Anilao Macro: Full Frame vs APS-C

Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R

For underwater photographers that want to use SLR or mirrorless cameras, one question that needs to be answered is what size camera sensor to use. For SLR's, the choice is APS-C or Full Frame. Mirrorless cameras add additional smaller choices like m4/3 and CX formats. 

Canon 7D Mark II

Canon 7D Mark II

Crop Factor

One way to describe the difference between these different sensor sizes is to talk about "crop factor". Crop factor is just a ratio of how the dimensions of the given sensor compare to the height of a full frame sensor. A full frame sensor, by definition, has a crop factor of 1.0. There is nothing magical about choosing full frame here, but it is equivalent to the ever popular 35mm film size, and is a handy size to compare to. 

Crop factor is a semi-useful tool that can describe how the cameras compare with each other given a specific lens. An good example is that the Nikon 60mm "acts" like a 60mm on the full frame Nikon D810, but acts like a 90mm lens on the Nikon D500, i.e. we multiply the 60mm by the D500's crop factor of 1.5. The reason I say is that it is "semi-useful" is that it only behaves like 90mm in terms of the field of view that is captured The lens works the same, we are just capturing a "cropped" chunk of the image out of the center, so the field of view is narrower. 

Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R

Note that these crop factors are not "exact". There are a couple of reasons that I know about, and maybe more. For example, the m4/3 is a different aspect ratio that an SLR, so do we use the height or the width to compare? And do manufacturers use actual imaging area, or effective imaging area? It's a little bit of a gray area, and they seem to do some rounding (and fudging) to make it "easier".

Here are some crop factors for a few of the sensor sizes we've mentioned, specifically the ones that tend to be used by u/w photographers. 

Format Crop Factor Examples
CX CX: 2.7 Nikon 1
m4/3 2.0 Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, Panasonic GX8
APS-C (Canon) 1.6 Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 70D
APS-C (Others) 1.5 Nikon D500, Nikon D7200, Sony A6000
Full Frame 1.0 Sony A7R Mark II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810
Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R


More of the technical stuff below, but let's look at some images first. I recently went to Anilao, Philippines, which is an amazing macro haven. Last time I went there I shot a lot of video, but for this trip I chose to work on still photos. I brought two cameras, the Canon 5DS R (Full Frame), and the Canon 7D Mark II (Canon APS-C), and I shot with both over the course of my trip. Of my two favorite shots that I got, one was with the 5D and one with the 7D. I feel like I would have been totally happy with either camera (and I do really love both of these cameras). But for the purpose of this article, I will try to point out some differences. 

Canon 7D Mark II

Canon 7D Mark II

Understanding Depth of Field

Let's start with something that may surprise you. The depth of field with a given lens is exactly the same between full frame and APS-C. There is a common perception that full frame has, by default, less depth of field, but that is simply not true. There is a reason for that perception though, but given the same lens and the same subject distance, the depth of field is the same. The field of view is smaller, so if you then enlarge the two images to the same print size, you will find that the full frame camera actually has MORE depth of field. 

Now, let's get back the perception that full frame has less depth of field than APS-C. If we use the crop factor mentioned above, and compensate for the diminished FOV of the APS-C camera by using a less with a shorter focal length, and then try to achieve the same composition, now the APS-C will have more depth of field. Let me use an example to make that more clear. Suppose I am shooting a sponge that is two inches tall. With the FF camera, I'm using a 100mm macro lens, and with the APS-C camera, I am using a 60mm lens. I then move the camera so that the sponge fills the frame on both shots. Note that even though we fill the frame with the sponge, the shots are not the same. The perspective is different, because with the 60mm, we are a lot closer. You will see less of what is behind the sponge in the latter shot. So, yes, more depth of field with the APS-C in this case, but it really is a different photo.  

Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R

Depth of field depends on two things: magnification and aperture. Here's one more tidbit that says that the depth of field issue is less of a problem with macro than people think. You might have heard of the issue of diffraction with small apertures. This is a real thing; stop your lens down too much and your image quality will suffer. The FF sensor size will, to my eyes, tolerate about a stop smaller aperture than the APS-C, (and another stop or two more than m4/3). So for example, in a shot where I might only want to shoot at f/16 with the APS-C, I can shoot with f/22 with the FF. 

