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Moving from a Nikon D800 (FX) to a D500 (DX)

Nikon D800 D500 Subal Macro Fibre strobe initiation

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#1 TimG

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 07:18 AM

A couple of weeks ago a Wetpixel reader emailed me directly and asked for my experience of moving from a Nikon D800 to the D500 specifically in a Subal housing. 

 

The reader thought the answer would be of wider interest to WP readers - so here it is. As I say, this is based on my own personal experience. I'm no pixel peeper or techno ninja  - I just really like taking pictures underwater - so some might argue with techie detail or my choice of gear. Fair enough!

 

 

"I’ve always been a keen macro shooter. Since about 2008, I've moved from a Nikon D300/Subal to the Nikon D800/Subal - and now the D500/Subal.

 
I’ve also moved from electrically initiated strobes fired from the D300/Subal to fibre optic in the D800/Subal. I found the switch to fibre a really good experience. Fibre is so much more flexible and rugged and is easier for using TTL - which I like especially for macro.
 
I make the point on strobes connections as I think it’s an important part of the D800/D500 consideration.
 
FORMAT
 
Both the D500 and the D800 are superb! I found with the D300/D500 and a DX sensor that using the Nikkors 60mm and 105mm worked well for macro. But with the D800 you only need the 105mm. With the FX sensor on the D800 the 60mm is too short. So with the D800 I only traveled with one macro lens and one port, the Nikkor 105mm and the Subal FP-105VR. I have got so used to the 105mm that, so far, with the D500 I’m only using the 105mm and have not gone back to using a 60mm.
 
The D800 gives you LOADs of pixels which makes cropping easy and flexible - ideal for macro; and you can also switch to a DX image (with the Subal you can do this easily underwater) on the D800 which, then, effectively gives you a roughly 160mm macro lens - with no real loss of quality. So highly flexible.
 
HANDLING
 
Handling of the D500 or D800 is, in my view, broadly the same. The D800 Subal housing is slightly bigger (it’s slightly taller - for good reason which I’ll explain) but not hugely so. The controls between the two Subal housings are pretty much the same - the usual Subal high-build quality and superb “feel”. 
 
STROBES AND TTL
 
Here’s the big difference: the D800 can fire strobes using fibre or electrical cables (although mine is only set up for fibre) initiated, in the case of fibre, by the camera’s pop-up built-in flash (hence the slightly larger housing). Electric connections use, of course, a hot shoe link to electrical bulkheads.
 
However the D500 cannot initiate firing strobes on its own via fibre optics. There is no built-in camera flash on the D500. You therefore have to buy a strobe initiator - whether the Subal V3 system or a Turtle TTL or something like that. The electronics fits inside the housing and connects to the camera hot shoe and then to LEDs fitted inside the housing attached to the fibre optic bulkheads. 
 
When the camera fires, the strobe initiator flashes an LED which then activates the strobes. These initiators, in most cases, will also give you TTL - which comes automatically with the D800’s in-built flash. I bought the V3 system from Subal which is pricey but seems good - although I have had some initial problems with the LEDs failing - which Subal have replaced. 
 
WIDE-ANGLE
 
The other thing I really liked about the D800 was WA shooting. I find the images amazing: sharp, beautiful colours - especially the blues. I have sold a lot of images from this especially from trips to the Red Sea. I’ve not yet had chance to test out the D500 in the same way but I really hope I don’t lose that D800 WA capability! 
 
SUMMING UP
 
So, on balance, nothing really to chose from between the D500 and D800 by my experience so far in terms of image quality or handling. 
 
The only thing I would flag up is the additional cost of the D500 strobe initiator - which, as I have hopefully explained, you don’t have with the D500 and which you do get with the D800. 
 
I’ve had my D500 system about 3 months and have done one trip with it and shot about 3000 images. I’m really pleased with it. Was it really worth switching from the D800 with all the costs involved? Honestly, I’m not sure. The D800/Subal is superb. If I had realised fully the implications of the D500 not having a built-in flash to initiate the strobes via fibre optics (which I love!) - and the costs involved of doing this - I’m not entirely sure I would have made the switch. "
 

Tim
(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D800 and D500, Nikkors 105mm and 16-35mm, Sigma 15mmFE, Tokina 10-17,  Subal housing

http://www.timsimages.uk
Latest images: http://www.shutterst...lery_id=1940957


#2 PIG004

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 08:29 PM

Cheers been looking at this path myself recently.



