Day 3 with the Diopters and it’s starting to feel like groundhog day.
Today I had the 45degree viewfinder on, so at least my neck doesnt hurt as I write this. Today I took down the Noodilab Moby and the SMC2, on the Nikon D500. I’m really enjoying using the crop sensor D500 over my 1Dx, somehow the Nikon colour space just feels much nicer out of the camera on macro photos, and of course the crop is great until you meet up with a hairy frogfish or flamboyant cuttlefish and end up shooting them from over a meter away. Maybe I should bring one of our rental compacts such as the Sony RX100V or Olympus TG4 next time.
I was also guideless, so I tagged along with Paulus and Kelo who both only had one guest each (we don’t mix air/nitrox buddies if we have guides available) On the first dive Paulus found me an Idiomysis and a pregnant Skeleton Shrimp to use the diopters on, and I didn’t do very well! Second Dive I had some Sheep Nudis from the start in the shallows and Kelo generously brought me back down for a nice hairy frogfish in the deep. Nothing like reverse profile diving!
For me it’s very clear that if you’re already invested in the Nauticam ecosystem then you should be getting a combination of Subsee +5, Nauticam SMC1, and Nauticam SMC2 for a trip to Lembeh if you want to go full on super macro. That’s $1525 of add on diopters. Then you’ll want a double flip holder for $370.
The advantage of the Nauticam ecosystem is that the diopters are made to fit perfectly when on a flip holder, and tailored to the whole system.
I’ll assume that most people already have some of that, but if you don’t, then maybe consider getting an Olympus TG4/ TG5 as a spare rig, particularly if like most people your pictures are only going on facebook. You’ll even have money left over to come visit us for a week! Outside of that small plug to come and stay with us we need to get back on track. Noodilab Moby or Nauticam SMC2?
For my method today I shot SMC2 first, then the Moby with a photo of nothing in between each set so I couldn’t get confused on the computer later. Underwater I definitely found the optics on the SMC2 easier to use manual focus and for rocking back and forth to get the shot. When looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR, the lens is set to wide open aperture (f2.8 in this case) to let as much light in and get critical focus. On the Moby the focus was razor thin and I struggled to judge with my eye, so I took some insurance shots with autofocus. With the SMC 2 I could shoot using either method. It’s not something I noticed on the fist day of testing but side by side when repeatedly switching between diopters like this I could feel it quite clearly.
Obviously on the captured images at F18 and above you couldn’t see much difference in real world settings with regards to sharpness, I’d be willing to bet a bottle of fine whiskey that the SMC is sharper in a a lab test. Is it $440 sharper? Depends on your skill level.
Both sets of images came up with some fringing. To exaggerate this I pumped the clarity, vibrance and saturation on these crops of a polyp. However, it could equally be the lens that is the source of this fringing, and then the diopters that accentuate it. The fringing would not bother me, so I wouldn’t hold this against either lens.
Moby vs. SMC2
For me the SMC2 is the winner, not by huge margins admittedly, but enough for me to see that there is one choice when underwater with both. Today I instantly preferred the SMC2 for focussing… But at the same time when checking images on the camera I was happy with the Moby shots.
A big factor to consider for both diopters are build quality and company longevity.
Noodilab has popped out of nowhere, and both myself and another Lembeh photographer tried to buy a Moby when they first came out without success – I believe due to using a 3rd party for production and their being a bottleneck and lack of supply. I guess it also depends how long you expect a diopter to last. My Subsees are ancient and still going, so I at least hope for 10 years, so I don’t consider them consumable accessories.
Nauticam is established and judging by the number of their housings we see dominating the market and our camera room – they aren’t going anywhere soon. Their build quality has evolved over the years since I got my first D90 housing almost a decade ago to now being industry leading – so I have faith that the diopter should be trouble free.
So, what are the advantages of the SMC2 over its nearest competitor, the noodilab Moby?
- Greater Working Distance.
- Build quality / established company brand
- More Magnification
If you’re spending $500 on a Moby, using a Nauticam system, and are using the system more than once a year then you might as well add a bit more and get an SMC2 (for me the difference is 2 nights of going out for dinner and drinks). If you’re not dedicated to super macro photography then you’re better of with the SMC1 anyway.
If you have a noodilab, you’re likely a committed macro addict so you’re going to get a SMC2 anyway.
The SMC2 and noodilab are niche products and the SMC 2 is the clear winner in all aspects, although admittedly it isn’t very much of a gap.
There is one other combination I haven’t compared and that is the Canon MP-E65 vs the SMC system, if there’s an interest please post on our facebook page and i’ll get around to it as soon as possible!