The world of IKEs, PENs & OMDs
Left: my current choice of lenses and domes for the PT-EP 14 and PT-EP10 housings. Upper left: Olympus 8mm fisheye with a 4-inch dome, Upper-right: Panasonic 7-14 zoom with the AOI DLP 08 dome. Lower left: Panasonic 7-14 zoom with Zen WA-100-EP714 dome and Olympus 8mm fisheye with 4-inch dome Both domes need an OMD-PEN adapter when placed on the PT-EP14 housing. Lower right, the new AOI UH EPL-10 housing with extension ring and D-200 strobes, on an Ikelite tray. The E-PL9 camera, replaces the older PT-EP10 with E-PL5. It will take the Oly 8mm as well as the Pana 7-14 mm zoom lens.
In the ever-growing market of UW photo equipment, it becomes increasingly difficult for the beginning UW photographer to choose the right underwater system. New technologies also bring better ergonomics, lenses, and more megapixels which easily will make the older system look awkward and obsolete. There are limiting factors that will make the choice easier. Like your budget of course. And the more experienced photographer often has developed a specific interest, like shooting macro or wide-angle subjects. Or choosing a cropped sensor instead of a full-frame sensor which will automatically limit the spectrum of lenses and housings. Then there is also the type of strobe to select, and the system to fire the strobes, electrical cables of fiber optics, in which case there is a choice between either an internal flash or LED trigger to ignite the optical system.
For strobes and lenses, the underwater market seems to change less rapidly. The choice of the lens is crucial for the quality of your pictures, perhaps much more important than the number of megapixels of the camera, or even the size of the sensor. A superb lens will stay with you for many years, at least when the housings designers are so kind as to provide the suitable adapter and port for your favorite top lens
For about 20 years I have been a faithful user of the Ikelite DSLR and Olympus PEN systems, with the Oly combo as a backup during my diving trips. The cameras (Nikon DX and E-PL5) equipped with fisheye lenses: the legendary Tokina 10-17 and Panasonic 8 mm fisheyes (which I later changed for the Oly 8mm with a 2 cm extension), respectively. With Precision mini domes (5 and 4 inches), allowing to get very close to the UW object. But recently I followed the urge to try something (a bit) different and more simple and switched to the PT-EP14 housing with the newer Olympus M1 Mark II camera inside*. But I kept the Oly fish-eye and 4-inch dome (see insert), which so far seems to work well on the OMD housing with a PEN/OMD adapter. Like the older PEN housings, the PT-EP14 depends on a small internal flash to trigger the optical cables and strobes. In my case, that would be the Ikelite DS 161 strobes with optical adapters. No LED trigger is yet available for the OLY housings**, but this should not be much of an issue since the flash set to lower (1/64) power will not easily drain the batteries. I do no regret missing TTL, since I have always been happy with shooting in the Manual mode with the Ike strobes, even when triggered by the electrical cables of the DSLR housing. The picture above shows my current choice of lenses and domes for the PT-EP 14 housing.
* Olympus selling camera division announced at the end of June that it “implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones,” but has concluded that its efforts weren’t enough. JIP plans to streamline the business and will continue to develop products using Olympus brands such as OM-D and Zuiko
**The Hong King form AOI has recently brought two new housings on the market for Olympus 4/3 camera's that is: the AOI UH-EM5III-CAM for the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (which is smaller than the M1 Mark II) but has the same port system as the Olympus OM-D housings, and the AOI UH-EPL10 which is meant for the EPL9/EPL10 Olympus cameras and replaces the older PEN (PT-EP10) housings. Both polycarbonate housings have added two important options, namely a vacuum system and a LED system, avoiding the energy-consuming internal flash. I am now using the AOI UH-EPL10 with EPL9 camera (see insert lower-right), replacing my older PT-EP10/E-PL5 combo, but keeping the same Oly 8mm Zuiko fish-eye lens with extension. The Oly E-Pl5 and E-Pl9 cameras do not differ substantially in quality. However, the new AOI UH-EPL10 offers two pleasant extensions, namely a vacuum test system, and a multi-control LED trigger system (that so far seem to work flawlessly), making the pop-up flash of the older PT-EP10 PEN housing superfluous.