Evaluation of the Nikon Z8 in Nauticam Housing

The writer want to thank Nauticam for offering their NA-Z8 housing for the Nikon Z8 and varied equipment and Nikon Australia for supplying the Z 105mm f/2.8, Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 and AF-S 8–15mm fisheye lenses used on this assessment.



It’s no secret that the Nikon D850 has loved a status as one of the crucial profitable DSLRs for underwater pictures. When you think about how usually the digicam has been behind competition-winning pictures, the D850 might effectively nonetheless be the primary full-frame digicam amongst superior underwater shooters. Not unsurprisingly, subsequently, many D850 customers (and D500 customers alike) have held on to their trusty DSLRs, ready for Nikon to launch a mirrorless digicam that would really outperform the previous guard for the precise challenges of underwater pictures. With the arrival of the Nikon Z9, many seasoned DSLR shooters—myself included—have been optimistic that the wait was lastly over.

Once I received the chance to assessment the Z9 in Nauticam’s housing, I discovered the brand new flagship mirrorless digicam to be a really compelling improve, providing a lot improved autofocus efficiency over my Nikon DSLRs and offering a greater general expertise. Nonetheless, the load and measurement penalties of a full-size professional physique aren’t for everybody—even earlier than you think about the eye-watering value. So, when Nikon introduced the Z8, with a physique of an analogous measurement to the D850 however promising Z9-level efficiency, it appeared like Nikon shooters’ prayers had been answered. With nearly equivalent specs to the Z9, the brand new digicam appeared nearly too good to be true—was it?

To learn how the Z8 fared underwater, I spent 35 hours over a five-week interval diving the digicam in a Nauticam NA-Z8 housing within the temperate waters of Sydney, Australia—generally difficult waters of various visibility, from 13 to 65 ft.


The writer with the Nikon Z8 in Nauticam NA-Z8 housing with the Nauticam WWL-C wide-angle conversion lens and two Ikelite DS230 strobes


1. Overview of the Nikon Z8


The Z8 is able to taking pictures full-resolution RAWs at 20fps over lengthy durations, whereas the D850 maxes out at 7fps. I discovered this greater steady taking pictures velocity useful for fur seals and transferring supermacro topics

The Z8 has been extensively promoted as a “mini Z9” and the “true successor” of the esteemed D850. I don’t suppose the Web wants one more checklist of the Z8’s specs, so I’ll fairly concentrate on the important thing specs for underwater pictures, evaluating the newcomer with the D850, and with the Z9. Autofocus, EVF, battery life, and video capabilities are all necessary matters, so they are going to be mentioned additional in subsequent sections, as will lens selections.

Nikon Z8 vs Nikon D850

The Z8 is about the identical measurement because the D850, however about 10% lighter. They each have a forty five.7MP full-frame sensor, and the picture high quality could be very comparable, save for the dynamic vary, the place the D850 does a little bit higher on paper (14.8EV vs 14.2EV for the Z8). To place issues in perspective, 14.2EV continues to be a really excessive rating, and I used to be absolutely content material with the Z8 recordsdata and the way I may recuperate particulars within the highlights and shadows.


Port Jackson sharks the wrong way up whereas mating. Their bellies are simply overexposed and I assumed my strobes had burnt them out. The Z8 recordsdata are very malleable, nevertheless, and I may recuperate all the small print in post-processing (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 34mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Ikelite DS230, f/13, 1/80s, ISO 320)


Within the autofocus division, the Z8 brings vital enhancements: 493 factors protecting 90% of the body, in comparison with 153 factors and a 21% body protection for the D850. As well as, every of the Z8’s 493 focus factors can focus in –7EV low-light circumstances, in comparison with –4EV for the D850’s central AF level. To place that one other method, the Z8 ought to maintain snapping to focus in circumstances 16 instances darker than the D850 can handle.

One other benefit of the Z8 is burst taking pictures velocity: It’s able to taking pictures full-resolution RAWs at 20fps over lengthy durations, whereas the D850 maxes out at 7fps. I discovered this greater steady taking pictures velocity useful for fur seals and transferring supermacro topics. By way of battery life, the D850 has a transparent benefit over the Z8—and all mirrorless cameras—delivering effectively over 1,000 pictures on a single cost. By comparability, per the CIPA scores, the Z8 delivers 340 pictures per cost when you use the rear LCD, and 330 pictures when you use the viewfinder (see Section 2 for in-water real-world figures).


Capturing at 20fps allowed me to get one shot when the super-fast fur seal and the diver have been properly balanced within the composition (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 50mm, Nauticam WWL-C, ambient mild, f/11, 1/640s, ISO 1800)


One main level in opposition to the Z8 (and equally, the Z9) is its 1/200s most flash sync velocity, in comparison with the D850’s 1/250s. Whereas I discovered 1/200s to be enough for taking pictures in temperate waters, after I took the Z9 to the Pink Sea, I needed for the next shutter velocity a few instances. I ended up closing down my aperture and growing strobe energy as a substitute.  

