Underwater Camera - advice anyone?

#1
I've been diving since the early 90's and have decided I'd like to get into underwater photography. It must be an age thing as I recall when I was younger I absolutely loathed diving with a photographer; they would generally hang around a single coral head for about 20 minutes to get a half decent picture of a creature so small you could just about use it as a tooth pic.

So far my experience, as much as it is, has been with:

A one use 35mm camera which was useless.

A reusable but very cheap 35mm camera, again useless.

A second hand 5mp Sony camera with housing which Mizz K13 lost on the third dive in Tenerife! But the images downloaded from the first two dives were not very good anyway.

Before we went to Mexico last year I bought a Veho Gumball 3000 HD camera and housing and it's really quite good. I also used it on the BLESMA Red Sea diving trip last year and, about 90% of the footage on the final movie came from my camera:

BLESMA 2012 Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Event - YouTube

It's a good little machine but the limitations are that once in the housing you can only take video, it's only rated to 30m (although I had it down to 45, stopped working but didn't leak!) and it's poor in low light with no way of fixing a video light to it.

So I'm thinking of getting something to allow me to improve my video and take decent pics. I have looked at:

An Ikelite housing for my Nikon D90 but pretty much discounted that for cost as well as I don't want to risk flooding my D90!

An Ikelite housing for my Nikon Coolpix S9300 but with light and filter will come to 600-700 quid. And I'm worried about spending that kind of money when I know the camera is fairly slow particularly in low light.

So I thought about this:

Sealife DC1400 Elite underwater digital camera Package Pro Light Set + bag UK | eBay

Pros are that the Sealife DC1400 has a dedicated housing and video light built for the camera and that it also has colour correction modes built in for underwater photography. And HD video!

So my question is; does anyone have any experience with the Sealife DC1400 (or other model) camera set-up? or do you have anything else you'd recommend (budget of about £700). Cheers.
 
#2
I've been diving since the early 90's and have decided I'd like to get into underwater photography. It must be an age thing as I recall when I was younger I absolutely loathed diving with a photographer; they would generally hang around a single coral head for about 20 minutes to get a half decent picture of a creature so small you could just about use it as a tooth pic.

So far my experience, as much as it is, has been with:

A one use 35mm camera which was useless.

A reusable but very cheap 35mm camera, again useless.

A second hand 5mp Sony camera with housing which Mizz K13 lost on the third dive in Tenerife! But the images downloaded from the first two dives were not very good anyway.

Before we went to Mexico last year I bought a Veho Gumball 3000 HD camera and housing and it's really quite good. I also used it on the BLESMA Red Sea diving trip last year and, about 90% of the footage on the final movie came from my camera:

BLESMA 2012 Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Event - YouTube

It's a good little machine but the limitations are that once in the housing you can only take video, it's only rated to 30m (although I had it down to 45, stopped working but didn't leak!) and it's poor in low light with no way of fixing a video light to it.

So I'm thinking of getting something to allow me to improve my video and take decent pics. I have looked at:

An Ikelite housing for my Nikon D90 but pretty much discounted that for cost as well as I don't want to risk flooding my D90!

An Ikelite housing for my Nikon Coolpix S9300 but with light and filter will come to 600-700 quid. And I'm worried about spending that kind of money when I know the camera is fairly slow particularly in low light.

So I thought about this:

Sealife DC1400 Elite underwater digital camera Package Pro Light Set + bag UK | eBay

Pros are that the Sealife DC1400 has a dedicated housing and video light built for the camera and that it also has colour correction modes built in for underwater photography. And HD video!

So my question is; does anyone have any experience with the Sealife DC1400 (or other model) camera set-up? or do you have anything else you'd recommend (budget of about £700). Cheers.
K13. Quite a few people I know use the GoPro as a small compact set up. You can get them with frames for lights etc. Personally I have just started using the Intova Sport (£185 from Amazon) that is purpose built as an underwater camera. It comes out of the box looking as cheap as chips but I was gob smacked by the quality on a recent trip to Tenerife. Mounted on a frame with a couple of LED lights I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If not, it's cheap enough to go for the bigger option. However, I think we are just starting to see the change from dedicated "classic" UW cameras to the compact models that have revolutionised the action market elsewhere.

Whereabouts are you? If you pm me an email address I can send you some vid or possibly a link.

Cheers

GS
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#3
I have an Ikelight D90 set up for sport diving ranges, you will need to budget for a 10-14 and a strobe/arm/cable too......
Ikelight's are good for 60mtrs.

The trouble with dedicated set up's, is that they become unavailable/discontinued rather quickly. I also have an older Ikelight with a Coolpix, I bought a second camera for not a lot just before they went off the market - typically both are going strong!
Any light/stobe investment can of course be carried forward if its from one of the bigger players.

Get flood insurance.
 
