Divernet


Digital photography has revolutionised photography, and no more so than under water.
Seeing the results immediately after recording an image enables the user to learn by mistakes, and as many cameras in their underwater housings are so compact, it's no longer an imposition to take one on every dive.
Some are set up merely to point and shoot, while others give you the option of more sophisticated manual controls.
Thanks to push-button menu-driven design, most underwater housings allow a full range of adjustments while the user is under water.
Remember, however, that the rules regarding the passage of light through water still apply no matter how you gather the image, so don't expect to produce masterpieces without a little thought.
Technology marches on apace. Today, we have mobile phones that can take pictures with more megapixels than some digital compacts of only five years ago.
As a Christmas shopping guide we've gathered together as many compact cameras with submarine housings as were available at the time of writing. But such is the world of digital cameras that the manufacturers in the Far East can bring out a new model faster than we can publish a magazine.
The camera/housing combinations are ranged here according to recommended retail prices.


GLOSSARY OF DIGITAL TERMS
Colour Correction Filters
These can be used to filter out blue-end spectrum light in favour of warmer-colour light. They are ineffective if there is no warm light penetrating to the depth at which you are operating, so don't expect magic results in all circumstances.

Digital Zoom
Useful for examining a part of the image on the LCD (see below) but not a substitute for an optical zoom.

File Type
Most compacts record ' jpeg' files on their recording medium (card). These are compressed files that take up little space at the expense of some loss in quality. When working with jpegs on a PC they should be resaved as 'tif' files to avoid additional compression of the digital information.

File Writing Time
The time it takes to record a picture on the medium (card) before the camera is ready to take another. Expensive digital SLR cameras have in-built 'buffers' to avoid this delay.

ISO Range
This is a figure that indicates light sensitivity.
A higher ISO will achieve pictures in lower light conditions, at the expense of digital 'noise', or grainy images. It is best to use the lowest ISO figure available consistent with good results.

LCD
The liquid crystal display that shows you what you have shot or are about to shoot. It usually substitutes for a separate viewfinder.

Macro
A lens adjustment that will allow you to get in-focus pictures from a particularly close camera-to-subject distance.

Manual White Balance
This control means you can make an adjustment to allow for the deficiency of red and yellow light found under water. It is effective only within the range of penetration of these wavelengths of light from above.

Megapixels
The number of light collection points on the sensor (in millions). Often misleadingly used by manufacturers as an indication of picture quality, all it actually indicates is the extent to which the picture can be enlarged without the individual pixels showing.

Optical Zoom
The ratio of variable magnification that the camera can perform by adjusting the lens
from a wide-angle setting to telephoto. Not very useful under water, because it's best
to get as close to the subject as possible for best clarity (with less water to look through) and restore the view at the maximum wide-angle setting.

Sensor Size
A larger light sensor might have fewer megapixels but can often offer better dynamic range and hence a better-quality image.

Shutter Lag
When you press the button to take a picture, the compact camera switches from writing
the image to the LCD , focuses and switches to writing to the recording medium. This
takes time. In macro mode it can take almost two seconds with some compact cameras, so the photographer needs to anticipate what faster-moving subjects will do!


ALL IN 1
Years ago, amphibious cameras were very popular. They could be used on land or taken under water.
The original Calypsophot, the Nikonos range, and the Sea & Sea range of film cameras were classic examples.
Today, thanks to the popularity of the compact digital camera that can be housed so easily, there are only a couple of these purpose-designed cameras on the market. The Sea & Sea camera in this round-up is in fact a Ricoh sold as a unit with a Sea & Sea housing.
The SeaLife range of cameras is probably the last survivor of what was once a popular genre with divers. Even so, each unit should be considered as useful on land as it is under water. You won't have to run for cover if it starts raining!
SeaLife offers a purpose-designed ancillary flashgun and colour-correction filters for its amphibious digital camera range, www.sealife-cameras.com

 

SEALIFE
REEF MINIMASTER
£200

CAMERA RRP: £200
MEGAPIXELS: 6
LCD SIZE: 5cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 4x
MACRO: 45cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 50 - 200
DEPTH: 40m



 

SEALIFE
DC600
£350

CAMERA RRP: £350
MEGAPIXELS: 6.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 64 - 200
DEPTH: 60m


COMBOS
The very compactness of compact cameras, and the fact that they are normally menu-driven by push-buttons, makes them inherently practical to house in a watertight case and take diving.
Unlike more complicated set-ups, there are no gear wheels or other controls to mesh. It's just a matter of lining up the through-bulkhead buttons so that they push on their counterparts.
Housings tend to be made from clear Perspex, which allows for visual checks of possible leaks before committing the camera to water, and easy synchronising of an off-board ancillary flashgun through a fibre-optic cable.
Of course, internal reflections can be a problem. The better housings avoid this by including a black flexible rubber-like tube that encloses the lens as it extends when switching the camera on.
A watertight seal is made on closing the housing by means of a large O-ring.
Some housings allow for a colour-correction filter or a supplementary wide-angle lens to be fitted. This allows you to get closer to the subject and reduce the amount of water that the camera has to look through. Clearer pictures are the result.
When using a camera in macro mode, the little built-in flash may be adequate, and far enough from the optical axis of the lens not to cause detritus to reflect as backscatter.
Once moved further than a few centimetres from the subject, however, a separate flashgun mounted well away from the optical axis of the lens will provide sharp, brightly lit, colourful pictures - but at extra cost, typically ?300.
Always buy the housing when you buy the camera, to avoid disappointment later.


