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Getting Started with the Nikon Z8 for Underwater Photography

Nikon Z8 Quick Start Guide

Photo Shooting Menu

Select Primary slot selection and function CF Express B. If you only use one card, it will default, but good to set it up

Select Secondary Slot function. UHSII SD. A good UHSII card is fine for any type of still photography. If shooting video at all, assign that to the CF Express it can handle the high bit rate. A special note on CF Express cards many well-known brands of cards will overheat and shut down when shooting very demanding video on the Z8. Hopefully manufacturers will correct this, but Delkin cards will work well. SanDisk and Lexar cards will NOT.

Select Image area: FX unless shooting a crop sensor lens

Select Image Quality RAW

RAW recording ON - set to Lossless Compression

White Balance Auto works great for macro and often for wide angle with strobes. For ambient only, try manual.

Set Picture Control for Standard Set Color Space for Adobe RGB

AF Area Mode this allows you to set what will show up when you access the focus mode button scroll through options. All the wide area AF options are useful. Auto Area AF underwater is problematic and should probably be avoided. Single point is fine, but pin point can often be too small. There will be times when 3D Animal tracking may work very well particularly when shooting animals in fairly clear, blue water. But in an active, busy reef, or poor visibility, not as much. It is worth experimenting with this.

AF Subject Detection Options You can leave it in Auto or Animal, but realize that since you will control your focus area size, what you aim at will take priority.

Movie Shooting Menu

The following settings are for the casual video shooter who wants to occasionally switch from stills to video and back with minimum fuss. These are not intended to extract the full video capabilities of this powerful camera. Understand that if you start shooting in 8K NRAW, you will fill up your CF Express card very quickly.

Video Format: 8 Bit for simple sharing & basic editing. 10 or 12 Bit for higher quality and advanced editing. ProRes RAW and NRAW for maximum quality.

Pick a card Destination CF Express B ONLY
Frame Size/Frame Rate
3840X2160 60p
ISO Sesitivity
Turn Auto ISO Control ON and turn Exposure Compensation to -1/3 High ISO NR to NORM

Custom Settings Menu

A1 AFC priority RELEASE A2 AFS priority RELEASE A3 Focus Tracking 3

The Z8 has a LOT of focus points. A single point focus that worked well on say a D500, may be too small to be reliable with a lot of UW conditions even macro. Try a small group focus Instead. A larger area works well for wide angle. We also strongly recommend exploring how the custom focus frames in C1 & C2 work. These are accessed through the Focus Mode button. Being able to make a focus area exactly how wide and how high you would like and saving them in your focus options is a fantastic tool for wide angle.

A4 Focus points: All Points

A6 AF Activation this is where you will choose between shutter depress AF or AF-ON Thumb focus as a wide angle shooter half depress is usually fine

A11 Focus point Display choose when you want to see your focus points. A12 AF Illuminator: Off (runs down the battery)

Metering/Exposure Defaults are basically fine for now unless you start utilizing TTL or other Autofeatures.

C3 Power Off Delay: Choose a length of time before the camera goes to sleepto save battery, it starts up fast with a touch of a button, but it is a personal choice. If you opt for a USB-C charger between dives, the sleep option is not as critical.

D1 Shooting/Display CL shooting speed define continuous low shooting speed it is up to you, but 2-4 is usually plenty. It is unlikely you will use high-speed continuous with strobes.

D8 View Mode. Show the effect of settings ONLY when no flash is attached. This will apply to both your LCD and your Electronic Viewfinder. Get comfortable with switching between these screens by utilizing the Monitor Mode button for that located on the left side of the viewfinder hump.

D11 LCD Illumination useless in a housing and will drain battery, so turn off, but very helpful on land at night.

E1 Bracketing/Flash Flash Synch Speed 1/200 (not auto FP!) If you are using an HSS TTL converter and strobe, we can talk you through that.

E2 Flash Shutter Speed (minimum sync) 1/60 unless doing rear curtain sync and you want a slower sync speed.

E5 Modeling Flash - Off

F6 Release button to use dial ON – this will allow “touch and scroll” of ISO and other features making use in the housing easier as it won’t take two fingers. So, you will touch and release the ISO button and then scroll the command dial. Touch again or hit the shutter to escape.

Playback Menu / Picture Review: Here you will choose when and how you will playback your images. DSLR shooters are used to having there images auto-review on there LCD. You can choose that, but your view of your subject will be blocked on playback. A touch of the shutter will bring back your view. Many prefer to turn picture review OFF. Then there are no interruptions until you manually push playback to review your images.

Set Up Menu

Always re-format memory card before use.

Monitor brightness Set in manual and start at “0” and adjust if needed later – it will always seem brighter at depth, but you want it consistent.

Clean Image sensor – “At start up and shut down”

Limit Monitor Mode Selection We find eliminating all options except Viewfinder Only and Monitor Only will make things easiest in the housing. One push of the Monitor Mode button will switch you back and forth between EVF and the Monitor.

Copyright info add your name if you wish

Slot empty release lock if you want to avoid forgetting your card on a dive, then activate “LOCK Release locked”

Firmware version Always check for firmware updates! There will be many.
OK, much, much more you can play with on the Z8
but that should get things started!