In our ongoing series S.U.P.E.R. (Scubaverse’s Underwater Photography Equipment Reviews), Nick and Caroline Robertson Brown from Frogfish Photography will be reviewing new underwater photography equipment, general diving equipment, and some older favourites too.
For the fourth instalment of S.U.P.E.R., Nick and Caroline will be looking at Nauticam’s NA-D7100 housing for the Nikon D7100 DSLR camera.
Change is difficult! I have been using the same underwater camera & housing for the last 5 or more years, and the thought of upgrading left me feeling panicked at both the idea of having to learn a new system and being hauled out of my comfort zone, and of course, the cost. But it was time for my existing system to be retired, and I leapt forward and ordered in a brand new Nauticam housing for a Nikon D7100. I have taken the system underwater now on 17 dives in the Maldives, plus a quick pool session before we left. What are my initial thoughts?
Firstly, I was delighted that Nauticam offer a system that allows you to use your existing (non-Nauticam) ports, so I did not have to go and spend close to £1000 on a new large glass dome port. I could keep the existing one, and simply buy an adapter to continue using it with my new housing. Many underwater photographers never change housing systems simply because of this restriction and so it is refreshing to have this option now, and know I will have a great choice of ports when I choose to upgrade these at a later date.
When I first pulled the housing out of the box, I had to smile, as it is a thing of beauty. It has a shiny black aluminium body, with solid, knobbed dials that are easy to use even with thick gloves on. It looks and feels solid and, as such, has a depth rating of 100m.
Putting this housing in the water for the first time was a bit daunting! Not because I was worried about the new system leaking (more about this later), but because the housing has been designed so well, that every single button, menu and lever can be accessed with the camera in the housing, and I was now going to have to think about all of this. No excuses for any poor images! However, I was delighted to find that it was easy to find everything, intuitive to use and I only stumbled on a couple of occasions. Once when I accidentally put the lens into manual focus, and took a while to realize that this was what I had done, and on another occasion being unable to remember where the video button was located whilst sat in the dark on a night dive that was only the 3rd dive I’d had the camera in my hands.
At first, before I had even put the camera in the water, I had difficulty reaching the aperture control wheel and shutter button at the same time, whilst still keeping hold of the housing handle. One mention of this to Nauticam UK, and a new handle arrived the next day that was positioned better for me, and the issue was resolved. Now that is what I call customer service.
I love that I have 4 ball mounts where I can attach strobes, lights or my GoPro. I also love the rope lanyard that makes it easy for dive guides to understand where to grab and lift the camera out of the water, rather than holding a strobe arm or worse. I also went for a 45 degree view finder – that again takes a bit of getting used to, but is well worth it, with excellent optics to see your images and it allows you to get close down to the reef to take your shots. One small downside of this viewfinder is that it does make reviewing images and shooting video a little harder, as it slightly obscures the back screen. Nauticam have thought of this already, and do offer an additional housing to be able to mount a monitor that gives those wanting to use this camera for video, a great option for smoother well composed films.
Another highlight of my new Nauticam housing is the vacuum leak detector. This allows me to check the integrity of my seals before I get in the water. A coloured light system on the back of the housing tells me if the housing is waterproof, without having to put it in water to check, or find out the hard way! Another new feature for me is the ability to use fibre optic, without the camera flash being popped up. Instead, a flash trigger is attached to the camera hot-shoe and this in turn fires your strobes via fibre-optic cable. This means that you have far less delay in recycling time on your strobe firing, improving battering life, and you can keep up with all the action going on underwater.
There are so many great features of my new Nauticam housing, it is too much for a short review to cover. But you can know that I am very happy with my new system, which should last me a very long time. So far I have only shot wide angle, and so have lots more testing and getting in tune with this setup. I am already looking forward to my next dives with it. More good news – should I choose to upgrade to the next camera model up – the Nikon D7200, it will fit in this Nauticam housing too.
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