/ Technology

Why wouldn’t you buy a waterproof camera?

I’d never considered buying a waterproof camera – at around £200 they’re pretty pricey for a camera with a limited zoom. But since spending a day in fast flowing water, I’ve begun to see their benefits.

Now, I’m not talking to the professional underwater photographers here – if you want great underwater photos you need decent kit. But if you’re only going to take the occasional water shot at the beach, or in my case while travelling downstream in a rubber ring, you might not want to whip out your regular digital camera.

A casing point

I suppose I could get a waterproof case for my old G9, but that would set me back £180 and turn my compact bridge camera into something the size of an SLR. For the same price I could get a waterproof compact and still fit it in my pocket.

Waterproof compacts are shockproof too, so they can take a few knocks and drops – a feature I can see appealing to friends whose kids always want to use their good kit. I’m usually very precious of cameras and keep them in their cases when not snapping, so walking around with an Olympus Tough TG-1 hanging from my wrist was a liberating experience.

There have been many times when I’ve chosen not to take my camera out for fear of damage – you won’t find any photos of an aerial assault course in my album.

I had thought that having a smartphone would encourage me to take more shots when I’m not carrying my camera, but I’m not going to take that up a tree, besides which, I already know that taking a picture one-handed on it is impossible.

Waterproof camera’s casing makes them usable in humid climes not just underwater – and they’re dustproof and freeze-proof, providing even more photo opportunities – although I can tell you now that taking photos with gloves on will be a tough task with some models.

Not a regular camera replacement

Of course, there are downsides to waterproof cameras – not least the limited optical zoom and lack of manual controls – but then there are plenty of regular compact cameras that fall short here too (albeit £100 cheaper ones).

The lack of a viewfinder, as ever, is disappointing, but if I was taking a picture up a tree, on a bike, or in a rubber ring I don’t think I’d be putting the camera up to my eye. I’d adopt the ‘point and hope’ method and switch to a continuous shooting mode to increase my chance of getting at least one decent shot.

I look on waterproof compacts as being an addition to your camera arsenal rather than a replacement. I do, however, find myself wondering whether if I bought one, I’d end up carrying around three cameras – my phone, my good camera and the waterproof one for the rough stuff. My bag is already full enough.

jaycine, essex says:
17 August 2012

I was bought a fujifilm xp10 before a holiday to cuba, as my previous camera was developing a fault.
waterproof, shockproof, dustproof it was great.

It’s small enough to keep in my bag, has a great zoom, good screen, and does good video. I was also willing to right it off because of it’s size, but am extremely pleased with it’s quality and functions.

There are newer higher spec cameras out there, but anything based on the xp10 needs to be considered.

One unexpected plus fact was the conversations that instantaniously sprung up amonst others from around the world, based only on the fact we were using the same camera

PeterW says:
17 August 2012

There is (or at least used to be) a problem with many “waterproof” compact cameras in that the waterproofing is fine for about a year, but then fails. Some makers request the user to get the rubber seals replaced annually by a dealer, which puts the ownership cost up. I had a Pentax Optio a few years ago which was used underwater on our annual flotilla holiday. The first year it was wonderful and took some great shots, the second year it failed after a few photos and the salt water ingress wrote the camera off. That’s not good enough after spending over £200. Other people have had similar problems with various makes and models of camera. If contemplating purchase, I’d suggest Googling the camera model name with, say, “waterproofing problems” and see what turns up.

Which brings me to a problem with Which? testing these days – there is never adequate testing of the longevity of products. This needs to be addressed. With coming constraints on resources and cheap energy, there will have to be a move away from the present norm of buying flimsy electronic gadgets and discarding them after they fail in a year or two’s time. When I buy something I expect to get at least 5 years use out of it.

Jeremy says:
17 August 2012

I have been using Pentax Optio WP (Water Prooof) compact cameras for about 8 years now (two in that time) and if you live an active lifestyle they are worth the additional cost over a standard compact. I am content to let the grandchildren use them at the beach as there is little harm they can do to them. I have a more expensive “bridge type” camera for other use.

I fully agree with the need for more longevity testing Which? Please give this serous consideration.

Phil says:
17 August 2012

Reminds me of an anecdote I read some time ago of a lifeboatman who bought a waterproof camera to take on calls. To prove to his crew mates it was waterproof he dropped it into the harbour; whereupon he learnt that “waterproof” doesn’t necessarily mean “buoyant”.

Something people might want to think about.

There are international definitions of ‘waterproof’.

For example:
IP6 = survives water spray
IP7 = survive water immersion depth 1 metre for 30 minutes.

I have just come back from a holiday in Turkey. I had toyed with the idea of getting an underwater camera, before I went, but decided at the last minute, it would be a waste of money. Oh how wrong I was! We would have had so much fun with it, as we went on 2, full day, boat trips. A man I met on there had an olympus he had had for years, which was battered, but still taking beautiful pictures. Beach and sea shots would have been great too, as I wouldn’t have had to be so careful with my existing compact camera. I have been home 4 days, and my new Olympic TG 835 has just been delivered! Cant wait to try it out!!! 🙂

Bought a Fuji XP200 to use when snorkeling… nice camera & the picture/video quality very good, the only thing that has let it down is that both the units we have had have leaked & subsequently failed. Hoping the 1st one was a manufacturing fault as it only lasted a few days. The second did better Did 10 days in Europe in October 2014 but failed after 7 in Maldives in February 2015. Its a shame as it is very easy to use, but won’t be trying another one. Have sent it back for a refund.