Using the Nikon D100 for Underwater Photography

First published on: Monday, 17 August 2009

Note: This article is written by Don Silcock

When Nikon released their first prosumer DSLR, the D100, in June 2002 it was a game changer in that for the first time “affordable” digital SLR technology was available to serious amateur photographers who use Nikon equipment. The subsequent wide range of underwater housings that were released meant that at last the significant advantages of digital photography were now available underwater.

I was one of the early adopters and made the leap to underwater digital photography and, as expensive as it was, I really believe it was money well spent because I saw a real step change in my ability to capture usable images.

It’s now 7 years since the D100 was released, an epoch on the digital camera timescale, and the camera looks agricultural compared to the latest DSLR’s, but that LCD screen and single channel histogram were revolutionary for underwater photographers.

D100 Strengths

Nikon put a great deal of effort into the D100 and it was positioned as having most of the functionality of the earlier D1 DSLR’s, but with higher resolution (more pixels) and a much lower price. It was a great success for them and a lot were sold.

Based on the F80 film camera the D100 gave real SLR performance with a six mega pixel sensor that matched the resolution of film up to A3 and images produced by the D100, particularly using the NEF Raw format, are (in my opinion) sharp and of publishable quality. In short, in the right hands, the D100 is capable of producing excellent images.

D100 Weaknesses

Probably the weakest point of the D100 for underwater photography is its dynamic range, because it can be very difficult to get a good result when shooting wide angle with the sun in the frame. Basically the D100’s sensor cannot record detail in the shadows without grossly blowing out the sun and turning it a sickly shade of cyan.

For macro and general fish photography I don’t see this dynamic range limitation as an issue as it is pretty rare to get the sun in the frame.

If you are shooting into the sun’s general direction then you will need two powerful wide angle strobes such as the Ikelite 200’s that I use, because the only way to get a good result is to close down the f-stop and put the shutter speed at the maximum setting of 180 on the D100.

Stopping down on the f-stop brings the sun under control, but the small aperture means you need powerful strobes to punch through and illuminate the subject.

Check out my review of the D100 for underwater photography on the following link:

Alternatively download the article I wrote for Underwater Photography magazine on the link:

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, so check out the Image Galleries on my website, particularly the Great White Shark images that were taken with the Nikon D100!

Don Silcock

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