Assessment of the Nikon Z8 in Nauticam Housing

The creator wish to thank Nauticam for offering their NA-Z8 housing for the Nikon Z8 and numerous 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 evaluate.



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have held on to their trusty DSLRs, ready for Nikon to launch a mirrorless digicam that would actually outperform the outdated guard for the particular challenges of underwater pictures.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

After I obtained the chance to evaluate 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 total 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 virtually an identical specs to the Z9, the brand new digicam appeared virtually 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—typically difficult waters of various visibility, from 13 to 65 toes.


The creator 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 intervals, whereas the D850 maxes out at 7fps. I discovered this larger steady taking pictures pace useful for fur seals and shifting supermacro topics

The Z8 has been extensively promoted as a “mini Z9” and the “true successor” of the esteemed D850. I don’t assume the Web wants one more checklist of the Z8’s specs, so I’ll reasonably 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 essential 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 remains to be a really excessive rating, and I used to be absolutely content material with the Z8 recordsdata and the way I may get well particulars within the highlights and shadows.


Port Jackson sharks the other 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 get well 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 masking 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 situations, in comparison with –4EV for the D850’s central AF level. To place that one other method, the Z8 ought to preserve snapping to focus in situations 16 instances darker than the D850 can handle.

One other benefit of the Z8 is burst taking pictures pace: It’s able to taking pictures full-resolution RAWs at 20fps over lengthy intervals, whereas the D850 maxes out at 7fps. I discovered this larger steady taking pictures pace useful for fur seals and shifting supermacro topics. By way of battery life, the D850 has a transparent benefit over the Z8—and all mirrorless cameras—delivering nicely 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).


Taking pictures at 20fps allowed me to get one shot when the super-fast fur seal and the diver had 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 pace, in comparison with the D850’s 1/250s. Whereas I discovered 1/200s to be adequate for taking pictures in temperate waters, after I took the Z9 to the Purple Sea, I needed for a better shutter pace a few instances. I ended up closing down my aperture and rising strobe energy as a substitute.  

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

Lastly, it’s value 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 nicely forward of these of the D850—extra on that later.


Purple-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 an identical to the flagship Z9 in lots of (good) methods. I’ve discovered solely 4 variations related to underwater pictures. At the start, 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 for the reason that 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 presents an CFexpress (sort B) slot and a SD card slot (UHS-II), whereas the Z9 has two CFexpress (sort B) slots. Skilled filmmakers would possibly see this as a draw back, however as a touring underwater photographer, I a lot choose having the ability to preserve utilizing my outdated SD playing cards and go away the CFexpress card reader at residence; like many laptops, mine has a built-in SD card reader. My outdated SD playing cards gained’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 capable of file 4K/60p video clips in 8-bit high quality. Fourth, and final, I’ve discovered refined 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 initially a stills photographer, and I can solely remark briefly in regards to the Nikon Z8 as a filmmaking software. Nonetheless, I’ve began taking pictures some video with the Z9, and now the Z8, and I’ve discovered myself filming brief 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 underneath my left thumb. Second, I discovered that “full-time” autofocus (AF-F) mode fared fairly nicely when capturing brief wide-angle movies. I didn’t count on this, as earlier DSLR expertise taught me you simply couldn’t belief autofocus whereas filming underwater, because the digicam would begin “looking” anytime, making the footage ineffective. Third, in-body picture stabilization additionally works whereas filming, and I discovered my video clips to be unexpectedly secure.

All in all, regardless of my restricted filming expertise, it was apparent how little effort or time was required to file brief movies that I used to be pleased with, in-between taking pictures stills. Taking good video clips “on the facet” feels extra achievable than ever, and I’m now considering I must be getting a few video lights—remember that the Z8 often fails to white stability deeper than 40–50 toes.


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 principally stills with steady AF monitoring and animal recognition enabled, and recording a number of brief 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 length of use: how lengthy you retain the viewfinder or LCD display screen switched on, how typically you’re focusing, whether or not you’re utilizing steady monitoring, how a lot video you’re 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 principally stills with steady AF monitoring and animal recognition enabled, and recording a number of brief 4K/60p 8-bit video clips.

To reach at this conclusion, I logged quite a lot of my Z8 dives, which had 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 evening dive, 190 pictures, 47% battery left
2h50 wide-angle dive, 390 pictures, 42s of video, 5% battery left

An essential caveat: Though the Z8 will settle for the D850’s EN-EL15a batteries, you’ll want to purchase the most recent EN-EL15c model to attain the above efficiency.

General, it doesn’t take a lot effort to rapidly dry the housing, open it, swap batteries after which pump it up, for the vacuum test to substantiate that it’s nonetheless waterproof. For individuals who don’t like opening their housing throughout the day, Nauticam has simply launched a USB-C charging bulkhead that means that you can 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 implausible information, because it is among the highest available on the market. General, it’s a a lot 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 implausible information, because it is among the highest available on the market. General, it’s a a lot better software for underwater pictures than the D850’s optical viewfinder.

