Digital Camera Home > Underwater/Tough Cameras

Underwater/Tough Cameras: Good photos or no photos?

The REAL value of underwater/rugged cameras.

By Dave Etchells
Date Posted: 07/16/09

Underwater/rugged digicams often compromise image quality somewhat, relative to what the best dry-land digicams can achieve. As a result, photo snobs sometimes turn up their noses at them, saying "it's all about the image quality."

That's a sadly uninformed view.

I heartily agree that excellent image quality is better than so-so image quality, but what if the choice is modest image quality versus no photos at all? My family and I took a trip to Costa Rica back in 2004, and brought along a pile of photo equipment, including an SLR with lenses, a couple of point & shoots, and one "water resistant" camera. (In those days, there weren't any truly waterproof models.) Given that we were in rain forest much of the time, and spent a total of a couple of days in kayaks, the water resistant point & shoot ended up taking a lot of the photos we brought back with us.

Were they great photos? Frankly, no. A lot of the photos I shot with it were in dim lighting, and its high-ISO image quality was frankly pretty wretched. But without that camera, we would have missed dozens of opportunities to preserve memories from the trip. Even in a dry bag, there was no way I was going to bring my SLR along on a kayak down a storm-swollen river, or out on the ocean. - And a good thing, too: A wave dumped Marti and I off our sea kayak at one point, and an SLR in a dry bag would likely have ended up on the sea floor, in 40 feet of water.

Today's waterproof/tough cameras have come a long ways from what I had to work with in 2004: There are significant image quality differences among some of the various waterproof/tough models, but all are head and shoulders better than that little camera I brought on our Costa Rica trip.

My (strong) advice to readers is to realize that image quality is only part of the story when you're out in the Great Beyond: It may pay to trade off some image quality for sheer toughness, if you're going to be in a really camera-hazardous environment. Or, it might be worth accepting the lower image quality of a less-expensive model, if that's all that will fit your budget: You'll at least bring back some photos from the beach, river, lake, or wherever, that you'd completely miss otherwise.

Don't be a photo snob - Bring back the pictures!

Read our "Fun in the Sun" roundup of all Waterproof/Tough Cameras on the market, as of July, 2009

 

 

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Underwater/Tough Cameras, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Top 3 photos this month win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate