Waterproof Cameras


Aug 20, 2005
Kelowna, BC
OK....I am going to (very slowly and carefully putting one toe in first.. because that's how I am) take the plunge and buy myself a digital camera for Christmas. Right now I use a Minolta SLR with a 300 mm tele, a macro lens (with a 2:1 converter) and a wide angle. It is just way too cumbersome for kayaking and hiking so gets left behind lots. My flash also has died and I can't find a replacement that works (may be a problem with the flash shoe or something instead) which means I can't get indoor pics of my granddaughter this fall/winter. So....My camera shop has a Pentax WPi - 6 Megapixel with 3x zoom for $495.00 so it's waterproof. Does anyone have this camera and how do they like it? I really do like to take macro pics and I use my telephoto lots too. Do you think a 3x zoom is enough with 6 megapixel quality to zoom in on the computer after and crop and still have decent quality? I do like quality pictures! Or do you think I won't be happy with this and should go for non-waterproof with a waterproof housing? With a Pelican box or such I'd be in the same boat as with my big camera and not use it since it's hard to carry and slow to get to....I would love to hear any of you guys' recommendations! Thanks!
Kasey said:
So....My camera shop has a Pentax WPi - 6 Megapixel with 3x zoom for $495.00 so it's waterproof. Does anyone have this camera and how do they like it? I really do like to take macro pics and I use my telephoto lots too. Do you think a 3x zoom is enough with 6 megapixel quality to zoom in on the computer after and crop and still have decent quality?
Kasey, there is a thread here on the Canon Powershot S1 IS -- the IS stands for Image Stabilization. I just invested in one of these, and am very pleased with it. Others here put me onto it. Although the S1 is only a 3 MPx unit, the IS feature makes its 10X optical zoom a realistic choice for handheld use. I am amazed at the image quality, compared to what I got with a 3X zoom 2 MPx camera. Here are a couple of reviews: http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_rev ... s_pg8.html
http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon ... ndex.shtml
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S ... 1-IS-A.HTM

There is a dive-quality waterproof housing available for the S1 (it is not cheap!), and that is next on my wish list. Probably pencils out similar to what you might pay for good Pelican boxes, in the long run, and guarantees the camera stays dry.

I think if you search the topics under this conference you can see the old dialog about this camera.
Hi Dave,
Yup - I did read the dialog about your camera with interest....the main thing turning me off being the price, especially with the waterproof housing - but maybe I'm not going to get that quality without spending that much? I'll check out the reviews you've linked to here. Thanks.
I have the older Pentax Optio 43WR (Water resistant to 1m for 15 minutes) and it always comes along with me in my PFD pocket. However, I think you'll find the relatively short lens to be an impediment on the water. A really long lens with image stabalization is almost a necessity. Having said that, it gets a lot of use and is always right there and ready to go when I need it without having to retrieve it from below deck.

The Canon S1IS and the optional waterproof housing is a pretty elegant, albiet expensive, solution if you can live with the 3.2 megapixel resolution. I chose a Panasonic Z20 (5mp)camera with 12x Leica lens and image stabalization. There is no custom WP housing available for it that I am aware of so I went with the Ewa bag solution which is admitedly cumbersom but functional. If I were to do it all over again, I would probably sacrifice the higher resolution for the more user-friendly custom housing. I wonder if Canon is planning to market a WP housing for the S2IS?
Kasey , i just purchased a pentax optio wp which has 5 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom.
it's small and i have it attached to my pfd and store it in my pocket, so keeping one hand on the paddle and taking pic's with the other is not that hard.
i am not an expert on digital camera's but i do have a canon a-40 with 2 mega pixels and 3x optical zoom and so far i like the pic's i get with my canon better. i can't really say what the difference is but i really thought the increase in mega pixels would make a better pic and now i'm thinking it has more to do with the maker.
don't get me wrong, i plan on using this cam a lot! when you look at my kayaking photo albums there's no action shot's or heavy sea's and thats what i want and this camera is going to get those shot's.
by next summer i intend to replace my a-40 with a canon product like the s2 because so often kayaking i can't get as close to wildlife as i would like. i purchased a 2.5x tele-lens for the a-40 but it's useless without a tripod so that stabilation feature is a must for a zoom camera.
It is a real toss up, deciding between a small camera that is easy to grab in a hurry, or a bigger bulkier camera that takes good pics. Having said that I started with a Canon Powershot A30 and quickly outgrew that. I got a Canon S1 and haven't regretted it for a second. The 10x optical and the Image Stabilization work great. There is sufficient resolution that you can crop pictures and get very good results. A lot of the pics on this site are proof of that.

