March 10, 2011

Underwater Snaps

It’s a general rule in photography that the more light you have, the less of a difference you’ll notice between a sophisticated camera and a simple one. Since there’s generally a good amount of light when snorkeling, a simple underwater disposable camera would be all that we need. Right? At least that’s what we were told.

The benefit for a disposable camera is the cost. I thought I would be saving money when we purchased the two disposable cameras for our Hawaii trip two years ago. The cameras were only $15.99 a camera, much better than a digital camera. (They were even cheaper in Hawaii, at only $12.99 a camera, hello Californian High Cost of Living!) Turns out I forgot about the cost to have the film developed for the two cameras, an extra $20 dollars. In total I ended up paying about $52 plus tax. That’s about half the cost of a cheap underwater digital camera. Below is the best photo I took using one.

Snorkeling in Hawaii ’09
Disposable Underwater Camera

Size: 7 X 3 at 220 DPIs
Number of Photos Taken: 34
Percentage of “Good” Photos: 38%

The underwater photos have a bit of a grainy texture, but that could have been the way they were developed. It also might be possible to have the photo developed at a higher resolution. I didn’t include the above water shots in my total counts, (although I didn’t factor them out of the costs). I didn’t want to bring my normal camera and leave it on the beach, so I took a few pictures of the bay top side using the disposable camera.

We enjoyed snorkeling so much, I figured we would do it often. I purchased a FugiFilm Underwater XP10 (for $110), since it was only twice the cost – just two trips and it’s paid for itself. Another option would be an underwater carrying case for my old point and shoot, but the camera wasn’t a particularly popular model, so the cases were rare and nearly twice as expensive as the new camera. Below is a comparable picture from 2011 using the FugiFilm to the “best” 2009 disposable picture.

Snorkeling in Hawaii ’11
Digital Underwater Camera

Size: 18 X 13 at 220 DPIs
Number of Photos Taken: 175
Percentage of “Good” Photos: 54%

It took a little while to get into the groove with the digital underwater camera, the first dozen were almost all bad. I had to point the camera lower than where it looked like the fish were. But once I hit a groove, they were turning out much better, and I got so many more of them. I could also stop to look at the photos, determine if I got “the shot” and move on to other areas of the reef. For this trip I was limited by the battery life, rather than the number of exposures. As you can see, I got nearly 9 times the photos!

On drawback to the underwater digital camera, the waterproofing supposedly doesn’t last forever. The instructions say to send it back in to the factory about once a year to be re-coated. I’ve owned it a little under a year, so I have no notion of how necessary this step is.

Which is better? It depends on what you want. If you’re only going to go snorkeling once, and want a few pictures to remember it by, the disposable camera works great. Otherwise, my advice would be to go with a digital underwater camera above the disposables, despite the general rule of light. You can also use it any time you go swimming, really and if you go snorkeling twice, it’s the same cost.

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