Saturday, September 17, 2011

Waterproof Photography

"Digital Photography Review"  recently compared six waterproof cameras that would like to find homes aboard small craft, kayaks and canoes.   The article  seems "just in time" since our ancient waterproof camera died a few days ago.

Digital Photography Review compared 6 waterproof cameras in August, 2011
  The Review Article

The cameras compared in this helpful review article:
         Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
         Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
         Sony Cyber-shot TX10
         Fujifilm FinePix XP30
         Olympus Tough TG-810
         Ricoh PX
Of course, there are many other reviews available. We found helpful for comparing pairs of cameras.

Pentax Optio WPi
Pentax Optio WPi   ( 2006 - 2011, R.I.P. )

During the past five years we enjoyed taking a few thousand snap shots / videos with our compact Optio WPi.  In spite of heavy use when kayaking and sailing,  it was still a solid performer to the very end.  Suddenly, it fails to boot up now.  The "on" light comes on, but that is the only response.  To turn it off we have to remove the battery.  Perhaps it is in an electronic coma.  

The WPi seemed fine and healthy when it came home from a two-day trip (41 photos).  Here are the last three photos taken with the WPi.

Cedar Island kayaking,  6:09pm August 20
(by SandyBottom)

Dolphins in Cedar Island Bay on a foggy morning, 7:36am August 21 
(by SandyBottom)

For recreational photography, the WPi has enhanced our sailing and kayaking experiences in many ways. After 5 years the time had come to replace the WPi. 

Choosing a replacement was not easy!  But no complaints here; it is a good thing that there is currently a good number of makes and models from which to choose. The most recent batch of entries in this niche market features dozens of enhancements and improvements.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-Ts3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 (Silver)

We chose the recently released Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3.
This is "version 3" following the TS2.

We put it to work immediately at home and SandyBottom is planning to give it a try kayaking in the 2011 WaterTribe NC Challenge

It is easy to use and remarkably familiar.   The controls and menu systems are clear and intuitive.  

On boot-up the display first reminds the user to make certain the camera door is locked  --and how to do that. This does not delay taking a photo however, because pressing the shutter-release immediately on boot-up takes precedence.

To save battery time,  we will tend to not use some of the features; for example,  the GPS,  compass,  barometer,  altimeter,  face recognition,  etc.

Favorite color ?
Waterproof compact digital cameras on the market today offer dozens of features,  specifications,  and pros and cons to consider. Choice of make and model of camera depends on the user's preferences about dozens of practical and technical considerations. 


Pentax Optio WG-1
with or without a built-in GPS
Pentax Optio WG-1

During the years that we were enjoying the WPi,  Pentax marched out a series of new versions:  W10, W20, W30, W60, W80, W90, and most recently the WG-1 and the WG-1 GPS.   The Optio models remain the only waterproof cameras that have offered time-lapse photography (a.k.a.,  "auto drive" or "interval shooting"). Every new model seemed to add a few more features and enhancements. We certainly expected that we would eventually replace the WPi with a newer Pentax model.
Among it's many features, the new WG-1 models include a 1cm macro mode with LED lighting,  and rugged build that can make claims as crush-proof, freeze-proof, and shock-proof.  Options include the built in GPS for geo-tagging photos (about $50),  and a small waterproof remote control (about $30).
Choosing between the Pentax and the Panasonic models was a tough call that required weighing many trade-offs and pros and cons.  

Nikon  CoolPix  AW100 with 3" Display
Nikon CoolPix AW100

Had we known about it, we might have considered Nikon's new entry....  the CoolPix AW100.  As of September 2011 it is available for purchase (e.g., at but there are not yet many reviews of this model.  Does it produce better images?  I don't know, but it seems it may be a strong competitor for space in the pocket for your PDF. 

Like most of its competitors it is waterproof, shock-proof, freeze-proof, ruggedly built for the outdoors. Take it diving to a depth of 33 feet.  It has a 16-(effective)-megapixel CMOS sensor.   Some features can be controlled by shaking it.  A GPS and compass are built in.   It is smaller, lighter, and more costly than the TS3
Colors: orange, blue, white, black, camoflage.

But wait,  that's not all you get!   It has ....  maps!

Map of  the locations of your photos

What Comes Next?

Perhaps we will see a rugged waterproof compact camera that combines all the functions of  a great 20 megapixel camera,  a GPS-map chartplotter,  a personal locator beacon (PLB),   and a smart phone with cellular, wireless, bluetooth, and satellite connectivity.   
Naturally, this $300 device will become available the day after you spend $300 on a cool new waterproof camera that does not have a built-in chartplotter,  PLB, and smart phone. 


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