When Nikon released the D7000 SLR in September 2010, it was fairly immediately obvious how important this model was going to be for underwater photographers. For some time, Nikon shooters had lacked a model that incorporated many of the desirable features for underwater use. The D7000 changed all that, increasing the megapixel count and adding high ISO performance, a new EXPEED 2 image processing engine, new metering and AF systems, HD movies and 14 bit RAW processing. I think that prior to it’s release, many Nikon owners were coming round to the fact that they would need to “jump ship” over to Canon. However, the D7000 has proved to be a similar performer to the 7D, and in some respects, seems to actually deliver better results. This in a camera that sells for around $1,300.
The new camera model started shipping in October/November 2010, and despite the excitement of this, most underwater shooters were realistic that it would be some time before they would be able to get this camera underwater. At DEMA in November, the only manufacturer to have working prototypes available was Nauticam, and in fact, the working prototype was reviewed for Wetpixel by Alex Mustard in early December. The purpose of this review was to get the camera underwater as soon as was possible, in order to establish it’s potential. Other manufacturers followed on, with a review by Keri Wilk with the Aquatica AD7000 following in mid-February.
The D7000 presents several new challenges for housing manufacturers. It is physically compact camera, with a small form factor. Whilst the Canon 7D should have prepared the way, the fact remains that it has more controls to house in a smaller area. This means that the housings are by default, more complicated to design and build than those for bigger bodied cameras. Unique challenges included a very awkward (for housing design), but important focus mode selector button, and a Live View lever which incorporates a button for video mode.
From the housings reviewed thus far, it is important to note is that they are all several steps up from what has gone before. For some reason, the D7000 has really got designers creative juices flowing! All the housings reviewed thus far display significant innovation, in general and specific to each brand. The imminent releases and specifications of housings from other manufacturers also seem to promote this. I think it is very likely that whichever D7000 housing you buy, it will be significantly better and improved from what your previously had. I think it is crucial that you take this idea with you as you read the individual reviews.
At DEMA in November, I had floated out the idea of a comprehensive review of available housings, in the form of a side-by-side comparison, involving multiple testers. My original intention was to complete this by late March. This has proved to be wildly over-optimistic! Nauticam were able to deliver a housing by late January, as did Ikelite, with Aquatica following in mid-March. I will add to the review series as other housings become available to me.
What follows is the start of the reviews as I envisaged. I have gathered the housings, camera bodies, lenses and ports (with great assistance from suppliers, distributors and manufacturers) and dived them. In addition, I have got others to dive them and give me feedback on the various designs. This process has proved fascinating. I noted on a forum post before the review that “ergonomics is ergonomics”, and this assumption has proved to be substantially wrong. Different shooters simply do things differently! Hence priorities for control positions for example are influenced directly by how you shoot.
The diving was almost all carried out at Capernwray Diving center in a cool and green water setting. Most of the test dives were carried out wearing gloves, hoods and drysuits. I had planned to try to evaluate housing for both wide-angle and macro, but this has, for the moment, proved to be over-ambitious, and the testing was all carried out shooting wide-angle. Thanks to support from Inon Japan, the reviews were all carried out using their excellent Z240 strobes.
The review is intended to be read from start to finish, but if you wish to jump to a specific housing, here are the links: