OUR EXPECTATIONS of consumer products are high, not least because the manufacturers often make such extravagant claims.
Underwater cameras used to be an extreme example. In the days of film, we would enter the water hopeful of getting great shots and, if we didnt flood the damned thing, wed get home to suffer enormous disappointment once we saw our processed pictures.
Digital photography has changed much of this, but when I use a modern digital compact under water, I often feel that my task has been made difficult by the lack of basic essentials.
Whether you use film or electronics to gather the image, the basic problems under water are caused by the properties of water itself.
Its turbid. If you could see 30m youd call it gin-clear, but if you had the same visibility on a motorway, youd call it driving in fog.
So the first rule is to get as close to your subject as you can, and remove as much water as possible between your camera and what you photograph. Thats why extreme close-ups or macro shots are so popular with those who use compacts. Success is usually assured.

Big Eye Lens
If you want to photograph bigger subjects you need to move away, but with a standard lens this usually means moving too far in order to get everything in. A wide-angle lens allows you to move closer and exclude some of that murky water without cropping off parts of your subject.
The problem arises when you discover that the wide end of your zoom lens is not very wide at all. The answer is to fit an ancillary wide-angle lens.
Remember, the idea is not to take wide-angle shots as you would on land, but to reduce the amount of water between you and your subject, to produce clearer, sharper pictures.
Some underwater housings have threaded front ports that allow such a thing to be fitted. Some have rectangular ports that do not - until now.
The Fantasea Line Big Eye WP-FXF fits over the front of the rectangular port of the underwater housing for the Fuji F200 EXR and others like it, as well as being available for more conventional threaded fittings.
Its a wet-fit lens, so you mount it once submerged, being careful to shake away any air bubbles that might be clinging to either port-front or lens-back. These will spoil your shots. Its a snug push-fit.
You can instantly remove this lens if you prefer to take a macro shot. A supplied lanyard secures it to the camera housing, so theres no danger of losing it should it get accidentally knocked off. Tethered, it will float conveniently out of the way.
I found it best to leave the camera in macro mode, which is needed for the Big Eye to give sharply focused pictures, and go either wide-angle or extreme close-up.
If I took off the Big Eye to do any other sort of shot, I would have to remember to take the camera out of macro mode.
For bigger subjects, the turbidity problem is instantly solved with this piece of kit. The lens is made of optical glass, and I found it best to cool this down to the same temperature as the water to avoid problems with fogging when you first get in.
The other big problem encountered while taking pictures on dives is that natural light is absorbed and filtered selectively when passing through water. You can take pictures by natural light, but unless you are close to the surface with bright sunshine behind you to give contrast, and perhaps a suitable colour filter over the lens, you will get monochromatically blue results.
Red light starts to be absorbed only after 1m or so, and yellow light disappears as soon as you go much deeper. Again, there is a bit of kit that can partly solve this problem - a flashgun.

Remora Flash
Most digital compacts have a built-in flash, but these are usually too close to the axis of the lens, so any detritus in the water is well-lit - we call it backscatter. These flashes are not usually very powerful but they can be used to trigger a second, larger, off-board flashgun.
The Fuji Remora flashgun is triggered in this way, and a fibre-optic cable is provided to make the link. This connection does away with the problem of fragile electrical connections in water. The built-in flash becomes redundant as a light source, and simply serves to tell the Remora when to fire.
At first I couldnt get the Remora to trigger under water, though it worked perfectly in air. Then I realised that a tiny air bubble was getting trapped when the fibre-optic cable plugged into the flashgun, obscuring light from the built-in flash. So connect this after submerging.
I suggest you black out that part of the front of your camera flash not covered by the connecting panel sticker with a bit of black tape, to dispense with the problem of incidental backscatter caused by this light source.
As it happens, if you use the Big Eye lens, it obscures the built-in flash, leaving just enough space to attach its fibre-optic cable.
The Remora is not as powerful as some far more expensive underwater flashguns, but remember, more power might pass further through the water, but it still gets selectively absorbed, just like the daylight from above.
So however powerful a burst of light you produce, it soon loses part of its colour.
This is why no underwater flashgun has a full colour range of much more than a metre or two, and again, why we need a wide-angle lens. Get close, then get closer still!
The Remora Flash is powered by four AA batteries, comes with a removable diffuser
to ensure a wide coverage of light, and is continuously adjustable over a range of nine power settings.
You will need to adjust it to suit your cameras inboard flash/pre-flash system, which takes a few moments of experimentation at home, choosing one of five pre-flash settings that make sure the Remora goes off when your camera is ready for it.
Thats the joy of digital photography - you can get the answer straight away. The Remora recycles ready for the next shot as quickly as the built-in flash of the Fuji F200 EXR camera.
Of course, dont expect automatic exposure control - the Remora flash is totally independent. Thats where its power adjustment comes in. Its amazing how quickly you can estimate distance and tweak the big knob that controls it accordingly. The LCD of your camera will tell you how well youre doing.
I used the Fuji F200 EXR in manual mode, setting the shutter speed and lens opening as I went. In this way, I could adjust to accommodate the effect of the natural light as well as the flash.
In the box is a tray for mounting your underwater housing with its camera, and a bendy arm that allows you to position the Remora just where you want it.
The best position Well away from the axis of the lens is good, but after that its down to you to experiment. Lighting is part of the art of photography; how you light things is your call.
There was still shutter-delay with which to contend, the bane of all compact digital cameras. This made action pictures slightly fraught, but with static subjects the quality of the pictures the combination of Big Eye and Remora produced was phenomenal!

SPECS
FANTASEA LINE BIG EYE LENS
PRICE £300
FITTING FXF 100/200 for Fuji (check website for many other makes of housing)
FIELD OF VIEW approx 80°
DEPTH RATING 60m
CONTACT www.fantasea.com, www.ddltd.co.uk/fantasea
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FUJI REMORA FLASHGUN
PRICE £230
POWER SOURCE 4 AA batteries
NUMBER OF FLASHES PER SET 240 approx.
GUIDE NO 20 (ISO 100 in air)
ACCESSORIES INCLUDED Mounting tray, bendy arm, sync lead, diffuser
DEPTH RATING 55m
CONTACT www.fantasea.com, www.fujifilm.com
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