Are consumer digital cameras useless for diving?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Michael C, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. Michael C

    Michael C Guest

    I've noticed a couple of questions regarding dive cameras so thought I'd
    continue the trend. A friend spent $700 on a 6mp cannon camera with a dive
    case. I've noticed most of the pictures suffered from a severe lack of light
    and the camera automatically went to a long exposure causing many of them to
    be blured. Those that weren't blurred were quite dull. Only closeup shots
    were acceptable really. After having a look at the pics I'm kinda of the
    opinion that only a high quality camera with a full size lense (to let more
    light in) and a good external flash would be required to get acceptable
    photos. Is this true? I'm not a camera zealot if anyone is wondering as I
    quite happily take shots out of the water with a compact and reckon it is
    pretty good. I usually dive around the 18 metre mark.

    Here's some examples:
    http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/dive2.jpg
    http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/elizaramsden124.jpg
     
    Michael C, Apr 18, 2007
    #1
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  2. Michael C

    Bryan Heit Guest

    Common digital cameras (and film cameras) can work quite good under
    water. However, some are better then others. That said, even the most
    expensive camera will have difficulties if not setup properly. Some
    general advice (others will probably expand on this a lot):

    1) Get an external flash. The flash on cameras is too close to the lens
    to be of use - instead of illuminating the subject, these flashes just
    tend to light up the silt and floaties in front of the camera. An
    external strobe can be placed to the side, which causes this backscatter
    to occur away from the lens.

    I suspect this may be a problem with your photos.

    2) Get close to your subject. Water tends to scatter light, so the
    farther away you are from your subject the less clear the picture will
    appear. About the only way to get amazingly high-detailed shots is in
    macro mode. Also, water tends to absorb red/yellow light, so getting
    close will also help restore some colour (if you are using a flash).

    3) Shallower subjects will generally image better, as less sun light
    will be absorbed, giving you more light to work with.

    4) Composition. Many divers will "hide" some of the problems underwater
    photography has by making sure their subject(s) are against a colourful
    background, etc. This'll help hide things like backscatter, and reduce
    the "flat" appearance of blue-water shots (like your ray). The general
    rule is "get close, get low, shoot up".

    5) White balance. Most digital cameras give you some degree of control
    over white balance. Try playing with it to see if you cannot get more
    colourful images.

    Lastly, although it's too late for you, when picking a digital camera
    you want to look for one with good low-light capabilities. dpreview.com
    does a good job of reviewing camera, and most of their tests involve a
    low-light test.

    Bryan
     
    Bryan Heit, Apr 18, 2007
    #2
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  3. Michael C

    ajames54 Guest

    Well .. not really the case... you do have to make some changes to the
    base settings. pics bellow were all shot on a Canon A95 5MP PnS. OK so
    they aren't the best thing going but I can't afford 20+K I would need
    for the camera I really want.

    The biggest difference I found was to not use the cameras underwater
    setting and make sure the flash is always on.


    http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/cayman_0207/album?.dir=/c034re2&.src=ph&.tok=ph_HNnGBFoy.QH_z
     
    ajames54, Apr 18, 2007
    #3
  4. Michael C

    Sheldon Guest

    The problem with most inexpensive cameras is that they adjust the shutter
    speed to set the proper exposure, so when the light drops the shutter speed
    goes down causing blurred pictures. While a flash is best underwater for
    good color and clear pictures, you can try raising the ISO speed on the
    camera (if adjustable). The photos should look fine, and this will give the
    camera a chance to raise the shutter speed so your photos aren't blurred
    anymore.
     
    Sheldon, Apr 18, 2007
    #4
  5. Michael C

    Bill Funk Guest

    I don't dive, but I stayed in a Motel 8 last night...

    Underwater photography is always going to be a fight to get enough
    light. A faster lens (smaller f/number) will help immensly, as will a
    very good flash.
    The less expensive dive cameras, and the housings for others, don't
    have any special capabilities other than the ability to keep water
    out, that would make them better able to somehow get around the lack
    of light.
    If you watch the Planet Earth series for the underwater episodes,
    you'll see that they must pick their opportunities carefully to get
    clear water, and they use some pretty pricey gear. Your samples show
    pretty much what's normal for amateur divers with time and money
    constraints.

    --
    THIS IS A SIG LINE; NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!

    Hillary Clinton postponed her meeting with
    the Rutgers women's basketball team Monday
    due to weather. The team forgave a middle-aged
    white guy for humiliating them in front of the
    entire world. Hillary wanted to go there to
    collect her royalty check.
     
