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Underwater cameras test 2011

1 August 2011
Szymon Starczewski

8. Summary

Underwater cameras test 2011 - Summary

This way we reached the last chapter. It’s time to sum up the results of our test. As it was done before, each category will be assessed and marked separately.

Parameters:

In this category the Olympus TG-810 and the Panasonic FT3 are the best. Both cameras feature a solid casing, able to withstand a depth of 10 and 12 meters. They have an inbuilt stabilization system and wide-angle lenses. Additionally the Olympus stands out against the rest with its excellent LCD screen and shutter speeds reaching 1/2000 of a second; the Panasonic, on the other hand, features the best aperture fastness and the ability to record Full HD movies. Immediately behind these two we placed the Sony TX10. It’s waterproof only to 5 meters but it has a high resolution LCD screen and a lens with the largest field of view, it also gives you an ability to record Full HD videos. The fourth place went to the XP30 which also can be submerged to 5 m but, unfortunately, comes without an HDMI port and such a wide angle lens as the TX10. The last one is the WG-1 – as the only camera here it doesn’t feature any image stabilization and, by and large, is a very average device.

Use, cleaning, wear and tear

Here all the cameras fared very similarly indeed but we were put off the most by the Pentax – very difficult to clear, with an LCD protective window made of too soft material – and the Panasonic, which doesn’t boast durable varnish on the rim of its lens. The FT3 got half a point more for the brush, included in the box, which makes the cleaning definitely easier. The TG-810 fares very much alike – it isn’t easy to clean and the cover, protecting its lens, can often get blocked. The Fujifilm and Sony compacts went to the top of the list: they don’t cause you any cleaning problems and their casings are rather durable. However the former worried us because of water seeping under the back panel and flowing outside in the least expected moment and the latter had a scratch-prone LCD screen.

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Additional functions

When it comes to additional functions the Olympus, with its GPS receiver, a great depth gauge and a compass was the best. The second place went to the Sony for the excellent sweep panorama function with an underwater mode and the possibility of taking 3D photos. On the same place we put the FinePix XP30 which allows you to shoot panoramic photos as well and its GPS works very well, even featuring a tracking function. The Panasonic FT3 was granted just one point. Mainly for good intentions of its constructors, we must add, because its additional functions either didn’t work at all or were useless. The last place unfortunately once again is occupied by the Pentax which, apart from the panorama photo function, doesn’t offer anything more.

Underwater usage

The last place in this category is rather undisputed. It goes to the Cyber-shot, a disgraceful loser, which doesn’t allow us to change any parameters under water and has many other flaws making our life more difficult. The winner is the Panasonic, which is very fast, with a problem-free autofocus and a possibility to adjust the white balance while submerged. What’s more its producer also remembered about a wrist strap with a clasp. Other models were placed in the middle but the XP30 fared the worst of them, losing points for a slow, inaccurate autofocus and an unpredictable exposure. The Olympus charmed us with its perfect LCD screen but it is still too slow to compete with the Panasonic and also its underwater modes should be made more functional. The WG-1 lost points for an inaccurate AF, lack of a dedicated video button and too small panoramic screen.

Quality of underwater photos

The first place in this case won’t surprise anyone. The best fared the Sony TX10 which offers photos of very good colouring and rich in detail. The perfection hasn’t been met yet – the camera doesn’t perform in green waters equally well. The FT3 can also give us detailed pictures but it lost some points due to weak colouring of photos taken in shallow waters. The Panasonic and the Olympus share the third place –their photos have decent colouring and you can’t complain about the number of details either. Fuzzy photos from the WG-1 and weak colours of the XP30 made these cameras the worst in this category of all.

Underwater videos quality

Once again the Sony leads here. It offers movies of the highest quality, with beautiful colouring and rich in detail. Although the number of details on the Lumix’s videos is on the same level, the movies got worse assessment because of weak colouring when you record them in shallow waters. The third place occupies the Olympus – it managed the best among the cameras giving you the maximum 1280×720 pix recording resolution. The last places went to the XP30 and the WG-1 because the Motion JPEG coding doesn’t work in cameras well. The Pentax additionally lost some points because it doesn’t offer you the possibility of zooming.

Dry land photos quality

The analysis of crops we did in the previous chapter showed clearly that the Lumix FT3 beat the competitors here. The Sony fared a bit weaker and its score was additionally lowered because of the weak image quality in the frame corners. The Olympus and the Pentax represent a similar level in the frame centre but the latter lost a bit more because the loss of resolution on edges. The weakest here is the Fujifilm XP30 which images are definitely of the lowest quality.

