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Search for a Compact Waterproof Digital Camera with Viewfinder #3714
Back To Discussion List Written: 2011.05.31 by: Robin Tivy

For the past 7 years, I've been using my Optio 33 WR digital camera, which has an optical viewfinder. But it seems to have a battery problem, so I may need to buy a replacement. So I am looking for a new lightweight waterproof camera. Ideally I could find a good camera with an optical viewfinder, but it seems that these days, you can't get an optical viewfinder on a waterproof camera. The only camera I saw was a cheap $129.00 Canon, but it wasn't waterproof. So I assume I'll have to make do with only the view screen. So I'd like to hear what other people say.

The price range I'm talking about is something 400.00 or less. The two cameras I looked at were Pentax WG-1 for 399.00 and Pentax Optio W80 for $200. and Olympus TG610 for 399.00. I also studied the excellent review that Dieter wrote of his Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 which has a GPS.

So here are the points for discussion:

  1. No Optical Viewfinder. Am I correct in assuming that there are currently no widely available good waterproof cameras with optical viewfinders?

  2. Are the digital viewfinder screens usable? Given that you can't get an optical viewfinder, then the question becomes what is it like to try and get by on sunny days on glaciers? Ideally you can roughly tell what you've got in the picture frame, even though the detail will be washed out.

  3. Batteries: It seems that the AA battery system is being phased out, such that nowdays all new cameras have switched to rechargable Lithium battery. These seem to be about $50 at the camera store. But you can buy them online at $16 or so at places like Buy-Battery or BestBatt.com. The way to find the battery is to look up the model of camera. I noticed that both the Olympus TG610 and the Pentax WG-1 use the same 3.7 V 925 mAh Lithium. I couldn't find it at Buy-Battery, but I found it at BestBatt, the model is Pentax D-LI92 Li-Ion for 8.50. The technical specs tab says 3.7 Volts, 1000mAh. The 1000mAh is probably an exageration of the 925 mAh on the Pentax. Is there any battery that is more standard than other models? And where can you order them?


Comments

#1555 - 2011.09.19 Dean Richards - I did the same search
I searched on someone else's behalf for a camera that was tough (waterproof, drop-proof) AND had a viewfinder, but aside from the Optio, none really seem to exist, mostly because a viewfinder is just one more thing that can get damaged on what should be a tough camera.

#1539 - 2011.07.12 Mike Warren - pentax optio
I was very happy with two different Pentax Optio waterproof cameras I owned (I smashed one crashing my bike). A bonus for these is that the lens doesn't poke out, so you can shove it in your pocket right away when you're supposed to be belaying.

I have also owned an Olympus camera (drop proof, waterproof, can't remember exact model number) which was *terrible* in comparison -- the auto focus was slow and really crappy and it just in general took terrible pictures vs. the Optio.

I found the screen to be "good enough" for most applications. A little harder in the bright sun on a glacier, but good enough to see that you've got the faces/mountain and not your ski boot...

I believe these are now 12 or 14 megapixels.

#1534 - 2011.06.07 Sandy Briggs - Panasonic Lumix TS2
Last September I bought a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS2 compact digital camera. I looked for a camera that has an optical viewfinder and is waterproof but couldn't find one, so I went with waterproof. So far I have enjoyed playing with the video, and I shoot HD. The issue is that my Mac OS10.4.11 has no software that will play the MTS video files. Therefore I use my laptop at the office and the 'low-end' Wondershare software to trim the video clips and convert them (downgrade them) to MP4, and then to merge them into "award-winning" (ha ha) mini-movies. I have no desire to be a real movie-maker, and I don't need more time-sinks in my life, but I am enjoying playing. I have yet to learn how to use the features and settings to best advantage, so I often end up with low-end snapshot type still images, and these I consider, so far, to be more a reflection of my ability as a user than of the camera's capabilities. But I now hardly ever carry my digital SLR camera because of the size, weight, and lack of video capability. Sigh. I would say that using the screen in bright conditions is an issue, as is the auto-focus feature. In movie mode it sometimes doesn't seem to focus on what I would like it to focus on. Again, maybe a user issue. I bought two batteries at the time I bought the camera, so I have not yet dealt with the battery replacement problem. But I can vouch for the waterproof part, as I have tested it several times. So far, so good. One day during an ice-climbing practice session in Canmore in February the camera just ceased to function at minus 17 deg C after a few minutes exposure to the air. The video just stopped recording, but indeed the video up to the time the function stopped was there in the memory card.

#1533 - 2011.06.01 Steve Grant - How to get genuine oem spare/replacement batteries.
Finding a genuine replacement battery online is more of a process than a simple one-click purchase. I'll use the Pentax WG-1 as an example.

First, get the name of the battery (D-LI92)

Then go to eBay and search for the battery name. To simplify things, add the qualifier "-charger", and display the list with the highest prices first. If you get hundreds of eBay listings, add more qualifying words such as "genuine" or "oem".

Examine the ads. Some are easy to eliminate because they will say they are not oem. If they seem very cheap, like two batteries for $5, then you know they're not oem. If the graphics are different, it's not oem. If it doesn't have the camera maker's name on it, it's not oem. If the specs are BETTER than the oem, it's probably not oem.

If the price sounds right, say $20-$40, then carefully compare the picture to your oem battery. It should be identical, or close to it. Occasionally oem manufacturers will slightly change the graphics. Occasional clone battery makers go to some effort to duplicate the appearance of the oem battery. The danger is that if done well enough, they can then charge a price typical of the real oem battery. But it is illegal to foist a clone battery as the real thing, so somewhere in the fine print there should be disclosure.

In the case of the D-LI92, this battery probably is genuine oem: http://cgi.ebay.com/Pentax-D-LI92-Rechargeable-Lithium-ion-Battery-/330565086676?pt=Camera_Cables_Cords&hash=item4cf736edd4

The trouble is that they want $45 for shipping. Which is ridiculous.

There are a couple of other listings of oem D-LI92's, but they don't ship to Canada.

Then there's this listing: http://cgi.ebay.com/Li-Ion-Battery-D-LI92-/250819540397?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a660275ad

$38 for the battery, ships to Canada for $10.

If eBay drew a blank, you can look for a battery from an on-line business that sells camera batteries. Since they all have different selections, I can't just name a single source. Basically you go through the same procedure as for the eBay filtering.

I've bought a genuine Samsung SLB-0837 from http://stores.ebay.com/MyAccessoryMall?_trksid=p4340.l2563 Some of the clone batteries looked so genuine that they had the same red band around the battery. But the oem had a gradient fill to orange in the band, and the clone didn't have that detail.

I also bought a genuine Sanyo DB-L20AU from Amazon.com. Though it had to be sent to a US address.

*no doubt the links in this article will become outdated.

#1532 - 2011.05.31 Steve Grant - Buy oem replacement batteries
Though there are a vast number of online vendors offering "compatible" digital camera batteries, often with apparently superior specs and for very low prices, I suggest sticking with original equipment batteries.

Though the clone batteries seem ok at first, they rapidly degenerate in performance. For every digital camera I've bought, I've also bought compatible spare batteries. In every case, the original battery lasted years longer than the clones. Now, I carefully determine if replacement batteries are "genuine oem", and indeed they match the performance of the originals.

You have to go to some pains to make sure they are not clone batteries. Look for the words "genuine oem" in the ad, and carefully compare the graphics on the battery to the original.

Of course you could just get them from a camera store, but even then you could get clone batteries, and you'll pay $50-$70 for them. "Genuine oem" batteries cost $20-$30 online.

This applies to cellphone batteries also.