The EVF is a big change for anybody transitioning from a DLSR just like the D850 or D500. Nevertheless, the Z9 has probably the greatest EVFs available on the market (extra on that later), and I felt the Z8’s EVF carried out identically. For underwater pictures, the various benefits of the Z8’s EVF massively outweigh the 2 negatives I famous (see Section 3).

Lastly, it’s price mentioning that every one lenses profit from in-body stabilization on the Z8, whereas this was lens-specific on the D850. Final however not least, the video capabilities of the Z8 are effectively forward of these of the D850—extra on that later.


Pink-fingered anglerfish (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Retra Flash Professional, f/14, 1/200s, ISO 640)


Nikon Z8 vs Nikon Z9

On paper, the Nikon Z8 is equivalent to the flagship Z9 in lots of (good) methods. I’ve discovered solely 4 variations related to underwater pictures. Firstly, it’s about 30% smaller and 15oz (430g) lighter than the flagship physique. Second, battery life is considerably shorter, which ought to come as no shock because the Z8’s EN-EL15c battery has a 16Wh capability, about 45% of the Z9’s 36Wh EN-EL18d battery.

Third, when it comes to reminiscence card slots, the Z8 affords an CFexpress (kind B) slot and a SD card slot (UHS-II), whereas the Z9 has two CFexpress (kind B) slots. Skilled filmmakers would possibly see this as a draw back, however as a touring underwater photographer, I a lot favor with the ability to maintain utilizing my previous SD playing cards and go away the CFexpress card reader at house; like many laptops, mine has a built-in SD card reader. My previous SD playing cards received’t cease me taking pictures two or three seconds of 20fps RAW bursts—the Z8 has an enormous buffer, just like the Z9—and I’m nonetheless in a position to report 4K/60p video clips in 8-bit high quality. Fourth, and final, I’ve discovered delicate variations in autofocus monitoring, that are detailed in Section 4.


Japanese blue gropers (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 31mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Ikelite DS230, f/13, 1/50s, ISO 320)


Nikon Z8 for Video

I’m before everything a stills photographer, and I can solely remark briefly in regards to the Nikon Z8 as a filmmaking software. Nevertheless, I’ve began taking pictures some video with the Z9, and now the Z8, and I’ve discovered myself filming quick clips each second dive, as these cameras made it ridiculously easy, compared with a DSLR, for 3 causes.

First, I may change from stills to video with out taking my eye away from the EVF. I simply needed to flick a change (proper thumb on the Nauticam housing), and I may begin filming 4K or 8K by pushing a lever conveniently positioned below my left thumb. Second, I discovered that “full-time” autofocus (AF-F) mode fared fairly effectively when capturing quick wide-angle movies. I didn’t anticipate this, as earlier DSLR expertise taught me you simply couldn’t belief autofocus whereas filming underwater, because the digicam would begin “searching” anytime, making the footage ineffective. Third, in-body picture stabilization additionally works whereas filming, and I discovered my video clips to be unexpectedly steady.

All in all, regardless of my restricted filming expertise, it was apparent how little effort or time was required to report quick movies that I used to be proud of, in-between taking pictures stills. Taking good video clips “on the facet” feels extra achievable than ever, and I’m now pondering I ought to be getting a few video lights—remember the fact that the Z8 steadily fails to white stability deeper than 40–50 ft.


2. Extra Than Sufficient Battery for Two Busy Dives


The Z8 will comfortably cowl two busy dives, utilizing the viewfinder on a regular basis (brightness set to –3), taking pictures largely stills with steady AF monitoring and animal recognition enabled, and recording a number of quick 4K/60p 8-bit video clips

With DSLRs, we’re used to measuring battery life by variety of pictures, however I discovered each the Z8 and Z9 are extra about period of use: how lengthy you retain the viewfinder or LCD display screen switched on, how usually you might be focusing, whether or not you might be utilizing steady monitoring, how a lot video you might be recording, and so forth.

In my expertise, the Z8 will comfortably cowl two busy dives, utilizing the viewfinder on a regular basis (brightness set to –3), taking pictures largely stills with steady AF monitoring and animal recognition enabled, and recording a number of quick 4K/60p 8-bit video clips.

