Kayaking and photography/camera gear in 2019...

I have been a photojournalist and commercial photographer since the late 1980s. I have a lot of cameras and lenses. None of which really matches well with kayaking. Yesterday I paddled around Mountain Lake at the top of Orcas Island. The scenery and light was perfect for photography. I had my iPhone stored in a waterproof box in one of the hatches, but fumbling for a vulnerable phone is just asking for trouble.

I know a ton of kayakers use mounted GoPro cameras which can be very cool. But I hate the fisheye distortion with these cameras. I want a “real” camera that is waterproof (without deep scuba diving specs), with a decent zoom range, exposure control, RAW capture, etc, that I can tether to the deck.

After doing some digging I am interested in the “Tough” cameras that Olympus has: https://www.getolympus.com/us/en/tough

There are serious waterproof housings for some cameras but they add bulk, are fiddly to use and are quite expensive.

So, fellow paddler photobugs, what are you currently using?

Thanks!

I use a Panasonic Lumix something-5. Very sturdy, but too hard JPEG-compression and no raw format. I have had my eyes on the Olympus cameras because of the raw format.

@PhotoMax ,

It sounds like you shoot landscape, rather than wildlife, from kayak; because lenses of Olympus Tough series are not long enough for most wildlives. So my comments probably won’t help you much.

I put my micro four thirds camera (Oly E-M1 mk1 with Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 mk2) into a large leak proof box with locking lips. My camera and lens combo is rain proof but will probably die in submersion (so I don’t do Eskimo rolls when camera is out of dry box).

My camera box stays near my butt inside kayak and is tied to kayak with carabiner clips. I paddle as usual. If I see interesting wildlife or birds, I stop, drop anchor sometimes, take out camera and shoot. Then I put camera back to dry box and continue to paddle.

My two photog/paddler friends have been using bigger (and non-water proof) full frame and APSC sensor cameras in kayak/canoe. They simply strap camera over their neck and don’t even lock it inside a dry box. They have been doing it for years and never lost a camera. They do have camera insurance though.

We have to use bigger sensors, as bird photography usually requires fast shutter speed and sometimes high iso. Many super zoom cameras with smaller sensors don’t work very well for fast animals.

For landscape (which is not that spectacular on water in my area), there is usually enough light and no need to stop motion. I simply use my “water-proof” Pixel 2XL from my pants’ pocket.

Your iPhone should also be waterproof up to a certain depth (10 meters?), assuming rubber seals are intact. If you are a good swimmer wearing a life vest, you can simply carabiner iPhone to your belt and have it near you.

Lens and camera (optical and/or digital) stabilization and kayak anchor may help.

Good fisheye lens does not add much unwanted distortion and can be defish’ed or cropped reasonably well. Simply compose carefully with the fisheye effect in consideration. I personally like fisheye lens for some landscape scenes. GoPro’s lens may not be good enough though.

All photos from this album of mine came from my kayak (PakBoats Quest 135 folder):
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zzffnn/albums/72157679716846108

This kayaker is also an award-winning bird photog (he shoots a full frame Canon 5D mk3): https://www.flickr.com/photos/gseloff/

Here is how another pro photog friend of mine does it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rrcolejr_photography/albums/72157684554438866

I just got this semi light duty housing by aquapac. Very pliable plastic bag gizmo for small DSLR and smaller cameras with a firm lens filter. Supposed to be totally waterproof. But you are limited by camera size and lens length and diameter. The housing is soft so you can control all the camera buttons. Not going to work as a real birding system though. The two lenses I have with me currently for a Canon 80D body are too long and fat for this bag, but I plan on experimenting. This bag was like $70…

@PhotoMax . Is the fixed filter in that bag worth anything? I have a bag of similar type and after experimenting a bit at home, I soon found out that the filter was degrading image quality so much that the photos were unusable.

I use a Canon SX70 HS… Not that great a sensor ( small) but shoots RAW… Its a less expensive bridge superzoom and not well sealed though it has survived a quick dunk and retrieval… I mostly shoot wildlife from the boat.

When I forget what I place looks like, I go back. :slight_smile:

I was really into photography shortly before the digital revolution. I even had my own simple dark room set up at home. But quite a while ago I got tired of lugging around the equipment necessary to take “real” pictures and have most recently settled on those obtained from my waterproof Kyocera Brigadier phone. This lives in a PFD pocket with no additional protection, and frequently gets submerged from rolls, swims, and the elements. The pictures are slightly better than you get from a potato, but for me they’re just a reminder of what I’m missing when I’m sitting at my desk staring at the computer.