In the event you’re new to mirrorless, have a learn of my evaluate of the Z9, written from the angle of a DSLR person adjusting to a brand new paradigm. I focus on at size the advantages the Z9’s EVF brings, and all the things therein applies to the Z8, too. For the aim of this evaluate, 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 onerous to inform other than a superb 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 all EVF, it could actually get tough to see each your foreground and background when framing a high-contrast scene—assume 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 capable of 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 all the things. I used to be nonetheless capable of see every of the outdated 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 sort of giant and I selected to make the show smaller (there may be an possibility 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 attainable to see the entire EVF show via this viewfinder when you stick your masks up shut, however I choose having a little bit of leeway.


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


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

Fourth, the EVF’s visible focus aids make handbook focusing (supermacro) a lot simpler. Focus peaking is clearly configurable when it comes to sensitivity and shade, and you’ll even “zoom via” the EVF, by urgent the “+” button. I cherished the main target distance indicator, which kicks in once 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 nicely.


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 complete 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 evening, when utilizing a pink mild. In these situations, I discovered the EVF confirmed much less distinction than a superb optical viewfinder.


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


Monitoring works impressively nicely and usually sticks to the topic when you’re getting nearer, when you’re recomposing, whereas the topic is swimming, or the entire above!

General, the Nikon Z8’s autofocus system is a deal with to make use of underwater. Fairly merely, it is among 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 speak about my basic findings relating to 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 monitor mentioned topic throughout the body (keep in mind, 90% protection). Monitoring works impressively nicely and usually sticks to the topic when you’re getting nearer, when you’re recomposing, whereas the topic is swimming, or the entire above! That “stickiness” is a big win over the most effective Nikon DSLRs, no matter whether or not the “animal detection” characteristic kicks in. For testing functions, I typically chosen a random piece of algae swinging within the swell and tried recomposing, solely to search out the Z8 stored 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 will follow the topic for for much longer when utilizing steady monitoring. This enabled a distinct method of taking pictures, the place I may choose my topic from a distance (AF-C 3D), after which make my strategy and presumably 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 supposed working distance. Deciding on a macro topic’s eye underwater might be fiddly, and that “outdated” method of taking pictures resulted in missed photograph alternatives.


Juvenile White’s seahorse on a man-made reef: With visibility of lower than 16 toes, I may choose the seahorse from a distance, then strategy and recompose on the identical time, whereas the Z8 stored 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 quicker than Nikon’s well-regarded DSLRs, leading to extra keeper pictures, particularly in decrease ambient mild. I don’t recall having to change on my focus mild in any respect, besides when taking pictures with Nauticam’s SMC-1 diopter. The one macro state of affairs the place I discovered the D850/D500 nonetheless had an edge was focusing underneath a pink mild (at evening). Identical to the Z9 (and almost certainly 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 completely pink scene.


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


For extensive angle, the D850 and D500 had been already onerous 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 mentioned that, whereas AF-C 3D and Auto-Space each labored very nicely in good visibility, when taking pictures extensive angle with visibility of lower than 18 toes, I observed the Z8 typically targeted 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 a superb monitor file 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 state of affairs, I’d choose to only follow AF-C 3D for each state of affairs—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 present undergo from some back-focusing points. Nauticam have been engaged on this challenge and an answer is imminent; I might be testing this sooner or later.


Striated anglerfish (bushy frogfish): Whereas I look ahead to the EMWL back-focus resolution, I place my AF focus level barely in entrance of the attention, which works fairly nicely in getting me essential 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 principally the case, however I observed two refined variations.

First, the animal detection characteristic—which I enabled more often than not—appeared to acknowledge marine life extra typically on the Z9. After all, when you learn via the manuals of the Z8 and Z9, neither digicam is meant to acknowledge fish—they’re designed for canine, cats and birds. Nonetheless, as I focus on in my detailed Z9 review, it simply so occurred that the Z9 would typically decide up fish and cephalopods, and when it did, this saved me from having to maneuver the main target level onto the topic. This habits was unpredictable on the Z9: Throughout one dive in particular situations it will 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 undoubtedly higher at detecting marine life and routinely choosing up the attention.


Whereas the Z9 was often capable of acknowledge goatfish and routinely targeted 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. Observe that I arrange each the Z8 and Z9 at degree 3 and “Erratic” mode within the a3 menu (Focus Monitoring with Lock-On), which means each cameras may very well be tweaked to extend “stickiness” additional.


The Z9 was capable of preserve 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 nicely with the Z8, making it a extremely succesful fish portrait machine

Nikon mirrorless shooters have native brief (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. Nonetheless, 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 exams, I used each the AF-S 60mm and the Z 105mm macro lenses.

Nikon Z 105mm Macro

Like I wrote in my Z9 evaluate, I really like the Z 105mm lens. It’s sharper than its F-mount predecessor from 2006, whereas being quicker and extra responsive, courtesy of its twin inner 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 nicely 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 essential place in my gear bag, because it offers the identical 1:1 magnification at a diminished working distance (7.5in/19cm). It allows you to get nearer to approachable topics, which ends up in much less backscatter and makes snooting simpler. Within the DSLR days, I might decide 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 motive needed to do with the AF-S 60mm being quicker and “looking” lower than the AF-S 105mm, however now that the Z8 focuses so nicely with the Z 105mm, this motive now not applies, and I discover myself utilizing the longer macro lens an increasing number of.


