Product Reviews

Nimar Underwater Housing for Nikon D500 Complete Review

Nimar D500 Underwater

For the last couple of months I’ve been testing out the Nimar 3D Underwater Housing for the fantastic Nikon D500. Nimar have been relatively unknown in North America, but recently they have been gaining more traction and the Nimar brand seems to pop up more and more when searching for affordable housings for DSLRs.

We wanted to test this out for ourselves!

But, ladies first! Let’s start with the camera.

The Nikon D500

Nikon D500There has been an ongoing debate among DSLR shooters underwater – full frame or cropped. Many argue that a cropped sensor is actually better for underwater – smaller camera, more magnification for macro with the same lenses, perfect compatibility with the legendary Tokina 10-17mm. On the other hand, many photographers use FF above water, such as the Canon 5D series and the Nikon D810 / D750, and are used to that level of quality, dynamic range and performance.

Enter the Nikon D500 – a cropped sensor DSLR with the quality, features and performance of a Full Frame camera!

Here are a few more features which make the D500 perfect for underwater photographers:

  • 23.5 x 15.7 mm CMOS sensor with 20.9MP
  • 4K UHD video (30p), suitable for professional video production
  • New EXPEED 5 image-processing engine for superb image quality and unthinkable low light capabilities (expandable to 1,640,00 ISO!!)
  • Large touch-screen, tilting 8-cm/3.2-in., 2359k-dot LCD
  • 10 fps continuous shooting (up to 200 shots in 14-bit lossless compressed RAW) – perfect for capturing fast action in ambient light.
  • Wide array of DX lenses available at great price points
  • Plenty of housings available in the market

There is one setback – the lack of a pop-up flash. This means you cannot trigger strobes with fiber optics, unless you get an optical trigger which is available for some housings. However, many DSLR shooters prefer using sync cords or optical triggers anyway with DSLR’s, to enjoy faster recycle time, so the pop-up flash isn’t commonly used on DSLR’s to begin with. We can live with that.

As you’ll see throughout this post, image quality is superb, and video performance is mind blowing.

Nimar Underwater Housing for Nikon D500

The Nimar Housing

Nimar makes high quality, reliable, affordable polycarbonate housings for almost all DSLR camera models in the market. One of the greatest things about them, is that they also offer support for older models which have been long discontinued by most manufacturers. If you’re not ready to upgrade your camera body just yet, you’ll probably be able to find a Nimar housing for your trusted Nikon D90, Canon 500D / T1i or even models as old as the Nikon D50 and Canon 40D.

Nimar makes high quality, reliable, affordable polycarbonate housings for almost all DSLR camera models in the market.

The housings are set at a very comfortable price point – $1275 USD for the entry level and mid-range DSLR’s, $1386 USD for the pro models. Ports are sold separate, with a very wide range of lenses supported and zoom gear included with the port kit.

Overall you can get a complete housing + port + gear bundle for $1500 – $1800 USD. That’s pretty good!

All housings ship with 2 sturdy grips which mount on the sides of the housing with large bolts. Also included is a 5-pin Nikonos type bulkhead on all housings, and 2 standard Sea & Sea type fiber optic connectors on some of the housings (full list here).

The geNimar D500 insideneral design of the housing is simple and straightforward. One thick O-ring seals off the back from the front part, 4 metal latches lock the parts together, the main o-ring remains visible through the clear polycarbonate back so that you can visually confirm the seal after closing. The ports connect via bayonet, locking into place using a half-twist motion and sealed by a single o-ring on the port.

The Nimar D500 housing is a cool black color as opposed to most Nimar housings which are clear. Nimar reserves the black color to the most high end cameras only at this point, such as the Nikon D500, Canon 5D Mark IV and Sony A7II (available in black or white).

Every housing includes a built-in leak detector, which operates on a single CR2032 button-cell battery and designed to beep and flash a red LED with the slightest detection of water inside the housing.

The built-in viewfinder works great and makes it easy to frame your image when using a mask. Nimar also includes a rubber hood which further assists looking through the viewfinder on bright sunny days.

Another standard accessory included is Nimar’s signature carrying case for their housings, which helps protect your housing while in transit or in storage.

All housings support most important controls and dials. However, there are some buttons that aren’t supported on each housing. Nimar includes a control diagram which specifies exactly which controls will be supported on your housing, such as this one:

Nimar D500 supported controls
Nimar D500 supported controls

The controls that aren’t supported can usually be configured in the quick-access menu on the camera. One thing I was missing is the on/off button, which isn’t supported. This requires turning the camera ON before placing it in the housing. Since DSLR’s use very little power when turned on, this is no big deal. I would even set my gear up the night before the dive and leave the camera on for the night. I admit I did find myself underwater with the camera turned off a couple of times when rushing for a dive, so you have to put that in your pre-dive checks!

