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Nikon Z9 for Underwater Videography

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https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/69172-nikon-z9-for-underwater-image-makers/&tab=comments#comment-437849

Since Adam only talked about the photographic features of the z9, it's worth mentioning that two days ago Nikon released a software update that all the specialized sites don't hesitate to call epochal. It's basically like having a Z9 II. There are a lot of specific features for video that Nikon seems to take very seriously and also several features regarding the photographic autofocus. For video The most incredible thing is the ability to record RAW 8K@60p directly on the internal CF Express card also has a new 4K mode above sampled by the 8k sensor. However I leave you to the article of PetaPixel that summarizes the news.

https://petapixel.com/2022/04/13/nikon-z9-update-is-so-big-it-could-have-been-a-whole-new-camera/

P.S. 

On 20th of April Nikon will release an update for Z7 II and Z6 II with better autofocus performance.

 

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I've never been much of a video shooter unless I date myself and admit I owned a Beta Camcorder and then an 8mm camcorder.

I've tested most of the Nikon DSLR bodies video up to the D5 and D850 but never found them easy enough to use.

Now that I have a Z 9 I might be converted. Even before the 2.0 firmware update video seems easy and of high quality. Focus tracking is very good now and will only get better. I need to learn how to edit and in what format but the update enhancements take everything up a level. Yesterday I was handholding a 180-400 with the TC engaged filming ducks on a lake in side to direct backlight, areas of shadow, and debris that might confuse the focus of small moving objects at distance. With auto ISO I was impressed. With in camera VR the panning and image stability with a long lens handheld was impressive.

I can't comment on how that translates to underwater but it can't hurt.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

On par with the R5 C basically... both have 8k60 internal raw, and 4k60 downsampled from 8k (which is probably the much more usable format. But the z9  is a much bigger camera. 

Z9 +s

  • sensor stabilization
  • don't need external power for 8k60
  • better battery life (up to 2 hours of 8k60 recording)
  • better dynamic range? The Gerald Undone review pegs it at 12.5 stops, with the nice ability to convert the raw to linear and then Arri Log, which can be a treat to work with. 

Z9 -s

  • $1000 more expensive
  • significantly bigger body
  • availability is still quite limited. I have a pre-order from the day it was announced that has yet to ship...
  • 105 macro (both old and new one) are very slow to focus
  • WHITE BALANCE. Unclear if the underwater white balance is any good for video. The recent backscatter footage from the Z7 II doesn't look very promising. It looks like the old sony cameras. Worse than the new sony and panasonic cameras, and definitely worse than canon.
Watch Video: The Nikon Z7 II produces a purple-ish hue at depths greater than 40 feet (12m), but it can make an interesting video. This video has no color correction and was shot with ambient light, no filter, and a manual white balance performed at each capture depth.


 

White Balance Limited to Shallow Water

The Nikon Z7 II is fine for photographers who want to pick up an occasional video clip, but it’s really not the strong point of this camera. The biggest reason for this is the relatively shallow natural light white balance limit of about 40 feet. Even in ideal clear, high-vis water conditions, the deepest we could get the Nikon Z7 II to look good was about 40 feet. Beyond that, the blue water developed an uncorrectable purple hue that got progressively worse the deeper we went. Anything above 40 feet looked pretty great, so casual shooters shouldn’t stress over this too much, but serious video shooters will need natural light white balance capabilities with deeper range.

Edited by dreifish
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Effectively the WB is crap but I do not think it is irrecoverable, in fact I've seen worse and this seems anything but irrecoverable. More than anything else I'm amazed that the camera doesn't have a meter while shooting video. Sometimes the devil is in the details.
I've said it before, I've always worked in AWB with Panasonic but all my videos are shot under 50 meters. Yet I have plenty of clips at a few feet with a mix of ambient/artificial light that are perfect for my taste.
I wonder what the Z7 II clips would look like on the wreck if shot in AWB.

However, I understand your concerns. I personally wouldn't be a guinea pig with that kind of financial investment. The Z9 may be a monster but Nikon is new to the underwater shooting game so IMHO Canon all the way.

To say, Sony has been in the game forever and yet not only does it not seem to have solved its problems with underwater video color but it also seems to not give a damn (we are still a small niche).
Despite Backscatter claiming in their reviews that the A7SIII is the first camera to have completely solved its problems with underwater video color, just yesterday I came across this video. I have to say I was blown.

I've seen very nice videos shot in Log here but it always seemed like overkill when a simple flat profile would suffice. 

TL;DR
Buy Canon

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Posted (edited)

WOW -- the randomly changing colors mid shot on the A73 III have got to be a bug. Very weird one at that. But unless there's a fix, it really renders the camera unusable underwater.

