When researching how to choose waterproof cameras, it is not enough to simply choose the first model you find with “waterproof” listed among its features. Although doing so would be tempting considering how draining shopping for a waterproof camera can be, it is ill-advised and would be remarkably shortsighted.
We say this because there is no universal waterproof rating, which means each waterproof camera has its own unique depth limit that, once exceeded, renders it ineffective and may even damage it beyond repair. So how can you ensure you end up with a waterproof camera which is both suited to your needs and guaranteed to perform to a high standard? Read on to find out.
How to Choose Waterproof Cameras
Waterproof Cameras versus Underwater Housing
Before we proceed with tips for how to choose waterproof cameras for your next journey beneath the waves, let’s take a moment to tackle the issue of waterproof cameras versus underwater housing, as some novice photographers may be a little confused about the differences between the two.
As is made obvious by its name, a waterproof camera is a camera intended to be used in rainfall and underwater. The vast majority of waterproof cameras are also suitable for use in more traditional settings, although some special models may give their best performances under the sea.
Unlike a waterproof camera, underwater housing lacks the ability to record images or videos, which is why you may have found underwater housing available online for significantly less than the underwater cameras you’ve been looking at.
Underwater housing is basically a waterproof case in which a traditional camera can be stored, which allows for underwater filming even if the camera itself is not waterproof. Underwater housing is also generally resistant to sand, snow, and dust, so it is a popular choice among photographers who work in extreme weather conditions.
It is important to note, however, a camera which was not designed to take pictures underwater may not return clear images even when paired with quality underwater housing, which is why most hobbyists are advised to purchase a purpose-built waterproof camera.
The Issue of Depth
When learning how to choose waterproof cameras, your primary concern should be the waterproof depth of each potential purchase. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, the depths to which a waterproof camera will remain effective vary from model to model, so it is important to give some thought as to how deep you are intending or willing to go in search of a perfect shot.
If you are planning a family vacation to a holiday resort and are searching for a waterproof camera you can use to document your child’s adventures in the hotel pool or at the nearby water park you should be just fine going with a model which has a maximum waterproof depth of 5 meters or so (this matches the average depth of the deep end of a swimming pool).
However, if you have grander aspirations and are searching for a waterproof camera which you can take you with you on a snorkeling session, you will have to resign yourself to spending a little extra to get a waterproof camera with a greater maximum depth.
For $100 or so, you should be able to find a quality waterproof camera with a maximum depth of 15 meters. Scuba divers will have to spend even more if they want to document their deep sea travels, as the average scuba diver is permitted to descend to a depth of 39 meters.
Fresh or Salted?
When shopping for a waterproof camera, it is important to remember not all models are cut out for use in the ocean. Thankfully, the vast majority of them are, so you won’t have to dedicate too much time to the issue, but if you purchase an inexpensive waterproof camera, there is a chance it was intended to be used only in swimming pools and freshwater.
Saltwater can erode both the external and internal components of cheaper waterproof cameras, so if you purchased an inexpensive model with the intention of taking snaps in the chlorinated water of your resort’s swimming pool, we advise sticking to those plans so as not to risk destroying your camera in the ocean.
We would also like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of washing your camera in freshwater after a stint in the sea, even if your camera was intended to be used in saltwater.
When not properly washed away, saltwater can soak into a camera, leaving blemishes on the lens which are almost impossible to get rid of.
While the quality and depth of the waterproofing is, obviously, the most important feature of any waterproof camera, it is important you give some thought to the other features of each waterproof camera you consider purchasing. For example, many of the more modern waterproof cameras boast Wi-Fi connectivity, so you should ask yourself if it’s something that matters to you.
While it is certainly a convenient feature to have and will make it easier for you to upload your pictures to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites, you will likely have to spend extra to get it.
You should also consider if you can make do with a camera which takes pictures exclusively or if you would prefer a model with video recording capabilities as well and, if so, how many frames do you want to shoot per second? The battery life of each potential purchase should also play a role in your final decision.
If your underwater photography is not going to extend beyond the swimming pool of your hotel, where a power outlet will always be nearby, there is no need to spend extra to get a camera with a long battery life. If, however, you intend to spend long hours on the beach and diving in the ocean, the battery life of your chosen camera should be given almost as much regard as its maximum depth.
Recommended Waterproof Cameras
Three outstanding options travelers may wish to consider in the "Waterproof Cameras" category are: GoPro HERO6, Fujifilm FinePix XP130 Waterproof Digital Camera and Nikon AW130 Shock & Waterproof GPS Digital Camera. Each of these models boasts features ideal for digital photo enthusiasts who need water, freeze and shockproof durable cameras with loads of other convenient options.
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