    Bill Funk, Apr 18, 2007
    #5
  6. for photos that are not macro, it is possible to get good pics without
    the use of a strobe or internal flash (which i found to be really
    poor) http://www.public.asu.edu/~elliotg/
    is my web site. all the pics were taken with an old sony P7 (3MB)
    camera, no flash but with a red filter. all the pics still had to
    processed through photoshop (god's gift to underwater photography)
    elliott
     
    Elliott Goldstein, Apr 18, 2007
    #6
  7. Michael C

    pafrankc Guest

    As one goes deeper (more than about 5 metres) the changes in light
    cause a colour distortion. Red is lost and blues are slightly
    intensified, thus the need to change settings. Take your digital pics
    to a developer familiar with developing underwater pictures(or mail
    them off to one). If they are knowledgeable, they will modify the
    developer to compensate for the light changes, resulting in clear
    pictures that more closely match the real colours underwater.
     
    pafrankc, Apr 18, 2007
    #7
  8. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    "Michael C" <> pounded away at his keyboard resulting
    in:
    :I've noticed a couple of questions regarding dive cameras so thought I'd
    :continue the trend. A friend spent $700 on a 6mp cannon camera with a dive
    :case. I've noticed most of the pictures suffered from a severe lack of light
    :and the camera automatically went to a long exposure causing many of them to
    :be blured. Those that weren't blurred were quite dull. Only closeup shots
    :were acceptable really. After having a look at the pics I'm kinda of the
    :eek:pinion that only a high quality camera with a full size lense (to let more
    :light in) and a good external flash would be required to get acceptable
    :photos. Is this true? I'm not a camera zealot if anyone is wondering as I
    :quite happily take shots out of the water with a compact and reckon it is
    :pretty good. I usually dive around the 18 metre mark.
    :
    :Here's some examples:
    :http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/dive2.jpg
    :http://mikesdriveway.com/misc/elizaramsden124.jpg

    There are lots of good answers here already. Hopefully you read them.

    <arrogance>
    The most important part of any camera, either underwater or on land,
    is the person holding it. I use a commercial digital camera with only
    4 megapixels and I do ok. I don't use an external flash and have
    recently started to attempt underwater photos with natural light only.
    So it can be done.
    </arrogance>

    While I do ok, I still reject at least 75% of my shots for various
    reasons. Sometimes they are duplicates (if you want good pictures
    take lots) or sometimes they are sub-standard for one reason or
    another.

    If you are just getting started, thank your lucky stars that you are
    not using film. And keep at it. Experience matters.


    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, Apr 19, 2007
    #8
  9. Michael C

    nanook Guest

    The water in your examples seems pretty cloudy.

    Here's some shot in Maui in 06 using a Canon SD500 with Canon's case

    Max water depth was about 30 feet (turtle in hole shot)

    Out of probably 150 to 200 shots, 20 or 30 were keepers of any
    quality.

    Some were shot within 5 feet of the surface

    http:\\bshellenbaum.smugmug.com click on the Maui folder.

    One thing the P&S do that the more expensive SLRs don't, is video and
    it makes a real difference putting together a DVD of the vacation.

    The year before my daughter and I were diving at Molokini crater and I
    was shooting video with the canon elph, while capturing a shark
    swimming below us, we heard whale song and it was captured as well.
    Pretty darn cool.
     
    nanook, Apr 19, 2007
    #9
  10. Michael C

    soxmax Guest

    I bought the FujiFilm Finepix F30 and associated underwater case. The
    F30 has an "underwater" setting. I think I paid a total of $480 for
    the package but that was the weekend following Thanksgiving last year.
    The quality is certainly not professional but it was worth $480 to me.
    One nice thing about digital is that you can take a thousand poor
    quality pictures (which I did) and it doesn't cost you a dime.

    http://soxmax.myphotoalbum.com/

    The photos are of diving in Tortola with a few of the Rhone wreck up
    to 80 feet depth. I think there is also a surface picture.

    Best Regards,
    Derek
     
    soxmax, Apr 19, 2007
    #10
  11. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    nanook <> pounded away at his keyboard resulting in:

    :The water in your examples seems pretty cloudy.
    :
    :Here's some shot in Maui in 06 using a Canon SD500 with Canon's case
    :
    :Max water depth was about 30 feet (turtle in hole shot)
    :
    :Out of probably 150 to 200 shots, 20 or 30 were keepers of any
    :quality.
    :
    :Some were shot within 5 feet of the surface
    :
    :http:\\bshellenbaum.smugmug.com click on the Maui folder.


    Nice pics. You got a lot closer to a reef triggerfish than I was able
    to in Kona last year.

