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jordango

Nikon D500 vs Z6 (or 7) for UW photography?

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Hi all:

I've been researching what my next underwater camera rig will be. I'm coming from an Olympus O-MD E-M5 with Nauticam housing. That is my current UW setup that I've been on for years but on land I shoot primarily with a Nikon D810. The Nikon is a great camera but it is old and is my go-to land camera. I don't want to outfit it for UW at this point. I have a newer Nikon D500 and I've read some good things about it as an UW camera. I am also very intrigued with the Nikon Z6/Z7, leaning towards the Z6.

I've read a lot of reviews on these cameras with their pros and cons, but I'd really like some input from you WetPixel folks. Does anyone out there have any experience with or guidance on which of these setups might be the best choice? As you well know, the investment in the camera and especially, the housing, is substantial. I'm gathering advice from all corners before diving into the financial deep end. Scary but yet exciting :-)

Thanks for any recommendations or information you might have!

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Look for posts by TimG, he did just what you’re contemplating and seems very happy about it

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Hi Jordan

As Robert (troporobo) says, I'm using a D500 and am really happy with it. I'm using a Z6 above water but haven't, errr, taken the plunge with it yet underwater.

I was using a D800 previously and was struggling between going to the D850 and the D500. Adam Hanlon (the WP editor) convinced me that the D500 was the way to go: excellent macro and easier to house WA than the D850. I had used a 230 domeport with the D800 and always found it a bit of a pain for travelling. With the D500 I had the option of using either a 100mm dome port or an 8" - WAY easier for travelling - with either the Tokina 10-17 or Nikkor 8-15.

Going to a Z6 would mean going back to FX and either sticking with a FE lens to avoid the horrors of the 230 domeport; or using a rectilinear, Nikkor 16-35 as I did with the D800 - and back to LugaDome.

So, for me, D500 is the way to go and I'm happy with it. Relatively inexpensive bodies, cheap Tokina 10-17 or more pricey Nikkor 8-15, CFWA - tick. What's not to like?

 

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As of right now, the lack of Z mount lenses suitable for use underwater makes them a compromise. Nikon has Z 60mm and 105mm macro lenses in its road map, which will help, but the lack of a fisheye is a significant problem. As Tim has said, this forces you to go with one of the (excellent) wet mount lens options, which increases price and size.

The D500 has better AF, pretty good high ISO performance, dual memory card slots, enough resolution, lots of really good (for underwater) lens options and is cheaper...

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Thanks guys!

This is very good information. I've been leaning towards the D500 but tempted by the Z6 since this rig will probably the The Rig for many years and I want to make sure I'm spending my money wisely. I like the advantages you both list for the D500. My "land" camera is a D810, so I have some FF lenses I could use for the Z6 (with an adaptor) but I also have a couple of nice DX lenses for the D500 (and it can also use the FF lenses). Bonus: I already have the D500, so at least I wouldn't have to buy it if I go that way. :-)

Thanks, also for the lens and port mentions - that will be very helpful. Do you have any preferences/experiences with housings and ports that you'd particularly recommend? It sounds like wide-angle/fisheye are a standard of sorts and, in fact, some of the best pictures I've taken on my OMD were with a fisheye so I get that. My current housing setup (for my OM-D E-M5) is a Nauticam. I've liked it but don't really have experience with anything else so that is not saying much.

Again, I really appreciate your fast and very relevant feedback!

I can't wait to get back in the water again (when it is more possible).

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Hi jordango

Housings come in a mix of flavours. Some you like because the ergonomics are brilliant; or you like the price; or there is a nearby dealer; or you see them advertised - or, best of all, you've tried a few out. But that can be very difficult. 

I'm on my 6th Subal housing and would never use anything else. To me they are the Rolls Royce. But, as you have seen here on WP and you've experienced, loads of folks go with Nauticam. Then there's Ikelite. And no doubt lots of WPers will chip in with all sorts of ideas. It's such a personal decision. Could be too, that as the D500 has been  round for a while, you might be able to pick up something good second hand through the WP Classifieds.

If that doesn't work, go on the Subal website and order one... you can't go wrong :crazy:

 

 

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@jordango - another vote for the D500. I have both the D500 & D850 (both in Nauticam housings). The D500 has slightly better AF in low light situations, and is a more flexible system. D850 has a few advantages, but none that would ever stop me from enjoying shooting with the D500.

FF/mirrorless is the future, but we are not quite there yet.

