Best cameras

What cameras would you suggest to take along when canoeing or kayaking in SC waters???

…do you want to photograph and how will you view your shots?

For the best quality photos of wildlife, you need a DSLR with at least a 500mm (35mm equivalent) lens and a waterproof camera bag to store it in. Look at Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc.

For snapshots I’d suggest one of the Olympus Stylus TG (Tough) models. They are waterproof to 50’, will take a beating and produce good quality photos.

what KFbrady said
Shop used for DSLR bodies, particularly those with crop sensors. Canon and Nikon create a few new models every year and people sell the old ones to buy new ones.


– Last Updated: Sep-26-16 2:52 PM EST –

I have a Pentax Optio WG-1 that I bought used on Ebay for $175 early this year -- they are still available new although they have been replaced by the Ricoh version in production. I've owned a lot of cameras in my life, include some high end Olympus and Nikon SLRs and a couple of supposedly "waterproof" cameras but nothing beats this one for ruggedness, ease of use and carefree usage, as well as excellent picture quality. I don't have to worry about this compact camera at all. The sturdy nylon strap and carabiner make it easy to clip it to my decklines or my PFD and it regularly gets soaked with paddle drip and even completely dunked in water. The controls are easy to use, it has tons of built in options, including a very good macro (with auxiliary closeup lighting around the lens) and the automatic settings are very good. Video is decent -- not what you would get with a GoPro but more than satisfactory for casual shooting.

The Optio's one drawback is that it sucks the power out of batteries, especially if you shoot any video. But they are tiny (less than a matchbook) and I simply bought a set of 4 plus an extra charger for less than $15 on Ebay and carry spares with me in a baggie. Shutting off the automatic GPS conserves some power.

If you want to see photo quality, look at this album of shots I took with the camera at Lake Tahoe this past summer. None of these are digitally tweaked and you can see the macro quality in the closeup of tiny alpine flowers and the excellent depth of field and exposures on water and snow -- all taken using the resident automated settings in the camera.

I use a
Sealife DC1400 waterproof camera. Also good for Scuba diving.

Depends on shooting conditions too
If you aren’t shooting WHILE going through rapids, etc, does it even matter? For all my paddling shots, I use the same camera that I use for everything else. Been doing it that way since the mid 70s, and still haven’t dropped one in the drink (now I’ve probably jinxed myself). I do keep it in a waterproof box when paddling through tricky places, but you can safely do a lot of picture-taking while parked in an eddy.

I am with kfbrady
I am with kfbrady - some more info about how you will be suing the camera would be helpful.

For best photos overall, a DSLR would be best. but they generally are not waterproof. Is that important?

If you want videos more than photos, something like a GoPro would be good. Especially if you want the POV benefits of mounting it some place, not just holding in your hand.

For waterproof and photos more than videos, most of the waterproof point and shoots would do fine. I’ve used both Pentax Optio series and Olympus Tough series. Either would do fine. As would many of the other ones out there (Canon, Sony, etc.). But more than a few years old may not be worth it, as shutter lag and image quality and such are worse in them.

settings ?
Not available to me… Are the photos set to public?

There’s an in-between option
BTW, all of the cameras I’m about to suggest have viewfinders) in addition to LCDs, so they’re usable under any lighting conditions, including blazing sum over your shoulder (I won’t buy a camera without a viewfinder).

The Olympus OM-D E-M1, E-M5 and E-M10 (Micro 4/3) cameras are all splash-proof, as are the lenses for them. They’re considerably smaller, lighter and less expensive than a full-size SLR, and their image quality is excellent. They’re not likely to survive a major dunking, but they would probably be OK on your deck and through inadvertent splashes. They’d definitely be an improvement over regular SLRs and most “bridge” cameras (SLR style with fixed lenses. I have the EM-1 and E-M5 bodies (the Mark I versions) and a handful of lenses and I’ve been very pleased with them. I haven’t used either of them on the boat yet, but I’ll probably designate the E-M5 and the 12-50mm and 40-150mm kit lenses for that duty, since they’re lighter, more compact and less expensive than the E-M1 and the “Zuiko Pro” lenses I use with it.

A non-splash-proof option that’s small, but produces excellent images is the Sony RX100 line (there are 4 models). They use a large sensor for such a small camera and are equipped with very high quality lenses. I’ve been using the RX100 IV as my cycling camera, as it’s fits nicely in a small bag on the top tube behind the stem. It would work great in a kayak, if protected in a waterproof box or bag. If you want a larger zoom range and are willing to sacrifice a bit of image quality to get it, the HX80 and HX90 may be just what you need.


– Last Updated: Sep-28-16 2:07 PM EST –

I see paddlers shooting with DSLRs, not uncommon. Why not use the best available option? Add lower light conditions and one is even better off with a cheap used DSLR and a good lens.

So you still shoot film?

changed the setting
Kayakmedic, I hadn’t realized that album had a default “friends only” setting. I changed it to “public” and you should be able to see it.

While I fully realize that the DSLR’s people are suggesting will produce a higher grade of photo, I’m not planning on blowing up my paddling trip shots to room sized posters or submitting them to National Geographic-- I think few people care about that level of resolution. And I think the low light photo quality that I’ve gotten with the Optio WG is pretty darned good – check out the twilight shots of the condo complex in that album as well as the excellent contrast is the trail photos between light and shade.

