Waterproof camera options for diving

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Grimace, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #1
    Hi gang.

    I am going to Hawaii in a few weeks and want to take some underwater photos and possible some videos. There are very very few cameras that can go below 10feet and remain waterproof -- the Canon D10 seems to be the leader according to this test over at DPreview:

    Does anyone have any experience with the D10? I'm trying to decide whether to drop $289 on it for the benefit of unlimited pictures on an SD card (plus movies) and be limited to 33 feet or get 3-4 $8 Kodak underwater film cameras that are good and go down to 50ft. I could flip the D10 on eBay for a hit of about $40 (the same as disposable cameras plus film processing) so the costs are about the same.

    Flexibility vs. depth I guess. Maybe 33 feet is a conservative estimate by Canon?

    Any help from the divers out there?
     
  2. nickXedge macrumors 6502

    nickXedge

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    #2
    I really don't know anything about diving with a camera, or the D10 for that matter. But as for conservative estimates by Canon, they rate the camera I have, (1000D, entry level consumer DSLR - with no weather sealing of any kind), at temperatures of 32ºF and above. However, it works well below 0ºF, so that's certainly a conservative estimate. Risky to test your situation though.
     
  3. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #3
    Every 33' is an atmosphere of pressure- so no, they're not all that conservative rating-wise, I'd be wary of exceeding any depth limits. At 33' your camera is subject to twice the surface pressure, and every 33' after that you get another atmosphere, half an atmostphere every 16.5' (salt water, 32' in fresh.)

    You also get to deal with buoyancy due to air in the housing/body- most dive places these days rent waterproof or housed point and shoots- you may want to look at that as an option.

    Without strobes if you want anything colorful, you're not going to want to go beyond about 10-12' anyway- you start to lose red at 8', and it's gone completely by 15', where orange starts to go...

    Are you going to Scuba, snorkel, or just splash around? I tried a cheapo film camera years ago in a small housing that was rated to ~30', backscatter and lack of research got me a bunch of crappy images- pretty-much anything outside of about 3-4' away isn't going to make a great picture- and if you're past 15' down and shooting at anything, you really want external strobes to get any good color at all.

    Check scuba sites for reviews, the "in the pool" weatherproof stuff is probably not what you really want if you want underwater images outside of a pool.

    Paul
     
  4. Grimace thread starter macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #4
    Thank Compuwar.

    I'm talking about legit scuba, not splashing around. Diving between 25-60 feet. The pressure is probably something to consider but as you mentioned, those depths lose a lot of color anyway. Maybe I'll just stick to shallower waters (33 feet and less) for my dives with a camera. Turtles and reef sharks are definitely prevalent there.
     
  5. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #5
    Canon has some really very good and reasonably priced enclosures for some of their point and shoots. I have one for my Elph that I've used as deep as 70 feet several times. A good flash is important, however.

    It might be more cost-effective to just rent a camera. I don't know about Hawaii, but many dive shops will rent photography rigs to more experienced divers.
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #6
    Check with the shop or boat you're diving with via email, rentals are prevalent these days, and you can usually get something rated to 120 or so feet for <$20/day.

    I just got a drysuit late last year, I'm starting to save for a housing next...

    Paul
     
  7. oldpismo macrumors member

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    #7
    I have a canon waterproof case for a an old Canon S30 camera, and have found that that works really well. I have taken it down to 35m or so, and not had any problems, Good photos from it too. As they have been around for a few years now I would expect that they should be coming up on ebay as people upgrade.

    Old Pismo
     
  8. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

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    #8
    Well, you can take D10 down to 10m (33 ft) as per Canon. This would be nice to take snorkeling, but I wouldn't take it down for a full dive. By the way, depending on where you'll be diving, you may actually have a ton of light and color. compuwar lists some helpful facts, and they are true in the US coastal waters. But not out there in the tropics, where there is no plankton in the water and in some places you could basically play soccer underwater (well, physics permitting). If you stay close to the shore, the swell gets the sand going and your vis drops quite a bit. But if you were to go out, like say Molokini, then you'll have some beautiful clear water and plenty of photo opportunities. The water will be anything from turquoise to a deep, ink blue.

