Ok, now you’ve decided to go ahead and dive into digital, here are some useful things that will help your experience.
- Always use the maximum storage media available. If you’re using an Olympus 3000 or 4000 series camera you’ll use a SmartMedia Card. The maximum size available is 128MB. This means that at medium resolution you will be able to take about 180 images. That’s about 5 rolls of film. I always take my laptop so I can transfer my images to my computer at the end of each day, but if you don’t have a way of downloading the images while on a trip make sure to have enough SmartMedia cards. If you shop around the can easily find them in the $60 range as the prices have come way down recently. Remember, these cards are totally reusable AND you can selectively erase any unwanted images right from the camera.
Some other cameras take CompactFlash cards that are available up to 512MB and some newer cameras like the Olympus E20 will take an IBM Microdrive which are available up to 1 gig. The more pictures you can take the better!
- Use rechargeable NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) AA batteries. I have 4 sets of 4 batteries: 2 sets for my strobe and 2 sets for my camera. While I’m diving I’m recharging the other 2 sets. And I ALWAYS change batteries after each dive. There’s nothing worse than trying to get that shot you’ve always wanted and your batteries are dead. Also, use NiMH that have at least a 1600 mAh rating for long battery life. There are newer batteries out there that are 1800mAh and I expect to see even more powerful batteries available soon. Here’s a great source for all your battery needs Thomas Distributing.
- Use a focus light during night, deep water, and low light situations. If the camera doesn’t obtain a focus lock, your pictures will be soft and lack detail (or be out of focus altogether.) Light & Motion has a focus light holder available as an accessory.
- Here are a few ideas that I use with my Olympus 3030 but these will probably apply to other digital cameras as well:
- The most important setting I use, found in the "menu" section, is to set the camera display to the "check" function. You have 3 display options when you take a picture: 1) Off: the image is recorded directly to the media / no display 2) Record: the image is displayed for 3 seconds and then recorded to the media 3) Check: the image is displayed until you tell the camera to store it to the media or erase it. This is by far the best mode as you can check your image fully, decide if you want to keep it and what changes in exposure and composition you might want to make.
- Customize the "Reset All" feature on the camera and select the sub-menu "Custom" to specify your preferred settings. When Tetra is powered on you are ready to take pictures and not waste time programming the camera.
- Always turn the camera’s flash off using the flash button on the back of the camera. The camera’s flash is ineffective in the Tetra housing and will just consume battery power. If you are using external strobes they’ll fire every time a picture is taken and are not affected by the camera’s flash setting.
- Set the ISO rating to 100. Just like with film, you’ll achieve better color values.
- Set the Recording mode to SHQ or HQ. At these settings your image will retain their high quality for printing or photographic prints. A 128MB SmartMedia card HQ stores between 160-200 photos and is great for reproducing prints up to 10"x14". For larger prints use SHQ setting. SHQ stores about 25 – 45 photos on a 128MB SmartMedia card.
- Shoot in Manual Mode, the camera can’t predict or compensate for the light the strobe outputs. In Manual Mode you will be able to fully adjust both your aperture and shutter speed to capture the photo you want.
- Review your photo immediately after you take it. If the image is not the shot you want, make a correction to the aperture, shutter speed, composition, or strobe and shoot again. Repeat this process until you get the shot you want. This "Shoot-Review-Adjust-Shoot" sequence allows you exploit the instant feed back advantage that digital provides.
- Read the camera’s manual thoroughly and then read it again. You need to become totally comfortable with the camera topside to use it effectively underwater.
- Finally, become familiar with good photo editing software. Many people use Adobe Photoshop but become intimidated by its complexity. Although I use Photoshop, I more often use Jasc Paint Shop Pro, which I find much more user friendly. Most digital cameras also come with basic photo editing software that will usually do the job, but as always, practice makes perfect.