I love underwater photography, I really do! And I guess if you’re reading this you have some level of interest too. What I love nearly as much as underwater photography itself is technology and gear advancements that enhance and improve the whole picture taking experience.


This year as picture taking gear nerds (especially the Nikon breed) we have been extremely fortunate with the release of the imaging powerhouse, game changing Nikon D850! It’s a 45.7 megapixel beast capable of up to 7 frames per second (or 9 with added battery pack), 4K UHD 30P, 4:2:2 bit movie and up to 120 frames per second slow mo in Full HD. And it doesn’t end there, lightning fast auto focus and a very impressive dynamic range make this a “game changer” indeed. If you’re already a D810 user you’re going to love this “Step up”, and everyone else will be simply blown away!


True to form Aquatica Digital were quick to react with their wonderfully engineered, robust water proof housing just a couple of months later. The AD850 housing from Aquatica landed on my doorstep at the beginning of the year (2018).


I’ve had lots of opportunity to “field test” the AD850 housing and camera now and along with the usual Aquatica Digitial build quality and robustness I’ve found some very interesting changes, results and hacks with the new camera and housing combo.


The first thing I noticed when taking the housing out of the box was how much lighter it was than my AD810 housing for the Nikon D810. All Aquatica housings are CNC machined out of a single billet block of high grade marine aluminium. Aquatica Digital told me that their new design engineer had managed a 15% weigh saving on the housing from the AD810, without any strength compromise. That’s really noticeable both in your hands on land and underwater and of course in the age of penny pitching airlines it’s a god send.


Installing the camera in the housing has never been easier, with some instantly noticeable design improvements. Firstly, using the cameras tripod mount hole, the camera is screwed down to a tray that is removable from the housing body, nothing new there. However, this tray now incorporates the auto focus AF/M changer, lens release and Fn1 button controls.

These controls are often within the housing on other models and are a real pain when installing a camera with a lens attached as they can get in the way preventing easy installation. I often use the bulky Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 ED and 16-35mm F4 VR lenses and in the past have had to install the camera without the lens attached and then thread the lens through the front of the housing, through the port mount to attach to the camera after installation. This was annoying, especially when you had to remove the port and lens just to ease the camera back enough for a battery change. Problem solved, I can now change batteries in a matter of seconds between dives. That alone makes me a happy diving shutter bug!


I’ll also quickly add here that one advantage I love about Nikon cameras is the fact that the main auto focus AF/M control is incorporated on the camera body and not the lenses. This means housing manufacturers can make flicking between AF and M focus very easy indeed. It’s something I do a lot, especially when shooting over/under or snooted macro images and it’s a function I simply couldn’t live without if I didn’t have access to it, Aquatica have nailed it.


Whilst we’re on the subject of auto focus I’ll bring your attention to the position of the rear AF-ON lever. I love the way it wraps around the housing and straight to your natural thumb position near the handle.

Now I’m not a particularly large man and my hands are far from huge, so I find this a massive advantage both for comfort and achieving sharp shots, I can be simultaneously focusing and firing with great ease using my thumb and index finger.


As with all Nikon DSLR cameras the aperture and shutter adjustments are one touch dial turns, no menus or multi touch needed and the housing dials fall comfortably at my thumb for shutter change and forefinger for aperture, meaning I can spin the housing dials through exposure changes in a second without removing my eye from the viewfinder. As a lifelong Nikon user this is an advantage I have taken for granted.


Now, I’ve found a great hack for the Fn1 button that competition shooters and purists are going to just love!! The Fn1 button is located on the front of the D850 camera as it is on many other Nikon camera bodies. And as usual the well thought out placement of the Fn1 button lever on the Aquatica housing make it easy to access underwater. The Fn1 button can be programmed to be a shortcut to pretty much any camera function you wish. I’ve programmed mine to flick between full frame FX and cropped sensor DX modes. This is a great advantage, particularly when shooting close focus wide angle and macro shots. It means I can crop images, in camera, BEFORE shooting them, if I need to. As many competition shooters know, the rules about cropping can be very restrictive so to be able to do it instantly before the fact is so good. I’ve actually been putting this into practice and reaped the rewards from it already. Plus, thanks to the D850’s monstrous resolution the cropped sensor image is still a very respectable 19.4 megapixel.


The AD850 housing comes as standard with an audible and visual leak alarm, choice of nikonos, Ikelite or optical strobe bulkheads, matt black powder coating, stainless steel function interfaces, comfortable, robust and removable moulded plastic handles.


Optional extras are a vacuum pump seal, 45 degree or straight “Aquaview” viewfinder magnifiers, remote release, various strobe arms, clamps, tripod, lens ports, zoom gears and practically anything else you would need to create your masterpiece!


This new housing for the D850 is in my opinion one of Aquatica Digitals best yet and is a great addition to their already outstanding range of underwater imaging equipment. I love it!

A Sydney Blue ring Octopus. Nikon D850 Camera with Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Macro Port. Nikkor 60mm F2.8 Micro Lens. 1/25sec @ F25 ISO 160. Mixed constant and strobe light exposure at night.

A Denise’s Pygmy Seahorse, Lagoon Point The Solomon Islands. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Micro Lens.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Macro Port & +10 ACU Diopter. 1/15th Sec @ F22, ISO160

A Nembrotha Purpureolineata nudibranch at Cape Solander, Sydney. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 8-15mm F3.5-4.5 E ED fisheye.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Dome Port. DX Crop mode 1/100th Sec @ F14, ISO400

Coral Reef, Kicha, The Solomon Islands. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 8-15mm F3.5-4.5 E ED Fisheye Lens.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Glass Mega Dome. 1/200th Sec @ F10, ISO200

Juvenile Southern Calamari squidlets. Wollongong Harbour, Australia. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 60mm F2.8 Micro Lens.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Macro Port. 1/25th Sec @ F22, ISO160

Spine Cheek Anemonefish. Karumolum Point, The Solomon Islands. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Micro Lens.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Macro Port. 1/160th Sec @ F18, ISO320

A Hypselodoris bullocki nudibranch, Mavis Wreck, The Soloms Islands. Nikon D850 Camera & Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Micro Lens.  Aquatica Digital AD850 Housing + Mini Macro Port & +10 ACU Diopter. 1/100th Sec @ F22, ISO100