To reach at this conclusion, I logged quite a lot of my Z8 dives, which have been all in 61°–63°F water:

2h30 macro/supermacro dive, 250 pictures, 10% battery left
2h30 wide-angle dive, 250 pictures, 10% battery left
2h20 wide-angle dive, 290 pictures and some movies, 24% battery left
2h20 macro/EMWL dive, 350 pictures, 2m40 of video clips, 27% battery left
2h35 fish portrait dive, 230 pictures, battery absolutely exhausted
2h00 wide-angle dive with seals, burst taking pictures at instances, 300 pictures, 38% battery left
1h20 wide-angle dive with seals, however much less busy, 190 pictures, 71% battery left
2h20 macro/EMWL dive, 230 pictures, 35% battery left
1h40 macro/EMWL night time dive, 190 pictures, 47% battery left
2h50 wide-angle dive, 390 pictures, 42s of video, 5% battery left

An necessary caveat: Though the Z8 will settle for the D850’s EN-EL15a batteries, it is advisable purchase the most recent EN-EL15c model to realize the above efficiency.

Total, it doesn’t take a lot effort to shortly dry the housing, open it, swap batteries after which pump it up, for the vacuum examine to verify that it’s nonetheless waterproof. For many who don’t like opening their housing throughout the day, Nauticam has simply launched a USB-C charging bulkhead that lets you prime up the battery of appropriate cameras (just like the Z8) with out opening the housing.


3. A Wealthy Viewfinder Expertise for Extra Pleasurable Dives


I couldn’t inform the Z8’s EVF other than the Z9’s, which is improbable information, because it is without doubt one of the absolute best available on the market. Total, it’s a significantly better software for underwater pictures than the D850’s optical viewfinder

I couldn’t inform the Z8’s EVF other than the Z9’s, which is improbable information, because it is without doubt one of the absolute best available on the market. Total, it’s a significantly better software for underwater pictures than the D850’s optical viewfinder.

For those who’re new to mirrorless, have a learn of my assessment of the Z9, written from the attitude of a DSLR person adjusting to a brand new paradigm. I talk about at size the advantages the Z9’s EVF brings, and every thing therein applies to the Z8, too. For the aim of this assessment, under are the important thing takeaways on the Z8’s EVF.

First, when there’s loads of ambient mild, the EVF actually feels “life-like”—which means laborious to inform other than an excellent optical viewfinder. This outcomes from a mix of the excessive decision (3.69M dots) and the spectacular refresh price (120Hz), which is sustained throughout focusing. When it will get darker, the show adjusts to make it simpler to see and body your topics. Like every EVF, it may well get tough to see each your foreground and background when framing a high-contrast scene—suppose taking pictures into the solar with a darkish foreground. I did discover my water background being clipped every so often, however I used to be nonetheless in a position to see the important thing parts and compose my pictures.


That is the form of high-contrast scene the place an EVF can’t present you every thing. I used to be nonetheless in a position to see every of the previous wives, however the water background close to the solar was clipped (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 24mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/13, 1/100s, ISO 200)


Second, the EVF is kind of massive and I selected to make the show smaller (there may be an choice for that), in order that I may see the entire body from a distance, when utilizing the Nauticam 40°/0.8:1 angled viewfinder. It’s doable to see the entire EVF show by way of this viewfinder when you stick your masks up shut, however I favor having a little bit of leeway.


The Nauticam 40°/0.8:1 viewfinder put in on the NA-Z8 housing: I attempted taking pictures by way of the rear display screen, however it’s usually too laborious to compose a shot when angling the digicam upwards. An angled viewfinder solves that downside and makes the many of the Z8’s mighty EVF


Third, I actually like with the ability to see all of the necessary taking pictures parameters with out taking my eye away from the EVF and with no need to press any button. This info is laid out on two rows, above and under the picture.

Fourth, the EVF’s visible focus aids make guide focusing (supermacro) a lot simpler. Focus peaking is clearly configurable when it comes to sensitivity and colour, and you’ll even “zoom by way of” the EVF, by urgent the “+” button. I cherished the main target distance indicator, which kicks in whenever you focus manually. (I put in the Nauticam focus ring on the Z 105mm lens.) It confirmed me how shut I used to be to the 11.4in (29cm) minimal focus distance, so I knew if I had maxed out my magnification, and when it was time to connect the Nauticam SMC-1 diopter to get much more magnification. Once more, it instructed me after I had maxed out my SMC-1 as effectively.


Sydney pygmy pipehorse supermacro shot: Focus peaking and the main target distance indicator are fairly useful when trying supermacro pictures of tiny topics on the transfer (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam SMC-1, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/29, 1/200s, ISO 800)


Lastly, my favourite characteristic of the Z8’s EVF is its DX mode, whereby you’ll be able to select to use an in-camera APS-C crop and produce 19MP recordsdata, very near the venerable D500’s 20.9MP recordsdata. On this mode, the Z8 nonetheless makes use of the total EVF to point out the DX framing, making composition as comfy as when taking pictures in full-frame (FX) mode. I assigned the DX/FX change to the Fn2 button, simply accessed through a lever on the Nauticam housing utilizing my left pinkie. When composing pictures, toggling between FX and DX modes actually felt like I used to be swapping between a D850 and a D500 underwater—no matter suited the topic finest.

