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Alex_Mustard

Nikon D4 Underwater Testing

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I was under the impression that underwater housing for new camera bodies lagged (up to) several years behind the release of the camera body because it took a long time to design. If I recall correctly this was the case for the D3.

 

But its seems like Nauticam has already come out with its D4 housing and the D4 has barely been released!

 

Does Nikon share specs with the underwater housing manufacturers? How did the D4 housing get developed get developed so quickly? (I'm assuming the buttons moved from the D3...it looks like it from the photos I have seen).

 

I think that there is a consistency in camera controls these days that means that makes it easier to design housings. And machining and manufacturing technologies improve and become more affordable, speeding up the time from design to production. But yes the world is changing. I did the D7000 review for Wetpixel (with shots from the Red Sea and UK) before DPReview published their land review with images taken close to their offices!

 

Also bear in mind that this is a pre-production housing - customer housings are not ready yet.

 

Alex

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Did my first macro dive with the D4 today. Using 105mm VR and Subsee +5. Visibility was low (<3m) - little bit of plankton bloom and sediment stirred up by windy weather.

 

I was really pleased with how the AF worked. Normally for these conditions I would use manual (fixed) focus, but stuck with AF through the whole dive. Here is one of the better shots, a Dendronotus frondosus nudibranch, which I was keen to shoot as they have such nice patterns in this area:

 

post-713-1334862327.jpg

 

Going to do more macro over the next few days. Hopefully in clearer conditions.

 

Alex

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Enjoying a bit of apres-dive in Iceland...

 

post-713-1334873996.jpg

 

Alex

 

I like your "stars" pattern suit, Alex! Very cool! :) :)

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Lol! Looks like a serious case of Numb-face.

 

Some great shots Alex, especially love the Dendronotus frondosus one, more macro please!

 

Cheers,

Jim.

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While the D4 will be an important underwater camera, and in the hands of many leading pros will take some of the best known underwater pictures of the next 3-5 years, I am aware that the D4 will never be a mass market camera underwater. So I am writing the review with the intention of covering some broader issues too. So I hope it is of interest to those that are considering the D4 and those that are not.

 

Alex

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While the D4 will be an important underwater camera, and in the hands of many leading pros will take some of the best known underwater pictures of the next 3-5 years, I am aware that the D4 will never be a mass market camera underwater. So I am writing the review with the intention of covering some broader issues too. So I hope it is of interest to those that are considering the D4 and those that are not.

 

Alex

So Alex; which one will you buy, or will you buy both?

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So Alex; which one will you buy, or will you buy both?

 

Sorry for the slow reply. Was finishing the huge Wetpixel review. The conclusion should be online soon.

 

After trying the D800 in January, I bought the D4. The D800 is amazing, but the D4 is a better fit for the projects I am working on and the amount I shoot. I got it in March and like all my cameras (and lenses) the first thing I did was dot the i in red ink so I can easily spot my gear on busy liveaboards etc.

 

post-713-1336040619.jpg

 

But for the majority of underwater photographers I think that the D800 makes more sense, not for the 36 million reasons, but the 3000 reasons. I have tried to write the reviews (both the short UWP one and magnus opus Wetpixel one) from an objective position, rather than from my personal perspective. So both reviews comes down in favour of the D800, while stating the reasons that some pro UW shooters will clearly prefer the D4 for the type of photography they do. I am in that camp.

 

That said, I will be shooting the D800 this year too. In many ways it is the more interesting camera to review because there are more unknowns. The D4 is an improved D3 with video. The D3 worked very well underwater. The D4 is better. Case closed. The D800 is more of an unknown. Not least how much resolution will we be able to achieve with it through water and behind a dome port. I honestly don't know the answer. Also is the DX mode useable underwater, or if the viewfinder reduction too much of a limitation. Is it better to always shoot FX and then crop in post? Unless you are doing a contest.

I also don't know whether the D800 or D800e will be better underwater. Will shooting through seawater act as a low pass filter? Or will patterns like fish scales be a moire mess?

It will be fascinating to find out.

I felt there were too many unknowns to buy a D800 or D800e yet.

 

And then we have the rumoured third FX Nikon this year (D500/D600?). Cheaper than the D800 and probably midway between the D4 and D800 on resolution and pixel pitch. One rumoured mock up suggests it could be small enough to fit in D7000 housings! But then again, it may never exist at all. If I was Nikon I would concentrate on building D800s (and to a lesser extent D4s) to meet the demand - there are still long waiting lists.

 

Also I should delete Nikon Rumours from my bookmarks on Safari! To many ifs. Although what worries me most about it is that it may also spell the end for pro-specced DX Nikons. Maybe from now on the D7000 tier will be the upper limit for DX, which would be a great pity for underwater photographers.

 

Alex

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Sorry for the slow reply. Was finishing the huge Wetpixel review. The conclusion should be online soon.

 

After trying the D800 in January, I bought the D4. The D800 is amazing, but the D4 is a better fit for the projects I am working on and the amount I shoot. I got it in March and like all my cameras (and lenses) the first thing I did was dot the i in red ink so I can easily spot my gear on busy liveaboards etc.

 

post-713-1336040619.jpg

 

But for the majority of underwater photographers I think that the D800 makes more sense, not for the 36 million reasons, but the 3000 reasons. I have tried to write the reviews (both the short UWP one and magnus opus Wetpixel one) from an objective position, rather than from my personal perspective. So both reviews comes down in favour of the D800, while stating the reasons that some pro UW shooters will clearly prefer the D4 for the type of photography they do. I am in that camp.