Bottom line is this... there is not that big of a depth of field difference. When you start shooting super macro, the depth of field will be quite small regardless.  Personally, I enjoy shooting both. 

Canon 7D Mark II

Canon 7D Mark II

Of course there are some differences between Full Frame and APS-C. One of the more noticeable differences between these two cameras is performance - the the 7DII is blazingly fast, and the 5DS R seems quite slow comparatively. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the 5DSR is recording a whopping 50 megapixels worth of data for each shot. If you are going to shoot this camera, be prepared to buy more HDD and backup space. 

All of the images here were shot with the Canon 100mm f/2.8L lens. The super macro shots used the Nauticam SMC, and the even tighter super macro shots added the SMC Multiplier. 

Canon EOS-1DX Mark II Underwater Test Images

The latest pro body dslr from Canon is now shipping, and we are excited to share some early testing images from a Canon beta testers that also use our underwater housings.

William Tan from Singapore has an impressive collection of still photo images, putting the 1DX Mark II through its paces with blackwater and macro diving in the Philippines, as well as sperm whales from Sri Lanka.

Abraham Joffe was able to use the camera in January on an extremely challenging shoot in Norway with orcas and humpback whales. 

Read More

Announcing Housing for Nikon D5

Introducing NA-D5

Nauticam NA-D5, Model Number 17219
Available April 15, 2016

Nikon pro series bodies are the cameras that can go anywhere, withstanding unbelievable punishment in the field, and bring back images bordering on the fringes of what is possible from current imaging technology.  Nauticam is pleased to announce the NA-D5 underwater housing, an ergonomic, rugged, and reliable underwater housing ready to take the camera underwater to the ends of the earth in search of these photographic fringes that make rarest and the most memorable images.

The Nikon D5

Pro body performance is difficult to quantify on paper, but immediately evident when holding the camera in hand.  Metal construction inspires confidence.  The 12 fps continuous shooting speed (with AF) and a 200 shot RAW buffer keeps ups with the fastest action.  A large, bright viewfinder offers a clear view of the shooting scene, and Multi-CAM 20K tracks focus with incredible accuracy.  The D5 is capable of 3,780 shots per charge (according to the CIPA rating).  We called the D4 a Professional Performance Powerhouse, and the D5 is even better.

Nikon has upped the resolution count in D5 from 16 to 20.8 megapixels, but that is far from the most exciting news for most users.  More interesting is the launch of the Multi-CAM 20K.  This new autofocus system features 153 focus points (up from 51), of which 99 are cross-type sensors (up from 15).  D5 has more cross-type focus points than the D4s had total focus points, and they are spread wider across the frame.  The autofocus system in the D4s was already one of the best available, and the improvements offered by D5 will elevate performance even further.  The D5 introduces a new, 180k pixel RGB metering sensor.  This metering sensor drives the advanced Nikon exposure system, and is also used to provide scene data for 3D focus tracking, improving accuracy.

In total, this is an extremely significant upgrade from Nikon.  D4s was already one of the best pro bodies in overall low light performance.  D5 increases the high ISO range to ISO 102,480, capable of being pushed to 3,280,000.  The D5 camera has a better 3.2" LCD review screen with touch capability, and the most advanced auto focus system ever released.  It is also the first Nikon DSLR body capable of 4K video capture.  High frame rate capability allows more captures, and Multi-CAM 20K Focus ensures more in focus captures.  

Nikon D5 Key Features:

  • 20.8 Megapixel Resolution FX Format CMOS Sensor
  • 4K UHD Video Capture at 24/25/30P
  • Multi-CAM 20K Autofocus with 153 focus points
  • 180,000 RGB Metering Sensor
  • 12 fps Continuous Shooting with Autofocus
  • ISO 100-102,400 (expandable to 3,280,000)
  • 3.2" 2.36 m-dot XGA LCD Screen with Touch Functionality
  • 3,780 Shots per Battery Charge (CIPA Rating)
  • Dual XQD or CF Memory Slots

The Nauticam NA-D5 Underwater Housing

Nauticam housings are evolutionary marvels, with advancements from previous systems providing the foundation that new models are built on.  The new Nauticam NA-D5 housing incorporates advances from the NA-D4 that came before it, but features enhanced ergonomics, a more sophisticated flash triggering system, and reduced size / weight thanks to cutting edge manufacturing processes.