The one time I missed an optical viewfinder was at night time, when utilizing a purple mild. In these circumstances, I discovered the EVF confirmed much less distinction than an excellent optical viewfinder.


4. “Sticky” Autofocus That Nearly By no means Loses Your Topic


Monitoring works impressively effectively and customarily sticks to the topic when you’re getting nearer, when you’re recomposing, whereas the topic is swimming, or all the above!

Total, the Nikon Z8’s autofocus system is a deal with to make use of underwater. Fairly merely, it is without doubt one of the finest on the market. It’s simpler to make use of and produces extra keeper pictures than the well-regarded D850/D500 can. Right here, I’ll discuss my common findings concerning autofocus, with some lens-specific observations shared in Section 5.

With out query, my go-to mode is AF-C 3D: You set the main target level in your chosen topic, depress the shutter, and the Z8 will observe stated topic throughout the body (bear in mind, 90% protection). Monitoring works impressively effectively and customarily sticks to the topic when you’re getting nearer, when you’re recomposing, whereas the topic is swimming, or all the above! That “stickiness” is a big win over the perfect Nikon DSLRs, no matter whether or not the “animal detection” characteristic kicks in. For testing functions, I generally chosen a random piece of algae swinging within the swell and tried recomposing, solely to seek out the Z8 saved on monitoring the algae!

Much more impressively, this extremely commendable efficiency was sustained in low ambient mild, similar to taking pictures fish under a jetty in lower than 15-foot visibility, and not using a focus mild. For actually unpredictable topics, like fish swimming erratically in midwater, I switched to the Auto-Space AF mode and let the Z8 determine what the topic was. This was extra productive than AF-C 3D, so long as the fish stood out from its background.

Let’s now delve into specifics, evaluating the Z8 with the D850 and with the Z9.

Nikon Z8 vs Nikon D850

For swimming fish and macro, the Z8 largely outperformed the D850, as it might follow the topic for for much longer when utilizing steady monitoring. This enabled a unique method of taking pictures, the place I may choose my topic from a distance (AF-C 3D), after which make my strategy and probably recompose, assured that the topic would nonetheless be tracked. With the D850 (and D500), I might strategy first after which choose my focus level as soon as I used to be on the meant working distance. Choosing a macro topic’s eye underwater will be fiddly, and that “previous” method of taking pictures resulted in missed picture alternatives.


Juvenile White’s seahorse on a man-made reef: With visibility of lower than 16 ft, I may choose the seahorse from a distance, then strategy and recompose on the identical time, whereas the Z8 saved monitoring the attention (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 100)


The Z8 let me work sooner than Nikon’s well-regarded DSLRs, leading to extra keeper pictures, particularly in decrease ambient mild. I don’t recall having to modify on my focus mild in any respect, besides when taking pictures with Nauticam’s SMC-1 diopter. The one macro scenario the place I discovered the D850/D500 nonetheless had an edge was focusing below a purple mild (at night time). Similar to the Z9 (and most probably mirrorless cameras from different manufacturers), the Z8 depends on its blue and inexperienced sensor photosites (however not the reds) for focusing, making it slower when introduced with a totally purple scene.


Striped pyjama squid at night time: With high-contrast topics like this pyjama squid, the autofocus (AF-S) nonetheless labored below my purple mild, but it surely was gradual and I reverted to white mild as quickly because the squid began transferring (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Retra Flash Professional, f/18, 1/200s, ISO 640)


For broad angle, the D850 and D500 have been already laborious to fault, however once more, the Z8’s 90% protection merely made it much less more likely to “lose” the topic in comparison with the D850’s mere 21%. Having stated that, whereas AF-C 3D and Auto-Space each labored very effectively in good visibility, when taking pictures broad angle with visibility of lower than 18 ft, I seen the Z8 generally centered on floating sand in-between the digicam and the topic. In hindsight, the Z8 seems to “overthink” the scene, locking on to tiny particles that the D850 or D500 would have ignored, and this might presumably be mounted through a firmware replace. With the Z9, Nikon has had an excellent observe report of delivering vital autofocus enhancements through firmware updates, so I shared my observations with Nikon within the hope that we’ll see this being addressed down the road. Though the Z8 has a plethora of AF settings to work round this low-viz wide-angle situation, I’d favor to only follow AF-C 3D for each scenario—are you listening to me, Nikon?

Lastly, when you’ve learn my article on utilizing the Nauticam Extended Macro Wide Lens (EMWL) for “bugeye” pictures, you’ll know that the Z8, Z9 and different Z cameras at the moment undergo from some back-focusing points. Nauticam have been engaged on this challenge and an answer is imminent; I will probably be testing this sooner or later.


