My second camera was an Olympus C-5050 5 mega pixel digital with a 512 meg Compact Flash memory card. I used it from February of 2003 through July of 2004. I rigged it in an Ikelite housing with an INON wide angle lens, an INON dome port, and two Ikelite DS-125 digital camera compatible strobes with an Ikelite dual handled tray with 1" and 1 1/4" ball arms. Total street cost about $3850 - $4050
Olympus C-5050 Camera - I reached as far as I could for a prosumer camera with great optics at an affordable price that had an affordable housing to go with it.
My C-5050 Rig
Housing - I started with an Olympus PT-015 Housing - I went with price here. But when it the housing flooded, I replaced it with an Ikelite housing.
Update: Ikelite's new housings for the 5050 and 5060 use the Olympus TTL to control the strobes via a sync cord. This is real Olympus TTL with a sync cord! Click here for details on how this system works and why I use and recommend it.
Note: As it turns out, none of the available housings are really compact when you add a mounting tray and strobes. So forget about a setup that fits in your BC pocket, it ain't going to happen. Click here for an Ikelite picture that makes this point.
Strobes - Ikelite DS-125 Strobes, Arms, and Tray (Ikelite #3944.77 & #9523.02 )- These are really great strobes. They put out an awesome amount of light, they have great coverage, and they recycle in just 1 second! I loved the way they worked on my C-3040 rig, and with manual controllers on this rig I like them even better. And finally, Ikelite's new 1" ball arms are easy to position and stay put. To me they represent a vast improvement of the earlier Ikelite arms.
Re strobe alternatives your choices are Ikelite, INON, or Sea & Sea. While there are pros and cons for the strobes from these 3 sources, when all is said and done I think the winners are the Ikelite DS 125 and the INON Z220 for power and angle of coverage with the INON excelling in lightweight and the Ikelite in cycle time.
Strobe Arms - I shoot mostly wide angle with a dome. I found the standard issue Ikelite arms a little on the short side when trying to shoot past particles in the water.So I added a set of 1 1/4" arms to the handle with a 1 1/4' to 1" adapter to continue with the 1" arms. I like this setup because I can set the first set of arms in a basically locked down condition which means I only have to adjust the outboard arms.
Lens - INON UWL-100 Wide Angle Lens - I already had this lens and since it fit the Olympus housing I stayed with it. Starting form scratch I would make the same choice since it has served me well AND because an INON dome port is available as an add on feature for this lens.
As far as the Ikelite arms are concerned, they stay put underwater and are easy to move when I want to reposition them.
Note: I attach the WAL lens before the dive. However I find that it is necessary to remove and replace the WAL lens underwater at the beginning of the dive to ensure that all of the air bubbles are out. It's easiest to do this with the port facing up. But be careful not to force it because it is easy to cross thread the WAL lens/Port and ruin the threads. At the end of the day I remove the WAL lens for separate cleaning and storage.
Dome Port - INON Dome Port - This is the most recent addition to my rig. With the dome port mounted on the front of my wide angle lens I can cover 127.9 degrees instead of the 100 degrees with the wide angle lens alone.
The primary advantage that I get is that I can get closer to people, sharks, turtles, and other large subjects without cutting off arms, fins, flippers etc. And with closer comes less stuff between the lens and the subject and better lighting.
An additional advantage is that the dome shortens the working distance of the lens (focusing range: 1.9cm - infinity in macro mode), allowing me to take close-focus wide-angle (CFWA) pictures.
Of course all this assumes that I am able to get closer to the subjects. Sometimes the subjects don't cooperate.
Sample Pictures -
For examples of pictures taken with this rig, see the pictures in Groups 3, 4, and 5 in the Sample Gallery.
Settings - Click here to see the settings that I am currently using and some of my reasoning for selecting these settings.
Bottom Line - I think this rig was at the knee of the price performance curve in 2003 and probably even in 2004 i.e. were I to have spent more, I don't think my pictures would be much/any better.