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When it comes to digital photography with Nikon DSLRs I'm always reminded of the saying "reformed, always reforming" . . . just as I get something in my head, I change cameras and struggle to master all the controls on a new one.

 

I am going through Thom Hogan's D300 book and thinking about 1) exposure metering, 2) AF area mode 3) AF mode: continuous versus single server focus and 4) AF area and how these best relate to UW photography. The problem, it seems to me, is that all these factors are NOT independent in the D300, but one choice in one area may affect your choice in another. I was wondering how other Nikon users use these factors to their advantage (or disadvantage)?

 

1. Exposure Metering: Matrix versus center weighted versus spot.

 

It seems to me that Matrix is probably out for underwater use as the database Nikon uses expects topside pictures of some sort. The one exception would be matrix and single area focus mode as the camera heavily weights the exposure towards the single user selected focus area. But it still seems to me that the database might bias the exposure in a way that is unsuitable for underwater . . . yes or no or maybe?

 

Center weighted seems like a good choice, though as I understand it, the center weight doesn't follow the focus but is a circle in the middle of the focus area. Hence if one moves the focus (single focus mode or in single focus servo) one could move the focus outside the area of the centrally weighted focus area. Or, perhaps one could increase the size of the central weighted focus area from the default of 8.

 

Spot metering follows the focus point whether fully user selected (single servo and or single area focus) or camera selected (continuous servo or dynamic area focus). This seems like it is the best choice as the camera will meter the subject of the picture in favor of the surrounding area.

 

2. AF Area mode

 

Auto area AF seems to be a bad choice for underwater as the camera may have a very difficult time figuring out the subject.

 

Dynamic Area Autofocus seems to be a good choice, particularly since there is always movement. The camera starts with the user chosen AF point but moves it IF the subject under the chosen AF point moves.

 

Spot Autofocus: ? bad choice as one has to continually move the autofocus point. Easy on land, hard underwater.

 

3. Auto Focus Mode: Continuous versus single servo: I have used continuous most often, though in the D200 it ate up the battery, though the D300 seems to be better with battery life. With continuous the camera will decide the actual autofocus point in matrix or dynamic AF mode, I think.

 

4. AF area. The camera allows for 9, 21 or 51 spots (also 51 with 3D, which takes color into account). Seems to me that 9 or 21 would be the best choice. Any opinions?

 

So it seems to me - knowing one size never fits all but I like the KISS principle underwater - the best choice would be spot metering, dynamic autofocus, continuous servo, 9 or 21 AF area as a primary choice for macro and perhaps center-weighted, dynamic auto focus, continous servo, 9 or 21 AF area for wide angle.

 

Thoughts? Thanks in advance. This stuff makes my head hurt sometimes.

 

Steve Dingeldein

Edited by sdingeldein

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I am surprised by the lack of responses, but I suppose nobody knows the "best" options for the camera just yet. What I'd suggest is a week in Bonaire or some other "easy diving" location, where you can spend all day playing with your settings under various conditions (standing still while shooting, swimming while shooting, shooting things that are still and shooting things that are in motion) and then see what the camera produces using various settings. (If the EXIF data does not include the information on the settings used, bring a slate, or shoot all one way during the dive to avoid confusion).

 

Now, here is the important part.... post your conclusions! I expect that some settings will make no difference. I also expect that some settings will produce different results depending on the lens you are using.

 

In all of my years of photography (cough), I'd say if the focus is acquired quickly, that is all you need to worry about. From there, everything else is just gravy.

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I think you had all our heads hurting, David - hence the silence!

 

As we speak my Subal D300 housing is, I hope, God knows I hope, winging its way to Aus-tra-lee. And I leave for Ningaloo Reef in a few days. I'll give it all a go and let you know.

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Hey Steve,

 

I think the lack of response can be attributed to timing. All the Nikon folks go out partying on Saturday. :D As they start to recover today I would expect some more answers, I shoot a Canon so I wouldn't attempt to respond, since the cameras work a little differently and the last Nikon I held had film in it, but I think you will have a different answer depending on the type of shot. Manta's zooming by versus pygmy macro etc. would affect my choice for AF and metering. Still fuzzy myself (I was out with the Nikon guys last night) :)

 

Steve

Edited by williamshs

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I have a D300 but haven't shot it UW. So I have no idea. I usually like the simplest settings UW. Spot focus and selectable AF sensor.

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I have just returned fro Cayman Brac and used my D300 underwater. Vewry slow to lock on in S focus mode, but instantaneous in C mode, I was unable to change my shutter speed below the preset max sync speed, color saturation and clarity an improvement over the D200 as well as low light focus. I used the 10-17, new 60m macro and the 105 VR.

The 60 did have some focusing issues that were easily corrected with the focus button. the 105 was awesome.

I shot in RAW 14 bit manual mode.

The Aquatica housing front performed well but the back buttons and focus selector switch did notr work the housing is going back for adjustment or replacement. The housing no longer comes with meter controllability, ie can't change from spot, center weight or matrix, you have to chose which mode before closing the case. will post some pictures soon.

Edited by The Octopus

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