Nikon D2X and Subal ND2 Review

The viewfinder of the D2X is significantly larger and brighter than Nikon’s previous DSLRs. When I got my ND2, Subal told me that their GS viewfinder was temporally out of stock, but I could retro-fit one. Something I intended to do. However having used the camera with the standard viewfinder I think I am not going to get the GS. The D2X viewfinder is that good.

One of the best features of the D2X is the LCD screen, which with the additional 33% magnification from underwater viewing offers the full widescreen cinema experience. It is 2.5 inches across and 235,000 dots (the D70 is 1.8 inch and 118,000 dots). The LCD also allows you to check the RGB histograms (which is very helpful, e.g. for filter photography) and to verify sharpness by zooming to a massive 27 times the original magnification. Furthermore this information is available as soon as you can press the buttons after taking the image. Reviewing your shots critically while in the water is a crucial part of the technique of digital underwater photography. The D2X’s LCD offers a massive advantage in this area.

An image showing RGB Histograms from an available light filter shot taken at 18m. Image courtesy of Peter Rowlands.

In conclusion the Nikon D2X is a massively capable camera – with strengths well suited to underwater photography. But (and I do not mean to sound patronising) the D2X is not the camera for everyone. It is expensive. It costs $5000. And if you fill it up with water it is worth $0. The Nikon D70, for example, can produce stunning A3 (18” by 12”) prints and even when cropped, D70 images are easily good enough for magazine covers. And it costs less than 15% of the price of the D2X. If you do not have a need for even larger output sizes, you do not need the D2X. Furthermore you have to be on top of your game to realise its full potential. The megapixels and image quality of the D2X will not save you from poor underwater photographic technique. Indeed cheap lenses and poor dome ports, that look fine on the D70, will curtail the potential of the D2X.

Subal’s ND2 housing is excellent with superb ergonomics and attention to detail. But just like the camera many photographers choice of housing will be influenced by the gear that they already own. One thing going for the Subal is that it available right now!

A few months ago we at Wetpixel referred to the D2X as Nikon’s last chance. Sitting here in the Egyptian sun, I can report that this camera has delivered its promise and in fact has comfortably surpassed my expectations. In a word, it’s awesome.