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Cameras for Outdoorsman and Fly Fishermen
Eugene Macri

Panasonic Underwater Camera at Cameras for Outdoorsman and Fly Fishermen at

I've watched fly anglers use their valuable cell phones for outdoor cameras and I must shake my head. I've also watched these phone cameras get dunked! I really don't understand it because waterproof pocket digital cameras are relatively cheap when compared to what it costs to replace your phone. There are some truths and myths about digital cameras especially these underwater versions that the camera and photo magazine industry won't tell you. This includes most review websites which are nothing more than glorified media releases. Over the years I've made part of my living doing photography and graphic arts so I know a little bit about the subject.

The Truth About Digital Cameras

Let's start about the basics of digital cameras that you won't find likely elsewhere:

  1. Digital Cameras especially the Point and Shoot Models have poor quality control!
  2. The Reason for this is that they are made in China!!!!! Everyone in the industry knows this but it's seldom talked about. The reason for this poor quality control includes many things but the main one is that this stuff is cheaper to produce with returns than to make an extremely quality product more slowly with more cost. This includes TVs, radios, small appliances etc.
  3. When most electronics were made in Japan the quality and quality control of the product was exceptional. In China this is not true. An example of this is in shortwave communication receivers. The older receivers which were made in Japan are still in demand despite the newer units with such things as Digital Signal Processors. There use to be a joke about the quality of stereo equipment: "if it's's good." In some ways that may still be true. I have stereo equipment that is over 30 years old built like a battleship that will literally blow away the junk that's made today even though the junk today still costs a lot!
  4. For some reason and I don't know exactly why but older analog film cameras were much better built than today's plastic incarnations. The real problem is that if you tested the same 10 analog 35 mm rangefinder type cameras the photos (film) were pretty much the same. Try that with 10 of the same model digital point and shoot cameras and you'll find out what I mean. In fact, I did this with three point and shoots of the same model and the photos were all over the map. That's another reason you can't always trust the reviews because they only test one camera. Often times you'll find the same camera with massively different reviews from different websites even though they are the same exact model. One of the problems is that these digital cameras use software algorithms with hardware specifics. Sometimes the manufacturer will change the algorithms depending when the camera is produced. If you happen to get one with an older algorithms you may be out of luck. Most of the larger 35 mm type cameras can update the algorithms and software. Many of the point and shoot models cannot. Furthermore, sometimes just small hardware changes will affect the algorithm and the quality of the photography.

The Myths that The Camera Stores and Manufacturers Tell You about Digital Cameras 

Canon Underwater Camera at Outdoor and Underwater Cameras at

You are about to buy a digital camera and you are bombarded with more misinformation and noise than the average fly fishing article ( which is a hell of a lot)!  Like cell phones digital cameras especially point and shoot manufacturers produce new models every 6 months or less (talk about environmental damage)!  Therefore, you should take all this bullshit with a grain of salt...if you know what I mean. Here's the real scoop on buying a digital camera especially a point and shoot tough or underwater camera for fishing or the outdoors:

  1. The Greater the Number of Megapixels the greater the image quality!  WRONG!!!!!! This is one of the great scams going. And many people buy another camera because they think the greater number of pixels will make them a better photographer and get better photographs.  Nothing could be further from the truth. You become a better photographer by learning about the art and science of photography,  The best camera won't make an idiot a good photographer.
  2. The sensor in almost all point and shoot camera is relatively small compared to the sensors in a larger SLR type digital camera.  By increasing the pixel count you often magnify noise in the photo! A 16 mega pixels sensor on a point and shoot is nowhere the size of 16 megapixel sensor in SLR digital camera nor wiill they produce the same results.  They are not the same and don't let any salesman or website sucker you on this. They are not the same animal!
  3. The salesman tells you that you need a larger pixel count to blow up and make enlargements.  WRONG!  If you have a decent camera and know how to use it, any Point and Shoot with a megapixel count of 6 will give you enough information for a 16 by 20 inch photograph!
  4. The larger number of pixels give you better color......not usually and since you can tweak a photograph in most digital software (often given free with the camera) don't fall for this either.
  5. It has million bells and whistles and you are getting all of these free. First, you will never use most of these features and second and this important especially if you are trying to get a photo of fish without killing it:  you must navigate tons of layers of menus to get to these settings. Not what you want in the field!!!!!!

Nikon Underwater Camera at Outdoor and Underwater Cameras for Fly Fishermen at

How to Buy The Best Outdoor Digital Camera for Your Money

Most people are impulse buyers and the camera stores, manufacturers, and websites know this. However, if really don't mind doing your home work you can get the best camera for your money and your adventures.

