 are clean and have a pure, natural sometimes glowing colour rendition which looks great printed or displayed on a large scale. The lenses are superb and the auto focus lock is much, much more rapid than with the 7070 and the results are super sharp.
Once housed the E-330 is pretty large and looks out of place on a small UK dive boat although the increasing number of cameras going underwater providing some camouflage. Although made of polycarbonate it is on a par size wise with metal SLR housings rather than the more angular, generic housings made by Ikelite for example. The full rig fitted with twin strobes really needs a crate for protection on the deck of a boat, it’s a bit too much to just tuck in a corner. At around 7kg this is definitely a candidate for pushing you over airline luggage limits but is one of the lighter SLR setups. Your mileage may vary but we can pack one rig within the slightly increased diver’s allowance most civilised airlines offer by sneaking as much as possible into the hand luggage they seem so unwilling to weigh.

Battery life is excellent, the camera will cope with a <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">UK</st1:country-region></st1:place> day of 2 hour long dives and 400+ pictures on a single charge. I think a midday change would be in order on a 4 dive a day liveaboard.

The case has a row of 1/4" Whitworth tripod mounts for mounting a tray as a base for strobes and lights. This is a sturdy plate capable of spreading the load of a twin flash rig. The housing lens port has a deep thread and there are several ports available to match some of the ZD range of lenses. <o:p></o:p>
Olympus have two cased strobes to match its housing connector, which is unique to <st1:place w:st="on">Olympus, r</st1:place>egular checking and greasing is the order of the day here. An O-ring has been added to improve durability and I haven't had any problems in hundreds of dives but the connectors are vulnerable and I have been on a boat where they have been accidentally pulled out as someone rolled into the water.

<st1:place w:st="on">Olympus</st1:place> are well supported by third parties:
Some charming Germans http://www.heinrichsweikamp.net/blitz/indexe.htm have made gadgets to support control of Sea and Sea and Nikonos flashes. These work well manually but most cannot be used in TTL mode with most 3rd party flashes as they cannot recover from the very fast pre-flash which the E-330 uses.

Athena in Japan have made functionally similar units to what looks like a much better standard and also offer alternative macro ports which allow screw mounting of 67mm lenses for macro fiends - expensive and not stocked in the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">UK</st1:country-region></st1:place>.

This is a condensed version of the full article at http://www.1townhouses.co.uk/pelagicpixels/reviews/camerae330.htm
which has also appeared in http://www.uwpmag.com/

Vivid Oceans and Secret Seas
www.1townhouses.co.uk (http://www.1townhouses.co.uk)<o:p></o:p>