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15/01/2014 10:03:23 AM

When you live an active life, it can take you to some beautiful places and having a camera that can cope with your lifestyle so it is able to capture important moments is vital

Mountain biking, skiing, and water sports such as kayaking, fishing, snorkelling and jet-skiing can take their toll on ordinary cameras. Even hiking, especially in dry and dusty environments, can be tough on a camera.

Today, there are many great waterproof digital cameras built to withstand harsh treatment and changing pressures and temperatures. These features make them ideal for adventurers, and even families that may not be able to be as careful with their electronics as might be desirable. These include cameras purpose-built to tolerate being submerged in shallow water (from six to 18 metres), dropped, to withstand very cold temperatures, and to keep out dust and grit. Some are even crushproof up to 100kg.

There is a compromise, of course. Avid photographers may not be able to take the quality of photograph they would be able to achieve with a digital SLR camera, but they will be able to carry a tough, waterproof camera with them and be confident it will survive the trip.

Which waterproof camera works best underwater?

Given waterproof cameras tend to also be built tough, below we consider which of the sturdy, underwater cameras are best for taking pictures when submerged in shallow water. They are not diving cameras. Divers take cameras to much deeper water levels than most of the “active” or waterproof snap cameras could tolerate, due to pressure, temperature and lens distortion. For taking photos in deep water, different kinds of cameras and a specific under-water housing is necessary, as well as flash and strobe lights. These types of cameras will not be discussed here.

Established waterproof camera brands

There is a large range of waterproof digital cameras to consider when shopping for a camera to suit your needs. Working out which is the best waterproof camera to suit the way you plan to use it requires some investigation. All the big brand names have one, though some have only recently moved into this category. One of the most established brands in this category is Olympus, while Nikon is a relative new-comer to the waterproof camera market.

Some of the key features to consider include battery life, amount of image storage, number of megapixels (at least 16), quality of lens, lighting and sensors (CMOS or CCD image sensors), depth of zoom (at least 4x optical zoom) and structure of the body. Some cases are made from steel and rubber, for example. 

Best digital waterproof cameras for image quality

In terms of quality of images taken underwater, the Canon PowerShot D20, Olympus Tough TG-2 and Nikon Coolpix AW110 deliver bright, colour-rich images that are sharp and truer to life than many competitors. They also achieve good image quality out of the water, making them versatile as an adaptable waterproof camera that can be used successfully for both purposes. Of these cameras, the Olympus is waterproof to an impressive 15 metres, the Nikon to 18 metres and the Canon to 10 metres.

The Panasonic Lumix FT5 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 are also good waterproof camera performers, with many of the features desirable in a “tough” camera. Though underwater images taken with the Lumix FT5 can be bright (which is a good thing), at times this can lean towards being slightly washed out. It’s still a very good camera and for the price will meet the needs of most users and deliver pleasing underwater images. It should be given due consideration alongside the others.

Another waterproof camera worth noting is the Pentax WG-3 GPS, as the GPS function is quite innovative. Its underwater image quality is not as good as many of the others, however. Similarly, though the Fujifilm FinePix XP60 offers a number of competitive “tough” features, it struggles underwater, the picture quality is poor and its pictures tend to be dark and lacking colour. It’s not a great choice for people with a particular interest in capturing underwater images.

Learning to use a waterproof camera

While you are working out which waterproof camera will be best for you, you can start to learn about taking photos underwater by using a disposable underwater camera. This will help to give you a feel for the types of issues that come up and image considerations in varying light qualities and depths. It will help make you a more informed shopper as you choose a long-term waterproof camera companion.

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