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Photography - Equipment - Nikon D70 Digital Shooter

Nikon D70 Underwater Assault Camera - Now Legal in the USA!

Shoot 6 Meg RAW files about as fast as you can pull the trigger. Or switch to continuous fire and blast away in bursts of 4 shots per second or 1 shot per second sustained. Available with 200 and 400 shot magazines. PG-18

My new rig is a Nikon D70 body with Nikkor DX 18 - 70 lens in an Ikelite housing with a 5503.55 dome port and two Ikelite DS125 strobes. Total street cost about $4200.

Nikon D70 Camera

Ikelite D70 Housing

Editor Rating:


PC Magazine Review

Underwater Photography Review

  • Nikon Camera - I selected the D70 because of the great reviews it has gotten, particularly in the area of RAW performance, because of the availability of Nikkor lenses designed specifically for the digital format, and because of the ease of adjusting both f stop and speed with the front and rear command dials. Click here and here for additional reviews.

    Note: I'm currently using a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB 60x card. It holds about 196 RAW images.
  • Lenses - As to which lenses to get, my recommendation is to get the Nikkor 18-70mm when buying your D70 because it can be purchased with the camera for about $300 when purchased as a package and because it makes a good topside lens although most shooters end up preferring other lenses underwater. Then I would get either a Nikkor 10.5mm or a Sigma 15mm fish eye for super wide angle and close focus wide angle shots. And I would get the Nikkor 60mm lens for tack sharp close-up shots both underwater and topside.

    of View*

    Ikelite Port Sample Pics
    Fish Eye Lenses        
    Nikkor 10.5mm DX 180 $580 5503.15 Dome Group 8
    Sigma 15mm 120 $450 5503.00 Dome Group 9
    Wide Angle Zoom Lenses        
    Nikkor 12-24mm DX 99-61 $939 5503.50 Dome Group 6
    Group 7
    Nikkor 18-70mm DX 76-22 $340 5503.55 Dome Group 11
    Close-up Lenses        
    Nikkor 60mm Micro 26 $380 5503.50 Dome
    5502.41 Flat 
    Group 10
    Nikkor 105mm Micro 15 $650 #5505.50 Flat  

    * Angle of View measured on the image diagonal in air. In water, behind a dome port, the angle will be unchanged. Behind a flat port, the angle will be reduced approximately 30 percent.


  • Ikelite Housing - I selected the Ikelite housing because I have been super happy with the performance of my Ikelite C-3040 and C-5050 housings. Everything works. I can see it working. And it stays dry even under the most difficult of circumstances!

    Updated 06/30/05: Ikelite now offers iTTL support circuitry for this housing. In addition to providing fully automatic control of the strobes, the circuitry also offers the option of conveniently controlling the strobe power manually. Click here for details.
  • Ikelite Strobes - I kept my DS125s because I liked the way they performed on my C-3040 and my C-5050 rigs. Specifically, they put out an awesome amount of light, they have great coverage, they recycle in just 1 second at full power and less than 1/2 second at 1/2 power, and they are compatible with the iTTL support for the Ikelite housing.

    Note: Some Strobes require updating to be compatible with the new Ikelite iTTL circuitry. Click here for details at the bottom of the page.

Nikon D70 Rig
My D70 Rig

Tip: Put your name and contact information on your rig. Better yet, put your business card in the housing. This will give an honest person the chance to do the right thing if you happen to loose or misplace your rig.

Tip: Put a clip on your camera and clip it to your BC when entering and exiting the water. Better yet, clip it to an extendable pull cord during the dive to prevent loosing your rig. This is particularly important for deeper dives and dives with a lot of current.

Advantages -The advantages of my D70 rig as compared to my Olympus C-5050 rig are;

  • No shutter lag - The shutter lag on my C-5050 is about 1 second. While shooting in sequential mode sometimes gets me the shot I want on the second or third frame, the fact is that many subjects turn away before the first shot, rendering the second and third shots no better than the first. An additional downside of relying on sequential shooting is that the focus and exposure settings are locked after the first shot which can result in out of focus and over lit subjects when I am moving toward them.

