Scuba Diving Cocos Island
Member of DIWA Awards Digital Cameras
LetsGoDigital Underwater Review
Scuba diving Cosos Island
Nikon D300 Review
Subal Underwater Housing Test - Page 2/3
Subal ND30 test
Scuba diving Cocos Island
Published : Monday, 1st December 2008
Written by Karin Brussaard
"Cocos Island Diving Adventure"
Although it is easier to make the journey today than it was 20 years ago, it still costs me four days to reach Cocos. The journey takes me from Amsterdam to Atlanta, then to San José, capital of Costa Rica. I spend the night in San José to prevent delays with the plane and problems with the luggage. The next morning, I travel to the harbour city of Puntaneras by car and board the Sea Hunter. Only a 36-hour boat trip stands in between me and my dream island of Cocos. Everything on board of the ship aimed at diving with hammerhead sharks. It does not surprise me that the logo of the Sea Hunter and her sister, the Underseahunter is a hammerhead shark. During the trip, the dive masters offer us an extensive briefing. They emphasize the fact that we are 700 km away from the coast so we need to be extra careful. A hospital and decompression chamber are not easily available due to the large distance. And because of this, there are several security rules among which diving with nitrox is compulsory. If you are not in possession of a nitrox diving licence during the trip, you have the opportunity to learn the theory. Besides that, there is a strong current around Cocos, which requires you not only to stay close to your buddy but in fact to the whole diving group. And on top of that, everybody gets a GPS sender on their stab jacket. If you do drift away accidentally, the GPS will make it easier for the crew to detect where you are.
Scuba diving on Cocos Island Subal ND30 housing review
The Sea Hunter diving boat Cocos Island dive preparations
Cocos Island dive preparations
Cocos Island Dive Trip Onboard at the Sea Hunter Cocos Island Diving preparations
The Sea Hunter is 115 feet of live-aboard comfort and convenience. It is a dedicated modern dive cruiser that has been specifically built for long-range diving expeditions to destinations like Cocos Island and Malpelo. The Sea Hunter Group purchased the vessel in 1994, a former commercial dive support vessel, built in 1980 to serve the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. It took eight months of extensive renovation and refurbishing to turn the boat into the vessel she is today. A superbly comfortable, stable and spacious vessel with everything a serious diver/photographer could wish for. The boat and her crew specialize in providing excellence in service, food, and underwater excitement. She has eight cabins for a total capacity of 18 passengers, all with a private bath. Dive facilities are extremely well designed with individual gear storage, private camera/strobe storage shelves including a quiet corner for every photographer to prepare his equipment. The many years of experience of the crew in this area ensure a breath-taking experience for the guests, to explore the underwater life of Cocos. Thankfully I am already in the possession of a nitrox licence which gives me time to prepare and test the underwater housing during the boat trip. The camera has to be mounted on a saddle made of plastic. This saddle is attached to the wire of the tripod connection with a screw. It requires a screw driver, so make sure to bring one. You have to slide the plastic saddle inside the underwater housing on a special system and lock it afterwards. This way the camera is always correctly placed into the housing. It also ensures all the operating buttons of the underwater housing reach the buttons on the camera. And furthermore, it is important because it sees to it that the camera lens is situated right before the centre point of the port. This prevents blurred edges on your pictures. The ports are attached to the underwater housing via a bayonet mount. A leak detector is standard built-in to the underwater housing. On board of the ship I test the underwater housing without camera inside, in a container filled with sweet water. This container is placed especially for underwater photographers, to enable them to rinse their camera after every dive. It prevents salt from sea water crystallizing inside the tubes to the operating buttons, which could cause a leak. During the test the leak detector does not beep and it shows the housing is waterproof, and I can start using it with the camera inside.
