In early February I spent nine days in Costa Rica and finally decided to try something other than lugging my Canon 40D everywhere I went – so yet again I delved into the ever-changing landscape of digital cameras.
I wanted something portable that could also take photos I could make large prints of (I have a few 30″ x 20″ prints on my walls), but also – and this was the most complicated corner of the triangle to balance – something I could use for underwater photography.
Underwater photography isn’t trivial, which is one of the reason’s I never got into it – not for lack of desire, because the photos I’ve seen look amazing, but I just couldn’t justify $1,500 on an underwater housing alone that would fit exactly one camera (they only fit a single camera model).
Some of you may be thinking I hadn’t seen those waterproof flexible zipper/velcro cases for $20 (example) – oh, but I had. I had. And that’s how I ruined my first point and shoot – water got into the case on a trip out to the lake (the camera never went deeper than 10 feet of water).
If you’re in the territory for this type of case I’d strongly recommend going for a sub $500 waterproof camera similar to the Olympus I mention next.
Also think about what you’re putting between your camera lens and your subject, because you’re shooting through that waterproof case.
The setup’s fell into roughly three categories –
Not Quite There
At around $500 we have 10-15 megapixel point and shoot cameras that are generally waterproof up to 40 feet. I was actually on the edge of buying the Olympus TG-1iHS 12MP before I decided I just wanted more out of a camera (I wanted RAW and a better maximum aperture) so if this fits your bill, grab it.
Pros – Cheap; rugged; built-in waterproof so I wouldn’t need an extra case
Cons – If I went diving (which I did) 40 feet might not cut it; 12mp just isn’t that great these days; no RAW (if I print photos I do prefer to start from RAWs)
Can’t Quite Afford
I already had a Canon 40D – so if I went this direction I was only looking at purchasing the housing, which would save me the $1,000 for the Canon 40D (or today’s equivalent, the Canon 70D), but did I want to spend $1,500 on a housing for a camera that was already seven years old? I would really be locking myself into the 40D dropping that much money on it – and I really couldn’t justify that.
I spent a bit of time pricing out replacing the 40D with either the 70D or a 5D Mark II, but all came back to being more than I wanted to spend at the time ($2,500+).
Pros – All the settings and functionality I grew accustom to with my SLR; fantastic photo quality; RAW
Cons – The cost is just too damn high; needing an underwater housing and lens adapters
Aww Yeah, Just Right
At the $1,200 price point the key is to find a good camera and underwater housing combo that won’t break the bank – and while unfortunately we’re still looking at fixed lenses, maybe that’s not so bad.
After repeatedly debating with myself what I wanted out of a camera I decided being able to shoot both RAW and have a wide open aperture were clutch – this lead me to the Sony RX100 II.
The RX100 II (not the RX100) shot RAW and had a f/1.8 max aperture – and since it was a fixed lens camera I wasn’t going to get shafted on the price for an underwater housing. Finally something I could afford that should take wall-quality photos.
- 1-Inch 20.2 MP Exmor R sensor for extreme low-light shots
- Bright F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens w/3.6x zoom
- Simple connectivity to smartphones via Wi-Fi or NFC
- Recording Media Types: PRO Duo™ / Pro-HG Duo™ media Mem
Pros – Shoots RAW; 1.8 max aperture; fits in my back pocket
Cons – Limited to the fixed lens; won’t have as good of quality as an SLR (though I’d challenge you to see a difference)
I bought both the Sony RX100 II for $700 and it’s associated Ikelite underwater housing for $400; with a few accessories it came out to just under $1,200. And damn did those pictures rock – and not just underwater, but suddenly I didn’t have to worry about being around water at all.
Beach? Check. Waterfalls? Check. Zero-concern about ruining another point and shoot with water? Priceless.
Kit & Kaboodle
- Sony DSC-RX100M II Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera 20.2MP, Black
- Ikelite 6116.11 Underwater Camera Housing for Sony Cybershot RX100 II (DSC-RX100M2/B)
- Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card
- (Optional) Pelican 1010 Micro Case w/Solid Lid – Yellow
- (Optional) 2 NP-BX1 Batteries & Charger for Sony DSC-RX100M II Digital Camera