Underwater photography is another one of those specialty areas where the investment can be significant. Fortunately, if you’re diving or snorkeling in shallow water, less than 20 feet, there are a new breed of inexpensive cameras that can survive those depths.
For snorkeling and shallow water diving, there are some inexpensive options in point and shoot cameras.
The Kodak EasyShare Sport is rated to 10 feet underwater and sports large, easy to use buttons. Priced at $69.00, it’s great for the kids playing around on the beach and puttering around in shallow water. The bonus is it’s not a major financial hit if they lose it.
The next step up, or maybe I should say the next level down, would be slightly more expensive cameras like the Canon Poweshot D10. This model is priced near $300 but is rated to 33 feet. Well within the depth most people are snorkeling. A little more camera than you might want to give the kids on the beach, it’s a good option if you’re going out on a cruise that might feature a reef diving side trip.
Beyond the 30-40 foot range you’ll be needing a camera housing rated for depth. At those depths you’re probably SCUBA diving instead of snorkeling and you’ll need a camera housing that provides more protection. The greater depth raises the cost a bit.
This Olympus Stylus Bundle from Divers Direct comes with a camera and housing rated to 130 feet, ideal for most sport diving. The camera in this clever combo is rated to 16 feet without the housing. Very handy for getting a quick shot. The underwater mount features large buttons, a great feature when wearing heavy gloves and has one-touch movie mode. Around $600.
If you need an external flash, and in some shooting situations that would be very handy, you can spend a little more on the Sea and Sea DX-GE5 package.
If you want to take your Canon, Nikon or Sony SLR for a swim, you’ll have to open up your checkbook for something like one of the Ikelite mounts or the Sea and Sea MDX-7D and external flash unit, which together will cost more than your camera. But would you really want to trust a $2,500 camera with a budget underwater housing? Not me.
When working underwater, lighting will be a constant challenge. You will want a flash at any depth over 30 feet as the light diminishes enough to make all your pictures monotone. Most times you’ll want to use a wide angle lens to get as much as you can from available light. Besides, trying to shoot at any distance over about 10 feet underwater is pretty much a waste of time. You’ll need to get up close to your subject anyway.