Scuba Diving Camera FAQ

1. I find it difficult to see my camera LCD screen properly underwater what can I do?

It can be tricky to see LCD screens underwater, particular if you need glasses for your sight and wear prescription goggles.  You can buy LCD magnifiers that can be used underwater to increase the visibility of your camera/video recorder screens.  These handy devices are lightweight and easy to use.

2. I have just started out taking underwater photographs, what sort of camera should I get?

A digital underwater camera is a great option as these are easy to use and you will be able to download your pictures to your computer.  You can then use digital software to enhance your photos and tidy up any small mistakes.  If you are just starting out then you will not want to get too involved in the complexities of underwater lighting so it is a good idea to purchase a ‘self-contained’ digital camera with a polycarbonate housing.  These have internal flashes that are easy to set up and use and you will not need to take lots of extra equipment on your dive with you.

3.  How can I take good underwater photographs on a tight budget?

There is a lot of high end camera equipment around which can be too expensive for most divers.  Taking photographs underwater on a tight budget will involve a few compromises.  To keep the costs down you could take a regular SLR or compact camera and put it into a waterproof housing.  This would save you having to buy a specialised camera but you would not be able to use this at any great depth.   A pressure resistant housing (polycarbonate) will allow you to take cameras down to lower depths but will be a little bit more expensive.  Built in flashes are okay in very clear waters but if the water is even slightly cloudy then you will need to consider investing in an external flash unit. 

4.  Can you hire underwater cameras?

You can hire underwater cameras from some specialist centres but this can actually be more expensive in the long run than buying your own equipment.  Hire cameras undergo testing before they are released and need regular servicing and this can drive up the costs of hire.  Also if you are unused to the equipment you could accidently flood it and then you would have to pay for repair costs. If you are going to be taking photographs underwater on your diving trips it is best to buy your own equipment.

5.  What is backscatter?

Backscatter occurs when you use a flash to take pictures underwater. The light can refract off the particular present in the water and cause all kinds of light and colour distortions on your photographs.  To avoid backscatter you need high quality close focusing lenses and one or more external flash units to control lighting.  It can take a while to get adept at minimising backscatter and you can have some fun trying out different techniques.

6. Will I need a different underwater camera for different water conditions?

If you buy the right camera equipment you should be able to adapt it for use in most conditions.  If you choose a system that allows you to add supplementary lenses to the outside of the lens port then you will be able to change your camera manually to suit different underwater conditions.  You will be able to add a close-up lens for taking pictures in low visibility water and then replace this with a wide-angle lens if you want to take panoramic shots.

7.  What is best a wide-angle of close-up lens?

Each of these lenses are good for different reasons.  A wide-angle lens can be used to take some great shots in clear waters.  You will need this type of lens if you want to take panoramic shots or shots of large sea creatures.  A close-angle lens will be more effective in low visibility conditions and also for taking shots of smaller marine creatures and detailed images of wrecks and reefs.

8. What are UWCC filters?

UWCC stands for underwater colour correction.  There are two types: one for green bias waters which have a high presence of algae (such the Mediterranean) and one for blue waters which are very bright and clear (such as the Caribbean).  Water can refract light in slightly different ways so colour correction filters can help to offset these and create more natural looking pictures.  If you are on a tight budget then you can save money by carrying out colour corrections using digital camera software instead once you are back on dry land.

9.  How do I lubricate the camera O-Rings?

O-Ring seals help to keep your camera watertight so it is important to look after these and make sure they are supple and effective.  You should avoid using petroleum gel on camera O-Rings as most modern cameras now have silicone O-Rings and this can cause the material to wear more quickly.  You should be using fluorosilicone grease on any silicone O-Rings to keep them supple.

10.  How often should I service my underwater camera equipment?

You should check your camera equipment thoroughly after every dive.  This will allow you to make any necessary repairs well before you need to use the camera again.  Look at the O-Rings for signs of wear and check that all the functions are still working.   It is a good idea to take the camera apart and wash the separate components carefully and dry before reassembling.  This will help to remove any salts or chemicals that may have penetrated the housing.  You should also check the camera thoroughly before each dive as well.  You may want to get your camera equipment serviced by a professional once a year as well.