Splash ‘n’ Shoot

Summer is all about the right mix of sun and surf. It’s the perfect time – and light – for fun pics but can be brutal on a typical camera’s innards. That’s why you need a waterproof shooter. Unlike standard models that are often accessorized with a cumbersome dive case, these cams come ready to get wet. Some are even compact enough to stow in your swim trunks. Nice package!

How We Tested
Speed: Using a stopwatch, we clocked how long each camera took to power up and take a shot. We also measured shot-to-shot time – the delay between one shot and the next (with the flash off).
Image quality: We photographed the same indoor and outdoor scenes with each camera, then compared color saturation, detail, sharpness, and presence of artifacts such as purple fringing.
Water resistance: As each camera was immersed in a bathtub for 10 minutes, we turned it on and off and took photos underwater.
Low-light shots: If you’re taking photos in the rain or underwater, you’re not going to have much light – so we looked for sharpness and color quality with low-light, no-flash shots.

Olympus Stylus 720 SW
The Stylus was built from the ground up as a waterproof point-and-shoot. The shock-resistant case protects a 7.1-megapixel sensor, so you can drop it 5 feet or dunk it down to 10 and it will still produce big, beautiful shots with rich color and lots of detail. If you’re not the outdoors type, the pocketable shape and bright display make it a fine everyday camera, too. Easy-to-use onscreen menus offer a variety of preset scene modes, both terrestrial and aquatic. And like James Bond, the Stylus goes from undersea adventure to black-tie elegance without missing a beat. Now that’s style.

WIRED: Gorgeous, compact design. Fast 2.8-second shot-to-shot time. Bright 2.5-inch LCD easy to see in sunlight or darkness. Digital image stabilization counteracts your shaky grip. 3X optical zoom. Simple onscreen menus.
TIRED: Uses xD media cards, which are less common and more expensive than SD. Internal memory holds only six images at top quality.
$400 www.olympusamerica.com

Pentax Optio W10
WIRED: Waterproof to 5 feet. 2.5-inch LCD is bright and crisp. Overall image quality is quite good. Uses common SD cards.
TIRED: Murky, noisy low-light images. Easy to leave battery compartment unlocked, which lets water in. By default, screen goes dim after about four seconds, and it’s hard to find the menu setting to tweak it.
$300 www.h2ocamera.com

SeaLife DC500
WIRED: Waterproof to 200 feet. “Shark” mode reduces shutter lag to 0.3 second. Compatible with a wide range of underwater accessories, including powerful external flashes that are perfect for deep dives.
TIRED: Requires bulky enclosure (included) to be waterproof. Only 5 megapixels. Sluggish 4.7-second shot-to-shot time. Craptastic low-light pics. Cryptic menus.
$550 www.sealife-cameras.com

FujiFilm QuickSnap Marine
WIRED: Tough plastic housing resists knocking about and is waterproof to 35 feet. Floats. Dirt cheap. Handy rubber-band strap doubles as an excellent anti-sibling weapon.
TIRED: Not digital – requires film processing. Single-use: 27 exposures and that’s it. Absence of flash limits you to well-lit scenes. Bulky. Manual film advance means you can’t shoot faster than about once every six seconds.
$15 www.fujifilm.com

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Splash ‘n’ Shoot