Since many people ask us what type of photography equipment do we use for surface and underwater photography, we decided to create this section and describe what equipment we currently use to create our images. When we started seriously photographing the ocean realm in 1989 we used a variety of 35mm type cameras for surface photography and the Nikonos V for our underwater photography. Today we have totally converted to digital as shown below.
Digital Camera System
Nikon D200 w/Aquatica Housing (super wide angle AF 12-24Mmm, macro 60mm)
|Camera & Housing Information|
Nikon D200 Digital Camera
We choose the Nikon D200 Digital SLR Camera because of its precision-engineering, high performance and it had all the features we were looking for in this class of camera. The D200 employs a 10.2 effective megapixel Nikon DX Format CCD image sensor, which captures images with remarkable resolution and clarity, and its sophisticated 1005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II system ensures ideal exposures while an advanced Nikon image processing engine renders images with superb clarity and smooth color gradations.
The D200 reacts with lighting speed, powering-up in a mere 0.15 seconds, and firing in an imperceptible 50 millisecond shutter release lag time. It can shoot five frames per second with a drastically shortened viewfinder blackout time of just 105 milliseconds between shots. Its large, bright viewfinder offers 0.94x magnification for comfortable and precise composition while a 2.5 inch LCD screen provides ultra-wide 170° viewing angle from all directions. With an 11-area Autofocus system, robust control of Nikon's i-TTL Creative Lighting System and advanced Wi-Fi image-transmission options, the D200 is a perfect fit for the type of photography we expect to shoot. Enlarge Image
Note:>Note: Always refer back to the
for the most current information about this camera.
Images and specification information courtesy: Nikon
Nikon Digital Camera Lenses
Zoom Super Wide Angle AF 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF DX AF-S Autofocus Lens
- The Nikon Zoom Super Wide will serve as our primary wide-angle
lens for underwater photography and can be used for
surface photography as well. Its superior design enables a
combination of wider angle-of-view with optical characteristics that
are optimized for Nikon digital SLR camera sensors. It comes with a
2x Zoom ratio and variable angle-of-view from 99 degrees at 12mm to
61 degrees at 24mm. Comparable to that of an 18-36mm lens on 35mm
size sensor format. Nikon designed this lens so that it produces a
smaller image circle (the size of the image that is projected by the
lens on to the sensor) enabling smaller lens diameter, and optimal
image quality from center-to-edge-to-corner on the image. It has the
exclusive Silent Wave Motor which enables ultra-high-speed
autofocusing with exceptional accuracy and powerful super-quiet
Other key features include; 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements for minimized chromatic aberration, 3 aspherical lens element for low distortion, Internal Focusing (IF) design for smoother focusing and great body balance, M/A mode that enables instant switching from autofocus to manual with virtually no time lag even during AF servo operation, Nikon D-type design that provides precise distance information for flash and ambient light exposure processes, and has a rounded diaphragm to make out-of-focus elements appear more natural. Since this is a DX Nikkor lens, its design is exclusively for use with Nikon Digital SLR models. Enlarge Image | Specifications (pdf)
Nikon Normal Macro 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor Autofocus Lens - The Nikon 60mm Macro will be our primary lens used for underwater macro photography and can be used for surface photography as well. This lens provides an exceptional range for all types of applications and provides high-quality performance both near and far focusing distances. Its Close-Range Correction System ensures high resolution from infinity to close-ups down to 8 3/4 inches (life-size - 1:1 reproduction ratio). One of the key features of why we choose the Nikon 60mm Macro was because it's the most compact Nikon Micro-Nikkor lens for portrait, copy work, and field close-up applications.
It also comes with an A/M (Automatic-Manual) switch which enables quick changing from autofocus to manual focus. Other macro photographers have chosen to use the Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor which provides extra working distance for elusive subjects and is another great choice. Enlarge Image | Specifications (pdf)
Nikon Zoom Super Wide Angle-Telephoto AF Zoom Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR II Autofocus Lens - For the price, this lens is a great all purpose surface lens that offers a broad 18-200mm focal range for use in a variety of situations (equivalent to a 27-300 lens in 35mm format). With its 11x zoom coverage, photographers will see the benefit from this perfect compact and lightweight, one lens solution. This lens features the improved VR II (Vibration Reduction) system that allows handheld telephoto zoom shooting even in poorly lit conditions. The VR system minimizes image blur caused by camera shake, and offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed 4 stops faster (instead of 3 stops with the former VR system). Remember, DX lenses are exclusively designed for use with Digital SLR cameras with the smaller APS-C size chip; equivalent focal length in 35mm terms is 27-300mm
Other key features include; 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass and 3 aspherical lens elements to minimize chromatic aberration, astigmatism and other forms of distortion, while ensuring high resolution and contrast, built-in A/M (Automatic-Manual) switch enables instant switching from autofocus to manual focus (Lock mechanism provided), Silent Wave Motor for ultra-fast, ultra-quiet AF, Internal Focusing (IF) design which means that the filter attachment does not rotate during focusing or zooming, and enables the use of circular polarizing filters, rounded diaphragm (7 blades) makes out-of-focus elements appear more natural, enables focusing from as close as 50cm (20 in.) from the subject through its entire focal range, and comes with a Flower-shaped Lens Hood HB-35 (provided) which greatly reduces stray light. Enlarge Image | Specifications (pdf)
Lens Information & Links
Nikon USA | Nikon Lens Product Listing | All Nikon DX Lens Spec Sheet (pdf)
Note: Always refer back to the Nikon site for the most current information about these lenses.
