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Question:

I don't live near the ocean and only dive once or twice a year while on warm water one-week dive trips. I'm considering buying an inexpensive underwater camera, but I do want decent quality photos. I'd appreciate a recommendation.

 

 

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Questions and Answers (Q & A's)

From Alan Broder (from Ocean Realm Magazine - November 1993)

Answer:

You have several options. First, you could purchase an Ewa Marine bag for a camera you already have. These bags are quite secure and will accommodate most SLR cameras, as well as most of the "point and shoot" variety. There are Ewa models that accommodate a flash, as well as lenses to about 210mm, and there are even bags for video cameras. Retail prices range from about $105 for a bag accommodating a compact point and shoot camera to around $210 to $240 for SLR cameras to as much as $359 for a deluxe bag which will house an autofocus SLR. Video bags range in price from $369 to $465. All models have an optical glass port and can enable you to get decent images underwater. Bags for the "point and shoot" still cameras and the video cameras have operating depth limits of thirty feet. SLR bags have sixty-foot limits, and the deluxe bags for the autofocus SLR cameras operate to 100. It’s questionable whether these models would meet the requirements of most scuba divers.

Ikelite Underwater Systems manufactures a housing for several of the Kodak and Fuji "disposable" flash cameras. The housing is rated to about 150 feet. The cameras cost about fourteen or fifteen dollars and provide twenty-four to twenty-seven shots. If you’re satisfied with the photos these cameras produce on land, you’ll be equally pleased with their underwater performance. However, remember that although the housing, which retails at $69.95, is quite inexpensive, the film is not. Since you’ll dispose of a camera for every roll of film you shoot, the roughly ten-dollar extra cost of cameras adds up fast. But if you want to take a few rolls on a trip, the economics may work for you.

The next step up is to the Motor Marine Cameras which are manufactured by Sea & Sea. The most basic model is the MX10 which retails at 3999.95. This is a simple box camera with a built-in flash, aperture adjustment, and a fixed focus. The MX10 is rated to 150 feet and is capable of delivering sharp images. Sea & Sea makes a higher end model, the Motor Marine II, which features built-in flash with TTL metering, adjustable focus, aperture selection, and a close-up lens, that retails for about $585. Among the available accessories for these cameras are more powerful remote flash units which will provide more effective lighting and will help to reduce the snow-like backscatter which usually results from using a flash which is fixed close to the camera lens. All of the systems mentioned above have the flash located no more than several inches from the lens, and the strobe light will reflect back into the lens off of every particle in the water between the camera and the subject to the extent that in all but the clearest water, the overall quality of the photos will be severely reduced. Once you start adding accessory flash units to these systems, you might want to stand back and take a hard look at what else you might be able to buy with about the same money. You might also just want to ask yourself at that point just how much money you want to tie up in a system which is limited to the performance of the camera at its center. By the time you buy into all of the accessories needed to take the kind of photos you want to take, you might be able to put together a basic Nikonos V system or underwaterize your present land camera complete with proper housing and strobe. You might also want to consider renting. A basic Nikonos system capable of producing excellent quality fish portrait and macro photographs can be rented for under $150 for the first week, and at a reduced rate for additional days. You could rent a housing for your video camera for under $300 per week. If you don’t dive year around, this might be your best value when the cost is figured against much better results.

 

 

 

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