As for housings - you'll find a number of folks who really like Subal - having used both Subal and Nauticam, I prefer Nauticam (partially for the small price savings, and then the number of dealers available in the US). You will not go wrong with either housing. Subal has the reputation for quality, Nauticam is currently leading in innovation (mostly around their increasing number of new ports). 

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14 hours ago, jordango said:

 

Thanks, also for the lens and port mentions - that will be very helpful. Do you have any preferences/experiences with housings and ports that you'd particularly recommend? It sounds like wide-angle/fisheye are a standard of sorts and, in fact, some of the best pictures I've taken on my OMD were with a fisheye so I get that. My current housing setup (for my OM-D E-M5) is a Nauticam. I've liked it but don't really have experience with anything else so that is not saying much.

 

You asked about ports:

Obviously it's easier to go with the same manufacturer as the housing. That said, there are various adaptors around.

I use a 105mm for macro all the time (even with the D500) and have a Subal port specifically for that which allows manual focussing when necessary - which I do find useful from time to time. If you go for a non-manual focussing port you could get one for, say, a 60mm macro lens and then use an EXR to extend it out to house, say, a 105mm.

On WA ports, if you go the DX (D500) route you can use a 100mm minidome (small, easy for travelling and excellent for CFWA) or an 8" port or bigger (heavier, harder to travel but better for over/unders) - or a 230 dome where we have highlighted the problems traveling with them but they are great for over/unders; and essential for FX (say Z6/7, D850) rectilinear lenses.

An FE will work well in any of those combinations and you could use the Tokina 10-17 or Nikkor 8-15. Adam and Alex Mustard have just done a really good WP Live broadcast on the Nikkor 8-15 comparing it with the Tokina.

You can add an EXR to the 100mm or the 8" domes if you want to go for either lens plus a 1.4TC

I've no recent experience of using a rectilinear on a DX system ( I almost always use an FE) but used to use the Nikkor 12-24 with an 8" port with my D100-D300. It was fine. Adam has written about using the Nikkor ?10-24.

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Posted (edited)

Amen to the above suggestions, all excellent. 

Regarding maintenance, I have owned both the Nauticam and the Subal housings for the D500 and the Subal has a simpler structure, easier to maintain; the word friendly come to mind.  I have personally stripped and maintained five different Subal housings and they are all intuitive and easy, and use standard metric O rings.  At present I own and use three Subals. Service direct from the factory has been fast, pleasant and dependable.

Nauticam has a complicated lever structure, and looks forbidding to me unless somebody publishes a manual with maintenance details and parts sources.  

Being able to maintain a housing, such as when diving far from home, can make or break a dive trip, and needs to be considered when choosing one's housing.

Some housings, such as Olympus, are next to impossible to repair, others such as Sea&Sea, Aquatica are quite easy, and Ikelite is somewhere in the middle.  

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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More terrific information. Thanks! I'm intrigued by the Subal and am looking into it - I hadn't really been aware of it before. Yeah, it is pricier than the Nauticam and the Nauticam is one of the pricier ones to begin with. Then again, if I'm not going to be dropping money on a new Z6, I'll have a little more money for whatever housing I decide on, right?  I'm going to check out the recommended lenses and equipment (domes, etc.) and also read the recommended articles/reviews from the replies. I do have a Tokina 11-16 f2.8 DX rectilinear lens that I could use although I'd really like one of the fisheyes. They work so well underwater.

This is such a great wealth of information!

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KdB makes a good point that I had never really thought about very much - being able to do running repairs when on a trip.

Never thought about it as my Subals have never let me down. But the 1-2 occasions I have had a (minor) issue I have been able to figure it out and make a small adjustment to, say, the angle of a lever using a Swiss Army knife or maybe an Allen key. And I'm no technician.

I had each of my Subals for between 3-5 years and never had any of them serviced. They all looked as good as new, were all sold on to good homes and, as far, as I know, the buyers were all really happy with them.

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I just sold my D500 with a Nauticam housing to move down to Olympus EM1 Mark iii.    I was geting to old to lug around the D500 to Indonesia from California and fighting currents with a big housing.    I miss it.   The low light focusing mechanism is amazing---having shot three other systems.   I almost don't need a focus light, even in California.  EM1 Mark iii is a step down in quality from D500.

