By John Brigham
Many underwater photographers’ prayers were answered with the release of the already iconic Nikon Z8 mirrorless camera. It’s a shrunk down Z9 in just about every way, making it the perfect solution for action-oriented photographers who want Nikon’s best in terms of speed, autofocus performance, and dynamic range. Anyone traveling with this system will appreciate the lightweight yet full-featured 200DL Underwater Housing for the Nikon Z8 # 71069.
Watch the video below to follow along as Ikelite VP John Brigham goes through how to set up your housing including the most popular accessories. Or jump to:
Nikon Z8 Settings
Without further ado, let's go ahead and dive right into making this system and fully decking it out. But before we do that, there's four things on the settings I want to mention.
- First, go through and make sure that you have the shutter shield to protect the sensor via Menu > Setup Menu > Sensor shield behavior at power off > ON.
- Second, set your power settings so that you don't have to use the on/off control: Menu > Custom Shooting Menu > Timers/AE Lock > Power Off Delay > Standby Timer.
- Third, make sure that you can't take a picture without a card installed, this prevents you from going out and taking a bunch of pictures that you didn't actually take: Menu > Setup Menu > Slot empty release lock > LOCK - Release locked.
- Last but not least, set your camera up so that you can charge through the power charge port via Menu > Setup Menu > USB power delivery > ON.
Installing the Camera
- Remove the back of the housing by unfastening the three lid snaps.
- If not already installed, install the USB-C Charging a & Data Transfer Cord.
- Remove the manual hotshoe and replace with the TTL hotshoe.
- Remove the camera mount from the housing and attach to the bottom of your camera lining up the 1/4-20 screw on the mount with the camera's 1/4-20 threads and tighten using a screw driver so it is secure.
- Open the terminal cover to the camera and plug the USB-C cord into your camera's USB charging port.
- Slide the TTL hotshoe into place on the top of your camera.
- Slide the camera with mount into the camera base inside the housing.
- Check the sealing surface of the housing for any debris.
- Check the o-ring on the acrylic back for any debris (this o-ring does not require any lubricant).
- Place the acrylic back onto the housing and secure the lid snaps and check that they are locked in place.
With our clear back you can easily check that you have a nice seal providing you full view of your camera and peace of mind.
Adding Trigger Extensions & Right Handle
Installing the Trigger Extensions
- Remove the shutter lever that is preinstalled on the housing by removing the setscrews using the provided hex key.
- Add the Trigger Extension over top of the cap.
- Tighten the Trigger Extension using the provided hey key.
- Reinstall the lever based on your personal ergonomic preference. Some customers like to pull the lever like a trigger, some may prefer to push the lever.
- Tighten down both set screws.
- Repeat this step for the back button focus (BBF) trigger.
Installing the Right Hand Quick Release Handle
- Using the two provided screws (with lock washer and insulating washer), feed them up through the bottom of the tray that came with the housing, these will thread into the extension for the handle.
- Using the provided hex key, ensure screws are tightly installed.
We highly recommend adding the Trigger Extension # 4077.95 for both the shutter and back button focus (BBF) and the Right Hand Quick Release Handle with Extension # 4077.02 which will optimize ergonomics and make focusing on your subject so much easier.
Installing a Lens, Zoom Gear, and Port
Two of our favorite lens options for this camera are the 14-30mm native Z-mount lens as well as the 8-15mm fisheye lens. The 8-15mm fisheye lens is going to require an adapter and we prefer the Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ II. Both of these lenses can be used with either the Compact 8" Dome Port # 75344 or the Full 8" Dome Port # 75340.
Because both of these dome port options are lightweight and come at a very affordable price point, I do travel with both both for the 14-30mm lens as well as the fisheye. The Compact Dome Port is great for what I call general photography, regular diving at depth. It reduces drag in the water, you can get tucked into tighter places. But I do travel with the Full 8" Dome Port because that lets me shoot over-unders.
- To install your Zoom Gear, remove the adhesive backing from the provided foam pads and apply the foam pads to the inside of the diameter of the spring-loaded clamp.
- Slide the clamp down until you reach the lens zoom ring. Ensure the tabs on the clamp are facing what will be the camera body once installed, and ensure one of these tabs are lined up with the indexing dot on your lens.
- Use the zoom gear retaining tool to remove the retaining ring from the port opening of the housing and remove the Ikelite dust cap.
- Insert the gear sleeve, teeth side down, into the port opening.
- Replace the retaining ring and use the gear retaining tool to tighten.
- Using the zoom gear knob on the side of your housing, align one of the two ribs on the gear sleeve with the indexing dot on your camera body.
- Drop your lens into place lining up the indexing dots and gear clamp tabs with gear sleeve ribs and bayonet into place.
- Check your zoom knob to ensure that your zoom gear and lens are interfacing properly.
- Apply a small amount of the provided Ikelite lubricant around the o-ring of your port, this will help prevent any rolling of the o-ring.
