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July 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Two Cameras to Start your Underwater Photographer Career

from the July, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Nikon Coolpix W300

Thinking about underwater photography, but don't want to jump into the big bucks it might require? Consider the latest Nikon Coolpix W300, a mass-market camera that is rated 'water tolerant' to 100 feet (30m) deep. Deep enough for those divers who rarely pass 60 feet (19m), it will conveniently slip into a BC pocket and be ready to grab to prove that a manta really did fly around your head!

Not intended for serious underwater photographers since it does not appear to accept ancillary wideangle or macro lenses, it's more useful for casual snaps rather than top-quality shots.

While the wide-angle zoom lens is barely wide-angle (a 24mm fullframe equivalent), it does have a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor and will shoot video footage up to 4K at 30 fps.

And, it's social media ready. When you come face-to-face with that manta, you can post proof directly on SnapBridge from your Coolpix W300. And, there's no need to get your Coolpix confused with that of another diver; they come in five different colors. Price is around $389, a reasonable fee, but it's got some stiff competition from a superficially similar Olympus.

Olympus Tough TG5

The 12 megapixel CMOS-sensor Olympus Tough TG5 doesn't go as deep (it's rated to 50 feet/15m). Its built-in zoom is slightly more wide-angle, but it will accept an ancillary wide-angle wet-lens that's been specifically designed for it. You can also add a ring-flash reflector that distributes the camera's built-in strobe so that the camera's microscope mode is readily usable for super macro pictures. I really have successfully recorded a pin-head with this! It follows closely in the footsteps of the Tough TG4, which has had proven success both with stills and video.

Want to go deeper? If you put it into an Olympus underwater housing, it will safely go to 150 feet (45m) deep. It then accepts additional fish-eye lenses and macro wetlenses, and you never have to be too worried about the housing flooding because you didn't assemble it correctly -- the camera itself is watertight! I've heard some technical divers fill the housing with water while the camera is in it, then take it down to extreme depths, because the water is incompressible. Now, I've not tried that!

Once in the Olympus housing, the TG5 can also be paired with an off-board strobe, just like any more serious camera -- and it can also be configured to shoot RAW files, with all the post-processing advantages that confers. And I've seen some brilliant pictures to prove it. The TG5 camera, for casual underwater photographers, costs around $450, and its underwater housing is $300 extra.

--john@undercurrent.org

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