The decision to commit to a digital SLR camera and housing is a daunting one. Financial costs can be considerable and one's aspirations as an up and coming underwater photographer may fail or succeed depending on whether you acquire the right equipment or not. Compared with compacts, an SLR offers a number of advantages, which include:
• Complete elimination of shutter lag, perhaps the utmost frustration with compacts;
• flexible, fast and responsive auto focus;
• wide selection of interchangeable lenses;
• a more accurate and sophisticated sensor and superior noise reduction qualities at high ISO settings.
In addition, there is a range of shooting options and menu settings which allow you to fine-tune the camera for optimal performance.
When selecting an underwater camera/housing system it's best to start by thinking through the subjects you will want to shoot and under what diving conditions. For instance for a photo trip to Sulawesi to shoot small subjects you will need a macro lens. For a reef and wrecks tour in the Red Sea you'll need an ultra wide angle (fisheye) lens. Keep in mind that a good quality SLR/ housing system will be of benefit for many years to come and will have the flexibility to meet future needs, not just your present ones. Make the wrong choice and you'll be frustrated and limited by the equipment.
In this chapter I explore those features of a typical SLR camera which from experience I consider to be significant to the underwater photographer. As a typical example let's take the 'depth of field preview button'. Whilst important to the topside photographer, it is of little significance underwater due to the inability to access this button through the camera housing, therefore it is not discussed. There is no order of importance to any particular feature so dip into those aspects which interest you the most.
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