#4
K13. Quite a few people I know use the GoPro as a small compact set up. You can get them with frames for lights etc. Personally I have just started using the Intova Sport (£185 from Amazon) that is purpose built as an underwater camera. It comes out of the box looking as cheap as chips but I was gob smacked by the quality on a recent trip to Tenerife. Mounted on a frame with a couple of LED lights I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If not, it's cheap enough to go for the bigger option. However, I think we are just starting to see the change from dedicated "classic" UW cameras to the compact models that have revolutionised the action market elsewhere.

Whereabouts are you? If you pm me an email address I can send you some vid or possibly a link.

Cheers

GS
I did look at the Intover but read that it can't be removed from the casing? What are the stills like? My Muvi takes good vid so what I really want is something that takes good pics and vids. BTW, I would highly recommend the Veho Muvi over the GoPro; far more for your money (you don't have to buy the LCD screen and then a different casing for a start) and, from my experience, better vid underwater.
 
#5
I still have my Nikonos V, a Nikon FM film camera in an underwater housing. How about a second-hand one, and get the film converted into digital at Jessops -oops- some other commercial establishment? Cracking lenses available, good to 60m, lots of spares around.
 
#6
As a diver with no underwater photographic experience I would suggest the best place to get advice from would be from a decent diving forum such as one of the following:
The Dive Forum
YD Scuba Diving Forums
Wetpixel.com

From memory people are less than complimentary regarding Sealife and Intova, and usually suggest top-end compact digitals or an SLR, with a bespoke housing from someone like Ikelite.
 
#7
Considering price and value as well as ease for diving have a look at the Canon PowerShot range with housings.
The SLR sized housing are a pain as the whole dive becomes about the camera and the shot.
If you learn the limitations of P&S cameras you can work around their limitations whilst still getting the shot and enjoy the dive.
The links posted above are good. I would add UWP a free u/w photo mag put together by good people.
UwP = Your free Underwater Photography Magazine | Home page
 
#8
The one bit of advice I can give from my underwater photography experience (many moons ago) is to get a decent, powerful underwater flash. At anything below a couple of meters, the colour absorbtion effects of seawater shifts everything towards the blue end of the spectrum. You need to take your own light - it also needs to be off camera if you are working in anything except crystal clear conditions as you just end up lighting all the crap floating in the water between the camera and the subject..

I have (somewhere) in the attic an Ikelite set I used to use with my Yashika.. It was very good except the high tension batteries you needed to use with the flash relay unit were like rocking horse poo to find.. I expect things have improved now..

If you do go down the Ikelite route, make a padded lens cover for the front of the housing out of towelling. Make sure it is kept in the pocket (or down the front!) of your boat buddy when you are in the water and goes on as soon as the kit comes back into the boat... Sand and lenses do not mix...
 
#9
I once saw a Leica in an underwater housing get flooded in Marylebone baths :)

More usefully, I had a Nikonos and found it very good. Some one else thought that it was so good that they decided to to borrow it and some 30 years on have still not returned it

I wish that Nikon would bring out a digital version of the Nikonos. There's got to be a decent market for one by now.
 
#10
I've pretty much discounted going down the DSLR route; too big and bulky (most of my diving is holiday diving these days), too expensive and I'm never going to be that dedicated an u/w photographer.

Not sure about the Intova, seems to be a bit tourist trade to me with not too many good reviews. So, it's either the Sealife DC1400 or I go with the Ikelite set up for my Nikon Coolpix S9300. Have been offered a bit of discount on a package; £620 for the housing and flash plus a free filter worth 70 quid.

To be honest it will be mostly for stills as I will still carry my Veho Muvi for vid.
 
#11
I'd agree with that, there is also nothing worse than watching the frankly pornographic interaction that goes on between guys with with serious cameras and their kit. Lots of fondling, lubricating and gently screwing bits and pieces together. They also love to do it in public when what they should really do is go and find a room!


Another vote from me for a compact digital with housing. I've used two versions of the Canon Ixus with their associated housings and have always been relatively happy with the results. The best tip I've been given is to take a piece of white plastic down and then make sure you set the white balance for each depth you're at.

occy.jpg

This one was at 40m

beaufighter.jpg

This one wasn't

bask.jpg

And this one was at about 40cm!

bask2.jpg
 
#13
Just off the Eddystone Lighthouse, on a boat out of Plymouth. The one above it is me taking the photo!
 
#14
Cheers Bad CO, good pics. I'm being more and more drawn to buying the housing.

