Why Disposable Underwater Cameras Aren’t Really a Bargain

A lot of people think the cheapest way to take photos at the beach is to buy a one-time-use disposable underwater camera. And if you only want to take a few photos, this probably IS the best option for you.

But let’s say you’re going on a week-long vacation and want to take more than 27 photos (the limit on a disposable camera). Suddenly your costs start going up. Now you’ll need to pay for two or three cameras, plus the price of film developing and printing. And if you want to get your images on a CD so you can transfer them to your computer, you’ll need to pay even more. The price for three underwater disposable cameras, developing and CDs can easily exceed $50.

So if you can’t afford to buy a digital waterproof camera, is this the best – or only – way to get photos of your snorkeling or beach adventure?

No. For about the same price as you’d pay for a few cheap underwater film cameras and the cost to develop your photos and transfer them to your computer, you can rent an easy-to-use digital underwater camera from BorrowLenses.com or get an underwater case for your own camera. Then you can take as many photos and HD videos as your memory card can hold, see the results instantly on an LCD viewer, transfer the files quickly to your computer, and take advantage of a variety of features you won’t find on a disposable camera, such as optical zoom, scene settings, underwater color modes and much more.

Renting an Underwater Camera
As the name suggest, BorrowLenses.com is in the business of renting lenses and camera bodies to photographers. Most of the equipment on their site is geared to DSLR users who are passionate about photography, but they also offer a few models that appeal to everyone. One of these is the Canon Powershot D20 waterproof camera.

This rugged point-and-shoot camera is easy to use and doesn’t require any bulky underwater housing. Its slim body is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof without needing an additional waterproof case. That makes it easy to operate underwater, and it’s no more difficult to learn than any other compact camera. In fact, it has one-touch video for easy recording. If you’ve used any other point-and-shoot camera, you should be able to learn this one easily.

The camera itself currently rents for $35 for 7 days (see website for any pricing changes), plus shipping charges.

When you rent from BorrowLenses.com, your camera will arrive with a prepaid shipping label, and you just need to get it back to the shipping company (not the rental company itself) by the return date. It’s kind of like Netflix for cameras! Very easy to use, and a great bargain when you need a special camera for a special event.

Buying a Waterproof Camera Case
If you don’t want to learn how to use a new camera or already have a camera you love, another option that’s better than an underwater disposable camera is a waterproof case. You may have been scared away from this idea if you’ve ever looked at the price of underwater housings made for specific models of high-end DSLRs. The cases are often more expensive than the cameras themselves! But nowadays you can get inexpensive waterproof cases for just about any camera model.

Cases such as those made by DicaPac are reliable, affordable (starting at less than $20) and easy to use. They’re perfect for snorkeling, playing at the beach, or having fun at the local water park.

When you look at the cost of several disposable film cameras and the limitations on quality and quantity, the value quickly diminishes as your requirements increase. But when you rent an underwater camera or buy a waterproof case, you pay one fixed price for as many still photos and videos as you can shoot and fit on your memory card. There’s a reason film cameras were made obsolete by digital ones. And when you start looking at the price of single-use waterproof cameras, it quickly becomes obvious why they aren’t the best value for your money. If you can’t afford to buy a good digital camera, you’ll still get more value by renting or getting a cheap waterproof case rather than purchasing multiple throwaway cameras.

Nikon Announces Two New Waterproof Cameras

new nikon waterproof camera aw110Nikon is upgrading its underwater camera line this year, introducing successors to the popular Coolpix AW100 and the family-friendly Coolpix S30. The new cameras – the Coolpix AW110 and the Coolpix S31 – will be released in February. Here is the Nikon press release announcing the new models.

The New Family-Friendly Nikon COOLPIX S31 and the Action-Oriented COOLPIX AW110 Are Ready to Take on Life’s Adventures

MELVILLE, N.Y. – Today, Nikon Inc. introduced both the COOLPIX AW110 and COOLPIX S31, two innovative yet durable compact cameras for those who want to preserve every fun and action-packed moment as well as share them with friends and family. Waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof1, the rugged AW110 is built to handle the elements, whether hiking up a mountain, hitting the slopes or riding the surf. Nikon’s newest tough camera also offers built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity2 for sharing, Full HD 1080p video capabilities and a slew of advanced features that adventurers covet, including GPS and underwater shooting modes. The COOLPIX S313provides the reliability that allows every member of the family to preserve their own special memories. Complete with fun shooting modes and a simple yet intuitive user interface, the resilient S31 is a family camera that can be confidently carried to the pool or around the jungle gym.

