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Cameras, cameras, and more cameras! Part II

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2001-08-16

Last week I introduced some of the new cameras that can capture the beauty of the Underwater World here on Okinawa. I hope that reviewing some of these new less expensive cameras has helped you make some sense of what a camera can do and what will it cost.

When purchasing, or renting, a camera please remember the most important question is to first ask yourself what kind of picture(s) do I want to take. What results do I want from my camera?

With this important question answered you are better prepared to approach the sales counter. This week we are going to move beyond the point and shoot cameras and discuss the fully adjustable amphibious cameras that are available for making your underwater images last beyond your dive.

An amphibious camera simply means that it will take great pictures above and below the surface of the water without any modifications or housings. These are great outdoor cameras that can survive severe climatic conditions. Amphibious cameras include Sea and Sea's Motor Marine II EX and the venerable and well-known Nikonos V. Both deserve the respect they get and both perform similarly. With each camera the photographer must set the focus as they are not auto focus.

You must estimate the distance to the subject and then manually set it. Following your estimate of distance you also must choose an appropriate aperture setting for the amount of light from the sun or from your external flash unit. Both cameras guide this setting with an on-board light meter that is dependable in most situations.

While all these choices make these cameras challenging they can, with some assistance and training, be fun for the photographer as well. Adjusting the camera for its proper exposure can be challenging but the real benefit of these cameras is in the glass! By glass I mean the lens choices that each of these cameras have in their "systems." Each camera has a system of lenses that greatly improves what, and how; the photographer can start capturing images that begin to emulate photos in the National Geographic. The "glass" I refer to are called wide-angle, macro, ultra-macro, fish-eye, close-up, and Nikonos even makes a 80 mm telephoto lens that allows you to really reach out and touch someone from a distance.

A real benefit of the MMIIEX is that you can even change these lenses underwater. Not so with the Nikonos V and that can be a real restriction for the recreational photographer who spends some significant money to get to a dive destination only to find that a wrong lens choice results in missing a great opportunity to photograph a Manta Ray gliding by.

While these cameras are all very purposeful they are also somewhat expensive. The Motor Marine II EX will kit out at just under $1,000 including a wide-angle lens, a close up kit, and a flash assembly. On the other hand the Nikonos V will cost you about $1,300 for just the camera body, 35 mm lens and a flash assembly. Add on lenses for the MMIEX are between $150 and $250; but if add anything to the Nikonos system and you can expect to pay a minimum of $500 per item and up to $2,000 for its famous (I would not go in the water without one) 15 mm wide angle lens.

So you can see just how important it is to ask yourself "what kind of pictures do I want to take?" before you start shopping. You can spend lots of money on a Nikonos and really not get all that much more than what the MMIIEX can offer you. However, the quality of Nikonos equipment is un-paralled in the world of Underwater Photography. The choice is really in your photos.

Please drop by and say hello this weekend (18 and 19 August) at the First Sergeant's Bazaar being held on Kadena Air Base at the Falcon Gym. I will be there all weekend to answer your questions and show you the beauty of Okinawa Underwater.

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