Nikon D300 underwater housing review
Member of DIWA Awards Digital Cameras
LetsGoDigital Underwater Review
Nikon D300 underwater housing review
Nikon D300 Review
Subal Underwater Housing Test - Page 1/3
Subal ND30 test
Published : Monday, 1st December 2008
Written by Karin Brussaard
"Hammerhead sharks on Cocos Island"
When I was a 14-year old girl, I saw a movie about hammerhead sharks on Cocos. This movie fascinated me for two reasons. Firstly, because of the amount of hammerhead sharks swimming around the island. The second, and perhaps most important reason, was the fact that this island is situated so far from the living world that it seemed completely out of reach to me. In that time, I had not yet travelled abroad. To go to Cocos seemed as difficult to me as flying to the moon. Not within reality. Now, more than 20 years later, I am travelling on a ship, the Sea Hunter, to Cocos, where I will dive with hammerhead sharks. And where I will test the Nikon D300 digital SLR camera with the Subal ND30 underwater housing. It seems unreal to me...
Scuba diving on Cocos Island Subal ND30 underwater housing review
Subal ND30 underwater housing Nikon D300 digital SLR camera
Nikon D300 and Subal ND30
Nikon D300 and Subal ND30
Subal underwater housing review Nikon D300 underwater housing test
Subal is an Austrian company that has produced underwater housings under the same name since 1977. The roots even go back in history to 1969, when commercial underwater housings were launched onto the market. The pioneering was started back in 1952 by a 14-year old boy, who invented his own underwater housing and developed it. One of the main characteristics of Subal underwater housings is the high quality of the materials that are used. Anodized aluminium is used for the housings with extreme surface hardening and corrosion resistance through HardCoating, preventing corrosion from making an appearance. With the D300 Nikon introduced a successor to the D200 that is also very appealing to the professional photographer. The camera is extremely solid and made of metal. The housing is well-sealed so that rain or a dusty environment is not a problem. The viewfinder has improved compared to its predecessor; now offering 100% view. No part of the final picture stays outside the viewfinder's view. Up until now, this was only the case for the real top models. Applying it to the D300 means that Nikon considers this camera a serious alternative for the professional photographer. The 12.3 million effective pixels of the Nikon D300 are even a tad more than those of its big professional brother, the D3. The latter has to settle for 0.2 Megapixels less. The main difference however is found in the size. Whilst the sensor of the Nikon D3 is a full frame size, the Nikon D300 sticks to the DX-size with a crop factor of 1.5x. In front of the sensor, a special filter is attached that shakes in four different frequencies, thus removing annoying dust. Pictures can be stored in several formats: JPEG, 12 and 14 bit RAW and TIFF, at which you can also combine JPEG and RAW. The 14 bit RAW format offers more gradations delivering larger files and fewer frames per second (approximately 2.5 frames per second).
A durable and high quality plastic is used for the operating buttons. And finally, the ports are equipped with glass lenses with a special coating on the inside to keep reflection to a minimum. It may be clear that the quality of this housing is extremely high. This does show in the price you have to pay for a Subal underwater housing. But then; if you pay peanuts you buy monkeys.
I took the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom lens with me to photographing the sharks. The new Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED lens was also already available but I chose to take the 'old' lens with me. This lens offers a slightly wider angle which I find important for underwater photography. Most pictures were taken in the 12mm mode. Moreover, the new 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED lens is a lot larger and heavier, and I already had to pay an extra fee for my excess luggage. The Nikon 60 mm macro lens is an old acquaintance, still serving extremely well. In combination with the D300, it becomes a 90mm macro lens serving as an all-round macro lens. During my trip, emphasis was on sharks and not the macro underwater life. I used the macro lens only to capture the batfish, for which this lens proved perfectly suitable.
I think this is fine for shooting underwater since the flash recharge time is the limited factor underwater. As far as noise is concerned, Nikon obviously made a huge leap forward. At some point, at a depth of 30 meters, I had to switch to ISO 800 to be able to capture the hammerhead sharks clearly. Some noise is visible, mainly due to some difficult lighting situations, in my opinion it does not disturb photographing.
Karin Brussaard assembling the Subal ND30 underwater housing
Subal ND30 housing for Nikon D300 SLR Subal ND30 viewfinder
Subal ND30 camera housing dimensions Subal Nikon D300 housing GS180 viewfinder
Subal developed the ND30 for the Nikon D300. Although the D300 is a rather big camera, Subal managed to keep the underwater housing compact. The dimensions are 9.6 x 7 x 5.7 inches (without handgrips and ports). The underwater housing weighs 2.2 kilos and is allowed to a maximum depth of 70 meters. The wide angle lens and dome port make it somewhat negative as a whole, though not annoyingly heavy. Both sides of the camera contain handgrips that need an Allen wrench to unscrew and remove them. Standard two flash connections are found on the top side of the ND30. The following connectors are available: Nikonos V, Ikelite en Subtronic S6. Also on the top side two flash arms can be attached. Next to it, on top of the housing, the connection is placed to attach a guide lamp for example. The large o-ring of the underwater housing falls correctly into the groove. Although the flat edge of the back - and not the o-ring - takes care of the seal, a proper o-ring is still fairly important. Subal uses an extremely soft o-ring with a diameter of 4 mm. The material used is so soft that not even a hair or a sand grain will lead to leakage. The underwater housing Subal gave to me to test featured a large viewfinder, the GS180. It is a straight viewfinder replacing the standard viewfinder. This finder sticks out a lot more than the standard one. This means your breathing device won't get so close to the underwater housing. The main advantage of the GS180 is that it provides a 150% increase of the image. I have never before dived with a camera offering a view this size. Before, I used to sometimes have to peer through a small viewfinder in order to get my composition right, but now I felt I had a perfect overview of my picture. In one word: SUPERB. I did find out that I had to look through it straight, if you view from an angle you only see part of the image. You do adapt quite quickly to this, though. I'm afraid that from now on I am spoiled, and will no longer care much for working with a viewfinder that doesn't enlarge the picture. And thanks to the viewfinder sticking out straight to the back, you don't lose sight on the LCD screen.
< previous page - Camera housing reviews
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 D300 onderwater review
Nikon reviews