 

“The COOLPIX AW110 and COOLPIX S31 are exciting new additions to the COOLPIX camera lineup; both are uniquely designed to complement the needs of different consumers. The COOLPIX AW110 is designed to cater to outdoor enthusiasts who need a camera that can keep up with their active lifestyle, while the COOLPIX S31’s easy-to-use interface is great for family members young and old who seek to capture lasting memories,” said Bo Kajiwara, Vice President of Marketing, Planning and Customer Experience, Nikon Inc. “Whether conquering your desire for exploration while snorkeling or simply capturing a family day at the park, Nikon’s newest cameras offer the performance, features and image quality users have come to expect from the COOLPIX line.”

 

nikon aw110 waterproof camera - front nikon aw110 waterproof camera - back nikon aw110 waterproof camera - top

The Nikon COOLPIX AW110: Durable Performance for the Outdoor Adventurer

The COOLPIX AW110 is the ultimate point-and-shoot camera for the outdoor enthusiast that demands exceptional image quality and sharp, clear HD video from a compact body. Ready for the toughest conditions, this rugged camera sports a fun and innovative feature set designed to capture, preserve and share every moment of a user’s active lifestyle. Waterproof (up to 59 feet), shockproof (up to 6.7 feet) and freezeproof (down to 14° F), the AW110 is a versatile and feature-rich companion, above and below sea level. GPS technology is also enabled, allowing a traveler to track his or her adventure from beginning to end, down to the exact longitude and latitude where an image or video is captured. The COOLPIX AW110 also features built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity2, allowing the image data transfer of any outdoor adventure to compatible smart devices for upload to social networking services or sharing with friends and family through the Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility2 application. Wireless remote camera control is also possible using a compatible smartphone or tablet when using the application.

 

Beneath its rugged exterior, the AW110 features a 16-megapixel backside illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor that helps create sharp, beautiful images and HD video even in challenging lighting conditions. The camera also has a NIKKOR 5x optical zoom lens with lens-shift Vibration Reduction (VR) that allows the photographer to get close up to a subject from a distance, as well as the ability to record Full HD (1080p) movies with stereo sound. The COOLPIX AW110 features a 3-inch, OLED display for easy menu access and precise image preview, alongside an intuitive graphic user interface (GUI) that makes it easy to navigate several fun and intelligent shooting modes, including Easy Auto Mode and the Smart Portrait System, while Special Effects can be easily applied to still images and HD video.

 

nikon s31 waterproof camera - front nikon s31 waterproof camera - back nikon s31 waterproof camera - top

The Nikon COOLPIX S31: Every Family Member Can Capture Beautiful Images, Worry Free

Ready for every precious family moment, the 10.1-megapixel COOLPIX S31 allows every family member young and old to capture beautiful photos with ease, whether on vacation or at the pool. Housed in a compact, durable body that is waterproof (up to 16.5 feet), shockproof (up to 3.6 feet) and dustproof1, this point-and-shoot takes the worry out of photography regardless of the setting or situation. Clear and precise images or HD video are made possible with the help of a 3x optical zoom (29-87mm equivalent) NIKKOR lens, and a dedicated video record button creates an effortless transition from stills to video.

 

A 2.7-inch LCD display supports an enhanced easy and intuitive graphic user interface (GUI) that allows for simple navigation and several shooting and playback modes designed to make photography simple and fun when using the S31. The camera allows the user to instantly show off his or her favorite family moments using unique playback options including in-camera slide shows and photo albums. Image editing and playback filter effects can also be applied to both stills and video, offering the opportunity to add a personal touch to every family memory. The COOLPIX S31 features functions that make shooting simpler than ever before.

 

Pricing and Availability:

The COOLPIX AW110 will be available in Orange, Black, Camouflage and Blue in February 2013 for a suggested retail price of $349.95*. The COOLPIX S31 will be available in White, Blue, Pink, Brown and Yellow, also in February 2013, for a suggested retail price of $119.95*.

What’s the Best Underwater Camera for You?

What’s the best underwater camera? In 2011, the bestselling and best-rated waterproof shockproof digital camera on Amazon was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3. But is this the camera for you? Choosing the perfect waterproof camera for you really depends on your needs. Are you a snorkeler who wants to take great photos on your vacation to Hawaii? A sports enthusiast who wants a camera to go with you on any type of outdoor adventure? A scuba diver who needs a camera that can go to 200 feet? Or maybe someone looking for an inexpensive second camera? Here are some of the bestselling, most popular and best-rated waterproof cameras separated into categories of users to help you find the best camera for you.

