Pentax and Olympus have sold shockproof, water-resistant cameras for a few years now, but with the compact camera market saturated and the economy in the tank, other camera makers are following them with rugged cameras of their own. Nobody wants a frail camera, so why not offer durability and waterproofing as an explicit feature?
The Photo Marketing Association (PMA) offered a perfect venue to show off the new features with cameras immersed in aquariums, hanging from climbing walls, and encased in ice.
These cameras typically lack many of the bells and whistles of typical compact cameras. For example, it's hard to squeeze a long zoom range out of a lens that's hunkered down within the protective confines of a tough chassis. But taking your camera snorkeling, swimming, or surfing could be a good way for a lot of people to add a little more variety to their photography lives.
The Panasonic DMC-TS1, shown here in an aquarium, can shoot HD video as well as 12-megapixel still images and will be available this spring. It works up to 10 feet deep underwater and is shockproof and dustproof. It's due to ship in April for about $400.
The Pentax Optio W60, shown here in an aquarium, was introduced in 2008. It's got a 10-megapixel sensor, a 5x optical zoom, and a price at about $250. For beachgoers, it's dustproof, sandproof, and waterproof down to 13 feet.
The Canon PowerShot D10 so far is the closest thing to the Beatles' yellow submarine you can find right now in a waterproof, shockproof camera. Canon hoisted it by some carabiners and climbing rope, though it didn't actually bang against the faux rock wall in the display. It's got a 12-megapixel sensor and a 3x zoom. It'll cost $329.99 when it ships in early May. It can take a 5-foot drop, 33-foot immersion underwater, and temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Olympus has been in the rugged camera market for years now, but it's newly branded the product line Tough. Here, two models are shown inside a block of ice; the cameras are rated to work down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Waterproof isn't just for still images. Panasonic's SDR-SW21, shown here being re-immersed after being woken up from a subsurface slumber, costs about $400 and is due to arrive in April. It can function at depths of 6.5 feet and can withstand the shock of being dropped from 4 feet, Panasonic said.
Sony doesn't make waterproof cameras, but it does make Marinepack plastic housings for some of its products. This $75 APK-WB protects Sony's Cyber-shot W290, W230, W220, and W210 cameras down to 5 feet.
Sea&Sea specializes in heavy-duty underwater housings for a variety of cameras. The RDX-450D is custom-fitted to a Canon Rebel XSi (aka 450D), including its buttons and dials and the lens' focusing ring. At about $1,400, it costs more than the camera itself, but it works at depths of up to 200 feet.
It may not be the most elegant underwater housing, but Ewa-Marine's flexible bags work with a wide variety of models. This smaller bag is shown with a Samsung point-and-shoot inside, but it'll house many cameras.