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Ikelite D200 Housing in the Wild


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#1 rinjani

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 06:54 PM

Hi all,

I'm posting some of my impressions and experience with the new Ikelite D200 housing for all of you waiting to get your new toy into the ocean. Firstly, I'd like to thank Ike for getting an early version of the housing to me before it went into full production (and to Brett for setting it up under pressure). It arrived just in time for a quick trip I took to the Philippines last week. My wife booked a trip for us without first checking whether of not my dreamed of new D200 housing was likely to be available, imagine that! But Ike was kind enough to help make the trip a digital playgound for me. One caveat before I go further, Ikelite is still fine-tuning the housing so there are going to be slight differences between the housing I used and the final production model. Because of that I will only make general comments, since several of the slight issues I encountered have already been addressed.

The D200 is my first dSLR, so some comments I make may be old knowledge to those of you who have been shooting other dSLRs. However, since this is a new experience for me I want to let other new comers get some information based on what I found. For anyone moving from film and used to the older Ikelite housings then new one is more compact but slightly heavier. My strobe setup when using it was with either an Ike DS125 in TTL, or manual flash with the Ike DS125 and a Nikonos 105 set to slave for fill. This was just to fit in with the strobes and synch cords that I had available to use. I would probably go with something equivalent to two DS125s, or a combination of DS125s and DS 50s in the future for both TTL and manual exposures.

I was shooting macro exclusively in the housing on this trip. My basic camera setup was Manual, 1/125 - 1/60. Aperture range from f8-f40 depending upon magnification. Macro lens was ~150mm (in DX equiv). I used RAW+fine for image capture with vivid as the default after the first few dives. Strobes were either TTL or manual as explained above.

The Housing
The D200 body fits onto the supplied tray with push button controls for all the back of the body controls. There is also a release for the CF card door so that you do not need to remove the housing from the tray to switch cards. The battery can be replaced with out removal from the tray. These two features made changing components between dives pretty easy. The body and tray fit very snugly into the housing. Before sliding the camera in all control arms must be moved out of the way or it will not fit. I found that the on/off, mode control, iso/wb control and focus select arm all needed to be in the correct place or the body would not slide into the housing properly. The control for the A/E - A/F lock button must also be rotated up to allow the camera to slide in. Once the camera is in and sealed then the housing controls can be placed back as needed for access to the various camera control buttons and wheels. The two command dials are available via rotating dials for things such as aperture control, mode changes, shutter speed etc.

Underwater the controls functioned well. It took a few dives to get used to using the on/off control, it is placed very closely to two other controls buttons and it can be a little awkward to use initially. I had no trouble using the push buttons to review images, modify menu settings or accessing the focus selector areas. The full-sized view screen for playback was clear and bright. I tested all the controls I could think of and they worked properly (although the M/C/S control appeared to only go one way, I think they are still working on this one, it's awkward). As long as you are familiar with what your D200 controls are you should have no problem using the housing underwater.

With the two strobes attached the housing was definitely negatively buoyant, about 1 - 2lb based on my weight belt. With a single strobe Ikelite says the housing is about neutral. You'll need to test with your own setups to see how it affects your overall buoyancy.

U/W Usage
As mentioned, some of the controls take a little practice to use. So it's worth spending a little time getting familiar with how they work before hitting the water. Beyond that, anyone already familiar with an Ike housing should have no trouble setting their D200 up for use in a few minutes.

Using the D200 setup options I set the center control of the multi-select to show me a medium magnification zoom of the image when pressed. This allowed quick review of the focus to make sure the correct features where the main focus subject for macro images. I also had the photo-information turned on for the multi-select so I could easy review the histogram for an image. So with two push buttons I had a quick focus and exposure check setup.

