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DPG - D800 shoot in Mexico - Keri Wilk

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Hey everyone,

 

Nauticam USA's Ryan Canon contacted me asking if I would review a prototype of the Nauticam D800 housing. Of course, I was for it. The timing worked well since I had an upcoming trip with DPG's Matt Weiss to the cenotes of the Yucutan Peninsula, followed by my DPG Wide Angle Workshop in Fiji and then a Curacao Sport Diver assignment, which would be perfect for putting the system through a battery of tests. It turned out that the housing was completed in Nauticam's headquarters on the day that we left for Mexico, so shipping it directly to me wasn't possible. Instead, Nauticam USA's Chris Parsons made a special delivery and flew out to meet us with housing in hand and joined the fun.

 

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The camera, as expected, is impressive, especially the amount of detail its 36MP sensor captures and the high ISO performance considering the mega high resolution and small pixel pitch. More about these specs and other details to come in the review.

 

Although having prototype status, the housing looks and performs like a finished product. The first overall impressions have been almost entirely positive -- a dedicated ISO lever, shutter and aperture dials that are easily accessed and operated without removing your hand from the grip, a directional pad that allows diagonal movement (no more "staircasing" to review the corner of an image!) and other new ergonomic improvements over past housings have stood out during the first few dives with the housing.

 

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Sketchy internet has prevented me from making regular posts as I had hoped, but I wanted to provide an update of what I've taken from the last few days in Mexico. Between both Matt and I, we brought down 17 strobes - 7 Ikelite's with homemade slave triggers, and 10 Sea & Sea strobes (including a pair of the new Sea & Sea YS-D1's). The following are a small sampling of what I've been shooting with the new system.

 

 

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A 9-strobe shot of a particularly interesting portion of the Nahoch Nah Chich cenote. I had to review images frequently to ensure that they were all firing on each shot. The innovative 8-way directional pad made zipping around each image a breeze.

f/11, 1/250, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera, 7 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

 

post-9396-1335769267.jpg

The opening between 2 stalagmites/stalactites, backlit. Even with an almost-dead focus light, the D800 was able to grab focus every time.

f/14, 1/250, ISO100

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

1 YS-D1 strobes on camera at minimum power, 2 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

 

post-9396-1335769320.jpg

DPG publisher, Matt Weiss, exploring the ornate stalactite formations of another cenote.

f/10, 1/50, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera, 4 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

 

post-9396-1335769327.jpg

The tips of a group of stalactites breaking the surface of Nohoch Nah Chich cenote.

f/13, 1/250, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

post-9396-1335769233.jpg

A group of formations in the cenote called Car Wash.

f/8, 1/250, ISO640

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera, 4 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

 

post-9396-1335769338.jpg

The entrance to a cenote from below. This isn't the greatest image, but it shows the D800's wide dynamic range. Exposing for the sky left the underwater portion drastically underexposed, but a quick tweak in a raw converter brought the detail back out.

f/13, 1/250, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

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A cave.

f/11, 1/250, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera at minimum power, 5 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

post-9396-1335769245.jpg

A monolithic group of column formations in a large cavern. The large viewfinder of the D800 combined with the equally large Nauticam straight viewfinder made precisely composing this image possible.

f/8, 1/250, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera, 7 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

post-9396-1335769195.jpg

 

I've got another couple of days with it here in Mexico, so should have some more to post soon! And of course, a review of the system will follow as well.

 

 

Keri

Edited by SlipperyDick

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Thanks Keri - I had already (just) posted about this. So I merged the topics - to avoid two separate discussions. Wonderful images - especially the final two.

Alex

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Wow, amazing images. The stalactites breaking the surface is amazing. Would love to see it printed huge, in fact any of them would look great as large prints.

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Outstanding! I'm amazed how much detail one can pull from the shadows of the D800 files.

Can't wait to get my D800 underwater.

Edited by loftus

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A big WOWfor your images keri!!! can't wait to go diving with my D800. Hopefully Hugyfot will deliver their first Housings soon!

 

Udo

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Keri, as always, stunning images man!

 

In anticipation of the Wetpixel D800 housing arriving this week, I've been shooting the D800 a fair bit on the surface over the last few days.

 

This camera's dynamic range, in conjunction with its level of detail seems quite simply amazing.

 

I should be diving it later this week, or early next, and will start posting reviews and images soon thereafter.

 

I'm very excited :)

 

Adam

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Outstanding! I'm amazed how much detail one can pull from the shadows of the D800 files.

Can't wait to get my D800 underwater.

 

Yeah! Me too!! :)

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Here are a couple of shots of Keri working the D800 in the Cenotes:

 

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Carwash (the sign says Carwahs)

 

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Na Hoch. Note the strobe going off in his face. Nothing like a DS-160 full blast in the eyes. Sorry Keri!

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It looks like the D800 is living up to some of the expectations from when it was announced. Hopefully some of its features will make their way into the D7000's replacement. That's the one I'm waiting for.

