Gil writes:

> Two questions which I hope you guys can help me with:
> 1.  What (if any) opinions do you guys have on buying a
> digital camera and a housing?  I am on the road to
> purchasing a digital camera in any case, and Iím just
> wondering should I buy the housing now as well.

The past history of UW housings for video cameras has been that the
electronics kept changing so rapidly that it became hard for the housing
companies to keep up with the rapid roll-over in video camera models, so
cameras didn't stick around long enough for housings to be developed or
worth supporting.  Digital cameras are continuing this trend.

Consequently, your best bet is to shop "backwards":  find the housing first
and see what  digital cameras this search leads to, then do your selection.
You don't technically have to buy the housing right away, but it is a very
good the very least, make sure to monitor both the camera model
and housing to make sure to pick it up before either has been discontinued.

BTW, I did send a note to Ikelite asking if they support the EOS-3 or EOS-1v
35mm SLR's and this was part of their response:

"As everything has gone digital, the demand for 35mm SLR housings has almost
disappeared.  We will still build custom housings for any of the newer SLRs
we can accommodate. A custom is likely possible for all of the Canon SLR's
you mentioned at $800.00 retail cost and $175.00 for each lens port."

Specifically on digital, they recommended checking out the Nikon Coolpix 995
($950.00 retail), along with its accompanying housing (Ikelite model
#6177...MSRP $950) and wide angle adaptor (#0904.37...$80).

> I have done some underwater photography with a MX-10 (Sea&Sea),
> and it was a blast but it was not my camera.  Any comments will
> be appreciated.

Overall, I think there's two things to consider.

On the film side of the film -vs- digital question, it appears that the
"non-low end" 35mm UW equipment is only going to increase in cost with the
drop-off in demand.  I don't want to say that it is a "now or never" for a
medium/high end 35mm system, but I would say "hurry up".  This is yet
another factor to consider if your preference is to go with film.
Personally (see below), I'm planning on sticking with film for at least a
few more years.

On digital, there's going to be real issues with archiving (see the book
"Silicon Snake Oil"), but the first question is its suitability.  It comes
down to what you intend to use your images for, both in the near term as
well as for the foreseeable future if the current crop of digital has what
it takes.

The problem that I personally see with Digital is that it's OK for webpage
images, but it still doesn't have the resolution for anything major
"serious".  I know that my need for "serious" outputs is still very limited,
but at least with film, my library is capable of it, if or when the need
arises.  Going from film to Digital today will leave a capability gap in my
image library, which won't be filled until such time that Digital data
density increases by roughly an order of magnitude from where it is
currently at (and I convert over).  Consequently, I'm inclined to wait
awhile longer.

I've also found that there are many technical issues with digital that merit
a lot of research if it is to be anything but casual snapshots.  The first
one I came across was the digital equivalent of film speed (ISO).  Pretty
much all of the "affordable" digital cameras are ISO 100 only, and while
this doesn't have that large of an impact on conventional UW photography, it
is an issue in low light and long telephoto.  There also seems to be some
rumbling about how to manage white balance, and CCD sensor
(over/under)saturation that seems to only promise headaches if you push the
technology.  These issues have also existed with film, but we have already
developed and worked out the solutions.  I'm willing to sit on the sidelines
while the early adopters to solve these problems for me :-)

In closing, while I'd personally like to try digital, I'm not particularly
satisfied with the price:performance of the systems as it relates to
supporting good, high resolutions.  I'm trying to figure out what that
really means, in terms such as what I consider my minimum threshold
resolution criteria to be for a "real" camera system.  I feel that the
answer is going to be somewhere around 16-32 Megapixels, based on what I get
from a slide scanner from which delivers ~25 MByte files.

FWIW, I consider the current state of the art in digital to be the Canon
EOS-1D SLR, which has a 4 Megapixel, 36 bit (12 * 3 channels) CCD.  Its
expected street price is ~$6500.  It also comes with the trade-off that it
alters the focal lengths of all EF lenses mounted on the camera by +30%.
This is good news for telephoto (because 300mm becomes ~400mm), but bad news
for wide angle (like for UW photography), because you'll need to buy the
$2100 14mm lens to be equivalent to the $500 20mm lens...14mm * 1.3 = 18.2mm

No, there's absolutely no such thing as anything close to a free lunch in UW