First Underwater Images from the Canon G-10

No Gravatar

Yesterday I had my first dive with my new Canon G10 and the WP-DC28 factory underwater housing. I’ve been enormously satisfied with the results I’ve gotten over the past year with the G9 and its factory housing. Given my style, mostly available light rather than flash, the camera suited me well and always gave me good images.
The G10 camera and housing are both improvements on excellent products. The G10 seems to be much less noisy in low light conditions. Here is an example of how well it can deliver even when the photographer is not paying attention:LionfishI was far too far away for the shot, but it was near the end of the dive and I just couldn’t be bothered to take the time to get in close for a proper exposure.  Even with the poor lighting, I still have a usable image. Lionfish shots are a dime a dozen, anyway. You can see some of my other Lionfish images here, here, here, here, and here. The Lionfish also appears on a PNG coin.

Here’s an even better example, this one with flash. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a better shot of a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

Clark's AnemonefishThey are very cute, of course, but devilishly difficult to shoot. They never hold still and the coal black body against snow white bars makes an impossible contrast ratio for the camera. If you click this one to enlarge, you’ll even see some detail in the black and white areas – something I’ve not been able to achieve this well before. I think I’ll do even better when I get used to the camera. More fun with Clark’s Anemonefish here (orange variation), here, here, here, here, and here.

At 15 megapixels, the camera gives you plenty of image to mess with. You can take a shot from a little farther away, providing the water is clear enough. This allows more perceived depth of field so that everything is nicely in focus. The camera focuses in an instant and almost always on what you want to be in focus. I need to fiddle a bit more with the focus settings – there are a ton of them:

Clark's AnemonefishI’m not very happy with the software that came with the camera. Correcting both tint and colour temperature require visiting two separate dialogue boxes. This is unlike Photoshop in the Camera RAW filter (I always shoot RAW mode for underwater – it’s the only way to go) where both controls are right next to each other in the same dialogue box and you can see the results in the preview window as you slide the controls. The only problem is that I haven’t gotten the latest version of the Camera RAW filter to work yet. It contains the code necessary for the G10.

Here’s a nice shot of a Bulb Anemone that shows the level of detail and low noise that the G10 delivers. This shot was sans flash on an overcast day at about 25 metres – pretty impressive results, I’d say:

Bulb AnemoneYou can see a couple of other bulb anemones here and here.

Here’s another shot that is interesting from a technical view. The highlights on the anemone bulbs would have been completely blown out (washed out blank white) on any previous camera that I’ve used. In this shot there is still  detail and gradations of shade:

Bulb AnemoneI’m really happy with my new rig. People pay thousands of dollars for underwater cameras that don’t produce images any better than these. The differnce is that the extra money buys you mostly more light on the subject. If you are willing to stay within the confines of available light and limit youself to close shots when using flash, you can take professional quality undewater photos for way under a thousand US$. The G10 costs about US$400 and the housing was, I think, less than $200.

I don’t see how one could do much better. It is one of those delightful situations in which you can still get a lot for your money.

Be Sociable, Share!
Tags: , ,

20 Responses to “First Underwater Images from the Canon G-10”

  1. Tris Says:

    Mate so pleased to see how these have come out- looks like the G10 is a nice piece of kit. The detail on those two shots of the bulb anemones is awesome, and well done on the anemonefish too- so sharp, like you say those little buggers never sit still.

    Re: colour temperature & RAW processing… all I’m going to say is: Lightroom. I never touch Photoshop any more. Lightroom all the way. Version 2 is solid, reliable and entirely simple to use. Give it a spin.

  2. Another Perfect Saturday - The Canon G10 Comes Through | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] is another shot of Clark’s Anemonefish. I got a very good one last week, but this one is even better. If you click to enlarge, you can actually see the lateral line, […]

  3. Additional Miscellaneous Visual Rambling | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] At Blueblood last Sunday, Trevor Hattersley came to me with some interesting ‘flowers’ that the kids had found on a vine. Me being me, I instantly took a picture. Then I began to examine them: Hey, these are not flowers. I’d like to see the flowers, but we were obviously too late. These are little seed pods: I broke one open. There is a seed at each point of the ‘flower’ petal. I should have taken a shot of the seeds. Ah, well . . . Here is another shot that I got on Saturday of the same bulb anemone that youv’e seen before: […]

  4. Jim Dunmyer Says:


    I am interested in buying the G10 as well.

    At what depth are you diving? did you use a strobe or 2?


    Thanks for your help in advance

  5. MadDog Says:

    Hi Jim,

    I do most of my photography between five and forty metres. I’ve done some deeper, about fifty metres, and the factory housing for my G9 worked fine at that depth. I can only assume that the G10 factory housing is just as strong.

