Which Canon Powershot to buy for underwater photography – G10, G11 or G12?

An email received today asked for my advice on choosing a Canon Powershot G10 or G11 for underwater photography. There are a number of things to take into account, so I thought I would cover a few in a post.

I received the following email enquiry today:-

“Carl, Please counsel with me on a camera purchase. I am putting together an underwater system and wish to use the Canon G10 or G11. I will get the Canon underwater case. Should I get a near new G10 (ie. from Craigslist – approx. $450 US) or get the G11. Please advise. Thanks! Darrell”

Thanks to Darrell for the question.

I am a keen user of the Canon Powershot G Series cameras for underwater photography, and have owned a G10 and G11 camera.

The G10 vs G11

The G10 and G11 are both good cameras and popular with many professional photographers. There are a few new functions in the G11, but the fundamental differences are:-

  • G10 has 15MP sensor, G11 has 10 MP sensor.
  • G10 has a flat screen back, G11 has a flip screen back.

The smaller sensor on the G11 provides better in-camera noise performance (see my previous post Noise Comparison – Canon Powershot G11 vs G10). I find noise can become an issue underwater, particularly when you are going deeper where there is less natural light.

Using an external flash or video light helps to keep the shutter speeds fast at those deeper depths, reducing noise.

Noise is also becoming less of a problem in post processing. Particularly if you are using Adobe Lightroom 3 with its new software engine, which is doing incredible things with noise reduction. (I have to regularly stop myself going back to old images and improving the noise, as I would never get anything else done.)

I also like the G11 flip screen for taking pictures from different angles, but in the underwater housing it does not make any difference.

Buying Older Cameras

I would suggest caution when purchasing second-hand or near new cameras. The G10 has been around for 18 months now, and cameras can get a lot of use in that time.

Check with the seller to make sure there are no scratches on the lens or the back screen.

Also check  the stock availability of the underwater housing for your camera of choice. You do not want to purchase the camera, only to find the housing is not available.

New Rumoured PowerShot G12

Another option if you are not in a hurry for a camera, is to wait a couple of months for the rumoured Canon G12.

The rumoured Canon Powershot G12

Canon typically releases a new G series camera every year around October/November. The Canon Rumours website reported a week ago on the new G12. It will supposedly have the same still image resolution and flip screen as the G11, but will record 720p High Definition (HD) video.

If you plan on using video as a major part of your workflow, the HD capability will last you for a number of years, and maybe worth the wait.

Two disadvantages with the G12 option will be:-

  1. The price. The last couple of  G series cameras seemed to increase $100-200 a year, and the underwater housings also get more expensive. (I am expecting the G12 may even break the $1000AUD mark here in Australia.)
  2. It will likely be a new underwater housing, and they tend to lag the camera by a month or so in being released to the market. When they are released it is usually only in small numbers across stores due to popularity.

Conclusion

In summary, provided you can get a camera in good condition, I think either the G10 or G11 will do the job for you. They are both good cameras producing quality pictures.

You may find it harder to locate stock of the WP-DC28 underwater housing for the G10, which could end up forcing you to the G11.

I hope this has been of help, and would be interested in hearing others opinions.

Note: – There are also a number of options from other manufacturers, but I have not commented on them due to Darrell’s focus on the Canon Powershot G series.

Carl Chapman

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5 thoughts on “Which Canon Powershot to buy for underwater photography – G10, G11 or G12?”

  1. Hello,

    I would consider looking for housings that are not from canon but with those you can forget the use of the built-in flash. The use of an external strobe is paramount.

    There are very small but powerful strobes like the inon s-2000 (run away from intovas or ultramax strobes, they are small but too limited, just of use for close-ups).

    To check the different housings available, I suggest checking in http://www.digideep.com/

    The fisheye housing seems to be the best choice but it depends on how complex do you want your underwater-system to be.

  2. Canon launches PowerShot G12
    http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/1732850/canon-launches-powershot-g12

    Canon Powershot SX30 IS & G12 show up
    http://www.canonrumors.com/2010/09/canon-powershot-sx30-is/

    Canon U.S.A. Introduces New PowerShot G12 with High Definition Video and PowerShot SX30 is with the World’s First 35X-Wide Angle Optical Zoom Lens
    http://www.stockwatch.com/News/Item.aspx?bid=U-b005427-U:CAJ-20100914

    Canon G12 arrives, brings HD video with it
    http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/14/canon-g12-arrives-brings-hd-video-with-it/

  3. Thanks Carl for the note.
    But I’m still confused which one is better, the 15MP G10 or better shutter G11/G12 for U/W photography?
    Which one do you prefer (or always used)?
    I’m still a newbie in U/W photography, and really need your help about camera.

    Btw mind if I ask you about what is the best ‘starter pack’ for newbie? (Including camera, housing, and strobe, and PRICE 🙂 Or should I send you an email about this?)

    Thanks a lot 🙂

    Vian

    1. Hi Vian,

      Thanks for the questions.

      No problem on being a newbie. Everyone is a newbie at some time.

      I think the best option is the G12 camera, because:-

      The G10 has more pixels but there is also more noise in the images, which can be a problem underwater.
      The G11 and G12 have the same still image specifications, but the G12 has 720p HD video.
      For the small difference in price between the G11 and G12, the G12 features will last you longer into the future.

      I often use the Canon WP-DC34 underwater housing. It is a very basic housing, but it is compact and easy to carry when travelling This housing has no connection for strobes, so you need a strobe with a remote sensor to trigger it. I think something like the AF35 Autoflash ( http://www.ikelite.com/af35/autoflash.html ) from Ikelite is good to start.

      Basic starter kit:- Canon Powershot G12 $500USD + Canon WPDC34 Housing $200USD = Total $700USD

      Basic starter Kit with strobe:- Canon Powershot G12 $500USD + Canon WPDC34 Housing $200USD + Ikelite AF35 Autoflash Strobe $420USD = Total $1120USD

      Other options:-

      If you have a little more money to spend, the Ikelite housing is very nice ( http://www.ikelite.com/web_two/can_g12.html ), and allows direct connections of the strobe for $650USD.
      I also like the Ikelite DS161 Movie Strobe ( http://www.ikelite.com/web_pages/ss_dig161.html) which is a combination strobe and video light for $1000.

      There are several companies that make housings for the Canon G12 and underwater strobe systems. I would suggest looking around the internet for other options.

      My prices are only approximate, and will vary depending on the country you buy the camera in.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you need more information.

      Carl

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