By Tal Mor
Shooting underwater with point-and-shoot cameras was until recently the domain of beginner photographers. In the last few years, more and more amateur-level shooters are making the switch over to the compact side with significant improvement in image quality and streamlined size factor.
Images from high-end compacts like Canon’s G15 and S110, Nikon’s P7700 and the Sony RX100 are appearing in on the cover of dive magazines and in the winner’s circle of international competitions.
Underwater photographers are looking for top-of-the-line housings to match the increased prowess of compacts. With that in mind, I decided to see if the Fantasea G15 housing was up to the challenge.
The Canon G15
Since the G15 is the long-awaited successor of the popular G12. So, let’s start by looking at some of the compared specs:
- Resolution: 12MP (10MP on the G12)
- LCD: 3" High res 922K dots (2.8" 461K dots on the G12)
- Lens: 28mm-140mm f/1.8-f/2.8 (same focal range f/2.8-f/4.5)
- Dimensions and weight: A tiny bit smaller than the G12 (106x75x40 mm 400g vs 112x76x48 mm 352g)
- Video: 1080p/24fps vs 720p/24fps on the G12
The major changes as far as underwater photography goes are:
- A faster f/1.8 lens
- A higher resolution LCD
- A higher image resolution (MP) which allows more aggressive cropping when desired.
The G15, like its predecessors, is a fully manual camera with three dials and many shortcut buttons to make even SLR shooters feel at home.
Overview of the Fantasea FG15 Housing
The FG15 is the third housing in Fantasea's line of high performance compact housings. They started out with the Nikon P7000, then a slight upgrade to the P7100 and now the Canon G15 with many small improvements that make using this housing a pleasure underwater.
The most important thing is that all controls and features of the camera are accessible through the housing. This includes all dials, buttons and even popping the flash out and pushing it back in.
The housing is a made from durable molded polycarbonate and stainless steel materials. The appearance is a professional looking and stylish black front and clear see-through back door.
Fantasea G15 Housing Features:
- Top cold shoe mount
- Moisture alarm
- LCD screen shade
- 2 standard fiber optic connections
- Easy single latch system that makes opening and closing the housing a breeze.
- Fingers and thumb grips for comfortable and stable holding of the housing.
- Illustrations on all the buttons
- Attractive and affordable retail price point of $499
There's also a line of dedicated, low cost and very useful accessories such as a wide angle lens, macro lens, red/pink filter and lens holder for easily securing lenses that are not in use.
The G15 is larger and more robust than comparable high-end compacts. Fantasea’s design mimics the feel of the camera, making it feel like you are holding the G15 above water. All the controls are at fingers’ reach and run smoothly at any depth. The shutter buttons is conveniently placed just like the camera itself and half-shutter is very easy to feel and master.
The bottom tray mount includes 3 1/4"-20 screw threads, which allows mounting the housing safely and preventing it from rotating on the tray. It is depth rated to 60mts/200 feet and has even been to further depths.
The housing comes with a dual fiber optic mount, a big bonus for the more dedicated compact shooter looking to use two strobes for wide-angle or more even macro lighting.
Lens and Focusing Distance
The G15 has a minimum focusing distance of 1cm, which makes it superb for macro. This is compared to the 3cm minimum distance of the Canon S110 and 5cm of Sony’s RX100.
For wide-angle, the G15 has a minimum focal range of 28mm (35mm equivalent), somewhat less than the impressive 24mm found in the S110. Adding one of Fantasea’s wide-angle wet lenses will give a greater field of view, allowing the photographer to get closer to larger subjects.
The G15 produces incredible image quality, comparable to even large sensor compacts like the RX100, However, the RX100 does benefit from better ISO performance and more detail due to the higher resolution. Luckily, with underwater photography, we don’t rely on extremely high ISOs too often.
There is a tough competition between the S110, P7700, RX100 and the G15; but the housing’s access to all controls combined with the camera’s impressive minimum focus distance, not to mention a less-than a $1000 price point, make the Fantasea G15 bundle hard to beat.
The bundle (camera and housing ) is sold for $959.95 which makes it affordable for any photographer and allows packaging it with strobes and optics without breaking the bank.
The review is written exclusively for DivePhotoGuide by Tal Mor - Co-founder of Mozaik Underwater Cameras and a diver and photographer for over 15 years.
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