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July 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Misplaced Optimism of Some Camera Manufacturers

from the July, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

"The idea of taking underwater photographs with a quality camera can be exciting, what with the beautiful things you might see and be able to capture. On the other hand, an expensive camera is probably one of the last things anyone wants to take near water, let alone under it."

That's what Polaroid says about its latest foray into the world of underwater photography. It's launched a polycarbonate housing for a variety of popular DSLR cameras, but alas, its designers have failed to understand the different conditions faced by underwater photographers compared to those working on land. In fact, it looks suspiciously like those inexpensive housings made by Mekon in China and suffers the same problems in that it has a fixed flat glass port, not long enough to encompass a macro lens, and it's not a dome port, needed to work with a wide-angle or fisheye lens. It's "rated to 165 feet" so it should keep the water out, but it's more suited for use in the surf than as a diver's camera housing. At roughly $350 (not including the camera), it may be good value for those with lesser expectations.

Leica's new release, the16-megapizel waterproof X-U, misses the point if they intended to introduce it to the scuba market. It can be used down to 49 feet for up to one hour (it's unclear why there would be a time limit!), so that excludes it from being useful to most divers. Though it has a fabulous Summilux lens, with a wide aperture for use in low light, its long focal length is not good for getting close and reducing the amount of water between it and the subject. The built-in strobe is positioned so close to the lens that every picture you produce will look like you shot it in a snowstorm -- thanks to the backscatter it provides. Priced around $3000, for underwater use it's a design tragedy.

Olympus follows the trend with its all-new Stylus Tough TG Tracker, putting the built-in video light right next to the lens. It may be good to go to 100 feet deep but turn that light on and you'll record nothing but backscatter.

- John Bantin

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