Best Underwater Camera for All-Around Use

The new model of the most popular waterproof camera in 2011

best underwater camera 2012 - panasonic lumix ts4The best underwater camera for everyday use and one that could easily serve as your primary all-purpose camera and camcorder is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4. This is a new waterproof camera for 2012 from Panasonic. Its previous incarnation, the DMC-TS3, was the best-rated and bestselling waterproof camera on Amazon in 2011, and the new TS4 is even better. The reason consumers love this camera is because it’s rugged and can go wherever you go. It’s waterproof to 40 feet, shockproof for falls from up to 6.6 feet, dustproof and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

This Panasonic Lumix isn’t just tough, however; it’s popular because it shoots great photos and video. It has a 12.1 MP Hi-Speed CCD sensor for high resolution still images and the ability to shoot 1920 x 1080 full HD video in either AVCHD or MP4 format. For creative control, the TS4 allows users to adjust the shutter speed and aperture and offers automatic time lapse images and panoramic stitching. And if you’re taking it on an adventure, the TS4 comes complete with GPS, a compass, altimeter and barometer.http://underwatercamerareviews.org/wp-admin/post-new.php

This is the best waterproof camera for anyone who only wants to own one camera that can go everywhere and do just about anything.

Best Underwater Camera for Hands-Free Shooting

best underwater cameras 2012 - gopro hero2 outdoor editionIf you want the best waterproof camera for hands-free shooting, there’s no better choice than the GoPro Hero2: Outdoor Edition. This is currently the most popular underwater hands-free camera on Amazon and it has a 4- out of 5-star average rating from more than 100 pleased customers. The GoPro series of cameras are designed for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture their adventures on film. You can strap this little camera to your helmet, surfboard, bike handlebars or just about anywhere else to capture 11 MP still photos or full (1080p) HD video. This camera measures only 3.9 x 3.9 x 9.6 inches and weighs a mere 1.7 pounds, so it’s easy a small companion to have along for your adventures.

The GoPro Hero2 is waterproof to 197 feet (60m) and capable of capturing 170-degree wide angle 1080p video and 11 megapixel photos at a rate of 10 photos per second. For hands-free shooting, the GoPro Hero2 is the best waterproof camera you can currently buy.

 

Best Budget Underwater Camera for Snorkeling

best underwater camera 2012 - fuji finepix xp30The Pansonic Lumix waterproof camera line offers some of the best underwater cameras available today, but you’ll pay a price to get these top-of-the-line cameras. A good alternative for snorkeling and other water sports is the Fuji FinePix XP30. Like the Lumix TS4, the FinePix is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof, but not to the extremes of the Panasonic model. The FinePix is only waterproof to 16.5 feet (5 meters), but that still makes it a great camera for snorkeling.

It also features a 14-megapixel CCD sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD screen, GPS tagging, panoramic mode and 720p HD video. At only 5.5 inches and 1.1 pounds, it’s also small enough to take just about anywhere or to slide into your luggage on your next vacation.

 

Best Underwater Camera For About $100

best underwater cameras under $100 -kodak sport c123As of this writing, the Kodak Sport C123 is one of the top 5 cameras in the underwater category on Amazon and is just a tad over $100 at $102.85 (Prices subject to change. See Amazon for the latest prices). You’ll pay about $125 right now for a different color, but that still makes the Sport C123 a good deal. And with a 3.5- out of 5-star rating from over 400 customers, this little camera has been tried and tested. The Sport C123 offers 12 MP resolution and a 2.6-inch LCD viewing screen. It’s only waterproof to 10 feet, but that’s plenty deep enough for most snorkeling and swimming, and it’s dustproof, too. This is not a camera you’d want as your primary photographic piece of equipment, but as a backup or an inexpensive way to capture photos underwater, the Kodak Sport C123 is the best waterproof camera about under $100.

 

Best Underwater Camera for Scuba Diving

Until recently, scuba divers basically had two options when taking photos underwater – get an expensive underwater housing for your SLR /DSLR, or use a waterproof compact camera that didn’t have the high resolution or creative controls offered by a DSLR. There’s still no underwater DSLR, but the SeaLife DC1400 is a good alternative at a great price.

best underwater cameras for scuba diving - sealife dc1400This is the best underwater camera for scuba divers who don’t want to spend thousands on a waterproof housing and strobes for their DSLR but want to capture great underwater photos. This camera can go to 200 feet underwater and allows users to set the ISO from 64 to 3200, select a shutter speed from 1 second to 1/2000 and manually adjust the white balance or choose from several settings. It comes with 6 underwater modes and 27 modes from shooting on dry land without the underwater housing.