Striated anglerfish (bushy frogfish): Whereas I watch for the EMWL back-focus resolution, I place my AF focus level barely in entrance of the attention, which works moderately effectively in getting me crucial sharpness the place I want it (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 160° optic, Retra Flash Professional, Retra LSD, f/18, 1/200s, ISO 320)


Nikon Z8 vs Nikon Z9

The Z8 and the Z9 apparently share the identical sensor and picture processor, which might suggest that they’ve the identical autofocus system. I felt this was largely the case, however I seen two delicate variations.

First, the animal detection characteristic—which I enabled more often than not—appeared to acknowledge marine life extra usually on the Z9. In fact, when you learn by way of the manuals of the Z8 and Z9, neither digicam is meant to acknowledge fish—they’re designed for canine, cats and birds. Nevertheless, as I talk about in my detailed Z9 review, it simply so occurred that the Z9 would generally choose up fish and cephalopods, and when it did, this saved me from having to maneuver the main target level onto the topic. This conduct was unpredictable on the Z9: Throughout one dive in particular circumstances it might acknowledge goatfish, and on one other one, it wouldn’t, however clearer waters and brighter ambient mild appeared to assist. It took me a number of dives to make certain, however the Z9 was positively higher at detecting marine life and robotically selecting up the attention.


Whereas the Z9 was steadily in a position to acknowledge goatfish and robotically centered on the attention, this hardly ever occurred with the Z8 (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 50mm, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/6.3, 1/100s, ISO 100)


Second, the monitoring in AF-C 3D mode felt rather less “sticky” on the Z8 than on the Z9. Each cameras are considerably higher than DSLRs, but when I had a scale of “stickiness” from 0 to 10, the D850 being 5/10 and the Z9 being 10/10, I’d rating the Z8 at 9/10. Be aware that I arrange each the Z8 and Z9 at stage 3 and “Erratic” mode within the a3 menu (Focus Monitoring with Lock-On), which means each cameras could possibly be tweaked to extend “stickiness” additional.


The Z9 was in a position to maintain monitoring the attention of a goatfish because it turned away, as much as a 120-degree angle, however the Z8 would drop the attention a little bit earlier. Whereas the Z8 was nonetheless extra “tenacious” than the D850/D500, the Z9 had a small edge (Nikon Z9, Nauticam NA-Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 200)


5. A Lens for Each Event


Macro Lenses

The Z-mount 105mm pairs very effectively with the Z8, making it a extremely succesful fish portrait machine

Nikon mirrorless shooters have native quick (Z 50mm f/2.8) and lengthy (Z 105mm f/2.8) macro lens choices, however the entrance ingredient of the previous extends throughout focusing, making it much less suited to use behind a flat port. Nevertheless, most underwater housings, Nauticam’s NA-Z8 included, can accommodate Nikon’s FTZ/FTZ-II adapter, enabling the F-mount AF-S 60mm lens for use on a Z-mount physique just like the Z8. In my checks, I used each the AF-S 60mm and the Z 105mm macro lenses.

Nikon Z 105mm Macro

Like I wrote in my Z9 assessment, I like the Z 105mm lens. It’s sharper than its F-mount predecessor from 2006, whereas being sooner and extra responsive, courtesy of its twin inside motors. It additionally focuses a little bit nearer than the AF-S 105mm f/2.8 (11.4in/29cm vs 12.2in/31cm), whereas nonetheless delivering 1:1 magnification. The Z-mount 105mm pairs very effectively with the Z8, making it a extremely succesful fish portrait machine.


With the Z8, the Z 105mm lens has changed the trusty AF-S 60mm as my go-to lens for fish portraits, like this close-up of a weedy seadragon (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 640)


Nikon AF-S 60mm Macro

The F-mount 60mm macro lens nonetheless has an necessary place in my gear bag, because it gives the identical 1:1 magnification at a lowered working distance (7.5in/19cm). It helps you to get nearer to approachable topics, which leads to much less backscatter and makes snooting simpler. Within the DSLR days, I might choose the AF-S 60mm over the AF-S 105mm for any of those causes: (i) low visibility, (ii) bigger topics, or (iii) swimming topics. The final purpose needed to do with the AF-S 60mm being sooner and “searching” lower than the AF-S 105mm, however now that the Z8 focuses so effectively with the Z 105mm, this purpose now not applies, and I discover myself utilizing the longer macro lens an increasing number of.