I have owned 3 Nauticam housings and 1 Subal.   Subal is like a Ferrari.   More compact than the comparable Nauticam housing.  Also Nauticam housings are so light, I had to add weights to balance it when shooting wide angle.   The lettering paint wears off after 150-200 dives---very cheap.    The problem with Subal (and why I have Nauticam) is $$$.

 

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Is it too soon to ask if anyone has taken the Z5 and/ or Z50 into consideration (as a D500 replacement/ alternative) yet?

Price of a Z5 rig might be a bit friendlier than the Z6. (Nauticam hasn't build one yet, so may be a premature statement)
And the Z50 might have a size advantage; DX sensor, so might be a nice combo with the Tokina 10-17. And thus smaller dome ports as well.
And as it is a bit younger, the Z50 would (should) be a nice technology upgrade from the D500.

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There is no doubt that the D500 remains a stellar choice for underwater photography. It has an excellent pallet of lens options and solid image quality. The AF performance is extremely reliable in underwater settings. If however, you would like to shoot any video, then you need to think a bit more carefully about a D500. The D500 has pretty good 4k if you can work with the crop factor (2.25x) and scene is well lit. The 4k cannot be pushed too much in post, so you have to feel good about getting it right when you shoot it. The 1080 modes are bad. On the D500 you are better off most likely just having a paralenz/gopro mounted on the housing. So if you are more of a hybrid shooter, you are better off looking at other options.

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Hi, i  use a D500 in a Hugyfot housing,
and bought later a second setup for trips with plane, where the luggage is a problem.
For this i choose the Sony A6300 in a Nauticam housing. Its a pitty, that Nauticam has not copied the Sony Axxxx line housings, when planing the Nikon Z50 one...
I have a Z6 for above, and had a Oly OMD 5 in a Nauticam housing before...
But as a long time Nikon user, the D500 was the best way to go.
And with regulations getting worse with luggage, i choose the Sony.
Hoped that the Z50 would be a good alternative.
But the housing is nearly as heavy as the D500 one, so thats not a way to go.
Spezial from europe, as we have very strict luggage rules...

Regards,
Wolfgang

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Just to point out the the FTZ adaptor (and hence the Z50) will not work with the Tokina 10-17mm....

For me, this pretty much rules it out of contention.

The lack of native Z mount macro lenses is also an issue. I was very unimpressed with the Z6/Z7 autofocus with the FTZ adaptors and the Nikon 105mm f/2.78 VR Micro and Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro. Time will tell if the Z mount versions will correct this for the Z50 too.

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I guess I don't really have anything to say that hasn't been said, but nevertheless....

A couple years ago I moved from MFT to a D500.  Using the right extension rings I can use 8-15 Nikkor or 10-17 Tokina,  and 60 macro, all with or without a teleconverter, as well as the 105 macro, using a 100 or 140 dome and a macro port.  On occasion I will take a 180 dome, although only rarely.

I enjoy using the D500 much more than the MFT and get a much higher number of "keeper" shots with it.  I would be unwilling to travel with anything larger or with any domes larger than the 180 (well, maybe a 200?) and when lugging the stuff around I miss the MFT, but once at my destination I could not be happier.  I use a Nauticam housing and am happy with it,  but have never tried any other brand so cannot compare.  I have also found a "luggage" solution that seems to work pretty well for me so far.

We will all go to (or back to) mirrorless at some point, but for underwater use, we are not there yet and I think it will be at least a few years and by then the lens selection and body selection will be completely different than it is now. 

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Have you considered an Olympus OMD EM1 MKII?

Using a metabones adapter you can use tokina 10-17mm as well as Canon 8-15mm zoom fisheye

Being on the same boat with award winning D500 users I saw no difference due to the equipment in our shots but only of my (lack of) technique

I think there is no gap between a D500 and an OMD EM1MKII except specialist applications on land, underwater autofocus requirements are minimal compared to land wildlife shooting. There I would agree D500 is a better option

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Hi Adam,
was useing the Sigma 105mm OS, and that worked well with the Z6.
Can test the 60mm Nikon AFS, my loved 70 - 180mm will not work ;-((
Regards,
Wolfgang

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I've tested Z6 and Z7 with FTZ and Nikon 60mm f/2.8 and 105mm f/2.8 VR. 

I should point out atet I have been spoiled with the AF on D850/D500...so everything is subjective. My feeling is that Z6/7 AF is about the same as D7200/D800-so not actually terrible, but a long way off the D500's performance.

To be fair, this is true (currently) of all mirrorless cameras, although my hunch is that some are better than Nikon's mirrorless implementation.

