Diving equipment – A guide to underwater cameras
At the end of an exciting day, full of new adventures, it can be incredibly rewarding to sit back and reflect on everything you’ve experienced.
When you join us on board our fleet of liveaboards, wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back on your memories from that day? It might be your first encounter with a hammerhead shark, an octopus hiding on a reef, or the great people you’ve met on your trip.
We often rely on our mobile phones to capture those important memories but sadly they’re not quite there yet with underwater capabilities. Here, we have compiled a list of information which you should consider when shopping around for underwater cameras.
Long gone are the days when your only option is to purchase a bulky underwater camera which weighs more than your scuba diving equipment itself. Advances in technology mean that when choosing an underwater camera today, they are more visually appealing, easy to handle and affordable.
Understanding underwater functionality, what you want to achieve and what is available within your price range, is important to help you make the right decision.
How do they work?
Underwater cameras work the same way that normal cameras work but they obviously must be waterproof. This is achieved by putting a regular camera inside a watertight housing with a transparent window. The camera controls are usually worked by levers attached to the outside housing unit, with seals to prevent it letting water in. The housing must be strong enough to handle the increased pressure as the diver goes deeper underwater. You must be very skilled to work an underwater camera. Not only are you having to control yourself with all your equipment on, but you are very likely to have cold hands which makes controlling the camera even more difficult.
Things to consider when buying an underwater camera:
Compact or DSLR
If you are a seasoned photographer using a DSLR, it is likely that you will be able to find a housing which suits. You do need to consider carefully which lense you will be using too as this can make a big difference to your underwater images. If you are new to photography, you could opt for a compact camera. Today you will find a compact camera which is more capable of underwater photos, without the extra bulk and expense of SLR. When finding the right compact camera, you will need to consider three main features:
• Size and weight
The housing ensures that your camera is fully sealed so that water cannot get in. Most SLRs and compact cameras will have a housing option. It is important to try before you buy, to make sure you feel comfortable with the controls and that you will be able to work the camera when you are underwater.
You will need to decide whether you will be shooting in manual mode or not. Auto mode is far less effective underwater, because it is programmed for land, not sea. You will be best to take time to learn the manual controls and be prepared to become an enthusiast as you take more and more underwater photos. Many cameras are designed so it is easy to adjust settings, and they make shooting in manual mode much more efficient.
You will also need to decide whether you are going to be shooting in RAW or JPEG formatting. If you wish to get the most out of your photos, and you wish to use manual controls, RAW formatting will be something you will want to consider. RAW files are basically digital negatives; they store all the information that you need when editing.
When shooting JPEG, a standard image file that all cameras use, your camera will compress the file to make your image look good straight out of the camera. But when you come to edit the image a lot of information will have been lost.
Shutter lag is not something that is listed in the camera features when purchasing, so you will need to ask for advice or even better try before you buy. Shutter lag refers to the time between you taking the picture, to the actual image that has been captured. It can be very frustrating especially if you are taking underwater marine life pictures which need acute timing accuracy.
You will want to consider whether taking video is important to you. You will be looking at cameras which are capable of shooting in 720p if you are going to impress anyone with your underwater shots.
Size is an important factor, especially when you are already having to carry other essential scuba diving equipment. Unless you have a professional film crew carrying your luggage, it would be advisable to find a pocket-sized camera which is not going to be a burden to you. Today, you can find a full array of features within compact pocket-sized cameras from leading brands such as Canon and Olympus. So, shop around and make sure it is the right size before you buy.
When you’re planning on purchasing an underwater camera, it is important to future proof for those essential accessories that you will inevitability want to buy once you have got the underwater photography bug. This might include accessories such as external lenses and strobes, which are not cheap.
You will also want to consider possibly upgrading in the future. You may find you are better to spend a little more on a better camera now than reinvesting later down the line because you initially went for a smaller and cheaper option.
As electrics and water do not make a good match, it is always important to be prepared and make back ups should you be one of the unlucky ones.
If you are keen to start taking underwater pictures, where best to look than our specials page on our website. You will find some amazing offers that with take you to places where you will be spoilt for choice for underwater shots. Check out our special offers now by clicking the button below.