Images and specification information courtesy: Nikon
Aquatica Underwater Housing
The Aquatica AD200 housing is a full function enclosure specially designed for the Nikon D200 Digital camera. The custom saddle mounting/locking system tray allows for easy sliding of the D200 body on two solid housing rods. There is no misalignment of the body inside the housing which makes the camera rock solid once its locked and mounted in place. Spring loaded push-button contacts, precision-engineered levers and knobs make for flawless and smooth changes to all of the primary camera control settings. The Aquatica A200 ports, extension rings, and lens gears are compatible with all other bayonet mount Aquatica housings. Because of the large port opening on this bayonet style housing, the enclosure can accept most lenses, even those with a very large diameter, like the AF MICRO-NIKKOR 105MM f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR lens. Zoom Housing Image - Front | Rear
AE/AF Lock Button
Flash Sync Mode Button
White Balance Button
Lens Release Button
Exposure Compensation Button
Main Command Dial
Sub Command Dial
On/Off Light Switch
Depth Rating: 300 feet (90 meters)
Size: 9" x 6 3/8" x 5 1/4" (22.9 x 16.2 x 13.4 cm)
Weight: 6 lbs. (3.3 kg)
|Precision cast aluminum body is fully anodized to military specifications and coated with a polyurethane powder paint and clear coat. Accurately Balanced Ergonomic Design - all controls are within easy reach.|
Aquatica Housing Accessories
- 8" Dome - Product # 18405: Used with wide angle and fisheye lenses. Fits bayonet housing.
- Dome Extension Ring - Product # 18457: Dimension overall 67mm / 2.635 inches. For all bayonet housing
- 8" Dome Shade - Product # 18480: For fisheye lenses. For all Aquatica housing.
- Auto/Manual Focus Macro Port - Product # 18426: Use with close-up and macro lenses. For bayonet housing.
- Moisture Detector - Product # 20023: Moisture alarm for digital camera housing
- Aquatica Housing Photo Gallery
All high end photographic equipment, including underwater DSLR housings, are complex devices. While the equipment we have been using has enabled us to produce high quality images, there are some technical issues that we have experienced. Below are some of the issues we have been experiencing with the sync circuit assembly (hot-shoe connector and the bulkhead port wiring harness).
Issue 1: When using the Sea & Sea Underwater TTL Converter (Nikon) - Some of the original and replacement "hot-shoe" connectors (on Aquatica AD200 housing) had a defective pin that was too long and did not retract correctly into the hot-shoe connector. This defective pin caused the strobe to fire incorrectly or not at all (when connected to the TTL configured bulkhead port).
Fix: We decided to contact Backscatter and Sub Aquatic Camera to discuss the problem. The decision was to have them install a special modified version of the sync circuit assembly into our Aquatica AD200 housings. Below is what we had them install:
- Install the following replacement hot-shoe connecter: Heavy-duty component used in the Subal underwater housing.
- Install a small strain relief on the wiring harness to relieve the pressure and strain on the bottom of the bulkhead connectors.
- Install a blocking diode into the wiring harness to prevent the strobe from randomly firing.
- Click here to view image of the special modified version of the sync circuit assembly.
Issue 2: Lens ports may get inadvertently bumped which can break the o-ring seal between the port and the housing, especially the large dome port. This in turn can allow water to enter and flood the inside of your housing.
Fix: Add a lens port lock - Some new housing may have it already installed. If not, you can order it from your local underwater camera repair shop assuming your Aquatica housing has the mounting holes already installed. View lens port lock installed in an Aquatica AD200 housing.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: When the port lock is engaged, you may not be able to get our fingers inside and unlock certain lens ports (without an extension ring) if a camera is mounted and you are using a lens with a gear-ring installed. See our work-around below:
- Make sure your lens port is fully turned clock-wise (when looking from the front) to relieve any pressure on the lens port locking pin.
