NA-D500 in Fiji

-text and images by Hergen Spalink

We recently put Nikon's D500 in a NA-D500 housing through its paces in Fiji shooting reefs, sharks and more.  The NA-D500 was equipped with the latest built-in flash trigger system that was paired with a set of Inon Z240 strobes.  Ports for the shoot included the Zen DP230 and Zen DP100 "mini-dome" in front of a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye and the Nauticam macro port for the Nikkor 60mm macro.

For the last two years our full-time rig has been a full-frame Nikon D810 in an NA-D810 housing, but we started out ten years ago with a Nikon D200, followed by a Canon 7D so the crop-sensor D500 was far from unfamiliar.  I frequently miss versatility of the Tokina 10-17mm for wide angle and that extra bit of magnification when shooting macro that comes with a crop-sensor camera.   The D500 provides an excellent middle ground of pro-level feel and functionality in a DX-format and price point.

The D500 is a capable wide-angle camera with its 153 point auto-focus that extends well into the corners and upper/lower thirds.  Continuous focus tracking worked exceedingly well when shooting the bull sharks of Beqa Lagoon.  The built-in flash trigger allows for rapid fire at the camera's maximum frame rate of 10fps.  The only limiting factor was the recycle time of the Inon strobes.

Dynamic range and color were top notch and more than adequate, allowing for images with great tonality even when shooting into the sun at ISO 400.

The NA-D500 allows for access to all the critical exposure functions of the D500 on the right side of the housing including the main/sub command dials for Aperture and Shutter Speed, along with a thumb lever for ISO.  Macro focus was snappy and accurate and despite being a crop-sensor the bokeh at f 2.8 was buttery smooth with the Nikkor 60mm macro lens.  The extended focus area and variety of focus options such as 3D tracking was extremely useful when shooting faster moving macro such as anemonefish.  The D500 is a capable performer at both the wide and macro ends of the range and when paired with the NA-D500 housing is ready for any underwater photo need.  It's also worth noting that although we didn't get into the video functions of the system, the D500 can also shoot 4K at frame rates up to 30p!  4K, 20.7MP at 10fps and 100% coverage viewfinder to boot.  The D500 is practically made for underwater shooters.