Weighing the undeniable image superiority, yet fragility and cost of a DSLR against how indestructible and cheap the Optio is and the freedom of not having to fret about it getting dunked or even dropped, wins the contest for me. I have found I take MANY more photos now during my outdoor adventures than I ever did with any other camera of the nearly two dozen I’ve owned. Its knobby case is easy to hold with gloves or wet hands and I find the relatively small preview screen much easier to see even in bright light than with previous cameras. I held on to my older digital cameras for quite a while because those still had eyepiece viewfinders – this is the first digital I’ve had without a viewfinder that didn’t bug the hell out of me.

Used to always be on my mind: “wbere’s the camera? is it safe to take it out of the drybag right now? did I put it away right?”. Not to mention the annoyance of having to paddle like a maniac to catch up with my companions after having to waste time fishing the camera out and putting it back, so it would stay dry.

Since I got the Optio I just toss it in the cockpit with the other junk before I haul the boat to the launch, then fasten it to a deck line and only think of it when I want to shoot a pic, then grab, shoot and let it drop in a few seconds. If anything, this little camera is almost TOO carefree and I fret too little about it. In fact, when we came back from kayaking in the rental SOT on Tahoe I did not realize until late that night that I had left it clipped to the livery PFD when I took off the paddling gear! I rushed over as soon as they opened the next morning and an oufitter guide and I dug through a shedful of vests and paddles to find it still attached to one near the bottom of the soggy pile and none the worse for wear.

I have gotten so careless with it I’m considering attaching one of those electronic “tile” gizmos to it so I can use my phone to find it when I lose track of it in the car or gear bags. If I actually did lose it I would definitely get another one like it.

High end cameras are wonderful, but thinking back, it has always seemed for me that the more expensive and heavily optionized my camera was, the less I used it. Some of the most impressive adventure photos I took in my life were with an ancient Olympus 35 mm rangefinder I bought used for $20 and with my first digital, a basic barely 3 megapixel Canon A40 15 years ago. They were simple, rugged cameras and always seemed to give me great exposures. On the other hand, I treasure virtually nothing I ever shot with the Nikon F3 High Point or a fancy Olympus SLR I had in my 30’s, each of which cost me at least a month’s pay.

I also recall a group diving and snorkelling trip to the Virgin Islands I arranged for 10 friends from my outdoor club. Two folks on the trip had fancy NIkonos underwater camera rigs and one had a pro-grade WP case he had with a top end SLR in it. All had considerable experience shooting underwater. One other person and I chose to buy a few of the $10 Kodak 24 hot disposable underwater cameras, just for the heck of it. We were all shooting slides. A few weeks after the trip we all got together one night to share a group viewing of our processed slides . It was really weird but the shots with the disposables were far better, in exposure and clarity, and got the most “oohs and aahs” and requests for copies. I had noticed a similar trend on other group trips when my shots with the funky little Olympus RF turned out better than those shot with other’s SLR’s.

That incident made me wonder if having a costly camera makes some photographers far too self-conscious about the shot and inhibits or even stifles their ability to take a good one.

No film
I’ve been using the same method for all that time I mentioned, but not the same camera!

What’s wrong with your phone?
I’ve got a very nice digital camera, but it never gets used anymore, because my waterproof phone takes great pictures and videos and it was less than $100. I see now where you can clip on various lenses for telephotoing too.

My phone sucks for distant wildlife,
especially in lower light.

Even my 5x waterproof camera is inadequate for birds very far away…

For small things close up or general scenery or boat pics, the phone is often good enough.

Your phone is fine…
…if you just want to take “snaps” to post to your Facebook page.

But, if you want control over the aperture, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, etc., then you need a real camera.

how are they improvements
over regular DSLRs? Water-resistance?


– Last Updated: Sep-29-16 12:00 PM EST –

My camera is classified as a point-and-shoot, but I specifically chose a style of point-and-shoot that allows very easy and precise manual control of aperture, shutter speed, exposure and ISO. It also has a manual-focus option, but I haven't found it especially easy to use (it would be easy with a DSLR). If you like good pictures, shooting without paying attention to those settings will give very disappointing results in a lot of conditions. Sometimes it's convenient to use an automatic mode that still allows you to choose one setting while keeping abreast of the others, and in any case, it's always just so nice to be able to make whatever adjustments you wish without messing with multi-step menus.

so to open a can of worms

– Last Updated: Sep-29-16 12:05 PM EST –

I agree with you and KFBrady BTW.

So, how do you feel about software that can do some of these things for us (add artificial background blur and out of focus highlights, vignetting, etc)? Do you feel like the craft is being taken from photography, or just shifted to postprocessing? It makes me a bit sad that people may lose the ability to master the camera and glass and instead just use postprocessing programs - but i'm not sure it should.

It’s not the camera
It’s the person behind it. I have 3 camera’s, not including my phone which takes great photos. I have two Pentax waterproof and a DSLR.

Ok I can view
One of the drawbacks to waterproof cameras is their lens if recessed needs to be dried often. Just a little moisture will lead to flare.Some of them are wicked hard to clean the lens is so recessed.

I gave up on those… I had so many lousy fogged up shots.

I use a bridge camera that shoots RAW and is not too expensive should it die due to water. I managed to dump my boat and the Canon SX 60 last week. It took about 20 seconds to get it off the bottom of the lake. It is now fine. Its not waterproof but as I like to take pictures of eagles and other waterfowl it fits my needs fine…

Post processing is not cheating nor new. Ansel Adams made about two dozen exposures and then merged them in the darkroom Photoshop does the same sort of thing easier and digitally. He twiddled with colors too all behind that dark curtain.

Post processing is handy for cropping the extra crap out and enlarging what you want to see . Zoom pictures suffer from camera shake in the boat and I don’t push the camera to 65x… Better to zoom out a little and enlarge later.

This little guy was on an island 200 yards away from me…

Of course composition counts the most.