Sydney divers have been excited to have a tasselled leatherjacket calm down in considered one of our in style shore dives. Given the fish’s measurement, the Z 105mm had me work a little bit too far, so I got here again the next day with the AF-S 60mm. Choose the attention from a distance, observe, strategy, recompose and shoot—it simply works rather well (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8, twin Retra Flash Professional with Retra Reflectors, f/20, 1/160s, ISO 64)


I want I had had the time to go blackwater diving with the Z8, however not less than I caught up with Fabien Michenet, probably the greatest blackwater photographers on the market. With the AF-S 60mm, Fabien instructed me he discovered that the AF-C 3D monitoring labored very effectively on blackwater topics, whereas he couldn’t belief that autofocus mode utilizing the D850 with the 60mm and needed to depend on central-point AF. Given how impressively the Z8 pairs with the AF-S 60mm and with the Z 105mm, I’m trying ahead to making an attempt each lenses after I lastly do some blackwater dives.

Extensive-Angle Lenses

Once I was testing the Z9, the one wide-angle lens I had the chance to shoot was the Nikon AF-S 8–15mm fisheye, and I steadily discovered myself switching to DX mode when topics have been too shy for its 180-degree diagonal subject of view. So I used to be very completely happy to have a rectilinear zoom choice to attempt with the Z8, specifically the Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3, together with the Nauticam Wet Wide Lens (WWL-C).


The grey nurse sharks off Bass Level have been too shy for a fisheye lens, however the WWL-C delivered simply the fitting subject of view (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 35mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/10, 1/100s, ISO 400)


Nikon AF-S 8–15mm Fisheye

The AF-S 8–15mm fisheye is a recognized amount within the underwater world: sharp, good colours and usable behind comparatively small domes. (I used the Nauticam 140mm glass dome.) As anticipated, it really works brilliantly with the FTZ-II adaptor, however I can’t assist pondering that I’m unnecessarily carrying two lenses in a single—a 15mm fisheye and a 8mm round fisheye—however I’m actually solely within the frame-filling 15mm finish. I’d fairly have a light-weight, mounted 15mm fisheye for the Z-mount.

Nikon Z 24–50mm and Nauticam WWL-C

Typically, a fisheye is simply too broad, however getting good picture high quality on a full-frame rectilinear wide-angle zoom comes with a heavy weight and measurement penalty, specifically requiring a 6lb/2.8kg, nine-inch glass dome port or a premium moist optic just like the WACP-1—weighing 8.6lb/3.9kg! Not less than this was once the case on a DSLR… However because it seems, Nauticam’s WWL-C—their most compact moist wide-angle lens, which weighs simply 2.2lb/1kg—occurs to work rather well with the reasonably priced Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3. What’s extra, the total vary of the zoom lens is usable with the WWL-C, offering a flexible 81°–130° subject of view. This covers a helpful chunk of the zoom vary of the favored Tokina 10–17mm (180°–100°) and extends a bit additional, for these shy topics the place you’d have wanted so as to add a 1.4x Kenko converter on the Tokina.


I discovered the broader finish of the WWL-C (130°–100°) effectively suited to seadragons, which might be equal to the narrower finish of the Tokina 10–17mm zoom vary (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 28mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Ikelite DS230, f/13, 1/100s, ISO 320)


Once I witnessed these two seadragons beginning their courtship dance, I knew I needed to give them a little bit privateness. By zooming by way of the WWL-C, I may keep again and nonetheless fill the body, with solely a minimal 10% crop wanted (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 48mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/11, 1/80s, ISO 200)


When an excellent tighter subject of view was wanted, I may unclip the WWL-C from the entrance of my flat port (which barely extends from the NA-Z8 housing), connect it to considered one of my strobe arms, and {photograph} shy, mid-sized topics; the Z 24–50mm focuses all the way down to 13.8in/35cm all through the zoom vary.


I usually go to Shelly Seaside with a fisheye lens, ruling out the colourful but skittish sergeant baker as a possible topic. This time although, I may unmount the WWL-C and zoom by way of the Z 24–50mm lens to create this uncropped portrait (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 50mm, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/11, 1/50s, ISO 200)


On the identical dive, I mounted the WWL-C once more, zoomed out and had a 130-degree subject of view, effectively suited to this 10-foot-long wobbegong shark (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3 at 50mm, Nauticam WWL-C, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/11, 1/80s, ISO 320)


When it’s not getting used, I mount the Nauticam WWL-C onto a bayonet holder connected to considered one of my strobe arms


The WWL-C is considered one of Nauticam’s water-corrected optics, which means it has been engineered to optimize picture high quality within the presence of water, which as we all know diffuses mild, reduces colours and sharpness alike. In keeping with Nauticam, the Z 24–50mm/WWL-C combo delivers sharper photos than a full-frame fisheye and dome! I haven’t performed rigorous comparability checks in a pool, however I shot Port Jackson sharks with each setups and I discovered the WWL-C photos not less than as sharp because the AF-S 8–15mm/140mm dome combo, on the identical apertures. For close-focus wide-angle pictures, I preferred utilizing the WWL-C at f/13–f/14, and I used to be completely happy to confide in f/8–f/11 for extra distant topics.