#3 TimG

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 10:24 PM

Cheers been looking at this path myself recently.

 

My pleasure. Just ask if you have any follow-up questions. I'm happy to help.


Tim
(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D800 and D500, Nikkors 105mm and 16-35mm, Sigma 15mmFE, Tokina 10-17,  Subal housing

http://www.timsimages.uk
Latest images: http://www.shutterst...lery_id=1940957


#4 JamesR

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 08:14 PM

The Nikon 60/2.8D works great in the 105 port for Nikon on DX and can be found for little money. I really enjoyed it and got some good results with it in Lembeh when still shooting DX body. Not good on FX due to the port.

-James
 

Flickr | 500px (some nsfw in both)


#5 TimG

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 08:39 PM

Thank James. That's very useful to know.


Tim
(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D800 and D500, Nikkors 105mm and 16-35mm, Sigma 15mmFE, Tokina 10-17,  Subal housing

http://www.timsimages.uk
Latest images: http://www.shutterst...lery_id=1940957


#6 mmakay

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 09:13 AM

Admittedly, many of the D500's strengths are a greater advantage above the water.  One feature that is fantastic wet and dry, though, is the autofocus.  Not only is it superbly fast and accurate, you can select your focus point over basically the entire frame.  The wide field of focus is something that was previously only available on mirrorless cameras.

 

Regarding wide angle, I don't think DX is a negative at all!  The reason?  Tokina's fisheye!  Put the 10-17mm behind a mini-dome and you get a fantastically versatile (and small!) wide angle rig.

 

33014647793_dc3f9c04a0_b.jpg

 

32984908574_c72ec0ac11_b.jpg

 

33014649213_2d590e1107_b.jpg

 

33828265475_604ea4a4af_b.jpg

 

You can see the entire album shot with a D500 here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUBxNdh

 

 

I really enjoy mine, and don't regret housing it.

 

-Mickey



-Mickey

#7 Nicool

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 02:55 PM

Admittedly, many of the D500's strengths are a greater advantage above the water.  One feature that is fantastic wet and dry, though, is the autofocus.  Not only is it superbly fast and accurate, you can select your focus point over basically the entire frame.  The wide field of focus is something that was previously only available on mirrorless cameras.
 
Regarding wide angle, I don't think DX is a negative at all!  The reason?  Tokina's fisheye!  Put the 10-17mm behind a mini-dome and you get a fantastically versatile (and small!) wide angle rig.
 
33014647793_dc3f9c04a0_b.jpg
 
32984908574_c72ec0ac11_b.jpg
 
33014649213_2d590e1107_b.jpg
 
33828265475_604ea4a4af_b.jpg
 
You can see the entire album shot with a D500 here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUBxNdh
 
 
I really enjoy mine, and don't regret housing it.
 
-Mickey

Exact same experience as Mikey’s: i love my D500 and tokina 10-17mm combo, and it’s autofocus.
Love particularly its ability to focus in very dark environments withoutthe spooky focus light. Clear enhancement vs D300s and D7000.
Our latest album shot entirely with this setup is here:
https://flickr.com/p...157666838287588
(2000px images are visible)

On the strobe cable part, i am lucky to use a nauticam housing where their strobe trigger is baseline, so shooting up to 10 fps if needed.

Now on macro with 60mm afs funnily i sometimes am not getting focus where i think it should be, so probably i’ll have to research how to properly use the self AF adjustment feature (which i find tricky on a macro lens).






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#8 divegypsy

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 08:18 PM

I have shot underwater with the Nikon D800 for the last four years, and skipped moving to the D810 because I felt it did not offer enough advantages vs the D800 to be worth the cost of new cameras and new housings.  Recently, though, I have moved to the D850, which I do feel offers significant advantages vs the D800.  I chose the D850 instead of the D500 for a number of reasons, most which I wrote about in the WetPixel DSLR thread "D500 vs D850?".  Unlike TimG, I had continued to shoot with "hard wired" strobes, so there was no additional expense when I moved my Ikelite 161s to the D850.  Like the D500, the D850 has Nikon's greatly improved auto-focus, which is first appeared in the D5.

