21 August 2011. It is an interesting time for me to kick off this series as I have just finished an extensive series of assignments and August has been a month of preparation for major overseas trips in the coming weeks/months. I’ve only done 4 dives in the last 4 weeks. Also because this is a first instalment and I am feeling keen, this is longer than updates are likely to be in future months.
In July I was busy finishing my work for the British conservation photography project 2020VISION, which saw me travelling widely in the UK, from Lands End in the South to the Shetland Islands in the far North, shooting a wide variety of subjects including fluorescent jewel anemones, freshwater amphibians, seabirds swimming underwater, basking sharks and even children rockpooling. I used by Nikon D700 for the majority of these shoots, as its high ISO performance is so valuable for shooting wide angle in the darker waters of the UK. That camera and Subal housing are still going strong after 125,000 photos! I used the D7000 for macro on these shoots and with the Inon bug-eye lens (the bug-eye is very easy to use, but lacks ultimate image quality).
Anyway that was last month. I had two main goals for August, in addition to some quality time at home and out of the water. First I wanted to resurrect some very old Nikonos strobes, not for my main photography but to have some powerful wide-angle strobes permanently in the Mediterranean (where I live), to save me having to take heavy kit home with me each time on the low-cost flights. The two strobes I had were a SB-102, which I had owned since new (bought in about 1987 and not used since about 1993) and a SB-104 (with a less clear history), which was given away on Wetpixel a little while back.
I ordered ULCS attachments for each from Cameras Underwater in the UK, to allow me to use them with my normal arm system. Luckily, I still have several old Nikonos synch cords from the old days. Bill Van Antwerp helped me get an o-ring for the SB-104, as one was missing. Thank you. BTW, doesn’t Nikonos o-ring grease have a unique smell? Quite to my surprise, I popped 6 duracells in the SB-102 and after 18 years it sprang into life perfectly. I charged the SB-104 and this worked too, although the old NiCad batteries are shot, lasting only about 40 frames. It is a well know problem and I’ll be following the advice in this thread on how to update the battery packs. So, I now have a nice pair of wide-angle strobes ready and waiting at home, although both only offer FULL, 1/4 and 1/16th power.
The other big job was to test the Zen mini-dome with the D7000. I’ve never owned a Zen mini, despite most people thinking I do. I borrowed Adam’s for the original mini-dome article I did for Wetpixel. So I finally bit the bullet and bought one from Reef Photo, getting it shipped to Italy in August was an adventure, but it got to me in the end.
I wanted to check its performance both for close focus work and also normal wide-angle, because if I am satisfied I will take only the D7000 Nauticam on forth coming trips to the Maldives and Indonesia (my other upcoming trip to Vancouver Island, I will use the D700, Subal and Zen 230 dome for wide-angle)
This is a big deal for me. While I have reviewed and used many different cameras and housings, it is more than 2000 dives since I last went on an overseas trip without a Subal housing of some sort. So I want to be sure what I am taking performs well. And I am pleased to say the Zen 100 passed all tests with flying colours. If used with a DX/APS-C camera and a fisheye lens – it really is excellent. Totally comfortable taking this as my main WA dome to Hanifaru and Komodo.
Oh and I recently got the chance to see a Subal D7000 housing, which my friend Mauro was enjoying getting acquainted with when we were out diving near Orosei with Franco. It is good to see a housing offering both dual optical and dual electronic synch sockets (it annoys me I have to use a cable splitter on my Nauticam when I want to use my electronically triggered Subtronics). The Subal D7000 housing ergonomics seem excellent, standard Subal, although I don’t find the push button arrangement on the back that attractive (it is much more blocky than older Subals) and the video activation levers could be a little fiddly in gloves. But these are minor gripes. Mauro also had the Subal branded version of the Zen 100 dome, which looked nice.
Finally, I have been using the new Nauticam 45 degree viewfinder a lot for my UK photography and in the Mediterranean. I want a 45 degree on both housings so it is easy to swap between them (I have a Subal 45 degree too). Anyway, the new Nauticam is great, but Eleonora (who I share the Nauti-D7000 housing with) is less keen. Her diving tends to be more sporadic than mine and while she has got good pictures with the 45 degree finders, she finds them hard to get used to, when it is maybe several months between her doing some dives. Worth thinking about if you are considering a 45 degree finder – they take some getting used to and if you have long gaps between underwater shooting, you may get on much better with a straight viewfinder. I’ll be reviewing the viewfinder for Wetpixel soon.
|Main System||Nikon D700 + Subal housing, Subal 45 degree viewfinder, Zen 230 dome, Subtronic Alpha strobes, Inon Z240 strobes. Light and Motion Sola 600.|
|Additional Systems||Nikon D7000 + Nauticam housing (housing shared with girlfriend), Nauticam 45 degree viewfinder. Same strobes as above.|