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Advice for a new D850 + Nauticam Housing shooter?

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Hello Internet

Just upgraded from a Sony RX100mk2 (Nauticam + Strobes, etc) to a Nikon D850 + Bells and whistles. 

Pretty much read everything out there and been shooting the camera topside (mostly macro). 
Any advice, tips, settings you can give will be appreciated!

 

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Start working on your upper body strength.  :)

 

Fellow D850/Nauticam user...  My rig is about 25lbs out of water.

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Welcome to the party!  I did the same thing (RX100 II) to D850, except I had 3 years of D810 in between.   Nauticam housing here, 230mm dome, 16-35vr and 105vr.   Dual YS-D1 strobes and a Kraken focus light.

I don't have a ton of experience with the D850 rig (only about 50 dives, 150 or so on the D810 rig).   But I can tell you a few things that have worked or didn't work.  Let me start with stuff that didn't work, or was problematical.

1. 60mm macro - tried it with the idea of being able to shoot more normal subjects than the 105, but the problem here is that 60mm is way way too short for FX.

2. 1.4TC on 105vr - tried this with mixed results.  I only tried it on the D850, but my feeling was that it slowed the autofocus down to about what the bare 105 felt like on a D810.   I loved the 150mm focal length, which was just what I was going for.   I typically do a lot of cropping because I can't get close enough, and the 1.4 + 105 was near-perfect.  What stopped me was the loss of sharpness, which was minimal, but I could see it and it bothered me.

3. Bare 16-35.  (Or with a +2 diopter).  Performance for all those years on the D810 was lamentable.  I always always had to crop corners and edges due to loss of sharpness.   And then I discovered the Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens.  (More on that in the what works section).

4. Carrying the rig.   Tell us what you've got so far, or planned.  For me, everything revolves around that 230mm dome.  It takes about half my carryon, and I can't just stuff things inside it or put it in a suitcase.  I travel with a roller bag, and a waist bag, and I still have to put a 90mm extension tube (filled with arm clamps) and the 105 macro port in the suitcase.   With the dome port mounted, the rig is over 30lbs above water.

5. Video autofocus.  OK, I do next to nothing with video above water, so I'm not the guy to ask about this.  But in my few attempts at trying to video something underwater, autofocus just seemed hopelessly slow.

What works:

1. 77mm Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens for the 16-35vr.   What a HUGE improvement that $400 item made!!   I don't even feel the need to stop down the lens for the corners on a lot of shots now.   Don't shoot without this.  

2. ISO 64.   At least when shooting with flash, you want to live at this ISO once you see how much room there is to post-process here.  It's amazing how quickly that latitude disappears, even by ISO 200 you can easily feel the difference.

3. Kraken 3500 focus light.  Nice and bright, and the battery lasts the whole dive, unlike my old V24 Fishlite.

4. I use a Nauticam 180 degree viewfinder.  It's an expensive accessory, but it makes it possible to see the entire viewfinder display with a mask on.  It also helps to stabilize the camera when I press it up against my mask.

5. Minimum shutter speed of 1/160th.   Depending on the strobe, going past 1/200th may result in shading.  I found 1/160th when using the RX100.

I generally shoot in manual now, including strobe settings.  I used to use TTL on the D810, but I don't have TTL available on the D850, and frankly it's not been much of a hindrance or a learning curve on the strobe.  I've been shooting manual on the camera for some time now, so no difference there.  I'm usually starting at 1/160th-1/200th (with flash), F8 with 16-35 and F16 on the 105vr.  F16 is often not enough depth of field, so I'm not afraid to go up to F32 there in cases.   The wide angle is used more with ambient, and shutter speeds and ISO vary with conditions.

Compared to the RX100 underwater, you are going to LOVE the D850.   Except perhaps for the complete lack of lens options in the midrange.  I sometimes find myself wishing I had the RX100 under one arm so I could grab the shots I'm missing between 16-36 and 105mm.   Then one time in Jamaica I did switch back to the RX100.  Boy, that IQ is disappointing once you've gotten used to a D810/D850 underwater.   You'll love the focus performance of the D850, except for video.

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On 7/28/2020 at 12:53 PM, davehicks said:

Start working on your upper body strength.  :)

 

Fellow D850/Nauticam user...  My rig is about 25lbs out of water.

Haha true story! Been working out my arms in the gym 

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22 hours ago, phxazcraig said:

Welcome to the party!  I did the same thing (RX100 II) to D850, except I had 3 years of D810 in between.   Nauticam housing here, 230mm dome, 16-35vr and 105vr.   Dual YS-D1 strobes and a Kraken focus light.

I don't have a ton of experience with the D850 rig (only about 50 dives, 150 or so on the D810 rig).   But I can tell you a few things that have worked or didn't work.  Let me start with stuff that didn't work, or was problematical.

1. 60mm macro - tried it with the idea of being able to shoot more normal subjects than the 105, but the problem here is that 60mm is way way too short for FX.

2. 1.4TC on 105vr - tried this with mixed results.  I only tried it on the D850, but my feeling was that it slowed the autofocus down to about what the bare 105 felt like on a D810.   I loved the 150mm focal length, which was just what I was going for.   I typically do a lot of cropping because I can't get close enough, and the 1.4 + 105 was near-perfect.  What stopped me was the loss of sharpness, which was minimal, but I could see it and it bothered me.

