Digital camera to use while kayaking?
June 19, 2010 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Digital camera to use while kayaking?

We may be going sea kayaking next month, and I'm looking for a camera that can get wet in that situation. What's available now, up to, say $300?

Note that I don't intend to take it underwater, but would like something that can be splashed on accidentally.

We already have a Nikon D90 with nice lenses, which I'd prefer not to expose to this environment.

posted by chengjih to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
DP review did a waterproof camera test group a while back, most are in the ~$300 range.
posted by delmoi at 8:52 PM on June 19, 2010

Pentax, Olympus and Canon all make waterproof point and shoots in that range. They aren't great cameras as measured against non waterproof cameras (Canon is the best Olympus is the worst, the older Pentaxes are perversely much better than the recent ones). I've used them all extensively (for work) and would recommend the Canon for your purposes, it's not durable enough for really wet situations or for surveying work imho but it's the best camera. Otherwise get an older Pentax, the 5MP was the best one, the new 12MP is not nearly as good. Tiny lens + too many megapixels = bad photos! Our best work camera is a 5 year old Pentax, it takes great photos and has survived 5 full field seasons, which is more than can be said for most electronics.

The Olympus are monumentally awful cameras and I can only recommend them for Macro shots or if you really plan to abuse it as they are tough. They take terrible landscape photos, have an incredibly annoying interface and are essentially fixed focus.

Whatever you get read the instructions, take care of the seals, be careful opening and closing the compartments and get a floating strap.

There are also disposable waterproof cameras which are actually fine and are a much cheaper option for one trip.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 PM on June 19, 2010

Outside Magazine reviewed the Pentax Optio W90 as their top camera pick for their Summer 2010 Buyer's Guide. I'm seeing it for ~$250 on Google Product Search (which will forever be Froogle to me).

Looks like an updated version of the W80, which was reviewed in the DPReview article linked to above.
posted by dondiego87 at 9:04 PM on June 19, 2010

Love my Canon Powershot D10. I made a float for it out of a couple inches of pool noodle, and take it places I'd never take my DSLR.
posted by bink at 9:19 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've taken my D90 kayaking in calm water a number of times, including about a half-dozen times in Antarctica and some casual paddles in US lakes without incident. I've always kept the camera in a dry bag, often double dry bagged, with a desiccant pack in the bottom and used a clear/UV filter on the lens to protect against salt splash on the front element. Is this incredibly safe? Absolutely not, but it lets me take good pictures of fast moving animals that I never could get with a waterproof compact. Plus I'm not spending a couple hundred bucks on a separate waterproof compact, so in the worst case where I wreck my camera, I can put that money towards a new one.

Keep in mind that this was in pretty calm waters in fairly wide stable kayaks. Certainly my approach would be to start with it double dry bagged and then to only pull it out if the conditions felt safe enough. When it's been calm enough, I've often just kept the camera sitting on my lap under my spray skirt for quick grabbing, although this is definitely more risky. Personally though, the slow autofocus and shutterlag on the vast majority of compact cameras would drive me insane trying to photograph from a kayak, where boat's movement complicates matters.
posted by zachlipton at 9:23 PM on June 19, 2010

I don't have a waterproof camera myself, but I have been on a two week kayaking trip with my father, who had some waterproof Olympus model. I did borrow it for a couple of days, and it seemed to work fine. I don't know exactly what model it was, so I can't make a specific recommendation, but I can give a few more general pieces of advice.
  • Have the camera attached to your lifejacket, so you don't have to worry about dropping it.
  • Be careful. It's much easier to flip when you've dropped your paddle and are holding the camera, or are awkwardly holding both. Make sure you can drop the camera, recover your paddle, and roll up.
  • Be careful with the seals. One (or possibly two) other people on the trip also had waterproof cameras, but ended up having trouble with some water seeping in through the battery compartment. Minimize changing batteries and memory cards, be careful if doing it in a sandy area, and perhaps bring along cotton swabs or something to clean any dust/grit/sand that gets on the seal when changing the battery.

posted by JiBB at 9:46 PM on June 19, 2010

Second fshgrl: Disposable 35mm. You'll get serviceable pictures without worrying about your gear - the fuji ones are all of 10 bucks - get a bunch of them. The big knobs make it easy to work with.
posted by zenon at 9:58 PM on June 19, 2010

delmoi's link is great. I hope my son is reading this as I think we are getting him the panasonic for his birthday. Some of the small cameras pretty much stink on video but the panasonics are very good. It also seems to have good optics, survives a little bit bigger drop etc. My only beef is a lack of a viewfinder, but the newer lcd screens are better in bright light making this a little less of an issue, but it is still a nice feature to have at say the beach or on the water in bright sun where this sort of camera is supposed to shine.
posted by caddis at 10:08 PM on June 19, 2010

Canon D10 is great. We took it to Hawai'i and took underwater pictures and overwater pictures. It's not as good as an SLR but you'd be hard-pressed to tell for most 8x10 prints.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:33 PM on June 19, 2010

I've been following the development of waterproof cameras for a while, I'm saving up money and I am going to buy one if later.

There are two really good ones at the moment Panasonic DMC-FT2 (also known as the DMC-TS2) and Sony DSC-TX5.
posted by bbxx at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2010

just posting to thank zachlipton for the advice -- I'm going to try your approach with my Nikon D60 next month. Where does one buy a desiccant pack?
posted by monkeymonkey at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2010

I've got a Fujifilm FinePix XP10... just picked it up and it survived a trip down to Havasupai Canyon no problem. At $130 (Costco), it's not disposable, but it works exactly as well as you'd expect for a point and shoot 12 megapixel camera. Which is to say, pretty well... swam / ran / hiked with it a bunch... no problems.

The model I bought comes with a neoprene case that floats.
posted by ph00dz at 3:33 PM on June 20, 2010

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