Nikon D3 Field Review in the East Pacific. PART 3

Well, the Sigma 15mm is the lens to have if you are not lucky enough to be shooting DX and have a Tokina 10-17mm. The 10-17mm fisheye zoom has so many devotees these days, I shan’t waste space singing its praises here. However, since most of my dive buddies had this lens, I noticeably missed it on this shoot, particularly when I saw their pictures after the dive. For some wide angle subjects you just need the full 180 degree coverage, other times, particularly for wildlife you need to zoom in a bit. With the Tokina you can, with FX you cannot. My biggest frustration shooting wide with the D3 was the fact it did not have a Tokina, hardly Nikon’s fault. I was quite surprised by this considering I only started using the lens in the spring of 2007, a few of months before the D3 was announced! To save you thinking it, the 14-24mm, if you could get it working behind a dome, is no substitute as sees only 114 degrees at its widest.

Yes, you can crop, but I don’t enjoy shooting to crop. Plus it is hardly an ideal approach for optimal image quality. I took this image with the intention of cropping because I just could not fill enough of the frame with these very small 3 inch (7.5cm) jellies – despite the amazing close focus of the Sigma. A Tokina 10-17mm for FX would be a more elegant solution. Nikon D3 + 15mm FE, Subal housing. F14 @ 1/80th. ISO 800. Two Inon Z240 strobes.

I shot the Sigma 15mm in Guadalupe and was pleased with the spacious images it produced. But such images always look better alongside the high impact face shots, so I needed something longer. With the straight 15mm the white sharks just got too tadpoley – all head and no body at all. With a Tokina 10-17mm you can just zoom in, but on FX I had to find a different solution. I settled on the 15mm with a 1.5x Kenko teleconverter. It does not offer the flexibility of the Tokina, but it did allow me a tighter view.


The straight 15mm was very useful in Guadalupe, and ideal for taking images of sharks with pleasing negative space. However, when the sharks came right into the dome and filled the frame they tended to be too tadpoley – all head and no body because of the distortion. I needed another solution. Nikon D3 + 15mm FE, Subal housing. F8 @ 1/160th. ISO 200. Two Inon Z240 strobes.

I have been using the same TC on DX, with the 10.5mm, but I had always used this combination with a tiny 4 inch dome as a wide-angle macro lens. Using the fisheye-TC combo as a straight wide angle lens is not new thinking for FX, Walt Sterns was the first I heard sharing this idea. I mounted it behind the FE2 port and the small port extension ring that, ironically, I have for the Tokina.


The 15mm combined with the 1.5x TC proved sharp and provided a more useful angle of coverage for the all important face shots of the sharks. Nikon D3 + 15mm FE + 1.5x TC, Subal housing. F8 @ 1/125th. ISO 400. Two Inon Z240 strobes.

The 15mm Sigma and 1.5x TC has a similar angle of coverage as the 17-35mm at 17mm – about 110 degrees. I would say that the 17-35mm is ever-so-slightly sharper in the centre of the frame, but the corners of the fisheye-TC are better and I much prefer the barrel to pincushion distortion. The TC crops out much of the fisheye distortion. On any shoot I’d imagine I’d use both depending on the subject and affect I was after.


I took this image to demonstrate the reduced barrel distortion of the fisheye with TC. While clearly visible the TC greatly reduces the distortion compared with a straight fisheye, and it would be hard to notice on most subjects. Nikon D3 + 15mm FE + 1.5x TC, Subal housing. F8 @ 1/125th. ISO 400. Two Inon Z240 strobes.

For completeness I will quickly mention white balance. The D3 has excellent auto white balance on land. This seemed to work well underwater, when I used it, but I tend to shoot on preset Kelvin white balances underwater. In Port Hardy and San Diego, using my INON Z240 strobes unfiltered I shot at 5400K, which I find reproduces the best green water. In Guadalupe I added Lee 443 gels to the strobes and shot at 4300K. These are the strongest of several gels I use on the strobes, which I chose because I anticipated longer-than-usual camera to subject distances. For more details on strobe filters and white balance see here.