I love snorkeling, and over the last 12 years or so that I have been snorkeling various places in my travels, I have tried to take some underwater photos. I tries a few different brands of disposable waterproof cameras - but the photos always came out terrible - maybe 2 shots in 25 even worth keeping. The color was all off, no zoom, they were always a waste of money and time. I gave up on underwater photos and just tried to remember and enjoy as I went. However, recently I took my first really intense snorkel trip, where the focus of the trip would be underwater, and I really wanted to be able to capture SOME memories of the trip. Imagining having no photos of a nearly 2 week snorkel adventure seemed depressing. So I decided to try and do some research and come up with a plan to try and get some decent photos. I am pleased to report that I am THRILLED with the results and will post some photos of the trip here in the coming weeks.
If you are interested in a fairly inexpensive solution to underwater photos, here is some of the information I found useful. Of course, I read a number of reviews of cameras designed for underwater and point and shoot options. For example, here are some comparisons of 2014 models available. In the past I have had a lot of luck with Panasonic Lumix cameras so I was strongly leaning towards getting a Lumix or an Olympus based on all the many, many reviews. The problems were, I didn't want to spend that much, the zoom wasn't much, and you have to "reseal" the camera every year to have it remain waterproof - and if the seals leak, your camera is toast. I didn't think it was a good investment given the initial outlay, the times I will use it, and the maintenance costs.
The article I found most helpful in making decisions was focused on snorkeling vs. diving, and although not everything in it applies, it gave me useful info to consider. In the end, I decided I would go with a Canon S95, which is not the most current Canon, but performed well for snorkelers, and get a waterproof case for it. Though I considered the cheap "bags" you can get to put a regular camera in, I wanted a real waterproof case for durability and not all cameras are designed with housings. Also, the housings are SUPER expensive. No way was I going to spend $300 on a camera and $750 on a housing! On Ebay, I found a used Canon S95 for about $100 and I got a new underwater housing for it from China on Ebay for about $100 more. I also got 2 spare batteries (also on Ebay) and made sure everything arrived in time for me to test it all out before the trip. I thought this was a middle of the road solution - if it worked, great - if not, I would have invested less than on a new camera and could likely re-sell both items for close to what I paid for them after the trip.
The underwater housing proved sturdy, easy to operate underwater (even with neoprene gloves), and worked great for snorkeling, as well as even for the free diving my husband did to get some shots deeper underwater. I added an underwater camera flotation strap, but the case itself floated...which was great! I just didn't want it swept away in current so the strap gave me a way to anchor it that was convenient. I snorkeled with it about 6 hours a day for 12 days and never had any issues.
The camera got some really nice shots and was amazingly easy to operate. I put it on scene, "underwater" and never adjusted anything. The flash was automatic and came on a few times - the case comes with a flash diffuser - and that worked great too.
Overall I think this is a very nice setup and I really, really wish I had found it before I visited Galapagos and some of the other cool snorkel sites I have been to in the past. But, better late than never! While the photos are not nearly as good as ones by people who really know what they are doing and adjust for white balance and have an SLR and get perfect pics with practice - I don't want to mess with all that. I want to focus on breathing, swimming, seeing, and just capture some memories along the way. This was a great solution!