Downsizing from a Digital d-SLR to a Compact Camera

It’s just been the best week ever back helping guests with underwater photography questions, whether that’s been tips for photographing trout in Brighton, or receiving heartwarming messages from Wendy in St Lucia telling me how much my book had helped her. Goodness, who would have thought that even one person was going to buy my book 10 years ago, let alone for it to end up all the way over there!

So this week, one guest posed a really thought-provoking question. How do you downgrade from a d-SLR and still be happy with the results that you are going to create?

There were all kinds of answers on the forum thread, from some saying that they would be disappointed with the Olympus Tough range as it doesn’t offer manual shooting or independent control over your shutter speed and therefore wouldn’t be as effective. Others were suggesting the newer Canon series which does have both these options, but then there are both Sony and Panasonic who also offer full manual capabilities and are just as brilliant.

So how do you choose between them all? I thought I’d write and throw in a few ideas. What do you want to achieve with your photography? Do you prefer the smaller stuff, or do wide, dramatic underwatery dreamy scenes float your boat more? Don’t forget that the Olympus TG range offers superb macro options, without the need for additional close-up lenses, and can still offer the addition of a variety of wide-angle lenses.

Size – do you still want your underwater rig to be large? Sometimes, choosing a compact with full manual controls may make the whole set-up just as large as what you originally had, so again, have a think and decide whether this is important to you. Do you really want to go smaller size-wise?

Price – can you get more ‘bang for your buck’ by spending money on extra lenses to get those dreamy scenes that you’re hankering after when we finally get back in the water. And of course, always make sure that they are going to fit onto the housing that you choose. For me, I am more passionate about capturing alluring seascape scenes underwater to entice the viewer into our world, give them a yearning to come and join our adventure as both snorkellers and divers. For most of my wide-angle scenes I’ve ever taken, most of them have been taken with a simple compact camera with either just Programme or Aperture Priority Mode, and I have been incredibly happy with them, just using my EV minus tool to help adjust the light allowed in. I’m incredibly happy with the macro mode with my Olympus TG (I’ll do a chat on this tomorrow) as it is.

Shutter Speed – the complete advantage that full manual cameras have over the TG range is the ability to change your shutter speed independently from the aperture. This means that you can get more creative with both your macro and wide-angle shots. With macro shots you can create darker blue to black backgrounds, with wide-angle shots you can create dramatic scenes, freezing rays of light at the surface.

Finally, and I know that I’m always super proud of the people who I helped do so well, but Daniel Norwood, one of the now Editors of Dive PhotoGuide, came to me back in 2008 asking me how to use his strobe. Who would have thought that he would scoop Sport Diver’s Photo of the Month in 2009, super scoop the ‘Best Beginner Competition” run by the British Society of Underwater Photographers back in 2009 beating the runner-up (Chairlady) by a whopping 27 points with only a Fuji F31 fd Compact Camera and one strobe purely on Aperture Priority with just three options f2.8, f5.6 and f8.

That for me says it all ….. It’s all about your eye, your ability to compose a photograph, to feel it come alive in your eyes and to capture the moment as it happens. Even your phone can do that.

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