White balance on most cameras works fine down to 5m (or roughly 10000 kelvin ambient light temperature.) Most also work ok from 5-12m, though older generation Sony cameras (e.g. A7RII, A7SII) did not MWB in this range without a red filter.

Likewise, at 50m depth, ambient light is quite dim, even in clear Mediterranean conditions. So there's less ambient light for your video lights to compete against, and I imagine both auto white balance and daylight white balance would work just fine for foreground objects lit by video lights with the background being predominantly blue. If you keep the MWB in below 7500k or so, you're not going to run into purple water column issues (those arise when MWB boosts the red channel too much to try to compensate for lack of red wavelengths).

In my view, it's really the range between 12m-20m where good underwater MWB can show off. Below 20m, the colour spectrum is so skewed that even with 'accurate' MWB, things look weird. Above 12m, most modern. cameras do fine.

Indeed, the Z7 II looks "ok" at 12 meters. So no reason to think the Z9 would be worse. And to be honest, I've never felt very compelled to MWB below 12 meters, because the colors start to look unreal. They don't look any more real on Canons below 12 meters, -- but Canon's philosophy seems to be to desaturate everything, including the blue and green channels, so at least they look less obviously /wrong/. 

TL;DR -- You probably don't very often MWB for ambient light below 12m. Down to 12m, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Panasonic all still seems relatively fine.  So maybe we're making too much of the MWB thing.

Edited by dreifish
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And no exposure meter...

How Nikon thinks people shoot video?

FW 2.0 is the last resort 

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FW 2.0 hasn't fixed the issue.

https://www.thedigitalshootout.com/bonaire-2022/gear-tests/Nikon-Z9-Camera-Underwater-Review.php

Quote

One of the big differences with this trip is I had the 2.0 firmware that allows for N-RAW video recording and a claimed improved white balance. Previously in the older firmware I could not get the camera to execute a custom white balance deeper than 40ish feet. With the new firmware I could only get it to balance at a max of 42 feet, however the colors looked pretty good. Gone was the magenta water that usually creeps in on Nikon around that depth. I took the camera down close to 70 feet with that same white balance, and while it obviously was not perfect, the color was doable and would be a minor edit in post.

That being said on the video side, there still is no visible meter in video mode. That combined with the white balance issues noted above, it makes it difficult to nail in camera color and exposure for an easy non-RAW workflow. While this is a greatly spec'd video camera for topside use, with the white balance and lack of meter, I wouldn't recommend this for a serious video shooter, rather this is definitely a solid photo workhorse for underwater work.

 

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I recently tried underwater video with my Z9, but pretty limited.  Mostly last couple of days diving on a 2 week trip where I was getting used to still photography with it.

I may have found a small improvement window - or maybe it was just a fluke in the environment I was in.  I did not retest later to confirm this.

I was right about 49-50 foot trying to redo white balance on Pre1 or Pre2 after descending a bit.    And, as expected, I ran into the 'white balance not possible' message when it failed to set the Preset in video.   At the same depth I switched to stills for some shots and then back to video.  Except I had forgot to actually switch to video mode, but just thought I had.   So I tried again to set the WB, on Pre3, and it set!   Then I noticed I was not in video mode so switched.  I immediately saw that the white balance had changed back to the older, video WB, and it again would not set a custom WB at this depth.  But I was able to change to the Pre3 setting I had done in stills mode, and that worked fine.

So - it may be that you can go deeper in stills mode and set your WB than you can in video mode.   Be nice if someone can confirm this, and if the difference is significant or just margin of error.

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It looks like you are on to something with this.

I just ran some tests and it seems in Photo mode, tint is adjusted when setting a custom white balance. In Video mode the same conditions resulted in a white balance with only the kelvin being adjusted. Tint was imported to resolve at 0. This would explain why you cannot white balance at depth in video mode.

How deep where you able to custom WB in Photo mode?

I should have my housing in a couple of weeks so will be able to test in more detail then. It would be nice to have a custom white balance preset for 'Deep' water to get as close as possible for exposure, even if its not 100% accurate. 

Edited by Glasshouse

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I did not specifically try depth testing the WB with photo.  I just discovered by accident that I could get a WB there when I could not in video mode.  I was right around the 50 foot depth at the time, where I no from experience that the video WB gets iffy to set.

I would guess you might get another 10 feet in photo mode, but have no real idea.  

It surprises me greatly that a camera would WB differently for video and stills, especially given that you can set in one mode and use in another.

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I should add that I basically never bother to do a WB preset in stills mode.  I shoot RAW and WB in post.   I only do it for video since I have to get it right in camera.   If I were shooting the RAW equivalent in video, I'd be doing WB in post there too. 

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