Monday, 28 March 2011

D7000 split levels

One thing I was busting to try was split levels or under/over shots with the D7000. I had big hopes for the low noise and fast AF.

With my D80 noise is quite obvious in the underwater half at 400iso after some exposure increase adjustment.

The AF on the D7000 is brilliant. In these river splits I was blindly locking focus on something underwater and shooting a few shots while lifting the camera up with great results.

During overcast periods I bumped up to 800iso and although noise is visible in the smooth underwater subjects it can only be seen at 100%.

Here's a shot of Pt Lonsdale on a magic calm sunny day, converted to B&W from a Raw file.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

D7000 underwater

First underwater test today so naturally the conditions were poor with silty 3m vis at St Leonards.

First issue was fitting the camera into the housing. The right side triangular neck strap ring tends to flip up and sit on top of the camera and won't fit under the AE lock shaft in the housing. It must be flipped down to fit the mounted camera into the housing. It also flipped up during the dive which meant I couldn't pull the camera out of the housing until it was jiggled down. I may cut it off or stick it down somehow.

Underwater impressions.....the bigger 3" screen is excellent and live view is definitely usable but AF slows down and is more fussy. In normal use the AF is much faster and more accurate than the D80, a delight.

Setting PRE or custom white balance is easy and works well. It's not something I have ever used before but it gave nice results for the timelapse photos using my glove palm as a grey card.

The intervalometer will be a feature I use a lot being addicted to timelapse now, apologies to any future dive buddies. Will have to sort out DOF and AF better next time.

Video worked well, but I don't know which AF mode to use yet. I was using AF-S but will try a continuous mode next time.

Maybe tried too much this dive, actually this will be an issue, this camera can do too much. I can see myself looking for still, video and timelapse subjects on all dives in the future.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

D7000 Ikelite housing

I marvel at the ability of housing maunufacturers to make all those tiny camera buttons, levers and and control wheels available in the housing.

The D7000 Ikelite housing gives access to everything except the DOF preview button and dioptre adjustment. There's even a button for popping up and adjusting the internal flash, which doesn't make a lot of sense because the flash can't pop up enough to work.

The movie record button/lever has been moved all the way out to the right side of the housing and is easily operated by thumb without letting go of the handle. This makes movie recording smoother than with the camera itself.

There is enough space around the camera, especially on the right side, to fit my leak alarms.

You do need to retract some controls when inserting the mounted camera to make sure it sits in place.
The view through the viewfinder seems to include more of the frame than my D80 housing, but I'll have to check that underwater, hopefully tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

D7000 hands on

I ordered the camera from Digital Camera Warehouse for a gold coin under $1300, delivered.

When it arrived the first test was to see what worked in my D80 Ikelite housing. Nothing was the answer, couldn't even close the housing with the D7000 inside. The camera body is just too thick, front to back, to fit at all. I was always going to buy a new housing but in the pursuit of knowledge I had to try. I have since ordered an Ikelite housing from Digital Diver for $1672 delivered. It arrives in a few days.

Why Ikelite? Well, I have all the ports, like the see-through acrylic and extra space for tweaking and I can afford them. Other housings like Nauticam, Subal and Aquatica may be smaller and sleeker but they are also thousands more expensive and wouldn't improve my photos.

One drawback with an Ike housing is that you can't pop the camera flash up and use fibre optic flash sync, but there are stirrings in my little grey cells that may overcome this. A future project.

Initial impressions of the camera.

The larger 3" screen is wonderful. The INFO button which fills the review screen with all the camera settings will be nice underwater for ageing eyes. I'm starting to find the top LCD screen difficult to read.

AF during video will be an issue. SLR lenses make lots of noise while autofocusing and that is all perfectly recorded by the mic, so you either have to ditch the audio track or prevent continuous AF for video. AF-S will be the way to go for me. You start and stop recording with the dedicated video button but you can tap the shutter button at any time to refocus.

I'll be leaving the "sticky buttons" or "Release button to use dial" option (f7 in the control menu) permanently on. That means you tap and release a button, like ISO or WB, and then make changes with the control dial. Much easier in a housing than trying to use both hands.

f6 in the control menu is another must for me. That's the "Menus and Playback OFF" setting, which means you can make A and S changes with the dials while image review is still on. With my D80 I was always trying to make quick exposure changes after a shot but would actually be flipping to the next image, very frustrating.

There are 2 user settings available on the mode dial which are used to save sets of commonly required settings. I have set U1 for intervalometer recording where I want the image size small, and U2 for RAW underwater with WB 5260K. Then I can leave the camera on jpeg fine and Auto WB for normal use.

The intervalometer is a blast. You can choose the shooting interval, say 1 shot every 5 sec, and how many shots up to 999. Using Quicktime 7 Pro you can turn the image sequence into a timelapse movie at frame rates ranging from 10sec/frame to 60frames/sec. Here's one of me painting our front fence. 3hrs in 17sec.

A playback frame rate of 25fps would give a 40sec movie from 999 frames.

AF for stills seems very fast and the shutter action seems lightning fast too. I keep expecting the second clunk of the mirror returning but it has already happened.

That's what has exited me so far. I'll chat about image quality and functionality underwater in the next instalment.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Nikon D7000 SLR

I bought myself one of these recently released beauties as soon as the price dropped in Aus. The D7000 comes highly recommended by some serious underwater photographers and I felt it was a worthwhile upgrade from my D80.

Here are some of the features that attracted me.

Full 1080p video with continuous autofocus. Don't know how effective that AF will be, I suspect it will be far from perfect and I'll be using it as single AF rather than continuous.

Live view, looking forward to trying it underwater.

Very fast AF for still shots (not live view), I'm expecting this to be great underwater.

14bit RAW which apparently means much smoother sunburst rendition.

Startlingly low noise at higher ISOs, which will be good for my split levels at 400ISO.

Intervalometer for time-lapse recording. This will be fun underwater and above.

2 SD card slots, for backup or overflow or separating jpegs and RAWs

3" screen and 100% viewfinder, both bigger than the D80.

More on how it all works in real life in the next post.