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Nikon D4 Underwater Testing


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:48 PM

It has been an exciting time for new SLRs recently and the Wetpixel team are working very hard behind the scene to bring you full underwater reviews as soon as we can.

The first camera and housing we've been able to get hold of is the Nikon D4 and Nauticam NA-D4 and I have brought it up here to Iceland to put it through its paces. I will publish a full review at the end of this trip, but I thought I share a few thoughts and pictures informally in the forums during the trip, when internet access allows.

ICE12_am_11224.jpg

I am excited about reviewing the D4 because it is an amazing device for creating images, a massive step from the D3. The image quality is phenomenal and the despite the AF system has blown me away, despite being on paper the same as the D3/D700/D800. But for underwater photography its little brother, the D800 matches it in many areas and actually has a feature set that I think is more suited to most underwater photography. I'll get into that in the review when I have had the chance to test it in a variety of conditions (but I hope that the review is also relevant for D800 users and they see much of their new tech used underwater for the first time).

I am also excited to review Nauticam's NA-D4. Nauticam are now one of the largest forces in underwater photography and I know people who have switched from every other housing brand to Nauticam housings in the last few years (and to be fair some that have switched the opposite way). But this is Nauticam's first housing for a flagship SLR and will have to be something special to attract photographers (who will be pro or semi-pro and long standing shooters) from other housing brands. This housing is a late prototype.

But I'll get into all of that in the review.

I arrived in Iceland yesterday afternoon and did a evening check dive in the sea with my D7000. But today I headed inland with to Iceland's famous Silfra, the dive between the continental plates in incredibly clear water. I've shot this site before and it is not actually the aim of this trip, but it is spectacular and I also liked the idea of calm freshwater for my first dives with such an expensive camera. Although driving up there, the weather was hardly benign:

ICE12_am_11217.jpg

This being Iceland the weather soon changed and we even had sun for a bit (and at least the snow provided a good studio for photographing the housing, see below). Nikon promote the D4 as pushing limits and certainly the dark, narrow canyon of Silfra, under heavy clouds, is a perfect test for high ISO shooting (especially because the clear water necessitates stopping down to have enough depth of field to keep everything in focus and get good corner sharpness). I wouldn't review a more mainstream camera in such extreme conditions - but the D4 should be tested in conditions that push limits and the next 10 days will be testing those of the camera and me!

ICE12_am_11226.jpg

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The Nauticam housing is well made and attractive, with some now classic Nauticam design flourishes and some intelligent new features. One I really liked was the lever for ISO, which is under your right thumb (rather than being a push button low . On a camera like this you are likely to want to change ISO frequently.

ICE12_am_11233.jpg

I had better stop this is turning into a review. I'll share some images from Day 1 with the camera.

Alex

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:56 PM

I made three dives today in the cold, clear (and drinkable) waters of Silfra. On the first I dived with Nina and Erla, on the second with Valdi and on the third with Erla. I am very grateful to them for posing for my pix! I wasn't trying to set the world alight with originality. I wanted to work through settings and also take some shots I had taken before (with my D700) for my own comparisons. Also my photos from last year have been published very widely, so this was a chance to pick up some fresh stock.

Dive 1. We actually had a bit of sun, although it was morning and there were very strong shadows in the fissure. I was very impressed with how the camera recorded detail in the shadows. Using 16mm FE and no flash.

ISO 1600
ICE12_am_10323.jpg

ISO 200
ICE12_am_10491.jpg

ISO 800
ICE12_am_10599.jpg

And we even had some quite strong sun at times. Well strong for Iceland. ISO 800 still only gave 1/140th sec exposure:
ICE12_am_10621.jpg

I should add that all these images look much better seen big. They are big scene shots and not at their best at 650 pixels.

Alex

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#3 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:03 PM

Dive 2: We timed the second dive to get the light coming up the canyon. This is the best time for the big shots showing the scale of the fissure and the clarity of the water - however the clouds were back for most of the dive. Although I just rolled up the ISO - and in many ways the flat light was more suited to the subject matter.

Visibility!
ICE12_am_10773.jpg

Visibility 2
ICE12_am_10785.jpg

I took this angle last year. Although there is more algae and therefore colour on the rocks this year
ICE12_am_10824.jpg

ICE12_am_10832.jpg

Again this small size really doesn't do justice to this type of image.

Alex

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#4 howeikwok

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:09 PM

Stunning visibility, the shots really brings it out!
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#5 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:10 PM

A couple more from Dive 2:

ICE12_am_10920.jpg

ICE12_am_10935.jpg

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:13 PM

Dive 3: This was late afternoon. Light was fading and clouds building. I also switched over to a rectilinear lens (16-35mm). Non fisheye wide angles can be difficult to get good corner sharpness with underwater. The solution is to use a good dome (I used Zen 230) and kept the lens stopped down. In such dark conditions this meant pushing the ISO up to get useable shutter speeds. I shot between ISO 1600 and 2500:

ICE12_am_11021.jpg

ICE12_am_11041.jpg

ICE12_am_11105.jpg

ICE12_am_11162.jpg

Anyway, I am pleased with the first day's performance of the camera. Still unsure of which AF modes I prefer - as they all just work. These were shot on AUTO area!