The SeaLife DC1400 was introduced in late 2011 as the successor to the popular DC1200, which Sport Diver magazine selected as the Editor’s Pick for Underwater Cameras for New Photographers.

 

5 Affordable Digital Cameras for Diving

In the past, underwater photography was quite an expensive hobby. You either had to invest in an underwater camera like the Nikonos or buy a waterproof housing for your existing camera. Either option was pricey. But times have changed. While underwater housings for top-of-the line DSLRs can still set you back over $1000 for the case alone, not to mention the strobe lights you’ll need to get good underwater photos, there are much cheaper alternatives on the market for those who are just exploring underwater photography for the first time and can’t afford to invest thousands of dollars in equipment. Here are five affordable digital cameras for diving. All of these underwater cameras, along with the necessary underwater lights, can be purchased for under $1000.

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GoPro HD Hero2

Waterproof to 197 feet

The 11 MP GoPro HD HERO2 is a very popular and well-rated 11 MP waterproof camera that also shoots HD video. Over 300 reviewers on Amazon have rated it 4 out of 5 stars. Many of these reviewers aren’t scuba divers – the camera is popular with all types of outdoor enthusiasts because it comes with a variety of accessories that allow you to wear it or mount it on your sports gear. That’s why the basic camera comes in three editions: Outdoor Edition, Motorsports Edition and Surf Edition. Each edition comes with a different set of mounts and straps. Its rugged design and depth rating make it great for scuba divers. With a waterproof depth rating of 197 feet and a full 170º wide angle field of view, the GoPro Hero2 is well-suited for either Open Water or technical diving. This underwater camera shoots both video and still frames, and has the ability to shoot photos automatically every .5 seconds in TimeLapse mode or to shoot a burst of 10 photos in a second.

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SeaLife DC1400 Pro

Digital camera for diving to 200 feet

If you’re looking for high-quality underwater cameras made for scuba divers, SeaLife manufactures some of the most popular cameras on the market. Last year, Sport Diver magazine chose the SeaLife DC1200 Elite as their Editor’s Pick for “Underwater Cameras for New Photographers.” The SeaLife DC1400 Pro, the successor to the DC1200, builds on an already great product. The new model can capture beautiful still images and HD video with a 14 megapixel CCD, 6 underwater modes and 4 built-in digital color correction filters. Most importantly, the camera can be paired with one or one two off-the-camera strobes for great underwater color. The SeaLife DC1400 was designed with deep diving in mind – it has 5 “piano key” controls that make it easy to operate, even with wetsuit gloves on. It also has a “spy mode” that will automatically shoot photos at set intervals. If you want creative control and high quality images, but can’t afford a DSLR with an underwater housing, this is a great digital camera for diving.

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Liquid Image Wide Angle Scuba Series HD Camera Mask

Hands-free camera mask also takes video to 130 Feet

An innovative option for hands-free underwater photography is the Liquid Image Wide Angle Scuba Series mask. This new addition to Liquid Image’s line of camera masks has a 136-degree wide-angle lens that offers a greater field of vision than the previous models and allows you to capture 720p HD video or 5 MP still images down to 130 feet. An LED inside the mask indicates whether you are in still image or video mode, and lever-style buttons make it easy to use while wearing gloves. It’s available in two sizes. The mask doesn’t come with filters or a flash, but you can purchase these separately. Liquid Image makes both a 4.7-watt and 5.5-watt light that can attach to the camera mask, so you won’t need to carry it in your hands. For hands-free underwater photography, the Liquid Image scuba mask is a good choice.

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Intova CP9 Digital Camera for Diving

An inexpensive scuba diving camera to 130 feet

If you’re really on a budget, the Intova CP9 for diving may be the model for you. The MSRP on this underwater camera is $139.95, which is a pretty low price for an underwater camera anyway, but you can get it for about half that price on Amazon. The CP9 can shoot 9 MP still photos and VGA resolution (640 x 480) video down to 130 feet. It comes with a number of scene modes, including Sports, Night, Portrait, Landscape, and Backlight, plus Program AE. You can choose between three quality options for stills (fine, standard, and economy) and two options for video (fine and standard). The one thing it’s lacking is a light source, but with the money you’ll be saving on the camera itself, you should be able to get a decent handheld light source to illuminate your photos.