 

Anyway, the shots look awesome, and I can't wait for the Fiji workshop. :)

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Thanks for the comments everyone.

 

Just got back from Mexico a few days ago, and got a chance to go through another couple of days of images.

 

The housing and camera kept up with my 40-60GB of shooting each day, but my 250GB hard drives would've exploded if we stayed another couple of days - they got filled very fast! I'll be taking this system to Fiji and Curacao for the rest of May to do a proper review, so will definitely need to grab a couple of bigger hard drives to keep me safe.

 

These shots are much different than the last set of elaborate caves, but they're still taken in cenotes (specifically, in the Aktun Ha cenote, also known as Carwash). The lilies, turtles, and small resident crocodile were all very photogenic, so I temporarily put aside the platoon of remote strobes that we brought, and shot the mini-ecosystem instead.

 

Here are some shots from the 2 days we had there:

 

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The entrance to Nahoch Nah Chich cenote. After 5 hours in the water, there was no one left to model for me, so I had to set up the camera/housing on a tripod, set the self-timer, and pose for myself. Despite looking bright and sunny, it was actually 5pm, with very dim and diffuse available light. Thankfully, the high ISO performance of the D800 is incredible, so I was able to confidently enter quadruple digit values without worrying about degrading image quality.

f/11, 1/1.3, ISO1000

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

No strobes

 

 

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Backlit lily pads.

f/11, 1/250, ISO320

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @16mm

2 YS-D1 strobes on camera at minimum power, 2 Ikelite DS-160 strobes with homemade slave triggers

 

 

post-9396-1336348940.jpg

A small Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) resides in one end of the cenote called "Carwash". Although it was very small (4ft long) and shy, a few hours of persistence was all it took to get some decent shots of it.

f/9, 1/125, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @18mm

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348963.jpg

A silhouette of a Slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) against a clear blue sky... would've looked more interesting with some clouds! These turtles swim surprisingly fast, so when it made a break for the other side of the cenote over my head, I had to adjust exposure settings as fast as possible. The large thumb-controls for aperture and shutter speed on the NA-D800 made this quick and easy, and a lever just above the eyepiece was used to put down the the pop-up flash (essentially "turning off" the strobes, using fiber optic sync cables).

f/14, 1/125, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @35mm

No strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348931.jpg

Matt Weiss posing at the entrance of a cenote.

f/8, 1/250, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 15mm Sigma fisheye

No strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348936.jpg

Lilies in the Carwash cenote extend to within inches of the surface, but never seems to reach it.

f/9, 1/125, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @16mm

No strobes

 

post-9396-1336348955.jpg

DivePhotoGuide.com's publisher, Matt Weiss, shooting a Slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) swimming over a lily patch.

f/8, 1/160, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @16mm

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348952.jpg

The lily pads are a drab orange/yellow on top, but brilliant purple/pink from below. I cranked the shutter speed to the max, and the aperture was narrowed as far as possible while still allowing the pair of YS-D1s to sufficiently illuminate the undersides of the pads.

f/14, 1/320, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @16mm

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348967.jpg

A Slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) cruising through midwater. Every photographer that I show this to says that the animal looks superimposed. (it wasn't!)

f/10, 1/125, ISO400

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @16mm

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

post-9396-1336348959.jpg

Trying to evade me, this mohawk-wearing turtle made a kamikaze dive into an algae bed. A few seconds later, it poked its head out to see if the coast was clear. It was not.

f/14, 1/50, ISO200

Nauticam NA-D800, Zen 230 dome, 16-35mm Nikon @35mm

2 YS-D1 strobes

 

 

 

Keri

Edited by SlipperyDick

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More exemplary work, Keri. I particularly like the final three.

 

I think your turtle looks stuck on because the quality of light is so different foreground to background. I think the YS-D1 strobes produce quite hard light and this looks at odd with the naturally soft light underwater in the background. I suspect the same shot with your DS-160 strobes (which produce a softer light) would look more natural because the two light sources would be more consistent. Still a wow image. I was shooting turtles in the rivers here this weekend - don't think I'll be sharing those now!

 

Impressed with the lighting on the final one - its tough to light so close to the Zen 230 dome.

 

The images looks great at this resolution.

 

Glad you mentioned the storage issues of life with the D800. It shocked me when I used it back in January. Take 2-300 shots in a day with the D800 and it is like 1000 with your old camera. The Raw files are 2-4 times the size. I know some people who shoot 2-300 in a dive!

 

Alex

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I already told you on FB but again, great pictures and great photographic development effort!

 

I would like to see a straight lens version of "The tips of a group of stalactites breaking the surface of Nohoch Nah Chich cenote"... I agree with Alex in having the last three as my second set favourites...

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Awesome shots once again, Keri. For anyone that hasn't dove the cenotes - it's well worth a trip out there. We're already planning a next trip back.

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