Log in

Welcome to Dive Gear Reviews, a comprehensive guide to scuba diving equipment. Scuba diving is an expensive pursuit, so looking up reviews for a particular article of equipment is a wise precaution before investing any hard-earned money in it. However, consumer reviews may or may not be written by an experienced diver, and magazine reviews could be suspect due to the advertising ties of the publication in question. Dive Gear Reviews provides cross-referenced reviews assembled by an expert, making it possible to see at a glance what multiple sources said about a particular piece of scuba equipment. If one magazine loved a scuba regulator or a dive computer, but the consumers hated it, that information will be found here.

Underwater Camera Guide (Casual Scuba Divers)

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Underwater Camera Guide (Casual Scuba Divers) Posted in: Dive Gear Tips, Scuba Product Guides, Underwater Cameras
Diver with underwater camera

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Casual scuba divers buying an underwater camera often find choosing a camera to be a confusing proposition. Given the price tag, the selection of an underwater camera might even become discouraging. However, it doesn’t need to be that way.

Only divers looking to follow in the footsteps of underwater photography gurus like Stephen Frink need to pay attention to frills like built-in light meters or statistics such as focal length. For the recreational diver who wants snapshots of his hobby, high-end cameras of this type are a big money sink and too much camera for the job. At the same time, most cheap underwater cameras of such limited utility as to be nearly useless, making them equally a waste of money. Casual, recreational scuba divers need to focus on what is important: a reliable camera that takes reasonably good pictures with a minimum of fuss. With that in mind, some features are critical to choosing the right underwater camera.

Buttons: Casual divers often assume their underwater camera’s buttons will work with no extra fuss, which simply isn’t the case in some models. This is one area where buying a purpose-built underwater camera is a better idea than buying a normal camera and then acquiring an underwater housing for it. Purpose-built dive cameras are built with being mated to an underwater housing in mind, which in turn is built specifically for that camera. The result is a more seamless pairing between the buttons on the housing and the buttons on the camera. The best underwater housings for regular cameras, such as those made by Ikelite, are usually excellent but sometimes fail to fully compensate for the plain fact that the camera was not designed with the underwater housing in mind. As a result, if the camera isn’t in the underwater housing just right, some or all of the buttons will fail to align and make the camera non-functional. These underwater housing-and-camera pairs require careful testing on the surface before a dive to make sure everything is aligned, which drains some power from the batteries, and even then the buttons might still fail underwater.

In this category, purpose-built underwater cameras usually trump normal cameras with aftermarket underwater housings. Some of the cheaper, purpose-built dive cameras also suffer from the same fault. Carefully review owner comments from as many sources as you can to rule out underwater housing models with button problems.

Underwater camera housing

Wikimedia Commons

Power Supply: Consider only underwater cameras with solid, reliable power supplies. That may sound like a no-brainer, but many cameras relying on standard AAA and sometimes even AA batteries fail to provide enough power for even a single long dive. This is partly because underwater cameras are usually left on throughout a dive and partially because some cheap cameras are power-hogs. The bargain basement Intova CP9 underwater camera is a prime example of just such a camera, as it greedily eats heaps of AAA batteries. Some owners of the popular Sealife DC1200 and DC1400 (which use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries) complain that the battery only lasts for about 1 1/2 dives, limiting their ability to shoot video.

The bottom line is that a strategy based upon cheap batteries doesn’t save money in the long run, because the only way to ensure that a camera using such batteries has a reliable power supply is to change batteries between each and every dive, creating a pile of partially depleted batteries in short order.¬† Investigate what the power supply is and what reviewers say about how long it lasts in the field very carefully.

Zoom: It is simply amazing how many underwater housings for pocket digital cameras lack the ability to accommodate that camera’s existing zoom lens. This is less of problem with purpose-built underwater cameras, but it still happens in some models (such as the cheap, awful Intova CP8 and CP9). Always check to see if the housing can accommodate the camera’s zoom lens. This can often be done through a simple visual inspection. If the housing’s outer lens is flush with the camera’s lens in its base position, then obviously the camera has no room for zooming.