Sunday, January 06, 2008

Review: Canon WP-DC 70 Waterproof Housing for the SD500

Underwater camera housings are a specialty item, and are priced to match: this one cost $160, along with an underwater weight package to make the whole thing neutrally buoyant (by default, the package floats, which is not a good thing for SCUBA work). If you visit the Amazon page for this product, you'll see mixed reviews. But analysis of the reviews show that those who don't read instructions are the ones who complain the most. It is extremely important that the O-ring around the camera is greased with silicon grease regularly before dunking in water. You don't have to do this every day --- once a week worked for me, but obviously the more often you open up the case, the more likely the O-ring will dry out and the more frequently you need to re-grease it.

Another trick I learned from reading the reviews is the use of a silica gel packet --- get a small one, and stick it inside the casing next to the camera (there are some spaces available for precisely this) before closing the housing. This absorbs any residual moisture inside the case, which prevents the lens for fogging. (I wonder why no diving masks have this feature!)

The case itself is impressive --- every control on the camera is available from the case. The hood around the display ensures you get good visibility when you shoot, and we've field-tested our case down to 80 feet. (It's rated for 130', but I'm not about to risk my life for an equipment review) All the features (zoom, preview, video, etc) work and work well. If there's any flaw it's that if you put on sunscreen and then manhandle the camera, you get grease on the lens that's a bit hard to clean and a hazy halo effect. This goes away as soon as you clean off the lens, which isn't too hard, but if you don't look carefully at the pictures it's easy to miss. The other problem I found was that the weight screw unscrews too easily, and we lost a weight that way. I'm tempted to just super-glue the weight to the case.

Finally, a word to the wise for post-processing for underwater digital photos: Picasa's "I'm feeling lucky" feature works extremely well.

All in all, the case was well worth the value, and the next point and shoot will be a Canon simply because they're the only line of point and shoots that have a full range of underwater housings for their cameras. You''ll pay more for the gear, but it works, and you'll never be orphaned. Highly recommended!
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