For those of you asking yourselves, "What waterproof camera should I buy?", this buying guide will help you on your way. What waterproof camera should I buy is a common question for the camera-newb but let us start by saying that underwater cameras fall into two categories: Underwater and waterproof camera.
There are waterproof cameras, which are designed to be used in and around shallow water, and cameras with waterproof plastic cases (housings) that can be used at depth by scuba divers and snorkelers. Waterproof compact cameras are great for the beach, for surfing, or for sailing and other sports where the camera might get wet, but most photos will be taken above the water line. If you want to go deeper and take good pictures of fish, coral, and anything that stays underwater, a camera with a housing is a better option.
You may not have to buy a whole new camera. Waterproof housings are available for many of the most popular compact digital cameras. All you need to do is make sure you have a fresh set of batteries, seal the camera inside the housing, and away you go down to 50 or even 70ft or more. The right housing will allow you to operate all (or most) of your camera functions underwater. You'll be able to use the flash, zoom, and adjust the settings just like you would on dry land. Make sure to practice before you get in the water though, as a new housing can feel clumsy and strange when you first use it.
If you're a little more serious about underwater photography, it's possible to buy cameras specifically designed to work inside a housing. They can be bought as kits, with everything you need to take really outstanding photos underwater. One of the most crucial components is always an external flash or strobe- these can be very useful above water but they make a huge different underneath. Using a normal internal flash underwater can lead to backscatter, where flash light reflects off floating particles in the water and comes back towards the camera lens, causing a white blotchy effect in the final photo. Using an external flash held away from the camera goes a long way towards reducing this issue.
Another thing most underwater photographers have trouble with is getting bright, vivid colors. This is a particular problem for compact digital cameras without a strong flash- no matter how clear the water is, it still soaks up light. One solution is to supplement the flash with a dive flashlight (held off to one side), and another is to get closer to the subject you want to photograph. The less water there is between you and a fish, the brighter it will appear in a picture. Move slowly and take your time getting into position, so marine life doesn't get frightened. Moving fish are fast and it's hard to get a crisp shot with a compact camera, so if you want to photograph a shoal of swimming, glittering fish, you'll need to invest in a fairly serious camera with a high shutter speed. However, there are always other shots to get. Anyone can have fun with underwater photography. All you need to start out is a basic digital camera, a waterproof housing, and the ability to swim!
Jess Spate uses a digital compact and camera housing for underwater photography.
Third Image courtesy of Mozaik Underwater Cameras.
All others are subject to attribution due to the Creative Commons License.
July 8, 2011 3:14 PM | Personal Media