When I first got the S1 I kept it in an Underwater Kinetics waterproof box. I found it limited how many pics I took just because it was a pain to get out and I was always wary of getting it wet in any way. Dan, Darren and I got a good deal when we ordered 3 underwater housings at the same time and it was a great investment. Now I can keep it in my deck bag and it's always right there. You could even hang it around your neck if you wanted to. I'm also thinking out a system of straps on my spray skirt to hold the camera, and maybe a paddle strap as well.

The only downside to the UW housing is that it limits the use of an adapter tube and filters.....so I go prepared and let the weather conditions and days activities determine my setup.

Keep in mind that Canon doesn't make and underwater housing for the S2 yet (hi Mark) :p
Steve_Fairbairn said:
I wonder if Canon is planning to market a WP housing for the S2IS?

I sure hope so! I contacted them a few months ago about this, and the response that I got was that, "Currently we do not have any information there will be a underwater housing [for the S2 IS] in the future or not."

I'm still hoping they will, as they do make the housings for a huge range of their other digital cameras.
Huh.....from what you folks say I can tell I wouldn't be happy with the quality of the pictures from the waterproof - darn - would have been cheaper but I should know you get what you pay for. Sounds like it would be a specialty camera and not a good overall one for what I want. You guys have me reading all sorts of reviews, etc. - I'm going to have to find an equal to the Canon S2is that has a WP housing available - because that sounds great other than the lack of housing...great zoom, great macro, millions of pixels (whatever they actually are...lol). or the S2is but with the Ewa bag....but we're getting closer. Thanks for the great advice!
I think your camera choice depends a lot on what you see yourself using it for. I do the vast majority of my photography from a kayak, where a large amount of zoom is preferable - even required - to get the shot I want. But I don't have any sort of waterproof equipment for it, so if there's even a chance of it getting wet, it doesn't get used. Basically it only comes out in conditions that I'm comfortable enough that I know it's not going to get any salt water spray and there's no risk of me losing control of the situation (ie big water).

That said, if you don't need a mega-zoom camera, you can save a lot of money that can be invested into other aspects of the camera (like higher resolution and/or a more compact size). If many of your shots are going to be taken in scenarios where a large amount of optical zoom is not required, or that a more compact size would be better, then perhaps that's the way to go. Many people are probably not comfortable enough in the kayak in anything but a calm water state to want to concentrate on taking a photo rather than control the boat. In such a situation, you probably won't need a waterproof housing anyways. A simple waterproof storage case is much less expensive. And, it gives you a lot more flexibility on what cameras would fit the bill.
I have the Pentax Optio33WR and love it - it is 3 MP, but is small enough to go anywhere and does. I take it on every trip. Even though it does not have IS or a long lens, it takes great pics. I think the convenience is a great asset as I have also used a camera with housing.
I think If I was going for a higher end system, I would get the Canon IS camera with their custom housing.
It is important for me to know that my camera can resist an accidental dunking or two.
I also have a Canon A70 with a UW housing for snorkelling and, though I have used it for paddling, it is far more bulky and less likely to be "at hand".
As a follow up, a couple of tips:

I attach a small key chain float to the Optio WP to make sure it floats if it gets knocked off my deck

I also use "spit and dunk" to clear the view port of the WP and the Canon housing - water drops on the view port are the bane of kayaking photography!

If I was starting again, I would probably get the newest Pentax WP as my take everywhere camera. if I was to get an additional camera and had the $$ I would get the Canon with IS and a Canon housing. The housing that allows easy access to all the functions is important. I have used an Ewa housing for my SLR and it was clumsy by comparison.

