Tips for Purchasing Your First Underwater Camera

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Tips for Buying an Underwater Camera

One of the questions we hear frequently is, “I want to try taking photos underwater, what kind of camera should I get?”

The underwater world is an amazing place, and hard to describe in words alone. With the right camera, training and experience, you can capture images of your scuba diving adventures you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.

Below are some tips and considerations to help you  make the right decision when shopping for an underwater camera. That said, we strongly encourage you to seek out the advice of a PADI Professional before making your purchase, and consider taking our online photo course.

Compact or DSLR?
Experienced topside photographers may be comfortable starting with a DSLR camera, but if your photo experience is limited to your cell phone and/or a point and shoot camera, start with a basic “compact” camera. Underwater photos have extra considerations to begin with and a heavier, more complicated system may easily lead to task loading and frustration. Remember that it’s the photographer and not the equipment that creates great images.

Winning image PADI DIving Society

Housing
It makes sense that you want the ultimate protection for your investment, so it pays to select a good housing – which might be an investment in its own right. Depending on the type of camera you want to use (point-and-shoot vs. DSLR), you should check the housing to see if it can accommodate add-ons, like macro lenses or strobes.

If you can, try to get your hands on the housing to ensure the manual adjustment buttons are comfortably accessible. If you plan to take photos in cold water, don’t forget to bring your dive gloves.

As you learn in PADI’s Digital Underwater Photography course (or through hours of trial and error), using the camera’s built-in flash alone often results in backscatter. So don’t forget to save money in your budget for a photo light and choose a housing that will accommodate this feature.

Try before you buy
The cost of a camera can be significant, so after you’ve done online and in-store research, ask your local PADI Dive Center about renting a camera or trying out different models as part of the Digital Underwater Photography specialty course.  Taking a camera for a “test drive” will help you determine whether you really like a camera in practice – your experience between test shots on land and shooting underwater could be quite different.

Share your images with us!
Share your favorite photos with other PADI Divers by uploading it to your ScubaEarth profile, or sharing it on PADI’s Facebook page (we run an annual PADI Diving Society photo contest). Your photo could be our featured “fan pic” of the day on PADI’s Instagram page. Tag your pic #padi to be considered.