Cameras for Outdoorsman and Fly Fishermen
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
Let's start about the basics of digital cameras that you won't find likely elsewhere:
Digital Cameras especially the Point and Shoot Models have poor quality control!
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.
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 heavy..it'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!
For some reason and I don't know exactly why but older analog film cameras were
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
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!!!!!!
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
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.
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).
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
Almost all of these cameras are good below 10 feet and are shockproof, freezeproof etc. so
decide which parameters interest you most.
Do you need GPS in your camera? If you don't you probably will save some money.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Now for the Real Downer That No One Will Tell You About In Buying an Outdoor
Waterproof Digital Camera
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 WG-3 Price Range Around $266 and up
Canon Powershot D20 Price Range $280 and up
Olympus TG 830iHS Price Range $200 and up
Sony Cyper Shot DSC-TX 30 Price Range $370 and up
Nikon Coolpix AW110 Price Range $ 219 and up
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.