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Any recommendations for underwater pocket camera?


Overgaard
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Dear all,

 

I have a friend who asks if OLYMPUS Mju 1030 SW isn't a great camera for him for going skiing, diving and all. It is waterproof down to 10 meters and easy to carry when going skiing.

 

My usual answer is "No, what you need is a Leica D-Lux 4" or something. In this case I'm not sure, but could imaging a small camera where a underwater house exist. He will be going skiing soon, then diving later again (why it seem like a good idea to get the underwater housing later).

 

As for size, I know for example Digilux 2 is too big to have when going skiing.

 

Any ideas and suggestions would be appreciated.

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Thorsten -

 

Have a look at the underwater photos in the Borneo photo galleries on my site (page 4 and pages 6 thorugh 14). I took these with a Panasonic version of the C-Lux in a Panasonic enclosure with an Inon external flash mounted on a flash arm attached to a camera tray (baseplate for the flash and enclosure), fired by optical cable off the internal flash. This is good to 40 meters of depth if you are careful about assembling it each time (you'll need to charge batteries and replace SD cards periodically). However, underwater photography requires learning a new set of skills, and shouldn't even be attempted until one is an experienced diver with perfect buoyancy control. Also, one needs to experiment with the rig to ensure good results. Even so, I needed to do post processing on most shots. Below is a photo of my underwater rig. The camera is the same one I carry with me every day to and from work, populating the NY pages of our site.

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Certainly the enclosures offer the most options and probably will yield the best pictures.

 

As a practical matter, in underwater or wilderness situations the Pentax Optio and Olympus are the most compact and usable. It's liberating to carry a camera in a shirt pocket and not care whether it's raining or not.

 

It is important to note the depth restrictions if you use these waterproof P&S cameras underwater. I've had no probs with an older Pentax Optio. An acquaintance of mine exceeded the Olympus depth limitation by less than a meter and the camera failed.

 

Frankly, the underwater environment is more often than not boring to me. The all-weather capability is wonderful though.

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I have the fx01 with it's underwater housing. I thought about buying the Oly 1030 SW because it's not much fun taking care for the underwater housing included sealing and using a single camera is much more convenient.

Typical situation on holiday would be going for snorkeling and just picking up the camera, coming back, going snorkeling and so on over the day. With the housing you have to clean and dry it every time.

 

Without professional underwater equipment like external flash or light it's hardly possible to get really good picture quality underwater. For the best quality it's necessary to wait for clear water, sunshine, not much wind and fishes in the top 1-2 m area because of the light. With good luck you get a few pictures you can show on web. This is spoken about snorkeling.

 

Therefore I thought that these circumstances would make picture quality of all comapcts equal underwater. I did some web research about the Oly. My impression after that is that you can see even from small pictures that the fx01 underwater is better than the Oly and in the air much better (sharpness, contrast, overall). Someone described the Oly as slightly better than the best camera phones. Maybe it's because it's build-in periscope lens.

 

Since the fx01 is at the lower quality level of picture quality that I could have fun with at all or use for anything at all, there is no way I will buy this Oly camera.

 

Remember: underwater is just about for fun with these cameras, mainly the effect of doing something new is most important. In the air it's about usable picture quality.

 

Hope that helps you a bit to recommend something to your friend.

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I will second what DaveB said. I also have an older Pentax and have taken it far beyond its stated limitations. It's almost frustrating because I haven't had a good enough excuse to upgrade!

I have the old Pentax Optio 43WR, which was rated as water resistant to about 3 feet. The current version, Optio W60 is rated to about 15 feet and has a 5X wide zoom. I find the IQ of mine with 4 MP is good enough for 8x10 prints or publishing in an Apple iPhoto book. The new one is 10 MP.

I would stay away from the Olympus ones simply because of the memory card format. XD is not as widely available as SD, is typically more expensive and is definitely less reliable!

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