SCUBA people, what camera gives best bang for the buck?

Started Aug 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 13,709
Depends on what you want...

I've had four dive cameras now, starting in 2007.   All of them have been Canon point-n-shoots with matching Canon housings.    The latest is an s95, which is really quite a good camera within it's limits.   It shoots RAW, has decent ISO performance and decent resolution.  Rated to 130 feet, and I've had them done to 125.

All of the cameras/housings have cost around $400 total.  The s95 housing is a little more expensive than previous housings because it has more controls (buttons and knobs), and is a bit bigger to fit the zoom.   (It also is pretty positively buoyant and could use a weight to even it out.)   This combo cost me about $430.

I think that's pretty good bang for the buck.   All the housings have been very reliable, with nary a leak so far (knock on wood).    With clear water you can use the provided diffuser to get OK flash images.

I've also used an Ikelite AF-35 external strobe with these cameras, but I'm not happy with it.  Partly because it lacks TTL metering and it's pretty difficult (for me) to get the power level right.  But also because adding a strobe on an arm really, really changes the diving.    With just the dive housing, you can dangle the camera from your wrist strap, or stick it in a BCD pocket.   Add the external strobe, and you can't really let go of the camera, and you can also feel the drag.   It's just a lot different experience where the camera rig itself becomes more intrusive.

The limitations I've had are pretty straightforward:

1. lighting - with a good external strobe, you are very limited with built-in flash (pretty close subjects) or you need to be diving in less than 30 feet with bright sunshine.

2. AF - it's a point-n-shoot.  If the subject isn't moving much, you're ok.   I get a lot of 'fish tails on the edge of the frame' shots trying to get fish swimming by.

Examples here:

and here:

and here:

and here:

Cameras used range from Canon SD630 to SD870is to s95.   The s95 is easily superior to the others.

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