The bigger the underwater camera the better the pictures?

I absolutely love my compact camera for underwater photography. While observing the guys with the big cameras jealously when I got my first “point and shoot” I wouldn’t want to switch with them anymore. Why?


Money – one or two months of diving vs. bigger camera

Obviously the bodies, lenses, housings and ports for a dSLR or mirrorless camera cost much more than a good compact camera with housing. You can find compact cameras for scuba diving for every budget.


Weight – fun at the check-in desk

With a separate suitcase for the camera the check in process for your flights might become cumbersome having to explain to the friendly person behind the desk why you think it is ok to bring 15 kg or more carry on with you.


Time – missing beer o’clock

When arriving at a new destination or if only changing from a macro to a wide-angle site, it requires quite some set-up time for a large camera. My compact is ready in about 15 minutes allowing an earlier beer o’clock with the other divers using compact cameras.

compact camera


Flexibility – beautiful nudibanch, but there is a mola mola

This happened to me in Alor, Indonesia. I was trying to take a picture of a nudibranch that was new to me when a mola mola swam past. I removed the diopter, changed some settings and managed to get a shot of the sunfish, the only person in our group. Everyone else was using dSLRs with macro lenses so there was no chance of taking pictures of anything big except possibly the mola’s eye.

nudibranch alor mola mola


Flooding – where did that water come from?

Due to a higher amount of openings and o-rings the risk to flood a housing is just higher with cameras using interchangeable lenses. Plus it is easier to bring a spare compact, just in case.


The compacts are getting better and better

A new generation of compact cameras with even bigger sensors have just recently been released. So far 1-inch sensors as in the Sony RX100 that I am currently using and the Canon G7X deliver the highest image quality.

In the next generation they were even able to increase this to a micro four thirds in the Panasonic LX100, the same sensor size seem in some mirrorless cameras. These already have amazing first reviews. I am looking forward to seeing pictures shot with these.

free dive light


It depends on the person behind the camera

You don’t get awesome pictures because of the perfect camera set-up. Of course that helps but the most important part is the person behind the camera. Getting great shots needs a lot of practice, but maybe a bit less if you are using a compact camera.

big cameras hard to handle


Hard to handle

Relatively new divers as well as those who only have the chance to do a couple of weeks diving each year might not have the skills to handle a big camera. It is very important to master buoyancy skills before thinking about a bigger camera.

Already shooting with a compact requires excellent skills in order to take awesome photos without killing everything in kicking distance. I have observed loads of divers struggling with their big cameras – way too many.

This then ends up in fins stirring up silt or people standing and lying on coral or on whatever was there before. In my opinion this is a no-go just to get that perfect shot.

big camera hard to handle


The video quality is as good

The compacts as well as action cameras like the GoPro offer amazing high resolution video quality which can definitely compete with the mirrorless and dSLRs.


Your friends on facebook won’t see a difference

They won’t.

[ctt template=”4″ link=”Q0D6X” via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]Compact cameras are more awesome for underwater photography and your friends on Facebook won’t see a difference anyway @morefundiving[/ctt]


Bottom line

I am not saying that the compact cameras are as good as mirrorless or dSLRs because they are not. There is a huge difference, for example, in focal length, which I sometimes find annoying. For supermacro I stack two dioptres which leads to a very narrow depth of field.

For small creatures I have to get close with my compact which makes it impossible to shoot shy animals. Lately I sat in front of a piece of coral trying to shoot bearded gobies for half an hour before giving up. A big camera would have helped.

Yet am I willing to carry around all that equipment, spend the time, get my buoyancy right again and so on for those little improvements in certain conditions? I don’t think so. Are you?


cyerce bourbonica


Do you still think you need a big camera? Why? Let me know the reasons in the comment section below

Compact Cameras for Underwater Photography Pinterest