Nikonos V

With an original design pioneered by Jacques Cousteau, the Nikonos was a revolutionary, easy to handle, quality underwater camera…

Growing up I remember poring through National Geographic magazines and being blown away by photos that opened up my eyes to various underwater worlds. As I began taking pictures in my early 20′s, thoughts of those of beautiful photos resurfaced and I pondered how to shoot underwater on a relatively small budget. Housings were super expensive and were only made it seemed for higher end digital cameras that I couldn’t afford in the first place. After a few years taking pictures a friend turned me on to the Nikonos brand. With an original design pioneered by Jacques Cousteau, the Nikonos was a revolutionary, easy to handle, quality underwater camera that didn’t break the bank. About 5 years ago I saw a sale on B&H photo for the Nikonos V brand new for $299, a few hundred dollars off the original sticker price. That particular version of the Nikonos had been made since 1984 and managed to stay on the market for 20 plus years. It seemed though they were being liquidated for the last time so I picked one up and began researching lenses for my new underwater jewel. It turned out Nikonos made a super wide angle 15mm lens that only worked underwater. The lens and its viewfinder were fairly expensive but after watching Ebay closely for a few weeks I was able to purchase one for about $400 dollars. $700 total for what could be considered a professional underwater setup wasn’t bad at all. One amazing thing about the 15mm lens is that it only works underwater, shoot it above water and all you get is a very out of focus image. Water touching the front element of the lens is part of its design making it super sharp and super wide underwater.

Another cool thing I realized was when you go underwater with any diving mask your vision is limited by the sides of the mask, effectively making your normally wide vision more constricted. When you put the super wide angle viewfinder up to the mask for viewing though your vision becomes almost twice as wide. This gives your eyes a wide angle view underwater that can’t be achieved without some type of special mask. Over the years I fell in love with taking pictures underwater. Just swimming around with the camera underwater was a blast. I began going to pools, springs, theme parks, and anywhere that had clear enough water to get quality photos. I took girlfriends, friends, my Dad, and my dog to various springs around Florida whenever I had free time. The ability to swim with the compact camera is unparalleled compared to any camera with a housing. All I needed was my boardshorts, a mask, a pair of fins, and a subject and I was good to go. After five years or so with the camera I decided to put together a batch of some of my favorite photos I’ve taken with it. Though I can’t say I’ve used it nearly as much as any of my other cameras, it is still one of my favorites to use. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m normally swimming in some beautifully clear water when using it. These days the GoPro’s seem to be the most used camera underwater and there’s no denying it is the one camera that is probably easier to swim with other than the Nikonos. That being said I don’t know if I’ll be replacing the Nikonos as my favorite choice for underwater photos anytime soon.


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