Nikon D300 3D Auto focus
Subal ND30 Housing Nikon D300 Digital SLR features
The Nikon D300 features a so-called 3D auto focus system. The Multi-CAM 3500 DX auto focus sensor offers no less than 51 selectable points, of which 15 are so-called cross sensors, sensitive in both horizontal as well as vertical lines. The EXPEED processor is allowed to use the colour data of the 3D matrix sensor. It facilitates tracking an object even if it is out of reach of the AF sensor. I could not imagine how this would work in practice. I knew the 2D auto focus system that allows you to focus on a moving subject and the auto focus keeps recognizing it. The 3D auto focus system certainly proved its worth when I was diving in between dozens of hammerhead sharks. I simply chose one of the hammerhead sharks as a subject and focussed correctly on the animal. Next thing, the hammerhead shark, swimming around, stayed completely sharp. Even when the animal disappeared behind the other hammerhead sharks and then popped forward again. The 3D auto focus system is so intelligent; it remembers the features of the one particular hammerhead shark even when it is out of sight for a moment. As soon as the camera spots sight of 'his' shark, the camera will focus again automatically. All I had to do was take care of the composition. The 3D auto focus system dealt with everything that's needed to focus correctly.
Digital underwater photography
Subal ND30 Housing Operation and handling
Subal have clearly given the design of this housing some thought. The distance between the handgrips and the underwater housing is big enough for large hands or for when you are wearing thick gloves. At the same time, the shutter release button and the setting dials for aperture and shutter speed are placed at such an angle from each other, that I can easily operate these buttons, with my small, feminine hands, without having to let go of the right handgrip. The buttons also carry the function name for which they serve. The Quick-lock latching system of the underwater housing is extremely solid. There are two locks applied on the back of the housing. To close the housing, you put the back onto the housing and turn the locks outwards. Upon doing so, the two locks are pressed and turned inwards. Opening the housing is just the other way; press the locks and turn them outward. I found closing the housing somewhat difficult although it shows its solidness. The built-in leak detector is quite sensitive. During several of my dives it went off, thankfully it turned out to be a false alarm every time. The detector seemed to react to the condense inside the housing.
Whitetip Sharks at Cocos Island
Whitetip Sharks
Scuba Diving Cocos Island Whitetip Sharks
Night dives are something special on every journey. The underwater life looks totally different during the night than it does during daytime. Fish you see around in daytime aren't there at night. Or you see them lying in a hole, asleep. And fish you haven't noticed before in the daytime will appear right in front of you in the night.
Whitetip Shark
During the briefing prior to the night dive, the crew promises us a true spectacle. I never take things said on a briefing so seriously because many times you don't get to see half of what they promise. However, I got my hopes up when I dive to the bottom of the pacific waters. Before I am almost down, I see some whitetip sharks swimming around.
Diving Cocos Island
When I take a better look, it turns out there are hundreds of whitetip sharks. I feel the sensation rising through my spine. The sharks are following each other in their search for food. Suddenly they accelerate and before I know it they dive underneath a rock. Sand swirls around and the sharks are at it as if it is their last supper. When the fish has been eaten completely, tranquillity returns and the show start all over again. This time, the crew was right at the dive briefing!
Cocos Island underwater photography experience
Subal ND30 Housing review Conclusion & Score
The combination of the Nikon D300 digital SLR camera and the Subal ND30 underwater housing is a dream pair. The Nikon D300 camera is super fast, has many setting possibilities and the 3D auto focus is superb. The Subal underwater housing is of extremely high quality, neatly finished with a good hand-fit. The external viewfinder increases the already nicely visible view, although you have to look straight through the viewfinder and not from an angle. Closing the Subal ND30 housing and locking it is somewhat heavy, however, it is very solid. Subal camera housings are made of high quality durable materials and that reflexes in the price.
Subal housing
Subal ND30 Underwater housing rating
++ neatly finished underwater housing
++ excellent 3D auto focus
++ external viewfinder enlarging the picture
++ easy operating buttons

-- high price underwater housing
-- lock mechanism hard to handle
< previous page - Subal ND30 housing
Subal housing - next page >
Lets Go Digital
Nikon D300 / Subal ND30
Scuba diving Cocos Island
Subal housings
Nikon D300 field test
Nikon D300 review
Nikon D300 features
Nikon D300 specifications
Nikon D300 price info
Nikon underwater reviews
Nikon SLR reviews
Nikon camera reviews
Nikon camera shop
Nikon reviews