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Waterproof Cameras – the next gen.

11 Apr

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They’re now all in stock. The new generation of underwater digital cameras, that is. I know this is a hotly debated issue on the Aus Seakayak Forum so I am looking forward to adding fuel to a thread that is now many pages long. As a camera specialist, I am in the lucky position of knowing what’s coming long before the public and then being the first to play with them. Here’s the list of new stuff:

  • Olympus mju 8010
  • Olympus mju 3000
  • Panasonic DMC-FT2
  • Sony DSC-TX5
  • Fujiflm XP-10

Here’s an overview:

Olympus

A pointless increase to 14mp only worsens the worst image quality in the category and additional features don’t save a now hopeless range. It is well known I have a strong regard for Olympus SLRs but the compact range just lags further and further behind the pack in image quality. Even Samsung are making better cameras now. I recently bought a mju 6010 which is rubbish. You can see the dreadful video in the previous post. In Olympus’s favour though is good build quality and general reliability. The mju 8010 certainly feels tough but the 3000 feels a little trashy.

Panasonic

The FT1 was an excellent camera with image quality surpassed only by the Canon D10. The Pana’s video, however, was best of breed. The FT2 takes the FT1 to 10m rating but increases to 14mp which is a waste of time. It shoots the same as the FT1 fortunately. I think, failing Canon’s commitment to a new camera, this one will be the pick for overall ability.

Sony

The TX5 is the least tough looking camera of the lot. It is decidedly girly looking with a sliding front. A Sony manager once told me the T series is meant for Asian girls and the TX5 look like it’s upholding tradition. Image quality is excellent as is video but I don’t get the touch screen controls on an underwater camera. Apparently it works great. I’ll get back to you on that one. Sensibly, Sony have gone back to a 10mp sensor. It’s Exmor R so it delivers outstanding low noise results and as quick as 10 frames/second. It also has the handy sweep panorama mode that would be great for kayaking. Actually, once I trial this thing, I suspect it might be a brilliant kayakers camera. It’s a bit dear, though, as is usual with new Sony offerings but this will drop when Sony realize they aren’t selling any although I did sell one today at $599! Go figure.

Fujifilm

This is my favourite. At $249 it is staggering value for money. It is a 12mp, 5x zoom with 720p HD movie. The previous model, the Z33, was a neat little unit that sold under $200 and did an OK job so the XP10 improves in all areas. Image quality is better than Olympus but video is not as good as the Panas. The Z series controls have mercifully been replaced with a conventional D pad and buttons. Fuji are giving me one of these so I will no doubt use it over the mju 6010 for paddling photography.

I don’t have the new Samsung yet and am unlikely to get the Pentax or Casio. I don’t think I’m missing much here. I really hope Canon bring out a new camera with HD movie and longer zoom. The D10 was the winner of the last generation so by going last they should have the goods. Eventually.

My initial thoughts are that for kayakers, the FT1 is still the best overall as the FT2 only offers 10m and is a bit tougher. If you’ve got money to burn, the Sony could be the ultimate paddlers camera but my concern is the interface. If this proves satisfactory, it will be magic. Avoid the Olys. Period. The Fuji gives the budget conscious paddler or the disinterested paddler a cheap and pretty good access to boat-borne photography.

As my experience with all these grows, I will add detail on performance here or on the Seakayak forum. If anyone has feedback already, add a comment.

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11 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2010 in Paddle Gear

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

11 responses to “Waterproof Cameras – the next gen.

  1. Rob Hollow

    April 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the timely review. I’m off overseas at end of May and looking to get a new kayak camera before I go. I notice there are some great deals around at present for the FT1 for $299 duty free. What’s the rrp on the FT2? Do you see any noticeable image quality change +/- with the move to a 14 MP chip in the FT2?

     
  2. gnarlydog

    April 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Brad, I was going to accuse you of bad mouthing the Olympus waterproof cameras but you are on the money.
    For the last couple of years their offerings have gone cheap and very unreliable. I have returned a couple of SW1030 and the warranty replacement Though8000 only lasted a couple of months.
    Corrosion appeared just after a few weeks and now it leaked water and stopped working…
    Needless to say that I’m done with Olympus.

