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MatthewAddison

Sea & Sea D3 experiences

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I have been shooting the Sea & Sea MDX D3 for two months now and was wondering if there are other users out there with whom I can share experiences, specifically shooting wide angle.

I would love to hear what others are doing, as I am having some difficulties with corner sharpness using S & S ports with rectilinear lenses.

Specifically, using factory recommended set-ups for the Nikkor 14mm & Nikkor 17-35, minimum acceptable aperture seems to be f14-16 which seems rather odd. I am wondering if this is partly due to the fact that the D3 is a FF chip and I am seeing things I didn't in the D200. I'm using the S&S fisheye dome.

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I've taken mine on a few dives, used the 17-35 and 17-55, had great corner sharpness. I was using the new ultra-pricey large glass dome. I even got some good whale shots topside with the 200-400VR. I sent the photos in for publication and got a few calls back right away.

 

And then I woke up. sorry Matt! but I'm always here if you want to talk about the D300 in a S&S housing and the 10-17 :D

 

Scott

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There is certainly no great revelation that it is harder to get FF cameras working with wide rectilinears, behind dome ports, than DX cameras. The trouble about being one of the first with a system is that you are the guinea pig, Matt. The rest of us learn from you. At least here in Wetpixel it is easier to get in contact with others in the same boat.

 

I was always able to get good corner sharpness out of the 17-35mm on film (although ignore the housing manufacturer's recommendation). You could try a shorter port extension ring and stronger dioptre. The 14mm is much more troublesome to set up well.

 

At least your camera works. I got an email today about a guy who took 2 D3s to Lembeh and both stopped working because of flash-card issues (maybe related to strobe issues - which was something I discovered the D2X suffered with in the early days).

 

Alex

 

To follow Scott's point, I actually see the D3 as an inferior UW camera to the D300. Its bigger, heavier (on land) and has less spread of AF sensors. D3 has a better viewfinder. But it can't use a 10-17mm FE zoom (properly), and has problems with wide rectilinears. For macro the 12MP of the D300 give you more depth of field for a given subject size in the frame. At low ISO people argue the D300 has slightly better IQ, although its marginal. D300 has better AF spread in frame for off centre compositions. D3 amazing at high ISO - which is good for available light wrecks, so worth it if this is an important part of your photography.

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The trouble about being one of the first with a system is that you are the guinea pig, Matt.

 

Too true! I knew not to buy an HD DVD player... don't know what I was thinking when I gave the D3 the nod. I suppose I was counting on all those FF Canon guys who went before to have worked out all the issues so I could be lazy. It is a damn fine camera though and is possibly my new all-time favorite.

I've played with the D300 and the pictures I have seen coming from that camera are stunning.

Andy Solomon and I will be in a pool shortly with a 4 X 5 grid, Pile O' Ports and Stack O' Spacers (and possibly a machinist standing by) to get to the bottom of this issue. So, when you buy your D3xxx the day it comes out, you can rest assured I will have some well documented reasons ou should leave it on land and take your D300 diving. :D

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I'm not using the same housing as you are but have had the same corner problems with my own housing. I have the nikkor 16mm, 14-24, and a Sigma 14 mm, and 15 mm. Over all the Sigma 15 mm has the best corner to corner sharpness and I'm pleased with it's performance. The Sigma has the best close focusing of all and may be the reason why it works the best. In the beginning I was so very frustrated with the problem that I almost gave up the idea of housing the D3 and planed on selling off the hole lot for the D300, now I'm glad I didn't. My recommendation would be to give the Sigma 15 mm a try.

 

Marc

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My recommendation would be to give the Sigma 15 mm a try.

 

Marc

 

Thanks Marc, I'll check it out in my testing. Are you using an off-the-shelf dome or your own design? At what f-stop do the corners become acceptable? I have a sneaking suspicion that the FF corner issues we are seeing are mostly due to dome curvature. I have been told that this issue did not come up with film cameras using the same ports. That leads to questions about light paths on sensor lenses (etc) so way above my pay grade I wouldn't know where to start. It will be interesting for me to try out different domes/spacers and see which work best.

I'm sure there are optics experts out there who could take a look at this issue and give a good starting place.

In the meanwhile I'm hammering away reading everything I can get my hands on.

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I wish i had something to add. I've had TWO d3 housings delivered to me, both with different design flaws. I am not getting a third, which sucks because I already have ports from my d200 housing.

 

I have a bad taste in my mouth now. I hate that.

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I wish i had something to add. I've had TWO d3 housings delivered to me, both with different design flaws. I am not getting a third, which sucks because I already have ports from my d200 housing.

 

I have a bad taste in my mouth now. I hate that.

What were the design flaws, to make sure we don't miss them.

thanks

Bill

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I've had TWO d3 housings delivered to me, both with different design flaws.

These are S & S housings, I assume? I ask because one of the potential causes of corner aberrations is that the lens centerline is not exactly lined up with the dome center.

