Best Underwarter System (Camera+Housing) < $1300

Started Apr 20, 2013 | Discussions thread
LarsPolarBear
Regular MemberPosts: 142Gear list
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Re: Best Underwarter System (Camera+Housing) < $1300
In reply to Myallegro31, Apr 21, 2013

Hi Adam,

I guess it is a little subjective what the "best" underwater system in your price range might be since it depends a lot on your use.

So, here are my thought:

I am using a Canon G1X with the dedicated Canon underwater casing (WP-DC44) without any extra strobes. Additionally, I am using an adapter (H2O) and a close-up lens (would not call it macro lens) from Inon (UCL-165M67). This pack should leave you below your max. cost estimate, especially when purchased in Thailand (send me a PM when you want to have some ideas regarding that, since I think I am not allowed to mention specific shops here at DPR, but I purchased mine via Thailand, though I am living in Europe).

As you might know, the G1X has a sensor almost the size of the APS-C format with a high quality lens (28-112mm eq.) while packaged in a quite compact housing.  It takes high quality pictures that can be compared with DSLRs (entry level) and ILS cameras.  It has probably the best low light picture quality of all compacts (IMO substantially better than RX100).  The Canon underwater casing lets you use all functions of the camera (while it does not allows the use of the front wheel) (max depth 40m).

so, in short:

Pros:

- price! - IMO best low cost underwater package when it comes to picture quality

- relatively small camera (compared to DSLRs) and quite good travel camera

- shoots RAW

- underwater picture mode (sometimes helpful, when above 10m depth)

- quite good manual WB (used bottom sand as reference)

- quite sturdy and good mechanical quality

- build in flash quite ok for macro and close-up shoots

Cons:

- slow AF and picture cycle (sluggish operation)

- slow AF and picture cycle (sluggish operation)

- slow AF and picture cycle (sluggish operation)

- does not focus underwater without pre-focus (more difficult with buttons of UW-casing)

- in too many instances cannot focus at low in low light situations

- no build-in macro ability (compared to e.g. Canon G15) - need extra lens & adapter -> extra cost

- size about the same as new generation ILS cameras, but fixed lens (not changeable)

I just came back from a trip to Thailand/Malaysia where I used this pack and was quite annoyed by the sluggish operation and its difficulties to focus as well as the necessity to constantly having to change to macro mode even for pictures that are not macro at all ( e.g. moray eel).  Having said that, the decisive reason for the G1X for me was to get a camera that can take high quality pictures underwater and in low light for a reasonable price.

Olympus (PEN-series) and Nikon (1-series) are the only manufactures at this point it time that produce dedicated underwater housings for ILS cameras, both in the range of US$800-850, which is substantially lower than what 3rd party manufacturers would ask for. The new Olympus PEN E-PL5 seems to have excellent IQ (also in low light) and operates much faster than the G1X, but WU-Housing + camera might stretch your budget a little.

My advice would be to analyze your needs very honestly (you will not get everything, it will be a compromise) and then check out some of these options.  There are obviously also alternatives in the compact camera range with 1/1.7 sensors that have fast lenses (e.g.Canon G15) that might serve your purpose a s well and have macro ability build-in.

Hope that helps a little,

Lars

Here some pics taken with the G1X:

Nudibranch

underwater bolder

Manta Ray

using build-in flash - Lion Fish - no PP

G1X & close-up lens - strong vignetting - Nudibranch - no PP

Leopard Shark

baby Barracudas - no PP

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