Moving on to the left upper side of the housing: For the Mode switch there’s a rotary control with a dedicated window. The transport release is a taller rotary knob and a button that you have to press down and switch simultaneously. Not very easy to do but you don’t use this function very often. There is a button for bracketing. I never use this function but maybe someone else will. But the next button is one of the most important. Not only that it opens the camera’s pop-up flash, it also functions as flash exposure control. Since I was used to pro cameras without a built-in flash, one of the missing functions with Nikon was the inability to adjust flash exposure on the camera. This has changed now and it also works with Nikon SB-800 flash via electrical S6 connection. Thank god, now I can do macro TTL flash photography exactly as I want to. Not only that, I also have the possibility to adjust the rear curtain sync with my housed SB-26/SB-800 or Seacam’s Seaflash 250. And when I couple my good old workhorse Seacam 350/Subtronic Mega via the optical output and Subtronic’s optical to S6 adapter I can do rear curtain sync as well. Or if I want complete macro TTL control with the Seacam 250 I will connect it optically and get TTL with two flashes and exposure compensation while the SB-800 is connected electrically. Suddenly even the cage with 4 optical connections seems to make sense for Supermacro closeups when stopping the aperture down to 64!
The inner part of my ND7000 features the same red colour. Because of the similar red shade it somehow emotionally reminds me of the new Lamborghini Aventador!
This time I won’t go through every detail, but I will explain the highlights. At the top you’ll find the circuit for the flashes. On either side you can do either TTL or manual, as you wish. On the right side is the control for the front dial. It’s spring-loaded so it grips the dial firmly and won’t get loose over the time. Below is the port lock for additional safety. Far on the right is the circuit for the optical and acoustic alarm.
On the left side you will see the retractable focus mode selector and a little up the, also retractable, zoom/focus control. Even more up is the lever for lens release that can be swung out-of-the-way for retracting the tray for memory card change. In the left corner is the spring-loaded control for the BKT control.
On the left side of the housing; right from your point of view, there are the buttons for the picture controls. The other side is one of my favorites. In the upper corner is the spring loaded control for the rear dial. Below and more to the middle the AE-L/AF-L lever has its’ place. Further below is the REC lever, with the spring-loaded Live-View lever. The Focus Point selectors work great and are angled for additional feeling when pushing. In the middle you’ll find the screws for removing the window in order to mount the prism viewfinder.
The most striking feature of the backplate is its simplistic, minimalistic design that nevertheless seems to handle the complex arrangement of the controls.
Subal has the reputation of building relatively small and light housings. The ND7000 measures 220 x 190 x 140 mm and weighs 2.300 grams.
Viewfinders were for a very long time neglected as an essential underwater tool. Seacam was the first with their large 45° viewfinder. Subal introduced a straight viewfinder some 10 years ago. Both are still leading in their class. In 2008 Subal presented a nice and handy 45° viewfinder that had the advantage of not blocking the LCD while producing a picture minimally smaller than that of the Seacam. I have always used angled oculars/viewfinders since I consider them more comfortable to use while diving. The only problems I’ve encountered with it was while doing macro photography on a wall. I used it on various occasions chasing fast swimming pelagics like dolphins, sharks and sailfish without any problem and still use it exclusively.
However there are other photographers out there with different techniques and tastes. Subal currently offers 5 viewfinder options. A standard viewfinder, a large straight one called the GS180 and an angled WS45.
I consider the GS180 the best straight viewfinder on the market since it neither vignettes nor obstructs the LCD.
The WS-45 didn’t obstruct the viewfinder on the D3, but does so a little on the D7000, improved when it is placed horizontally. Then it can work as a sunshade for Live-view or Video.
However neither of the viewfinders is optimal if you’re doing serious videography. For these demanding customers Subal is offering new options. One is a 5” external monitor that offers the advantage of doing unrestricted photography and videography on one dive since you can use the viewfinder, the LCD and the monitor simultaneously. However, while the monitor is small, the battery pack accompanying it is not. It is connected under the housing and while this setup will certainly improve the stability for a small housing like the D7000 with large dome ports it’s also quite negative and will be a handicap for macro.
The other option is a new prism viewfinder that will angle the picture of the camera’s LCD at 30° for comfortable viewing and videography. I plan to review it as soon as it becomes available which should be at the end of June (hopefully).
Subal offers a large collection of dome ports in different sizes and shapes.