Left: Port Jackson shark with the Z 24–50mm and Nauticam WWL-C at 130 levels and f/13 (prime) and with the AF-S 8–15mm fisheye at 180 levels and f/14 (backside). Proper: Respective 100% crops present the WWL-C is barely sharper


I’ve taken fairly a number of pictures of those sharks (at the moment aggregating in Sydney), and I discovered each lenses can resolve about the identical quantity of element on the pores and skin, with a slight edge for the Z 24–50mm/WWL-C combo. It’s nice having this alternative between compact rectilinear and fisheye, with out compromising picture high quality.


6. An Optimum Capturing Expertise with the Nauticam Z8 Housing


The multi-selector “joystick” makes it a breeze to maneuver the AF goal across the 493 out there areas, and Nauticam’s engineers have managed to rearrange no fewer than eight management levers across the housing handles

As with all Nauticam housings I’ve used up to now—this was the seventh—the ergonomics of the NA-Z8 are wonderful. The multi-selector “joystick” makes it a breeze to maneuver the AF goal across the 493 out there areas, and Nauticam’s engineers have managed to rearrange no fewer than eight management levers across the housing handles. It’s an efficient design alternative: The choice would have been to implement fewer levers and extra buttons, however buttons usually require taking one’s hand away from a deal with, which quantities to a lack of effectivity. The Z8 permits one to get the shot sooner than a DSLR does, and the NA-Z8 housing maximizes this benefit.

Importantly, the design of the NA-Z8 is such that you could change ports and lenses with out having to open the again of the housing. This is applicable to each Z-mount and F-mount lenses, as there are two distinct lens launch buttons. By the identical token, you’ll be able to swap batteries with out having to take off the housing port.


The NA-Z8 has a grand whole of eight management levers ergonomically organized across the handles


Engineering marvel: The various gears and levers concerned in “relocating” digicam controls to the diver’s fingertips


Flash Triggering

Nauticam housings come as customary with a battery-powered guide flash set off, which plugs into the hot-shoe of the digicam and triggers supported strobes through fiber-optic connections from two optical bulkheads. These flash triggers sometimes work flawlessly, however I seen a difficulty with the flash set off that got here customary with the NA-Z8 housing.

It labored completely as much as 1/160s, together with when firing strobes at 10fps and even 20fps, however at 1/200s (the digicam’s most flash sync velocity), I often seen a darkish band throughout the highest of the picture, as if the digicam’s most sync velocity had been exceeded. It was solely noticeable with highly effective strobes used at greater powers, such because the Ikelite DS230 and Retra Flash Professional that I used for the assessment, and on scenes illuminated with strobe mild alone. For those who’re taking pictures largely broad angle with water within the prime of the body, it’s unlikely you’ll discover something; I didn’t, regardless of 500-plus wide-angle pictures at 1/200s utilizing the NA-Z9, which seems to have the identical triggering challenge.

I reported the problem to Nauticam, who’re trying into it, however in the meanwhile, when you completely want 1/200s for macro, then you have to a extra refined flash set off that the Z8 “sees” as a linked strobe. One chance is the Nauticam TTL converter for Nikon, which I used for many of this assessment. I discovered that utilizing the TTL converter did produce correctly illuminated photos on the most sync velocity of 1/200s, but it surely couldn’t absolutely sustain with fastests bursts, lacking three pictures out of 10 when taking pictures at 10–20fps. Nauticam are additionally engaged on fixing this, through a firmware improve of the TTL converter.


Pink-fingered anglerfish, shot with the usual flash set off: A darkish band seems on the prime of the body (Nikon Z8, Nauticam NA-Z8, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, twin Retra Flash Professional, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 125)


Dimension and Weight

Let’s now check out how the NA-Z8 measures up in contrast with different Nauticam housings in the identical league:

Mannequin Exterior Dimensions Weight
  Width with Handles Peak Depth Housing Solely Housing, Digicam

and Battery
NA-Z9 14.2in/361mm 9.3in/235mm 6.5in/165mm 8.3lb/3.76kg 11.2lb/5.10kg
NA-Z8 14in/356mm 8in/204mm 6.4in/163mm 7.5lb/3.40kg 9.5lb/4.31kg
NA-D850 14.2in/360mm 7.7in/195mm 5.3in/135mm 6.8lb/3.07kg 9.1lb/4.12kg
NA-D810 13.8in/350mm 8.2in/208mm 5.3in/134mm 6.5lb/2.96kg 8.5lb/3.84kg
NA-D500 14.1in/357mm 7.4in/188mm 5.3in/134mm 6.7lb/3.02kg 8.6lb/3.88kg

As you’ll be able to see, the Z8 within the NA-Z8 housing is about the identical weight because the D850 within the NA-D850 housing (simply 6.7oz/190g extra, together with digicam and battery) and the exterior dimensions are roughly the identical, save for the housing depth, because the Z8 is 1.1in/28mm deeper, to make room for the FTZ-II adaptor. This design alternative means that you could maintain utilizing the identical ports when upgrading from a Nikon DSLR to a Nikon Z digicam, however this makes the newer housings a little bit extra cumbersome. I might have most popular a thinner housing, however the NA-Z8 nonetheless suits within the higher compartment of my Pelican 1637 Air Case, so I don’t actually thoughts.

