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Camera question? which one?

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I am interested a waterproof camera, digital most likely.I like the idea of a zoom but am not interested in paying top dollar to get one unless needed.

So a few questions:

What cameras work for you and why?

How breakable are the digitals?

Is a zoom worth it, or can I just get in closer?

How is battery life on the digitals?

Waterproof case or waterproof camera?

What if you are away for a week and fill all your memory cards? Can you download them on any computer or do you need special programs?

I am used to waterproof disposables and cheaper 35MM's.

I like Bill's (no quarter) pictures and wonder what he is using for a digital.

Thanks for any ideas and suggestions,

Paul S.

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This thread has been up before, but may have been eaten by disruptions.

I started paddling with a Minolta Weathermatic Zoom, which uses 35mm film, has a zoom, is dive rated (not very deep, but waterproof enough for paddling), and has a cute arm band that makes it ultra handy while paddling. The picture quality isn't great (see my Lake Powell trip pix - the water pix were taken with it, and the land pix with a true 35mm slr - olympus om-1 with a good lens).

I wanted faster turnaround, so started looking last year for digital waterproof. The only one I've seen on the market that isn't a case around a conventional digital camera is not very good. I don't remember the model, but it is a funny form-factor (vertical in your hand), has no zoom, and has such terrible power management that it dies after one shot in cold weather. I gave up on it (anybody want to buy it?)

I needed a good digital for an upcoming canyon trip, and after much research settled on the Canon A80, with the waterproof (dive rated) case that Canon makes for it. It is a 4 megapix with good optics, good zoom, and fully manual capabilities. All buttons are accessible from the waterproof case. It uses 4 AA batteries, and it appears that you can get about 1000 pix out of a set of good NiMH batteries. (I only looked at AA battery cameras, so I could extend power life on a long trip without access to line voltage). Uses compact flash, so a few hundred $$ gets you about 1.5 GB, or 1000 pix at full resolution and minimum compression...enough for a long trip with plenty of scenery. I haven't taken it in the field yet, but I've taken some paddling pictures, and a lot of test pictures...all look good. I still need to come up with an ergonomic way to carry it paddling for quick access...some sort of strap & velcro rube-goldberg..?

Several other NSPN folks have similar cameras (conventional digital in dive cases). I'm sure opinions abound.

My "hard advice": Get one that uses AA batteries for field replacement, preferably lots of them for good power life (2 min, 4 preferable). Get a real zoom (not just digital zoom)...paddle shots always need help to frame right, and those impressive wave shots just don't look good if you stand back enough for a stable shot unless you zoom in. Make sure it has a "standard" memory form factor, not proprietary or built-in memory that can't be swapped in the field.

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Hi Paul,

My brother and I use the Sony DSC U60, I think it's a great little camera for a reasonble price (got mine for $219). The one thing I wish it had was a zoom, but I imagine that would add more bulk, more complicated mechanics, and more money. Both my brother and I keep our cameras in a PFD pocket all the time. They have held up very well after a years use. It's very waterproof, durable, and maintenace free (just rinse in fresh water).

The other way to go is with a more advanced camera (Canon's seem to be popular) and the waterproof housing that goes with it. Just do a google search on "waterproof digital camera housings" and you will find lots of info.

For me, the bottom line was I wanted a simple, small, easy to use waterproof camera, that I could keep in a pocket all the time. The Sony DSC U60 has fit the bill.

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Linda and I have Canon Powershot S50 and S60, respectively, along with the waterproof housings made for them. They worked quite well in our recent trip to Shetland and we'll be posting pics soon. The housings are designed for diving and are overkill for paddling, but they defintely keep the camera dry and safe, plus they give you full access to all camera functions. Expect to pay ~$550-$625 for the camera and housing, depending on the model. Canon also makes several less expensive camera/housing combos.

Sony makes several models Cyber Shot models (DSC-P73, 93, 100) for which they have a nice, compact housing. They don't have quite the feature set that the Canons do and the housing doesn't give full control access, but they're considerably more compact and somewhat less expensive.

Battery life varies dramatically with the amount that you use the LCD display. I ran out of juice just once during the trip (the first day I took over 70 images), but after setting the LCD display to turn off after 10 seconds, I had no more trouble, even on 7-8 hour paddling days where I took more than 100 photos. Still, I plan to get a spare battery to eliminate the possibility of running dry again.

Zoom lenses are DEFINITELY useful. In particular, I found the extra wide angle on the Canon S60 (28 mm equivalent) to be very useful in Shetland. At the high end, the focal length of ~100mm that most compact digital cameras provide is useful for portraits and getting a bit closer to distant subjects, but it's no substitute for longer lenses. Whether it's useful to you or not depends a lot on your intended use. for general paddling photos, it's very useful. For wildlife photography, you really need something longer.

One thing that can help to compensate for short focal lengths is a camera with higher resolution (more megapixels). A higher res image can be cropped and enlarged more than a lower res image, without losing too much detail or looking rough. Our Canons are both 5 megapixel cameras. We'll see how the wildlife pics we took turn out after cropping and enlargement.

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>Battery life...

I have a Canon S45 with waterproof case. The only complaint for an otherwise good camera is that in the case you cannot turn the camera off so it drains battery life.

NiMH batteries do not hold charge as well as other batteries when not in use. We keep the battery plugged into the charger when the camera is not in use. If you carry spares on a trip charge them as close to departure as possible.

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You can substantially increase the battery life by reducing the time that the LCD stays on after a photo is taken (to 10 seconds) and by setting the camera to go into suspend mode after a short period (one minute).

