Nauticam were the first manufacturer to release their D7000 housing. The company had working prototypes at DEMA in November, and were shipping housings by late December. To get a housing designed, manufactured and produced in six weeks represents an amazing achievement. Many of their competitors do not yet have D7000 housings available for testing at the time of writing and this underlines just how quick Nauticam were.
I think it is true to say that as a manufacturer, Nauticam has consistently improved with each new housing offering, and the NA-D7000 is no exception to this. Refinement is the key phrase here, for example, the use of “piano key” controls is not new, but the overall combination of controls and the placement of them has improved.
All the reviewers agreed that the housing feels substantial and well-balanced, with very good ergonomics overall.
It is constructed of machined aluminium, and black anodized for protection and has textured rubberized handles that are very tactile and easy to hold. These, as supplied, are too close to the housing when using gloves, although they are well positioned for use without. Nauticam offer spacers to extend the handles, and I would say that these are critical for temperate water users. A tip for those shooting in both cold and warm water and changing handles: Don’t forget to take the correct sized bolts with you, and make sure you also take the spring washers.
Although not specific to this housing, it is worth mentioning that Nauticam offer port adaptors to allow the use of their housings with many other manufacturers ports. This decreases the initial set-up cost and more importantly increases the variety of ports available.
The ND-7000 is supplied with two fiber optic ports, that accept Nauticam’s own fiber optic cables. These can be replaced with a “mini” Nikonos bulkhead as an extra. I tried to fit two “mini” bulkheads side-by-side, and although the bulkheads fitted fine, there was not enough clearance between the lock rings on two Sea & Sea Nikonos cables to allow them to fully engage.
The housing also has an M16 threaded accessory port that can take an additional Nikonos bulkhead, video out, hydrophone or other accessories. The housing has two M10 strobe arm mounting points on the housing body, as well as mounting points for T plates or balls on the tops of the handles.
The rear closures are a great improvement on the conventional latches featured on many other housings. The push-button-and-move actions feels very natural, and the activation handles fold neatly into recesses in the housing. With conventional latches, I always feel like I need three hands to get them to close evenly.
The multi-selector buttons are quite small and close together and are a little difficult to operate cleanly with big gloves on. In general, the button surfaces are quite small. Where there is plenty of space around the buttons this does not really present a problem, it is only when they are close together that it is easy to press the wrong one inadvertently. Please note this refers to buttons, rather than levers. The latter are all big enough to be used with the thickest gloves, and the important ones actually have rubberized ribs on to help grip them.
The shutter release is geared and provides sufficient sensitivity to allow for focusing without triggering. Of the housings reviewed so far, the Nauticam was the most sensitive in this regard. There is some quite complex gearing inside the housing in order to get this to work:
The crucial right hand controls work naturally, with a command dial knob of big enough size and the sub command dial being activated with the thumb on the back of the housing.
The housing features a large and prominently positioned AE/AF lock lever that really suits my style of composition. The EV control lever is smaller and less obtrusive, which again is acceptable to me (but may not be to others).
David Kneale found when reviewing the housing that despite being a Canon shooter, and never having shot with a Nikon, the controls were intuitive and easy to access.
The port system and it’s lock are a great piece of design and engineering. Once engaged, ports cannot revolve or rotate, and the lock will not shut unless the port’s sealing surfaces are fully inserted into the housing. The locking lever is anodized red and has a further visual clue in the form of a groove that shows that the lock is fully engaged.
The piano key activates the record function, and as it is right by the thumb, this can be done easily without moving the hand off of the grip and hence generating camera movement. The key itself does seem prone to attracting some grit into it which at times makes it’s function a little crunchy feeling.
Live View is activated with the thumb as well, with a lever that pushes towards the lens; definitely a very ergonomic solution.
The on/off switch is quite small, and although adequate, does not provide access to the backlight/info function.
The image review is activated by a large lever on the right side of the housing and was a control that all the reviewers really liked.
The rear window allows a clear view of the camera’s LCD screen, although this is a little obstructed when using the 180° viewfinder.
The camera’s flash is activated by a push button, and depressed by a further control. Whilst this is not in itself a functional problem as neither of these are operations you are likely to be performing with your eye on the viewfinder, it is not the neatest solution.
The troublesome D7000 focus and AF mode selectors are dealt with effectively with a button and lever combination that allows them to be accessed easily. Once agin the button size is quite small, but given that it is not close to any other controls, this does not present a problem.
With a Subal 8” glass dome, Subal extension ring, Tokina 10-17mm and twin Inon Z240 strobes, the housing is just neutral with 4 Stix buoyancy segments per side in fresh water.
The housing’s official weight and size is as follows:
- 326mm wide (with handles attached).
- 190mm high.
- 147mm depth.
- 2.55kg weight.
The Nauticam NA-D7000 shows exactly how this company has managed to carve itself a significant market share in a relatively short period. Given the speed with which it was brought to market, it would be logical to expect some compromise on performance or ergonomics, but this is certainly not the case. It is my belief that the reason so many of the D7000 housings are so much better than what has been released before is due to the thought that has gone into this one. It set a high bar that arguably has forced other manufacturers to improve in line.
The Nauticam NA-D7000 retails for $3,200.
The housing used in the review was supplied by Nauticam via it’s UK agents, Underwater Visions. Many thanks to Edward and Alex for their assistance.