My DSLR Camera for Underwater Photography

NikonD300

My DSLR Camera for Underwater Photography

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Second part of the Underwater Photography Gear series.

Diving with Nikonos V + 15mm lens + 2 Flashes SB105 – Photo courtesy: Dany Weinberg

After having used the legendary Nikonos V underwater film camera for many years, the digital revolution finally pushed me to replace my old equipment with pixel makers which would make my life much easier.

In the past it was expensive, time consuming and frustrating to have to wait after a diving trip to see the results – bad or good – and think how I could improve the shots during my next travel.

No doubt the digital era has completely transformed photographers’ lives for only the cost of gigabytes, enabling us to save and edit results immediately.

I was not with the early birds going digital. I preferred to buy a DSLR because the “point and shoot” digital cameras were frustrating: they were really slow in their early releases, there was limitation with the lens (not interchangeable), they could not produce RAW files, and the results were not impressive.  DSLR cameras were quite expensive then, and I waited patiently until a good quality camera at an affordable price came on the market. By the end of 2004 I discovered the Nikon D70 and made the switch to digital.

Shooting with my older Nikon D200 – Photo courtesy: David White

All my underwater photography equipment was chosen specifically, and for reasons perhaps not readily apparent to the weekend hobbyist.  I didn’t necessarily go for the most expensive equipment, opting instead for evidence of excellent performance for my needs:  reliable equipment that produces high quality image files and high quality digital files.

Over time I replaced my Nikon D70 with the Nikon D200.  Then the Nikon D300 hit the market, a version heads and shoulders above the D200. Because the two cameras were physically similar and I found an affordable housing transformation kit, I moved to the D300. I’m still using it today as my main camera. The equivalent to the D300 model today is the Nikon D500. This model has the video in supplement, but it’s also at the end of its career.

Today I’m waiting warmly for the new Nikon D500 to come out next March 2015.

Photographer Sharon Rainis and her camera underwater

I think the cropped sensor in DX format cameras, has a nice advantage to full frame cameras for underwater photographers. When shooting macro, you get 1.5 times the subject size, which is usually a quite tiny target.

Whatever DSLR camera you choose, it’s important to get one you are comfortable working with for many years, as the housing is the most expensive part of your camera and will fit for one single model.

Make sure to check which housing is available for the camera you’d like to have, before buying the camera, as it might be that you won’t find a convenient housing for the specific model you’d like to acquire.

To conclude, I’m very happy with my DSLR as it’s a high end model always ready for hard work, with a solid aluminium body. I still can use it even after a few years, with no need to upgrade it with any new model. It’s a great Return On Investment camera!

Here under, respectively, the Nikon D300s and Nikon D500 specifications

Nikon D300s specs

Effective pixels 12.3 million
Image sensor CMOS sensor, 23.6 x 15.8 mm; total pixels: 13.1 million; Nikon DX format
Image size (pixels) 4,288 x 2,848 [L], 3,216 x 2,136 [M], 2,144 x 1,424 [S]
Sensitivity ISO 200 to 3200 in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV; can also be set to approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 1 EV (ISO 100 equivalent) below ISO 200 or to approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 1 EV (ISO 6400 equivalent) above ISO 3200
Storage media Type I CompactFlash memory cards (UDMA compliant); SD memory cards, SDHC compliant
Monitor 3-in., approx. 920k-dot (VGA), low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD with 170° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage, and brightness adjustment
Exposure metering 3D color matrix metering II, center-weighted and spot metering
Exposure modes Programmed Auto with flexible program (P); Shutter-Priority Auto (S); Aperture-Priority Auto (A); Manual (M)
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Power sources One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in.)
Weight Approx. 840 g (1 lb. 14 oz.) without battery, memory card, body cap or monitor cover

 

Nikon D500 Specs

 

Lens Mount Nikon F
Camera Format DX / (1.5x Crop Factor)
Pixels Actual: 21.51 Megapixel
Effective: 20.9 Megapixel
Max Resolution 5568 x 3712
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 23.5 x 15.7 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW, TIFF
Movies: MOV, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Audio: Linear PCM (Stereo)
Bit Depth 14-bit
Dust Reduction System Yes
Memory Card Type SD
SDHC
SDXC
XQD
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S)
Autofocus Points Phase Detection:153, 99 cross-type
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type Pentaprism
Viewfinder Eye Point 16.00 mm
Viewfinder Coverage 100%
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 1.0x
Diopter Adjustment – 2 to +1 m
Display Screen 3.2″ Rear Touchscreen Tilting  LCD (2,359,000)
Screen Coverage 100%
Diagonal Angle of View 170.0°
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 100-51200 (Extended Mode: 50-1640000)
Shutter Type: Electronic & Mechanical
Speed: 30 – 1/8000 second
Remote Control WR-R10, WR-1 (Optional)
Mirror Lock-Up Yes
Metering Method 3D Color Matrix Metering, Center-weighted average metering, Spot metering, Highlight Weighted
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
Metering Range: EV -4.0 – EV 20.0
Compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
Continuous Shooting Up to 10 fps at 20.9 MP for up to 200 frames in raw format
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade
Flash
Flash Modes 1st Curtain Sync
Hi-Speed Sync
Off
Rear Curtain/Slow Sync
Rear Sync
Red-eye Reduction
Slow Sync
Slow Sync/Red-eye Reduction
Built-in Flash No
Max Sync Speed 1 / 250 seconds
Flash Compensation -3 EV to +1 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
Dedicated Flash System iTTL
External Flash Connection Hot Shoe, PC Terminal
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes, NTSC
Video Format 4K
MPEG4-AVC/H.264
3840 x 2160p / 30 fps
3840 x 2160p / 25 fps
3840 x 2160p / 24 fps
High Definition
MPEG AVC/H.264
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps
1920 x 1080p / 50 fps
High Definition
MPEG AVC/H.264
1920 x 1080p / 30 fps
1920 x 1080p / 25 fps
1920 x 1080p / 24 fps
High Definition
MPEG AVC/H.264
1280 x 720p / 60 fps
1280 x 720p / 50 fps
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Exposure Control Manual: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
ISO Sensitivity Auto/Manual, 100 – 51200, Expandable to 1640000
Focus Manual
Continuous Auto
Video Clip Length 3840 x 2160
@ 30 fps: 3 min.
1920 x 1080
@ 60 fps: 20 min.
1920 x 1080
@ 30 fps: 29 min. 59 seconds
Audio Recording Built-in Mic: With Video, Stereo
Optional External Mic: With Video, Stereo
Performance
Continuous Shooting Up to 10 fps
Self Timer 20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds
Interval Recording Yes
Connectivity 1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI C (Mini), Micro-USB, NIkon 10-Pin, USB 3.0
Wi-Fi Capable Yes
Power
Battery 1x EN-EL15 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack, 7 VDC, 1900 mAh
AC Power Adapter EH-5b (Optional)
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating
32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Humidity: 85 – 0%
Physical
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2″ / 147.0 x 115.0 x 81.0 mm
Weight 1.89 lb / 860 g with battery and memory card

Read also the next part of the Underwater Photography Gear series, about my DSLR Housing

 

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