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NA-R5C and EMWL in Lembeh Strait

Joel Penner of New Media Soup was filming over several weeks in the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Indonesia using the NA-R5C paired with the EMWL system.  Below the video is a Q&A session with Joel (JP) and Nauticam's Hergen Spalink (HS).

HS: Joel, please tell us about the setup you used and where you captured the footage.

JP: I had the fortunate opportunity to spend the early part of 2023 diving in the muck capital of the world, the Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi Indonesia. I travelled there with the Canon R5C – a powerful hybrid camera allowing me to have multiple types of camera configurations to capture both stills and video. Here were my “go-to” configurations:

Traditional Macro Photo Configuration:


  • Canon R5C in a Nauticam NA-R5C Housing
  • Canon 100mm Macro Lens
  • Small HD503 Bright Monitor in a Nauticam Housing
  • (I shoot and frame my photos with a video monitor rather than using the EVF.)
  • Fiber optic flash trigger with two Backscatter MF-2 Strobes with OS-1 Optical Snoot
  • Nauticam SMC-1 and Nauticam SMC-2

EMWL Macro Photo Configuration:

  • Canon R5C in a Nauticam NA-R5C Housing
  • Canon 100mm Macro Lens
  • Small HD503 Bright Monitor in a Nauticam Housing
  • (I shoot and frame my photos with a video monitor rather than using the EVF.)
  • Fiber optic flash trigger with two Backscatter MF-2 Strobes with OS-1 Optical Snoot
  • EMWL with selected Objective Lenses
  • Flotation to make camera close to Neutral

Macro Video Configuration:

  • Canon R5C in a Nauticam NA-R5C Housing
  • Canon 100mm Macro Lens
  • Small HD503 Bright Monitor in a Nauticam Housing
  • Nauticam EMWL with 60, 100, 130 and 160 optics
  • Keldan 8x 15,000 lights, or
  • Backscatter MW4300 video lights with OS-1 Optical Snoot
  • Xit404 Tripod Plate with INON Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs
  • Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head

HS: Compared to a standard macro lens, what advantage did you find using the EMWL when capturing more traditional macro images

JP: My favorite thing about shooting with the EMWL vs. a traditional macro lens, is how many of the underwater subjects are not as afraid of the smaller optics getting close to them, vs. trying to stick a 120 macro port with an SMC right up against them. They also aren’t scared by my regulator exhalations as much because of extended distance away from them. I also appreciate how I can go for a close focus wide angle style of framing in my compositions without having to setup with a traditional wide angle configuration. I love being able to get extremely close to a critter while still being able to show them in their environment.

HS: The EMWL is incredibly versatile and aims to not only give the benefits you mentioned above to the process of capturing traditional macro images, it also opens up a variety of creative pathways. The next few questions will target those special lenses in the 100º-160º field-of-view category.

The look of each of these lenses is unique, can you distill from your experience which subjects or scenarios seemed best suited to each lens and if possible, reference those scenes in your video?

JP: Many of the wider shots (that shows the critter in their environment) were shot with either the 130˚ or 160˚ Objective Lens. Right out of the gate, the first two clips (00:00 – 00:09), the octopus in the Fanta bottle (00:36 – 00:40), and the coleman shrimp on the urchin (01:02 – 01:07) utilize the 130˚ or 160˚. Additionally, the Nemos sequence (03:00 – 03:17) were all shot with the 130˚. These Objective lenses seem best for subjects that are on the larger side of macro subjects you’ll see in Lembeh. Something that’s the size of a small orange or larger. I love the look of these objectives, as they allow me to shoot CFWAM. (close focus wide angle macro).

These Objective Lenses focus right up to the glass, so you can really get the critter large enough in the frame. I prefer to use manual focus with focus peaking on the monitor to make sure I’m getting critical focus on the critter while showing it in it’s environment. One of the challenges to the 130˚ is the additional front end weight vs. the 160˚. I found as I used them more and more, I leaned towards using the 160˚ as it was lighter and allowed me to more easily maneuver the rig to get good stable shots.

Many days in the water I setup with the 100˚ Objective Lens and carried the 60˚ in a protective pouch in my thigh pocket.

Some of the subjects that worked well with the 100˚ were medium to small like frogfish. The Hairy Frogfish clips (01:38 – 01:55) were shot with the 100˚.

The 60˚ allowed me an even tighter field when framing the subject. The Yellow Juvenile Frogfish (01:55 – 02:00) were as close as possible. This thing was really tiny as can be seen by the large grains of sand. Also, the sequence with the Candy Crab, Tiger Shrimp, and Tozeuma Shrimp (01:24 – 01:33) were shot with the 60˚ Objective and almost come across from a similar functionality to using an SMC.

HS: Using the relay lens adds a good deal of distance to the subject, can you describe your underwater workflow when setting up on a subject? Did you use a tripod and/or buoyancy arms to compensate for the weight of the system?

Flip Holder for EMWL Lens
Xit404 Tripod Plate with INON Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs
Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head
I think the Nauticam Buoyancy Arms would be very helpful to help balance the system. You need it lighter, but you don’t want it too light, otherwise the slightest amount of current or surge will make the camera platform wobble or even worse, tip over.
When shooting with the EMWL, the relay lens along with the 130˚ Objective Lens, I had about 18 of the large Stix Floats on the underwater camera system.
Next time I use the EMWL I’d like to try using the Objective Lenses without the Relay Lens and flip the image in my video monitor. Even though there’s a downside of seeing the Record Light, and all camera controls displayed upside down, the benefits of having a lighter system and a shorter lens setup may outweigh the awkwardness of the OSD being upside down.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this article, Nauticam now produces special "Reversed' Full-frame Viewfinders especially for using the EMWL without the relay lens portion.

HS: 8K 60p Canon Cinema RAW Light files are still a pretty heavy file to work with and require more post-processing and storage which can be challenge, especially in the field. Can you briefly touch on how you worked with these and why you chose to use that format?

JP: This is a great question. When planning to go to Lembeh and shoot with the Canon R5C, I really wanted to shoot the camera in its highest resolution format with the benefits of 60fps for this trip. You can only capture 8K 60p on this camera if using the Canon Cinema RAW Light Format. I had previously shot the camera in 8K 60p RAW, and really appreciated the elastic latitude of the file format when performing color correction and grading in post.

Regarding the heavy files…I knew the RAW video clips were going to be very large. To say I underestimated how much storage I might need is a fair assessment! For example, when capturing macro behavior, you end up filming and filming until the behavior happens. Unfortunately, if you’ve wanted to keep the RAW video file, you need to keep the whole two minute clip, to retain the last 10 seconds where the frogfish yawns! I calculated what I thought would be enough hard drive space for the trip. 20TB of primary drives, and 20TB of backup drives. In the field, I had two hard drive failures, and immediately had to come up with a makeshift workaround, using some of my backup drives as primaries. I then was lucky enough to have someone visiting the resort a week later, that brought 16TB more of storage!

HS: What would be your top 5 tips for those looking to capture unique underwater macro scenes with the EMWL?

  1. Make sure you purge the air bubbles and really clean out the glass between each connection on the EMWL. With all of the particulate in the water, sometimes I’d miss something and it will get recorded on the shot.
  2. Use manual focus. The Canon R5C would tend to focus just beyond the subject, if I wasn’t lined up straight onto it. Using manual focus and focus peaking on my monitor, I could dial in critical focus and have higher confidence that I nailed the shot.
  3. Use a tripod. Although during the trip, I tried shooting with a neutral rig without a tripod, I found that most of my best video was with a locked off tripod rig.
  4. While recording, get critical focus, and make sure you’re recording, your lights are out and lit where you want, and then don’t touch the camera at all. The length of the EMWL, exaggerates any micro adjustments and bumps and shows up in your footage.
  5. Inspect your video frame, and verify that there aren’t any spots in the frame. If so, go back to bullet point number one and quickly disassemble all elements of the EMWL, clean thoroughly and reassemble so you achieve clean recorded footage.

HS: Which features of the R5C/NA-R5C or specific Nauticam Accessories for the NA-R5C did you find most helpful for this particular shoot?

JP: The greatest thing about what Nauticam has done with the NA-R5C housing is create space for a large external battery underneath the camera. I was able to get three dives on one battery, but would usually need to swap memory cards after two dives, so at that point, I would simply change everything.

The ergonomics on this housing are perfect. I never had any issue with any of the buttons, levers or dials, while on the entire trip. All of my existing ports worked with the housing, and my Nauticam housing for my video monitor also performed flawlessly.

The Canon R5C doesn’t have any overheating issues, and is a reliable workhorse, even when capturing 8K 60fps with no limit. Combine that reliability with the workhorse durability of the Nauticam housing, Small HD housing, Ports and accessories, you’ll experience a worry free capturing system for the demanding underwater professional.

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