Nikon D3s Underwater Housing Woes: Underwater Photography Challenges
Underwater photographers shooting Nikon's top of the line flagship D3 / D3x series are in for an unexpected let down as it relates to housings for the new Nikon D3s. The addition of HD video (albeit 720 rather than 1080 like the Canons), and improvements in the high ISO capabilities, make this a desirable upgrade from the D3, and a nice secondary camera to the 24.5 MP D3x.
We've all been frustrated with the pace of camera releases over the last couple of years. It seems like every time we invest in new cameras and housings, a year to eighteen months later, a new evolution in DSLR technology calls us to reinvest again. This alone wouldn't be as much of a problem if the camera bodies and button configuration remained the same and we could reuse our housings. But of course it's not that simple. The camera manufacturers don't care about the ramifications for underwater housings when redesigning their bodies.
I recently purchased a D3s and wanted to report back to our readers the underwater housing situation. The image below indicates the problem areas with existing D3/D3x housings.
The entire left hand column of buttons was shifted about an eighth of an inch up, meaning the buttons now sit right between all of the posts on the back of our housings and cannot be used. The play and delete buttons can be accessed, and the ISO, Qual, and WB buttons can be accessed, but the entire left column cannot. This means the menu, zoom, lock, and OK buttons. For me this is an issue because I constantly use the zoom button to ensure that I have captured sharp details in my images while reviewing underwater. Of course in addition, the LV (live view) button cannot be accessed either, and this is required if you wish to shoot video underwater. All of the other functions of the camera are accessible, and in a pinch, you can shoot with the D3s in a D3 housing - you just can't access the left column or live view buttons. It's not the end of the world, but doesn't give you complete use of the camera.
So far I have confirmed that Subal is planning on making a new back for the camera, and after speaking to SEA&SEA, I hope that they will also do the same, but I have not confirmed this yet. SEA&SEA decided on making an entire new housing, complete with fiber optic connections for the D300s, rather than a new back. So we'll see. As for Nexus, the left column buttons are on the acrylic plate, so that can be retooled quite easily. I have not discussed with any other manufacturers.
The reality is that very few photographers use the Nikon D3 or D3x for underwater photography, so the market for housings is very small. I'd expect the manufacturers listed above to rework the models for the D3s, but I can't imagine many of these hitting the market - particularly with the next evolution of the full frame D700 coming soon (D700s or D800, we'll see).
To make a long story short - the pace of new DSLR releases and the requirement to upgrade both camera and housing this frequently is frustrating to say the least. Deciding on when to upgrade is becoming a big decision for underwater photographers. Thankfully we love underwater photography enough to do it, but it sure is taxing on the bank account.
I'm also not too impressed with NIkon's 720p high def video and may well opt for Canon (never thought I'd say that!)