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scubadoguk

Tweaking Nikon D7000 / Seacam Setup - Wide Angle Green Water

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Hi all, 

I've had my Nikon D7000 Seacam rig since 2013 haven't reviewed for a new setup for a few years, I mostly dive in Scotland from the Club Rhib / shore diving.

Upgraded from optical flash cables (Constantly having to replace) to S6 Connectors, Purchased  the Seacam 45 degree viewfinder to help get the camera under the subject. (Water Clarity and Backscatter are key factors)

Currently use the:

  • Tokina 10-17 Fisheye with a Wide Port with anti-reflective coating (140mm Diameter) - 25mm Extension ring - if I open up to 10mm I can see the Sun shades in the final image. 
  • For Macro - 60mm Nikon F2.8 ED standard flat port. - super sharp and some times use for fish behind the Dome Port. 
  • 2 * Z240 MK4 Strobes - S6 connections & Greenforce Hepastar for lighting
  • I have Sigma sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 HSM for Land and Nikon 20mm F2.8, Nikon F1.8 35mm DX (Just bought) - which have been used occasionally underwater.

I'm interested in Wide angle shots of Wrecks, Walls, Geological Features and getting better pictures of skittish fish - Cod, Ling etc. at depth 25 -35 metres ( I have been diving on a AP Rebreather for the last two years) getting auto focus and lighting right is an issue.

After upgrading from the Olympus C5050 to the D7000 have benefited from the increased dynamic range and also improved autofocus for Macro. 

At the moment looking at my photographs, the low light noise on the sensor vs the loss in quality of the images on the edges (Dome Port Optics) is about the right balance. 

Thinking about what tweaks I can make - obviously big jumps are the Nikon D500 or Nikon FX which require a large investment for 5% - 10% improvement in quality? 

Other lenses that I've seen talked about are the Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Nikon 105 or 85mm DX Macro Lenses?

Seacam do other Dome Ports - Fisheye Port 160mm, Compact Port 170mm or Superdome 240mm

Would be good to get feedback from other Nikon and Nikon Seacam Photographers on what combinations has worked well for them. 

Thanks 

Paul

 

 

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24 minutes ago, scubadoguk said:

Upgraded from optical flash cables (Constantly having to replace) 

Do you mean that you had to constantly replace the fiber optic cables as they were breaking?

If so, you should change to multicore fiber optic cable, type of Inon.

26 minutes ago, scubadoguk said:

Other lenses that I've seen talked about are the Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye, Sigma 17-70 Macro, Nikon 105 or 85mm DX Macro Lenses?

Indeed, the Sigma 17-70 Macro is really great. It's very versatile, good picture quality. So during the same dive, you can do some wide angle shots, fish portraits, some macro (lower magnification ratio than a pure macro lens, but good enough for most subject above 1cm)

I'm using the Nikon 105 with my D7200/D7500, never used the 60 mm.

Between the 105 mm and 85 mm, I preferred the 105 mm:

  • Full frame lens, you don't have to change lens if one day you move from DX to FX camera
  • Benefit from the FX/DX additional magnification

The 105 mm enables you to be farther from the subject than the 60 mm, which could be a plus or a minus depending on the subject / water clarity. For super macro, the 105 mm will be easier to use with additional diopters.

33 minutes ago, scubadoguk said:

Thinking about what tweaks I can make - obviously big jumps are the Nikon D500 or Nikon FX which require a large investment for 5% - 10% improvement in quality?

Indeed, especially with such a fine housing as the Seacam, the change of camera should be justified by more than a marginal improvement.

We are in a period of significant changes in the camera market, as Canon and Nikon are catching up on the mirrorless cameras. I would wait a bit for the dust to settle before upgrading either to a mirrorless (but will wait for 2nd or 3rd generation for the new platform to mature), or to a D500+ (successor of D500 which integrates the mirrorless technologies in a similar way to the D780).

I was very interested by the D780, as it shows that Nikon is still investing in DLSR range, bringing the range to a new level by combining the best technologies from DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I hope that they do the same for the D500.

In any case, I would probably stay with a DX format, as moving to full frame would increase the equipment transportation issue due to the size for full frame domes. However, if you dive mostly locally, without airline luggage issues, this not be a constraint for you. So you could upgrade to D850 (or a potential D880 similar evolution to D780) more easily.

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Hi Algwyn,

Thanks for your thoughts 

I have used Both Inon and third party Fibre Optic cables, the Inon cables were the best, however I'm usually diving in exposed conditions, strong currents and getting on / off Rhibs - the cables get knocked about.  Hence why I went for the Seacam Housing, well engineered and tough the S6 Cables are expensive but have worked well for two years. 

