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Nikon D3 - housings and using one


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 12:22 AM

The Wetpixel home page has an interesting link to an article by Berkley White about the Nikon D3 not fitting in existing D2 series housings:
http://www.backscatt...ticle.php?ID=41

Berkley is actually the only person I have so far heard who has expressed a serious interest in using this camera underwater (as opposed to one friend I have who want to house the D3 because he must have the latest and greatest toy!). For most Nikon users the D300 seems far more attractive (small size, better AF and improved view finder and better high ISO noise control than all previous Nikon DSLRs to date) for underwater shooting.

While all serious photo (underwater) D2x owners who I have seen or had emails from since the D3 was announced have said that they would rather wait for the D3x (the 1Ds3 rival) version as high resolution is more beneficial to them than high ISO - which has only limited uses underwater. Most of the time we shoot at base ISO. Also FX format won't allow them to use their Tokina's 10-17mm which everyone has fallen in love with of late. Rumours are that Nikon will announce this camera (about 20-24MP) in the first half of 2008.

But maybe it is not that simple. First I think that Nikon users need to be more open to the capabilities and possibilities of high ISO. Put simply we have never had it before, and those who have tried the D3 (there have been some interested tests posted by Canon sports shooters) say its high ISO performance is a stop better than Canon's 1D3. This is in a totally different league to anything Nikon users have had available before. Maybe we need educating and the chance to think about the creative possibilities of high iso underwater.

That said, while I have seen many Canon 5D users regularly shooting at ISO 800 underwater, I am yet to see great competition winning images shot at high ISO - that are redefining what's possible underwater photography. But with the Wildlife Photographer and Antibes coming up in the next month maybe I will then?

Another point to consider is that there are a few rumours that the D3x version of this camera may be modular and therefore won't automatically fit in a D3 housing. Meaning housing the vaporware D3x could easily be 12-18 months or more away. Plus if it is modular it might have less good weather sealing and could be $10,000 USD.

Lots to discuss.

Alex

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#2 davephdv

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 10:48 AM

The high ISO performance is the only reason I would consider the D3. I think that would be a great advantage in UW shooting. Another would be less diffraction limiting macro shooting.

As alluded to I like the D300 and have one preordered. So far I want it for a topside camera be if I could do it costwise neutrally I would trade my D2X and housing for a D300 and housing. I love my setup but are getting tired of hauling all that weight through airports.
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#3 scorpio_fish

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 07:04 AM

Very good points Alex.

I can't imagine a slew of D2x customers clamoring to upgrade to a D3 if it requires a new housing.

So, if you are a housing manufacturer, do you start designing a D3 housing or wait for a definitive D3x to materialize? I would probably choose the latter.
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#4 RedSeaDiver

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 04:43 AM

A few questions re the D300 and D3X - word is that the D#X will have live view on the back screen, but will it still be able to AF while using that? (other dSLR's that have live view only allow you to do so without AF ability). Does anyone know if the D300 is going to have liveview? And if so is it AF compatible?
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#5 davephdv

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 01:43 PM

Live view yes. AF with live view; don't know.

DpReview says: Live view with either phase detect or contrast detect AF.
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#6 craig

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 04:13 PM

I have a D3 on order and would like to house it. Whether that constitutes "serious interest" is a judgement call. It seems to me that anyone that wants to house a D3 contributes to demand.

I agree that higher pixel counts are more interesting than higher frames rates and ISOs for underwater shooting, assuming that frame rates and ISOs are kept acceptable. A D3x would likely be more appealing than a D3, but considering that some shooters are satisfied shooting 1D2s underwater despite the existence of 1Ds2s and there were comments recently made in this forum about the desirability of the 1D3, I don't see why the D3 itself should be dismissed. I expect it to be considerably better for underwater use than the D2x is.

The major housing manufacturers may, indeed, wait for a D3x announcement and they may well consider that the camera will not be compatible with the D3, but they did not do so for the 1Ds3 nor the generations preceding it. Furthermore, there is precedence that pro bodies will be compatible. Ultimately, housing manufacturers decide based on anticipated demand and it would be easy to anticipate demand.

