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SeaLife ReefMaster review: SeaLife ReefMaster

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The Good Sturdy housing; easy to use; negligible shutter lag; availability of accessories; affordable.

The Bad Mediocre image quality; no optical zoom or autofocus; limited controls on housing.

The Bottom Line While this affordable waterproof digicam offers easy operation, underwater shooters will have to look elsewhere for above-average image quality.

6.2 Overall

The SeaLife ReefMaster DC250 has a lot going for it, including plentiful accessories, ease of use, and, in its basic form, affordability. This underwater camera is actually made up of two components: a housing and a removable 2.1-megapixel digital camera with a fixed-focus lens, for dual-purpose wet/dry shooting. But as much as SeaLife gets right, we were less than impressed with the DC250's underwater image quality and frustrated by the housing's dearth of controls. You'll need to put a couple of optional items on your shopping list with this camera, too: an SD card to supplement the 8MB of internal memory and two rechargeable AA nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

The rubberized housing, depth-rated to 200 feet, easily withstands the rigors of diving and boating. Its black nonslip grip and included wrist strap help you keep hold of it, and since the housing is positively buoyant, it will float if you let go. You can view the camera's main 1.6-inch LCD and smaller status LCD easily through the housing windows, and SeaLife includes a sportsfinder (external viewfinder), although it's accurate at only a distance of at least four feet.

Unfortunately, the housing sports a mere three buttons: power, shutter release, and LCD power/Playback. While this arrangement makes for straightforward use, it also forces you to rely solely on the flash, white-balance, and exposure settings you chose before you put the camera in the housing. Since underwater conditions are a mystery until you splash down, you must guess at how to set up the camera in advance. If you're wrong, you have to get out of the water, dry off the housing, and start over.

The camera itself has a compact 7.3-ounce design and is easy to use. However, its poorly constructed sliding lens cover feels loose, and the control buttons lie flush with the camera's surface, so they're difficult to push. We were also disappointed with the LCD's performance under dim and indoor lighting, where it displays a noisy image with a slow refresh rate that creates a dragging effect. There's an optical viewfinder on the camera, but it's small and provides a slightly distorted view.

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