OLYMPUS
FE230 + PT038
£250

CAMERA RRP: £100
HOUSING RRP: £150
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 50 - 1250
DEPTH: 40m
www.olympus.co.uk


OLYMPUS
MJU 760 + PT036
£350

CAMERA RRP: £150
HOUSING RRP: £200
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 8cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 64 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.olympus.co.uk



OLYMPUS
MJU 725SW + PT033
£370

CAMERA RRP: £200
HOUSING RRP: £170
MEGAPIXELS: 7
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 2cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 64 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.olympus.co.uk




SONY
W-200 + MPK-WB
£388

CAMERA RRP: £249
HOUSING RRP: £139
MEGAPIXELS: 12.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 80 - 3200
DEPTH: 40m
www.sony.co.uk


CANON
IXUS 75 + WP-DC14
£389

CAMERA RRP: £230
HOUSING RRP: £159
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 7.6cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 3cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 80 m

DEPTH: 40m
www.canon.co.uk


SONY
T-10 + MPK-THC
£389

CAMERA RRP: £250
HOUSING RRP: £139
MEGAPIXELS: 7.2
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 1cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 80 - 1000
DEPTH: 40m

www.sony.co.uk


PANASONIC
LUMIX DMC-FX12 + MCF07
£390

CAMERA RRP: £190
HOUSING RRP: £200
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100-3200


DEPTH: 40m
www.panasonic.co.uk



FUJI FINEPIX
F40 FD + WP-FXF40
£400

CAMERA RRP: £250
HOUSING RRP: £150
MEGAPIXELS: 8.3
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 7cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100 - 2000

DEPTH: 40m
www.fujifilm.co.uk


FUJI FINEPIX
F31 FD + WP-FXF30
£425

CAMERA RRP: £275
HOUSING RRP: £150
MEGAPIXELS: 6.3
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100 - 3200
DEPTH: 40m


www.fujifilm.co.uk



FUJI FINEPIX
F5O FD + WP-FXF50
£430

CAMERA RRP: £280
HOUSING RRP: £150
MEGAPIXELS: 12
LCD SIZE: 6.8cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 7cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100 - 6400
DEPTH: 40m
www.fujifilm.co.uk


NIKON COOLPIX
S7C + FANTASEA LINE FS6
£430

CAMERA RRP: £300
HOUSING RRP: £130
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 7.6cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 4cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 50-1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.nikon.co.uk


SEA & SEA
DX860 G
£430

CAMERA RRP: £430
MEGAPIXELS: 6.2
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100-400
DEPTH: 45m
NOTE: Ricoh in Sea & Sea housing www.sea-sea.com


PANASONIC
LUMIX DMC-TZ3 + DMW-MCTZ3
£434

CAMERA RRP: £270
HOUSING RRP: £164
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 7.6cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 10x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 100-3200


DEPTH: 40m
www.panasonic.co.uk





CANON
POWERSHOT A570 IS + WP-DC12
£439

CAMERA RRP: £280
HOUSING RRP: £159
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 4x
MACRO: 5cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes

ISO RANGE: 80 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.canon.co.uk



OLYMPUS
MJU 770 SW + PT035
£440

CAMERA RRP: £240
HOUSING RRP: £200
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 7cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 80 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.olympus.co.uk



NIKON COOLPIX
P5100 + FANTASEA LINE FP5000
£460

CAMERA RRP: £300
HOUSING RRP: £160
MEGAPIXELS: 12.4
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3.5x
MACRO: 4cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 64-3200
DEPTH: 60m
www.fantasea.com





SONY
W-90 + MPK-WB
£489

CAMERA RRP: £350
HOUSING RRP: £139
MEGAPIXELS: 8.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 4cm
WHITE BALANCE: No
ISO RANGE: 80 - 3200
DEPTH: 40m
www.sony.co.uk






CANON
G7 + WP-DC11
£509

CAMERA RRP: £350
HOUSING RRP: £159
MEGAPIXELS: 10.3
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 6x
MACRO: 1cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 80 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
www.canon.co.uk





OLYMPUS
SP550 + PT037
£519

CAMERA RRP: £220
HOUSING RRP: £299
MEGAPIXELS: 7.1
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 18x
MACRO: 1cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 50 - 1600
DEPTH: 40m
NOTE: Can output RAW files







SEA & SEA
DX-1G
£799

CAMERA RRP: £799
MEGAPIXELS: 10.3
LCD SIZE: 6.4cm
OPTICAL ZOOM: 3x
MACRO: 1cm
WHITE BALANCE: Yes
ISO RANGE: 80-1600
DEPTH: 55m


NOTE: Ricoh in Sea & Sea housing www.sea-sea.com