Are consumer digital cameras useless for diving?

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Michael C, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. Michael C

    Michael C Guest

    I've noticed a couple of questions regarding dive cameras so thought I'd
    continue the trend. A friend spent $700 on a 6mp cannon camera with a dive
    case. I've noticed most of the pictures suffered from a severe lack of light
    and the camera automatically went to a long exposure causing many of them to
    be blured. Those that weren't blurred were quite dull. Only closeup shots
    were acceptable really. After having a look at the pics I'm kinda of the
    opinion that only a high quality camera with a full size lense (to let more
    light in) and a good external flash would be required to get acceptable
    photos. Is this true? I'm not a camera zealot if anyone is wondering as I
    quite happily take shots out of the water with a compact and reckon it is
    pretty good. I usually dive around the 18 metre mark.

    Here's some examples:
    http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/dive2.jpg
    http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/elizaramsden124.jpg
     
    Michael C, Apr 18, 2007
    #1
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  2. Michael C

    Bryan Heit Guest

    Common digital cameras (and film cameras) can work quite good under
    water. However, some are better then others. That said, even the most
    expensive camera will have difficulties if not setup properly. Some
    general advice (others will probably expand on this a lot):

    1) Get an external flash. The flash on cameras is too close to the lens
    to be of use - instead of illuminating the subject, these flashes just
    tend to light up the silt and floaties in front of the camera. An
    external strobe can be placed to the side, which causes this backscatter
    to occur away from the lens.

    I suspect this may be a problem with your photos.

    2) Get close to your subject. Water tends to scatter light, so the
    farther away you are from your subject the less clear the picture will
    appear. About the only way to get amazingly high-detailed shots is in
    macro mode. Also, water tends to absorb red/yellow light, so getting
    close will also help restore some colour (if you are using a flash).

    3) Shallower subjects will generally image better, as less sun light
    will be absorbed, giving you more light to work with.

    4) Composition. Many divers will "hide" some of the problems underwater
    photography has by making sure their subject(s) are against a colourful
    background, etc. This'll help hide things like backscatter, and reduce
    the "flat" appearance of blue-water shots (like your ray). The general
    rule is "get close, get low, shoot up".

    5) White balance. Most digital cameras give you some degree of control
    over white balance. Try playing with it to see if you cannot get more
    colourful images.

    Lastly, although it's too late for you, when picking a digital camera
    you want to look for one with good low-light capabilities. dpreview.com
    does a good job of reviewing camera, and most of their tests involve a
    low-light test.

    Bryan
     
    Bryan Heit, Apr 18, 2007
    #2
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  3. Michael C

    Sheldon Guest

    The problem with most inexpensive cameras is that they adjust the shutter
    speed to set the proper exposure, so when the light drops the shutter speed
    goes down causing blurred pictures. While a flash is best underwater for
    good color and clear pictures, you can try raising the ISO speed on the
    camera (if adjustable). The photos should look fine, and this will give the
    camera a chance to raise the shutter speed so your photos aren't blurred
    anymore.
     
    Sheldon, Apr 18, 2007
    #3
  4. Michael C

    Bill Funk Guest

    I don't dive, but I stayed in a Motel 8 last night...

    Underwater photography is always going to be a fight to get enough
    light. A faster lens (smaller f/number) will help immensly, as will a
    very good flash.
    The less expensive dive cameras, and the housings for others, don't
    have any special capabilities other than the ability to keep water
    out, that would make them better able to somehow get around the lack
    of light.
    If you watch the Planet Earth series for the underwater episodes,
    you'll see that they must pick their opportunities carefully to get
    clear water, and they use some pretty pricey gear. Your samples show
    pretty much what's normal for amateur divers with time and money
    constraints.

    --
    THIS IS A SIG LINE; NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!

    Hillary Clinton postponed her meeting with
    the Rutgers women's basketball team Monday
    due to weather. The team forgave a middle-aged
    white guy for humiliating them in front of the
    entire world. Hillary wanted to go there to
    collect her royalty check.
     
    Bill Funk, Apr 18, 2007
    #4
  5. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    "Michael C" <> pounded away at his keyboard resulting
    in:
    :I've noticed a couple of questions regarding dive cameras so thought I'd
    :continue the trend. A friend spent $700 on a 6mp cannon camera with a dive
    :case. I've noticed most of the pictures suffered from a severe lack of light
    :and the camera automatically went to a long exposure causing many of them to
    :be blured. Those that weren't blurred were quite dull. Only closeup shots
    :were acceptable really. After having a look at the pics I'm kinda of the
    :eek:pinion that only a high quality camera with a full size lense (to let more
    :light in) and a good external flash would be required to get acceptable
    :photos. Is this true? I'm not a camera zealot if anyone is wondering as I
    :quite happily take shots out of the water with a compact and reckon it is
    :pretty good. I usually dive around the 18 metre mark.
    :
    :Here's some examples:
    :http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/dive2.jpg
    :http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/elizaramsden124.jpg

    There are lots of good answers here already. Hopefully you read them.

