Advice For The Damp - Olympus et al.
on December 11, 2012
A simple set of thoughts for today - when you set out to get a camera, set out your thoughts first. A sheet of paper and a pencil is all you need - make a list of what subjects you are going to want to picture. Ask yourself how big those pictures need to be. From these two simple criteria, you can get into the general stream of enquiry that will lead you to success.
You might be a putative portraitist, a budding botanical photographer, or even have a leaning to learning landscapes. ( That uses up my ration of alliteration for the month... ) These are all catered for with any number of cameras. Come buy one.
But if you are determined to go down to the sea in ships, or boogy boards, you need an entirely different class of device. And you will need to be prepared to accept some of the restrictions it places upon you.
If your camera needs to be waterproof, it can certainly retain the ability to carry a zoom lens, but it cannot carry a zoom lens that pokes out the front. You must be content with about 4X to 5X zoom at the most - everything must happen inside a waterproof panel that is flush with the front surface of the camera. You must also accept that the camera may not be able to carry a large flash tube set above the lens as in DSLRs. Underwater cameras are generally small, at least in the consumer models. It may be that the military ones used to take regimental pictures of the submarine service are much bigger, but then they are paid for with government money.
You will get certain advantages looking at the underwater cameras - they will generally be somewhat shockproof due to their tough construction and they may well be resistant to cold as well. If you are a person who will be popping in and out of hot and humid to cold conditions, you will also be happy to know that condensation will be less of a problem.
A number of manufacturers have good ranges of these cameras - I have seen Olympus, Nikon, Canon, and Fuji examples of this class and they are all very appealing. In all cases they have silicon seals to prevent water ingress at the battery door and you must be careful to keep these seals pristine clean to ensure the watertight integrity.
Please note, if you are determined to haul your Canon 1DX or Nikon D4 underwater, it can be done to a shallow depth with a Dicapac WS-1 housing for a modest price or to a frightening depth with a custom-built dive housing. The custom-built housings are the province of specialist firms and are generally priced like a king's ransom. If you are diving seriously, the first expedition will be into your pocket.
Please note that the consumer cameras are also perfect for above-water use in sandy or corrosive atmospheres, like family Christmas parties.