Any new bombproof digital cameras on the market?
I read a column you wrote last February on weatherproof digital cameras. Is there anything new that would fit the bombproof, sand-proof, waterproof category? We work as river guides so the cameras get some hard use. I also looking for a camera for my 11-year-old daughter, traditional or digital. Any recommendations? Peter Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Um…the short answer is, no. Aside from Kodak’s DC5000 ($300), no one has really come out with a “ruggedized” digital camera. And while I like the DC5000, it’s sort of a chunky beast, plus its two-megapixel resolution, while not bad, is beginning to look fairly primitive as affordable three-megapixel cameras crowd the market. So I stick with my earlier recommendation, which is to buy a digital camera, then a watertight case for it. In your case (oh, a pun!), I’d suggest a hard case. Sony makes one for its excellent DSC-P5 ($599), a 3.2-megapixel camera in a very compact package. Called the Marine Pack, the case is totally waterproof to below 100 feet. Cost: $250. That’s kind if a pricey package when you combine the camera and case, but there it is.
As for your daughter, I’m of two minds. One is that youngsters these days are very much in the digital generation, and I’m not certain she’d take to technology as primitive as film. Normally, if she was at all open to that, I’d recommend a Yashica T4 ($160) a great little 35mm point and shoot that’s easy to use, weatherproof, and has a superb lens. But alas, I learned through an alert reader that the T4 is no longer made. Last time I’d checked a few months ago, it still was widely available, but no more. This is a shame. The T4 was easily the best sub-$500 point-and-shoot on the market. But I guess it just wasn’t sexy enough, as it lacked a zoom lens (a plus, because it allowed the use of a high-quality Zeiss fixed-focal-length lens in place of the crappy zooms on most cameras).
Ah, well. You can find them on eBay, of course. Or, get her a Canon Elph 2 ($170). This is a very slick little camera, with a tiny metal body and a decent 2:1 zoom lens. And it uses APS film, for easy pop-in loading.
Later this spring Olympus will have on the market a digital camera called the D-520 ($300). Just two-megapixel resolution, but it’s compact with an excellent zoom lens. Plus, I really like Olympus’s photo software. If you have a USB port on your PC, the connection and downloading is as easy as plugging the camera cord into the port. For a digital, that would be my suggestion.