How Much Water Cam I Give My 1 Year Old Underwater Photography: Does the Camera Really Matter?

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Underwater Photography: Does the Camera Really Matter?

The camera does NOT matter. I am often asked if I should buy Nikon, Canon, this model or that model… what you should be asking is what lenses are needed for the kind of photography you want to do. Yes, I’m talking about DSLR cameras here (point and shoot below). Spend less money on a body with the features you’re looking for, and spend the rest on good lenses. A very good expensive camera with cheap lenses produces poor quality photos; reverse the order and you get a great combination.

When it comes to brand; it doesn’t really matter. Most photographers buy one brand over another because they already have a lens or because they like the colors in the advertisement. The reality is that any camera these days can take great photos when used with high quality lenses… so pick your brand and buy a body that allows you to easily control shutter speed, f-stops, ISO, white balance and has a decent photometer (which isn’t as important underwater as it is above water). When it comes to sensor size, you have to decide between full format (FX – sensor size is 35mm) or crop (DX – which is 1.5x for Nikon and 1.6x for Canon). FX is much more expensive than DX and for me it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra money… I’d rather spend the difference on good lenses.

Don’t get caught up in the megapixel marketing campaign! More megapixels does not mean better photos. Better lenses mean better photos; again: spend your money on good quality lenses and forget about megapixels and camera features. Some of my favorites are Nikon D3100, 5100, D7000 or Canon Rebel T3, T3i or 60D. Don’t throw away older cameras that are awesome, like the Nikon D40 with 1/500 flash sync speed that you can get cheap on eBay these days (same goes for older Canon).

Of course, I am new to underwater photography, but I researched a lot of lenses before buying a system. I really like my Tokina 10-17mm fisheye, which is considered a great DX lens and has incredible sharpness. Any underwater system should have this wide angle lens, and of course if you want a macro 60mm 2.8. If you have some spare cash, get a 105mm lens as well, but be sure to have these two lenses in your underwater camera case. I also have fun shooting wide angle on land and I really think that if you need a zoom lens it’s because you’re not close enough to your subject, but that’s just a matter of preference.

Now what about point and shoot cameras? Most point and shoot cameras do not have interchangeable lenses. If you have to settle for a camera, buy a camera that allows manual control of shutter speed, aperture (f-stop), ISO and custom white balance. If you have the budget, go for a lens that allows you to change lenses, but if I have to spend $1000 for a point and shoot, I’d rather get a DSLR and a good lens that’s possible in this budget. Some of my favorite cameras are the Canon S95 and the Canon G12; now watch your budget as a Nikon D40 body can be had for $250 on ebay and a Tokina 10-17 fisheye for around $600 which can get you very close to the peak and shoot cameras with a killer setup.

If I had to buy a camera for underwater use, I would choose the DSLR. Brand and features don’t matter. I would spend the money on lenses. If my budget gets too high after including housing and strobes, I’ll buy a point and shoot in full manual mode. I buy my gear from Sink or Swim here in Nanaimo; they can give a lot in underwater houses, flashers and weapon systems.

Here are some packages I like (change the housing for the brand and/or lens)

Point and shoot camera – Canon S95 (one flash)

Ikelite housing – part #6242.95

DS51 Substrobe – 3944.49. section

Single tray with release – 9523.61. part

Keep Pointing and Shooting – Canon G12 (Dual Flash)

Ikelite house – 6146.12. section

DS51 Substrobe X2 – Part #3944.49

Double tray with release – 9523.62. part

DSLR – Nikon D3100 with Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens (dual flash)

Ikelite house #6801.31

Ikelite 8-inch Port Dome – 5510.45. article number

Ikelite Superwide mounting body – item number: 5510.11

Ikelite SubStrobe DS-161 Flasher with Single Sync Cable and Ball Joint Arm – Part Number: 3945.01

Ikelite SubStrobe DS-161 Flasher with Dual Sync Cable and Ball Joint Arm – Item No. 3945.02

To read more about underwater photography and my experiences in these waters and how to transition from land to liquid under our conditions, visit http://underwaterphoto.baires.ca/.

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