     
  3. rjimlad

    April 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Gnarly. I love Oly SLRs and have a professional connection with Olympus as one of 12 Brand Champions in the country. The problem is that they just don’t get what is necessary in compacts. They are not listening to overwhelming feedback that the image quality in ALL their compacts is hopeless.

    Rob. 14mp is the kiss of death to a compact camera. High megapixels is BAD. Sony are back to 10mp with Exmor R processors and Canon even went back to 10mp for some cameras. I wish they’d just learn. So far the Sony TX5 is the best on-paper choice. The FT2 sells for $599 but you could get this down to around $490 if you shop hard. We are selling them for around $549. I think the FT1 is a better choice for the money as there is no image quality improvement in the FT2 and it will possibly be worse. Only buy the FT2 if you want 10m rating. Kayakers do not generally need it.

     
  4. Rob Hollow

    April 12, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Hi Brad
    Thanks for the response. Do you still sell the FT1? If so, how much? Looks like it may be best value over the FT2. If so I’ll probably grab one whilst they are still available.

     
  5. rjimlad

    April 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    We have some stock available in the store. Ring me at Domayne Kotara and I’ll check the price for you.

     
  6. Andreas

    April 19, 2010 at 6:22 am

    I have been using the the first waterproof pentax optio WP which was good but for someone like me who is using his gear to the maximum it wasn’t up to the standard. I have been using a Olympus Stylus 720 SW for 3 years now and it’s really tough. The camera is covered in scratches by now and has been dropped a few times. The picture quality is pretty good but has a proble coping with black areas and gets a bit of nois.

    I would buy an Olympus Tough any time again.

     
  7. gnarlydog

    March 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Brad, I took your advice and went for the FT2.
    Better images and movies than Olympus but the corrosion is a real problem.
    After 6 months the aluminium faceplates have corroded so bad that the camera is cactus while no water ever entered the camera.
    If manufacturers would realize that pretty colors for a camera are less important than durability maybe the Panasonic could be the better camera. They use aluminium because it can be anodized to yellow, blue, green etc.
    But they should know that aluminium (7000 series alloy) is terrible in salt water… especially if in contact with other metals (chrome, stainless steel).
    If the Pentax W90 had better reliabilty/image quality, it could be my next camera.
    What is Canon doing? surely it’s time to update the D10

     
    • rjimlad

      March 21, 2011 at 7:49 am

      Good Feedback Gnarly. My FT2 is still uncorroded despite negligible maintenance. I’ll have to keep my eye out for any problems. Video seems to be the thing to do now so this type of camera may well be replaced by GoPro type devices that can mount on helmets and other things. The D10 was a good camera but VGA video doesn’t cut it any more. There’s no sign of an upgrade.

       
  8. Erin Tugwell

    March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Do not buy tis camera product warrenty is rubbish and Panasonic do nothing but blame the owner.

    Camera still operates fine but is corroding in mulitple places, around buttons, on aliminuim plating, and the spring on under battery hatch is covered in salt.

    Was used once in salt water

    Panasonic told me i was to late and it has to be done within a hr. They then said that the plating is just a cover and can corrode but dont worry camera will still operate. Oh and the spring uunder battery hatch has to be cleaned with brushed provided. So remember that when you are leaving the beach to spit clean and use your brush WITHIN a hr otherwise its your fault

    Take my word look at the Pentax

     
    • rjimlad

      March 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      That’s a shame Erin. I know that Olympus warranty is pretty solid as I have connections with Olympus and have visited the repair facility in North Ryde several times. Unfortunately, the image quality of Olympus compacts is dreadful compared to Panasonic and Canon. I guess there’s no perfect solution unless you use a waterproof housing and then you have a problem with bulk.

       
  9. gnarlydog

    March 29, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Brad, I find the Olympus not too bad compared to the TS2 when shooting stills but worse with movies.
    My Olympus cameras (I had about 5) corroded a bit but not to the point of failing. They usually failed with the seal on the battery compartment leaking. Most times I had them warranted, sometimes repaired, sometimes replaced. Only the very first model, the 720SW is still working (not waterproof though). Panasonic has a design flaw with their FT series: using aluminium plates that obviously corrode in salt water. Unless they will change that their cameras will keep on failing. Asking the user to rinse the camera within an hour of salt water use is bogus! I would call that “not fit for the purpose” it was designed for and claimed to be able to be used for. In other words: false advertising.

     

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