The D200 screen is bright and easy to view, but I found that what you see is not always what you get. I got better results trusting the histogram than reviewing the displayed image. Images that looked properly exposed were often underexposed when reviewed on my computer, and it took some practice to rely on the histogram rather than what my eye was seeing. I don't know if this is a user issue (being new to dSLRs) or a characteristic of the dSLR displays - I didn't feel that the same thing was a problem topside. This issue was particularly noticeable in low-light situations such as night dives - I ended up with some underexposed manual shots from my first couple of night dives until I was more used to reviewing histograms. The reverse also happened in bright conditions, it was sometimes difficult to see the image on the LED screen. So get used to reviewing your histograms.

The normal, vivid and extra-vivid options. I tried a few sets of images with each setting and my own preference was to use vivid for the majority of shots. I found extra-vivid too extreme for my tastes. It's really down to the user to decide. I also found the vivid settings was rather excessive when shooting things like a red anemonefish (see below), I think the red is excessive. I suggest experimenting a little to get your desired effect and shooting RAW so you have a digital negative to fall back on if the resulting jpeg is not quite correct for your tastes.

[edited]
I was planing to add some images but the board deleted my real html! And anything after it, sorry folks. I'll try adding them again.
[/edited]

I found the housing to be a solid performer. It is compact enough to carry in a back pack as cabin luggage without too much trouble. Using it underwater I could access all the commands and controls that I needed to. It is backwardly compatible with older strobes, synch cords and ports which allows one to upgrade piece by piece as needed. I was extremely pleased with the results from the housing and would definitely purchase it again.

Once again, I'd like to thank Ike and Ikelite for getting the housing to me and kudos for producing one so swiftly after the release of the new D200. If anyone has specific questions please post here or contact me by email and I will attempt to answer as best I can.
Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#2 rinjani

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 07:39 PM

Here are some image links

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Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#3 kdietz

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 07:47 PM

Jon, thanks for posting....I'm waiting on my 2 D200 housings from Ike so it's great to read your first impressions

Your photos are awesome....perfectly exposed and very natural colors....very, very sharp....well done

I can't wait :) :o

BTW, I usually darken my LCD a couple of clicks to compensate for the brightness difference between what you see on the screen and what you get on your computer....I'll start paying more attention to the histogram also

Karl
Karl Dietz...Nikon D200...Ikelite iTTL housing...10.5mm...15mm FE...12-24mm...17-35mm...60mm micro...105mm micro...dual DS-200's
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#4 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 08:45 PM

I agree with Karl. I've had some inconsistancies as well with judging exposure on the LCD particularly underwater. It all has to do with the screen brightness setting you use and the ambient light. Underwater there is less ambient light so it seems brighter. You have to play with it. I haven't mastered it yet either. The histogram is a more objective measure.

UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

Nikon D70: 60 mm, 11-16mm, 105mm, 15mm, 10.5mm

Ikelite iTTL Housing, dual Ikelite DS125

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#5 Rocha

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 08:58 PM

Thanks for the nice review Jon. I've just wrote a paragraph about it and posted on wetpixel's front page.

Oh, as both of the above, I also turn down my LCD brightness (-2 or so). In my first few dives I noticed that images that appeared well exposed underwater on the camera's LCD looked underexposed on my computer screen.

Luiz

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#6 Colin

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 12:33 AM

Thank you for the review Jon. Re. use of histograms: the D200 offers both a single (larger) luminance histogram screen and a multiple RGB histograms screen. I was wondering which is the more useful underwater, ie. to set as a default?

Colin
Underwater Digital Photography - South Pacific http://www.UnderwaterDisplay.net

#7 rinjani

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 06:30 AM

Colin,

I did not try using the RGB histograms. Given that it's hard to know what precise colour we're looking at and too many other things going with trying to get the images, I didn't want to over complicate things. Perhaps some of the D2X folks can help on that question? I will be in the water again in two weeks or so, I will try to see what info the RGB gives and how useful I think it is while UW.
Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#8 rinjani

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 06:33 AM

Luiz and others,

Thanks for the feedback on the LCD. I didn't think that it was too bright when shooting out of the water but I will definitely try dialing it down next time I'm in the water and see how that works.

Karl, thanks for the encouragement, though they aren't up to your shark images yet.

