Flashback from 1998: Navy SEALs training with mysterious Nikon underwater digital camera

"NAVAL AIR BASE CORONADO, California (June 8, 1998) -- Navy SEALs attached to SEAL Team One, Naval Air Base Coronado, CA, conducts training using the Nikon/Kodak DCS 425 underwater digital camera which can sends real time digital images to decision makers, and an LPI LPD tracking device uses brevity codes to send both mission status and precise longitude/latitude. U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 2nd Class Ted Banks." (source)

This is an interesting story because when I tried to research this underwater digital camera (Nikon DCS 425) I could hardly find any info online. It seems that this model was produced for the US military/intelligence organizations and initially even its existence was denied:

"The Nikonos RS was the World's first underwater SLR camera, capable of going down to a depth of 100 meters without special underwater housing. Searching Google at the time (May 2005) produced absolutely no hits for the digital Nikonos (DCS 425 and DCS 435). Absolutely nothing. I then sent an e-mail to Kodak, asking for more information. Their reply:

"I'm sorry but those cameras never existed here at Eastman Kodak. We never made cameras for that specific use. The information you have is incorrect."

Strange, because I was certain the camera existed. Asking another Kodak source, I was told: "I think the issue is who they were made for".

In other words: The camera was made for some US military/intelligence organization. Kodak Professional support, which sent the above reply, probably didn't even know that such a beast existed. (It later turned out that the camera probably never was a big secret after all. Read on for more info..)"

Read the whole story @ Nikonweb.

More info on the film version Nikonos RS available here (very expensive on eBay).

More pictures of the Nikon DCS 425 underwater digital camera after the break:

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  • m.

    thank god it had a flash mount ;D

    • DK

      I always liked orange as a camoflage colour ;D You shoot, they shoot.

      • Global Guy

        Bizarre, right?? And the Nikon brand? I highly believe this could only have been paid advertising not actually suitable for use. Even the water sealing looks pathetic. The battery and circuitry is not even remotely protected. Just opening the shell itself if the camera was wet would probably get water onto the board.

  • Anonymous


    • Jose


      Respect your opinion but I think still be golden era for Nikon. If you see the reviews from DP review all last four years Nikon DSRL were rated such as Highly recomended No is the same for Canon, EOS 1D mark IV and the 550D T2i have a very poor punctuation for me it means something:

      Again I repeated a statement from one of the manager in GE pretective relay division, regarding improve technologies of the competitors:

      If you have a succes product you can invest more time in research to introduce a new equipment that could beat the competitors

      • qw

        EOS 1D mark IV and the 550D T2i have a very poor punctuation for me it means something< *clarify? punctuation? besides dpreview quite categorically said the 550d was the best in the segment (not trying to defend canon here so please dont flame me

        If you have a succes product you can invest more time in research to introduce a new equipment that could beat the competitors < canon still has a larger market share, not by much, in absolute terms a few percent but relatively, about 10-20% lead on nikon.

        in sum: wah? dude, golden age or not, whats your point?

        • Jose


          my point is, I am absolutly surge that Nikon invest much money in research, I think sooner than late, we will have new DSRL camera may be with less MP than anonymous would like to have but with best High Iso Behavior and much other quality adds.

          Regarding 550d (belong to D90 segment), this camero is not higly recomended by DP review but D90 it is . If it no means something, please what means?

          • qw

            Wonder if admin is deleting

            ok found the page for you fanboi Mr Jose. read this


            “The short answer is that they don’t: the new scores represent a ‘reset’ of both scoring and how we give out our awards. The new SILVER and GOLD awards replace the outgoing Recommended and Highly Recommended awards, but they’re not directly comparable.”

            the 550d was rated as the best dslr in the price bracket right now (please dont flame me i frankly dont care which brand is better im just reportingwhat dpreview said)

            read mr Jose. read.

          • qw

            in other words, in case you dont understand, what it means is that dpreview changed the rating system BEFORE they rated the 550d as ‘Gold award’. so its not in the old list u are seeing,. read my reply below

          • yes, I do delete all comments with offensive language

      • Anonymous

        I m just agreeing with you exept that they keep there so good 12 mpx for ever and we need a new hit!!!!!

        • Anonymous

          Don’t forget that the 550D is brand new and that the D90 is a year and a half older which is a lot in the actual market.