I've always believed that full frame is inherently better for underwater than cropped and the biggest FF liabilities, softness and vignetting, Nikon claims to have made specific engineering improvements to address. I have no doubt that the D300 will offer sufficiently good ISO and that it will be easier to shoot macro with, but I still expect the D3 to be better with IQ in exchange for the extra effort required to shoot it. Why offer the D3 if the D300 is very close to its equal in every respect at < 40% the price?

As a D2x user, it seems to me that the D300 offers better ISO and better AF but no improvement in IQ. I wonder why I'd switch. The D3 alone may not be a compelling upgrade either but I'd expect the D3 to be housing-compatible with the D3x. For users of D200s or the lower end Nikon bodies the D300 is a no-brainer.

Having just finished a trip with the 10-17, I certainly count myself as a 10-17 lover, but that is just one aspect of equipment choice. I feel that, within 6-9 months, it will be clear that both Nikon and Canon users will have excellent choices for both full and cropped sensors. On my most recent trip there were more Canon than Nikon shooters and on the dives where fisheyes were clearly the lenses of choice, the Canon FF shooters were getting shots just as good with FE primes.

I was recently told by a large retailer that Nikon still possesses the majority of the underwater SLR market, but that would be clearly based, if true, on their strength in the midrange rather than the high end. How many high end customers will be considering the D3 and how many of those are current D2 customers versus Canon ones? On the other side, how difficult is it to do a D3 design given full CNC capability, an existing D2 design, an existing customer base, and many years of experience supporting Nikon? I wouldn't be quick to declare a lack of interest in the D3---I was told, after all, that Subal wouldn't be housing the 1D3 yet that position changed very quickly.
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#7 bacripe

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:03 PM

I think it becomes a little more complicated with the Nikon D3/D3x(?) housing debate because of the suggestion that the D3x will be modular. It's less of an issue with the Canon bodies because a housing that fits the 1Dmk3 will probably also accommodate the 1DsMK3, as it did with the previous generations (1Dmk2/1DsMk2).

That being said, the D3 looks like a sweet camera (although I'm biased because I'm shooting a lot of sports right now). I haven't read up a ton on it, but a huge benefit that I'm seen with the 1Dmk3 that I'm shooting with is the increased dynamic range - it's noticeably better than my 5D. I assume that the D3 will have the same benefit over the D2x. I haven't shot it underwater yet (since there are no housings) but I'm looking forward to it.

If the D300 produces the same benefits, I'd say that's the camera to go with underwater - the ergonomics of a small camera (i.e. 5D or D300) compared to a large body (1D/D2x) are significant.

Edited by bacripe, 29 September 2007 - 09:05 PM.

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#8 craig

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:33 PM

Except that there's more reason to believe that the D3x will use the same body than a totally new one. A modular body is nothing more than speculation based mostly on rumors long out of date.

Housing manufacturers decided to support the 1D3 before the 1Ds3 announcement and no one even suggested that the 1Ds3 wouldn't use the same body. There is no reason to believe Nikon will do otherwise except for the change in naming convention, but Nikon had reason to avoid following the D2h naming because (a) the D2h had a mixed reputation, (B) in the past they've announced both at the same time, and © Nikon desires the D3 to have a new image because it's a significant break from the past. The body itself isn't that different.

I think it would be difficult to choose the D3 over the D300 underwater if you felt that the D3x wouldn't plug into the housing. That said, many have chosen the 1D2 under the same circumstances. One might think that the 5D would be a better choice than a 1D2 yet there was a 1D2 shooter on my last trip. Just because two cameras have matching pixel counts does not mean that they will resolve the same detail or offer the same color and dynamic range performance. There have been subjective reports online that claim that the D3 is outresolving every 35mm DSLR so far. I don't know that I believe it but it's not hard to find at dpreview. That comment is by a professional Canon shooter, BTW.