My concern with the 105mm for Fish is the distance - lack of lighting from the strobes and the lens hunting for focus - do you use this just for Macro?  - The Sigma 17-70 is interesting although what are practicalities with the change in length of the lens as you zoom - flat port or dome? 

Regards 

Paul

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2 hours ago, scubadoguk said:

My concern with the 105mm for Fish is the distance - lack of lighting from the strobes and the lens hunting for focus - do you use this just for Macro?

Indeed, when you put on the 105 mm, it is for a pure macro dive.

However, you may encounter bigger fishes / nudibranchs. In these cases, you still have options to do nice pictures:

  • close-up pictures of parts of the big critter
  • turn off the strobes, get some distance and shoot with ambient light (always have your WB card to facilitate post processing)
  • (for still subjects) do several shots (mosaic/panorama) and a stitch the pictures in post processing. A little more experimental, but can yield some good results. 

I've had more focusing issues  in super macro due to magnification than due to light. As long as you have enough light to see, the 105mm (on the D7200/D7500) manage to focus.

2 hours ago, scubadoguk said:

The Sigma 17-70 is interesting although what are practicalities with the change in length of the lens as you zoom - flat port or dome? 

Indeed the 17-70 barrel extends while zooming, but this is not extreme. I'm using it behind a dome.  The extension of the lens is within the range of the dome.

Behind a flat port, wide angle would be cropped by the flat port.

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The D7000 is a very fine camera, but is now several generations old. It is of course still capable of much better images than the ones I can take :)

For scenics, and particularly wrecks, I would have a look at the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.4-4.5. It needs a big dome (Seacam Superdome) so does not represent a small investment. However both the dome and lenses will stay with you when and if you upgrade the camera.

The bottomline with wide angle is that the bigger the dome, the better it works optically. This needs to be offset against usability, weight, portability, proximity to subjects and expense. Fisheye lenses are much more tolerant of smaller domes due to their inherent distortion, but also bend all the "straight" lines in the image. Even so, a bigger one will still perform better (although you may struggle too ee the difference), and this is especially true when using big apertures. 

I actually prefer the 60mm f/2.8 Micro over the 105mm on DX cameras. It's close focusing ability is amazing. It is definitely macro lens though, so would suit situation/dives when the viz and/or sea conditions are not ideal.

The Sigma 17-70mm is an interesting lens. It is a good scouting lens, but I found that the quality was not great. This is probably due to the fact that's nodal point changes (making dome port position a compromise) and the macro end being limited by the fact that you have a dome in front of it!

I would also investigate using the green water versions of the color correction filters (Magic or Keldan). These can get amazing results in challenging conditions. 

 

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2 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

The Sigma 17-70mm is an interesting lens. It is a good scouting lens, but I found that the quality was not great. This is probably due to the fact that's nodal point changes (making dome port position a compromise) and the macro end being limited by the fact that you have a dome in front of it!

I am a little bit surprised by this comment. My experience is quite different.

For wide angle pictures, there is some distorsion at 17 mm, but I find at quite a manageable level:

_DSC7817.thumb.jpg.221d88e012a0df9ff7cc8de709f2c5f5.jpg

_DSC6710.thumb.jpg.80471b13561d029f64182f8f611c6a54.jpg

The corner distorsion is mostly visible for reef picture like the first shot above. Below a 100% crop of the corner which shows the level of distorsion:

_DSC7817-cornercrop.thumb.jpg.a872add7a3e3d50bbd859b1a5aa3c408.jpg

From 21 mm, the distorsion is much less significant.

The 70mm focal length is most useful, for fish portraits or macro:

_DSC7269.thumb.jpg.29d4705a9e465b12c3cdb9cfab4ec305.jpg

_DSC8033.thumb.jpg.4e02dc68f5a0ace1a9b55aaa1c8301fe.jpg

So it is a good versatile length, to take on a dive where you don't know what you may find, and want to have options to go from wide angle shots to macro.

It is not as good as a specialised lens of course, but I find it a very good compromise.

Edited by Algwyn

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@Algwyn - I guess the amount of corner distortion we are prepared to tolerate is a personal thing! As such, I would not be happy with the lens's performance in the (17mm) image you posted. Of course, I don't know what dome it was used with, or the camera settings..

I would agree that the 70mm end is useful for fish portraits, but the 105mm would be better...

That said, as I mentioned, it is useful as a scouting lens, when you are not sure which lens to use or are diving a new site, with limited knowledge about it. This inevitably involves some compromise on performance.

@scubadoguk Which dome do you plan on using it with? 10-20mm?

