When I started diving in 2007 I did not have a camera yet. However, when I decided to go diving in Indonesia in 2009 I wanted to be able to capture my underwater experiences.
Point and shoot
My first underwater camera was a Panasonic Lumix in the Panasonic housing. This first point and shoot option was enough for me as I was busy enough already with just diving. It was a great set-up to start taking pictures, just as memories, no intention to take the perfect shot.
Find out more about where to start underwater photography.
When I started travelling in 2013 I brought a new compact camera without a housing for it, too heavy for backpacking. But I bought a GoPro Hero 3 instead. The videos turned out well, at least they did when I got better in holding the GoPro still, not putting my glove in front of the lens and bought a red filter.
I tried to take photos with it as well but was struggling if there was not a lot of light (deeper dives, bad visibility or bad weather) and for smaller creatures.
Point and shoot 2.0
However, I wanted to take pictures of those small creatures. Therefore I bought a housing for my travel camera (Lumix TZ41 at the time), the pictures from which were decent but I did have a lot of problems with the housing and the camera. The camera has been fixed once and then replaced, the housing had been replaced twice.
More sophisticated compact system
After all that trouble and to take better photos I decided to buy a nice set-up of camera, housing and strobe. I was in Cairns in Australia at the time and ended up in a Nauticam shop. The owner did put together a very nice and very expensive kit for me.
I intended to spend around AUD 1500, max 2000 but ended up spending AUD 4000. I got the high-end compact Cyber-shot RX100 II from Sony with a Nauticam housing, mount, single strobe (Inon S-2000), focus/video light (which I flooded after a couple of months), wide angle (Inon UWL-100) and macro wet lens (Diopter, Aquako IV, 2.5X).
I am very happy with my set-up, the image quality is amazing, the camera is fast and with all the accessories I do get really good results.
The macro function of my camera is not as good which annoys me from time to time. However, with the Diopter I do get nice pictures even of tiny creatures and even without the Diopter I can take good pictures of creatures that are about 1 cm long (0.4 in), should be good enough 😉
Next would be a mirorless camera or an SLR as well as getting a second strobe and using longer arms. I am not going to do that in the near future for two reasons: price and size.
A good SLR system would cost me at least $ 10’000, I can do quite some diving for that amount of money. Right now my camera with strobes, lenses and everything plus my regulators do fit a hand luggage which is small enough that no one ever weights it (don’t tell anyone my carry on is 15 kg). I’m pretty sure that would change with carrying large camera equipment.
I do not want to win prizes with my photos. I love to take pictures and I enjoy diving a lot more with a camera in my hand. Of course it’s even better to have a great result and the perfect shot of an animal but for me the process of taking the photos is more important. Out of all the pictures I take during a dive which might be about 100, I end up having 5 to 10 good pictures and maybe one perfect shot. Some pictures I keep as memories as they capture a special animal or scenery.