Text And Photos by Phil Rudin My first field review of a Sony E-mount camera was done for the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Underwater Photography magazine, (uwpmag.com) where I am currently Senior Reviewer. This review was for the Sony NEX-5 and Nauticam NA-NEX5 underwater housing. At the time not many quality E-mount lenses had been released that were suited to U/W photography. My review included use of the 18-55 mm zoom, 16 mm with fisheye adapter, an adapter for legacy Nikonos U/W lenses and more. Since the release of the NEX-5, I have reviewed additional E-mount ASP-C lenses as they have been introduced as well as upgraded APS-C camera bodies like the NEX-7. This month I have begun to build my own Sony full frame system with the intention of housing the coming A7R II/Nauticam NA-A7RII as the system for my personal work. Many of the systems I review are on loan from a variety of sources, so I have the opportunity like many reviewers to pick and chose which systems and lenses I think best suit the needs of underwater photographers at a variety of different price points. Barfish, Sony NEX-7, E-30 mm macro, Nauticam NA-NEX7 housing and macro port, two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-100, F/10, 1/160th. With this I mind, I will point out some of the things I look for in an underwater camera. First is the ability to build a complete system where everything integrates seamlessly to allow you to focus on your subject and not on your equipment. Being underwater adds an additional degree of difficulty to your work not always found while working above water. First and most obvious is that when working with interchangeable lens cameras, once you have entered the water you can’t make a lens change. More than once I have been shooting with a macro lens when a Whale Shark cruised by and was left with only the memory and not the images. Second, almost all underwater photos are taken with at least some strobe lighting and in the case of macro it may be as high as 100% strobe lighting. As a result U/W photographers are looking for camera bodies with fairly high sync speeds 1/250th or above being ideal. High sync speeds allow a broader balance between ambient and strobe lighting. With all of the Sony E-mount cameras, external strobes can be fired in TTL or manually depending on your choice of housing manufactures. External strobes can also be fired via fiber optic cables or hard wired sync cords in most cases. Pink Vase Sponge, Sony NEX-5r, E-10-18 mm zoom at 10 mm, Nauticam NEX-5r housing and seven inch dome port, two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/14, 1/160th. This brings use back to the issue of building a complete system rather than just choosing a camera body because it scored a point or two higher on a review than the other guys' body did. Sony E-mount cameras are quite popular among underwater shooters, which means that several manufactures are building complete housings systems for them. Nauticam (nauticamusa.com nauticam.com) leads the field with housing for twelve of the leading Sony E-mount camera bodies including the full line of A7 bodies, NEX and A5000/6000 bodies. Most underwater still & video shooters stick to just a few basic lenses. First, a quality macro lens that will reach life size (1:1) and which also puts enough distance between the subject and the macro port so that the subject is not overly disturbed. The new Sony FE 90 mm macro is an excellent example of a quality lens for U/W macro and the best overall macro lens I have tested to date. I have also used the 30mm macro, which is great for those on a limited budget and quite sharp for the cost. The biggest issue with this lens is that it focuses very close to the subject once you get to 1:3 or greater. Red-Orange Branching Sponge, PolkoSony NEX-5r, E-10-18 mm zoom at 10 mm, Nauticam NEX-5r housing and seven inch dome port, two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/11, 1/160th. Spotted Scorpionfish, NEX-5r, E-10-18 mm zoom at 10 mm, Nauticam NEX-5r housing and seven inch dome port, two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/10, 1/160th. For wide-angle shots, rectilinear lenses of 100 degrees or wider work best so the FE 16-35mm zoom, E 10-18mm F/4 and Zeiss Touit 12 mm are all ideal. Fisheye and fisheye zooms are also quite popular U/W lenses; this is where Sony has not yet excelled. While the fisheye adapters for the E-16mm and FE-28mm are supported by Nauticam and others, we underwater photographers will welcome a true Sony fisheye when released. Why not use aftermarket lenses like the excellent Rokinon 12 mm fisheye? These lenses become problematic in an underwater housing due to the need for gears to focus and change aperture, extensions to match the lens length in the dome port, lack of metadata connectivity and more. Conventional DSLR lenses using lens adapters which allow AF also present challenges because of their greater size in the smaller mirrorless housing dome ports, need for larger diameter port glass, control alignment and more. Octopus Eye, Sony A7 II, FE 90 mm macro, Nauticam NA-A7II housing with DSLR macro port and extensions, (a one piece macro port is coming for this lens), two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/16, 1/250th. Male Jaw Fish with eggs, Sony NEX7, E-30 mm macro, Nauticam NA-NEX7 housing and macro port, one Inon Z-240 strobe with Saga light shaping snoot, ISO-100, F/10, 1/160th. Polka-Dot Batfish, Sony A7 II, FE 90 mm macro, Nauticam NA-A7II housing with DSLR macro port and extensions, (a one piece macro port is coming for this lens), two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/11, 1/125th. Seaweed Bleeny, Sony NEX7, E-30 mm macro, Nauticam NA-NEX7 housing and macro port, one Inon Z-240 strobe with Saga light shaping snoot, ISO-100, F/10, 1/160th. Conch Eye, Sony A7 II, FE 90 mm macro, Nauticam NA-A7II housing with DSLR macro port and extensions, (a one piece macro port is coming for this lens), two Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO-200, F/9, 1/250th. My magazine reviews generally revolve around using cameras for U/W stills but the Sony E-mount cameras are equally capable of producing quality video as well. The A7s is a standard among underwater video shooters for its excellent video capability in the low light condition frequently found shooting underwater, overall system cost and much more. Click here to view a recent video shot with the A7s in a cave over 200 feet deep. If your intention is to enter the underwater world with a quality camera and housing system you would be well served to consider any of the Sony mirrorless systems that meet your needs.