Given that we often shoot in very low light, with challenging conditions for any AF system and rarely have the option of using manual focus, AF is the single most important characteristic in getting usable images. 

 

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After reading all of your great suggestions and doing some research off of them, I'm close to decided on the D500 + Tokina 10-17 FE as a start. I'm still looking at which housing but Bluewater is having a sale on the Aquatica housing for this camera (about $450.00 off) so that housing has now come in to the competition (along with Subal & Nauticam). We'll see what they all look like once ports and accessories are added.

There were a few questions above related to MFT cameras. I have been an Olympus MFT fan for a lot of years and the rig I'm replacing is based on an OM-D E-M5. This was a very fun and usable setup for me for several years of pictures. I'm fond enough of it that it has been hard to put it up for sale but it is time. :-)  I also had an OM-D E-M1 mark II that I just sold. I didn't have an underwater housing for that one but it took great pictures on land for its smaller sensor (and fast shooting). I went through a personal camera audit and found that my go-to cameras now tend to be my Nikons (D810 and D500). I did consider the E-M1 as my possible new underwater camera but I just think the Nikons - even the cropped sensor D500 - just offer more (its sensor, though also cropped, is bigger than the E-M1/MFT). Again, this is not a criticism of Olympus (I love Olympus and will miss them now that they've abandoned camera manufacture). Their MFTs have been great, hardy little cameras. I'm just going in a different direction now that I think will serve me well as a next step.

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@jordango You will not be disappointed with the D500 underwater. It is now my favorite camera to shoot with u/w in almost every situation. Even the weight (compared to an Oly-based system) is not really an issue (esp. when I compare it to my housed D850).

On the Aquatica choice - you can't go wrong. I shot with an Aquatica both for film and early digital, and loved their housings. The only reason I switched to Nauticam was because Aquatica was a tiny bit slow moving to optical connections for strobes - and I was tired of the occasional damage to my electronic strobe connections if I didn't seat them properly.  Clearly not an issue now.

I will also say that Aquatica service was world class (vs Nauticam), being located in Canada was a significant advantage for those of us in the US, and they were just nice as well. No complaints w/Nauticam, just not "legendary" like Aquatica.

 

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Another follow up question for those of you that have - or have used - the Tokina 10-17mm FE lens: Is your lens the version with or without the built-in hood? Does either fit in a housing port fine or would it be best to go with one or the other (no hood, for instance)? Pros/cons, if any?

Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

Jordango:

As I mentioned, I have only used nauticam housings so I don't really have useful knowledge about others, but I would suggest you spend some time looking into not just the housing, but also what ports that are available and their cost, what extension rings, vacuum valves, etc, you might want and so on.  Those things become a part of the "experience" and remain useful even if you upgrade cameras and thus housings, and can "tie" you to a housing brand.  I am happy with nauticam but even if I wanted to switch,  I would also have to consider the cost of new ports and extension rings, and so on, perhaps doubling the cost of a new housing. 

Also perhaps check into non-OEM ports for the housing yoou are interested in, such as from Zen and Athena, in case you want something that isn't available from the manufacturer.  Sometimes they offer sizes or features the housing manufacturer does not

Also, some brands have better support in one country or continent than others.  If you have a problem or need service, it is extra time and cost if you need to send the housing to another continent.

Hopefully this may help in your decision-making.

Edited by Draq

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2 hours ago, jordango said:

Another follow up question for those of you that have - or have used - the Tokina 10-17mm FE lens: Is your lens the version with or without the built-in hood? Does either fit in a housing port fine or would it be best to go with one or the other (no hood, for instance)? Pros/cons, if any?

Thanks!

Hey

Weirdly I've had both. I had the version with the petal bullt-in hood for my D300 and now have the petal-less version with my D500. There's who difference in lens quality or build - other than the missing bit in the petal-less version.

I don't recall the built-in one vignetting at all or a problem fitting in either a 100mm or 8" dome. Ditto the petal-less one.

Either works fine. If I had to chose, I'd probably go petal-less just that the hood makes no appreciable difference and not having it means you are probably never going to come up against vignetting issues.

One thing I would say though - actually two things - about the Tokina 10-17, it's brilliant underwater with a DX camera. But I thought it was horrible topside. Weird contrasts and colouration. And it is a bit fragile. I think lots of WP users have found bits of the lens body falls off. It doesn't effect the lens in use in a housing but this is not a robust, roughly-toughty lens.

 

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