    <arrogance>
    The most important part of any camera, either underwater or on land,
    is the person holding it. I use a commercial digital camera with only
    4 megapixels and I do ok. I don't use an external flash and have
    recently started to attempt underwater photos with natural light only.
    So it can be done.
    </arrogance>

    While I do ok, I still reject at least 75% of my shots for various
    reasons. Sometimes they are duplicates (if you want good pictures
    take lots) or sometimes they are sub-standard for one reason or
    another.

    If you are just getting started, thank your lucky stars that you are
    not using film. And keep at it. Experience matters.


    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, Apr 19, 2007
    #5
  6. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    nanook <> pounded away at his keyboard resulting in:

    :The water in your examples seems pretty cloudy.
    :
    :Here's some shot in Maui in 06 using a Canon SD500 with Canon's case
    :
    :Max water depth was about 30 feet (turtle in hole shot)
    :
    :Out of probably 150 to 200 shots, 20 or 30 were keepers of any
    :quality.
    :
    :Some were shot within 5 feet of the surface
    :
    :http:\\bshellenbaum.smugmug.com click on the Maui folder.


    Nice pics. You got a lot closer to a reef triggerfish than I was able
    to in Kona last year.

    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, Apr 19, 2007
    #6
  7. Michael C

    Michael C Guest

    I'm in Melbourne. The water is cold and cloudy here and I can't say the
    dives are that brilliant. I was getting pretty bored of diving until I went
    on a recent trip to WA. Now I'm itching to go again.
    They just look awesome, that's the quality of photo I would like to be able
    to take.
    That's a pretty good ratio, I was throwing away around 98% although I guess
    it depends on your criteria and the number of shots you take of each scene.
    That is one thing I've noticed is that the cheaper camera do take pretty
    good quality video.

    Michael
     
    Michael C, Apr 20, 2007
    #7
  8. Michael C

    Sheldon Guest

    Looks pretty good for a point and shoot. I JUST ordered an Olympus FE-230
    with the underwater housing that's supposed to be good for around 100 ft.
    It's supposed to have some kind of brightening circuit and antishake.
    Looking forward to finally getting certified and trying it out. Out of the
    housing the camera is a very thin 7 megapixel point and shoot, something
    I've been looking for to supplement my DSLR on land.

    Good price point, too. Camera is about $200 and the housing is about $145.
     
    Sheldon, Apr 23, 2007
    #8
  9. Michael C

    news Guest

    Get an external flash, I have a canon A70 3.2 MP camera with a Sunpak G
    Flash. It is triggered by the on camera flash. I found by putting some
    opaq tape over the front of the on-camera flash it cuts down on the
    backscatter yet still triggers the external flash ok from the side. You can
    see some pics I took in Rhode Island here
    http://www.divewithjay.com/cgi-bin/diveapp.pl?type=pic&picno=0&picgrp=ftwetherill
    Some bahamas pics with the A70 are on the bottom of this page
    http://www.divewithjay.com/gallery/bahamas_2005.htm

    Others have already given you a list of great advice. In addition to that
    I've found that you can often adjust the white balance after the fact using
    photo software but it's best to adjust it before shooting.

    Jay
     
    news, May 10, 2007
    #9
  10. Michael C

    C J Campbell Guest

    The weak built-in flash units on cameras are typically unusable below
    three meters, no matter how fast the lens is. Good for snorkeling, but
    not much beyond that. You need a better light if you are going deeper
    than that.

    Lens size has little to do with how fast the lens is. Some small point
    and shoot consumer cameras have faster lenses than what you typically
    see on DSLRs. An f/2.8 zoom lens on an SLR is usually more expensive
    than a consumer camera with an f/2.8 zoom lens.
     
    C J Campbell, May 10, 2007
    #10
  11. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    C J Campbell <> pounded away at his
    keyboard resulting in:
    :The weak built-in flash units on cameras are typically unusable below
    :three meters, no matter how fast the lens is.

    Not by me they're not.

    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, May 11, 2007
    #11
  12. Michael C

    Dan L Guest

    I'll second the F30 - I have one as a lightweight travel camera - it's
    actually quite a decent fish camera as the focus is fast although it's
    not too great with macro. If Fuji added RAW support to the F30 it could
    be a truly spectacular camera.

    I've used it as a survey camera on reef work and it produces very
    useable images with minimal effort. I would still prefer to use my
    C5050z (ikelite housing) or Nik 5 if I wanted the best quality images
    but for a lightweight low(is) priced camera it's great. It also gives
    me a land camera I can lend to my girlfriend so I can keep my others
    safe...

    If you want a camera that's also good for freediving then this is also
    another good reason for this choice.

    Dan.
     
    Dan L, May 23, 2007
    #12
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