Nikon working on a “serious” underwater compact camera (digital Nikonos?)

Nikon underwater compact camera
Another interesting rumor: Nikon is planning to release a new waterproof/diving camera that could be part of the Nikon 1 product line. I am not sure how this will work exactly - maybe there will be a new line of waterproof lenses or maybe the new camera will have a fixed lens. The information I received is not about a new underwater housing (which already exists for Nikon 1: WP-N1 and WP-N2) or a new Coolpix version similar to the AW110 model, but for a dedicated, solid-built, Nikonos-like underwater camera that will be able to go 60-100ft (20-30m) deep.

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  • Joop

    Well, that should be a good thing.
    After using the Nikkormat and the Fe2 I switched to the Nikonos 5 as a heavy duty camera.
    Now a day I use a Nikon V1 as a travel camera. After a while Nikon Europe asked me to give a comment on that camera. And yes, I find it a perfect camera for travelling. But harsh conditions do bother me often.

    So I wrote to them; Make a water resistant/ heavy duty version from the V1. I’ll be the first one in the Netherlands that will buy one.

    • Today there are no serious underwater cameras, maybe Nikon thinks there is potential in this market and they could be right considering the price of underwater housings.

    • I would buy one.

      Until now, I’ve always had one of the Olympus Tough series, but wanted something more serious without the housing hassle.

      There is something refreshing about cleaning the camera under the faucet.

      • Neopulse

        Same here, still have my Tough 8010 would definitely like to see a water resistant/proof version of the V-series.

  • Gly

    Dear Nikon, That’s great you’re working on other endeavors. However my work doesn’t include the ‘underwater photography’ genre. I do know there are many products out there that will allow me to shoot underwater should the need arise. With that said, many have suggested that perhaps you could reallocate some resources towards increasing your quality control and update some of those aging lens models with better optics than your third party counterpart.

    • AM

      Meanwhile, at Nikon Customer Service…
      (crickets chirping)

  • Spy Black

    “Serious” and “Nikon1” don’t mix.

    • Ken Elliott

      Blaming your tools does not a craftsman make.

      Tell you what. You take your pick of any mirrorless camera at any price, and I’ll take a V1 or V2. Lets go shoot motocross or football and let’s see who gets the “serious” pictures.

      I think you’ll find that you’ve seriously underestimated what is possible with a Nikon 1. Or not – I could be wrong.

      • wanna new dslr

        Which is exactly how Nikon should be marketing. Get rid of kutcher or whatever his name is, put in some ads about the sports capabilities of the Nikon 1; which by the way, has a lower shutter delay than Nikon entry level DSLRs.

        I used my V1 recently with a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 and FT1 adapter to get some awesome baseball photos – do stuff like that.

      • Spy Black

        Sorry, but any camera that doesn’t allow me control of how I want to expose an image and doesn’t have a standard hot shoe is not my idea of a serious camera. Enjoy your toy.

        • Ken Elliott

          I’ll grant you the hot shoe issue (I do have a cold shoe), but the V series does have an eye-level viewfinder, and pretty good control over exposure. Sorry, but you are not well informed about this camera. But I do appreciate that it is not for everyone.

          • Spy Black

            Yes, I know the system quite well, and you have to pay extra for the eyepiece. I want a complete camera with full controls, an eyepiece, and a hot shot, among other things. The V2 was the cavalry coming over the hill too late, and ill equipped to boot. As long as you like yours, however, that’s all that’s important for you.

    • Joop

      The admin didn’t wrote about a Nikon 1 Nikonos. Does the admin has any information about the size of the sensor?

      By the way, The One system can be used serious if you know about it’s limitations. Don’t take pictures for billboards on glossy paper with it …
      But if you have to hike in the mountains for 30 kilometers with a full DSLR D3 set …. I’ll bet you’ll praise Nikon for inventing the One system within 5 years; the 1 inch sensor will outperfom the D3 by then. (Except for Dof off course)

      • I do not know. My guess would be APS-C or the 1″ sensor form the Nikon 1.

      • MyrddinWilt

        DoF is a function of the glass, not the sensor. Put an 85 f/1.4 on the V1 and you get amazing DoF. Amazing glass gets you amazing DoF.

        I rather doubt DoF is an issue of underwater photography. It is going to be light gathering. Which again means big front glass.

        The Nikon1 format looks pretty well suited to this application. There is plenty of space to gasket the lens mount. Getting rid of the mirror means less to go wrong.

        They could even seal the camera body by putting a glass element in the light path over the sensor and sealing the body part permanently. If water gets in behind the lens, no problem.

        You probably want the electronic viewfinder inside your facemask rather than on the camera.

        • Spy Black

          “DoF is a function of the glass, not the sensor.”

          Not true at all. A smaller sensor will act just like an aperture. That’s why cameras with small sensors all have great depth of field. You’re confusing focal length with aperture. Yes, a longer lens will give you shallower DoF, but it doesn’t need to have a large aperture to do so. Putting an 85mm on a V1 is like putting 230mm on an FX camera. Even a 200mm f4 Nikkor on an FX body will give you a nice shallow DoF, and you don’t even need to be wide open either.