- Take your port and make sure that all three of your thumbscrews are unthreaded so they don't protrude into the diameter of the sealing surface. Check the sealing surface for an unwanted debris.
- The shade of your Dome Port will correspond with one of the thumbscrews and that's going to be at the top position of your housing.
- Line up the top dome shade and thumbscrew on your port with the pocket on your extension, press the dome port and extension together and finger tighten the thumbscrews.
- Unthread the thumbscrews from your extension so that they're not interfering with the inner diameter of the extension. Check the o-ring for debris.
- Apply a small amount of lubricant to the o-ring on your port base and check that there is no debris.
- Orient the extension with dome port so that the shade that corresponds with the thumbscrew are lined up with the pocket on the port opening located toward the top of the housing, press down to seal, tighten the thumbscrews.
There are a wide variety of lenses that we accommodate. Make sure you check out our Port Chart where you can see all of the lenses that we support, all of the zoom mechanisms and port components that you would need for each lens.
Setting Up TTL Strobes
One of the most important things you can do to improve your photography is add lighting. Adding strobe lighting will take you to that next level. I cannot stress enough how important this is going to be, and your lighting will carry with you from this system to your next.
For this demonstration I have two flagship DS230 Strobes, extremely powerful, great quality of light, circular flash tube.
When attaching your DL1 DS Link TTL Converter, Sync Cord, and Strobes, you will notice that there is an o-ring, a sealing surface, and pins and receptacles that interface between these - always ensure that the o-rings are clean, have a slight amount of lubricant, that your sealing surface is clean, and that the pins and receptacles always line up when assembling together.
- Remove the cap from the bulkhead of your housing, insert your TTL Converter, and thread down.
- Install the lead on your Dual Sync cord (with the blue band) into the other end of your TTL Converter, thread down.
- Remove the bulkhead caps from your strobes and install your Dual Sync Cord to the strobes by lining up the pins and receptacles.
- If you're using dissimilar strobes, always make the more powerful strobe your primary strobe by attaching the cord that does NOT have the red band to the more powerful strobe.
- Check that your TTL Strobe system is operating correctly by powering on your primary strobe and in doing so you should notice that power is provided to your TTL Converter via illumination of the indicator light, this light should glow blue to indicate that it is in TTL Mode.
- Power both strobes up and make sure they're both in the TTL switch position and take a few test images to make sure everything is firing properly.
- Insert the quick release segment of your Wide Angle Ball Arm # 40782 into the quick release opening on the handle of your housing by pushing the silver button on the handle as you insert. Repeat this step for your other strobe arm.
- Ensure the ball arm clamps will be facing toward you which will make it easier for you to adjust them as needed underwater.
- Loosen your ball arm clamp and install it over the ball mount on your strobe then retighten. Repeat this step for your other strobe.
- Attach the Red Cable Grip # 4080.09 for carrying your housing by hooking the carabiner over the segment of your ball arm closest to your housing and repeating on the other side. Now you've got a comfortable carrying cable to easily transport your system.
TTL or "Thru-the-Lens" flash metering means the camera evaluates the scene and communicates exposure information directly to the compatible flash. The camera automatically adjusts the power output of the external flash so you don't have to. It can be the difference between getting a properly exposed image or not.
Vacuum Testing for Leaks
Now, at this point in time, we could certainly get in the water. But there's one more thing that I want to do to this system, and that is create a vacuum on the inside. Creating a vacuum inside your housing is not a requirement to make this system work, but it does provide peace of mind. It makes sure that you didn't forget an o-ring and that nothing got nicked.
Furthermore, creating a vacuum sucks all of these components together. Your port is suctioned to the front, etc. So if you find yourself in really rough waters, all of these parts are reinforced by that vacuum. And to create the vacuum is quite simple using our Vacuum Pump with Gauge # 47011:
- Turn your attention to the vacuum valve on the side of the housing.
- Push the button to release the cap.
- Insert the vacuum pump barb into the valve.
- Now you can begin vacuuming the housing using the vacuum pump.
- Pump the gauge to 10mmHg and check that the needle does not steadily drop. If you notice the needle moving, there's a chance you may have forgotten an o-ring or missed a critical step to keep your housing waterproofed. Disassemble your housing, check your o-rings and other potential sources for leaks, reassemble, and vacuum your housing again.
- After you have vacuumed your housing, unplug the vacuum tubing and re-insert the valve cap on the housing. Reinsert the vacuum pump when you're ready to check the levels before your dive.
- Ideally, you want to vacuum your system the night before a dive and then check the reading again in the morning to make sure it has not changed. If you don't have all night long, even 10 or 15 minutes should give you enough time to detect leaks, but the longer timeline the better.
- Do not leave the vacuum attached overnight or for prolonged periods of time.
- Always ensure you have reinstalled the valve cap on your housing before diving.
Our Vacuum Pump with Gauge allows you to check for leaks after assembling your housing and prior to entering the water. This can make the difference between a successful dive and a stressful situation.
Now you have one of the most exciting cameras available underwater and really explore that space. If you have any questions whatsoever, email us today.