    I’m peculiar in that I hardly ever use flash at all. In fact, I hate the way if falsifies the colours that one sees in natural light with the naked eyes. I’ll use flash if I have no choice, but I prefer shooting without, in the RAW mode, and then using the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop (Using Bridge to open the RAW files). That way, I can adjust the colour temperature and tint to make the subject appear as it it were near the surface in natural sunlight. If you shoot this way, you save money, time, hassle and so forth. You also never need to worry about exposure. Another bonus is that your shots look MUCH more natural. I’ve been asked by countless people how I get such natural looking shots. “I don’t use flash.” is my stock answer. Of course, it’s not THAT simple. You have to put in your hours with Photoshop to get it right. But I think it’s worth it.

    Let me know if I can help you out any way with your new G10. I can give you some hints on the settings that I use.


  6. Stunning underwater photos with the Canon G10 « David Chin Online Says:

    […] superb dive images by Jan Messersmith – there’s Lionfish, Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) and Bulb Anemone. […]

  7. MadDog Says:

    Thanks to this site for the plug for my photographs. They want to sell you a G10 and housing. You’ll never make a better investment for UW photos.

  8. Doug from Pittsburgh Says:

    Fantastic work. Beautiful. I am going to Africa on vacation in October and looking for a kit, and was considering the G10 (maybe the G11 now that it has been announced) but was concerned that the small flash wouldn’t be enough. I never considered using natural light underwater!

  9. MadDog Says:

    Hi Doug,

    The G11 looks as if it might be an even better UW camera. It has a third less pixels, but I’d be willing to bet that the noise levels will be significantly lower – that seems to be what they are saying. The G10 gives good results down to about 20 metres with available light (overhead bright sun and clear water) if you shoot RAW and use the Adobe Camera Raw filter to pre-process for colour temperature and tint. I never use flash unless there is no choice. I get much better results from available light and the few tricks that you need to make it work. If I were going to get another outfir, it would be the G11 and the factory housing. If you’ve never tried UW in available light, you have a treat in store. However it only works with the right software. Email me if you want some hints.


  10. Ian Cloggie Says:

    Some incredible shots ,
    I have just purchased the canon housing for my G10 as Im off to the Maldives next week.
    I will be doing a lot of snorkeling this trip as Im taking my 10 year old daughter with me.
    At what sort of depth would I start to need to use my red filter?
    Would it help even in shallow water while snorkeling?

    Thanks Ian.

  11. MadDog Says:

    Ian, I have no experience using a red filter. Your G10 will capture images in the RAW mode, which keeps the three colour channels separate. If you have Adbobe Photoshop (any version CS2 or later) you can use Adobe Bridge to open your RAW files into the Camera RAW filter. This will allow you do adjust your tint (first) and then your Colour Temperature to get just what you saw underwater. Shooting in the JPG mode with a filter will give you something that might look okay, but the colours are not natural. There is plenty of information available on the web concerning this technique. There are also other programs that will handle the RAW mode. This techniques also eliminates the problem of “when do I use my red filter”?

  12. Steven Lehner Says:

    Can you enlighten us on the camera settings you use. Especially the focus settings. Also, what is the max ISO you use. I know I got a lot of noise with my G9 when going past 200

  13. MadDog Says:

    Steve, I keep my G10 set firmly on ISO 80 unless I really need more speed for a certain shot. Even 200 gives me noise that I don’t like. As far as focus is concerned, lately, I’ve had it set on the “follow focus” setting (gives you a blue focus frame so you’ll know that it’s set). Another thing that I do is keep the camera set in a spot metering mode. I like the way that I can move the camera slightly to catch just the right exposure. If you set it that way and play with it a bit, you’ll see what I mean. I wish that Canon had brought out the G11 sooner. I would have chosen it. It has a CMOS sensor that gives half the noise and four times the dynamic range. It’s down from 14.7 to about 10 megapixels, but most of my images never get printed bigger than the cover of a magazine, so it doesn’t make any difference. If you’ve followed my journal, you know that I prefer available light to flash. On a bright day, at 20 or 25 metres or less you’ll get quite acceptable shutter speeds shooting in the RAW mode at ISO 80. Fast movers may require flash, but that usually doesn’t come out well anyway, because you get ‘ghosting’. Shooting deeper, I accept that I’m going to have a slow shutter speed and try to brace for it. Photoshop and the Adobe Camera RAW filter are essential. As far as I’m concerned, the RAW mode, Photoshop, and Adobe Camera RAW filter are the cornerstones of UW shooting. If you’re not doing it that way, you’re wasting your time.

  14. Steven Lehner Says:

    Thanks so much, I just ordered the G10 but think I may go ahead and go with the G11 and housing. It sounds like it is a far better setup for underwater. Sounds like you have the same opinion?

    And yes, RAW is the only way to go for your diving photography

    I’ve been using the G9 but don’t care to pay for the repair cost that was already not fixed correctly by Precision.

    Any final advise before I pull the trigger on the G11 and housing?

  15. MadDog Says:

    Sounds as if you’re already doing pretty much everything that I do, so no more advice, Steven.

    I’d be very interested to hear back from you when you’ve had a chance to test out the G11 and housing. You are going to get the factory housing, I suppose. I’ve had good luck so far with the G series Canon housings.