I think it's shortsighted to dismiss the D3 as an underwater option, especially because of the belief that Nikon will introduce a radical new body. That would be uncharacteristic for them, although predictions that Nikon would have a revolutionary, compelling, differentiating feature haven't materialized so far unless you count AF during Liveview ;-) You can't predict the future, but choosing to ignore the D3 as a housing manufacturer means that you risk being beaten significantly to market should the demand exist. Perhaps that's OK but I believe Subal and Seacam will be doing it.
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#9 scorpio_fish

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 02:57 AM

My point wasn't to take a side in whether a D3 was preferable to a D2x, but rather that even if there were some perceived value to an upgrade, the number of D2x users willing to drop ten large on a new camera and housing would probably be small compared to other housing demand.
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#10 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 12:29 AM

I should stress that the modular body D3X is simply a rumour. I expect Nikon to make the D3X in the same body as the D3 - but I also expect them to remain tight-lipped about their plans until closer to the time.

My mail has been flooded with all the Nikon advertising material for the D3, that leaves you thinking how could I possibly take photos without one!

I really hope that the D3 and D3X will have the same body - as the two would provide a very versitle underwater photography system if they fitted in the same housing. But I think I will be waiting for the D3X announcement sometime in 2008 before I give up my Tokina 10-17mm!

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#11 james

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 05:02 AM

The fact that Nikon named it the D3 and departed from the h/x pairing worries me a bit. But I have to agree w/ what Craig said that they might have just dropped the "h" because of some lingering stigma from the D2h performance.

In any case, I would be a lot more sure of an identical bodied D3x if they had named this new camera the D3h...

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#12 craig

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 07:47 AM

Yes, the modular body is a rumor that's been around a long time. There probably were some seeded as evaluation units and that gave the rumor some teeth, but the rumors have existed longer than the D2 series. At this point, the new D3 body should suggest that a D3x will exist in the same body just as previous generations of Nikons and Canons have done. Modular sounds neat, but it needs to make business sense before it will be done. I love the idea of modular but it doesn't necessarily promise a good underwater solution or more housing stability. I think we'd all love a high quality housing that we could stick with for multiple generations of bodies.

You know, not long ago credit would universally be given to Canon for having the best sensor technology. Perhaps they still do, but had Nikon introduced a modular D2 Canon could have considered making a sensor module for it. They would have been recognized by many for offering the best module even if it were deliberately derated, they could have taken a lot of profitability and motivation from Nikon, and they could still market the product as a stepping stone to a real Canon system. It's not clear to me that a modular system is in Nikon's best interests until their sensor tech is truly competitive.

I think it's wise for most people considering a D3 to wait for a D3x announcement before considering a housing. That's what users of the Canon versions have done. Nikon's naming choice may give housing manufacturers pause and that's too bad; the D3 may well be the best DSLR for underwater outside the 1Ds3. Meanwhile, the D300 should be terrific.
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#13 james

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 09:23 AM

I'm not too sure that Canon will be the clear leader in low-noise images after the release of the D3. Have y'all seen the test drive w/ images by wedding photographer Cliff Mautner:

http://cliffmautner.typepad.com/

Check out the JPEG quality (these are all from the Nikon JPEG engine I believe) images at ISO2000 and ISO3200? Wow!

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#14 herbko

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 09:50 AM

I don't think a modular digital camera ever made any sense. There has to be lots of design compromises to make it work, and I doubt any camera maker wants to be held back by an old set of controls when they may have new features like live view to implement.

Except for a tiny number of underwater photographers, it probably does not even make economic sense for the user. He's probably better off selling the old one on ebay and buy the new one than to paid the cost of upgrading sensor, processor, and memory.
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#15 craig

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 11:47 AM

I agree, Herb. The concept of a modular body is sexy but the details all seem problematic and uninteresting. If it weren't for the progression of LCD screen sizes, the pro bodies may well have been able to share housings between generations. I'd rather have a monolithic body without the possibility for alignment issues, dust sources, extra cost, extra size and extra weight. Just stop changing the packaging between generations!
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#16 ATJ

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 08:45 PM

And some great images here:

http://www.robgalbra...cid=7-8743-9108

I was going to upgrade from my D70 to a D200 but I am now waiting for the D300.

