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Cameras forum

General discussion

Underwater Digital Camera

by insane192 / October 22, 2007 1:56 AM PDT

I am looking to purchase a digital camera shortly ( around Christmas time ) and have been looking around but am terribly confused so need some advice.
I will list some points that I would like and maybe you can suggest a camera or point me in the right direction.

It needs to be a model which is compatible with one of the ikelite ( underwater housings or another manufacture with housings suitable for scuba diving.

I don't know a lot about camera features and at the minute I'm just doing point and shoot photography but I would like something with a few features that I could use when I progress my photographic skills.

I don't want to spend too much, most of ikelites housing are around $300 and I wouldn't want to spend much more than $300- $400 on the camera.

As I say I don't know alot about this so any help/advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

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Underwater Camera
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / October 22, 2007 8:28 AM PDT
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Scuba diving underwater housing
by hjfok / October 22, 2007 9:21 AM PDT

You price range will restrict you to a point and shoot camera. There are a number of point and shoot cameras including Canon, Olympus, Nikon and Sony that have underwater housing useable down to 130 ft. For PS cameras, you don't need to get an Ikelite housing, which usually costs more than the manufacturer's housing. I use my old Canon SD500 PS camera with the Canon underwater housing, and use the underwater setting on the preset scene mode. The Olympus is also good, and gets recommended by a number of underwater photographers. The D-SLR will be out of your range and the Ikelite D-SLR housing usually runs above $1000.
Lighting is crucial for underwater photography. The on-camera flash is very limited, but is usually adequate for daytime use down to perhaps 60 ft on a sunny day with clear water. I lost my underwater strobes which are much better. Since then I use the Night Rider scuba diving light which is great for video but is also good for photos.
Just get a simple PS camera and use the underwater setting. It is hard to use the small buttons to navigate the menu for manual settings when you are doing scuba diving, especially in cold water using dry suit and thick gloves.
When you are ready for SLR underwater, you can consider the good old film SLR Nikonos V (need manual focus) or Nikonos RS (with autofocus).

Here are a few photos of my Canon SD500 with the Canon underwater housing using only on camera flash:

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Canon ixus 860 is
by insane192 / October 22, 2007 5:26 PM PDT

I did a bit more looking around after I posted and I think I probably do just want a point and shoot camera.

What I'm looking at is the canon ixus 860 is as it seems to have a few good features usually only available at a higher price with the canon housing as well. What would you guys think of that setup.

Also I will be using it in irish waters down to around 20m is the flash enough or will you not see anything?

Is it worth going for the ixus 860 over the cheaper ixus 75?

Any ideas what the video recording quality is like on these cameras as wouldn't mind taking the odd clip.


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Camera for Scuba Diving
by hjfok / October 23, 2007 2:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Canon ixus 860 is

The IS (image stabilization) is very helpful. As you know, you are never staying still while scuba diving. And as the ambient light level drops in greater depth, the shutter speed will slow down, and your body movements under water will cause image blurring. The IS will help you get clearer images.
At 20m (60-70 feet), the light level starts to get lower. The on-camera flash will still be adequate during daytime on a sunny day with clear water. The turbidity and visibility will affect your lighting a lot. Buying an underwater camera strobe will help in darker situations. Alternatively, a bright diving light like the Nite Rider will also help in lighting underwater.
The video quality of any PS camera or compact camera is mediocre, but adequate to record those memorable moments. It won't be fit for Discovery, but it should be good enough for your own personal use. The Canon video quality on small camera is better than most other brands.

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Sounds Good
by insane192 / October 23, 2007 2:16 AM PDT

That all sounds good then but I'm wondering if I buy a canon housing, do canon make underwater strobe lights as-well or can you get 3rd party ones that fit? What other ways would I use to light the scene, and is there anything else you would recommend to buy?


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3rd party strobes
by hjfok / October 23, 2007 6:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Sounds Good

Canon does not make underwater strobes. But you can use 3rd party strobes that synchs by detecting light firing from your PS camera. The Canon underwater housing is not TTL compatible. But these types of strobes should work with it:

There are limitations to PS cameras doing underwater photography. You have very limited choice, only auto or the preset "underwater" scene mode. If you want full control of exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and use TTL flash, then you will need to spend a lot more with a D-SLR, or get one of the classic Nikonos. The buttons and menus of the PS or compact cameras are usually too cumbersome to use under the water, and they don't work that much better anyways (sometimes even worse than the auto or preset scene modes). At 20m, you may not need to get the UW strobes yet, since the on camera flash will probably be adequate for most shots. And if you need a strobe, I will suggest you visiting a good reputable local diving specialty store to see if they will lend you a rental for you to try it out before purchase. My diving store usually let me use it in their training pool and take it for diving a couple of times to try it out. You should also check with your local diving shop to see if they have some recommendations for you too. Many diving shop offer underwater photography as a specialty diving course, and these courses are highly recommended for all levels of photographers. Even the expert land photographer still needs to learn a trick or two under the water. Don't spend all your money at one time and buy all the equipment. Just decide on the camera you like and get the housing. Some diving stores even let you borrow their underwater cameras and videos to try out before purchase, but they usually have limited selections and charge you a lot more than what you can find online.
I don't know about your expertise in scuba diving. I usually need to pay close attention to my diving computer, navigation, and look out for any potential hazards in the environment. So I usually just use my PS camera so that I can pay closer attention to more important things. But it is really fun! Enjoy your adventure!

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by insane192 / October 23, 2007 5:14 PM PDT
In reply to: 3rd party strobes

So these strobes still fit onto the housing and don't have to be carried seperately? Will they also work with the other canon housings?


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by hjfok / October 24, 2007 1:14 AM PDT
In reply to: Strobes

These strobes fire when they sense the light from the on-camera flash. So they will work with any camera that has built-in flash. The arm supporting the strobes basically just screws into the bottom of the housing. The Canon housing bottom has a place for the screw. But you should call and ask them to make sure they fit together. Again, it is best to go to a local diving shop who can let you try out these strobes before the purchase. Some diving specialty stores offer underwater photography classes and have some of these similar strobes in stock for customers to try out.

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Nearly Decided
by insane192 / October 24, 2007 1:38 AM PDT
In reply to: Strobes

I'm verging on a complete decision now. Just some minor details to work out.
Do I want to buy case weights to make the case negatively buoyant? I don't have the steadiest hands so would it floating up or sinking down make it easier to hold still?
Can you recommend any good cases for putting the camera in when I'm using it on land?
What size memory card capacity should I be buying. I have 3 x 1gb cards but I'm guessing that won't be enough when I can't change them underwater.
Last question! What do you do to protect your underwater housing from being damaged while travelling? I don't want to be spending big $ on a mega case or add to much bulk to the housing.


P.S. Thanks ever so much for the help. You've helped more than any professional could of!

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by BillW / October 26, 2007 9:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Nearly Decided

Most of the Cannon housings I?ve seen are a little too buoyant for my tastes in fresh water and way too buoyant in salt water unless you?ve attached a heavy strobe or HID dive light to them. Rather than the Cannon weights I prefer large stainless steel fender washers with a couple size of ss bolts that fit the housing tripod fitting. I prefer to have the camera very slightly positive (floats up at about 5fpm or less if released) for most shooting, though sometimes I?ll carry a small bag with about a half pound of shot in it that I can drape over the camera when I want it firmly on the bottom for a shot.

Getting the camera too heavy or too buoyant can really mess up your dive trim where you wind up either too head high or too low, and the washers allow me to fine tune the camera buoyancy very well. I rarely use image stabilizing on either a still or video camera underwater because if your trim and buoyancy is under control the water dampens most camera movement pretty good ? unless you?re in heavy surge, waves, or current.

I?ve also noticed using rechargeable batteries that different brands can effect the trim so I stick with all the same batteries.

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Traveling with UW case
by hjfok / October 26, 2007 11:02 AM PDT
In reply to: Nearly Decided

I usually wrap the case in my wet or dry suit and pack them with my diving gears in the luggage dedicated to my diving equipment. The case is pretty sturdy. You can also pack it in your regular suit case. Make sure you apply the sealant and check the seal under water before diving.
I found the Canon weights adequate but the stainless steel washer will work too. Most people will leave the housing slightly positively buoyant or in neutral buoyancy, rather than negatively buoyant.

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Underwater Housing
by Master Camper / November 28, 2008 5:54 AM PST

How well does the underwater housing work; assuming you have followed the directions correctly setting it up?

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by Jim Brunner / October 26, 2007 7:36 PM PDT

Check out the new Panasonic DMC TZ3 which has a lot of great features and a wonderful underwater housing available. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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Underwater Digital Camera Questions
by mel4576 / November 28, 2007 1:47 PM PST

How much are you planning on using the camera underwater? You budget seems way too high on the housing part if you plan on doing most of your photography above the water! You can buy all kinds of housings and waterproof bags that are made by companies other than the manufacture, totally guaranteed for half the price! As far as using underwater lighting, during the day most underwater cameras can operate on natural light until about 100 feet in most water conditions. To even further compensate for low-light conditions below the water's surface, you can adjust the cameras shutter speed and aperture before entering the water, ensuring vivid images without worry of underexposure. For more on underwater digital cameras visit --->

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