Ikelite has housed more camera brands for underwater enthusiasts for over 30 years and more than any other manufacturer. Two size "boxes" accommodate SLR and originally taller motor-driven SLRs (MD-SLR housing.) The MD-SLR is the platform for the new Nikon D100 (and Fuji S2) housings giving the underwater shooter all the capability they’ll ever need. If you already use Ikelite ports, cords, etc. you can use all of your accessories on this new housing.
The MD size housing has a polycarbonate front and aluminum back with clear polycarbonate window. The back is coated with the same Teflon hard coating as Ikelite's Deluxe ball joint arms. It has been very durable in 2 recent trips. A small window on the top allows viewing of the LCD panel.
The clear front allows piece of mind that your camera is safe immediately on entering the water. Enough room under the camera (a "bilge" in boat terminology) could mean the difference in saving your camera or calling your insurance agent.
A new flat base plate gives the housing a slightly lower profile. Standard Ikelite Quick release handles allows use of Ikelite's arms or adapters for many other brand arms (Ultralight, TLC, etc.)
Controls are provided for EVERY function except the lock switch for the 4-way focus point selector. If you know your way around the D100 you would have this unlocked if you plan on selecting a certain AF point. A lot of housings have a control for the M, S, C small switch to allow changing between manual, single shot or continuous shooting. Ikelite provides a control to depress the AE/AF lock button right by your trigger finger (a custom function in the D100 menu choices.) This proves more capable in real world shooting. The AE/AF lock button can even start AF operation allowing you to pull the trigger at any time.
Spring-loaded buttons as are standard on most digicam housings allow access with one notable exception. Ikelite mechanical folks have "staggered" the height allowing easier use, especially with gloves on. The 4-way control pad used often for menu choices or even wasting bottom time and air to review or delete photos underwater is much easier to navigate with this mechanical design layout. The rear command dial has an internal spring ensuring good feel and the front command dial control is right in front of the trigger. Easy to reach and adjust. Depending on your preferred shooting mode you can make the rear command dial be either shutter speed OR aperture via a menu choice.
Ikelite's strobe connector bulkhead is the same on both strobe and camera housing end. Larger and easier to assemble, it doesn't matter which end you use. The Nikonos V style on many other housings is a definite Achilles heel over time.
Set-Up and Assembly
With the D100 you don't attach any rings or clamps unless using a zoom lens. Like Canon EOS cameras Nikon finally figured out it was easier to control aperture from the camera body. The days of mounting aperture rings on your lenses are over (Thank Goodness!)
A black delrin mounting base for the D100 body attaches via the tripod screw. This block is "keyed" to roll pins in the aluminum back that align the D100 exactly with the controls. NOTE: You can put your D100 in with the rubber eyecup and the clear screen protector still on your camera. I have most of the time. A recent Wetpixel post stated to allow the spring-loaded controls to depress fully removing these items would ensure the camera sits square and not tipped forward. Since this post, I take the eyecup and plastic protector off, although I never had trouble with any of the push buttons.
The SuperEye magnifier is built into the back providing an adequate view of the D100 viewfinder. A low profile mask and practicing "smashing" your face as close to the viewfinder and ignoring creature comforts results in an acceptable view. Attach the new style "flat" hot-shoe cord and you're ready to close the housing. The Ikelite D100 housing does not have TTL , not available in any housing today to my knowledge other than housing Nikon's own SB80DX flash. However, Ikelite's hot-shoe is designed to "know" a strobe is attached. Nikon SLR cameras have a RED lightning bolt for flash recycle (and TTL feeedback when available) visible in the viewfinder, a major advantage being able to concentrate on the viewfinder while shooting and not glancing up at your strobe's ready light.
Depending on lens choice you seal the appropriate port on the front section and lower the complete front down. Secure the latches and double-check control alignment. With certain zoom lenses (12-24DX, 18-35mm ED, etc.) you need to close the housing sections first, then attach the lens with a zoom sleeve through the port opening, and then secure your port with Ikelite's locking port locks. Some folks have complained about these, but my experience after 25 years of using Ikelite housings has proven they operate fine as long as they are "clicked" in place and you visually conform the o-ring has not twisted or extruded. A lens release control makes reversing this procedure easy. Ikelite's port barrel diameter accommodates lenses up to 77mm filter size. Anything bigger MAY be usable but must be assembled though the front and then seal the port.
One note about mounting the camera in the rear section. Many feel front mounting is better for battery or compact flash card changes. With the new camera-mounting block you can lift the camera out and change CF cards without even removing the hot-shoe connector. The Nikon D100 battery lasts me 1-2-3 DAYS of shooting including reviewing images on the LCD. In real world use this has not been a problem. Plus changing a mold around for what is a very small market (DSLR cameras versus prosumer sized 3-5 megapixel cameras) simply wouldn't be good business sense.
Handling Topside and Underwater
Topside with a strobe or strobes attached in the "upside down V" configuration the housing weighs no more than other DSLRs. I've laid the complete rig on a bouncing boat deck out of the sun and it's kept my camera dry and functioning.
Underwater with a single DS125 I found the lead weights in the new base plate unnecessary in salt water. Just slightly negative allowing me to set the camera down if need be. Depending on your strobe buoyancy you'll have to try and see what suits you best. The EV and AE/AF lock controls are positioned right where they should be for quick shooting, even with one hand. In dim light a control for turning on the LCD illuminator is provided, although you can change a menu choice to allow any button you hit to light the LCD up. The new back window shades the LCD allowing quick review of your images to immediately check exposure.
The new Ikelite D100 housing is an excellent choice for those who already own Ikelite ports and accessories or any new D100 photographer looking to house the Nikon D100 camera. Ikelite's service and parts are legendary. The combination of opaque back and clear front allows quick checks your camera is safe and excellent functionality. Pricing is competitive with current DSLR housings. I know some people want their housing to look "showroom new" and obsess over every little white salt mark. After 2 trips with the D100 housing I've done nothing except pull apart the base plate bolts and brush the salt away with an old toothbrush, plus pull the controls out and slap some lube on the shafts to lubricate the internal X-rings. Other than rinsing after a dive that's it. I don't soak my housing for long periods either. The most dangerous place for any housing is the rinse tank or shallow water. A 60 second "shake and bake" agitation while moving controls will remove 90% + of salt if done within 5 minutes or so after surfacing. Anything more is a waste of time IMHO. I am obsessive about rinsing the outside of the ports with fresh water and patting dry to avoid water spots plus the eyepiece I compose through. Everything else is irrelevant other than checking o-rings for sand, cat hair, globs of grease, etc.
Famous photographer Chris Newbert shot many of his macro shots in the award winning book "Within a Rainbowed Sea" with an ancient Ikelite housed Canon F1. He told a friend and me at DEMA several years ago: "The only thing keeping water out of any of these housings are o-rings and X-rings. More time in the water using your camera will result in better photos."
My friend promptly bought an Ikelite housing for his Nikon N90s and recently added the new D100 housing based on his experience with the Ikelite products. For my money the Ikelite brand is affordable and backed by the best service in the underwater photographic community. A great overall value.
For specs, visit Ikelite's website at: