Nikon D7000 and Aquatica AD7000 review

AQUATICA AD7000 right hand side controls (continued).

On/Off lever:

This lever is on the top right surface of the housing. Its two-pronged internal mechanism must be properly oriented before installing the camera. Otherwise, the ON/OFF switch might not be engaged enough to function.

Record button and Live View lever:

Above the 5-button D-pad and behind the main command dial, this button/lever combo is located on one of the corners of the housing.

These housing controls have been moved a significant distance from their location on the camera body, making them much more easily accessible than if they were directly transposed from the body to the housing. The Live View lever on this prototype was missing its return-spring, so I had to manually swing it back and forth to switch between modes - production models will not have this issue. Switching in and out of live view was easy to do with my thumb on the lever, without releasing my grip on the handle.

The record button was a little further away than I would’ve preferred. To reach it, I had to slightly uncurl my grip, which always added a bit of wobble to the end of video. Pressing this button to stop recording also added a little shake, since it’s relatively stiff. I would’ve preferred that this button be controlled by a lever instead, since they require less force to operate. However, the inner workings of this corner of the housing are so complicated and tightly packed already, that implementing a lever would probably have been impossible without re-designing all of the other buttons as well.

Occasionally, at moderate depths (50-90ft), the record button wouldn’t spring back up after being depressed. I pointed out this flaw to Aquatica, and once I returned the housing, they were able to pinpoint the problem to the walls of the button-hole not being masked properly before powder-coating. This caused the walls to be slightly thicker and textured (rather than being smooth), resulting in the button being held down from the extra frictional force. They’ve designed new masking plugs for these button holes to prevent this from occurring in production models.

D-Pad/OK buttons:

Just below the record button on the backplate are 5 buttons organized in a circle, corresponding to the UP, DOWN, LEFT, and RIGHT arrows, and a central OK button on the camera body. These buttons have been moved as far to the right of the housing as possible using a combination of laser-cut metal linkages and guide-pins.

That said, it was a bit of a stretch for me to reach the leftmost button without uncurling my fingers from the handle. I noticed this only when I needed to move the focus point around in the viewfinder, but once I started using the 3D tracking mode, I rarely had to use these buttons with my eye to the camera anymore. The other two uses of these buttons (reviewing images and accessing menu items) are exclusively performed before or after shooting, so having to take your hand away from the shutter release and command dials is not an issue.

Two minor interference issues are indicated here, but have both since been fixed by Aquatica in production models.

The prototype that I used had a bit of a clearance issue with the live view lever. When this lever was at rest, it prevented the UP button from being depressed, and partially restricted the LEFT button. They were already aware of this issue, had redesigned the necessary linkage, and had new parts being made for production models even before this prototype hit the water.

A 3D model of the newly-designed components, which prevent buttons from interfering.

INFO button:

Just under the D-pad is the INFO button. Pressing it once brings up all relevant shooting information on the LCD screen, allowing adjustments to be made without looking at the top LCD panel (which there is no window for) or through the viewfinder. Pressing it a second time brings up a second shooting menu, where movie quality, noise reduction, color space, picture control, and active D-lighting can be set. The 3 customizable camera buttons (AE-L/AF-L, Fn, and Preview) can be quickly assigned through this screen as well. I used this button very frequently. With your hand on the grip, it also requires a bit of a stretch to get to, but this wasn’t an issue since you’d never need to press it while shooting. The same masking problem caused this button to stick down occasionally, and Aquatica has implemented the same solution as for the record button.

Diver with yellow tube sponges. Nikon D7000 in Aquatica AD7000 housing, Tokina 10-17mm @ 10mm behind Aquatica’s 9.25” megadome, 2 x Ikelite DS160 strobes – 1/200th, f/22, ISO 100.

A pet peeve of mine with the camera, is that this very useful INFO screen disappears when you touch the shutter release. So, every time you adjust exposure, and take another shot, you need to press the INFO button again to re-display the information. Alternatively, the ON/OFF switch can be configured to activate the INFO screen as well, and is more accessible than the INFO button. However, while it may be easier to use the ON/OFF lever than the INFO button, the INFO screen still annoyingly disappears when the shutter release is touched.

Metering method button:

This is on top of the housing, just behind the ON/OFF button. I left the camera in matrix metering mode for the whole trip, so I never had to use this button. A little dexterity is needed for this one, since the main command dial has to be rotated while the button is held down. You can either remove your right hand from the grip to perform both tasks at once, or you can reach over to press the button with your left hand, while rotating the command dial with your right. A little awkward, but I wouldn’t have complained if this button wasn’t even included in the housing.

UPDATE: This useful piece of information was brought to my attention by Jean Bruneau (Aquatica’s technical advisor) when I sent him my list of issues with the housing. Normally, the WB, ISO, +/- EV, QUAL, AF servo, and metering method buttons must be held down while adjustments are made with the main or sub-command dials. However, “hidden” in the custom settings menu is a function that changes how these buttons operate (Custom Settings Menu>Controls>Release button to use dial). When this menu item is in its ON state, these buttons no longer need to be held down to be adjusted. Instead, you can remove your finger from them once they’ve been pressed, then the command dials can be used separately. This way, all of these buttons can essentially be operated with one hand (at a time).