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Don Silcock

Nikon 28-70 and the Nauticam WACP

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After several years using Nikon FX underwater (D700 and then D800) last year I went back to DX when the D500 was released. I based that decision on my experience over the past few years since I got in to "big animal" trips - starting with the humpback whales of Tonga. Basically, up till then I did not see any real need for high frame rates and super-fast autofocus - but being in the water with those huge animals changed my perspective and I ended up quite frustrated with the D800 I had as my main camera and the OM-D E-M1 that was my back up.


So I sold them and went for the D500, Nauticam housing and initially the Tokina 10-17, which had sat on the shelf for a number of years.... I have just completed 3 weeks in Mozambique and South Africa using the new Nikon 8-15 and the Nauticam 140mm dome and am over the moon with that combo. Which, when combined with two Sea & Sea YS250's (hernia model...) is, in my opinion, an almost unbeatable set-up for large animals at the overall price point it all comes in at.


All that said, I am intrigued by the Nauticam WACP and Alex Mustard's excellent review of it. And while not 100% convinced I could justify the expenditure so soon after buying my current rig, I decided to buy a good sample of the Nikon 28-70 3.5-4.5 while they can still be had cheap.


I tried it initially on the D500 but scared myself when I heard the noise coming from the old-fashioned A/F system on it when driven at speed by the D500. I got back to my place in Bali last night and tried it on my D750 "land" camera and it was OK, but still a quite noisy.


So.... I wanted to post a few questions and see what other people's experience may have been.


1. Reviews of the 28-70 say it is a good lens that is quite sharp, plus it is small and seems to fit the bill for what Nauticam were looking for. And, as Alex pointed out - the dome is the restriction, not the lenses. But... can it cut the mustard (slight pun intended...) when it comes to using it with fast moving, big animals?


2. It seems like the excellent degree of coverage of the 28-70 behind the WACP would be best suited to "big picture" reef scenics?


3. If I do decide to "invest" back in FX and the WACP for underwater, I am wondering whether the D750 is a better choice than a D850?



Edited by Don Silcock

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Will let you know in a couple of months- had a similar thought process - currently shooting a d800 and was thinking of going to a d500 for the focus speed/ frame rate and big animal flexibility of the 10-17 over the ff 16-35 but decided that the WACP was the way to go as

A) cheaper that a new camera and housing.

B) good Zoom range- not quite as wide as a fisheye but rectilinear so hopefully less bulbous headed wales.

C) next trip is Norway in jan so the possibility of getting sensible sharpness near wide open is tempting.


Havent had a chance to dive it yet but the rig is about the same weight as a 16-35 with the old subal 11 inch mega dome but more compact- still not exactly small though.......

Will update with thoughts and pics when I get back.

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I believe the lens is an old screwdriver AF motor, driven by the camera, so it is going to struggle with fast AF compared to a silent wave motor lens. It's also a bit slower optically, f3.5, which means less light for the AF system but probably not a big issue. Probably for the moment relying on a lens discontinued in 1999 is not a problem as you can pickup used examples, but they will eventually be hard to come by. The reliability point on these old lenses is the mechanical interface for stopping down the iris and driving the AF with the in camera motor.


The dome certainly seems to be the restriction for rectininear lenses, but I don't believe you'll get an advantage with fisheye lenses. Fundamentally the problem is a curved virtual image produced by the dome which means you need to stop down to bring that into focus with the DOF, so you are adding together diffractiion from stopping down, corners that are not as sharp anyway in a wide angle, less sharpness as you are not at the exact focus point for the curved vitrual image and performance at closest focus distance that may not be as good as more distant images. Add to that you could easily be 5-10mm out on the correct position behind the dome for the entrance pupil due to limited range of extension ring sizes, you can see the problems. In fact I wonder if a lot of the optical issues could be corrected by custom length extension tubes.


A fisheye on the other hand is taking a 180° field of view and the curved virtual image presents it with no problems, it's not trying to avoid barrel distortion and because it is taking in such a wide view it can easily focus on the virtual image in a small dome, so the only issue to worry about is correct entrance pupil placement. The DOF of fisheyes is huge and they are designed to focus very close as the normal way of using them on land is to get right in close to your foreground object. So the advantage you get with the WACP is zoom through and the sharpness advantage I expect would be less, compared to a fisheye.

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