NA-D4 was a significant elevation of the Nauticam DSLR housing game.  Key controls, such as ISO, Video Record, and Playback, and Info were dramatically routed out to the housing grips.  Nauticam recognizes that advanced DSLR cameras, and advanced DSLR users, rely on these functions more than ever to realize the full potential of advanced imaging systems.  

Advanced high iso and video functionality in modern DSLR cameras has redefined what “essential controls” are really essential.    Buttons that seem like an afterthought in the D5 camera control layout, such as Info (which displays shooting data on the 3.2" color lcd screen), are critical for use in the housing.  This button is routed to the left handle for convenient access.  AF-ON, Movie Record, Playback, ISO, Pv, Fn1, Fn2 and Live View are all handled similarly.  Considerable design and manufacturing resources go into this ergonomic reshuffling, but the benefit to the user experience makes is worth the effort.

External Flash Triggering

The entire external flash triggering system has has been reworked from the ground up in NA-D5, increasing ease of use, setup convenience, and reliability.  A new LED flash triggering system is standard in every housing.

The Nikonos style bulkheads included in NA-D4/NA-D4s have been replaced by an integrated LED flash trigger.  This optical flash trigger can fire at the full 12fps of the camera. Optical systems, with fiber optic cables linking the external flashes to the housing, are far more reliable than any electrical sync cable system.

The LED trigger circuitboard is mounted inside the housing, and connected to the camera with a hotshoe cable.  This new system is more powerful than the hotshoe mounted LED triggers used in the past, and is compatible with all currently available optically triggered flashes!  Powered by two CR2032 batteries, battery life is measured in the tens of thousands of flashes, driven by incredibly efficient electronics.  With good batteries, we expect 3-5 years of service, up to 50,000 exposures.

Users of legacy flashes without optical triggering are able to add accessory Nikonos (26074) or Ikelite (26075) style bulkheads for electrical flash sync.  These bulkheads plug into the LED trigger board for clean cable routing, and reliable connection.

Accessory TTL Converter

NA-D5 will also be the first Nikon DSLR release from Nauticam compatible with our accessory TTL Converter.  This optional upgrade provides accurate automatic TTL flash exposure with a number of popular flashes, and offers both optical and electrical strobe triggering!  Optical triggering works well with modern flashes like Inon Z-240, while electrical triggering supports Ikelite DS- and Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes.

Accurate automatic TTL flash exposure has been a favorite feature of Nauticam photographers using cameras with pop up flashes, and we are excited to bring this advanced flash control functionality to the NA-D5 housing!
  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Sea & Sea YS-D and Inon Series Strobes (26307)
  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Ikelite Strobes (26308)
  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Sea & Sea YS-250 Strobes (26309)
In addition to the "core" fingertip controls (Shutter Release, Main Command Dial, and Sub Command Dial, and AF-ON) ISO is accessed by a convenient thumb lever under the right trip.  ISO is the primary exposure control used by DSLR video shooters, and can be reached just as easily as other key controls in water!
The Pv function, formerly known as Depth of Field Preview, is located next to the lens mount on the front of the body.  This control is re-routed to the housing back, effectively serving as a second thumb lever capable of controlling one of dozens of assignable functions.  
The new AF-Mode Lever is a significant improvement, and one based on feedback from Nauticam customers in the field.  Nikon AF Area modes have become so powerful that shooters are regularly switching between 3D Tracking, Auto Area AF, and Single Area modes.  The AF-Mode lever is now easily located by feel from the left handle!  The less critical AF-M lever has been replaced by a knob, making it less likely to be inadvertently bumped into manual focus.

Fn1 and Fn2 are also located here, accessed by an oversized rocker just forward of the handle.  These assignable controls can be mapped to one of numerous functions for quick access.

