The Housing Design
The Nauticam is an attractive looking housing, designed with a clear attention to detail and a build quality that inspires confidence. Straight away it feels a quality piece of kit, all the controls fall where you expect and are intuitive to use. It is supplied with detailed instructions, spare o-rings and o-ring grease, an Allen key set etc. Extra items are sold in small neat white cardboard boxes, with accessories such as the optical viewfinder supplied with a handsome neoprene carrying bag. This feels like a mature brand, not a newcomer.
It feels unfair when, discussing Nauticam, to immediately mention price. But the fact is that it undercuts most existing brands significantly has generated much interest. In no way should you consider Nauticam as a budget or cut price product. In many aspects of design innovation, quality and ergonomics it clearly out shines many existing housings.
All that said the D700 housing is one of Nauticam’s more expensive products. It sells for $3200. The Nauticam D90 housing (which seems to have all the same buttons) is close to a 1/3 cheaper ($2300). For perspective, here are USDs in ascending order for D700 housings (undiscounted website prices, no accessories, source Reef Photo and Backscatter): Ikelite $1600, Aquatica $2950, Nauticam $3200, Sea & Sea $3700, Subal $4500, Seacam $5850.
The Nauticam is noticeably taller and wider than my Subal, even if you don’t consider the Nauticam’s hump, which enables the flash to pop up and drive the optical flash synchronisation. It is a larger than people expect, one Aussie photographer’s first comment was “Wow, it’s big!” However, as a consequence of its larger volume, the Nauticam is more neutrally buoyant underwater than my Subal. Although like almost all housings it still exerts a torque on your wrist because it does not naturally sit flat in the water, instead the port floats upward. (Off topic, but amusingly, I have heard that one manufacturer claims that this feature is especially engineered into their housings so that if you drop them they will not scratch the port!!)
The Nauticam housing provides dials, levers and buttons to access all the controls of the camera. It is a great tool for taking images. The push button resistance is excellent, providing a soft but positive press. The only fiddly control is the focus grouping mode selector, which was particularly difficult to change in gloves (see my D3 Subal review for some of the benefits in switching modes ).
The gearing on the dials is also praise-worthy, with a direct one click on the housing to make one change on the camera. Quite a few housings get this wrong, so you are not left spinning the dial endlessly to make changes. The shutter lever is pleasingly sculpted and covered in rubber to avoid finger slippage! When I tried the housing on land I was impressed by its ability to allow me to feel the biting point between activating autofocus and firing the shutter. However, underwater I found I did occasionally take pictures, when trying to just focus, which was annoying. The half-press point is not as clear as on my Subal. Although the Nauticam’s shutter lever is better than many housings I have tried. Despite the example picture below, this is a minor point.
Handles are a very personal feature, but most people immediately had positive words to say about those on the Nauticam, some immediately preferring holding the Nauticam to their own housings. They are not adjustable. We tested the hands of both girls and boys and all found the shutter release and aperture fell straight to hand. The shutter speed dial is more of a stretch, particularly so underwater. I feel this is the only significant ergonomic weakness on the housing. It is one of the issues I’ll discuss further in the underwater testing section.