GonePro Part 2: Krazy Kraken Cannon

In the meantime I could gain some first experience using the Canon VIXIA/LEGRIA HF G30 in open water under real life conditions. So, in this second and follow-up post I'm going to analyze the footage taken with both the HF G30 and GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition. This post follows in the steps of GonePro Part 1: Krazy Kraken Cannon.

My First Open Water Test

My first open water test is characterized by the usual difficult conditions that are typical for this region over here. It took place in a local former and now closed gravel pit: Happurger Baggersee. Rather atypical for this lake the sight was comparably good ... meaning roughly five meters at best.

I quickly noticed at the beginning of this dive that my decision for a camcorder with manual white balance was well-founded. Albeit the automatic white balance performed still reasonable, our green waters defeated it nevertheless ... as was to be expected.

Raw footage ungraded as shot with the cam. You'll notice that grading is required.

My first example above shows the unmodified raw footage as shot after manual white balance under water. This is what you'll find on the me truly card. Distance to the fish is approximately one and a half meters. To my opinion, the less than satisfying contrast range is caused by this distance and the lighting. This footage was shot without any artificial light. More on the topic of contrast range in a few minutes in my second test.

Subtle grading: colors, brightness and contrast.

Fortunately, contrat can be corrected in post. Brightness can also be adjusted in post ad well.

Same position, but using the optical zoom.

In the shot above I've made good use of the optical zoom of the Canon HF G30. Despite the really good image stabilizer of the cam it is still difficult to keep the frame on spot. Of course, stills work amazingly well. You can even spot the hydra that lives on the plant in front of the perch.

Final outcome after grading contrast and brightness.
Colors are ungraded, after uw manual white balance.
The still shown above is the result after manually grading contrast and brightness. Colors are as is in the raw footage, as I did a manual white balance under water before shooting the scene.

While we're at it ... manual white balance has still is place, as automatic white balance can heavily suck under water. Luckily, my Canon HF G30 allows for manual white balance as well as setting a controlled color temperature. Both variants are also accessible during a dive, which is a real bon, thanks to the design of the Ikelite dive housing.

To prove my point of all needing a manual white balance please see my next still below... No, this is not Herography, albeit it reminds me of my early underwater filming experiments with the HD Heros 1 through 3. But the Heros are still unsurpassed in terms of artistic discoloration. So, there's still room for Canon to mess up its white balance. However, GoPro's Protune is still better as it allows me to switch off automatic white balance during the dive and do the grading in post.

So much for automatic white balance...

My Second Open Water Test

For my second test drove I chose Rothsee and this time the topic was eels. The guys were lurking in their homes almost everywhere. Luckily, they kept sitting there so I could easily shot video. And this even as I sometimes approached them closely.

This time I had mounted my old GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition on the Ikelite die housing of my HF G30. The hero works as a kind of visual finder and fish eye scene catcher. The Canon HF G30 spot both in wide fowls of view as well as detail view. This allows us to compare to some extent these two cameras.

Field of view: GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition and Canon HF G30.

The (background) image above shows the wide field of view scene as captured by the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition in video mode 2.7K worth 25 frames per second. As usual, I uncompressed the RGB tonal curves according to the Protune in-cam compression. In addition, I manually increased color saturation and applied image sharpening. This is all to the way Protune treats raw footage before writing it into video files. The top left histogram finally reflects the brightness distribution of the raw Protune footage. We will return to the histogram in a few minutes.

Simultaneously I shot the same scene using the Canon HF G30. However, I zoomed in to fully frame Eelfred the Eel. He can be seen in the top right corner in its own small frame. The other small frame below shows a pixel-precise part of the same still shot with the HF G30. Both smaller frames underwent color and contrast correction in post. As you can see, with the GoPro HD Hero 3 our cute Eelfred lurks somewhere between the stones; is the typical wide angle view. In contrast, with the Canon I can Walz zip in and properly frame Eelfred, our test eel. This gives a detailed view onto its head.

As already hinted at above, we now look at the histograms of the brightness values from the HD Hero 3 and HF G30 stills. Due to the difficult light and water conditions with a lot of debris the automatic brightness control of the GoPro has difficulties to achieve good contrast. Unfortunately, as the GoPro makes only use of the medium range the situation actually gets worse with Protune. This is because Protune compresses the tonal curves in the medium range and on purpose loses detail and resolution here in order to make room at the low and high ends of the range. However, as the automatic exposure control makes only use of this compressed mid range the advantage of Protune turns into a disadvantage!

When looking at the histogram of the Canon still the situation seems to be the same as for the GoPro HD Hero. However, the important difference here is that Canon does not compress the tonal curves in the way GoPro does with Protune. Thus, the Canon HF G30 preserves more tonal detail than the GoPro HD Hero 3. This means that with the Canon cam we have more room for correction in post. And this is important, as in our case we need to improve the contrast, that is, we have to spread it slightly. And if the contrast had been compared to much, when spreading causes posterization effects.

In the end, it is my understanding that the Canon HF G30 here performs better.

For the record and to finish this post, here's the full size image of Aalfred that is we analyzed above. It's a still taken from the video footage shot with the Canon HF G30. I adjusted the contrast and slightly color graded the image to remove excess green. I also slightly sharpened the image.

Eelfred en detail. Shot withCanon HF G30.

(Preliminary) Summary

As was to be expected, there is a large gap between a GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition AMD a Canon HF G 30. Of course, the size of the Canon cam is significantly larger than the GoPro HD Hero cam. It will take some time to handle the grown dive housing properly workout to much shaking.  The zoom optics of the HF G30 are a big leap forward, as can be seen from these early examples. However, the far zoom range is difficult to handle as it is prone to shaking. This definitely needs much more practice on my side. Also, the d'ici housing needs more tweaking.

Stepping down from 2.7K footage to good old 1080p material of the Canon is actually a step forward. One reason is the excellent optical zoom to which the GoPro cameras are no match. From my experience, zooming 1-to-1 in to the 2.7K footage quickly reveals the mammy problems of the GoPro optics, including their low quality dive housing. In contrast, the Canon in connection with the Ikelite dove housing produces good quality without the significant problems of the GoPro optics.