3. Bare 16-35.  (Or with a +2 diopter).  Performance for all those years on the D810 was lamentable.  I always always had to crop corners and edges due to loss of sharpness.   And then I discovered the Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens.  (More on that in the what works section).

4. Carrying the rig.   Tell us what you've got so far, or planned.  For me, everything revolves around that 230mm dome.  It takes about half my carryon, and I can't just stuff things inside it or put it in a suitcase.  I travel with a roller bag, and a waist bag, and I still have to put a 90mm extension tube (filled with arm clamps) and the 105 macro port in the suitcase.   With the dome port mounted, the rig is over 30lbs above water.

5. Video autofocus.  OK, I do next to nothing with video above water, so I'm not the guy to ask about this.  But in my few attempts at trying to video something underwater, autofocus just seemed hopelessly slow.

What works:

1. 77mm Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens for the 16-35vr.   What a HUGE improvement that $400 item made!!   I don't even feel the need to stop down the lens for the corners on a lot of shots now.   Don't shoot without this.  

2. ISO 64.   At least when shooting with flash, you want to live at this ISO once you see how much room there is to post-process here.  It's amazing how quickly that latitude disappears, even by ISO 200 you can easily feel the difference.

3. Kraken 3500 focus light.  Nice and bright, and the battery lasts the whole dive, unlike my old V24 Fishlite.

4. I use a Nauticam 180 degree viewfinder.  It's an expensive accessory, but it makes it possible to see the entire viewfinder display with a mask on.  It also helps to stabilize the camera when I press it up against my mask.

5. Minimum shutter speed of 1/160th.   Depending on the strobe, going past 1/200th may result in shading.  I found 1/160th when using the RX100.

I generally shoot in manual now, including strobe settings.  I used to use TTL on the D810, but I don't have TTL available on the D850, and frankly it's not been much of a hindrance or a learning curve on the strobe.  I've been shooting manual on the camera for some time now, so no difference there.  I'm usually starting at 1/160th-1/200th (with flash), F8 with 16-35 and F16 on the 105vr.  F16 is often not enough depth of field, so I'm not afraid to go up to F32 there in cases.   The wide angle is used more with ambient, and shutter speeds and ISO vary with conditions.

Compared to the RX100 underwater, you are going to LOVE the D850.   Except perhaps for the complete lack of lens options in the midrange.  I sometimes find myself wishing I had the RX100 under one arm so I could grab the shots I'm missing between 16-36 and 105mm.   Then one time in Jamaica I did switch back to the RX100.  Boy, that IQ is disappointing once you've gotten used to a D810/D850 underwater.   You'll love the focus performance of the D850, except for video.

Cheers. Excellent info! 
I have the Nikon 105vr and sigma 15. Will post images from its “baptism” next week. 

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Posted (edited)

A few small additions:

I have a D850 in a Nauticam housing (along with a D500 in a Nauticam housing).

I've shot pretty extensively with the D850. I initially bought it as a possible FF replacement for my D500 - with a focus on wide angle, but even though I've found that the D850 is excellent in a number of areas, the D500 is as good in some areas (and in a very small number of cases, better), so I've kept both.

The D850 with the 105vr is a really good combination for macro. Given that I've shot both the D850 and the D500 with the 105vr, for almost any set of conditions the D850 will outperform the D500 w/this lens (although the combination of working distance & subject size does take some adjustment coming from the cropped sensor perspective). There have been some folks that have suggested that something like an 85 or 90mm lens as fast as the 105vr might offer a small amount of additional improvement, however I haven't seen anyone suggest a recommended/tested alternative.

However, the one area I've found that the D500 clearly outperforms the D850 is in autofocus in low light. This becomes clear on a blackwater dive - the D500+60mm combination outperforms the D850 in any config. Autofocus characteristics between the cameras are different enough that the D500 retains some advantages in this area. This is has been verified (and written about) by others on this forum previously.

Having said this - the D850 shooting wide angle outperforms any results I've gotten shooting a D500 (any lens, any port). For dedicated wide angle I invested in the WACP, and the results have been excellent. The WACP is an investment in both $ and travel logistics, but the results have been worth it (so far). Others have achieved great results with the 16-35 (+ Sea & Sea internal correction lens).

It might be worth adding that comparing the 230mm dome and the WACP provides some interesting trade-offs to be made in packing weight, volume and maneuverability u/w. The WACP is much heavier to pack (and heavier out of water), but also much easier to maneuver with underwater (not even a close comparison). I've also found that the WACP is pretty resilient when carried in it's (padded) travel pack, I now regularly travel with it in my checked luggage (in a carry-on roller suitcase that I check). I can usually get a few days of clothes packed around it as well. I certainly don't take it everywhere, but if there will a strong focus on wide angle, I bring it along.

Other details:
I've shot at ISO 64, but tend to "live" at ISO 100 for most conditions.
Shoot with either 2 Inon Z330's or 2 Retra Pro's
When shooting with the 105vr I also attach a Light & Motion Sola 1200 light

Last - one of the (more subtle) advantages of shooting with the D850 (specifically in raw mode) is the huge amount of flexibility you have in the post processing phase of working with images. For D850 generated images, it feels like you have more flexibility than with previous (Nikon-generated) files. This goes beyond just image size - after playing with D500 raw images and D850 raw images it becomes fairly apparent that you have more ability to adjust images in post that are shot with the D850. This will be a subtle difference for most photographers, but for those who are willing to invest time in post, there is a large amount of flexibility to be taken advantage of.


 

Edited by oneyellowtang
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