UW cameras: what I don't get

-- Last Updated: Feb-06-11 1:24 PM EST --

Why would anyone buy a stand-alone point-and-shoot underwater camera when for a similar expense, or a bit more, they can buy a GoPro? Is the still image quality that much of a difference between the two?
If it is, why would one just spend the extra and get a used or entry-level DSLR and a waterproof enclosure or bag?
IMO the point-and-shoot is a slowly dying animal - underwater or not. IQ of cellphone photos is approaching the quality of point-and-shoot cameras. Pixel count isn't as relevant except as a marketing tool when you understand that the sensor containing those pixels is so tiny. You are not going to squeeze sharp 16" x 20" prints out of a tiny sensor. And postprocessing makes it possible to make up for many shortcomings that the GoPro might have when it comes to still images.

Your forgetting one thing price point. I don’t think the point and shoot will die. They’re small and take good pictures for not a lot of money. FishHawk

a cellphone is cheaper
…and point and shoot sales have been dropping ever since the introduction of photo capability into phones.

AFAIK the Gopro is a fixed wide angle lens with no zoom which for me makes it less than ideal for still shots.

A DSLR in a case is far too large to fit in a PFD pocket and my phone is not waterproof.

I think point and shoots will be around for a while yet.


– Last Updated: Feb-06-11 5:40 PM EST –

I think you are right. Though there's a lot of hype about cell-phone photo quality being nearly as good as that of a decent point-and-shoot, in actual practice the quality hasn't even come close. In theory, any size sensor having a given pixel count will deliver photos of the same resolution, but "theory" does not account for the fact that lenses cannot project smaller images at the same degree of crispness relative to scale as with larger images. Add to this problem the fact that smaller, poorer lenses are inevitably used in devices having smaller sensors, and you can see why the photo quality of even the best cell phones still sucks (it "sucks" if you are the kind of person who cares). I think there will always be "photographers" who can't justify equipment approaching pro quality but who DO know how to make use of the controls and picture quality available on a decent point-and-shoot. Even if lots of people abandon point-and-shoots for cell phones, I don't believe any of those people are the kind who truly care about photo quality or have any desire to manipulate a camera to make a photo turn out better. The ones who DO want to control their photos and get decent quality will still use a device having controls and a lens with with decent size and moving parts - a CAMERA!

My Olympus is small enough to stick in the pocket of my PFD. I don’t know the dimentions of the GoPro but it seems a little larger. As far as using my cell phone, it’s still not as good and I have to keep it in a waterproof pouch which doesn’t work for me at all.


it kind of does not work that way
having transitioned from a Hasselblad (very big camera to tote around) to a SLR and eventually to a point-and-shoot compact, my view is a bit different.

I shoot dymanic images (no more tripods for me) and I cherish an action shot that is difficult to capture and expresses the exilaration of the moment.

Best tool for that kind of image for me is a compact waterproof camera. The quality of the image is sufficent enough (compared to a Hasselblad) for e-publications.

I also have a GoPro. Shooting stills is not all that easy with it. Not as handy and no viewfinder (althogh just released an add-on screen). Quality of GoPro OK but not as good as let’s say a Panasonic TS-2.

Unless your view of the world is only super wide angle (distorted lens view too) GoPro will limit your imaging. At 170 degrees view all your subjects have to be vey close to you, very close, or they are tiny dots on the horizon.

Shooting with a DSLR in a waterpoof case is a bit too cumbersome for me and I would miss a lot of moments if that would be my tool.

To support my take on the compact digital waterproof camera check these images that I could not capture with any other tool:




thanks gnarlydog
Appreciate the info from someone who has used both.

There’s no perfect solution
For one, true water-proof housing for a camera costs $250-$500.

Cell-phone cameras aren’t close to real cameras. The lenses on them are tiny, and cheap, as are the sensors. At $100, point-and-shoot are affordable.

Processing can only work with the raw image that’s there. A poor-quality raw image form a cheap lens and sensor can’t be saved with processing.

Bear in mind a $300 water-proof camera will take inferior pictures to a $100 regular camera.

P&S good mix

– Last Updated: Feb-07-11 1:54 AM EST –

The waterproof point and shoots are a good mix of value and quality.

I have a 3 megapixel GoPro and the newest HD version. Also have a Pentax Optio W20 and a W80. Also a video only Oregon Scientific camera. Also a DSLR without a waterproof case (but I did have a waterproof bag for it, but scratched the lense on it before I had a chance to try it). If I had to choose just 1 camera, it would be the Optio.

I did a review a while back comparing the Pentax Optio W20 to the 3 megapixel GoPro, and included raw photo and video files for people to look at: http://peter-singlespeed.blogspot.com/2008/04/review-gopro-hero-3-camera.html

For the more recent GoPro over the 3 megapixel in this review - the wide angle lense would be an issue for taking photos at any distance.

You apparently have no idea at all what a waterproof housing for a DSLR costs. The “waterproof” bags are a joke, a housing can be a couple thousand dollars easy. For the price I can have several point and shoots to choose from and still be way ahead on cost.

Bill H.

au contraire
I certainly do. My main camera is a DSLR.

I think much of this was already covered - the GoPro is really a super wide angle. Good for some things, not good for others. Very limited shooting options and slow and hard to change shooting modes. No viewfinder, no stabilization. Works really well as a head-cam for close-up action shooting. Not good for much else I think. Long shooting times - my GoPro HD can do about 3 hours non-stop HD video on a single charge. Rugged.

But for stills I’d much rather use another waterproof. I’ve been quite happy with the Sony TX-5 that I’ve used on vacations or paddling. Actually works as a regular point and shoot pretty well. It has a couple of shooting modes (hand-held twilight, HDR, and sweep panorama) that are extremely useful and work really well in real life shooting. The video it shoots is also very good. Colors are true and not oversaturated, exposure is reliable. Low light noise is best in class by a good margin. And it is probably the thinnest waterproof cam, I think. The 10MP is just about perfect size for me. Not sure if the new version with the 16MP (I think) would be any better - it adds a few options but I think will have worse image quality due to the more pixels smushed together…

thanks kocho and a question
Does the sony have a viewfinder? Understanding this is not all that common on point and shoots, but I’m wondering how you like the LCD if it doesn’t have an optical viewfinder. I’m learning here and the Sony might fit the bill for me better than a gopro.

Kodak was a lot less than gopro HD
The Kodak sport costs a lot less. Has an lcd viewfinder with settings for bright sunshine. Takes decent film of subjects that are close or distant. So I got it. I do wish it had the one pic a minute timer that the gopro has so maybe I’ll find an affordable camera with that some day.

The Sony
The Sony does not have a separate viewfinder - just the LCD. The lcd is bright and works well in all conditions. It is a touch screen and is easy to use as long as you do not have gloves on. With gloves - you need to aim at what you touch carefully. The only negative is that the lcd is not as accurate in terms of color as I’m used to seeing on a decent dslr. Often I thought a photo looked overexposed or ovrsaturated on the lcd only to discover later it is just about perfect when seen on a calibrated monitor. No histogram or any indicator of exposure either - but the lcd is consistent if not accurate so I got used to judging exposure from it.


Ok, so using a $5000 housing is better for the average camera user than a $400 purpose built waterproof camera? You just recently win the lottery?

Bill H.