Went on a weekend dive at Dive and Trek in Anilao. A friend was taking her open water course so a bunch of us tagged along. It was also good to meet up (underwater!) with Wowie, Jerome and the rest of the guys from Intel. On the side of the Internet community, Juned was able to drag Benj along. Fun times!
The full review and more underwater shots after the jump.
Apart from logging 6 dives, the guys from Sony were generous enough to lend me a Cybershot DSC T700 with a MPK-THG Marine Pack to try out! Thanks Sony, I am grateful.
Writing a review for a camera housing is a bit of a challenge given how the quality of photos taken doesn’t necessarily reflect the housing itself. There are just too many factors to consider when shooting underwater including (1) your visibility, (2) your ability to control your buoyancy, (3) the “limited” ability of a point and shoot camera in certain conditions, like white balance manipulation, and of course, (4) lighting with a strobe. Am I missing anything?
In this case, the deepest we went was at 91 feet (Batcave) but most of the time I had the camera, we were around 60 feet maximum depth. The best visibility was around lunch time during our second dive and a lot of the colors really stood out, especially the reds and yellows. According to Juned, knowing this bit of knowledge and the limitations of your camera should make you focus on looking for particular subjects like Clown Fish (Nemo) and saltwater angels as the reds, oranges and yellows really stand out. This was the limitation of the camera and it really isn’t a reflection of how “bad” or “good” it was. Get me? Taking photos underwater is as different as the experience of diving.
According to the text written on the box, the housing can achieve a maximum depth of 40 meters or 132 feet. If you’ve seen other types of underwater housing in the past, you’ll see how this particular model shines in terms of its size and efficiency. It is extremely compact and simple to use with only 4 function buttons, the review button, the power button and the trigger. The Marine Pack houses a DSC T700, which is a full touch screen camera which means that the four buttons on the casing press down on the touch screen and do not attach to any specific knobs or gears. Again, ease of use!
Preparing the camera and casing for shooting wasn’t too hard. The T700 comes with a built in underwater mode which allows you to customize your white balance according to three preset settings. This is good for amateurs and makes things a whole lot simple, but the ability to custom your WB underwater manually should be a MUST for more advanced shooting. Again, this is a FUN underwater P&S camera. I learned that the best photos are achieved by always shooting with flash (duh!) and adjusting your macro mode to close focus as it’s really useless to shoot far into the deep with low visibility.
The underwater mode also moves around the touch screen function buttons to the right side of the camera so that the 4 buttons can touch all the functions — which means that you will really need to shoot using this setting and no other when the housing surrounds the T700.
So, the day I got to Dive and Trek, Wowie and Marie helped me prepare the T700 for proper underwater shooting. I had to open the Marine Pack and remove all the dirt from the sides. After doing that, I removed the O-Ring and greased it (the packaging comes with a tube of grease and one extra O-Ring). I dumped the casing without the camera into fresh water for 3 seconds, 30 seconds, and then 3 minutes each time checking for leaks into the housing. None. Perfect! In our first dive, I brought the case in without the camera for safety and then placed the camera inside on the succeeding dives.
Battery life was a bitch so I had to recharge the camera after every other dive which meant opening the UW case and repeating the process of cleaning and greasing.
The UW case comes with a hood which you can attach to the back so you can avoid the glare when near the surface but I took it off after the first dive as we were going rather deep anyway.
The Marine Pack’s product text in front also glows in the dark so that it is easy to find when diving at night.
Bottomline, if you already own a Sony DSC T700 or a T77, this is a no brainer. The casing only costs P10,999.00 which is rather cheap for a sturdy case that allows you to reach advanced course diving limits. After buying this case you may want to invest in purchasing a strobe light. The only negative thing I can say about the camera pack is that battery runs out rather fast. After two hours of shooting underwater, I’m already low on battery, but that is mainly because I make videos and always have the flash turned on for photos.