        • I think people don’t realize they’re not even in the same class of camera…

          D90 vs T2i:

          Pentaprism vs dim, tunnel-vision pentamirror viewfinder
          Two command dials vs one
          Top LCD vs none
          Twice the battery life
          4.5 fps/100 jpegs vs 3.76 fps/34 jpegs
          AF assist light vs annoying AF assist flashes
          Better Nikon matrix metering/D-lighting/iTTL, CLS commander
          Better/faster AF (despite the specs appearing to be identical)
          Sharper kit lens (and better consumer lens options)
          Better build quality, and bigger size (that certainly can be either an advantage or disadvantage)

          The D90 gives up:

          18 Mp vs 12
          1080p video vs 720p
          Faster phase-detect AF during live view in the T2i
          Mic jack in T2i

          So the D90 is about two years old and costs ~$35 less on Amazon. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is the better camera. I know which one I would rather use, and which one I would trust for serious work for hire.

  • sometimes_always

    Notice also he’s using binoculars by Canon.

    • Global Guy

      This must have been on the cover of a photography magazine, right?? Also I highly doubt that guy was a Seal. Its very unlikely to be in this kind of a set up unless it was part of some kind of weird military outreach program to try to find espionage photographers or something. Its just very weird all around.

      • The caption pretty much says it all…

        The weirdest thing is how clean the Nikonos lens and the Canon IS binos objectives are. Everything is covered in sand – they were probably putting extra effort forth to keep them clean for training (to avoid unnecessary wear). Keeping them clean for the photos was probably a consideration as well.

    • Anonymous

      Its a sabotage from spies they tryin to slow down the operation, the guy behind is haskin for some Nikon ones from air !!!!!!!

  • The invisible man

    I can’t swing.

    • The invisible man

      I meant I can’t swin (can’t spell it neither).

      • Spelling Helper

        Let me help. “swim”

        • Anonymous

          Tink you !

  • Anonymous

    Have you tried asking the official photographer. According to photo archives he was still in the Navy by 2008 as a Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class.

  • disco

    betcha chuck norris has one

    • Johnny

      Oh please.
      Why would he need one?

      • Johnny


        • disco

          he needs one to take self portraits while kicking enemy butt… underwater.

    • DK

      No, Chuck Norris kills everything he wants to capture.

  • Ray

    Several people in the diving facility I used to be a diving instructor owned (probably still do) one.

    It is an awesome underwater camera, very expensive at the time and too exotic to sustain a big market. I am convinced a digital version of the Nikonos RS will be a major hit.

    I know I would buy one including lenses.

    • dave

      I assume you mean they owned a Nikonos RS. Yes, it was nice and I too knew someone who had one. The cost to won one was pretty steep. Not just the body, but the lenses as well. You know what the new 24mm 1.4 costs, right? Now imagine the cost if it were waterproof to 100m!!! You’d spend a quite a bit less on a prosumer AF film body (N90) and a Ikelite underwater housing (which is what one of my Nikonos buddies did instead of getting an RS). And it’s why I’ve stayed with my Nikonos V and strobes and lenses as long as I have. By around 2000 we were hearing rumors of a digital version of the RS, but we figured that since Nikon couldn’t make a go of a film version of the RS (after a recall, Nikon discontinued the line… I think it ended up being a net loss for them.) As expensive as the RS was, a digital version would be over the top. I can’t imagine they’d be able to sell very many of them.

      One of the Nikon VPs did hint at a digital version of the Nikonos V, though. If that happens… woohoo!

      • Ray

        Yes, I meant that. I know. I went for the F90X with an Ikelite housing. Today I would have put down the cash for the RS if I knew about the hassle of housings beforehand 🙂

        I know what the 24/1.4 costs. I have one 😉

  • Anonymous

    NR Admin, are you serious that you have no rumor at all?

    This means Nikon is preparing for its first anniversary of not releasing a DSLR. It is at the 7 month mar right now (which is the longest so far). 5 more months to go and Nikon manages to release only crap p&s cameras.

    Congratulations Nikon, you can only live now based on you past name!

    • disco

      blah blah blah

      7 months pass by and suddenly you cant take pictures anymore.


      • Anonymous

        disco, there are people who do not want to shell out money for an outdated 12MP crap

        • dave

          outdated 12mp crap (D90) that still produces better images than the Canons (550D, T2i) in it’s price range.

          • BONETTI

            “disco, there are people who do not want to shell out money for an outdated 12MP crap”

            D3s is 12mp and is BETTER that the ID IV at 16mp
            D90 is 12mp and is BETTER overall that the T2i
            Crap is what you have in your HEAD

        • Jose


          Please review this web pages
          go and buy canon camera , Probably you like to buy rebel t2i (have more than 12 MP) but according web page above, it is not rated
          Thanks good to open my eyes to buy nikon products

          • Anonymous

            Still, all of them are 12MP crap! 🙂

          • ato3

            boo hoo… any camera you have today will take better pictures than one that hasn’t been released.