 

With respect to housings.  Prior to the D800, I had been using first the Nikon F5, and then the D700, in Seacam housings, which I "abandoned" with the D800.  Abandoned because Seacam had, in my opinion, become increasingly control deficient.  No access to the programmable preview or function buttons. No port lock. Etc. And very heavy, very expensive viewfinders, which I replaced with Nauticam viewfinders while still shooting the D700. Nauticam viewfinders which allowed "in water" diopter adjustment.  With the change to the D800, I decided to try Subal ND800 housings which offered all the controls I wanted.  Unfortunately, in actual use, I experienced frequently recurring problems with the auto-focus point push buttons getting stuck in down position, which happened with both of the ND800 housings I was traveling with.  A problem which caused me to miss a number of good shooting opportunities while I was trying to "free up" the stuck button.  Eventually, with the help of a very good machinist, I replaced the original anodized aluminum push-buttons with buttons made of stainless steel which had a small grove which allowed me to easily pull the stuck push buttons back out, something which could happen as shallow as 3-5 meters. I looked at the Subal ND850 at DEMA, and initially ordered one. But when Subal couldn't fill the order in the "about a month" timeframe they had promised at DEMA, possibly due to their financial problems, I took this as a sign ( my order was jammed ) and decided I was unwilling to endure the possibility of fighting push buttons again.  

 

In early January, two months after DEMA, I decided to buy Nauticam housings for my D850s.  Reef Photo in Fort Lauderdale was able to provide me with Nauticam housings virtually immediately.  Like the Subal ND800s, the Nauticam D850 housing system offered me the possibility to use all my legacy Seacam ports and extension rings. I did need several new zoom gears. but there was no need for new ports and rings.  And I continue to use the Nauticam viewfinders which I had switched to years before while still shooting the D700.  So far, my only "in water" experience with the Nauticam housing has been in a swimming pool to try a new mini-dome port I bought for use with the new Nikon fisheye zoom lens.  My initial pool results with that port and lens were very satisfactory.  I still need more time for acclimatization to the control layout on the Nauticam housings, but I am very impressed so far and hope to get into the ocean with the new system soon.



#9 sinetwo

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Posted 29 April 2018 - 09:58 AM

 

My pleasure. Just ask if you have any follow-up questions. I'm happy to help.

 

Hey TimG, I'm kind of in the same boat.

 

Due to costs, I'm weighing up D500 + Hugyfot vs D850 + Ikelite. Alas I am on a budget, so I think the D850 + Ikelite and its equivalent lenses, would be far more expensive than the D500 + Hugyfot and it's lenses (e.g. nikkor for macro and tokina for wide angle).

 

I think for land, d850 wins hands down, but I feel for underwater, there's very little to be gained for the D850, considering it's huge additional cost?



#10 TimG

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Posted 29 April 2018 - 10:17 AM

Yeah, I was originally thinking of going to the D850 from the D800 - keeping FX etc. But the cost of the D850 (plus housing) was rather off-putting. I was also stuck by Adam's (Hanlon) thoughts on the problems of housing a rectilinear lens with such a high resolution - I had struggled to get sharp corners with the D800 and a Nikkor 16-35.

 

In the end I went D500. I've done two trip so far with it and have been very happy with the results - especially experimenting with a snoot (one pic attached. Wow, is that hard work!).  But it has been mainly macro and the D500 is excellent for that type of imagery. I've not yet had chance to really work on WA images as the places I have been recently haven't had especially good viz. 

Attached Images

  • TG46862.jpg

Tim
(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D800 and D500, Nikkors 105mm and 16-35mm, Sigma 15mmFE, Tokina 10-17,  Subal housing

http://www.timsimages.uk
Latest images: http://www.shutterst...lery_id=1940957


#11 sinetwo

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Posted 29 April 2018 - 10:26 AM

TimG, that's a great pic, I'm a huge fan of snooting. I did quite a bit with my RX100ii setup in Lembeh.

 

As you say, I just don't think the abhorrent cost of D850, housing + lenses and ports etc., outweighs the D500, housing + lenses and ports. The Tokina has been proven to be an amazing lens, and is in my view great value for money. Even if I just start off with the Tokina and the Nikkor 105mm I think i'd have most my uses covered.

 

Here's a snake eel and a shrimp popping up for a pose in Lembeh, which I hope I can re-create easier with the D500 rather than the D850 (given the DoF etc.)

20901662_10100667512454333_8212565327234036505_o.jpg







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