NiMH batteries do lose power when sitting on the shelf, but it's at a rate of ~10% per MONTH, so it's not worth worrying about if you're charging your battery daily. That's pretty much a necessity for photography.

BTW, keeping batteries on a charger constantly can damage them if you have a typical "dumb charger" (I'm not sure how "smart" the Canon charger is). This type of overcharging damage is the actual cause of the problem with NiCad batteries that is typically mis-attributed to the legendary "memory effect". If you find that your battery is holding less and less of a charge, it's probably been damaged by overcharging. With NiMH batteries, it's a good idea to "condition" them by running them flat and fully recharging them periodically.

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I've been using the Pentax wr33 digital. It is rated at ipx-7 which means it can take a pretty good dunking. The official standard says something like 10' for an hour without leaking. It is 3.2 megapix with a 3x zoom and takes good, clear pictures with nice colors. They now have a wr43 with 4 megapix and a few more features, but costs more. It fits easily in my PFD and uses 2AA batteries that last a good while if you don't used the LCD much.

It is a pretty rugged little unit over the last 6 months I've taken it skiing, hiking in the rain, and sea kayaking on a weekely basis and like a timex it keeps on ticking. The only maintanance it gets is a good rincing after a day on the water. The only caveate is that I've been told that it cannot be used underwater; soaking wet is OK.

I paid just over $300 at Ritz in January and would imagine that you can get it cheaper if you looked around.

Previously, I used a Cannon Elf Sport which is a little APS cammera with no zoom. It also is a trooper and takes decent pics. You can get one for about $200 and it will work underwater as well as just about anywhere else. I just upgraded to get the zoom and instant gratification of digital. I still take the Elf Sport out on occasion.

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forlack of what you actually call it.

we surfed this weekend and took lots of pics from shore with my fuji digital but at the speeds we were going (not like mach 2 or anything but still, you are moving right along...) a lot of the shots were of the back of the boat, the, end of the blade, etc. i didn't notice it a lot when we went to costa rica but most of those shots were of plants, birds, mountain, etc and stuff getting lost wasn't an issue.

is the camera you use quick to take the shot after the button is hit and still auto focus? would like to get something that is digital, waterproof and can be used for action shots.

thanks and welcome back! really looking forward to seeing the photos!

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I noticed the same problem last weekend trying to get shots of seals and kayakers playing in the surf. Some digital cameras will focus on a partial shutter-depress, and snap instantly when you fully depress it...but this has problems: if you are close to the action, it may be tough to "feel" your way halfway down while the boat bumps and you have a watertight case between you and the camera.

I noticed that my new one has a mode where it will auto-fire a series of shots as fast as it can, until the temporary buffer is full....at full resolution, this is usually 4 or 5 shots at half-second or so intervals. Although it didn't occur to me at first, I started using it, and it seems to give a better chance of catching some good action.

I sure would like a digital that responds instantly like my old OM-1 did, though.

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The only digital cameras I know with really instantaneous (like .01 sec) response time are the Casio QV-R40 (which I have) and a couple of slightly newer models in the same line. I've seen others with fair response time, like .1 sec or so, but I don't think that really does it. Of course, you still have to hold the shutter-release button halfway down to pre-focus. And, this Casio line does not, to my knowledge, include any models suitable for watery use. You might be able to fit a generic housing to it.

Someday, maybe, they will all work like this. I personally consider a camera without this feature to be missing about half its functionality.


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I feel your pain...

It seems that most digital cameras - other than a few high-end SLRs - suffer from considerable shutter lag. The Canons are not particularly good in this regard. Reducing the LCD display time and in particular, reducing the time to the camera going into suspend mode, will exacerbate the problem. The best solution under those circumstances is to keep the camera on all the the time and carry extra batteries. Having fresh water and a dry towel on shore will make changing batteries less perilous.


The other challenge when shooting on the water is in keeping the lens clear. There are three methods that work to varying degrees:

1) Keeping the camera dry. This can work under some circumstances, but it usually makes it more difficult to take pictures quickly. In surf, it's probably a waste of time to try.

2) The "dunk and shoot quickly" method. If you dunk the camera in the water and shoot while there is still an even coating of water on the lens, you'll get a clear shot. Once the coating water coating on the lens breaks, you'll end up with water droplets or a partially covered lens, resulting in a poor image.

3) The "lick, shoot and spit" method. This entails licking the lens, shooting the image, then spitting out the salt water on your tongue. It ain't fun, but it's pretty effective. I use it quite frequently, but it can be tough on the ol' tongue during a heavy day of shooting.

Perhaps one of the pro photographers in the group - such as Sean - can give us some tips?

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The problem with most underwater film cameras is that they have fixed focal length lenses. I have a Sea & Sea Motormarine II that's a nice underwater rig, but the 35mm lens is too limiting for use on the kayak. There are wide angle and telephoto adapters available for it, but again, they are designed for use under water and require water between the lens and the adapter when installing them. While it's possible to install one while seated in a kayak, it's certainly not something you can do in a hurry.

My dream camera is a waterproof digital SLR with a 24-200mm zoom lens. I'm not holding my breath waiting for someone to build it.

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Some of it is not the camera, it is the memory card. Many of the small digitals have the capability of shooting several frames per second, but the camera cannot shoot faster than the card can write. I just purchased a very fast 80X professional speed card for shooting fast action in a digital SLR. I'm told it will also allow my Canon S40 to shoot more quickly but haven't tried it yet. There are a variety of card speeds out there from 4X to 80X.

I remember asking Sean Noonan about this and he said card speed is a key variable.


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