So, where do we start? And what type of camera do we buy? Should we go for the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)—basically a digital version of the old single lens reflex (SLR) camera where you compose your photograph through the lens of the camera—or should we go for a compact point-and-shoot camera, which has live-view screening.
The other type of camera, which comes in two different versions, is the manufactured PHD cameras (Press Here Dummy). These are essentially point-and-shoot cameras with a large continuous viewing screen on the back, so you are actually composing your photograph by use of the movie screen. Most of these types of camera require a waterproof housing, and these are usually made specifically for the camera models by the camera manufacturers.
A few of these digital cameras are actually amphibious and do not require a waterproof housing. All of these types of point-and-shoot cameras also have the ability to shoot video directly onto the memory card. I have seen some amazing digital film of animal behaviour captured, whilst I could only take a still photograph on my super-duper-state-of-the-art DSLR.
What to look for
DSLR’s are produced by a large number of manufacturers, and the relative models all have interchangeable lenses. Most will even be able to use your old lenses from your now obsolete film cameras. If you used Nikon in a previous life, then chances are that you will use the new Nikon DSLR’s.
The top of the range is the Nikon D3X with a 24.5 megapixel reproduction. Similarly, if you were a Canon or Olympus camera user, then chances are you will do so again in the future. The new Canon EOS-1 Ds Mk3 has a whopping 21 megapixel full-frame sensor and beats just about everything else hands-down.
Point-and-shoot cameras by Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Casio, Sony, Kodak, Pentax, Sigma and just about everyone else in-between, all have a superb range of cameras with dedicated housings, and most have a high megapixel rating to ensure nice crisp images when they are reproduced.
Whilst the photograph of Ian and the turtle is in essence a close-focus-wide–angle photograph, I include it to illustrate the size of the DSLR and the housing, plus external flash and arm. The camera is undoubtedly set on auto-focus as my dive partner, Ian, has the camera extended at arm’s length and angled in towards the turtle. By partly depressing the shutter release, he is able to lock on to the subject with his Canon camera, and by further pressing the shutter, he can take the photograph, thus firing the external flash whilst keeping everything in focus.