underwater photography camera – the item without which an underwater photographer is not a photographer
There are many parameters to consider when choosing an underwater photography camera that will serve our photographic needs and meet our requirements properly.
For example: The selected camera must have a suitable package for the maximum depth to which we want to dive. The underwater photography camera should have the option to manually control the exposure data, the pack should have the ability to control exposure, the lens should be wide enough to shoot wide scenes underwater along with an impressive macro capability, but wait, before that!
What is our budget?
Or in other words – how much does the woman (or husband in the case of underwater photographers) wants to spend on this strange hobby and what will be the main use of the photographs we take?
Share Facebook friends?
Print images in sizes larger than 50X70 cm?
What is our background in diving?
How experienced are we and how well do we control high-level balance?
Do we have the time and the power to carry with a big heavy camera out of and under water? Or do we simply want a camera that will be there when something worthwhile happens so we can document and do it in the best way possible?
In this article I hope to answer many questions I have been asked lately and many other questions I have not been asked, because no one knows which ones to asked until they have tried underwater photography.
As I reviewed in the previous article (underwater photography – where do you start?), Underwater cameras can be classified into three main categories:
- Compact, waterproof cameras (without case)
- Ordinary and compact cameras in a specified underwater camera housing
- SLR cameras in a specified underwater photography camera housing
I believe that if you came here you want to take high-level underwater photos and therefore skip the first category (which is suitable for shooting in wet or extra-terrestrial environments from sea level to 10 meters below it) and focus on the following two: Regular compact cameras in a dedicated underwater camera housing and SLR cameras in a dedicated package For diving. In order to best fit a camera, we must begin asking ourselves questions about our nature, our diving nature and our ultimate goal.
I will try to answer some of these questions in this section:
- Am I an experienced diver who controls such a level that I do not need to use my hands during the entire dive? If the answer is no – a compact underwater photography camera will fit more.
- Will the use of images be commercial? (Selling pictures or making a living from them in some way) if the answer is no – a compact camera will fit more.
- Are the images designed for printing over 70X50 cm? If the answer is no – a compact camera will fit more.
- Do I want to turn photography and dealing with photographic equipment into the main occupation before, during and after the dive? If the answer is no a – a compact camera will fit more.
If the answer to one or more of the questions is – yes – it could be that SLR will suit you.
The superiority of SLR cameras over compact cameras is achieved mainly thanks to a larger sensor area (not higher megapixels), higher optical quality lenses optimized for the task, optical viewfinder (optics for diopter glasses) focus speed and click response on the shutter.
These advantages stand in the face of the many disadvantages that the SLR system faces as opposed to compact cameras, especially when it comes to underwater photography.
Since the compact camera-based system is smaller and lighter and has fewer SLR parts and seals; operating it above and below the water is easier and there is less chance of user error, which will leak water into the chassis. In a compact camera, you can take wide shots and macro shots on the same dive by moving a small button in the case and changing the focal length of the lens. In SLR cameras, due to technical limitations, most zoom lenses with a short and long focal length in the same package do not perform well below water. (For example, we chose to use a macro lens and during the dive, a whale shark appears in front of us, we can perhaps photograph the end of it the fin …).
Another advantage of compact cameras on the SLR is the depth of field (the sharp area in the picture) the largest concept in macro photography. For example, I recommend reading some of the features of each system and being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each of them in order to exercise proper consideration when choosing the system because certain advantages to one may be disadvantages to another.
Whether we decided to go for a compact or SLR, it is best that the system (camera, housing, flash) to have the following features (not necessarily the following):
- The work depth is sufficient for the dives I plan to perform (most of the camera housings provide a working depth of 40-60 meters).
- The presence of auxiliary products and the possibility of connecting them to the package (expandable lenses, filters, lighting, etc. all which can be purchased at a later stage).
- A camera with a large sensor (the rule of thumb is that the bigger the sensor, the better the picture quality, but the depth of field becomes shallow – critical for macro photography, where we usually want a large depth of field).
- The ability to shoot RAW files (a format that allows us to achieve higher output quality and better colors, but later requires work on each image to convert to the familiar JPG format).
- A lens that allows as wide a view as possible (under the water the working ranges are very short and to photograph our diving partner, for example, we need to be up to two meters away).
- Ability to work well in the macro. (The intensity of the magnification needs to be considered and not the distance of work in cm). 7. External flash capability: either by the built-in flash of the camera or by a “hot-shoe” in the camera (requires an enclosure that allows a wired connection of a flash).
- A underwater photography camera that allows manual control of all parameters of exposure (aperture, shutter, sensitivity) and a package that allows easy access to these buttons.
- An underwater photography camera housing that allows access to all or most of the camera buttons at reasonable operating comfort.
Of course, in life we have to make compromises and there is no guarantee that the camera that suits us in terms of budget or that we find suitable for our needs in certain parameters, will fulfill all our wishes. I will give a brief example of this.
Let’s say we decided that we want to buy an advanced compact camera that will be easy to pocket in the balance or hanging on the hand, but will give you excellent picture quality and all the features mentioned in the list. For example, we will take the Canon G12 camera which is considered the queen of the advanced compact cameras.
While testing cases for the camera, we find that Canon is making a small and convenient package for the camera, but to our great surprise, we are exposed to the fact that it does not allow manual control of the exposure data of the camera. After checking with the person who has the case, we discover that it is possible to play with the exposure however it is in a very unintelligent and uncomfortable way. Since this is a key parameter for underwater photography we are disappointed and choose to leave this case.
We continue to search and land on an imported Euclite underwater camera housing imported by Dugit to Israel (yes, an importer is also an important thing for warranty, service, repairs and laboratory) The package is large and impressive and provides control over all the buttons and has a wired connection to a “hot shoe”, for external flash.
Keep in mind! Although I definitely recommend the G12 as a good camera for shooting above and below water, which meets all the conditions mentioned here for producing a successful photo, you must choose the best camera for you and meet your requirements!
Some points of conclusion
In this article I tried to share my knowledge and experience in choosing an underwater photography camera systems that answer the questions I am asked sometimes and even the questions I ask myself from time to time about different pieces of equipment. I hope that, after reading it, you will choose the equipment from a more informed place and with greater peace of mind regarding the selection of the equipment.
However, it is important to emphasize that the first parameter in underwater photography is the safety of the diver and the preservation of the underwater environment. Therefore, I mention again that choosing the equipment must take into account your level of diving and skill underwater!
Remember that the large and heavy (and impressive) equipment that comes with choosing an SLR-based system provides us with few advantages, not relevant to some of us, and on the other hand requires a very high level of technical skill in preparing and operating underwater equipment. In my opinion, an average diver reaches a technical level sufficient for diving after about 200 dives, and I would not recommend to those who have not yet reached this level to purchase expensive and heavy equipment that will complicate life under water.
On the other hand, a good small camera will allow us to continue to dive and photograph and even develop in photography by adding a filter for the return of color, a flash, a wide lens and other related products that will allow us to photograph underwater nature in all its glory while providing creative freedom and maximum comfort.
I hope that the text helped you reach the right decision for you. Safe dives and successful photos!