Extensive Customization for a Tailored Ergonomic Experience

Professional Nikon cameras are known for to be extensively customizable.  NA-D5 offers access to more of these functions than any previous Nikon DSLR, with the ergonomic treatment that have made Nauticam housings legendary.

Pv is routed from the lens mount, and placed just under the right handle.  Fn1 & Fn2 are moved all the way to the left side of the housing to avoid crowded right hand grip.

These custom functions can be overwhelming at first, but the creative options they unlock can be incredibly valuable in the field.  In short, these assignable buttons mean less time digging through camera menus to change camera functions, and more time capturing the scene as it unfolds.

There isn't a right way configure these systems.  Every photographer and shooting scenario has unique demands.  Some ideas are listed below! 
  • 1 Step Spd / Aperture, allows changing exposure settings in full f-stop increments.  Think about changing from a wide angle scenic mode with relatively open aperture and slow shutter speed to a close focus wide angle shot that requires a closed aperture to shrink a sunball.
  • My Menu, a customized panel with frequently accessed menus settings
  • Access Top Item in MY MENU, actually jumps into a frequently accessed sub menu structure for the top level My Menu selection, saving at least two button presses.  (ie min shutter speed in auto iso mode, or quickly define a preset white balance)
  • Quickly access another metering mode, toggling between the selected metering pattern and an alternate that more appropriately mesures the current scene.
  • Flash disable / enable, this is a big one!  Toggles external flashes on and off, allowing a switch between artificial light shooting (continuous shooting speed limited by flash recycle, and shutter speed limited by the strobe max sync speed at 1/250) to silhouette mode using only ambient light (full 12 fps continuous shooting speed, unrestricted flash sync speed). 
  • AF-area mode + AF-ON – very cool functionality, for a quick way of accessing a focus mode other than the mode currently assigned and activating it while held down.  Placed at the right thumb via the re-positioned PV lever, the current focus mode be overridden with something like auto area focus for quick grab shots where there isn't time to move the selected autofocus point.

Key Features

Patented Port Locking System

Unveiled on the very first Nauticam DSLR housing in 2009, this locking lever has become a signature of the Nauticam brand.  No twisting or threading action is required to mount a port,and it locks securely in place with this lever.  Nauticam also offers locking extension rings, meaning a dome will never twist, even when used with a long extension ring.

Housing Locking Latches

The industry's easiest to use housing closure system, requiring very little hand strength to close, secures the housing back in place. The latches are securely closed, but easy to open for a quick battery or memory card change.

Multi Controller Pad

Located within easy reach of the right thumb, virtually recreates the Nikon D5 multi selector allowing full multidirectional use of this powerful tool, including diagonals. No other manufacturer has it. 

Integrated Vacuum Monitoring and Leak Detection

Circuitry included as standard equipment provides constant monitoring of water tight integrity when combined with an optional Nauticam M16 Vacuum Valve II (PN 25625).  

Stainless Steel Handle Brackets

Stiffening handle brackets are included with the housing.  These brackets eliminate any flex or wobble when using big strobes, and provide multiple attachment points for lanyards or other accessories.

Ergonomic Rubberized Grips

Another legendary Nauticam feature, these rubberized grips have been used every Nauticam DSLR housing release, and are some of the most comfortable in the business.

Clear Control Labeling

All camera controls are clearly labeled, allowing easy identification.
The redesigned LED Flash Triggering System has allowed for a much lower housing height.  This the smallest, easiest to pack Nauticam Pro DSLR housing yet!
Compared to NA-D4, the previous Nikon pro body housing from Nauticam, the smaller size is immediately apparent.

Integrated Vacuum Check and Leak Detection System

The Nauticam vacuum check and leak detection system is shipped with NA-D5 as standard equipment.  Combined with an accessory vacuum valve (PN 25625), this monitoring system provides constant updates on the water tight and safe-to-dive status of the housing.  A simple color coded LED lighting system lets the user know that the vacuum is solid, or that the housing is losing vacuum. Leak detection is built into the same circuit, so if there is water intrusion, an audible and visual indication will occur. 

The Nauticam system is temperature compensated, eliminating false alarms caused by a change in outside temperature, or from a camera heating up on an action packed dive.