    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, Apr 19, 2007
    #11
  12. Michael C

    Michael C Guest

    I'm in Melbourne. The water is cold and cloudy here and I can't say the
    dives are that brilliant. I was getting pretty bored of diving until I went
    on a recent trip to WA. Now I'm itching to go again.
    They just look awesome, that's the quality of photo I would like to be able
    to take.
    That's a pretty good ratio, I was throwing away around 98% although I guess
    it depends on your criteria and the number of shots you take of each scene.
    That is one thing I've noticed is that the cheaper camera do take pretty
    good quality video.

    Michael
     
    Michael C, Apr 20, 2007
    #12
  13. Michael C

    bugbear Guest

    http://www.camerasunderwater.info/optics/lenscorrect.html

    BugBear
     
    bugbear, Apr 20, 2007
    #13
  14. Michael C

    nanook Guest

    I live in Alaska, my daughter and I did our cert dives up here a few
    years back in February (height of winter in the North Hemi)

    Water temp matched air temp at 35 degrees F, which was actually a warm
    day. Best diving up here is winter, the kelp dies off and no runoff
    from the land to cloud the water. Downside is freezing your butt off
    when the dry suit isn't.

    After diving in Hawaii she won't even consider diving up here again,
    although for bragging rights she does want to dive Antarctica.

    I've used several Canon P&S with their uw cases. The next one will
    probably have image stabilization, which should help with the
    inevitable movement quite a bit. They will never equal a pro sitting
    there for 20minutes with $5000 worth of equipment but that's not what
    I'm looking for anyway. If the water is cloudy there is nothing you
    can do, a powerful flash will just illuminate all the crap suspended
    in the water.
     
    nanook, Apr 20, 2007
    #14
  15. Michael C

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Those were pretty good photos. If you wanted to, you could probably
    enhance the reds in them, possibly even in a batch process. But I
    suspect your real interest is in the critters that posed for you more
    than
    the photos. Your ability to identify them is impressive. Are you a
    marine biologist?

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, Apr 20, 2007
    #15
  16. Michael C

    Sheldon Guest

    Looks pretty good for a point and shoot. I JUST ordered an Olympus FE-230
    with the underwater housing that's supposed to be good for around 100 ft.
    It's supposed to have some kind of brightening circuit and antishake.
    Looking forward to finally getting certified and trying it out. Out of the
    housing the camera is a very thin 7 megapixel point and shoot, something
    I've been looking for to supplement my DSLR on land.

    Good price point, too. Camera is about $200 and the housing is about $145.
     
    Sheldon, Apr 23, 2007
    #16
  17. Michael C

    news Guest

    Get an external flash, I have a canon A70 3.2 MP camera with a Sunpak G
    Flash. It is triggered by the on camera flash. I found by putting some
    opaq tape over the front of the on-camera flash it cuts down on the
    backscatter yet still triggers the external flash ok from the side. You can
    see some pics I took in Rhode Island here
    http://www.divewithjay.com/cgi-bin/diveapp.pl?type=pic&picno=0&picgrp=ftwetherill
    Some bahamas pics with the A70 are on the bottom of this page
    http://www.divewithjay.com/gallery/bahamas_2005.htm

    Others have already given you a list of great advice. In addition to that
    I've found that you can often adjust the white balance after the fact using
    photo software but it's best to adjust it before shooting.

    Jay
     
    news, May 10, 2007
    #17
  18. Michael C

    C J Campbell Guest

    The weak built-in flash units on cameras are typically unusable below
    three meters, no matter how fast the lens is. Good for snorkeling, but
    not much beyond that. You need a better light if you are going deeper
    than that.

    Lens size has little to do with how fast the lens is. Some small point
    and shoot consumer cameras have faster lenses than what you typically
    see on DSLRs. An f/2.8 zoom lens on an SLR is usually more expensive
    than a consumer camera with an f/2.8 zoom lens.
     
    C J Campbell, May 10, 2007
    #18
  19. Michael C

    Dan Bracuk Guest

    C J Campbell <> pounded away at his
    keyboard resulting in:
    :The weak built-in flash units on cameras are typically unusable below
    :three meters, no matter how fast the lens is.

    Not by me they're not.

    Dan Bracuk
    If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.
     
    Dan Bracuk, May 11, 2007
    #19
  20. Michael C

    VK Guest

    I'd venture to say that you're in the minority here.

    There are certain instances where the onboard flash can suffice - eg,
    shooting macro in good vis. However, adding an external strobe
    greatly increases the effectiveness of the underwater rig.

    I have sold a magazine cover taken with an S70 in the Canon box, along
    with a Sunpak G-Flash. The latter is a good enough flash but suffers
    a design flaw in the battery compartment which makes it prone to
    leaking. Spending a little more on a Sea&Sea or an Inon unit is well
    worth the price.

    Vandit
     
    VK, May 12, 2007
    #20
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