And when you say "design flaws", are you referring to actual "design" or build idiosyncrasies, such as housing buttons not engaging the camera. I had this issue with one button on the housing and used a dab of epoxy on the rubber pad to lengthen the reach. That kind of thing I almost expect from any housing and hear of such things a great deal.

In either case, I'm sorry you are having these frustrations. They are certainly an unpleasant surprise when shelling out the kind of money you have.

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After having used the Sea&Sea D3 housing for a week, I would say that overall it is a pretty slick housing. The controls felt solid, well laid out and just feels great holding the housing.

 

However, there were a few things that I was a bit concerned about. The mounting system didn't feel quite as solid as some of the rail systems I've used in the past. Not sure if this was the cause, but some of the buttons would not engage at depth at times (intermittently). As well, I had the AF cut out on me a few times (I suspect perhaps misalignment of some sort, which may have caused another button to be partially depressed, but I couldn't figure out the problem). The front command dial is a recessed wheel which you roll with one finger - which works nice in warm water without gloves, but I wonder how easy it will be with thicker drygloves on.

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However, there were a few things that I was a bit concerned about. The mounting system didn't feel quite as solid as some of the rail systems I've used in the past. Not sure if this was the cause, but some of the buttons would not engage at depth at times (intermittently). As well, I had the AF cut out on me a few times (I suspect perhaps misalignment of some sort, which may have caused another button to be partially depressed, but I couldn't figure out the problem). The front command dial is a recessed wheel which you roll with one finger - which works nice in warm water without gloves, but I wonder how easy it will be with thicker drygloves on.

AE lock engages and causes the focus lock-up issue. I had the same problem. I'm going to shave down the AE button on the rocker arm and see if that works, or take it off completely and put on a small(er) rubber bumper. Agreed about the camera mount. I don't know why they changed it and it needs to be addressed. I have to be very careful to check that the camera plate is correctly placed before tightening it down. Also, after a dive I sometimes find that the thumb screw has loosened during the dive.

I dove in 45 degree water with this housing and dry gloves - Neoprene DUI. damned near impossible to work the camera controls. I switched to wrist seals and tropic weight gloves for the second dive and shot for 25 minutes then had the dive staff pull the camera from my frozen "claws" as I ascended the dive ladder.

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I am having some difficulties with corner sharpness using S & S ports with rectilinear lenses.

 

What is the port diameter or radius of curvature [r] of your ports? For example, I have the SEACAM FE port which is a hemispherical port of about 6 inch diameter and thus has an r of about 3 inches. It is OK with the 10.5mm on DX format D2X. I do not think it would be acceptable to use it with a 14mm on the DX format due to the field curvature. I get great results with 14mm on the DX with either the wide or super dome ports, both which have larger apparent r values than the FE port. I say 'apparent' because r is not easy to determine accurately and SEACAM does not specify it.

 

The small recommended stop suggests either a tube extension or r incompatibility or both. Diopter lens usage will also affect your results.

Edited by Tom_Kline

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What is the port diameter or radius of curvature [r] of your ports? For example, I have the SEACAM FE port which is a hemispherical port of about 6 inch diameter and thus has an r of about 3 inches. It is OK with the 10.5mm on DX format D2X. I do not think it would be acceptable to use it with a 14mm on the DX format due to the field curvature. I get great results with 14mm on the DX with either the wide or super dome ports, both which have larger apparent r values than the FE port. I say 'apparent' because r is not easy to determine accurately and SEACAM does not specify it.

 

The small recommended stop suggests either a tube extension or r incompatibility or both. Diopter lens usage will also affect your results.

S & S gives no info on radius but the fisheye dome is a 9". I haven't needed to use diopters with the 17-35 even though I have read they should be used. I had them standing by but never used them.

I think I am leaning to curvature radius being the root of all evil in my FF WA dilemma, even though these setups worked on film. I haven't figured out how that could be though. Why would digital not work where film did? Is it a difference in how the light hits the chip (and lenses on the chip), where the angle of light from the corners meet the photo site lenses? Way above my pay grade!

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Hi Matt,

 

How it the Inon 45 Viewfinder on D3? Can it restore the whole frame like viewing it on land?

 

Stone

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Hi Matt,

 

How it the Inon 45 Viewfinder on D3? Can it restore the whole frame like viewing it on land?

 

Stone

Absolutely! Much better than the standard VF which is useless as far as I am concerned. I have been playing with it and find that a high volume mask actually works better than a low volume. It seems that the eye cannot be too close to the viewfinder. I am diving with an Atomic low volume and if I rest the glass of the mask against the viewfinder I cannot see the entire image. If I pull the glass away a few mm, everything in the viewfinder is visible, as on land. The 45 degree thing took a bit of getting used to but now I would never be able to go back. I have found that after a day of shooting, I do not have the neck cramp I used to get from the awkward positions of shooting at 180 degrees. It is an expensive addition for sure, but worth every penny.

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