Underwater Photography

Welcome to our new photography page.  This page started off as a "hints and tips" type page orientated towards low-end disposable & semi-reusable underwater cameras.  Over time our experience and knowledge has improved.  As a result this new guide is still orientated towards lower-end equipment, but it is more thorough and contains information relevant to most camera systems.

For many SCUBA divers underwater photography is an area of great interest, but lies outside of their price range.  Most specialized underwater cameras are very expensive - often costing several thousand dollars when all accessories are purchased.  Likewise, underwater housings for normal camera's can be very expensive.  For example, Ikelite's underwater housing for the Canon G3 digital camera costs $750 US, about the same as the camera itself.  Add to that the cost of an external TTL strobe and you're looking at nearly $1000 US (about $1400 Canadian) just for the housing.  When you add in the cost of buying SCUBA gear, the cost of underwater photography becomes unreachable for all but the wealthiest of divers, or is it?

Alternate Choices:  Recently, several inexpensive options for underwater photography have appeared on the market.  These include "disposable" camera's good to 15' (useless for diving), cheap "semi-reloadable" camera's good to ~95 feet ($40, favorite for the crew), and inexpensive housed camera's (less then $150).  Some mid-range cameras are also becoming available.  These include a series of reasonably priced digital and film cameras from several companies, including Sea & Sea, Sealife, and others.  Lastly, several camera companies are now making simple underwater cases for many of their digital camera's.  Among these manufacturers is Canon, Nikon and Olympus.  Together, these camera's give the aspiring photographer a broad range of camera to choose from.  The price of the cameras range from $40 to $1000.  Although these camera's will not provide the professional-quality results of more expensive systems they will produce photographs you can be proud of, and that your friends will enjoy.

The camera most often used by our crew is the Snap Sights line of camera's.  This camera is inexpensive ($35 Canadian), good to approximately 95' depth, and is semi-reloadable (meaning you can reload it several times, but it is not designed to be reloaded indefinitely).  In addition the camera has a built-in flash, which allows decent pictures to be taken at depth.  Lately some of us have recently upgraded to a new housed film camera made by CameraShield (in North America these cameras are carried by Fuerte Cases).  This package features a case which can go down to 40m (130'), is self-winding, and takes better quality pictures then the Snap Sights line of camera's. 

Two inexpensive underwater camera systems.  Left: Snapsights SCUBA camera ($40).  Right: CameraShield camera ($100)


Because of our choice of cameras this guide is aimed primarily at these lower-end camera's.  However, nearly all of the concepts covered in this guide hold true for more advanced systems.  The main purpose of this guide is to teach you to use your camera to it's greatest capabilities. 

What to look for:  Underwater camera's can have a large array of features, and choosing a cheap underwater camera is more difficult then going to the store and picking up the first one you see.  The array of features can be confusing, but here's the minimal features you camera will need:

  1. Flash:  Water absorbs light.  Unfortunately for the photographer water doesn't absorb all colours of light equally - reds go first, blues last.  As such most underwater photos taken without a flash will appear blue-green in colour.  A flash will allow you to restore colour, at least to objects close-in.  And if you happen to be diving in water with less then 100' visibility the chances of you having enough ambient light for a photo is almost zero - the flash fixes that as well.
  2. Waterproof to at least 80'.  This will allow the camera to be used on most dives.  If you frequently exceed this depth you'll have to put out the money for a better system.
  3. Sealed with o-rings.  O-rings are the only form of underwater seal which you can open and close while remaining its reliability.

Due to the large amount of material, this page has been divided into multiple chapters:



Glossary This Page Choosing a camera


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