  1. Go to the camera manufacturer's website and download or look at the manual (these are usually in PDF files).  These are usually available and if you don't like the layers you must go through or the specs you should find out before you buy the camera.
  2. If this camera is to fit in a specific pocket on your vest (mine do) make sure measure the pocket and look at the camera measurements. Nothing like buying a camera that won't fit, or you could buy a new vest ( your wife is going to shoot you).
  3. Look at the reviews on the websites for a number of cameras and at different sites.  Remember that these sites sell advertising and will downplay the negatives of the camera. This will give you a general idea of what the camera does.  Just don't put too much faith in their recommendations.
  4. Almost all of these cameras are good below 10 feet and are shockproof, freezeproof  etc. so decide which parameters interest you most.
  5. Do you need GPS in your camera?  If you don't you probably will save some money.
  6. Most of these cameras don't have great zooms and you really don't need these any way. Some newer ones now have 8x but most have 4 to 5x and that's all you need. Also, the best point and shot cameras (Canon) all have optical image stabilization. Check what types each camera has that interests you. Remember it's optical zoom that counts..not digital zoom.  Digital zoom is just taking the image and enlarging it. Use only the optical zoom on these cameras.  Some have both.
  7. Look carefully at last years models, usually found at a discount.  Many of the newer models are advertising more bells and whistles that you really don't need.
  8. Rate the important qualities that you want in the camera.  Make yourself a check list.  Is image quality the most important item you want?  But be careful because some review that rates one camera's image quality 9.3 and another 9.0 is of limited value.  Many point and shoot cameras aren't so good in the studio but are better in the field.
  9. Decide if you want video ability and what the quality might be and what you'll pay for. For example , most but not all take high definition video but their are variable qualities in that too.
  10. What's your price point?  You can pay anywhere from $150 to over $1000 for these cameras.  What do you really need and how are you going to use it.
  11. Remember most of these cameras will need an internal memory card.  Make sure you get a fast card (Class 10) and some photographers will pay more what they call an extreme card that is supposedly tougher for these cameras.  All of these cameras have rechargeable Li-on batteries and they should give you enough shots for a couple days of shooting and fishing before needing a recharge.

Now for the Real Downer That No One Will Tell You About In Buying an Outdoor Waterproof Digital Camera

Olympus Underwater Camera at Outdoor and Underwater Cameras for Fly Fishermen

I really thought of leaving this out but here it goes: Most of these cameras no matter what you pay for them will not shoot as well as a regular point and shoot in the same price range.  Why?  Well, because the lens and everything is a compromise for what you get. The rule of thumb here is usually that the more expensive in range of cameras will have better image quality overall,  In other words, 5 cameras in the $250 to $350 range will have much better image quality and than 5 underwater cameras in $100 to $200 range.  This is usually true. But, the same amount of money would probably buy a much better non underwater point and shoot camera in terms of image quality and video quality.

That's not to say that some of these cameras aren't impressive but putting the images side by side and blowing them up will show the differences. Also, some of these cameras have  shutter lag and also weak flashes.  The auto setting on point and shoot for video doesn't always work well.  And finally what no one will tell you but I will.  To take a photo on a stream or river is really hard to do accurately because of all the glare and the massive contrast differences and the fact that the light is constantly changing! Streams and rivers shots maybe the hardest to take no matter what you are using.  Also, you can't usually put polarizer filter on these cameras. On almost all of these cameras the meters get fooled a lot and the images are less than what you thought.  So practice and understand all things you can do from the auto shots to manual to find out what works for you. I hope this helps you out in choosing a camera and save your cell phone for babes at the bar..just kidding.  What's this no recommendations?  Well below are some decent cameras in no special order worth checking out.  Tight lines....and good photography!

Top  Underwater Outdoor Rugged Cameras

Pentax Underwater Camera at Outdoor and Underwater Cameras for Fly Fishermen at

  1. Pentax WG-3  Price Range Around $266 and up
  2. Canon Powershot D20  Price Range $280 and up
  3. Olympus TG 830iHS  Price Range $200 and up
  4. Sony Cyper Shot DSC-TX 30  Price Range $370 and up
  5. Nikon Coolpix AW110  Price Range $ 219 and up
  6. Panasonic Luminix  Price Range $199.00 and up

There are many other good underwater cameras but I consider these the best in image quality for the money.  There are more expensive models from each company. As I was writing this Canon and Pentax just put out new models!  You can find last years models of the same cameras at more discounted prices and most of the time they may be the same camera without GPS or some other add ons. 

Sony Underwater Camera at Outdoor and Underwater Cameras for Fly Fishermen at



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