Over the years Iíve used a few of the waterproof point and shoot cameras, and Iíve built up a list of likes and dislikes from each.
I started with Olympus and it took great, sharp images and had very nice macro, but in low light the camera was useless and there was a long wait for both focusing and shutter lag.
After I lost my Olympus at a movie theatre (fell outta my pocket), I found a Pentax W90 that someone was selling locally online. The camera wasnít too bad and had some nice features to it, namely its macro. However, the camera again was terrible in low light and the ďHD videoĒ was terrible quality.
I did manage to get some very good quality pictures out of both cameras but there was many more photos that were wasnít because the camera did not perform the way I would have hoped. And when youíre fishing, you canít sit and take a fishís picture for half an hour trying to get that ONE good photo. So itís 2 or 3 shots and ya gotta release the fish! I decided to try out one of the latest and greatest underwater cameras.
My search for the best begun a few months back when I was trying to decide between a small dSLR type camera and a point and shoot waterproof. I decided in the end with a waterproof just for peace of mind and the less bulk for when Iím fishing and guiding. I searched all the various reviews on the latest waterproof cameras and discovered that late winter is just before all the companyís introduce their new cameras. Panasonic is coming out with the TS4, Canon is going to be introducing their D20, and I was skeptical whether or not to wait or to go ahead and pick one from the current selection.
All the reviews stated the Panasonic and the Nikon were their top picks. Both have very similar features and even look pretty similar. I decided the best thing to do was to try them out and also do a side-by-side comparison of the specifications.
The Panasonic had a better waterproof rating but that wasnít really an issue for me. Iím not going to be down at 33ft with my camera and if I am, I wonít be conscious. If youíre into scuba you wonít want to be taking these down there anyways because you wonít be getting the photo quality you would hope for.
The Nikon had some really great features that I liked, namely the various video modes including slow-motion and HD 1080p. It received very good ratings for its video quality, despite it having such a tiny lens and sensor, like all of the waterproof point and shoots. Also, it comes with a handy filter attachment that clips onto the front of the lens housing! In the end just the small things are what won me over.
I picked up the camera and a UV filter from Henryís in Winnipeg. I wanted a circular polarizing filter but they didnít have any in stock. Iíll probably pick one up at a later date. I decided with the orange colour just for the simple fact that itís easier to see and hopefully harder to lose!
I was going fishing right after picking up the camera so I would be testing it right away. The weather outside had heavy cloud cover and the lighting conditions were less than favorable but I figured Iíd see what the camera could do. One thing I liked is it comes with a neckstrap that suspends the camera in arms reach but itís small enough to tuck under a hoody or jacket without even knowing its there. The neckstrap is just a cheap nylon strap but itís better than the useless wrist straps that typically come with the waterproof cameras.
I clipped the filter adapter on and really like the design. Itís easy to put on and take off but is secure enough to not wiggle around or fall off when bumped. Nikon, as far as I know, is the only company that is offering this unique filter adapter which I really like! Having a polarizing filter to cut the glare off the water is fantastic and kudos to Nikon for listening to their end userís!
I took a few photos and the thing that stuck out most was the speed of the camera. From when you first hit the ON switch, to when the shutter snaps, it takes less than 2 seconds. So you can get the camera out and snap a shot in no time, which is great for those quick shot opportunities. Those who are in the outdoors a lot know you donít get a warning for when an animal appears or a neat bird lands on a branch. Itís there and itís gone, and having a camera that can capture those moments is pretty invaluable!
The auto-focusing is blazing fast in outdoor settings with good light. I did find that in low-light scenarios it takes a little bit longer. Once the focus locks on a target and you hit the shutter itís almost instantaneous, thereís virtually no shutter lag. Itís a beautiful thing!
Another nice little feature is the textured shutter button. This is sweet because you know exactly where that little sucker is just by feel. My Pentax I had before was a pain because it was suck a small button and it was smooth just like the camera body around it. Nikon has addressed this issue and also made the button larger, so even with gloves on, you can get that shot!
The battery and memory card hatch is quite unique as well with a locking mechanism unlike any of the competitorís. They have a dual locking mechanism that has a push button and a dial you have to turn. This is sweet because itís pretty much fail-safe and is less likely to pop open accidentally. It also has a bright yellow gasket that seals the compartment tight. The bright yellow colour makes it easy to spot dirt or abrasions that might otherwise fault the seal.
The camera performed very well out on the water and the detail and colour capture was superb, despite the horrid lighting conditions. The sample image below shows the macro capabilities and colour preservation. This photo was taken with the UV filter attached, which helps cut down on unwanted glare.
I like the controls on the back of the camera. Theyíre all easy to use and it doesnít take long to get used to the menu system that Nikon uses. One stand-out feature that a lot of companies are moving to, including Nikon, is including a one-touch video record button. This designated button allows you to start recording a video instantly just by hitting the button. You can select whether you want single-area auto-focus or full-time auto-focus. Most people would want the single-area I would think.
Nikon has included quite a selection of movie modes that allow you to capture all sorts of creative videos. Below is the list of movie modes.
HD 1080p 30fps (1920 x 1080)
HD 720p 30fps (1280 x 720)
iFrame 540 (960 x 540)
VGA 30fps (640 x 480)
HS 240fps (320 x 240)
HS 120fps (640 x 480)
HS 60fps (1280 x 720)
HS 15fps (1920 x 1080)
What I like is the fact that Nikon has allowed you the opportunity to capture slow-motion video, which is kind of a neat option.
Iím looking forward to using this camera this year! I have a trip out to British Columbia planned for next month, and Iíll also be guiding in the arctic at Plummerís Lodge. So the camera will be getting a lot of use in different settings this year.
If youíre looking for a really good waterproof camera to have with you while fly fishing, hiking, kayaking, etc, look no further or at least highly consider this camera. I definitely would recommend this camera!
The camera retails for $329-359 and is available in Black, Blue, Orange, and Camouflage.
*Stay tuned for more sample images!*