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I'm going travel next month and been told that it's going to be great snorkeling waters where I'm going. So I thought it would be fun to take some underwater photos, which I have never done before.

I was originally planing to buy a underwater housing for my Panasonic LX3 but the only one I can find is from 10Bar and it's rather expensive.

Could I get decent photos from a waterproof compact camera or is it worth buying the housing?

Any camera recommendations?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Your idea is great, I've done it too. These cameras are perfect for snorkeling and do not cost much. If you compare underwater cameras side-by-side, then you will notice they are all very similarly specified.

The major difference you have are the Pentax WGs are not stabilized and the Canon D10 does not have a wide-angle lens. There also only two that shoot full HD video and those are the Nikon AW100 and Panasonic TS3 which happens to go deeper than all other models.

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4  
Given a choice, one ought to keep in mind that when used underwater all cameras are viscosity-stabilized and that all lenses are "longer" underwater than they are in the dry world (the relationship is about the same as the difference between APS-C and full-frame; if a lens is 35mm-equivalent in air, it will have the same angle of view as a 50mm-equivalent lens underwater). Telephoto reach isn't important underwater -- the murk (even in amazingly "clear" water) and colour shifts mean you want to get close. All else being equal, go for the wider lens. –  user2719 Jan 6 '12 at 19:54
    
IMO image stabilisation is much overrated, and even more so for short focal lengths (meaning <300mm at 35mm frame size), so the lack of it on the Pentax isn't a loss. I'm more interested in the quality of the produced images, ergonomics (including when wearing gloves in cold weather and maybe diving), and the quality of the weather sealing. No reviews I've seen deal with those in detail (except complaining that image quality is less than with a $5000+ DSLR/housing combo). –  jwenting Jan 10 '12 at 12:17
    
While stabilization does not apply in many cases, it is far from overrated. Most small cameras use it because they tend to have narrow apertures F/4.8 - F/6.3 at the long end and terrible high-ISO performance, so anything that helps get a lower ISO, even by one stop, is a great help. –  Itai Jan 11 '12 at 2:26

I think the point and shoot is the way to go. They are smaller and trivial to transport with you at all times. You never have the issue of bringing the camera and leaving the housing, only to find out you are going to get wet. Being a spare camera, if you drop it into the drink too deep to dive for, you still have another camera on hand for the rest of the trip.

I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3. I think it takes respectable pictures for being a point and shoot. The GPS function is nifty, though it is fairly slow to update. I have several pictures from out of state that are tagged with my home location despite being 500 miles away. You can tell it to reposition, but it doesn't really offer any info on its progress until eventually it just updates without any notice. I picked it because it had the best advertised speed for startup and shutter lag.

Whatever you do, if you're in the ocean, you'll need to lug around a nalgene or something else full of fresh water when you go snorkeling, to rinse off the camera when you get out of the water. Salt water seems to destroy the seals in many of the cameras. I formerly had the Olympus Tough 790, and I brought it on a cruise, I never rinsed it off, and after sitting in my swim gear wet for hours, the seals went bad and the camera was ruined. The LCD display failed, but was able to continue taking pictures with my best guess for framing, so it wasn't a total loss for the vacation. After reading online, I see that is common for a lot of the underwater point and shoots.

Here are some sample pictures with the DMC-TS3, here is a friend in a waterfall: Friend in the water fall I tried to take a picture in the waterfall, not much to see, but its obvious I'm fine getting it wet! enter image description here

Two images out of the water. enter image description here enter image description here

All images were reduced from 4000x3000 to 2000x1500 for upload.

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Where were the latter 2 taken? They remind me of the Boundary Waters up around Ely, MN. :-) –  Andrew Heath Jan 19 '12 at 5:51
    
@AndrewHeath Good eye! That is exactly where they were taken. The island is in Ashub, north of Disappointment Lake, the marshy one is Jitterbug north from there, and the waterfall was between Cattyman and Gibson lake. Too bad imgur took out the exif, because the originals are tagged with their GPS coordinates. –  whatsisname Jan 19 '12 at 16:29
    
:-) that's great! My second guess would have been the area in and around Massasauga / Georgian Bay, Ontario but I went with BW due to the lack of visible watercraft and development. I spent 2 weeks there in 2005. Trip of a lifetime! –  Andrew Heath Jan 20 '12 at 0:57

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