Cruise Vacation Photography
Underwater Photography


In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Sooner or later, whether boating or cruising, you are going to want to take underwater photos. While the pros have thousand dollar equipment, you will want something less expensive. Fortunately there are three inexpensive solutions; both point & shoot solutions.

Solution 1 - Underwater Point & Shoot

Specifications
Camera: Olympus Tough 8010
Depth Rating: 10M (33ft)
Sensor: 14 MegaPixel CCD
Lens Zoom: 5x
File Format: JPG
Media: SDHC
Optical Viewfinder: No
Street Price: $275~375


Underwater Point & Shoot Cameras.

Summary: Advantages include portability, multi-purpose use, and never ruining your camera by forgetting you put it in your swim trunks pocket (I have ruined two P&S cameras that way). Disadvantages include limited depth (usually 3 to 10M, depending on model) and the lack of filtering. When you go underwater, it is normal to have a color shift to the blue spectrum. This is typically solved by adding a RED filter to the front of the lens to return the color balance. However, this can somewhat be corrected in post-processing.

I own the Olympus Tough 8010, and it does have some nice features not found on many cameras, including a color balance mode for underwater shooting (alleviating the need for a RED filter), and is shock proof, water proof, freeze proof, and basically a ruggedized camera. There is a lot to like about the 8010 and I have used it to great success.

      

These videos convinced me to buy an Olympus Tough 8010.


Solution 2 - Underwater Housings

Specifications
Housing Make: Fantasea
Use with Camera: various popular P&S cameras
Depth Rating: 200ft
Filter Ring: Yes
Street Price: $120


Underwater Point & Shoot Housings.

Notice:

Underwater housings are typically designed to fit ONE specific model of camera. Be sure to purchase the housing foy YOUR camera.

Summary: Advantages include increased depth (up to 200ft), ability to use accessories such as filters and external flashes, and in some cases include a flash diffuser, and being able to chose the performance of the camera to fit your needs. As well, they offer maximum protection for your camera should you bang it against something. Disadvantages include a bulky case and the limitation of camera equipment. These cases have to be purpose-built for each specific camera model, and as camera models change frequently, you may not be able to find the proper case for your camera... or a camera for your older case.

Although I added one as an example, I personally would stay from the baggie-style pouches as they generally do not have as deep of a rating, and they may be prone to leaks (just my opinion on that one). And they do not protect the camera from banging around.


Solution 3 - Dive Mask

Specifications
Camera: Liquid Image Undewater Camera-Dive Mask
MegaPixels: 5MP
Depth Rating: 65ft
Lens Zoom: none
File Format: JPG
Media: SD, SDHC, microSD
Optical Viewfinder: sort of
Filter Ring: Yes
Street Price: $150


Underwater Dive Masks.

Summary: Advantages include a hands-free option, and in some cases, a filter attachment. Disadvantages are that they are generally low performance cameras with low-pixel count sensors, and may not include zoom lens or a flash.


What I have

Overview: I have two underwater camera systems - an Olympus Tough 8010, and a FantaSea housing with a Nikobn S200. As of late, I have been using the Olympus camera more as it is more portable and higher quality than the older Nikon S200 I have with the FantaSea housing. As well, I tend to snorkel rather than dive, and stay above the 33ft limitation of the Olympus. However, the Olympus requires a 10 minute fresh water soak after use - if used in salt-water, which is not required by the FantaSea housing (but a rinse-off is still recommended).

In addition to the Olympus, my older solution is a Fantasea Model FS-209 housing with a Nikon Coolpix S200 portable (Point & Shoot) camera. But it is representative of what is available today, and you can certainly purchase a newer Fantasea housing for a more current camera. So while the hardware is different, the concept is the same.

The Fantasea case is well made, and features stainless steel clamps, O-ring sealed buttons, and an o-ring main seal. The case has a metal "lens"ring which accepts a filter. Also there is a tripod mount on the bottom of the case for attachment of accessories such as a light bar.

My camera, a Nikon S200 is 2007 vintage, and has a 7 MegaPixel sensor, enough for underwater photography. Add the ability to zoom, movie mode, flash, and settable color-balance controls and the camera works pretty well underwater. The case also has a flash diffuser if needed for the flsh.

The camera attaches to the case by a bottom plate attached to the camera's tripod mount that slides into the case.Unfortunately due to the location of the pushbuttons, this case will only work with this specific camera.

Color Correction: The two photos at the bottom shows the un-retouched underwater photo without a RED color correcting lens. The right photo was color corrected in Nikon Capture NX2 by shifting the color balance to the RED. I think you will have to agree that shifting the color balance is necessary - either with an on-camera filter or in post-processing. However, most Point & Shoot cameras cannot shoot RAW, and post-processing a JPG may have undesireable results, so don't overdo it.


Coral World - St. Thomas, USVI

Coral World - St. Thomas, USVI (Color Corrected)

Summary: If you cruise the Caribbean, you are at some point, going to go into the water. So why not take a camera with you? You will be rewarded with spectacular photographs. Both setups I have were around $300 for either the waterproof camera, or both the camera and housing, and given you probably want a Point & Shoot anyway, the housing is about a $120 investment.


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