An underwater camera allows you to capture parts of the world most people only see on screen savers. The photos taken from below the water line (or AT the water line) make for a great photo album, scrapbook, etc. They add tons of color, depth (literally AND figuratively!), and spark a whole different level of nostalgia in the memory when recalling the unique experiences shared in marine situations. But since most cameras you’d have on vacation can’t handle more than a few drops of sea spray, why should the whole poolside/underwater/starboard-side portion of the trip settle for living solely in your mind’s eye due to your existing non-water-compliant camera’s technological shortcomings?
If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer to carry as little around as possible when going on a vacation, especially one where a lot of time will be spent by the water. Many people usually lug around a digital camera for pictures above the water and a separate underwater camera for capturing shots of the beauty below the surface. In most instances the underwater camera is bulky and awkward, and takes up lots of unnecessary space. Price and quality are reflexive properties too for these specialized cameras, and pictures taken with disposable cameras are very poor quality. This doesn’t have to be the case!
There are several finalists in the search for an underwater camera that doubles as an everyday digital camera. These cameras perform well underwater and are the same compact size as your traditional digital camera. I am very particular in choosing a reliable waterproof digital camera, and have done the legwork for you. After all, I want to make sure the photos from MY vacation are as high in quality as my memories will be, without spending next year’s vacation money on the camera itself! I ended up purchasing what I believe to be the best camera for wet and dry use: the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000.
I was drawn to Olympus for the reliable brand name and competitive pricing their cameras offered. Personally, I have had luck with this brand, and I am more likely to trust electronics that come from more well-known brands, as they tend to have better customer satisfaction rates -and better warranties.
There were many reviews available on the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000, which is the predecessor of the Tough 8000. All the reviews I read on the Tough 6000 seemed to be much better than what I read about the other all purpose, underwater digital cameras. Why did I not go with the Stylus 6000? Well, other than the fact that the Tough 8000 was newer, shinier and more recent, the 8000 had something to offer that its papa didn’t – DEPTH!!
While sounding like an amazing camera, the Stylus 6000 is rated to a depth of 10 feet. This is perfect for many average vacations involving water, like playing in the shallows at the resort pool, or puddle-jumping on an ATV tour. It’s also great for kayaking, general swimming, shallow snorkeling and taking pictures in the rain. As an avid snorkeler & free diver I needed something that could go deeper. The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is capable of going down to 33 feet with no special case or underwater housing, just the camera itself, AS IS! Most cameras with this capability are much larger and bulkier, which brings me to the next deciding factor for my purchase: SIZE!
Having an all in one camera was essential to my decision. I did not want to have to lug around two cameras, nor did I want some giant beast of an underwater camera. After all, I’m not filming a National Geographic special; I just want a compact camera that takes quality photos above and beneath the surface. Size-and-specs-wise, Stylus 8000 suited my needs just fine. The camera itself is 2.4×3.7x.85, and weighs 6.4 ounces. Photo image quality can be set up to 12 megapixels, which offers a lot of versatility, depending on your intended use. (Note: At 12 megapixels, you will have the opportunity to blow up that once-in-a-lifetime-I-can’t-believe-we-saw-this shot to poster size and show it off withOUT any blurriness or loss in detail!)
Also, the lithium-ion rechargeable battery is majorly impressive in terms of long battery life and short recharge time. It was used in and out of the water repeatedly throughout each day with no low battery problems. A major improvement from typical AA battery cameras. Also, the low battery level indicator gives you plenty of warning, so you have a chance to either get to a charger or become picky with when to turn the camera on so you don’t miss out on the most special shots.
A final but VERY important factor I feel I should mention when talking about owning a reliable digital camera, whether intended for use above or below the water, is ease of use for others. Yes, this camera has a great timer for self portraits – even a self-portrait mode – and the owner will usually be the photographer, but it’s nice to have the option to hand that camera over and say cheese once in awhile. With the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000, point and shoot is easy to do with little technological background. The screen is a nice size for previewing (2.7 inch LCD display), autofocus is effortless, and the shooting button is right on the top! For more ambitious portrait-takers, the 3.6x optical zoom is easy to maneuver, and there are many picture modes, including Portrait, Sunset, Indoor….even Panoramic. There is even a Face Detection function that will autofocus figures in the picture – just in case Aunt Ruthy had a few too many when she was lining up the family table shot at Thanksgiving!