    Looking at the photo gear in your signature, it is obvious that you're pretty serious about what you do. The Ikelite cases are really great, and you could get those for your cameras. There would be no justification for doing so though for just one trip. Have you considered getting a G11 and a Canon case for it? The case is listed here: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-WP-DC34-Underwater-Housing-PowerShot/dp/B002LITT5G/ref=pd_sim_p_6 You could easily resell your gear after your vacation, if so desired, and your total cash outflow would be most likely less than $200. And actually quite a bit less if you just decided to return the equipment. The G11 should be capable of producing better photos than D10 (not a huge difference, because the G11 sensor is still pretty small), but you could take it with you all way down and not worry about your camera getting flooded.

    Some dive shops may also offer some rental gear, so may want to try finding out about that as well.

    By the way, looking at your signature again, you really have some fantastic gear. Love your glass!!! I'm actually pretty surprised you wouldn't want to consider a little more serious approach to underwater photography.
     
  9. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Do you have a compact already? Housing rental prices aren't bad, provided they exist for your model.
     
  10. jeremy h macrumors 6502

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    #10
    If you want good underwater shots - you really must get (or rent?) a wide angle lens or some sort of converter / attachment. You can get away with macro shots without one but the secret to underwater photography to to reduce the amount of water between you and the subject. Also - if you need to use a flash you need to get one (or two) on an angled arm - a built in flash that shoots straight forward will pick up backscatter like snow even in water that looks really clear.

    Other tips - try not to jump in holding the housing - get someone to hand it to you (or inflate your BC and hold it up in the air as you leap in). If you use a housing and you're holiday diving for a week, say, take the housing sans camera on the first dive to check for leaks especially if you haven't used it for a while. (Your buddies will thank you as not having the camera means you'll be certain to see a procession of hammerheads, dolphins etc etc! ;) )
     
  11. Grimace thread starter macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #11
    Thanks so much for the advice guys!

    I'm still fairly new to diving so I haven't gotten too serious with gear (gotta make sure I remember to breathe still!). In a best case scenario I will only be able to go every other year so I don't think a housing is practical for me.

    Rentals seem like a good option so I'll definitely check out that option.

    I also remembered that my old SD800 IS point-and-shoot is one of the camera models that Canon makes as specific underwater housing for. The Canon WP-DC9 WaterProof Case got good reviews...now I just need to find one used - or pony up $169 for it!
     
  12. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #12
    The deeper you go, the more reds are absorbed. In renting, get the most powerful flash attachement you can. They can be very cumbersome, but if you want any interesting color, you have to have a good flash.
     
  13. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #13
    Sorry, but the physics just don't work that way. Losing color has nothing to do with plankton or anything else- particulate in the water will affect backscatter with a flash and to some extent visibility but overall, you lose the same wavelengths of color at the same depths in any water with visibility greater than the depth at which you lose the color- that is to say you lose red at the same depth in water with 30' of visibility as you do in water with 120' of visibility despite being able to see 4x as far- Go down 15' and you'll have no red in either case. If you want to see the effect, take a look at any professional dive video shot on any reef system- you'll see the colors appear as the underwater lights hit elements of the reef or fish- anything in the background will be a blue-ish haze until it's hit by the light where it regains the colors and contrast you'd expect to see.

    In two more months, my C-card will be old enough to drink.

    Paul
     
  14. Black&Tan macrumors 6502a

    Black&Tan

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    Mar 4, 2004
    #14
    The disposable cameras are too temperamental, and the quality is not what you want. I bought a few for a trip to the Caribbean, and the photos are passable. I can see what was going on, but I certainly won't be doing any enlargements. Plus, one of the cameras leaked, and I lost all the photos. Of course, this is the one with the sea turtle, the massive lobster, and the sleeping shark.

    I would recommend taking a look at the Sea-Life rigs....a new model has come out, so you should be able to get one of the older models somewhat inexpensively. While the Sea-Life is basically an underwater point and shoot, it does have an external flash, mounted separately on the base. Plus you have the option of getting a second flash with a different base.

    The quality is certainly not what you would get with a DSLR housing, however, its not horrible either. My biggest gripe is the lack of RAW photos, but until I get serious enough to upgrade, I can live with that.

    But, you need to dive more than once every other year, otherwise you'll forget all that you've learned. Even if you're only diving in lakes, quarries, or coastlines, you need to practice. You'll be more comfortable, control your buoyancy better, and see some amazing sites. Photography is different underwater, more challenging, and you have very little time to make adjustments. But its a total blast.

