S.U.P.E.R. Part 3: Fujifilm XQ1 Compact Camera

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In our ongoing series S.U.P.E.R. (Scubaverse’s Underwater Photography Equipment Reviews), Nick and Caroline Robertson Brown from Frogfish Photography will be reviewing new underwater photography equipment, general diving equipment, and some older favourites too. 

For the third instalment of S.U.P.E.R., Nick and Caroline will be looking at Fujifilm’s XQ1 Compact Camera.

The Fujifilm XQ1 is one of a recent batch of “super” compact cameras, with advanced features, bigger sensors, ability to use higher ISO and yet is still small enough to fit in your jeans pocket. It looks really good – with a retro feel that oozes quality. Fuji make an underwater housing for this camera that is waterproof to 40m and the best news about this new housing is that all the manual controls can be accessed whilst you are underwater. Put all this together and you have a serious contender in the compact camera market for underwater photographers.

We took the XQ1 into Capernwray to do some testing and to see how good it really is for underwater photographers. For this initial test, in addition to the camera and underwater housing, we fixed the system to a tray, added an INON Z-240 strobe and also the INON mount base to allow us to trial the camera with various wet lenses. We had the camera set to Manual Mode so that we could control the ISO, aperture and shutter speed manually whilst diving. The water temperature was only 6 degrees and so thick gloves were the order of the day. I have to admit that whilst kitting up, I did wonder how I was going to access all the controls on such a small system with cumbersome thick gloves on – but I had need not worry. The XQ1 is really very easy to use, and the one button press to switch between f-stop and shutter speed, then altered via a simple dial, was simple. With the menu button already set to access ISO setting, again there was no problem – even when my fingers were starting to get cold – in making the setting changes that I needed to.

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Another huge plus with the Fuji XQ1 is that is has virtually no shutter lag and the autofocus is extremely quick, so gone are the days where you miss a shot underwater simply because your compact system is too slow. The screen on the back of the camera is really clear, again making it easy to use even in relatively tough diving conditions. One thing you do need to remember is to pop up the flash before you put it into the housing and go diving, as once in, this cannot be done underwater. Whilst we have only completed a couple of dives with this setup, we are impressed so far.

We had the most fun when using this camera with the INON Micro Fisheye lens. Not all compact cameras can work well with this lens, but the XQ1 certainly does. The tiny wide angle lens allows you to get really close to a small subject and yet still get a lovely wide angle shot. We cannot wait to get this combination into water with live critters rather than our plastic models.

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This 12 megapixel camera, with a larger sensor than most of its rivals, combined with the ability to use higher ISO settings that many cannot compete with, is a serious contender for underwater photographers who want to keep their systems small and light. The image quality is really very impressive and so is the price, with camera and housing (that comes with a useful canvass carry bag and 8GB card) coming in at under £450.

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The FujiFilm XQ2 has just arrived with us and so we will be testing this newer model over the next few weeks. Incredibly, it uses the same housing as its predecessor. We will be adding macro and wide angle lenses to the test, doing some video and pushing the various settings and white balance function to the limit to test out the performance – so watch this space…

www.frogfishphotography.com

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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