I know Bob Craig uses a Canon "point and shoot" in a Canon housing for his great surf kayaking shots...
I agree Mike, firstly for me the camera has to survive a dunking (otherwise I'm going to drown myself trying to save the camera) - good idea about the float too (same result...drowned)! Number two for me, I don't think I can live without a big zoom (or really good resolution so I can crop really close on the computer) and it has to take good quality (so good resolution and maybe IS). Number three is easy access - the housing or the EWA bag would be at least easier than Pelican boxes, no? Or are either of them clumsy enough to compromise photo quality? Good thought on the water-droplet problem...is "spit and dunk" what I think it is? Or is there a commercial, I guess it would be a surfactant, that is available to avoid water droplets?
spit and dunk is exactly what you think it is. I have not tried any commercial versions as the homemade variety works well!
The hard Canon style housing (olympus also makes some) are definitely great to use as they give you access to all the buttons.
I'd take a look at the Pentax and the Canon S1 IS if you can find one.
This page shows a variety of Canon housings for different models:
https://secure.hitech-uk.com/acatalog/c ... Canon.html
check this out too:
I recently acquired a Canon S1 IS which has 10X zoom (but only 3.2 Mpx resolution). I suspect, from the testing I have done, that any long zoom which does not have IS is pretty marginal on the water. On land, a 10X optical zoom mandates a tripod without IS. With IS, handheld images are sharp and in focus. IS is worth every penny. For 8 x 10 blowups, the 3.2 MPx images are just fine, with IS.
Well, thanks for all the information you guys - I finally made a decision and bought a Panasonic FZ30 (Merry Christmas to Me, Me, Me, Me).....I don't actually get it until Boxing Day but will let you know how I like it once I get to play with it. Decided I'd spend the extra money on that rather than on an S1 with the housing.....as my sister asked me, was I ready to buy $300 worth of insurance on a $600 camera? I'll get a good WP deck bag and keep it there handy but even though I want to spend more time on salt water, so far most of my paddling is on fresh and in good weather so I'm hoping this will work. On the FZ30 the zoom does not extend externally so maybe someone will make a housing and then down the road I can afford to buy it? Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year - a few from our club (me too I hope) are going out on Okanagan Lake on New Years Day for a paddle - hope the sun shines! :roll:
I remember seeing a waterproof 3xoptical zoom,5megapixel camera at Costco for somewhere around 300$ and i think it was a decent brand.Saw it early this month.Would've bought it but i wanted more than 3x zoom. Myself i just bought a Kodak with 5MP and 10x optical zoom,for 300$ at Future shop, it was on sale from 380.
Merry Christmas to you too, eh? Sounds like a good price for that zoom and quality! I'm wondering if mine will actually be 3 times as good as yours since I spent 3 times the money.... :oops: I have to admit I didn't even look at the Kodak - there are just way too many cameras out there. I started with Canon S1IS since so many on here like it but didn't feel right about buying one that's already been replaced by the S2IS and couldn't even find one to look at anyway since they are not being made anymore. So then I was looking at the S2IS but we know there isn't a waterproof housing for it.....then gave up the idea of a housing and went on to look at the Panasonics and what the heck, might as well go for the newest, right? And I can shoot in Raw if I find I have the time to learn how to do it....although that would take away from kayak time, wouldn't it? Have fun with your new camera - we'll have to compare photographs later (although this is my first digital so I have no idea how to run it!) !
Congrats on the new acquisition Kasey. The FZ30 looks like one awesome camera. I actually cross shopped a Panasonic FZ5S before deciding on the Canon S2 IS which is slightly larger than the Powershot G2 that it replaced. I picked it up for $569 at a local camera store.

The Kodak unit that rider purchased looks like it would put many more sophisticated P&S cameras to shame particularly when it comes to price point. I might have considered it but was swayed by Canon’s image stabilization, lightening start up speed, and versatile patented fold out monitor.

As for keeping things dry, I plan on storing it in a water tight box. I’ll carve a chunk of mini cell foam and use it as a platform to lash on to my deck.
Yeah, rider did get a "good bang for his buck" didn't he! Your S2IS was, as I said, my next choice and I have a hard time justifying the extra $300 for mine - the extra pixels may or may not be too noiceable. I was also worried about the rumored noise on the Panasonic but my photo lab fella says it will be no problem on the regular size prints and it can be reduced on larger prints. I was also swayed by the manual zoom and focus on the barrel of the lens since I'm leaving an SLR for this camera - I'll feel more at home that way! I'm going to try some system like you are talking about. The fact they aren't WP could decrease how often we take them out unless they are easily accessed and put away and safe and out -of-the-way when we're busy paddling and something could come up. I don't have a deck bag yet so I think I'll get one that is semi-rigid WP and rig up the case or some foam or something. Those boxes, at least the ones I've seen, provide good protection but are quite bulky and would pick up the wind and waves, no? I hope these cameras are tough enough they don't need that solid of protection.....my SLR still works after a lot of abuse - even dropped my 300mm tele on the cement floor and it was fine!
Kasey wrote: I don't have a deck bag yet so I think I'll get one that is semi-rigid WP and rig up the case or some foam or something. Those boxes, at least the ones I've seen, provide good protection but are quite bulky and would pick up the wind and waves, no?

Yes, they can be a trial on-deck.

For several years I have used a small microcase from Pelican (their 1020) lanyarded on deck with my old, ancient, out-of-date, now barely-functional Olympus D-520 Zoom (only 2 MPixels). This worked well, because I could quickly open it, and reseal it with the camera in one hand and the box in the other. Snap the photo, reopen the box, and store the camera again. With a larger case, especially one having two snaps (the 1020 has just one), this becomes very difficult while paddling on all but the calmest water.

I suspect with a larger, bulkier case, it will be avoiding water in the case which will be the limitation.

I invested in a Canon S1 IS, just as they were being phased out, because of the availability of a totally waterproof dive-quality case. For sea paddling, I think that should work well, though I can't afford the case yet, so am still using the old D-520, until it totally croaks.

Please keep us posted, especially with those high quality photos we expect, Kasey!!!