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Underwater Mode - Hit or Miss?


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 09:35 PM

One of the frustrations I have when shooting compact cameras underwater (and giving people advice about them) is the variability in the Underwater Mode function between different models.

On my last compact, a Fuji F40, it was a very useful feature down to 5-6m or more (say 15-20ft). But on my latest compact, a Fuji F50, it is useless - even at much shallower depths. Quite to my surprise.

Here is a test from an ideal location for underwater mode - Tiger Beach - on the recent Wetpixel Expedition. It is only about 3.5m deep (12ft) an ideal depth for underwater mode to produce something pleasing. But the result is far too blue:
uw_mode.jpg

Compare this with a manual white balance shot (no filter) taken on the same dive, which has much better colours:
mwb.jpg

And also a manual white balance shot with filter (in this case Auto-Magic). At such a shallow depth a filter is not really necessary, but I think it helps both the colour of the shark and richens the water colour compared to the just MWB shot:
mwb_filter.jpg

All these images are exactly as shot. Just resized.

Anyway, this leaves me confused as Underwater Mode is a software image processing feature, so you'd think it would be pretty consistent between two consecutive models from the same manufacturer. On my previous camera the Underwater Mode was a useful feature. Now it is not. It would be useful to compile a list of cameras where underwater mode is useful and where it is not. Has anyone got experiences to share.

Alex

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#2 marktol

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 12:00 AM

Hi Alex,

I have an Ixus 850IS in the Canon housing and last year spent quite some time snorkelling in a bay between 2-5 Meters in Tobago and I used the underwater mode with macro switched on as my standard setup and got some great results. Equally I used underwater mode on a lot of dives as well and again got some very good results. From what I can understand the underwater mode on the Canon Ixus range's tends to be pretty good? I found that I wasnt getting a huge amount better results using the MWB so in most cases didnt bother with the extra hassle! I dont have any examples to hand though im afraid.

I have since bought an Inon WA lense and Macro Lense's and an Inon D2000 strobe to use on my diving trip this year and am unsure of what the best settings would be to use for these now?

Thanks,
Mark
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#3 BrianM

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 02:18 AM

A good topic for discussion Alex, I'm interested to hear a few views on this.

I've tried the underwater scene mode on my Canon G9, it would appear to be a fixed shallow water WB adjustment and I think that it's probably designed with snorkelers in mind. It's better than not adjusting the WB, but at depths below 6m, I think it's better to use custom WB or a filter. I use the UR Pro filter, which overcompensates in shallow depths so the underwater scene mode does come in useful in this range.
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#4 jeremypayne

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 05:26 AM

I'll second Brian's findings on the Powershot G9's underwater mode. I'm not 100% sure what else is in the "mode" in addition to the UW WB, but I've used both the "mode" (which shoots JPEGs) and the WB setting that still allows creation of RAW files.

I have found the UW mode/WB on teh canon Powersots very effective for:

** The Pool
** Snorkeling
** Scuba at depths less than 25 feet

I think it does an excellent job in these circumstances.

Here's a couple examples - sorry, don't have any reference shots ... these were shot in the full "mode" as JPEGs. I was pretty shallow - about 10-15 feet.

Posted Image

Posted Image
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#5 bluespot

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 08:03 PM

Hi guys,

I have a Canon Powershot A610 and, for the majority of the time, I use the UW scene mode (which combines UW white balance with a slightly higher ISO than the auto mode, I think). I find it extremely effective to 30 feet. A lot of sunlight seems to help as well, unless it's just coincidence. Deeper than 30, there's too much blue, but a strobe corrects that issue. I've never compared it myself to other models, but I've seen similar results with the A620.

I'd definitely be interested in hearing about this feature on other cameras as well. Thanks for the posts!

#6 secretsea18

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 05:04 AM

I believe that Norbert Wu had a feature on the Sony DSC W300 a couple of months ago, and the UW mode was discussed and complimented by him in that feature.

#7 scorpio_fish

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 05:09 AM

I had a photo student with a piece of crap Sealife. The underwater mode actually worked pretty well.

I have a feeling that results will vary from camera to camera. Modes are just person picking settings at the factory. More aggressive changes to WB will probably work better deeper.

The Fuji tech person probably guessed wrong.
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#8 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 05:46 AM

Really useful discussion. It seems that there is a consensus that it can often be a good feature, but not always. And it does seem very variable between cameras (and there is no rule that newer ones are better than older models).

Alex

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#9 Dunadin

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 04:00 PM

I used to shoot with a Canon SD630 in manual mode with white-balance set for 'cloudy'. The UW mode did not do much good as it is only available in the fully automatic mode, which means that ISO and EV-bias are not accessible. Also, from very subjective comparisons, it seems to only set the white-balance. It does seem not have any other intelligent corrections like e.g. some Sony cameras seem to have.

btw. I still use the 'cloudy' setting on my 20D to get the jpegs out without too many WB corrections. I use raw+jpeg and look at the jpegs while still on vacation/boat and then at home to select which raw files to consider for real processing.

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#10 marktol

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 11:48 PM

Thats the one problem with my Ixus, it doesnt shoot raw (I know you can get a firmware hack but reading up on it I dont think it will give me much extra). I think my next upgrade will have to be something that will shoot RAW. I would prefer to stick with Canon but im not sure what would be best, I still want to use Inon wet lenses with a manufacturers housing not the Ikelite ones (I Dont like them)!

Maybe the G10 will be out in time for my upgrade which would probably be perfect looking at the number of people who shoot with the G9!
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#11 Timmoranuk

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Posted 27 August 2008 - 10:59 AM

The manual for my Pentax P&S (Optio 5i) states the underwater mode 'emphasises the blue'. 'Nuff said...

Edited by Timmoranuk, 27 August 2008 - 10:59 AM.

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#12 Dive Bunny

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 03:08 AM

Stumbled across this topic and as I'm looking to buy a Canon Ixus 80 IS which has the "Underwater" feature, I think this topic is very interesting! :uwphotog: In fact I didn't even think the depth would be a factor to consider with this mode until I perused all this!

I'm new to WetPixel and would like to know if there is a way to add topics of interests to a "my favourites" area on my profile? I would like to keep this discussion in mind and hopefully add to it if I decide to go for the Canon mentioned. I'm just trying to get fellow photographer's input on it first at http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=26550.

So yeah - please let me know if there is a way to mark topics of interest and if anyone has useful into on my own topic I'd be very grateful! :)

#13 rtrski

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 07:01 AM

So yeah - please let me know if there is a way to mark topics of interest and if anyone has useful into on my own topic I'd be very grateful! :uwphotog:


At the top of the forum you should see a My Controls link. Click it. Down the left hand side near the bottom is "Email Settings". On that page there's an option to set automatic email notification, after which point any thread you reply to you're automatically "subscribed" to, and you'll get email notifications when the thread is updated by new posts.

Later on you can use the "Subscriptions" options (also down that left hand side) in the My Controls page to manage subscriptions by thread or forum by deleting old ones if you want. (BTW, subscribe to a whole Forum category vs. a thread by using the "Options" dropdown at the top of the thread, right hand corner)

Edited by rtrski, 16 September 2008 - 07:05 AM.

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#14 Dive Bunny

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 10:43 PM

Found it thanks! I don't think I would have found it otherwise!

#15 andymoreno

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 11:53 PM

Hey,

I've got the Ixus 950IS and I've found that the UW Scene mode works pretty well at shallow depths, but bringing a slate or something to set the evaluative WB always produces the best shots...

Only my $.02
/A