I really liked the long shutter lever which is perfectly designed to be within reach when holding on to the grip.

The buttons are easy to press and control dials are conveniently located at the tips of your fingers. The front dial is a large toothed gear, which is positioned right within reach of your middle finger and very easy to rotate. The back dial is a smaller knob, which can be rotated with your thumb.

I really liked the long shutter lever which is perfectly designed to be within reach when holding on to the grip. With some practice you can even locate the half-press on the shutter, or simply configure your Fn2 button for back-focus, which is easily accessible with your left hand.

Switching between the video and photo mode is done with small knob and lever and works well. The rest are simply push buttons which are easy to press and feel nice and solid.

Mounting the camera is done by attaching it to the mounting tray, using the included screwdriver, then simply sliding it into the housing. The tray also features a small allen screw which prevents the camera from spinning around when mounted on the tray.

While the housing doesn’t have a fancy port locking system like its aluminum counterparts, switching ports is still fairly easy and the ports are easy to spin from locked to unlocked position above water, especially if you add a small amount of silicone grease before installing the port. It won’t budge out of locked position underwater of course, due to pressure, so no need to worry about that.

Optional Accessories

Aluminum handle set – This would be my first recommendation. This bridge bar comes as a complete set, replacing your original handles and T1 connectors. It serves as an excellent carrying handle, protects your housing from above, and makes your whole setup more robust. It will also allow you to mount additional accessories, such as a focus light or GoPro using the optional ball mounts for the bridge bar.

Ball mounts – The Nimar standard grips include T-style brackets for adding flex arms. If you would like to add ball & joing type arms, you would need this adapter, which converts the mount to a 1″ ball type.

Flip Holder – Nimar offers both a single and dual flip diopter holder, which allows you to add 67mm macro lenses on top of the standard Nimar macro port.

67mm Adapter – If you don’t need to change lenses often and can do without the flip, this useful adapter allows you to mount any 67mm wet lens on the Nimar macro port.

Underwater Performance

I tested this setup with my two favorite lenses for Nikon – the Nikkor 105mm macro and the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye.

For the Tokina I was using an optical glass dome port with zoom knob. For the 105mm macro I used the standard Nimar flat port.

All the controls worked flawlessly, in shallow and deeper water. I got used to the housing within a few minutes, everything felt very intuitive.

The Nimar housing proved very easy to handle. It felt safe and secure in my hands. Both with the flat port and the dome port, buoyancy was about neutral, and slightly negative once I added arms and dual strobes. I used the D-ring on the grip bolt to attach my trusty coil lanyard, but you can also attach it to the slots on the handle set, if you have one of those.

All the controls worked flawlessly, in shallow and deeper water. I got used to the housing within a few minutes, everything felt very intuitive.

The Tokina did show a tiny bit of black corners at 10mm, which disappeared at 11mm. Zooming in and out is very smooth and the optical quality of the glass dome is impeccable.Nimar Viewfinder

When shooting with a fisheye, I would usually guess-frame my picture, holding the camera out and pointing upward, so the viewfinder is barely needed. For shooting macro, the viewfinder worked as well as can be expected from a standard viewfinder. The fact that it protrudes to the back, makes it easier to squeeze your mask in compared to other housings.

 

Check out some of my results with this setup:

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very happy with the Nimar housing. It’s reliable, affordable, easy to customize and provides excellent value for money. Add to that the amazing customer care and customer service provided by the folks at Nimar, and you get a great choice for an underwater housing.

Nimar are constantly growing, developing new housings and improving on their existing models. With more divers wanting to shoot with their DSLR’s underwater every year, Nimar is an ideal choice – offering a way to safely take your DSLR on your underwater adventures, without breaking the bank!

If you have any more questions about the Nimar housings, or need help with ports, accessories, or just some friendly advice, shoot me an email at ran@housingcamera.com. I’m always happy to help!


Ran Mor
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Ran Mor

Sales and Marketing at Mozaik Underwater Cameras
Ran is a professional photographer for over 14 years. His passion for scuba diving and photography has pushed him to combine his profession and hobby and become a professional underwater photographer. Teaching is one of his greatest passions and over the years he has shared his experience with many divers and aspiring photographers. Along with his wife Danielle, an experienced Scuba Instructor, they have founded Dive and More, leading dive trips and UW photo workshops all over the world. Ran is also an electrical engineer and an avid internet marketing specialist.
Visit his personal portfolio at www.ranmorphoto.com.
Ran Mor
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