Alex

p.s. I'll add some more comments over the next few days before we head out to sea and I loose internet access.

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).


#7 Cary Dean

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:37 PM

Awesome! Nice Images and great info.
Is the movement in the sand/floor of the site glacial or earthquake
caused?
Interested in how you've mounted your carrying handle/lanyard.
Any closer pics of that set up?
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#8 sccho76

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 05:23 PM

Great Pic Alex

D4 has impressive DR expression!!
it's amazing shadow shot

Thanks Alex!

#9 lundysd

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 05:58 PM

Stellar photos -- this is going to be an exciting rig!

Any chance of getting a full size jpeg at some point?

#10 loftus

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:05 PM

Beautiful colors! Looking forward to more. Would be great to compare the D800 here.
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#11 brad_cat

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:37 PM

amazing...!!
never tired about Alex's photo.

#12 adamhanlon

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 09:16 PM

Great info Alex and lovely shots.

It is hard to see (and I'm sure it will be mentioned in your review), but how is the noise at high ISOs?

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#13 margar68

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 09:47 PM

wonderful shots Alex, what a visibility! best definition and dinamic range for all iso conditions!! great

#14 Tom_Kline

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 09:53 PM

Cool! (in more ways than one!)
Seen any char?

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#15 davichin

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:26 PM

Gin Tonic diving!
Another set of images of the kind that make us want to leave everything and go diving!
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#16 howard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:27 PM

Wow, incredible vis and amazing detail across the light range. You can see the detail even in these small images.

The Nauticam Housing is looking nice and chunky.
Howard Womersley | Web designer | Underwater Photographer
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#17 howard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:34 PM

Interested in how you've mounted your carrying handle/lanyard.
Any closer pics of that set up?


The lanyard and ball mounts is a standard Nauticam part - I have the same on my D7000. Easy to carry even with strobes mounted. Great for passing your housing to someone who is not accustomed to carrying such things. And I fix my focus light to one of the additional ball mounts.

http://nauticam.com....em/accessories/
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#18 buddy

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:53 PM

Alex, phantastic shots and looking forward to your full review while I am waiting for my new Subal housing for D4 though. It is ETA in late May. I have the D4 already 3 weeks from now, phantastic camera. I am heading to the Maldives today, but this is still for the D3s in underwater and want to try more on CFWA with the minidome and the Sigma 15mm.

Cheers!

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#19 Spacker

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:04 PM

Shamefully, my last dives were last May at Lundy in the UK. These shots are stirring bits inside me to get back in the water again! Not wanting to try and divert topic, I'm a Canon owner but the D800 will be a very interesting option in water with the obvious mp and dx crop. Damned impressed Nauticam have a working housing out already!

#20 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:09 PM

Is the movement in the sand/floor of the site glacial or earthquake caused?


The fissure is a crack in the earth's crust in the mid-Atlantic ridge - the boundary between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Usually this is at the bottom of the ocean, but because Iceland is also a hotspot so much magma is extruded here that the mid-Atlantic ridge sticks out of the water. The dive is in a spring water filled crack, formed by the tectonic forces, within the rift valley between the two continental plates.

Stellar photos -- this is going to be an exciting rig!
Any chance of getting a full size jpeg at some point?


Yes - I can share a RAW file - but it would probably be of a crap photo - as I am not that keen to make the RAW file of one of my best images free!

Beautiful colors! Looking forward to more. Would be great to compare the D800 here.


I'll certainly compare the cameras (on paper) in the review. We don't have a D800 housing yet. Nikon, who made both cameras, think the D4 is worth twice as much as the D800 (and in the UK have just added another 500 to the price!). For underwater photography this is clearly not the case.

Alex, phantastic shots and looking forward to your full review while I am waiting for my new Subal housing for D4 though. It is ETA in late May. I have the D4 already 3 weeks from now, phantastic camera. I am heading to the Maldives today, but this is still for the D3s in underwater and want to try more on CFWA with the minidome and the Sigma 15mm.


This is a pre-production Nauticam. But I think they hope to be shipping finished housings in April. For the record, I am yet to decide which housing I am going to get (on of the bonuses of doing reviews is that you get to try before you buy). This Nauticam housing is impressing me so far. I am taking this housing on to Scotland and then only diving at home in May. So I have thinking time.

Alex

p.s. Only one dive today before the long drive to Dive The North, so I'll have less to report. Visiting a different fissure today.

Alexander Mustard - www.amustard.com - www.magic-filters.com
Nikon D4 (Subal housing). Nikon D7100 (Subal housing). Olympus EPL-5 (Nauticam housing).