For anybody deciding between a Z9 and a Z8, notice that the housing port sits about 1.2in/3cm nearer to the seafloor on the NA-Z8 housing. This may make a distinction solely when taking pictures very low on sand.

Lastly, now that Nikon mirrorless customers have a light-weight rectilinear wide-angle choice—the Z 24–50mm/WWL-C combo—I used to be curious to see the way it in contrast with a compact-size Sony equal—the FE 28–60mm/WWL-1B combo—which has been out there for years. The Nauticam Sony E-mount housings are smaller than the Z-mount housings (100mm vs 120mm port diameter), however the Nikon port is shorter and the WWL-C is smaller than the WWL-1B. So, what’s the underside line?

Due to Sydney photographer Zachary Hudson, who kindly let me borrow his Sony A1 in Nauticam NA-A1 housing, I used to be in a position to make some measurements to match the Nikon and Sony techniques:

Mannequin Width with handles Peak Depth with Flat Port Depth with Flat Port and Moist Lens
NA-Z8 with 24–50mm Flat Port + WWL-C 14in/356mm 8in/204mm Approx. 7.5in/190mm Approx. 10.6in/270mm
NA-A1 with 28–60mm Flat Port + WWL-1B 13.4in/340mm 6.7in/169mm Approx. 7.1in/180mm Approx. 10.6in/270mm


High: The Sony A1 (left) and Nikon Z8 (proper) housings with their respective flat ports. Backside: The Sony A1 with the WWL-1B (left) and the Nikon Z8 with the WWL-C (proper)


Apparently, on this versatile wide-angle setup, the Nikon Z8 system is nearly as compact because the Sony A1 system, and weighs only one.1lb/0.5kg extra, all parts being added—nice information for touring photographers!


7. Remaining Ideas


The Nikon Z8 is without doubt one of the finest cameras on the market, excelling at nearly any underwater pictures problem you would possibly throw at it

The Nikon Z8 is without doubt one of the finest cameras on the market, excelling at nearly any underwater pictures problem you would possibly throw at it.

I may have written that assertion in regards to the D850 again in 2017, however the final six years have seen autofocus expertise make vital progress, whereas mirrorless cameras have steadily matured, closing the hole on viewfinder expertise and battery life. Now the tables have turned: The EVF expertise is so good that it has turn out to be one of many key causes for an improve, along with autofocus and the benefit with which you’ll report high quality video.

For those who love your D500 and are hesitant to surrender the compact and versatile Tokina 10–17mm fisheye, think about the Z 24–50mm/WWL-C combo, which is able to cowl the “close-focus wide-angle finish” of the Tokina’s vary and ship significantly better picture high quality. And if a fisheye is actually wanted, the Nikon 8–15mm stays a wonderful choice. In any case, you’ll be able to flip the Z8 right into a D500 by touching one lever to modify to DX mode.

Impressively, Nauticam managed to show eight of the Nikon Z8’s controls into ergonomic levers, positioned inside straightforward attain of the NA-Z8 housing’s handles, supplying you with in depth choices to make the digicam “your personal.” Total, the Nikon Z8/Nauticam NA-Z8 pair will can help you create photos sooner and with the next success price than the D850 and D500 ever may, in addition to open the door to top-quality video recording, if that’s one thing you fancy.

So, is the Z8 the perfect Nikon underwater digicam on the market proper now? Properly, it relies upon: If measurement, weight and price should not an downside, I might recommend contemplating the Nikon Z9, which scores a contact greater on autofocus monitoring (with animal detection being surprisingly useful with marine life) and lasts round 2.5 instances longer. However, boy, is it a giant and heavy beast! Most underwater photographers will discover the Nikon Z8 to be within the candy spot. Both method, whether or not you’re transferring to a Z8 or a Z9, you’ll discover it to be the perfect Nikon digicam you’ve ever used underwater.


The Nikon Z8 in Nauticam NA-Z8 housing, prepared for extra superior shore diving off Sydney’s northern seashores



Concerning the Reviewer: Nicolas Remy is an Australia-based professional shooter and founding father of on-line underwater pictures college and picture membership, The Underwater Club. His photos have been broadly revealed in print and digital media, and have received over 35 worldwide picture awards. To see extra photos by Nicolas and his spouse Lena, go to their web site, www.nicolaslenaremy.com.



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