Field review: Nikon D7100 and Subal ND7100


As I mentioned earlier, Subal did not send me a dome port or gear for my Tokina 10-17mm, which limited my wide angle photography. Although I was very happy to have the chance to shoot with the Nikon 10.5mm, which remains the best fisheye available for Nikon SLRs, it wasn’t as suited to Balinese subjects at the 10-17mm would have been. That said, visibility was not at its best in the Tulamben area during my stay, and had I not been shooting for a review, I would have probably not shot any wide angle.

I was happy to use the excellent Nikon 10.5mm fisheye again, although it needed to be fitted with a teleconverter to suit many of Bali’s subjects, such as this Rhinopias. Nikon D7100, Nikon 10.5mm, Kenko 1.4x teleconverter. Subal ND7100 housing, Sullivan 6” dome. 2 x Inon Z240 strobes. 1/100th, f/16, ISO 200.

I used the AUTO area autofocus (in AF-C) mode for wide angle, which worked well, except when the sun caught micro scratches in my acryllic dome port and confused it. Despite these occasional problems, I would recommend this focus mode for wide angle on the D7100. The D7100 also coped well with high dynamic range scenes, such as sunbursts. Despite only limited testing, I felt that that it performed between the D7000 and D800, both of which are excellent in this regard. Although that is what I would have said about the camera before I tried it! Ideally I would have liked more time for more rigorous testing.

The D7100 easily coped with the dynamic range in this morning reef scene featuring sun rays, as you would expect of a modern SLR. Nikon D7100, Nikon 10.5mm. Subal ND7100 housing, Sullivan 6” dome. 2 x Inon Z240 strobes. 1/125th, f/8, ISO 200.

I was keen to examine the high ISO performance of the D7100. A camera that squeeses 24 MP on a DX chip (the equivalent of 58MP on full frame sensor) is not typically the recipe for good low light performance. But each generation of cameras continues to make us reassess what we think is possible.

Test shots of soft corals on the Liberty wreck, these two at ISO 200 and ISO 800. Nikon D7100, Nikon 10.5mm. Subal ND7100 housing, Sullivan 6” dome. 2 x Inon Z240 strobes.

These are 100% crops of the above photos (unsharpened and no noise reduction applied), which, first, show how large the files are that the ND7100 produces. ISO 800 is clearly more noisy than ISO 200, but given the large file size, this level of noise would not be significant in most uses.

The revolutionary Nikon D800 made us reassess how we evaluate at noise in digital cameras. Like the D800, the D7100 shows visible noise as you turn up the ISO, but because of the very high pixel count, this is often not significant when you think of final image use. In short, increasing the ISO on both cameras is not something to be scared of doing, instead, just be aware that the more you turn it up, the smaller the maximum reproduction size of the final image becomes. However, it will probably remain larger than your intended image useage.

Available light test shots inside the Liberty at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200. Nikon D7100, Nikon 10.5mm. Subal ND7100 housing, Sullivan 6” dome.

These are 50% crops of the above photos which show that ISO 800 is entirely useable and ISO 1600 is good too. At ISO 3200 the level of noise is definitely overcoming the fine detail in the image, but the entire file would still look great on screen of for projection.

If you are coming from a 12MP Nikon, this is a very different way of thinking about high ISO shooting. Noise isn’t really the problem, instead turning up the ISO simply means you’ll need to down-sample the file size to hide the noise. In other words, if you want to use all of that available resolution, then keep the ISO low, but don’t be afraid of using ISO on the ND7100. Even ISO 1600 is usable for most outputs. ISO 3200 does seem to introduce noise at levels that overwhelms fine details, but the files would still be fine for on screen use and for projection. The other impact of high ISO shooting is reduced dynamic range, most obvious as highlights blowing out.

  1. Introduction.
  2. The Nikon D7100 camera and Subal ND7100 housing.
  3. Wide-angle.
  4. Close-ups.
  5. Conclusion.