Seems we share an opinion about serious photographers. Reminds me of a trip to Thailand a few years back. Gently finning along a reef I found half a dozen seahorses on a coral head. Pulled Mizz K13 over so she could see them and this attracted the attention of 1 x 'foreign' diver with massive SLR set up who, upon seeing the assembled critters promptly shoved me and the missus to one side to begin his 'art'. As we finned away I managed to give him a huge shove into the wall where his response was to outstretch one hand onto a sea urchin and the other, with dangling camera, onto fire coral. Saw him back on the boat getting 'vinegared' but he chose to avoid me for the trip back to port.
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#15
I guess it depends on whether you want snaps, or photos:



This one is a low light shot at about 55mtrs IIRC, with the D90 setup.
The other limit on any compact is with the lens of course, you will not get the required wide angle (don't fall for the computer synthesised BS), which is an absolute must to reduce the amount of water between your objective and the target.
 
#16
That's a fair call and a nice pic - where was it?

I'm a diver who likes to take photos rather than a photographer who goes underwater! One of my key requirements is that it fits in a BC pocket which rules most things out.
 
#17
That's a fair call and a nice pic - where was it?

I'm a diver who likes to take photos rather than a photographer who goes underwater! One of my key requirements is that it fits in a BC pocket which rules most things out.

As a matter of interest how do you manually white balance with a housing on?

I assume the rule would be that the white balance will increase the deeper you go?

Grey cloudy day = 6000- 8000+ kelvin
Normal daylight = 5600-6000 kelvin
Normal tungsten light = 3200 kelvin
Candlelight = 2000 kelvin

The deeper you go the 'bluer' the light will appear until there is no natural light. At this point if you use a tungsten sourced light it will make the subject that it's light falls on look very warm.

A GoPro HD Hero III would be my choice. Although you won't see a straight line in the shot due to the wide angle lens.

Note:
Despite the fact that Kelvin is a measure of temperature, a high kelvin light is considered to look cool and a low kelvin light is described as warm. Confused consider heating a a bit of metal: it will glow red at first o, thenrange and then gradually will appear white - hot.
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#18
That's a fair call and a nice pic - where was it?

I'm a diver who likes to take photos rather than a photographer who goes underwater! One of my key requirements is that it fits in a BC pocket which rules most things out.
It's a wreck of a Hellcat aircraft at 55mtrs near one of the invasion areas in the South of France, near Hyeres.
'Cos its a small "tick in the box" wreck I got creative as there was nothing apart from what you see in the pic around it, there are a couple of 50% stages just out of shot as they spoiled the image.

I also have a little Coolpix/Ikelight that fits in the cargo pockets on both our semi-dry's and dry's (you can make the pockets out in the pic).

A lot of my diving is technical in the 60-85mtr range and then I'm diving (I do not get enough time to get dived up for deeper stuff in recent years). If I'm paddling around at <60mtrs on air and nitrox I usually take a camera for something to do, but I am not a really serious photographer. In fact I only got that camera when I flogged my 120mtr rated Sony 3CCD mini DV video set up - I used to big on video, especially deep wrecks, and had a mate with a documentary company who used it, but he's retired and so am I on that count.
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#19
As a matter of interest how do you manually white balance with a housing on?

I assume the rule would be that the white balance will increase the deeper you go?

Grey cloudy day = 6000- 8000+ kelvin
Normal daylight = 5600-6000 kelvin
Normal tungsten light = 3200 kelvin
Candlelight = 2000 kelvin

The deeper you go the 'bluer' the light will appear until there is no natural light. At this point if you use a tungsten sourced light it will make the subject that it's light falls on look very warm.

A GoPro HD Hero III would be my choice. Although you won't see a straight line in the shot due to the wide angle lens.

Note:
Despite the fact that Kelvin is a measure of temperature, a high kelvin light is considered to look cool and a low kelvin light is described as warm. Confused consider heating a a bit of metal: it will glow red at first o, thenrange and then gradually will appear white - hot.
White balance is effected by other factors too, it really needs to set for every shot or sequence.
It's an interesting point about lights. When I started the serious video stuff around 2000, I had Halogen lights (2 x 100watt IIRC), which brought out colours nicely. When I changed to HID, everything looked very cold, although the purists argued it was real at natural light levels. 2 options; either use a filter, or edit a bit of colour in later. I ended up with a bit of both, a filter which was enough for wrecks, and just tweak the reef stuff up a bit if needed - same now with stills.

The biggest fixed thing with both filming and still shooting underwater is reducing the amount of water between you and it via high quality wide angle lenses. There will almost always be debris in the water, and various reflections and light changes that crap the shot - you need to get close to get the best (the diver in the shot above is about 3-4mtrs away).
 
#20
Both the diving and the photography in this thread is now getting a bit serious for me.

If you can't do it on 12 litre single air cylinder then I'm not really bothered which basically means 50m max. My bladder isn't that big and I also get bored easily so no more than about 10 mins deco.

For white balancing, my Ixus 850 has a Manual mode with an option to 'Evaluate White Balance' - my housing allows the right sequence of buttons/levers to be pressed to allow this to happen.
 

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