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New to UW: Nikon D3S Housing options?

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#1 GeorgeH



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Posted 05 September 2011 - 10:06 PM

Newbie questions; Can I start with Nikon D3S underwater housing question and after everyone gets off the bottom of the sea where they have been laughing at me, get some insight on cool water gloves, suites, dry suits, etc?

Starting from scratch with a Nikon full frame system, what underwater housing system and strobes should I look into? Aquatica or Subal seems to be the likely suspects for housing and ports. Complcating my search I noticed while pricing Aquatica housings there is a Aquatica kit including a D700 body that is not much more than the D3S housing alone. I am also finding the next new camera bug gets even more expensive with housings and as an NPS member, I would have priority to pick up the rumored D4 if it becomes reality and due to my other photography requirements, would likely pick one up.

I grew up on a lake and you can't get me out of the water on tropical vacations but I have never been scuba diving. This week I start the PADI open water diving certification course. Living in the Seattle and Puget Sound area, I will need to invest in a dry suit based setup and see this hobby becoming as big a money pit as photography.

Speaking of which, I am a somewhat accomplished photographer specializing in shooting sports at the highest level and have always been interested in underwater photography. I plan to make sure I enjoy scuba diving and don't have any challenges but if it turns out I become comfortable, safe and proficient, underwater photography is sure to be a major focus of my diving.

Assuming all that happens, where do I start in putting together an underwater system? I currently shoot with two bodies, both Nikon D3S's. Have the entire series of pro zooms including the AFS 14-24 f2.8 ED, AFS 24-70 f2.8 ED, AFS, AFS II VR 70-200 f2.8, and the AFS VR 200-400 f4. I also have the AF Micro 105mm f2.8, a 400 f2.8 and a 600 f4.

My thought was to start with an underwater housing for a D3S and a lens port for the 14-24 and the 24-70. A couple of compatible strobes would be a requirement in Puget Sound, not that I wouldn't emphasize lighting in a tropical area.

Depending on where underwater photography takes me I would consider adding a port for a close-up lens and possibly the 70-200 if I can justify a reason.

From the land based photography world I know how broad and silly these type of questions sound so don't feel a need to be gentle, I have thick skin.

Thank you.


#2 Drew


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Posted 05 September 2011 - 11:30 PM

Hi George
Welcome to the madness. I'm not going to recommend brands but I do suggest for cold water diving, big distinct controls with nice feel is more important with the thick gloves.
With the 14-24, you'll need as big a dome port as possible. I think Subal has the biggest at 250mm, then Seacam (240mm), then Aquatica (235mm).
Strobes really depend on whether you want iTTL access and what sort of shooting you do. Many types of shots can be handled by 150-160W strobes especially macro. WA with bigger animals which require a bit of distance will demand more power, in the 250W range, especially if you want to take advantage of the 9fps of the D3s, where using 1/5th power of a 250W will give you the 9fps @ 1/2 power of that of a Inon Z240 for instance.
Regarding the 70-200VR II, I believe the mfd is like 5ft. So it's not really viable as a macro lens (although I know people who have tried macro versions of such focal lengths to get some distance from the subject, which will require more power from the strobes to illuminate.
The only addition in lenses I would suggest is maybe a fisheye.
More importantly, I suggest you either take an uw photography course or read up books on uw physics and photography to grasp ideas on what is needed so you can make your own mind up with newfound knowledge.

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#3 blibecap


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Posted 06 September 2011 - 04:40 AM

I agree with George and you can find a lot of information here on wetpixel as well as http://www.uwphotogr...erwater-cameras

You can certainly use the AF Micro 105mm f2.8 it is great for macro work.
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#4 Don in Colorado

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 12:59 PM

I would start out with a much cheaper UW system. I'd buy a used system. There is a lot to go wrong with these systems. If nothing else, get good insurance.

#5 Alex_Tattersall


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Posted 06 September 2011 - 01:23 PM

I'd focus on doing a good couple of hundred dives to ensure you are fully comfortable in the water before taking a camera underwater if I were you.

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#6 Deep6


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Posted 06 September 2011 - 02:18 PM

I'd focus on doing a good couple of hundred dives to ensure you are fully comfortable in the water before taking a camera underwater if I were you.

I think George agrees with you. Taking up u/w photography after getting comfortable diving. Good buoyancy control is an essential skill.

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#7 JackConnick



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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:12 PM

I agree with Alex, as a local Seattle dealer we always caution new divers to get about 50-75 dives before they think about much of any camera. And a lot more experience to deal with a larger DSLR as you are contemplating. There is a lot of task loading in cold water, and local conditions are very changeable. Bad viz, strong currents and cold water can be a lot to deal with and are commonplace.


Edited by JackConnick, 06 September 2011 - 10:14 PM.

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#8 GeorgeH



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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:40 PM

Thanks for the replies; all good information toconsider. As I mentioned in my original post, I have no intention of attemptingUW photography until I have mastered the necessary skills. Just starting togather information in case I do get to that point since photography is part ofmost everything I do and it is natural for me to consider adding that to scubadiving if or when I advance to the appropriate, safe level.

Different formating on this web site; keeps doing strange things.

Edited by GeorgeH, 06 September 2011 - 10:41 PM.

#9 Don in Colorado

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Posted 08 September 2011 - 05:10 PM

Here is a system for your consideration.


#10 GeorgeH



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Posted 19 November 2012 - 08:25 AM

Over a year later and sorry, but I wasn’t prepared to wait 200 dives before attempting underwater photography. I did plan from the start though to develop reasonable buoyancy control and planning before adding the additional task loading of UW photography.

I took my 50th dive Saturday, November 17th, and took my D3S underwater with me for the event. I’ve taken it with me on a two recent dives but ran into an issue where the Live View button was pressed as soon as I reached 10 feet or so, leaving me without access to the LCD.

Saturday I moved the Live view lever up and away from the guide and for the first time had some feedback after taking shots. Not that I made any changes; I was content for this dive just to get the feel of the housing and know I was capturing something. Now I can begin the journey of understanding strobe positioning and power combined with appropriate SS and aperture settings based on lens and port configuration. Plus I need to work on how to do that reverse frog kick.

Buoyancy control is definitely more of a challenge while attempting to set up a shot with a large housing and a couple strobes. I was beginning to feel good about my rapidly improving SAC rate that increased significantly on my Saturday dive with a camera. I assume that will drop as I get more comfortable.

It has been a long process testing my patience. A lot has happened. Of course the D4 was released, which I now use for my sports photography, but the D3S is still a fine camera and it is nice to have a third body on the sidelines at times anyway.

Here is the token first shot of a tiny squid that was not happy to see me. Obviously the hot spot and shadow tell me my strobe positioning was not ideal but it is a start.

What a blast I had. The dive was too short and my constant grin was making my mask leak. I can't wait to start working on becoming an UW photographer.

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#11 Steve Williams

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 06:11 AM

What a blast I had. The dive was too short and my constant grin was making my mask leak.

Congrats George, I know the feeling, and a nice start too.


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