    I found very little difference between the G9 and the G10. I only bought the G10 because my G9 was stolen and dropped by the thief when a cop conked him over the head. It never worked right in the housing after that. I still carry it as an ‘everyday’ camera. I got the G10 and housing because I enjoyed the G9 so much, but was disappointed to see only an incremental improvement in image quality. They obviously went for megapixels instead.

    From what I read, it looks as if they have corrected that error of judgement with the G11. The two gripes that I have with the G10 are high noise and less than sterling dynamic range. You can see it in the shots. The G11 claims to address both of those issues to some degree. The question is, “How much.” Those of us who are stuck in the price range of top-end point and shoots will have to live with noise until the market for full-frame sensors drives the price down enough for makers to start using larger sensors in the camera that we can afford. I hope I live that long.

    If you get good results from the G11 I might sell the G10 and spring for a new rig. Let me know.


  16. Denis Says:

    I have the same set up and I took it out for the first time last week. I thought I had decent images until I saw your work Jan – utterly amazing!!!

    I’m going to have to try your settings the next time I go diving.

    I had the camera set to 100 ISO with shutter speed of ~125. I did some lightroom work on the raw images, however they are far from being as clean as crisp as what youve done.

    Any further advice you can offer on technique and settings would be greatly appreciated.

  17. MadDog Says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I’m not familiar with Lightroom. I assume that it allows you to adjust the tint and colour temperature (and MANY other things) in great detail BEFORE loading into Photoshop.

    I’ve found that the main reason that most people are not happy with their UW photos, no matter what camera and software that they are using is that they forget the first rule: The closer, the better. Most of my shots are taken at less than one metre. In fact most are taken at less than 30 cm. The less water between your camera and subject, the better.

    If you like, you can email to me a few low-res images of your shots that you are not happy with and I can tell you what I think may be the problem.


  18. Steven Lehner Says:

    Sorry to bug you one last time, how do I set “follow focus”. Not familiar with that?

    I’ll be going to Mexico with my new G10 since the G11 has not been released yet.

  19. john griley Says:

    hi i just bought my housing for my g10 and wanted to know your settings you use. I am going to be shooting shots of my son underwater…probably in a swimming pool. Any help I would really appreciate.

  20. MadDog Says:

    Whoah! Where to start, John? I’ve had a G9, a G10 and now a G11. Fortunately, they all work pretty much the same.

    I’ll start with the basics. First, for underwater shooting, to get visually pleasing images you have to shoot in the RAW mode and use the Canon software, or better still Photoshop with the Camera Raw filter to open the RAW image in a special Adobe RAW window which allows you to correct the colour temperature and tint to get a reasonable starting point. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of other things which you can do in the Camera Raw filter to improve the image, such as correction of chromatic aberration in the corners of the image which are created by the odd optics of the housing face plate. Swimming pool shots can probably be done in the JPG mode, but for serious underwater shots, you have go RAW. There are many good tutorials available for using the RAW filter available on the web, so I won’t bother going into the details here.

    I try to shoot at ISO 80 by available light, if possible. This is because I prefer natural light to flash. This is a personal preference that goes back over fifty years for me.

    I set up my preferences for the technical capabilities of the camera on the custom settings C1 using the knob on the top. I always use spot metering. This way I can point the camera at a tonal value for which I want perfect exposure and watch the screen to see if it looks right. Then I press the “STAR” button to lock in the exposure. Now that the exposure is locked in, I reframe the shot and do a half-release on the shutter button to get focus on the exact spot which I want focused. Then, while holding the half-release, I reframe again and press the button all the way down to capture the image.

    The best advice that I can give is to (gasp!) read the manual and spend time with each interesting looking feature to learn how it works and practice it. Once you figure out how you want your focus and exposure evaluation features to work, you can select all the things you want using the menu (while in the C1 position) and SAVE them to that setting so that when you switch to C1 they are all there. Then all you have to do is decide whether you want macro or not and turn your flash on or off, according to your desire for the shot.

    I never leave the camera on Auto. It prevents you from using many features that you might want to change. For instance, if I remember correctly, you can’t even manually control the flash.

    There are some good books available (Try Peachpit Press) which simplify operation of the G series. The factory manual is very opaque for someone who is not steeped in photographic tradition and does not understand the underlying theory and ratios.

    When I get a new camera, I browse through the manual and find the things that seem the most fun. Then I practice for a week with that feature. Soon it becomes part of my “bag of tricks”. The G series are the best cameras in the world for the money. There is a treasure chest full of fun there.

    Sorry that I can’t give you more specific settings. The truth is that I shoot mostly in full manual mode now (RAW, of course). That’s because I understand that there is “no free lunch” because of the nature of photography. You open up the aperture to get a faster shutter speed and you lose depth of field. You increase the ISO to make up let you use a higher shutter speed and you get more noise. For everything you get, you have to give something up. The list of trade-offs is endless. Once you understand the relationships between aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and things like motion blur, depth of field and noise, then you can start to understand how to use your camera. It’s a little work, but the payoff is that you’ll soon be producing professional quality work.

    If you have specific questions about what’s happening with your images, please feel free to contact me by email and I’ll give you a hand. It’s fun for me, so don’t hold back.