A waterproof camera? Are you an interested photography hobbyist or a seasoned pro? In both cases, your photography will benefit a lot from underwater picture-taking, but you need to be aware of the differences in needs and available equipment.
There are two main waterproof camera alternatives. For the vast majority of people, a compact camera that is inherently waterproof will do. For advanced hobbyists and professionals, a digital SLR camera with underwater housing will be necessary.
A compact waterproof camera is great if you value portability and convenience over flexibility and advanced features. Nine out of ten non-professional users will find that a compact waterproof camera will cover their needs, and will benefit from added features such as video recording.
SLRs have many more advanced features, such as interchangeable lenses, through-the-lens viewing, sophisticated auto-focus, and better exposure control. There are no waterproof SLR cameras, so you will have to get a special underwater housing. If you are a professional or an advanced hobbyist, or if you already have SLR equipment and accessories, you will want to go for this solution for waterproof camera use.
There are huge differences in normal photography technique and underwater photography, mostly due to the qualities of light in water. Diffraction, for one, means that you should get an underwater camera with a wide lens to compensate this phenomenon. Also, most of the pictures that you will take will be close-ups so a good macro function is a great thing to have.
If you intent to use a flash with your waterproof camera, you should be aware that underwater photography with a flash is very different than normal flash photography. Flashlight will not travel more than two or three meters in water, and colors will fade very quickly. Also, remember that an external flash will need an extra underwater housing to protect it.
If you are not using a n external flash and are reliant on a small inbuilt flash, or on no flash at all, it is best to take underwater pictures when the sun it right over you, around midday. This way more light will get to your waterproof camera.
On the other hand, the best shots of marine wildlife are often taken at night, when most fish are more active. But for that, you will need to bring powerful lighting equipment with your waterproof camera, such as an underwater speedlight.
Whatever the hour of your picture-taking, it is best to use your waterproof camera in shallow and rocky shores, or near coral reefs. These give best results and will provide you with lots of interesting subjects. Of course, you could also take pictures of your kids near the beach.
When caring for your waterproof camera, you need to be aware of the special needs of your equipment. The danger number one is dirt, and especially salt, clogging the gaskets of the waterproof camera or housing. Always clean your waterproof camera or housing with freshwater if you have been taking underwater pictures in the sea, and never let salt dry on the casing.
Avoid cleaning the waterproof camera or housing with a pressure hose, as this may also damage the fittings. Use a soft cloth and fresh water only, also avoiding chemicals and petrol to clean your underwater casing or waterproof camera.