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Panasonic DMC-TS3

A waterproof camera for shallow diving to 40 feet

This waterproof Lumix camera from Panasonic isn’t particularly suited for scuba diving except in shallow waters, as it’s only waterproof to 40 feet. But if you want a top-rated camera for everyday use that is also waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is all of those things. It’s been the most popular camera in Amazon’s underwater camera department for months. In addition to offering a 12.1 MP Hi-Speed CCD Sensor and 1920x1080p HD video in AVCHD and MP4 format, the DMC-TS3 has fun features like GPS and 3D photo mode. If you only want one camera that can go just about anywhere and do just about anything, this is a good choice. And if you really like it, both Panasonic and Ikelite make underwater housings that will allow you to take this camera to deeper depths.

Any of these waterproof cameras can get you started in underwater photography for less than $1000.

Underwater Cameras Under $100

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line waterproof camera, you’re probably looking at spending anywhere from $300-$400 for a popular camera like the new waterproof Lumix camera from Panasonic to over $1000 for a camera designed for deep diving, such as the SeaLife 1400DC. But if you’re on a budget, it is possible to get an underwater camera under $100. All of the cameras below are currently available on Amazon for less than $100, although a few of them have suggested retail prices much higher than that and you could easily pay more than $100 for these cameras at some retail stores. None of them will produce the quality of underwater photos you see in National Geographic, but all of them will help you have some fun at the beach, the pool or the lake without breaking the bank.  Here’s a quick comparison to help you determine if any of these cameras is right for you.

(Please note that prices and user ratings are subject to change. This information was current when last checked on April 10, 2012.)

ImageNameMegapixelsWateproofVideoFeaturesRating
*max resolution of 12 MP via interpolation
WP5300 Pink Waterproof Digital Cameramax 12 MP*to 10 feetnoFace detection3 stars
Coleman Mini Xtreme C3WP Waterproof Digital Camera5 MPto 10 feetyesFace detection4 stars
Bell+Howell Splash WP7 Waterproof Cameramax 12 MP*to 10 feetno8x digital zoom4.5 stars
GSI Waterproof Cameramax 12 MP*to 10 feetyes - HDDustproof,shockproof2.5 stars
Coleman Xtreme C5WP Waterproof Digital Cameramax 12 MP*to 33 feetyes10 scene modes2.5 stars
Vivitar ViviCam 8400 Underwater Digital Camera8.1 MPto 33 feetyes8x digital zoom2.5 stars
Intova CP9 Compact Waterproof Digital Camera9 MPto 130 feetyesmultiple scene modes3 stars

A Cheap Scuba Diving Camera: Intova CP9

cheap scuba diving camera - intova cp9Looking for a cheap scuba diving camera? New scuba divers are often dismayed to learn the high price of underwater cameras and housings, especially for digital SLRs. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive options if you’re just getting started in underwater photography or are planning to get certified on vacation and want a camera to record your adventures.

One of the cheapest options for a digital diving camera is the Intova CP9.

The suggested retail price on this waterproof camera is $139.95, but you can get it for about half that price on Amazon. You won’t find any other waterproof digital camera that can go to 130 feet for anywhere near this price. But despite its cheap price tag, The CP9 has a lot of features. It can shoot 9 megapixel still images (which can be increased up to 12 MP resolution with hardware interpolation) and can record 640×480 VGA resolution video at 20 frames per second. It has a 4x digital zoom and comes with a variety of scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Backlight, Sports and Night, as well as Program AE. And you can capture all of your undersea adventures on the 32 MB of internal memory or on an optional SDHC card, which can be used to save up to 16 GB of data.

Intova doesn’t offer an optional off-camera strobe unit specifically for the CP9, but you can you pick up an inexpensive underwater dive light to illuminate your photos. For color correction, the Intova CP9 can also be fitted with an optional red filter.

This isn’t a camera that can compete with the photo quality of a DSLR in an underwater housing, but you’d pay at least $1200 or more for a setup like that. It’s also not going to compete with the rugged, shockproof construction and special shooting features of other waterproof cameras such as the Panasonic TS4 or Nikon AW100. However, those cameras are only good for snorkeling or shallow scuba diving, as the Panasonic is only waterproof to 40 feet and the Nikon is only waterproof to 33 feet. If you need an inexpensive digital camera that can go to the Open Water diving limit, you won’t find a better cheap scuba diving camera than the Intova CP9.

Sample Videos from the Intova CP9

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