Recently, OnFilmOnly.com released a list of their top seven film cameras for underwater shooting. The price range comes in from $10 to around $1,000. Underwater photography didn’t start with the advent of digital cameras, and, previously, film shooters had the options of either underwater housings (similar to many of the ones we see now for digital) or cameras specifically designed to handle underwater conditions. I think we are all familiar with the Kodak Water & Sport, even if the name isn’t familiar the blue outer skeleton will be. These cameras are still in production and, in fact, are probably available at your favorite beach-side convenience store. The photo above was taken with one from our last family vacation and processed by Indie Film Lab.
The Kodak Water & Sport usually runs between $10-$15 and includes a shock-proof frame and scratch-resistant lens. It is surprisingly equipped to handle depths of up to 50 feet. Also, you can send disposable cameras off to your favorite film lab and get incredible results.
Minolta Weathermatic 35DL
Next up on the list by OnFilmOnly.com is the Minolta Weathermatic 35DL. The standout yellow body includes a 35mm f/3.5 lens that has the option to zoom in to 50mm with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. The Weathermatic includes autofocus, which is a plus, but on the negative side it can only meter for ISO 100 and 400 films, the auto-flash cannot be disabled, and it taps out at a depth of 16 feet. I was able to find these online between $70 and $120.
Canon Sure Shot A-1/Wp-1
The Canon Sure Shot A-1 or WP-1 (same camera, different names) includes a 32mm f/3.5 lens that does include autofocus. As stated by OnFilmOnly.com, when you switch to underwater mode, the camera becomes a fixed-focus lens. I recently came across some incredible double exposures taken with this camera, which has me looking to order one for myself. I’m very curious to find out the limitations of the fixed focus. The auto-flash feature can be disabled, but this camera (like the Minolta) taps out at a depth of 16 feet. These cameras can be found online for around $100, although I’ve stumbled across a few that were unused for closer to $300.
Fuji Fujica HD-P Panorama
This very durable camera body is equipped with a 38mm with a very fast f/2.8 aperture. The Fuji also has a fantastic shutter range that goes from 1/8 of a second to 1/500. It also has great ISO and exposure control with settings from ISO 100 to ISO 1600 with half-stops as well. In reality, this camera is more water resistant than it is an underwater camera, as it can handle depths of only six feet. These are a little harder to find and come in around $70, but it’s quite the camera for under $100.
Sea & Sea MotorMarine II EX
The Sea & Sea includes a very intricate 34-element lens with a 35mm focal length. The camera also has a mount that allows you to attach a macro or 20mm wide-angle lens, and these can be attached while you are underwater, which is incredibly unique. It is a manual focus lens with an aperture range from f/3.5 to f/22 and a shutter speed range from 1/15 to 1/125. The ISO metering is limited to ISO 50, 100, and 400. The price tag on the Sea & Sea is around $50, although there is a full kit with lighting that can run around $200.
The Nikonos V is one of the most well-known underwater film cameras. The Nikonos V has six available interchangeable lenses. The lenses do need to be changed while on land and offer focal lengths of 15mm, 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, and an 80mm macro. The 35mm f/2.5 is the most common of these. Other favorable features include a manual exposure option, shutter speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000, and an ISO range from 25 to 1600. Some of my favorite features of the Nikonos V include the manual film advance (hello, double exposures) and the depth range of 160 feet. Due to the variation in lenses available, you will find differences in prices. The median range in price seems to be between $200 and $500.
If you are really looking to get serious with underwater film, the Nikonos RS might be your best bet (although I would lean toward the Nikonos V). The RS model is an actual SLR camera and was the world’s first of its kind. The Nikonos RS is designed to handle a depth of 320 feet, although according to OnFilmOnly.com, this model gained a reputation in the 1990s for having issues with the water sealing. This camera has an ISO range up to ISO 5000 with an exposure compensation of +/- 2. The SLR model also has a shutter speed range that surpasses the the previous model’s listed here, going from 1/2000 to a full second. The average price for the Nikonos RS seems to be around $1,500, although some can be found for under $1,000.