Ease of Use

No system is easier to assemble or break down.  The camera drops into the housing with a quick release camera tray.  The camera tray has an extending bracket that allows the AF-M selector to be easily positioned to match the camera.  No controls need to be preset, as housing functions for dials and switches align automatically (on/off, af-m, still photo/video).   The large 120mm housing port opening allows even the largest popular pro Nikon wide angle lens (14-24 /2.8G) to be used, and the camera can even be mounted in the housing with this large lens attached.


The standard optical glass viewfinder is very good and travel friendly, but many photographers prefer the ease of a magnified viewfinder with adjustable diopter. Nauticam produces a “straight” 180º enlarging viewfinder and a 45º angled enlarging viewfinder to enhance the ease of close quarters work often associated with macro shooting. Both viewfinders have high quality optics, and allow bright viewing of the entire image. A patented external dioptric adjustment allows personal adjustment to a sharp-as-a-tack standard underwater and viewfinder changes can be executed in less than 30 seconds without using tools. Exceptional composition and focus accuracy have never been more accessible. 

Premium Professional Optics

Experienced shooters know a camera is only as good as the lens in front of it, and the same is true when choosing optics for an underwater camera system.  Four optically coated glass dome ports (250mm, 230mm, 180mm, and 140mm diameters) and a series of acrylic ports support popular lenses from Nikon, Sigma, and Tokina.  Port configurations are extensively tested at Nauticam to determine the ideal extension ring length for best performance.

For macro and super macro shooting, the Nauticam Super Macro Converter is a revolutionary accessory. This is an entirely in house design, optimized for use in water. The water contact correction offers the highest overall sharpness, free from chromatic aberration and purple fringing, with reproduction ratios exceeding 2:1 when used with a Nikon AF-S 105mm /2.8 VR Lens.

Recommended Accessories

Magnifying Viewfinders

  • 180º Enhancing Viewfinder (32201)
  • 45º Enhancing Viewfinder (32203)

Optical and Electrical TTL Converter

  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Sea & Sea YS-D and Inon Series Strobes (26307)
  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Ikelite Strobes (26308)
  • TTL Converter for NA-D5, Sea & Sea YS-250 Strobes (26309)
  • M14 Nikonos 5-pin Bulkhead II with Red Micro-Match Connector (26074) 
  • M14 Ikelite Style Bulkhead II with Red Micro-Match Connector (26075)

Other Accessories

  • Patent Pending Super Macro Converter (81201), providing 2.3:1 reproduction ration with the popular AF-S 105mm /2.8G VR Macro Lens
  • M16 Vacuum Valve (25612)
  • Complete line of flat and dome ports for all major lenses, available in acrylic and glass
  • Locking port extension rings from 10mm to 90mm
  • Monitor/Recorder Housing for Atomos Ninja2 (17902) or Shogun (17904)
  • Monitor Housing for SmallHD 502 Monitor (17906)
  • Fiber optic cables for Inon (26211) and Sea&Sea (26212)
  • Full line of mounting accessories for lighting, including mount balls, strobe adapters, arms, clamps, and specialty items
  • Multiple styles of lanyards
  • Lens holders, including flip-up 
  • Focus and Zoom gears for many Nikon, Tokina, and Sigma lenses
  • Port Adapters for Aquatica, Ikelite, Inon, Nexus M5 & M6, Sea & Sea NX, Seacam, Subal Version 3 & 4, and Zillion
  • Handle accessories including smaller handles, handle extensions for cold water diving
  • Spare Housing O-Ring (90220)

Details and Specifications

  • Depth Rating:  100m
  • Weight: 3.67 kg
  • Dimensions: 357mm x 224mm x 148mm (W x H x D)

Model Number: 17219
USA Retail Price: $5200

Available April 15

About Nauticam:

Nauticam is the world's leading manufacturer of innovative and ergonomic imaging solutions. Founded in 2009 by Edward Lai, an underwater photographer with two decades of experience making precision injection molds, Nauticam has continued to raise the bar with every new model release, seeking to provide the absolute best user experience possible.  Dealer inquiries are welcome!

Dealers in the Americas:

Dealers Inquiries Outside of North and South America: