In 2018, Sony got a run for its money when Nikon announced the Z6 and Z7 to rival Sony’s A7 line of camera. Nikon has proven to be a formidable rival. The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are essentially the same camera with different resolutions. The Z6 is the budget and video friendly option at 24.5 megapixels and the Z7 is its high-resolution, stills-oriented counterpart at 45 megapixels. The Z6 and Z7 feature lightning quick autofocus, beautiful dynamic range, top-of-the-line image quality, and a very functional electronic viewfinder (EVF). The benefits of using a full-frame mirrorless camera for underwater photography are extensive, including excellent AF capability with the LCD (instead of having to use a magnified viewfinder), quick autofocus, high burst rates, and instant settings and image replay in the EVF. All things considered, the Nikon Z7 rivals the capability of the Nikon D850, and the Nikon Z6 is their little brother. The Z series cameras are also somewhat smaller than other Nikon DSLR’s, but the difference is less obvious when you put the camera into a housing….unless it’s an Isotta housing!
At Bluewater Photo, we affectionately call Isotta, “the Ferrari of the Sea.” The title is well deserved as Isotta produces well-crafted, Italian-made aluminum housings with a characteristic bright red finish. They are compact, meticulously engineered, and ergonomic. After dozens of dives with the Isotta Z6/Z7 housing, we can say with confidence that it is one of the top housings on the market. Here’s why…
Ergonomics and Trim
The ergonomics, design, and underwater trim of the housing are certainly the highlight. Each control is within a fingers-distance from the handle. All levers, dials and buttons have great action, and aluminum is engraved with all necessary control labels for easy use underwater. The back of the housing has a large, clear panel which made it really easy to use the LCD on the camera. During our dives we never had any buttons stick, press the wrong control, or misalign in anyway. Everything was smooth and seamless with the housing.
The handles are rather acute compared to other housings, and I was a little concerned about how they would feel underwater. It actually ended up being quite nice in the hands and positioned the housing close enough to the handles for easy access to the controls. We were able to shoot one handed for much of the dive because of the way the handle was designed.
Underwater this housing is light and has excellent trim. The largest benefit to shooting an Isotta housing with the Nikon Z6, is that the Isotta housing is small enough where it becomes apparent that the camera is smaller and lighter than its DSLR counterparts. For anyone looking to go mirrorless for the size benefits, this would be the best system for that. When we swam with the housing in high current, there was very little drag because of its small size. For divers that are easily tired, a small housing like this can mean not going through your air or quitting the dive early.
A sea lion at Los Islotes, La Paz, Mexico, curious about my dome port. Photographed with the Nikon Z6, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens, Isotta Z6/Z7 underwater housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes. 1/200, f/7.1, ISO 200
Opening the Housing and Loading the Camera
The Isotta Z6/Z7 housing has a double o-ring seal which gives an extra piece of mind that the camera stays nice and dry. Indeed, we put the housing through some tough conditions, and never worried about it leaking. The system for opening and closing the housing is one of the easiest on the market, once you get the hang of it. It can be opened and closed by turning a single latch and has a lock to ensure that it remains closed.
A major benefit to using the Isotta housing with the Nikon Z6 and Z7 camera, was the ability to load the camera without removing the lens, even when using the FTZ adapter. This mean that we were able to change batteries easily between dives, which was essential due to the relatively limited battery life of the camera. We were able to use the Nikon 8-15mm fisheye and Nikon 105mm macro lenses (f mount lenses) with the camera, and we never had to remove the lens to load the camera, even with zoom gears.
A school of parrotfish feeding at Los Islotes, Mexico. Photographed with the Nikon Z6, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens, Isotta Z6/Z7 underwater housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes. 1/250, f/10, ISO 200
TTL Flash Trigger
A surprising and extremely useful feature on the Isotta housing is the built in TTL flash trigger. The flash trigger plugs into the camera’s hotshoe in the housing, and allows for you to fire the trigger as rapidly as you could with electronic sync cords. The housing has two fiber optic cable ports that can be used with the flash trigger, eliminating the need for electronic sync cords - which can flood, unlike fiber optic cables. Because the flash trigger has TTL capability, you can actually use the TTL function built into your strobes and get accurate exposures with every shot. We loved using the flash trigger. We were able to fire our strobes rapidly – especially with the sea lions – and the TTL flash trigger was relatively accurate.
A sea lion playing with one of our guests. Photographed with the Nikon Z6, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens, Isotta Z6/Z7 underwater housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes. 1/250, f/8, ISO 200
Isotta Housings and Travel
To top everything off, this housing was a lot of fun to travel with. Leading a photo workshop can be a lot of work, and it’s hard to find time to take apart and pack your housing – especially before a flight. We were a little late for our flight and were extremely pleased to find that we were able to pack the camera, housing, and strobes into a cooler bag in a minute, ready to carry on to the flight!