Dry land movies quality

Here the situation is similar to the underwater movies’ category. The Sony wins here indisputably and the Panasonic loses to it by just one point because of its noticeable problems with the autofocus work. The third is the Olympus – because it uses the MP4 format the images are quite detailed. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the Pentax and the Fujifilm devices which offer videos of weak quality and the WG-1 additionally loses one point more because of the lack of zooming.

Final assessment

The tested cameras were awarded points in every category, listed above, according to the following scale:
  • Parameters: 0–5 points,
  • Use, cleaning, wear and tear: 0–4 points,
  • Additional functions: 0-3 points
  • Underwater usage: 0–5 points,
  • Quality of underwater pictures: 0–10 points,
  • Quality of underwater movies: 0–8 points,
  • Quality of dry land pictures: 0–10 points,
  • Quality of dry land movies: 0–8 points.
Let’s find out how many points out of 57 the particular cameras got:

Fujifilm
XP30
Olympus
TG-810
Panasonic
DMC-FT3
Pentax
WG-1
Sony
TX10
Price (according to B$H as of. 01.08.2011)
200 $
400 $
320 $
274 $
330 $
Parameters [0–5 pts]
2.5
3.5
3.5
2
3
Use, cleaning, wear and tear [0–4 pts]
3
2.5
2.5
2
3
Additional functions [0–3 pts]
1.5
3
1
0.5
1.5
Underwater usage [0–5 pts]
2
3
4
2
0
Underwater photos quality [0–10 pts]
5
7
7
5
9
Underwater movies quality [0–10 pts]
4
6
7
2
10
Dry land photos quality [0–10 pts]
3
7
10
6
8
Dry land movies quality [0–10 pts]
4
6
9
2
10
FINAL SCORE [0–57 pts]
25
38
44
21.5
44.5


The Lenstip.com editorial team decided to award the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 “The Choice of the Lenstip.com editorial team” distinction for winning this year’s underwater cameras’ test.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10

Underwater cameras test 2011 - Summary


We have a winner then. The two-year long winning streak of Panasonic in our underwater compact cameras’ tests is finally broken by the Cyber-shot TX10. Although this camera is waterproof only to a depth of 5 m and its usage underwater is a real horror the new Sony model defended itself very efficiently (of course within the assessment criteria set down by us) because of its perfect underwater photos quality and unparalleled quality of videos recorded both under water and on dry land. Despite that facts in our opinion the producer should seriously take into account the creation of a new series of diving cameras which could be developed along the stylish Cyber-shots, dedicated to surface diving and snorkeling. It would be really a great move – to give up the touchable interface and to put the electronics of the camera into a solid, bigger casing, able to withstand the pressure even of more than a dozen meters. We would have a perfect underwater instrument and now we are left with a slink compact which performs splendidly during snorkeling but is not fit for real diving.

Here the Panasonic FT3 can help us. It was placed the second, losing to the winner just 0.5 of a point. It is a very well-made product and every recreational diver, not drawn to depths of over 12 m, should have it in its diving vest. Unfortunately the Panasonic engineers rested on their laurels and for 2 years haven’t been able to improve the colouring of photos taken in shallow waters.

The high result of the Olympus is certainly something to be glad with – it got rid of many flaws, criticized by us in the older version of this model. The camera now proves to be a happy medium for those who can’t afford to spend 400 $ but appreciate a decent quality of photos and movies, good workmanship and like diving only several meters underwater.

The Fujifilm underwater compact traditionally occupies a far position. You should remember, though, that it is a low-budget product, certainly worth its money. It’s a pity that this time the producers didn’t polish up the autofocus and light metering - the camera would be definitely more enjoyable then.

The last place went to the Pentax WG-1. This camera was considered the weakest in almost all categories. Its constructors haven’t changed anything for two years. Introducing one novelty in the form of a new sensor, didn’t do the camera any good – the camera lost beautiful colours which we admired so much in the photos from its older model, and the video mode remained the same - simply outrageous.

At the end traditionally let’s try to answer the question: „which camera should I buy?” Everything depends on what are you planning to do. If you are going on holiday to Egypt and you like splashing around in the water but you are not so keen on descending to greater depths the Sony TX10 will be a perfect answer. If you like recreational diving the Panasonic FT3 should be hidden in your pocket. If your budget is a bit limited and you are looking for something more all-purpose the Olympus TG-810 will be very helpful. If you have already spent almost all your money on the holiday trip and you reminded yourself at the last possible moment that you didn’t have any device to take your photos with you are left with the Fujifilm XP30. The Pentax WG-1 is an option only for true fans of this brand.