          • qw

            Dude, seriously nikon fanboys…

            Its not on the highly recomended page because IIRC dpreview CHANGED THE RATING SYSTEM IN MARCH

            it’s now “Gold award” “silver award”…instead of highly recomended

            plus, dpreview categorically said

            “All in all, the EOS 550D is the most compelling DSLR of its class that we’ve ever tested. It is hard to imagine how much more we might realistically expect from a product of this type”


            “n practice, the camera does not disappoint, and in all respects it gives excellent performance, at least matching but in most cases bettering the best of the competition. ”

            go see the camera comparism in DXO with normalised results….gosh…stupid fanbois. wtf is with all this brand rage. learn to read dork. and besides, so what?

          • qw

            ok found the page for you fanboi Mr Jose. read this


            “The short answer is that they don’t: the new scores represent a ‘reset’ of both scoring and how we give out our awards. The new SILVER and GOLD awards replace the outgoing Recommended and Highly Recommended awards, but they’re not directly comparable.”

            thats the change in the rating system seriously. and gosh i just wasted 2 minutes of my time replying to a troll. hm. that makes me one huh

          • Anonymous

            Canon is so crappy they re like condom, plastic for feeling good but feeling bad !!!

        • Anonymous

          …and a lot mo that dont wana pay more crappy 18 mpx !!!!lol!!

  • ekoo

    Wonder how much it’ll worth in 10/20/30 years??

  • Edward Nafzger

    Oliver north has one i think former ltcoronel USMC

  • ello

    It looks like the guy in the back ground is bored playing on his secret service issue 1998 iPhone!

  • Anonymous

    it is crazy to think there are probably people like that in my backyard right now but I can’t see them…freaky

    • watch-out!


      My god, what are you doing to your Nikons that compelled the US military to “resolve” the situation (i.e., you)?

      • Anonymous

        It is probably best if you don’t get involved… for starters I disguised it as a Canon.

  • Anonymous

    it is toysrus stuff.

  • ja

    it is toysrus stuff.

  • july

    I just call nikon and they said it is a d700 replacement.

    • Anonymous

      yeah I heard the same..apparently that is the only way they can make a low noise sensor higher than 12mp….

  • amunk

    there are certain phrases that somehow people on camera forums manage to work into EVERY conversation. Everytime I hear it, I cringe – its just so annoying

    “D700 replacement”
    “Walkaround lens”

    dearr god just stop

    • Anonymous

      HAHA Those two are almost oxymorons

      The camera must be the best of the best and always current..but then you stick a walk around lens on it because you aren’t really doing anything that important.

      What about a walk around camera? now that is where it should be at.

  • Patros

    … what is “mysterious” about this underwater SLR?

    • JJ

      You did not read the post, did you?

  • Click

    Unbelievable, Apple insider just reported that there was a strong likelihood that the next generation IPhone, which is expected to be released in about 2 months will likely have 720p HD video, which will be equal to Nikon’s flagship HDDSLR (D3s).. That’s pretty bad when cell phone technology equals or outpaces Nikon’s premium offerings.

    • Anonimouse

      What would be REALLY bad is if the new iPhone’s still camera matched the output of Nikon’s dSRLS (which obviously isn’t going to happen for a LONG time, if ever).

      720 on the tiny sensor of an Iphone wouldn’t match the output of a D3s anyways…

      • Zoetmb

        And not just a tiny sensor, but a very tiny lens (practically a pinhole) and therefore, no depth of field control. Resolution isn’t everything…what about color depth…dynamics…chromatic aberration…noise?

        I’m using some $3 application to record video on my 2nd generation iPhone. The quality isn’t great and it’s only 15fps, but it’s remarkable to me that it can do it at all and it comes in handy when I just want to capture a quick video of something. Getting 720p onto the next gen iPhone (with presumably a slightly larger lens) will be a remarkable achievement, but it’s not going to be the same quality as using a DX-sized sensor and large image-circle quality lenses. Let’s get real.

        People who think it’s ALL about the number of pixels probably think the amplifier that went to “11” in Spinal Tap actually did play louder.

        If all the people who complain about Nikon not releasing a new model yet actually bought new models when released, Nikon would be selling 10x the number of bodies that they actually sell. I bet all the people complaining that the D700 is only 720p are also the people who screamed that a DSLR shouldn’t have any video capability.

        As others have said, “stop complaining and go out and take some pictures.”

        • guasch

          LOL, Nigel Tufnel’s eleven. so true, so true.

          also, i agree. stop complaining and go out and take some pictures.

          • Anonymous

            If we followed the logic that new technology cannot surpass old technology in “lesser items” then we would still be riding horses…

            stuff always get cheaper and easier to make

  • Iceman

    Did you notice this camera was modified by Eastman Kodak?

    • disco

      did you notice it was mentioned in the original post?

      • Iceman

        Reading is boring. I’d rather look at pictures.

        • disco

          hard to tell if that’s KR in the photo though.

  • ArtTwisted

    maybe im just nit picking here but notice how nikon went through all the trouble of making the camera that famous army green so its not so visible (im guessing black would have done….) and then they made the logo as big and bright red as possible, one of the least occuring colours in nature. “uh sir, theres a nikon logo in my scope, what do i do…” “aim up three inches and fire” and bye bye goes the canon.

    whats the moral, he should have got nikon binoculars. Teach you right.

    • dave

      Nikon made the Nikonos V in both army green and orange. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made a green version of the RS (although I’ve only seen it in orange), or Kodak may have just repainted it or created their own. The DCS 425 is a digital back for a Nikonos RS. Kodak took an off the shelf camera, one already designed for underwater use, and designed a digital back for it, very similar to what they did for many of their other DCS products in the 90s, this digital back just happened to be for an underwater camera. And they only sold it to the military and government agencies, which were probably the only organizations who could afford it. While the Nikonos RS was a critical success, it was not a commercial success. While impressive at the time, the DCS425 offered no better resolution, quality or even capacity than a roll of film. In fact, for the consumer, there really would be no advantage to owning such a digital back other than to be able to see the image almost immediately after exiting the water. Had Kodak developed their UW digital back for the Nikonos V, they’d have had a much better chance of hitting commercial gold.

  • Jose

    Dear QW, I am not nikonfan I just have very good piuctures took with theirs cameras, Before Nikon I had Very old Leyca Camera, Olympus and Pentax, I never though that one good brand means more difference than others but after bought D40, D80 and my last d300, nikon means a difference than other , with the exception of MP. Obviously I wouls like a New Fx camera, such D700 with more MP but it not means that my current nikons are not good and that I can not take good pictures with these, more MP wont make me a best photographer
    A Ferrari 12 cilinder car make you a better driver and only you will use all features of it if you have the posibility to do it, But in US you have speed limit and you can not use ferrari power, mey be you can use in Germany. The same happend with MP if you print maximum 8X10 12 MP is more tha enough including with a large cropp if you need more cropp. probably you have 18-200 or 70 -300 that can allow you to get more crop with out problem. More MP is not Saint Grial for me, may be better quality at high ISO will be.

    Sorry for not share your opinion about more MP such canon, this is a free world and you can move to Canon with out problem. I hope you wont be strange golden years when you have a Nikon.

  • LukeLx

    The lens should be the 50mm f/2.8 R-UW AF Micro Nikkor, serial number 301441 if I read well. It’s funny to see tape around the little window on the lens, the body and the shutter release button, but i think it’s ’cause despite the solid construction, the camera would look a bit too much “toy” in its natural colours 🙂 http://www.nikonweb.com/dcs425/

  • Chuck Norris takes better phots with your mother’s Kodak Instamatic than you do with a D3s!

    • disco

      Chuck Norris can make a 1080p porn video with your mother using a D3s!

  • !!! dislike vote

    !!! dislike vote

  • Hardcort

    Surely was based on the Nikon QV-1000C.
    more info here :


  • Jim

    Where’s my 100-500mm?!

  • Jim

    Where’s my 100-500mm ??!!!!!!

  • That Guy

    Where’s my non-G AF-S 13-600mm f/2.8 VR ED N FX that can fit in my pocket with a retail of $100 ?????

    • ArtTwisted

      I rather just have a 50mm f.95 for nikon 🙂 but the 1.2 will have to do.

  • Jim

    Good one “That Guy”. I want to party with you!

    • Anonymous

      the conversation always goes this way… at least we haven’t started hearing comments about the camera pouring a cup of coffee for you, or cleaning your house etc….

  • Anonymous

    NR admin, please throw us a new bone! At this time we need something from the 80s because this one with the Canon binocular is not so good.

  • Ronan

    I love that photo… Canon binocular’s… Nikon underwater housing… with Kodak guts… LOL

    • LukeLx

      And also another unidentified binocular (or what else) on the background 😀

  • Zen-Tao

    where there’s smoke there are two Indians smoking a peace pipe.

  • Jim

    I just saw one of these at a camera swap meet this last weekend. Unfortunately the body flooded and they removed the internals but I could have purchased a fully functional shell. It was an awesomely huge camera!

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