I recently got a chance to take two of the leading high-end compact cameras in the market for a few days of diving in the Red Sea, along with Fantasea housings and a complete set of accessories. Both the Sony RX100 III and the Canon G7X are top performers and incredibly popular among underwater photographers since their release a few months ago.
In this post I will cover the Canon G7X in the Fantasea FG7X housing.
Click here for the Sony RX100 III review.
The Canon G7X Camera
Canon’s compacts have long become popular for underwater due to their excellent performance and ease of use. The Canon G series has been leading the market and creating incredible underwater images for many years. Recently, with the improvements in sensor technologies, we have started to see large 1″ sensors being integrated in tiny compact cameras, boosting the image quality and low light capabilities compared to previous models.
The Canon G7X’s most prominent feature is by far the 20.2MP, backside-illuminated 1.0-inch CMOS sensor. If you have been shooting digital for a few years now, it’s hard to believe how quality has improved over time and getting these sharp, vibrant and crisp results from such a small camera is nothing short of a miracle.
The G7X features a 24-100mm equivalent lens, delivering a nice useful zoom range. The really great thing about this lens is how bright they managed to produce it. The aperture opens up to f/1.8 on the widest setting, closes to f/2.0 at about 35mm, then f/2.5 at 50mm and maintains f/2.8 from 56mm to 100mm. That’s great news when shooting in low light and an impressive feat by Canon.
Other great features include a 3.0-inch Tilt LCD Touch Screen, WiFi and NFC Connectivity, Full HD 1920 x 1080: 60 fps video and more.
The G7X is capable of 6.5 fps burst rate, but even more important, 4.4 fps with AF enabled between frames. That’s pretty impressive! When shooting with a strobe, you will be limited by recycle time anyway, but for shooting with ambient light, that’s very useful!
The Fantasea FG7X Housing
Following the huge success of Fantasea’s FP7100 and FG16 housings, the new FG7X incorporates the same high standards we have gotten used to, creating an excellent value housing at a very competitive price.
The housing allows access to all of the camera’s controls, including the hard-to-reach flash pop-up lever, positioned comfortably on the left side of the housing, along with the lens ring control knob. For accessories and mounting the housing includes 3 standard 1/4″-20 thread holes on the bottom and a metal cold-shoe mount at the top.
For attaching strobes, the housing includes a small plastic tab which slides in front of the flash window, blocking the internal flash and providing 2 holes for standard Sea & Sea style connectors, including 2 rubber connectors. You can also use the internal flash using the white diffuser included in the package, which is quite efficient for close-ups and macro shots.
The moisture detector installed inside is very useful and triggered by a striped sensor on the bottom of the housing. With the first drop of water it will blink red and sound the alarm so that you know that you need to get to the surface asap before the water reaches you camera. However, due to the fact that the housing includes a double O-ring seal, and a very secure and easy to use locking mechanism, you probably won’t even need the moisture alarm. As long as you maintain your gear properly of course.
The port is rectangular, compatible with all of Fantasea’s previous snap-on accessories for the FG16, including the BigEye, RedEye and EyeDaptor. A rubber layer was added around the camera lens to block any light from the internal flash.
A removable anti-glare hood is also included, to help viewing the LCD screen in strong daylight, as well as a neoprene port cover and a very useful hand strap, which takes the weight off your wrist and adds comfort.
The housing has slightly positive buoyancy, making sure you won’t lose it in the depths (you can even drop it in the Blue Hole!)
The housing’s design is incredibly ergonomic and lightweight, creating a very natural and comfortable shooting experience, either above water in a wet environment, or underwater when diving or snorkeling.
Last but not least, the black, sleek design looks super cool and is bound to make some heads spin in the dive shop 🙂
Using the Canon G7X Underwater
One of Canon’s best traits is usability. The menu is super friendly and controls are very easy to understand, even for newbies. I like shooting underwater on M – Manual mode and using RAW. You can read about the advantages of using RAW here. Similar to DSLR’s, the G7X allows two dials for controlling both the aperture and shutter speed quite easily, with one of the dials being the ring dial, located on the left of the housing, and the other dial in the middle of the main control dial. I usually set the shutter speed at about 1/125 and play around with the aperture and the flash output to control my lighting.
When shooting ambient shots, I prefer using Aperture Priority mode (AV), with the flash turned off course, and this is where the exposure compensation dial comes in handy, easily controlling the output to fine-tune your result.
One of the greatest improvements made on the G7X, as opposed to previous Canon G series, is the option for TTL even on M – Manual mode! Finally you can use any mode with the flash set on TTL to trigger your underwater strobes on TTL as well, assuming you get one of the TTL compatible strobes such as the YS-01, Inon S2000 or any other. If you do decide to use the strobes on Manual mode, I suggest lowering the output to the lowest setting to conserve battery life.
I do realize that many photographers haven’t made the switch to RAW yet. While I strongly recommend that, I do understand that not everyone are ready for that stage and many prefer to shorten their post-processing time as well as save some space on their hard-drives. For JPG shooters as well as video shooters, the one-click WB feature would be awesome! All you need to do is assign the one-touch WB to the Ring Func button and you’re good to go! Simply press the button and magically your colors would adjust to the current environment and improve your shot significantly.
Video quality was superb. The AF worked beautifully and focused very fast and smooth even when confronted with drastic focus changes.
Check out these samples here:
And a comparison with the RX100 III here:
BigEye – The BigEye wide angle lens is an acrylic dome wet lens, which snaps on easily on the front of the port and corrects the change of focal range due to optical refraction underwater. That means it gives you a 25% wider field of view, similar to the one on land (24mm equivalent). The lens itself is very sturdy and connects easily but firmly on the housing, and greatly improves your wide angle results. I recommend using the small lanyard to secure it to the housing and getting an EyeGrabber to stow the lens when not in use on one of the flex arms. It also comes with a neoprene cover which is important to protect it when not in use.
RedEye – The RedEye is a red filter, which consists of the actual filter part and a filter holder, which can be separated in order to place the filter inside the BigEye and use them together for ambient light shooting. It improves the colors significantly and very efficient for videos when not using any artificial lighting.
EyeDaptor – The Eyedaptor converts the rectangular port to a 67mm thread for mounting wet lenses, especially for macro, such as the Fantasea SharpEye. This allows you to focus much closer to your subject, even when fully zoomed in, thus creating the magnification needed for macro photography.
The G7X Fantasea bundle is amazing. When used properly and with a lot of practice, it can be used to create award winning images and professional videos.
I had a great time testing it out! You are welcome to browse some of the results here:
Images were all taken with a Canon G7X in the Fantasea housing, using one Inon Z240 strobe and one Sea & Sea YS-01 strobe. Macro shots taken with Fantasea SharpEye +4 stacked with Inon UCL-165 and wide angle shots taken with the Fantasea BigEye.
Visit his personal portfolio at www.ranmorphoto.com.
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