Nikon D7000 and Aquatica AD7000 review

Nikon D7000 and Aquatica AD7000 review.
By Keri Wilk.

Aquatica phoned me here at ReefNet at the end of December 2010, and asked me if I’d be willing to field test and publicly review a prototype of their AD7000 housing for the newly-released Nikon D7000. The review was to be honest, candid, and to include all positive and negative aspects of the system. It was clear to me that Aquatica was more interested in honest user feedback and constructive criticism than an overly positive advertorial.

I accepted their offer and booked a trip to Dominica to put the system through its paces. Aquatica generously covered my trip expenses, and I (reluctantly) sent back the prototype upon my return.

The newest Aquatica housing that I had used before this review was my father’s AD300 (for the Nikon D300) which was released in 2008. Since then, I’ve watched from the sidelines at dive shows across the US, as their line of housings has grown, in both quantity and quality. Many advances and innovations had been made by Aquatica since the AD300, which made me all the more eager to get in the water with the AD7000.

Nikon D7000.

When the D7000 box arrived at my house, I put the battery to charge immediately, and starting paging through the user manual. The 1200 USD price tag became more and more shocking to me as I read on, considering the long list of newly-developed and pro features packed into this consumer-level body. Nikon has set the bar incredibly high with this new release, which makes you wonder what the next pro body is going to have under its hood (D800? D400?).


16.2MP APS-C (DX) sensor

The D7000’s new 16 megapixel sensor is capable of capturing more details than any other DX body from Nikon. Nikon D7000 in Aquatica AD7000 housing, Tokina 10-17mm lens @ 10mm behind Aquatica’s 9.25” megadome, 2 x Ikelite DS160 strobes - 1/60th, f/10, ISO 100.

The D7000’s new sensor has roughly 30% more pixels than the 12MP D90, D300/s, D700, and D3, and is only topped in resolution by one body in the Nikon range - the professional D3X, at 24MP. With those extra 4 million pixels, you can print an image 15% taller and wider, for a given DPI. This may not seem like much, and is probably a moot point to many of you, but I certainly appreciate the extra resolution compared to my D300. This pixel-dense sensor, combined with a 14 bit A/D converter (discussed below) and a new EXPEED 2 processing engine are capable of reproducing beautifully rich colors, incredibly sharp details, and buttery smooth tonal gradients.

Dual SD slots (SDXC compatible):

The D7000’s 14-bit RAW and JPEG images sometimes tip the scales at over 25MB and 9MB, respectively, and its 1080p HD videos average around 2MB per second, so storage space can be eaten up very quickly. Thankfully, the D7000 has two SD card slots, so single-card capacity issues can be avoided.

I used a pair of Sandisk 16GB Extreme Pro cards, which was more than enough to let me shoot worry-free for a full day of 3 or 4 dives. I probably could’ve managed with just a single 16GB (or pair of 8GB), but the last thing I want to do is waste time underwater deleting photos.

Several hundred exposures were taken to achieve this shot. The second card slot came in handy in this case, since I greatly exceeded the 16GB capacity of the first memory card. Volcanic gas bubbles at “Champagne”. Nikon D7000 in Aquatica AD7000 housing with tripod, Tokina 10-17mm lens @ 17mm with Magic Filter behind Aquatica’s 9.25” megadome, no strobes - 1/6th, f/29, ISO 100.

The second slot can be used as extra storage, or as an automatic backup destination, on the off chance that data from one of the cards is lost (I’ve had a couple of no-name cards go completely belly up before). Videos can be directed to either card slot, but once that card is full, you need to manually switch destinations (SHOOTING MENU>Movie settings>Destination). You can also send RAW images to one card, and JPEGS to the other, but I find this feature useless.

A self-portrait shot from the inside of a large barrel sponge. The camera was set to shoot every second using the interval timer shooting mode (SHOOTING MENU>Interval timer shooting). I let the camera take over 100 shots before manually stopping it – this spilled me over into my second 16GB card. Nikon D7000 in Aquatica AD7000 housing, Tokina 10-17mm @ 10mm behind Aquatica’s 9.25” megadome, 2 x Ikelite DS160 strobes - 1/60th, f/14, ISO 200.