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Equipment | Cameras


We took a count one day. we have at least 8 cameras of one sort or another on board. Incredible! We focus on three here. We have underwater housings for each of them.

Sony DSR-PDX10P Video Camera

This is an amazing video camera, kindly sponsored by the Ministry of Education in Singapore, as is its Sea and Sea housing. This video camera has three CCD's for better colour rendition and takes megapixel stills on a Sony memory stick. Not as compact as many, but a tough camera with excellent quality, unsurpassed except by much more expensive, and much larger, professional units.

The Sea and Sea housing is very strong and well-engineered, with infra-red command. All the essential controls are accessible through the housing. The only major drawback we find with it is that there is no colour LCD viewfinder screen. One has to peer through the rear port at the miniature monochrome viewfinder in the camera eyepiece. Wearing a diving mask, this is barely visible, especially in strong backlighting near the surface, and the subject oftens disappears in monochrome rendition, forcing one to shoot 'blind'.

The LX55 video light does not seem bright enough to make much of a difference except at very close ranges, where burning out parts of the image is an issue if not carefully aimed and/or too wide an angle is used. The ball-joint plastic arm, similar in design to the Ikelite strobe arm we have for the still camera, works really well!

Sony F828 Digital Still Camera

We took extensive advice. We read the magazines, reviewed the online reviews of 8 megapixels prosumer cameras, and talked to our knowledgeable friends. the result was... the Olympus C-8080, the only 8 megapixel digital camera to have genuine TTL flash metering on the Ikelite housing and the camera with reputedly the best image quality.

I went to the electronic emporia in Sim Lim to make my purchase. I held the Olympus, felt its heft and mechanisms, played with its controls. I didn't like it. It felt lightweight, flimsy, fragile. It rattled. I also hated the motor-driven zoom - impossible to frame subjects precisely as I wanted.

As an afterthought I asked to see the Sony F828 for comparison. It felt right. Solid, no rattle when I shook it about, precise mechanisms, beautifully-engineered, manual zoom ring. It also had the closest macro specs and widest zoom range, with a Zeiss lens. So, purple highlights and higher reputed CCD noise notwithstanding, I came away with the F828. Now we are paying the penalty of having to work with manual flash settings when using the Ikelite housing, but this camera is our mainstay for all purposes - above and below the water. The solid construction has paid off in the harsh environment of on-board life. The ability to angle the lens with respect to the backplane turns out to be a great asset in taking candid shots (no need to raise the camera to one's eye) and shots from awkward angles (over my head, from my waist level, etc.)

The Ikelite housing is an elegant and attractive design, but pretty complicated to set up right with all its through-controls, zoom ring, etc. Given that we don't have TTL metering with flash, we've purchased the Ikelite 50 strobe with manual control accessory. We're still learning how to get decent results underwater with this set-up. The great thing is that we can see immediately if we are getting it right or not, drastically shortening the learning curve.

Sony P8 Compact Digital Still Camera

The MoE in Singapore also kindly sponsored this great little camera, a very capable still camera that fits in a pocket, even a BCD pocket inside its Sony housing, so we can take it along on any trip (including dive trips or snorkelling ashore) without extensive setting up or preparation. It lacks the ultimate quality and flexibility of the F828, but it fills the need for a snapshot camera we can use when we come across interesting events we had not anticipated or just want to take a camera along when we swim ashore to explore



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