Ikelite released their version of the SLR-DC housing for the D7000 in early December 2010, as always very responsive to new camera models. Ikelite has established an excellent reputation for supporting new models swiftly, providing very good value and excellent performance.
In many ways, their design allows them to do so. Whereas many of the manufacturers will machine housings out of a block of aluminum, which necessitates some serious design and set-up time and cost, Ikelite essentially use a series of standard polycarbonate “box” housings into which they cleverly work the controls arms and features specific to an individual camera model. This shortens development lead time and cost significantly. This is not to denigrate their design, it is by far the most proven one in the market, particularly if you consider that essentially all their housings have identical “genetic” origins.
However, all the above made this one of the hardest housings to review that we have received so far. The fundamental design is the same as that of most other Ikelite SLR housings. Once again, this is not a criticism, rather an observation of how ubiquitous this design has become.
Ikelite use “bent wire” controls to access all the important controls on the camera. As mentioned in the introduction to this review, the D7000 has introduced a curved ball for housing designers in the shape of it’s focus and Live View/record controls. The former has been addressed elegantly by Ikelite, with a push button for the AF mode button, and a control arm for the focus mode selector.
The position and function of these controls is very adequate and allows for access wearing gloves if required.
The Live View lever and record on/off are accessed via a control wire that can be operated by the users right thumb.
We found that the Live View control was awkward to use, and although we could activate Live View, it was hard to switch it off.
Ergonomics of the housing are overall pretty good, given the limitations inherent in the design. Two of the three “critical” controls of shutter release, main control dial (normally for aperture) and sub command dial (normally shutter speed) are on the left hand. The sub command dial is on the back of the housing, which means releasing the left hand grip to access it. Similarly, the AE/F control is hard to access whilst holding the grip.
The housing features a really oversized zoom/focus knob that met with almost universal approval:
Uniquely in the housings reviewed so far, Ikelite has not chosen to provide fiber optic support for strobe triggering. Instead, it is provided with a built in TTL connection for Ikelite strobes, which can support manual exposure functions with other brands of strobe. It functioned fine on with an Ikelite to Nikonos cable with the Inon Z240’s on manual.
I think that although I’m not completely converted yet, fiber optic strobe connections make for a simpler method, and would allow for a wider range of strobes to be fired in a TTL mode. It would also remove the need for propriety cables (or strobes) in order to use them. This may, of course be counter to Ikelite’s commercial interests.
Underwater, the Ikelite viewfinder provided a good field of view, and was clear and sharp. The housing was quite negative (it was tested with a Nikon 12-24mm lens, 8” modular dome, port body, twin Inon Z240 strobes) and definitely felt bigger and bulkier than the other housings reviewed. Concerns were raised about how suitable the housing is for airline travel due to it’s weight and size.
However, during the review, some of the reviewers had not used the D7000 before, and found that the advantage of being able to see the control labels on the camera via the Ikelite’s translucent housing, as well as visually check for leaks to be a significant advantage.
The D7000 shutter release tested the reviewers dexterity. The lack of gearing made it very difficult to initiate AF without releasing the shutter, and, of course triggering the strobes. This can be frustrating when setting up shots, due to the delay while the strobes recycle.
The four port locks, that now come standard with all Ikelite SLR housings, were felt to be a massive improvement over previous Ikelite designs. The housing is closed with three stainless steel lid snaps. It is important to close the two “side” snaps first, and then the “top” one. I admit to finding the three snap closure to be awkward as I find that I feel like I need three hands! It is, of course, very secure and helped the fact that you have a visual indicator by being able to view the O ring through the housing
Official size and weight for the housing are:
- 10” (25cm) wide.
- 7” (18cm) high.
- 6.5” deep (16cm) (including controls, not including tray & handles).
- 7.8lb (3.5kg) housing with tray & handles.
The key question for the reviewers is the one of cost vs. benefit with this housing. The SLR-DC housing retails at around $1000 less than the other housings reviewed thus far. The controls are definitely more awkward to use underwater and less precise than those of the more expensive models. In addition, this also translates to ergonomics that are not as good as those found on housings that have been designed from the “ground up” around a camera model.
If economics factors heavily in your criteria for housing selection, then the Ikelite offers a very viable solution.
The Ikelite SLR-DC for Nikon D7000 retails at $1,499.95.
The housing for review was kindly supplied by Camera Underwater.