Sydney divers had been excited to have a tasselled leatherjacket cool down in certainly one of our widespread 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, monitor, 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 a minimum of I caught up with Fabien Michenet, among the best blackwater photographers on the market. With the AF-S 60mm, Fabien instructed me he discovered that the AF-C 3D monitoring labored very nicely 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 wanting ahead to making an attempt each lenses after I lastly do some blackwater dives.

Vast-Angle Lenses

After 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 often discovered myself switching to DX mode when topics had been too shy for its 180-degree diagonal subject of view. So I used to be very joyful to have a rectilinear zoom choice to strive with the Z8, particularly the Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3, together with the Nauticam Wet Wide Lens (WWL-C).


The grey nurse sharks off Bass Level had been too shy for a fisheye lens, however the WWL-C delivered simply the appropriate 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 identified 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 considering 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 reasonably 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 extensive, however getting good picture high quality on a full-frame rectilinear wide-angle zoom comes with a heavy weight and measurement penalty, particularly 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! No 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 inexpensive Nikon Z 24–50mm f/4–6.3. What’s extra, the complete 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°) nicely 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)


After I witnessed these two seadragons beginning their courtship dance, I knew I needed to give them a little bit privateness. By zooming via 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 certainly one of my strobe arms, and {photograph} shy, mid-sized topics; the Z 24–50mm focuses right 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 via 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, nicely 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 certainly one of my strobe arms


The WWL-C is certainly 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 line 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 exams in a pool, however I shot Port Jackson sharks with each setups and I discovered the WWL-C photos a minimum of as sharp because the AF-S 8–15mm/140mm dome combo, on the identical apertures. For close-focus wide-angle pictures, I favored utilizing the WWL-C at f/13–f/14, and I used to be joyful to speak in confidence to 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 present 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 Taking pictures Expertise with the Nauticam Z8 Housing


The multi-selector “joystick” makes it a breeze to maneuver the AF goal across the 493 obtainable 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 glorious. The multi-selector “joystick” makes it a breeze to maneuver the AF goal across the 493 obtainable 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 typically 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 quicker than a DSLR does, and the NA-Z8 housing maximizes this benefit.

Importantly, the design of the NA-Z8 is such which you can 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 commonplace with a battery-powered handbook 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 observed a problem with the flash set off that got here commonplace 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 pace), I often observed a darkish band throughout the highest of the picture, as if the digicam’s most sync pace had been exceeded. It was solely noticeable with highly effective strobes used at larger powers, such because the Ikelite DS230 and Retra Flash Professional that I used for the evaluate, and on scenes illuminated with strobe mild alone. In the event you’re taking pictures principally extensive 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 wanting into it, however in the intervening time, when you completely want 1/200s for macro, then you’ll need a extra refined flash set off that the Z8 “sees” as a related strobe. One chance is the Nauticam TTL converter for Nikon, which I used for many of this evaluate. I discovered that utilizing the TTL converter did produce correctly illuminated photos on the most sync pace of 1/200s, however it 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.


Purple-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, Digital camera

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 which you can preserve 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 well-liked 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 can make a distinction solely when taking pictures very low on sand.

Lastly, now that Nikon mirrorless customers have a light-weight rectilinear wide-angle possibility—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 obtainable 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 capable of make some measurements to check the Nikon and Sony programs:

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


Prime: 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)


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


7. Last Ideas


The Nikon Z8 is among the finest cameras on the market, excelling at virtually any underwater pictures problem you would possibly throw at it

The Nikon Z8 is among the finest cameras on the market, excelling at virtually 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 grow to be one of many key causes for an improve, along with autofocus and the benefit with which you’ll be able to file high quality video.

In the event you 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 can cowl the “close-focus wide-angle finish” of the Tokina’s vary and ship a lot better picture high quality. And if a fisheye is basically wanted, the Nikon 8–15mm stays a superb possibility. In any case, you’ll be able to flip the Z8 right into a D500 by touching one lever to change to DX mode.

Impressively, Nauticam managed to show eight of the Nikon Z8’s controls into ergonomic levers, positioned inside simple attain of the NA-Z8 housing’s handles, supplying you with in depth choices to make the digicam “your individual.” General, the Nikon Z8/Nauticam NA-Z8 pair will can help you create photos quicker and with a better 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 most effective Nikon underwater digicam on the market proper now? Properly, it relies upon: If measurement, weight and value usually are not an drawback, I might recommend contemplating the Nikon Z9, which scores a contact larger 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 shifting to a Z8 or a Z9, you’ll discover it to be the most effective 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 faculty and photograph membership, The Underwater Club. His photos have been broadly revealed in print and digital media, and have gained over 35 worldwide photograph awards. To see extra photos by Nicolas and his spouse Lena, go to their web site,



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