Underwater Beginner’s Question

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by john_silva|2, Jul 19, 2003.

  1. Dear all,

    I would like to combine my two favorite activities: Snorkeling/Scuba
    with photography. I do not know what to do:

    · Forget the equipment I own and buy a Nikonos V, w/35/2.5 or
    · Use the equipment I already have and buy a housing for one of
    the cameras, lens, and flash unit I already own.

    Currently I own the following equipment:

    · Camera Body: F5
    · Camera Body: F100
    · Lens: Nikon AF Nikkor 105/2.8 D Micro
    · Lens: Nikon AF Nikkor 17-35/2.8 (77mm)
    · Lens: Nikon AF Nikkor 28-105/3.5-4.5D (62mm)
    · Lens: Nikon AF Nikkor 80-200/2.8 AF “S” (77mm)
    · Flash Unit: SB-28
    · Flash Unit: SB-29

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    João Silva
  2. If you haven't seen it, Phil wrote about his underwater experiences here:
    Doesn't look like he's adding a lot to the body of knowledge, but there is a rich string of comments after the article.
  3. I'll add something:

    I have no experience shooting U/W (O.K. very little), but if I was going to 'go big' in this stuff, I'd probably research around an F3/MD-4/DA-2 combo in a housing. This is one of the cheaper ways to get into a 'sportsfinder' camera. My distant impression is 'flooding happens'. The ability to replace the electric bits (F3/MD-4) for under $400 is a distinct advantage compared to the F5.
  4. For SERIOUS underwater shooting, BY FAR the most important issue is lighting. You will NEED to get an underwater strobe to use with either your camera in a housing, or a Nikonos. I recommend as the most cost effective solution, a Nikonos 5 and a Speedlight 102 or 103 which offers TTL underwater operation with the Nikonos. The other realistic choice would be to get a housing for your F-100 - but you should get a prime lens, in the 24-35mm range as well. If you do this, make sure you get a lighting setup which preserves dedicated TTL and AF operation with your F100. I don't think that they make a housing that preserves zoom action for your 17-35mm, but if they do, that would be a great choice as well.
  5. I hope you have more than just a fist full of dollars. U/W photo gear is expensive. I’d recommend a 20/2.8 AIS, AF-D or U/W Nikkor depending on the camera for a basic lens. For sharp, clear photos you generally want as little water between your lens and subject as possible. Subjects appear to be about 3/4 as far away as they really are unless you have a domed port. An AF 14/2.8D Nikkor would be a gas depending on the camera. For macro a 60/2.8D Micro or 35/2.5 W-Nikkor with tubes and frame.

    The Nikon F5 with an DA-30 AE Action Finder would be a great camera but the chance of flooding is just too high for me to try that. Call me a coward. It doesn’t matter as I don’t have the money for the housing or the DA-30. The recommendation of a Nikon F3 with DA-2 "Speed Finder" is a good one. I prefer a high volume mask so one of these action finders is what I’d want for an SLR. Nikon has discontinued the Nikonos V apparently just for the hell of it. I wonder when parts will become a problem for this camera. The Nikonos is the industry standard for rentals.

    You will want dual flash on long arms for SCUBA. For snorkeling a Nikonos V with just one should be good. In very shallow water during the middle of the day you might do ok without flash. Once the sun gets at all low in the sky most of the light reflects rather than penetrates and chop to the water will cut the light levels also. You will likely find ISO 1600 is too little. You can add a CC30R filter for color correction in rather shallow water.

    You might try renting a Nikonos to get your hands wet so to speak. I think you’d do well to find an U/W photography club for information.

  6. John, I give some basic advice in an article I put on my site for housing your SLR here.
    It is really doing to depend on how much you want to spend. You have a nice selection of lenses - only the 17-35, 105, and 28-105 would be of any use underwater.
    Aquatica and Ikelite are probably your lowest cost solutions for housing your existing cameras. I would go for the housing the F100 over the F5 - just because the housings are generally cheaper and smaller. I also think you are better off buying a dedicated u/w strobe vs. housing your current flash.
  7. Mark Graf's page is a good overview; I would add a few more
    things to the stew.

    Nikon has indeed discontinued the Nikonos, but there are
    millions of them out there and they shouldn't be hard to find for
    the forseeable future. If you go the Nikonos route, don't bother
    with the 35mm lens; both the u/w Nikkor 20mm and 15mm are
    excellent. The extension tube/framer routine kinda works, but
    how many fish do you know that like a metal rod shoved in their

    Housing your SLR is the best choice; far more powerful and
    versatile. FWIW, I think the flooding issue is overstated. The
    Nikonos is WAY more prone to flooding than a housing. I use a
    Nikon F4 in an Aquatica housing; I've even had some minor
    leaks, and it's not a big deal. Reasonably good care and
    feeding, and housings won't flood. Only disastrous flood I've
    ever seen was where the person smashed the front port and
    totally opened it up to the sea...

    Lens choices: your 105Micro will ROCK for macro work. On the
    wide end, zooms of any kind are not the ideal choice. It's fairly
    crucial the the lens is aligned perfectly with the dome (fish-eye)
    port for wide-angle; any lens that moves is going to mean
    sacrifices in sharpness. I use a Nikkor 18mm that works
    beautifully; the 20mm, 24mm, 16mm fisheye, 14mm are all good
    choices too.

    To REALLY do it right, you gotta pay the piper I'm afraid... If I were
    in your shoes, I'd pony up and house the F5. The F100 is fine,
    but it really is easier with the sportfinder (like I use on the F4). I
    started with an N90 (small finder), and my results improved
    ALOT when I switched to the F4. If it's all just too much money,
    using the Nikonos (for wide-angle anyway) is not a bad choice at

    BTW, strobes are NOT optional if you're truly going to shoot
    underwater. You might house your SB flashes, but I wouldn't
    bother; they may not be powerful enough for wide-angle. The
    Nikon strobes are long since discontinued, and are flaky anyway.
    Check out Ikelite or Sea & Sea--I use Ikelite 200's for wide and
    50's for macro work. Good luck!
  8. Since, you're just beginning to explore this, why not get those throw away water proof cameras and try it out for a while on the cheap. I'd rather spend $20 than $350+ to see what it's all about.

    This also keeps your current camera and accessories dry. Hate to expose your equipment to the learning curve of properly sealing underwater camera housings.
  9. Learning curve?? I could teach someone everything they need to know about closing an underwater housing in less than 5 minutes... Not to beat this point to death or anything, but this flood issue is not nearly the risk that some people think. If you keep the o-rings lubed and free from obvious junk (hair etc), modern housings are VERY, very reliable. I would venture to say that F5's of the world get alot worse abuse from rain, cold, snow etc. than they do inside u/w housings. If you just can't stand the idea of the camera getting dunked (through your own pilot error), you can buy insurance specifically for that anyway.

    Two big problems with using cheap disposable waterproof cameras: most are only rated to 10--15 feet, and in any case the results are going to suck beyond belief. There are a couple of mid-range u/w cameras (Sea & Sea Motormarine for example) that give OK results, certainly good enough is you just want some nice vacation shots. But to really do it properly, you gotta get the right gear--or at least rent it. Look at it this way: if someone wanted to become really serious about bird photography, you'd tell them, OK, at some point you have to spend the money on big glass. Same with u/w; all the rules about good nature photography are just as relevant, but the gear is really specialized, and shortcuts are going to show up in the quality column.

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