- Open your housing and unlock your camera tray. Pull it back carefully to gain access to the port lock release lever.
- Use a medium size (modified) tie-wrap to hook the small silver port lock release lever. How to modify the tie-wrap: (a) remove the center locking clip with a small razor, (b) bend the head at a 45 degree angle.
- Once the release lever is hooked, pull back slowly and down to unlock the lens port. It helps to practice this procedure with the lens (w/gear-ring) off your camera.
Issue 3: Some older housings have the metering selector decals swapped.
Fix: Aquatica may provide new self-stick decals to put over the old ones or just make a mental note that the "spot" and "Center-weighted" decals are swapped.
Housing Information & Links
Aquatica AD200 Operating Manual (pdf) | Aquatica AD200 Lens Chart (pdf) | Housing Information (pdf)
Aquatica Homepage | Aquatica AD200 Accessories | Aquatica Housing Photo Gallery
Note: Always refer back to the
Aquatica site for
the most current information about this housing.
Images and specification information courtesy: Aquatica
Sea & Sea YS-110 Underwater Strobe
When YS-110 strobe is connected via a fiber-optic cable to a compact digital camera with TTL metering, the YS-110 strobe offers DS-TTL (Digital Slave Through-the-Lens) light adjustment. DS-TTL follows the camera’s TTL-adjusted flash for automatically accurate flash photography. You can use two YS-110 strobes for creative effects with subtle light balance. For example, you can set one strobe to DS-TTL mode and the second strobe to manual mode. The YS-110’s mode compensation function provides a light level control dial for just the right balance of light.
The YS-110 also provides full manual control that sets flash intensity that is independent of the camera. The 12-step manual control provides a finely graded variety of light settings up to a powerful maximum setting of guide number 22. Three xenon tubes positioned in the strobe provide a flat balance all the way across a circular beam angle of 105° (with diffuser), with even and consistent light that will satisfy even finicky professionals.
The YS-110 contains a high-luminosity white LED target light
located in the center of its front face. The target light turns on
with a convenient button press on the strobe’s rear panel, and turns
off automatically when the YS-110 flashes. You can connect the
strobe to digital SLR cameras and film cameras using the same cables
that connect conventional YS-series strobes. You can also connect
the strobe to compact digital cameras using a fiber-optic cable.
The YS-110 is a versatile strobe designed for almost any use.
Sea & Sea YS TTL Converter / N (Nikon)
This converter is equipped with a built-in TTL PCB that connects a Nikon digital SLR with SEA & SEA YS-Series strobes and uses the camera's TTL flash adjustment to control the amount of light output by the strobe. This converter has unique feature, it lets you use simultaneously two different types of strobes with different discharge characteristics and flash tubes, simply by turning the strobe selector dial.
The converter also allows you to quickly switch between TTL mode and manual mode* from outside the camera while underwater. You can use the TTL correction dial after checking the results of a shot in the LCD monitor to adjust the amount of strobe light for the next shot. Because the converter comes with two separate strobe connectors, you can use advanced automatic TTL flash adjustment with two strobes. Enlarge Image
* Switching to manual on the converter means activating the manual function on the connected YS Series strobe (depending on the strobe model).
Product Number: 50117
Construction (Main body): Polycarbonate Resin
Mounting plate: Corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy.
Controls: OFF / Manual / TTL Adjustment Dial (from +2 to -2 in 1/3 increments), Strobe selector dials (x2 left & right)
Battery: CR2 lithium battery (included)
Strobe-side connector: 5-pin Sync Cord/N, Camera-side connector: Type-N sync cord (5-pin connector)
Depth rating: 60m / 200ft
Dimensions (WxHxD): 68x93x104mm / 2.7x3.7x4.2 inch
Weight (approx.): 400g / 14oz (140g / 4.9oz underwater) - including CR2 battery
Light adjustment recognition: Nikon method (TTL flash adjustment)
Continuous Operation Time (approx.) 24 hours - until power lamp flashes
Sea & Sea: DX-S5Pro, DX-D200, DX-D80, DX-D50, RDX-D60, MDX-D300, MDX-Pro D700, MDX-Pro D3
Aquatica: AD200, AD100, AD70/70s (with customized connector)
- Important Notice for Users of the TTL Converter III for Nikon (2008/07/10 - pdf)
- TTL Converter not firing strobe correctly or not at all
Specifications & Manual (pdf) | Compatibility List | How the converter is mounted (example)
Note: Always refer back to the Sea & Sea site for the most current information.