Edited by ATJ, 01 October 2007 - 08:46 PM.


#17 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 09:21 PM

I am beginning to regret mentioning the modular body! :D The main reason I bought it up was there there is some rumour mongering that the D3X will be more of a studio camera, without the weather sealing etc of the more field orientated D3. So even if the modular talk is old news (it came up before the D2X as well - as Nikon had made a modular DSLR prototype based on the F6) there remains a possibility that the D3 and D3X might not fit in the same housing.

The main reason I mention this is, as Craig says, that I believe most people would be wise to wait for the D3X to be announced before thinking a D3 housing will automatically fit the D3X (although I personality if I had to bet, I'd expect them to be identical).

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#18 craig

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:25 PM

I agree, Alex, that a D3x in a different body would take a lot of the appeal out of doing a D3 housing, so most people would probably wait for the D3x announcement. I also think that manufacturers like Seacam and Subal have limited resources and are already committed to housing the 40D, 1D*3, and D300 (along with their other projects) so their plates are probably full without the D3. In the greater context, it seems photographers in general are excited to purchase the D3. 1D sales are overwhelmingly greater than 1Ds sales (I think 4:1) so the market for the D3 should be far greater than the D3x (and that's why we got it first). I don't think that translates into underwater sales though.

I think it's interesting that, despite the fact that the D3 *may* be the best DSLR body ever for underwater use except marginally for the 1Ds2 (and clearly the 1Ds3 which doesn't yet exist either), that the absence of a D3x might doom the D3 to never being housed. Isn't it ironic, Alanis?

Hopefully, the D300 will push Canon to more seriously upgrade the 5D on the next cycle. With the D300's new AF system, Canon may feel it can no longer afford to shortchange its 5D in AF capability.
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#19 james

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:40 PM

This is a very interesting post. Despite the fact that Canon sells 4x as many 1Dx bodies as 1Dsx bodies, the majority of underwater commercial photographers (and their clients the art directors and editors) want the 1DsII results. I think the same will be the case for the III series. It's certainly the case for the Nikon D2x/h camera generation.

One of the main reasons that I think this is that commercial photographers who make their bread and butter topsides shooting frequently come online and ping us, or dealers, looking for a 1DsII housing to use or rent for an underwater project.

If the D3 is clearly aimed at the sport and PJ market then it will be the more popular topsides camera. If Nikon doesn't offer a studio camera then I can see the D3 being chosen over the D2xs. If Nikon does offer a studio camera, even if it does cost $8k - then I doubt the D3 will see much underwater use - at least from the commercial side.

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#20 Liz Hanks

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 04:13 PM

I have a D3 on order as well and will definitely be getting a housing for it. This is the camera I've been waiting for to move away from my housed F100. I'm quite happy that it's "only" 12MP and I don't intend to wait for a hypothetical D3X.

I'm certainly no expert in this area and I don't understand why it seems a foregone conclusion that a higher pixel count would necessarily yield a much better underwater camera. There's a lot more to image quality than megapixels, and cramming more of them into a sensor of equal size has its downsides.

The large photosites of the D3 will produce images with great dynamic range, smooth color transitions, and low noise in the shadow areas (not just at high ISO values). All of these are important for underwater photography and, with 12MP worth of detail, we'll be able to produce excellent large prints.

I'd be interested in hearing why others believe a higher resolution D3 is worth waiting for. I can easily understand that people with existing, solid DSLR setups would want to wait until there's a big enough jump in overall quality and features before investing in a completely new camera and housing, I just don't see why a D3X is automatically assumed to represent a higher jump than the D3. You don't get a bump in resolution for free and 12MP seems like a pretty good sweet spot.

From the housing manufacturer's point of view, I can definitely see waiting to see if the D3's successor is compatible. If the layout is different, it may not be worth producing a housing for a single version of a high-end camera. If I were a photographer with a housed D2X though, I'm pretty sure I'd either upgrade to a D3 or wait and see what the D4 had to offer.

Just my $0.02,

Liz