Cape Split, Nova Scotia, Canada

Philip Edward Island archipelago, Ontario, Canada

Cape Croker, Ontario, Canada

My Olympus Tough TG 860 serves well from kayak and as compact point and shoot camera else where. It is several generations behind current models. I use a very small portion of its features apart from its water resistance. I can see the viewing screen in bright light with polarized sun glasses. It has some dents on front body acquired during scrambles back aboard as PFD front pocket hits rear deck. I would get another Tough model when this no longer serves.

Kayak photography can benefit from a good viewfinder. My LCD (at its neutral brightness) is usually too dim under bright sun, unless I adjust it to maximum brightness; but then that would mess up my judgement of proper exposure. Also using LCD can lead to more camera shake (unlike a viewfinder, which allows you to brace it against forehead/eye).

This screen magnifier was recommended at a photography forum, by a senior forum member, for those cameras without eletronic view finder: https://www.clearviewer.com/Products.html

With that screen magnifier, simply wear a hat to shade away sunlight.

The seller seems very nice and knowledgeable. He recommended his $40 premium model for eyeglass-wearer like me, due to its thicker casing (which can be pressed into eyeglasses). I emailed him, because I was not sure if his magnifiers can be used with eyeglasses.

@Allan Olesen said:
@PhotoMax . Is the fixed filter in that bag worth anything? I have a bag of similar type and after experimenting a bit at home, I soon found out that the filter was degrading image quality so much that the photos were unusable.

Allen, I expect you are right about this “filter”. This was an impulse buy and I have yet to test it. I plan on bringing it back to Seattle later this week and I will find some lens that will fit and give it a go.

I have seen photos of photographers using a heavy tripod and a 400/2.8 lens (which costs thousands of dollars) in a large wide fishing kayak on very clam water. Still risky though. For my use I will be shooting from a sea kayak in Puget Sound which is a very different cup of tea as the brits like to say…

@ Sparky: some nice captures there…

@PhotoMax said:
@ Sparky: some nice captures there…

Thank you for the compliment. However, I included some of my favourites more to help make the point that it’s often more about the moment and the composition than the equipment. All of those were taken with smart phones. Two with my Brigadier and one with my previous Galaxy S2. There are lots of pictures I’d never have taken if I didn’t have instant access to a waterproof camera strapped to my PFD.

I’m a fairly serious amateur photographer mostly shooting birds. If I’m expecting calm conditions I’ll typically take a Nikon DSLR with a 70-300 lens with me in a medium sized drybag. If I’m expecting it to be rougher then I’m fine with a little Canon Powershot/Elph in a smaller drybag. I also always have an iPhone in a LifeProof case with me.

I haven’t taken out any longer/faster/more expensive telephoto lenses with me in my kayak…so far.

^^ nice shots!

Very nice kfbrady!

@zzffnn said:
Kayak photography can benefit from a good viewfinder. My LCD (at its neutral brightness) is usually too dim under bright sun, unless I adjust it to maximum brightness; but then that would mess up my judgement of proper exposure. Also using LCD can lead to more camera shake (unlike a viewfinder, which allows you to brace it against forehead/eye).

This screen magnifier was recommended at a photography forum, by a senior forum member, for those cameras without eletronic view finder: https://www.clearviewer.com/Products.html

With that screen magnifier, simply wear a hat to shade away sunlight.

The seller seems very nice and knowledgeable. He recommended his $40 premium model for eyeglass-wearer like me, due to its thicker casing (which can be pressed into eyeglasses). I emailed him, because I was not sure if his magnifiers can be used with eyeglasses.

I may get one of these, since I frequently have difficulty seeing the screen on my point and shoot and locating the bird that I see with my eyes. Thanks for that link.

Yes on a viewfinder. I have always unconsciously rejected candidates that lacked one!

I’ve always very consciously rejected them. No viewfinder, no buy. An LCD is no substitute.

@bnystrom said:
I’ve always very consciously rejected them. No viewfinder, no buy. An LCD is no substitute.

I agree 100%

Those times when I use an iPhone to take a snap (as opposed to a real photo) it’s a matter of pointing the thing in the general direction and hoping for the best. And while any image might be better than no image, for me an OVF (optical viewfinder) is a must.

I picked up a new Olympus Tough TG-6 today. Small, supposedly drop proof camera that is waterproof to 50’. Not that I will ever be that deep. The camera gets pretty good reviews. The sensor is small and the video auto focus is so-so. Pixels have been reduced from 16MB to 12MB from the previous model, which is a good thing. Has all kinds of geo tagging and tracking and WiFi modes that will send images to a smart phone or iPad. The camera can capture images in RAW mode which is a plus.

But this camera will hopefully allow me to grab photos on paddle outings without worrying about my expensive iPhone X or “real” cameras getting dunked.

I will test it once I am back up on the island in week or so…
B)