Images and specification information courtesy: Sea & Sea
Light & Motion Sola 600 Photo/Video Light
Light & Motion's Sola 600 Photo Light comes with a 1" ball mount, 3 White LED light settings, 3 Red LED light settings and a S.O.S. flasher mode (newer models only). The The Sola 600 is the lightest, brightest and one of the smallest focus lights available. The bank of red LEDs adds stealth for catching shy critters and fish.
Sola photo lights have a factory sealed body so you never need to worry about flooding. A magnetic coupled tap switch instantly flips between red and white mode or increments power levels. Three indicator lights behind the bezel report the power and battery charge status.
- Light & Motion's Sola Photo Lights
- Customer Support
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Product Safety Data Sheet for Sola Lights
- Recommended Dealer:
Sola 600 (price & pictures)
Find Other Dealers
|Lumens||White||High (670 lum), Med (335 lum), Low (165 lum)|
|Run Time (Brightness)||White||High (80 min), Med (160 min), Low (320 min)|
|Red||High (200 min), Med (400 min)|
|Charge Time||75% (60 min), 100% (150 min)|
|Dimensions||2.2in x 3.9in (57mm x 101mm)|
|Weight (w/Ball Mount)||10 oz (283 gr)|
|Charger||110v - 240v|
|Battery (factory sealed)||2 Cell Li-ion|
Ultralight Strobe Arms
We decided to use the Ultralight Control System to attach our strobes to the Aquatica AD200 housing. The Ultralight arm generally consists of two arms segments and three clamps giving you the greatest flexibility. At times, we may only use just one arm segment and two clamps. The o-ring in the balls of the arms, base adapters, and strobe adapters eliminates the metal to metal contact. This allows a much more linear clamping force, allowing us to control the arm movement when used with small or large strobes even in varying current conditions. The ball size of our arms and adapters is 1" or 25mm. Enlarge Image
Additional Information & Links
Arm Segments & Clamps | Strobe Adapters | Trays and Base Adapters
Note: Always refer back to the Ultralight Control Systems site for the most current information.
Images and specification information courtesy: Ultralight
Buoyancy Floats (strobe arms)
We decided to use the
StiX Adjustable Buoyancy Jumbo Floats to provide the ability to
adjust the buoyancy of our underwater camera system utilizing our
current Ultralight strobe arms. The StiX system utilizes a non
compressible foam float to adjust the buoyancy of your camera
system. By adding or removing different sized floats from the arms,
a camera system can be dialed in with the exact buoyancy a shooter
We bought our kit from Backscatter which is sold in a pack of four, the large floats kit provides a total of 1.6 lbs. of lift with a travel weight of only 4.3 oz. These floats are roughly 2" by 2". View Images: Strobe Arm Floats | Strobe Arm Floats w/Arms
Part Number: sx-ful3
Professional Series CompactFlash Cards
16GB Professional Series 300X UDMA CompactFlash Card -
We are currently using the Lexar 16 GB 300x UDMA CP Flash Card which is professionally designed for high performance and has superior reliability. The 300X read & write speeds are designed to speed up image capture times by taking advantage of a Digital SLR camera's high-speed processor. This card provides support for high-resolution UDMA-enabled DSLR cameras, and delivers blazing-fast download speeds from card to computer (45MB/sec) when paired with a UDMA reader. Other Pro Series CP Flashcards are listed below.
Pro Series CP FlashCard Links
Lexar Professional Series CompactFlash Cards | Lexar Homepage
SanDisk Extreme IV CompactFlash cards | SanDisk Homepage
Kingston Pro CompactFlash Cards | Hoodman Pro CompactFlash Cards
Lexar Professional UDMA Dual-Slot USB Reader -
High-Speed Reader for Pro Photographers
- High-speed File Transfer
- Compact, Portable Design
- Reads UDMA CompactFlash (CF), Standard CF, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC), and SD Cards
- Folds Closed to Protect Card Slots
Note: Always refer back to the manufacture or distributor for the most current information about these products.
- CompactFlash (CF) - The CompactFlash (CF) card was developed by SanDisk in 1994 that uses flash memory to store data on a very small card. The CF card is the most widely used digital memory format and isused by most current digital cameras. CompactFlash cards are now available in sizes up to 8 Gigabytes, larger than any other currently-available format.
- Memory Card - A memory card (sometimes called a flash memory card or a storage card) is a small storage medium used to store data such as text, pictures, audio, and video, for use on small, portable or remote computing devices. Most of the current products use flash memory, although other technologies are being developed. The CompactFlash (CF) card is an example of a memory card.
