What's the best bet for a novice underwater photographer?
March 17, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What kind of options are available for someone wanting to try out underwater photography?

I recently got my open water PADI certification in New Zealand (thanks for the advice on my previous question, by the way -- it was a great course.)

I am heading to Thailand on Sunday for a three week holiday with a couple girlfriends. I'd like to do some scuba diving while I'm there and I'd like to take some underwater photos.

I guess I'm wondering what kind of options are available. I have a digital camera, but they don't make an underwater housing for it. Is it possible to buy a good camera/housing somewhere in Thailand?

I've seen that some dive shops teach underwater photography courses and sometimes rent cameras -- has anyone done this? Or is it best to just go with a disposable film camera?

I hope to do some more diving in Australia and New Zealand later this year, so it may be that getting a digital camera is worth it?

For those novice underwater photographers -- can you please give me some options on what is working for you? I just want to take some photos of all the amazing marine life and have some memories of these dives!
posted by Flying Squirrel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Believe it or not, they make disposable underwater cameras. Not as good as getting a housing for a real camera, but an awful lot cheaper than buying a whole new camera AND housing.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2009

Its really tough find an inexpensive "real" under water camera that functions at scuba depths. I decided shooting video underwater was ok...

The Flip Video camera has a pretty inexpensive underwater housing. (You can get the Flip and Flip accessories off of Amazon for less money)

I bought a used Flip Video camera and the underwater housing and used it scuba diving in the Virgin Islands. The underwater housing is rated to 30 feet, but I've taken it down to about 60 feet, but you have to start recording video before you go below about 25 feet because the water pressure causes the buttons on the camera to be pushed and it sometimes will stop recording if you go below ~30 feet.
posted by gregr at 2:44 PM on March 17, 2009

Oh, and I don't know how much money you want to spend, but for a ~150usd you can find a waterproof housing on ebay. Then just buy a used camera to match the housing... Probably will cost around 300usd.
posted by gregr at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2009

I'm a long time professional photographer who had no interest in taking particularly spectacular or commercially salable underwater pictures on a vacation to St. John's Island a few years ago.

Somebody gave me a disposable Kodak underwater camera prior to the trip. I was pretty impressed by the shots I got given the simplicity and minimal cost. Not pro quality by a long shot, but I did get some keepers.

If I were going to do this again I'd probably get one of these.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:56 PM on March 17, 2009

I've taken some underwater photography classes. I never got into it as much as my brother did, but you can certainly get training at some dive shops - and of course they'll want to sell you the equipment. If you thought that SCUBA in general was expensive, that aint nuthin' compared to what you'll drop if you really decide to get into underwater photography. Be warned. My brother dropped a couple grand easily on a decent rig (with lights etc)

You may be able to find a housing for your camera in Thailand, but I'd be a little leary of that. Those housings have to be spot on or you've just drowned your camera. The disposable ones work just fine (you'll never sell the photos to National Geographic, but still...) and good for shallow depth recreational dives. Look for dive shops in Thailand - they may have rentals that are better than the disposable ones.

And as a word of warning: Everyone will tell you that underwater photgraphers are the worst dive buddies - they are absolutely, definitively right. They always are going for the shot and ignore little unimportant stuff like bouyancy, depth, rate of ascent, etc. My brother damn near killed us both once as he was chasing a jellyfish for a shot and rocketed something like 50 feet up from 95 feet depth in under 10 seconds, me chasing him the whole way. If you are just a new diver, you may want to stick with shallow dives and make sure you take a reputable course before, well, diving headfirst into photography.

But enough of that -- have fun!
posted by elendil71 at 3:03 PM on March 17, 2009

I've had very poor experiences with disposable underwater cameras. They're fine for snorkeling, but at depth (even in the crystal clear water of Belize), all photos were horribly grainy, dark, and nearly indecipherable.

I've read good things about the housing for the Canon A-570. I have the camera, and it takes great pics for a point and shoot, but haven't used the housing. There are some impressive underwater pics taken with it here.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:46 PM on March 17, 2009

I have an Olympus Stylus 1030 SW and have been very happy with it. It's waterproof to 30 feet, and dust and shock proof as well... I've taken it snorkeling and gotten great photos from it.
posted by glider at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2009

samples from the 1030sw in the pool and in mexico
posted by glider at 6:13 PM on March 17, 2009

A single data point of disposables in Hawaii off the coast of Kauai. Photos were dark and grainy and I was at most 6 or 7 feet from the surface.
posted by mmascolino at 8:49 PM on March 17, 2009

My worst dive buddy was a guy whose mask was pretty much permanently attached to his Canon+underwater housing.

So what do I do? Go out and buy a Canon+underwater housing.

Havent used it yet though. Will ask my next dive buddy how I did after were done.

Good Luck!
posted by Fiat124 at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2009

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