Adam

 

 

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It was taken at f8.0 1/125 ISO 100, with a ⌀160 mm dome and a Nikon D7500, a single Retra (original) strobe.

It's a good lens for travel. On a diving cruise, you almost never do twice the same site, and in some locations (Indonesia, Philippines, ...) most diving sites are very diverse, with reef, pelagic, fish portrait, macro ... For these type of dive, a versatile lens is very useful.

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Posted (edited)

Okay just back from the Pool, had the Sigma 10-20mm using a 25mm Extension Ring and the Seacam Wide Port (140mm Diameter)

at 10mm - The F4 and F5.6 you can see blurring on the edges, F8 this improves and at F11 acceptable sharpness to the corners.

Similar results for 16mm and 20mm - using ISO 400  - F4 Below and was testing a video light instead of strobes

Sigma 10-20mm PV25mm Wide Port Seacam-0489.jpg

Edited by scubadoguk

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3 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

@Algwyn - I guess the amount of corner distortion we are prepared to tolerate is a personal thing! As such, I would not be happy with the lens's performance in the (17mm) image you posted. Of course, I don't know what dome it was used with, or the camera settings..

I would agree that the 70mm end is useful for fish portraits, but the 105mm would be better...

That said, as I mentioned, it is useful as a scouting lens, when you are not sure which lens to use or are diving a new site, with limited knowledge about it. This inevitably involves some compromise on performance.

@scubadoguk Which dome do you plan on using it with? 10-20mm?

Adam

 

 

I currently own the Wide Port 140mm  - Compact Port 170mm or Super Dome 240mm are potential options - The Super dome if diving on Rhibs and Shore Diving may be difficult to look after - great for under/over shots though.

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This is the F11 at 10mm ISO 400 Sharp at the edges - I have a series of pictures at zoom of 10mm - 16mm and 20mm all similar

Sigma 10-20mm PV25mm Wide Port Seacam-0492.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Way more than 5-10% quality increase by jumping to D500, IMO. Not sure how you're defining quality. Perhaps our definitions differ. If part of your definition of quality is also nailing WAY more keeper images, and tack sharp images at that, then jump to the D500. You won't be disappointed.

Signed, Someone who moved from a D7000 to a D500 :)

Edited by ComeFromAway

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18 hours ago, ComeFromAway said:

Way more than 5-10% quality increase by jumping to D500, IMO. Not sure how you're defining quality. Perhaps our definitions differ. If part of your definition of quality is also nailing WAY more keeper images, and tack sharp images at that, then jump to the D500. You won't be disappointed.

Signed, Someone who moved from a D7000 to a D500 :)

Yep, D500 would be great for catching fast moving fish like Pollock & Ling - Just starting up a new business so cash is tight :( so looking what I can squeeze out of a my current setup - also might look at a bigger dome port.

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On 2/18/2020 at 6:22 AM, Algwyn said:

....

Indeed, especially with such a fine housing as the Seacam, the change of camera should be justified by more than a marginal improvement.

We are in a period of significant changes in the camera market, as Canon and Nikon are catching up on the mirrorless cameras. I would wait a bit for the dust to settle before upgrading either to a mirrorless (but will wait for 2nd or 3rd generation for the new platform to mature), or to a D500+ (successor of D500 which integrates the mirrorless technologies in a similar way to the D780).

I was very interested by the D780, as it shows that Nikon is still investing in DLSR range, bringing the range to a new level by combining the best technologies from DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I hope that they do the same for the D500.

In any case, I would probably stay with a DX format, as moving to full frame would increase the equipment transportation issue due to the size for full frame domes. However, if you dive mostly locally, without airline luggage issues, this not be a constraint for you. So you could upgrade to D850 (or a potential D880 similar evolution to D780) more easily.

An improved D500 would make me incredibly happy, especially if it maintained the current D500 layout so that housings don’t require replacement. Also agree on the D780, would love to see housings released for it in the near future. Actually the 780 has a trade-in program right now that is very tempting as I doubt I’ll ever fully succumb to the MILC ‘revolution’

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On 3/6/2020 at 7:01 AM, scubadoguk said:

Yep, D500 would be great for catching fast moving fish like Pollock & Ling - Just starting up a new business so cash is tight :( so looking what I can squeeze out of a my current setup - also might look at a bigger dome port.

Been there done that. Good news is the D7000 is a more than capable camera and WHEN you get in a position to jump to the next iteration of DXXX camera you will be blown away.

In terms of business, if you can shoot splits (pollock and ling might not be the best subjects for this! :)then those are highly marketable images. That said, a big dome would be great and you could migrate that over to a new housing in the future.

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