Top critical review
62 people found this helpful
Great videos, poor pics
on June 11, 2009
I recently purchased the Liquid Image Model 302 camera mask and used it on a recent trip to Cozumel to take pictures and videos while snorkeling. Overall, I was satisfied with the videos, but disappointed with the still pictures. After some analysis, I have realized that the pictures are not really 5MP at all but upconverted from a much lower resolution. I suspect that the actual sensor resolution is the same as what is used for the video, which is 0.3 MP (640 x 480). In addition, the camera tends to have a slow shutter speed underwater due to limited light and this causes a lot of blurred images. Of the 30 or so pictures I took, only about 5 were even worth keeping. The videos were actually quite good however, and really impart a sense of 'being there' that still images can't capture anyway. There was an odd 'warping' effect that occured sometimes when panning on videos. The whole image just seems to shift or warp in size for a few frames and then looks OK again. I contacted Liquid Image about this, but they had no explanation.
This was my first attempt at underwater photography and I was prepared to accept the loss of color which will always occur unless you use artificial light. The camera is at its best in shallow water where more light gets through and the bluing affect is minimal anyway. So this is not too big an issue unless you are trying to shoot something that is more than 15 ft. deep.
Image quality aside, I found I struggled with three things the entire week:
1. Getting the camera into a known state (picture or video)
2. Aiming properly
3. Getting the proper angle
Because this camera can only go in shallow water, the sun will almost always overpower the tiny LED that shows the camera status. They recommend cupping your hand over the mask to block the sunlight, but I still found it difficult to see the color. In addition, I was never sure whether I had actually started 'filming' (indicated by a blinking LED). So I often missed getting some great shots becuase the camera was not in the mode I thought. During the first few days, I would get back to check my pictures or videos only to wonder what it was I was trying to capture. It took me a while to realize I was actually aiming too low in many cases. This surprised me since the camera is on top of the mask so you would think I would shoot too high. I eventually got it about right, but make sure to practice before using it in earnest. Finally, I found that the natural angle for snorkelers, which is looking down all the time, particularly on fish, was not very satisfying. For those shots you need to dive down to get on their level. This requires a constant process of setting up the camera, diving down, getting into position, and then coming up when your breath runs out. I ended up with lots of 30 second clips as a result.
I should also mention that the mask itself is pretty good. I had trouble getting the strap tight enough, but when I did the seal was good and comfortable and viewing from the mask was quite good. This mask may not work well if you have a smaller head. I did not have any problems with leaks on the memory or battery compartment, but it does take some effort to close them properly.
Overall, a pretty good product. If they were to put a real 5MP (or even 2MP) sensor in it, it would have liked it much more. Next time I use it, I doubt I will even bother with still images. I was about to buy an underwater camera before buying this and I think I am glad I didn't. Being able to just 'look' at things and press a button sounds a lot easier to me than to aim while trying to look into a tiny LCD screen underwater - and shooting videos is of course, effortless.