    I still regret not bringing my camera down on a wreck dive to the Spiegel Grove in the Florida Keys, as I swam through a school of Great Barracuda.
     
  15. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #15
    I suspect that my C-card is older than you are;).
     
  16. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #16
    I'll take that bet- I don't believe there were C-cards when I was born, certainly PADI didn't exist- I'll be 45 this year.

    Paul
     
  17. jampat macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    I was in mexico with someone that has a water resistant olympus PnS. He lost it while swimming in a cenote and we found it almost an hour later in ~30' of water. Damn thing still worked fine. It had a little water behind a protective cover over the lens but that dried out in a few days. Considering they are only rated to 10' or so it was impressive. Probably not good enough to go diving, but for anyone looking for a snorkelling or beach camera they are a good option.

    Grimace, unless you dive a lot rental is definitely the way to go. To keep you happy (as you seem to care about photography) a housing and strobes is the way to go, but that is a significant investment that is normally tied to a specific body. If you change bodies, you may need to change housings (for another significant investment and resale value sucks for housings designed for old bodies). If you want something cheaper, I know people that dive with the bag housings (think overengineered ziploc bag), but there are definite disadvantages (seem more likely to flood, hard/impossible to attach strobes).
     
  18. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Child Protective Services is going to take my C-card away from me because of gross neglect.
     
  19. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #19
    I'm in that situation, but I picked up some new equipment late last year (fire sale at the fire house,) and I'm hoping to get a little pool time in to learn to deal with the dry suit soon. At this point, all I need is one more tank, a pony bottle and someone to follow me around.
     
  20. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #20
    Close, then. I was certified by NAUI in June 1966.
     
  21. Grimace thread starter macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #21
    Guys, you are truly amazing. I didn't think I'd find people here that have legitimate experience with this niche field - but MR [almost] always impresses!

    I feel a little sheepish in saying this, but I don't really need the best of the best for my underwater dives - not even close. I've done 4 dive trips and the most recent was 3 years ago. I'll be refreshing my skills and then branching out to take pictures of interesting things underwater. It's not an art to me in any way [yet], and so simplicity and functionality are prime on my list. In a nutshell, it's a complete novelty, "Look, I took pictures underwater!!" I'm not going to do reprints or anything artsy - more just to show that I did it!

    I am leaning back toward the Canon D10 for some 33 feet dives, as the completely enclosed casing, IQ, and basic video functions are all I really need. My biggest hangup was having a camera afterward that I wouldn't use. But, I can unload it on eBay for a $40 hit - or keep it and plan more dives!
     
  22. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #22
    If you'd gone all in, I'd still be raking your chips into my pile ;)

    Paul
     
  23. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #23
    Without a lot of experience, be *very* careful taking pictures- it's very easy to lose track of your buddy/group if you're focused on getting a picture. If there's any current, that goes double.

    If I were doing it soon, I'd make sure that both I and my buddy had an alternate air source just to be on the paranoid side. Underwater photography is usually equivalent to solo diving.

    It's difficult to imagine a part of the world that doesn't have lakes, quarries or oceans- but worst-case try to get some pool sessions in to keep your skills current more than once a year.

    Paul
     
  24. Grimace thread starter macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #24
    Thanks -- I'll be with Dive Masters in a group of 6 people the entire time. I'm only half as dumb as I look!

    The Canon D10 has a very robust mounted cable so I don't have to choose between retrieving an errant BCD or the camera. It can float along with me or be tucked in a pocket. Safety always comes first.

    [​IMG]
     
  25. mmoto macrumors member

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    Mar 21, 2009
    #25
    As an avid underwater photographer who shoots housed SLR's I'd say that the advice you've received on this thread is comprehensive and correct. I will add a couple suggestions however:
    1) If you don't intend to spend $500+ on a strobe+arm setup than you should avoid flash most of the time. The on board flash will only add backscatter due to its proximity to the lens. Try to find some way to add red/orange filter and shoot only between 10 and 30 feet deep.
    see www.magic-filters.com
    2) The forum for underwater photo is www.wetpixel.com
    Take a look at Backscatter.com (no affiliation). They have a housing finder function on their site in case you decide to go that route. They also rent underwater cameras.

    Have fun in Hawaii. Turtles and Whitetip Reef Sharks are my favorite subjects there. Of course Manta's are exciting if you are on the big island.

    -Brad
     

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