 

That said, I will be shooting the D800 this year too. In many ways it is the more interesting camera to review because there are more unknowns. The D4 is an improved D3 with video. The D3 worked very well underwater. The D4 is better. Case closed. The D800 is more of an unknown. Not least how much resolution will we be able to achieve with it through water and behind a dome port. I honestly don't know the answer. Also is the DX mode useable underwater, or if the viewfinder reduction too much of a limitation. Is it better to always shoot FX and then crop in post? Unless you are doing a contest.

I also don't know whether the D800 or D800e will be better underwater. Will shooting through seawater act as a low pass filter? Or will patterns like fish scales be a moire mess?

It will be fascinating to find out.

I felt there were too many unknowns to buy a D800 or D800e yet.

 

And then we have the rumoured third FX Nikon this year (D500/D600?). Cheaper than the D800 and probably midway between the D4 and D800 on resolution and pixel pitch. One rumoured mock up suggests it could be small enough to fit in D7000 housings! But then again, it may never exist at all. If I was Nikon I would concentrate on building D800s (and to a lesser extent D4s) to meet the demand - there are still long waiting lists.

 

Also I should delete Nikon Rumours from my bookmarks on Safari! To many ifs. Although what worries me most about it is that it may also spell the end for pro-specced DX Nikons. Maybe from now on the D7000 tier will be the upper limit for DX, which would be a great pity for underwater photographers.

 

Alex

I can see your clothing allotment in your baggage has just been reduced. :) Congratulations!

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Well it wouldn't be the first time Alex! :)

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Well it wouldn't be the first time Alex! :B):

 

In Iceland ! Alex is my hero :)

Edited by Don in Colorado

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He's now a member of the Icelandic Eunuch Society

Edited by loftus

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Those are incredible images. The water clarity is amazing, as is the sharpness and color in your images. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

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Those are incredible images. The water clarity is amazing, as is the sharpness and color in your images. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

Really awesome; it was not that long ago when the D3/D700 came out, there were those who questioned the value of high ISO underwater

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Really awesome; it was not that long ago when the D3/D700 came out, there were those who questioned the value of high ISO underwater

 

I agree. Most standard "reef" photography - classic macro and wide angle with strobes" - is rarely light limited. I know when I reviewed the D2X I commented that I didn't see the need for high ISO for this very reason. Anyway, ISO 100 did seem like high ISO after being used to shooting ISO 40 Velvia!

And when the first cameras with good high ISO arrived (5D) it definitely took some time for underwater photographers to use high ISO capability to take new types of shots. In fact for the first year or so people just seemed to want to take the same shots as before, using high ISO to make it easier to shoot. With time photographers found the new shots. I remember Eric showing me some images he'd shot on ISO 400 (it seemed so high at the time) that were both clean and seemed to open up dark waters in a way I hadn't seen before. Temperate water wide angle has benefitted so much.

Now we see photographers seeking out shoots that will make use of high ISO to break new ground.

 

We may see the same thing with megapixels. For the last few years everyone has said they were happy with 12 MP. More wasn't better. And now we have the 36MP D800 and people are discovering that more can be better (as long as they are good pixels). That said, I think to begin with we will just see people shooting the D800 to take the same shots that they were before, but with more resolution. But over time I'd expect people to discover new types of images.

 

Alex

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I agree. Most standard "reef" photography - classic macro and wide angle with strobes" - is rarely light limited. I know when I reviewed the D2X I commented that I didn't see the need for high ISO for this very reason. Anyway, ISO 100 did seem like high ISO after being used to shooting ISO 40 Velvia!

And when the first cameras with good high ISO arrived (5D) it definitely took some time for underwater photographers to use high ISO capability to take new types of shots. In fact for the first year or so people just seemed to want to take the same shots as before, using high ISO to make it easier to shoot. With time photographers found the new shots. I remember Eric showing me some images he'd shot on ISO 400 (it seemed so high at the time) that were both clean and seemed to open up dark waters in a way I hadn't seen before. Temperate water wide angle has benefitted so much.

Now we see photographers seeking out shoots that will make use of high ISO to break new ground.

Even today, when I read discussions about high ISO, the emphasis is on noise. Since I first started shooting with the D700, I realized that noise was secondary in the discussion. Much more important is the concept of opening up the shadows, I guess really DR in the shadows provided by these cameras. Even at reasonable ISO's (by today's standards) like 400-800, the ability to see gradations in the shadows under water was a revelation. Noise can be reduced in software with higher ISO images from less capable cameras, these subtle gradations and detail in the shadows will not be revealed however. I remember having this discussion with Drew over the subject of downsampling to reduce noise, and I felt it was about something more than just noise. So it may be a combination of high ISO ability and DR, and this is where Nikon has particularly excelled. Fred Miranda just showed a pretty startling difference with respect to shadow detail in his recent comparison of the D800 and 5DIII even at low ISO's. This last weekend, I shot this image with the D800, and it amazed me at how much detail lived in the shadows when I went looking for it. For those who want to do some PS darkroom tweaking, I think there are amazing possibilities even with the D800 to bring out shadow detail and DR that we have not seen before. I call it 'Exploring the shadows'.

 

Ponce%20Inlet%20004.jpg

 

Playing with curves, really exposes how much detail there is in the shadows

 

Ponce%20Inlet%20003.jpg

 

A quick Photomatix tone mapped version, which is probably closer to what I saw

 

Ponce%20Inlet%20005.jpg

Edited by loftus

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Jeff, Fred M. enlarged the 5D3 to match the D800 pic, so the result is skewed since noise is increased as you enlarge. Then there's the whole enlarging process and what kind of algorithm used etc.

 

What I did forget to do is test the HDR modes in the D4,D800 and 5D3. Be interesting to see how they perform.

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