Friday, June 02, 2006

If I were to choose a new digital camera for underwater photography tomorrow...

I thought I'd talk a bit about cameras for underwater photography. You've got tons of options available. Cameras can run the gamut from disposable cameras in housings meant to go to 65-80 feet that sell for 15-20 bucks or so to housed DSLRs (digial single lens reflex) that can run you easily a couple thousand and up.

A year and a half ago I bought an Olympus 8080 and I picked up an Ikelite housing for it this winter. It's a great camera and takes great photos.

My wife recently picked up a Canon A 620 and WP-DC90 waterproof case. She used it on our Maui trip and had some great results.

That got me to thinking I wouldn't mind having a smaller camera than the one I have now for when I can't carry something as large as I now have. There are a number of digital cameras you can house and maybe have 350-700 dollars into it and have a great little camera for both above and below the water. Many dive stores will have cameras that are "specifically made for underwater use", but often you can pick up a medium to high end name brand camera and house it for the same price... and generally get more for your money.

As it turns out, going through lots of message boards, the Canon is a very popular choice. Another camera I would highly consider is the Olympus sp350 and housing it in either an Olympus or Ikelite housing. This camera can do nearly everything my current camera can do and is in a much smaller format. It also can take a strobe that will give you TTL (thru the lens) exposure control that very few cameras in this price range offer. Another popular choice in the point and shoot range is the fuji e900 and housing. These are all compact cameras with fairly serious capabilities, that can be used as normal point and shoot cameras that you can grow into and have all sorts of manual controls once you figure things out. I also believe they all have underwater shooting modes, I know the Canon and Oly do and that my wife had some good results shooting in underwater mode on her Canon.

If I were looking at a DSLR today, and didn't own any lenses already, I'd pick an Olympus E330. It's a serious professional caliber camera with some great features for underwater photography. If I owned lenses from a current SLR or DSLR, I'd be looking at digital cameras from the same manufacturer as the camera... no such luck at this time.

I will mention, notice I didn't bring up film cameras among my choices. I used to have a film camera for underwater... big learning curve and sketchy results. Not to mention, film only gives you 24-36 shots and you have to get it processed. I could literally shoot hundreds of shots with my current camera on a dive if I wanted, and I'd only have to sit at the computer for a while to get them printed out. I can't stress how much ahead of the game the average hobbiest photo diver would be by going straight to digital right off the bat.

Keep this all tempered with the fact that I am just a hobbiest... It's all opinion folks.

So here's a pic I took on the trip to Maui. I used the RAW function on my 8080 for this and it really helped for the exposure. I can't wait to get to some of our lava tubes and domes to try some similar photos here.



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