          • roby

            You are wrong. A smaller sensor just crops the image, but the sensor size itself has nothing to do with DoF.

            Smaller sensor camera have great depth of field because they must use shorter focal lenghts than bigger sensor cameras. That’s all.

            If you shoot 6×6 medium format with and 80mm lens and you crop till the size of a 1” sensor, you’ll obtain the same exact DoF of a Nikon 1 with 80mm lens.

            The great difference is that an 80mm lens on a 6×6 sensor frames as a “normal” lens, and 80mm on a nikon 1 frames as a telephoto lens.

            • Spy Black

              I don’t think you realized you just proved my point. 😉

            • BB

              Then you should not say “Not true at all. A smaller sensor will act just like an aperture.” because , this is not true at all, as explained by robby smaller sensor just crops the image.

              “Putting an 85mm on a V1 is like putting 230mm on an FX camera”
              No. simply because you will just FRAME like a 230mm but your DOF on the V1 will be exactly the same as the DOF on the FX using the 85 mm.

              Say the DOF is 2 meters wide on the FX using the 85 mm, well then it will also be 2m wide on the V1 using the 85 mm (framing as if you had a 230mm on FX.)
              How ever if you put a 230mm on the FX, your DOF will most certainly be bigger than on the V1 using the 85mm.

            • BB

              Or simply put :

              same glass on different sensors will give same DOF, so it is not a function of the sensor.

            • Spy Black

              A small sensor receiving light from a lens designed for a larger lens will have an aperture effect, because it will only be receiving a portion of the light. Only if the lens is designed for the given sensor size will it receive the given F.

              “…you will just FRAME like a 230mm but your DOF on the V1 will be exactly the same as the DOF on the FX…”

              Technically you can say that DoF is always the same regardless of lens, but the FoV will change how you see it, so you will see the same relative DoF on an 85/V1 as you would with a 230/FX.

      • Spy Black

        I’ve hiked many mountains with an FTN, F2, 20 f/4, 50 f/1.4, 55 f/3.5 micro, 135 f/2, 300 f/4.5, flash, extra film and batteries, and a tripod. Any questions?

        • Y

          I may be wrong but I have never seen a good photographer that makes fun of tools. Care to share your greatness with us

          • Spy Black


        • Neopulse


          • Spy Black
            • Neopulse

              Ah, thanks for clearing that up. And damn, quite a burn on the “Don’t waste good money on a Nikon 1 system.”

            • Spy Black

              Well, it’s your hard-earned money, and you’re free to do what you like with it, but when you price a V2 (the only remotely useful 1-system camera) with a lens, you realize there’s far better options out there from Nikon and other manufacturers.

  • PRC

    There are _many_ ‘serious’ underwater photographers out there in the real world, many shooting Nikon. With a wide range of hardware from D4’s to compacts. Honestly I dont see a a dedicated unit making much impact on a market dominated by housing ‘serious’ above water DSLR’s

    • PeteM

      Particularly if restricted to only 30m. The Nik V was rated to 50m nearly 30 years ago, with trimix being so much less hassle these days with rebreathers they need to be upping the depth rating. A dedicated U/W camera is only going to appeal to serious divers, most “holiday only” divers will stick a basic camera in a housing. Limiting it to 30m will automatically reduce an already small target audience even further to a vanishingly small volume

  • DaveyJ

    The Go Pro has sold MANY units doing UW. We have five used that way now. I have housings that cost $3,000 and used Nikon DSLRs in them. Our results using the modest cost GoPros has been a real eye opener. I had 20 UW cameras. Some we even still have as they now longer have much of a market to sell them. Getting the ports for specific lens is such a problem that this is a very difficult business. We are looking at a D7100 submersible now and my vote has been just use a couple of more GoPros. IF NIKON could come up with a devoted camera that was really watertight, and with a lens that was proper for UW it might sell well. But the pricing should be in the $600 range or less if you want to sell enough units. Price it at $1,200 and sales will be less.

    • Bernd

      Good point! A Nikonos successor with a depth rating of only 20-30m doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it would be more than enough for an action camera. I never understood why companies like Nikon or Olympus didn’t enter this exploding market yet. Nikonos was great (and I still keep mine), but what we need now is a serious GoPro competitor.

  • David K

    If you think of the whole photography equipment marketplace. The most common products are point and shoots and camera phones. These have the least opportunity for healthy profit margins. The most specialized cameras, like state of the art DSLR’s, very high performance compact cameras, large format and underwater cameras, have the most potential for healthy profit margins. With this in mind, one could say that from a business standpoint, Nikon is moving in the right direction with this announcement.

    • delayedflight

      You obviously have never worked in camera retailing before…

      • BroncoBro

        There’s not much margin in cameras at the retail level, that’s for sure. But, there is much more at the manufacturer level.

        • delayedflight

          Margins are better at the manufacturer/distributor level but the overall margin on expensive gear is slimmer than easy/cheap to make entry level gear.

          For every enthusiast camera you sell you’ll sell at least 3-4 entry level cameras which combined have a much higher margin. This is Nikon and Canon’s cash cow their pro and flagship products are symbols to show how good the brand is.

    • BroncoBro

      I wonder, though, if the huge volume of sales in point-n-shoots ends up swamping the DSLR numbers in such a way that the total profit to the company is greater for the compacts than the enthusiast/pro cameras. Just a thought. Maybe NR could break it down for us?

  • Gene Forsythe

    What bothers me about this and Nikon’s earlier release about focusing on entry level cameras is that it pretty much assures that the DX line will top out at the D7100 (meaning no semi-pro level D400 for wildlife, birding, and sports photography) and that there will never be a D700 upgrade between the totally sports-useless D600 and the far too expensive D4.
    Ah well, the D700 will just have to keep on soldiering along for another 3 years or so, I suppose.

  • Merv S

    I don’t think smartphones will go the route of being usable underwater, so I’d say there is potential here. It would have to be noticeably cheaper than those underwater dSLR housings.

    • Spy Black

      Yeah really. Reception is really bad down there…

  • groucher

    Excellent news. A digital Nikonos will be perfect for mountaineers, hill walkers, cavers, canoeists, wildlife photographers, divers, anyone who uses a camera in harsh conditions. Nikon and other manufacturers have seriously underestimated this market – a digital Nikonos will be a massive seller. Having to treat a DSLR or mirrorless so carefully is a serious limitation to anyone interested in outdoor activities.

  • Aldo

    That’s something a smart phone can’t do… nikon +1.

  • Very exciting news, indeed!

    All I ask, really, is a waterproof compact that allows RAW files, but an interchangeable lens would be great. If it is compatible with the rest of the 1 series, this would be a huge coup.

  • KitHB

    Underwater you need shorter focal length than you do topside for the same field of view. The Nikonos V 35mm was the standard lens and was too long for those ‘isn’t the sea big…’ shots, the 80mm was the macro lens – which was also excellent for beach portraits and yacht-to-yacht pics topside, provided you know how to use zone focusing and can judge distance in the absence of an optical rangefinder.

    Any 1-series underwater camera is going to need seriously short-focus lenses, probably into the single digit mm, or they might go for a fisheye lens and then correct the distortion digitally.

    That said, I’ve used a lot of cameras in different formats and my Nikonos V remains a firm favorite, provided you wash it well and pay a lot of attention to your ‘O’ ring.

  • Sam

    I would like a camera like that but with the option to take RAW !

  • spicynujac

    This is exciting!
    I had been looking at the Panasonic Lumix $300+ offering but it has some mediocre image quality from what I read. I currently don’t own a digital camera smaller than a DSLR but would spend money for a good quality point and shoot / Nikon 1 size camera that went underwater and also takes good land photos. 30 meters is more than enough for me. I find that most of the interesting stuff to photograph is within the first 10 meters where there is good light and life. If you want to photograph things deeper such as shipwrecks, the light is so poor you will probably want a DSLR or larger sensor and be willing to spend thousands to pursue this hobby. I for one just want something waterproof that I can take on the river / lake / beach and once every year or two take on a scuba dive.

  • Mauro Moroni

    20-30 mt???
    And what the hell does Nikon think such a camera would be useful for?

  • Mauro Moroni

    To be more collaborative: UW photographers, in particular those operating in non tropical seas, need a good camera to go 50-60 mt underwater, and not just 20-30 meters.

  • ActionJunky

    Nikon 1 series with a dedicated housing that does not cost an arm and a leg. I would rather spend the money on external lights. Better photos equals more customers, but if the barrier to entry is $2,000 for a body, housing, and lens, only the dedicated will dive in.

  • Gretchie

    I will certainly take a look at this. I have gone through 2 (so called) Olympus Toughs. I take most of my images in shallow clear water using natural light — and a couple grains of sand sent both out of operation. Presently using Nikon P7000 (have 2 of them) in a FantaSea housing. Getting some good results.

  • Spy Black

    Nikon will need to make something impressive and practically price if they’re going to get into the underwater game again.

    The company Sealife has been making underwater cameras from modified Casio P&S’s (!) for years now, and their present DC1400 14 megapixel model is rated to 200 feet (60m). As in, 200ft. It’s image quality is surprisingly good, especially when you consider it’s coming from a P&S. It’s layout makes it very easy to work with underwater, it takes 720P video, and it costs $500 by itself or $650 with a video light & bracket and $800 for a flash & bracket. A video and flash setup with set you back $1100. That’s an entire underwater shooting kit rated down to 200 ft for $1100.

    They have a simpler 9 megapixel Mini II model rated down to 130 ft (40m) that shoots standard def video for only $170 by itself or $250 with a wideangle attachment.

    In all honesty, except for underwater professionals, these cameras are all recreational divers are ever going to need:

  • lxn

    I’m always wondering why there is no proper underwater camera that shoots RAW. just this useless jpg stuff

  • Mysterioso

    They are releasing Nikon S31 which has few problems inside the camera.

  • This is getting more and more interesting. Happily I waited to commit myself with nikon 1. We will see whether this is the move we were expecting or the already deployed whiners will be right.

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