    The D70 will has virtually no shutter lag and therefore I am able to time my shots of facing subjects such that I can take the picture just before they turn out of position. And if I want to take a second or third shot I can to do so as fast as I can work the shutter lever with each shot properly focused and lit, as long as I allow about 1/2 second for my DS 125 strobes to recycle. In practice, I just shoot when I want to and let the camera and the strobes handle the details.
  • Better RAW performance - The C-5050 produces good RAW files. However, it takes 3 or more seconds for the camera to write to the compact flash card during which time I cannot take another picture. And the camera doesn't support shooting RAW in sequential mode which would allow me to get around this delay. So there I am with the turtle just lifting off the sand into the water column and all I can do is watch the perfect shot go bye.

    The D70's buffer and fast write times allow me to shoot RAW as fast as I can work the shutter lever. Of course I have to wait 1/2 to one second for my DS 125 strobes to recycle.

    Note 1: The Nikon RAW format is not lossless. It is probably because of this that the camera can shoot in RAW mode as fast as one can work the shutter lever. Click here for details.

    Note 2: With a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB 60x card,  I can take about 196 RAW images.

  • Better lens performance - My C-5050 with an INON wide angle lens with a dome produces in-focus pictures from corner to corner when I don't zoom the camera. But as I zoom the camera, the corners become progressively more blurred.

    The Nikkor 12 - 24 lens behind an Ikelite 5503.50 dome does not blur in the corners as I zoom the lens. This gives me a better ability to fill the frame when zooming with my fins doesn't get me close enough.

    Note: The D70 with a Nikkor 12 - 24 lens has a 99 degree angle of view at the wide end. Not as much as the 128 degrees I get with my INON WAL with a dome. But probably as much as I need.
  • Better viewing - I was concerned about my ability to compose pictures with the D70 viewfinder as compared to the LCD on my C-5050.

    Turns out I like the viewfinder better than the LCD. I can easily see the whole frame and looking through the eyepiece really focuses my mind for the shot ... it's like looking through a scope on a rifle. So with no shutter lag it's aim-shoot, aim-shoot. And my compositions are spot on with marine life action shots I never could get before.

    BTW I wear glasses for reading and have gage reader lenses in my mask with magnification for seeing my watch, gages, etc. But I have no magnification in the top part of my lenses and it's this part of the lens that I use for looking thru the viewfinder. The reason this works is that if you adjust the focus of the D70 viewfinder on land without glasses, the same amount of magnification will work underwater without special optics. What doesn't work is trying to look through the lower part of my gage readers. Not only is the magnification wrong but the angle of my face to the camera is also wrong.
  • Better housing - What I like about my D70 housing as compared to my Ikelite C-3040 and C-5050 housings.

    1. The custom-housing look of the form fitting housing i.e. not boxy looking.

    2. The rugged cast aluminum tray with replaceable handles and extra mounting points at the base of the handles.

    3. Both TTL and manual strobe control with the thumb push of a pair of buttons on the housing. This arrangement is totally intuitive and supper easy to use.

    4. And with my two DS 125 strobe, my rig is as close to neutral buoyant as I want it to be i.e. about pound negative.
  • Super battery life - With my C-5050 that I shoot in TTL mode i.e. I don't use the internal flash, I easily get 2 one hour dives and 100+ SHQ pictures on one set of batteries. A friend of mine shooting a Nikon 5000 has to change batteries after every dive all else being equal.

    The D70 has equal to or better battery life than my C-5050. In fact I often go for several days of diving without changing the battery on my D70.
  • Better topside camera - Having no general photography background, I never used my C-5050 topside. But during the 2005 hurricane season, when I went almost a month without diving, I started shooting wildlife pictures with my D-70. And I haven't stopped.

    True, I could have used my C-5050 the same way. But it's single zoom lens just can't match the lens choices available for the D-70. In particular the 60 & 105 mm f/2.8D AF Micros are great for flowers and bugs. And the 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor is a world class telephoto lens.

    So, if you are considering buying a camera, I strongly recommend an SLR if for no other reason than the ability to change lenses and maybe even change your life ... there is so much beauty to behold!

Disadvantages - None.

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