As far as I know they currently sell a coated 4” dome, and uncoated ones 6” and 8” ones, all of which are depth resistant to 120m or more. They also offer a large dome in two different shapes: While the one 10” dome with flat back is designed to produce sharp images with a fisheye lens, the other has a concave back and is designed to work exclusively with rectilinear wide-angle lenses, especially the 14-24, 16-35 and 17-35 Nikkors. These lenses can be mounted further away from the domeport, which will improve sharpness and depth of field.
As sharp as the 10” dome was, it was not coated and could produce lens reflections under some circumstances. While with prime lenses this wasn’t much of a problem, it certainly was with zooms.
Last year Subal introduced a newly designed 9” dome with a stronger curvature and high quality Japanese made inside coating combined with a world’s first outside sealing. The metal backplate of the port is also treated with an anti reflective matte painting to combat reflections. The backplate has been reinforced to withstand pressures up to 13 bar which makes this port suitable for technical divers.
Subal also offers flat ports with manual control of macro lenses, all sort of extension rings, also with manual controls and newly introduced port locks for extension rings that are extremely simple to use. Just put the extension into the bayonet of the dome or flat port and turn. Just put the ring into the bayonet of the port, turn a quarter and the lock snaps into place. All flat ports are optically coated inside.
Introduction of usable lenses for DX format:
After I have explained in every detail all possible aspects of the ND7000 the main question is: How does it perform underwater? How is the overall handling, balance and buoyancy of the different setups? How good is the sharpness of the lenses tested?
My main lenses with the Full Frame ND3 were a 16/2.8 Fisheye, and a 17-35/2.8 that I almost never used since I wanted to gain as maximum an angle as possible. I also tried the 14-24/2.8 which is very nice indeed, but mostly usable for model photography where you don’t want the fisheye effect. While this is true for photography, rectilinear wide-angles do have their place in video imaging. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use fisheyes either, but for professional work it’s not recommended. I have thought about buying the Nikon D3s for a very brief moment, but with its’ limited video capability of 720p it didn’t make sense to spend that much on something that would have been outdated very soon.
This has changed with the introduction of the D7000. For the price of a D3s You can get a D7000 and a housing. The D7000 High ISO performance is as good as the D3’s with the D3s leading for 1-2 f-stops. But that’s only one part of the story. Since the D7000’s sensor is smaller, you practically gain one f-stop in sharpness which equals the higher ISO performance of the D3s. Though this is a very simplified statement, intensive research into that matter has been done by Slovenian underwater photographer Borut Furlan.
Personally, 2 years ago I would never have thought it possible that I would ever switch from FX to DX. The D7000 is so much smaller and lighter than a D3s. And regarding lenses one might have to argue which format is better for wide-angle. The only lenses I still consider an advantage for FX are the Nikkor 14-24/2.8 or Canon’s 14/2.8, maybe the new Sigma 12-24/4.5-5.6 MkII. This lens might be optically inferior, but has more angle. Regarding fisheye primes, Sigma – which I do believe are the best currently available – has lenses for both formats. Then there is the practical and easy to use Tokina 10-17 FE zoom that has become the standard in underwater photography and is available only in DX. In the rectilinear range of wide angles there is the Nikkor 10-24/3.5-5.6 and Sigma’s 8-16/4.5-5.6.
I chose the Sigma over the Nikon since neither is by my usual standards a professional lens, so I prefer the additional angle of the Sigma. But I will do an update of this review by end of next week when I go to Croatia where both lenses will be compared for underwater work. As much as I think that I will favour the Sigma for video and model phOtography, I can’t live without a fisheye. So I chose the versatile Tokina 10-17 as my standard photo lens. I will test it intensively and maybe add a Sigma FE prime 10/2.8 at a later stage and if I consider it necessary. Another advantage of these lenses is their price. Neither of them costs more than 500-600 €, which is a bargain compared to professional FX lenses that will set you back for 1.000 – 1.500 € at least.
Since I live in Austria-Europe the seaside is far away. To overcome this issue I started with freediving some 3 years ago. It is a lot of fun and very sporty, the main advantage lies in the possibility that you can do pool training over the whole year without having to travel to remote and distant places.
To be continued soon…
About the author: Andrej Belic has been into diving since 2000 and has covered all possible aspects of diving including scuba, trimix, rebreather, caves, wreck penetration and freediving. A lot of this action has been photographed and sold to Austrian, German and international dive magazines, as well as photo agencies around the world. Please visit his website for more information.