Over the Fourth of July weekend we went down to Florida to visit Laura’s sister Amy and her mother. Since we’ve been going down regularly to help out I’ve left a bit of paddling gear and our tandem kayak so that I can do the occasional escape.
I was on my way out for a quick paddle when my trusty Fujifilm Z33WP slipped out of my hand and hit Amy’s tile floor, point down. It cracked the corner of the casing. The camera still works, but it was no longer waterproof.
I got the original Fuji camera six years ago for a very specific purpose. It would stay clipped to my life vest so that I had a camera always at the ready, and wouldn’t have to fumble with a dry bag or dry box if something of interest came by while I was paddling. It was to be a back-up camera. I’d keep a better camera in the dry, to be pulled out when we were safe. Even though it was supposed to be just a back-up, I think I took more paddling shots with this camera than any other in my arsenal.
That doesn’t mean that it was perfect. From the get-go there were problems. Most notably, some photos would have a weird halo effect, especially when reflecting bright light.
There was also a bluish-green cast to all of the images that I could never quite remove in post-production. It seemed to be getting worse, so I was already thinking about replacing the Z33WP. The cracked waterproof housing just hastened the process.
I went back and forth on a possible replacement. Was a replacement even necessary? I’ve got the GoPro, but that’s usually fixed on the front of my kayak. I decided I did want something I could point in different directions – something with a bit of zoom rather than the extreme wide format of the GoPro. I’ve got the cheap Nikon I got last Christmas. It’s not waterproof, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if something happened to it. Still, I’m not going to dunk it. Even so, I decided that waterproof was necessary.
I could just about get by with my iPhone in a waterproof case. In fact, I’ve already taken lots of photos just like that. I decided against this as a permanent option for two reasons. First, the images always turn out questionable when I shoot through a waterproof case (at least, the ones I’ve used.) More importantly, though, I think of the phone as a safety device. As such, I don’t want to deplete the battery by snapping photos.
Smart phones have taken over some many of the functions of casual photography, and action cameras such as the GoPro are so popular that point-and-shoots are having to add lots of options to compete. New waterproof models come with GPS, WiFi, and a ton of shooting options, such as auto panorama and action camera mode. One thing they lack is a long zoom, which makes sense. To be truly waterproof the lens needs to be contained within the camera body. A long protruding zoom becomes problematic.
Panasonic Lumix, Fuji, Canon, Olympus, and Nikon all had similar feature sets. I love my current non-waterproof Lumix, and was leaning that way. Ultimately, though, I decided on another Fuji for one simple reason – it uses the same batteries as my old model, and I’ve got lots of spares.
This camera is larger than my previous Fuji. Therefore it doesn’t quite fit the little wrap/case I had for the old one.
The spare batteries do fit, though, and that’s a good thing. The new camera tends to EAT batteries. I went through three of them on our recent Edisto paddle. Usually one would last me on the old camera. So, battery life is not a selling factor for this model.
The camera doesn’t have GPS, but does have WiFi. It sets itself up with an SSID and you connect your phone to it though an app. Then, it’s supposed to transfer the images from your camera to the phone so that you can upload to social media, etc. You’re also supposed to be able to connect and control the camera through your phone. Supposedly. While I was able to connect my iPhone to the camera, it never transferred photos, nor did it let me control the camera. Never worked. This isn’t a selling point or deal breaker for me, but I wonder if the WiFi might be what’s eating batteries.
The camera does have lots more controls and settings than the old one. It has an auto panorama mode that works as well as panorama on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I forgot about it while on the last Edisto trip, so I don’t have a sample. It also has an action camera mode to mimic the images from a GoPro or similar wide-angle image. Again, I don’t have samples of this mode, but these look like interesting options. There were also options for adjusting exposure.
Most cameras come with scene settings for landscapes, portraits, night photos, party shots, etc. The Fuji came with a “Smart Auto” which automatically selects the appropriate scene mode. I started out with this mode on my last trip. This mode tends to be a bit sluggish, so many of my shots in this mode were out of focus. I set it back to Program mode, and was much happier with the results.
In Smart Auto mode there was a touch of the hazing/halo effect that had plagued the old camera, but that went away when I switched to Program mode. The bluish cast was gone, which is a good thing. Overall, I was happy with the images.
So, it’s not a perfect camera by any stretch of the imagination. It’s certainly not going to replace my DSLR, or even my Panasonic Lumix. However, for the price and for how I’m going to use it, I think it will do just fine.