- Flash Memory - Flash memory (sometimes called "flash RAM") is a type of constantly-powered nonvolatile memory that can be erased and reprogrammed in units of memory called blocks.
- Nonvolatile Memory - Nonvolatile memory is a general term for all forms of solid state (no moving parts) memory that do not need to have their memory contents periodically refreshed.
- Megabyte - A megabyte (MB) is a unit of data used to describe the size of digital images and the capacity of a digital memory card. Memory cards are available in sizes ranging from 8MB to 2 Gigabytes (a Gigabyte is the equivalent of 1,024MB). 1 megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes; 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes
- Megapixel - A measure of resolution that reflects the ability of a digital camera to record detail. The more megapixels a camera has, the more detail its images can contain and the more they can be enlarged without losing clarity.
Available Books, Videos & Cameras
12 Megapixel 5X Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD screen
GREAT Underwater Beginner Camera!
Product Description: SeaLife's DC1200 makes
underwater photography it easier than ever before. Mystical sea
creatures, vibrant colorful reefs, or haunting wrecks from a
bygone era, the DC1200 is the camera to catch them all. SeaLife's new 12-megapixel camera combines diver-friendly design
and four underwater color modes, for sharp, colorful pictures
underwater or on land.
SeaLife eliminated the typical button cluster on the back of the camera, in favor of five thumb operated "piano key" controls. The large shutter button extends forward with a fingertip-control lever that allows scrolling through menus or zooming in and out without releasing your grip from the camera. This "Central Command Lever" and the "Piano Keys" are making great underwater pictures and videos easier than ever before.
Expand the DC1200 with SeaLife's popular line of underwater accessories, including the Digital Pro Flashes and wide angle . Automatic focus from 4" to infinity. Record 2+ hours of sharp, colorful video with sound when using a 4GB SD memory card. Depth tested to 200ft. Fully rubber armored for shock protection. Full 1-year warranty covers the underwater housing and camera.
SeaLifes Sea Modes which have built in color correction and External Flash Modes for vibrant color and manual control of the cameras shutter and aperture, round out the DC1200.
Other SeaLife DC1200 Camera Systems:
- SeaLife DC1200 Elite 12MP Underwater / Land
Digital Camera & Strobe System
Where to Buy
- Sealife DC1000 Elite 10MP Underwater / Land
Digital Camera & Strobe System (2 Digital Pro
Where to Buy
Travel Storage & Viewer Systems
Epson P-5000 & P-3000 (Storage & Viewer Systems)
This is an essential tool for the digital photographer who
shoots a lot of images. The
Epson P-3000/5000 provides an excellent way to download, store
and display thousands of photos, videos and more on the spot -
without a computer. With the ultra fast processor, it’s easy to
backup images right from your memory card (CF/SD) or camera.
Transfer thousands of photos in no time at all. Then, continue
|Or, transfer files from your camera or any USB device. You can even connect and download your files directly to your Windows or Mac computer. The Epson Epson P-3000/5000 makes it easy to save and share images virtually anywhere, with amazing clarity and color.|
Features & Benefits
- 40GB (P-3000) or 80BG (P-5000), high-capacity hard drive to backup thousands of photos
- Large, 4-inch LCD for easy viewing
- On-the-spot download device to save, view and share photos, videos and music anywhere
- Epson® Photo Fine Ultra LCD technology for more accurate colors
- Adobe® RGB color space support
- Ultra fast processor for fast downloads
- DivX® video file support, plus audio/video out to instantly view slide shows and videos
- Rechargeable battery so it’s always ready to travel
- Long battery life that’s ideal for extended, on-location shoots
- Built-in card slots that support Compact Flash® I/II (CF) and Secure Digital™ (SD) memory cards
- Hi-Speed USB 2.0 for fast file transfers
- RAW file support — zoom capabilities to check the focus and fine detail
- P-7000 (160GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-6000 (80GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-5000 (80GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-3000 (40GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- Epson P-5000 TrueVue Crystal Clear Screen Protector
- Epson P-3000 TrueVue Crystal Clear Screen Protector
- Epson Lithium Ion Battery for the Epson P-3000 and P-5000
- dpreview Review
Other Travel Storage Systems
storing and transporting documents and digital
Other storage systems
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 16 GB USB 2.0 (Flash
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8 GB USB 2.0 (Flash Drive)
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4 GB USB 2.0 (Flash Drive)
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2 GB USB 2.0 with U3 (Flash Drive)
Please email all questions or comments with this site to Technical Support.