Jon
Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#9 Starbuck

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 07:32 AM

Jon -

How do you switch between iTTL mode and Manual? And is fast and easy while U/W. Do you switch the dial on the Ike housing to TTL then change the d200 to TTL mode? Or, do you leave the d200 in Manual all the time...

M.
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#10 ikelite

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 07:46 AM

His housing is before the dial idea. Dietz encouraged us to include compensation, but we could not fit all of the LEDs and push buttons into the limited space. Rotary switch got the job done as shown in current specifications.

http://www.ikelite.c...2d200nikon.html

#11 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 07:56 AM

Dial looks great! Exposure compensation is important. I'm glad to see you made it work.

BTW the photos look spectacular Rinjani!

UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

Nikon D70: 60 mm, 11-16mm, 105mm, 15mm, 10.5mm

Ikelite iTTL Housing, dual Ikelite DS125

Nikon D600 topside 14-24, 28-300, 70-200, 35,50,85


#12 cor

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 08:34 AM

On my d2x I also use -2 for LCD brightness. Personally I only look at the histogram and the highlights screens to judge image exposure , ofcourse besides looking at the image on the screen.

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#13 james

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 08:39 AM

Ike, great stuff, I just checked out the new Specs.

I think that exposure compensation can be done on the camera when TTL strobes are attached, but dial on the back is way easier to use. Sarah likes it :-)

Cheers
James
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#14 rinjani

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 10:26 AM

The dial Ikelite added to the housing back ought to make TTL exposure compensation simple, but the control for it in-camera is also available on the housing. Don't know how the two systems might interact if you are using both at once. This is one of the improvements that they are adding as they fine-tune the housing. Good work Ike.

Jon
Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#15 Colin

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 11:17 AM

Jon

Thanks for your feedback on histogram use. Since the RGB histograms is a selectable option on the menu I would consider turning this off for U/W use to simplify things.

On another note I'm curious about how important access to the FUNC button is U/W on the D200. This is the lower of the two unlabelled buttons on the front of the camera and is user assignable; default is Flash Value lock. Ike tells us in a previous post that this control is available. Do you find it useful?

Colin
Underwater Digital Photography - South Pacific http://www.UnderwaterDisplay.net

#16 rinjani

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 04:07 PM

Colin,

Regarding the FUNC button. As Ike suggested there is a control for this button, it shares the same control as the depth-of-field preview button. I have not chosen one of the possible options for it yet - not yet seen any point. But I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that it might be worth using this button to change the metering method. If you anticipate switching between metering modes (most likely wide-angle?) it might be worth setting one method in FUNC and the camera on a second, then you can just depress the FUNC button to switch metering modes. I can't see much else that would be that useful under water.

Others may have other suggestions though.

Jon
Jon Bertsch
Website: http://www.jonbertsch.com, http://www.thalassagraphics.com
D200...Ikelite Housing...Ike DS125...Nik 105mm|Tam 90mm, Tokina 10-17mm...Nik V

#17 Starbuck

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 04:25 PM

Ike -

So you can shoot in manual mode and control strobe output just by rotating the knob? That is pretty nice feature.

M.
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www.fishlens.com
D2X and D80 / Nexus / Ikelite / Inon / Heinrichs iTTL controller

#18 sdingeldein

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Posted 11 March 2006 - 05:09 AM

Thanks for the review!

I have found the same thing to be true regarding relying on the LCD screen underwater to judge exposure. I also now turn down my screen and use the histogram with the D70 to help judge exposure.

Your pictures are great: very natural, nice color, nice exposure.

I love having the ability to switch TTL/Manual on the D70 housing and the ability to stop up or down the output of the flash and was a bit disappointed when I read in early iterations that Ike wasn't able to fit that part in the D200 housing. Well, no surprise, Ike & co solved that and I think I'll like the dial even better.

I have one on order from Ryan and can't wait to get it before my trip to Little Cayman in late May (or earlier if I can get somewhere else as work allows)

Steve Dingeldein
Born to dive, forced to work