Canon PowerShot D10 in the Field

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Before a recent family vacation to Hawaii, I decided to purchase something I’d always wanted (under the guise that it was a gift for my 8-year old daughter… amazing what we can convince ourselves of, isn’t it?!)-an underwater point-and-shoot digital camera.

I’ve always bought those disposable film cameras for any photogenic water-related activities, because it’s better than nothing, but for this trip I really wanted to take it to the next level. Plus, I figured a shockproof, waterproof, kid-proof camera was just what I needed to give to my eight-year old daughter.

Which Camera to Buy?

I did a fair amount of research, and came to the conclusion that the camera to buy was the Canon PowerShot D10 ($329.99 retail; $272.95 on amazon.com). The second closest was the Fujifilm FinePix XP10 which is more than $100 cheaper, but the overall impression I got from my hunting was that the Canon was worth the extra money. The D10 even looks a lot more durable, and frankly, in the hands of an 8-year old (well, at least MY 8-year old), durability is key.

Let’s See Some Pictures!

Let’s talk about shooting near water first. The simple fact that you can carry a camera to places like tide pools or the swimming pool, and not have to worry about it getting wet, is fantastic. You’ll get shots that you’ve never made before, even if you don’t actually go underwater! (Click any one of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.)

Hawaii_2010-06-19_19-12-06_IMG_0051_©JosephLinaschke2010
Tide pools are great fun with this camera. You can get close and hold the camera steady, and being just a few inches underwater, the colors aren't completely out of whack. Canon PowerShot D10 Review
Hawaii_2010-06-19_19-55-37_IMG_0099_©JosephLinaschke2010
The simple fact that you can have the camera *near* the water is awesome. No worries about splashes or drops.

I can’t stress enough how much fun it is having a camera that you don’t have to worry about getting wet. It really does open up a whole new world of possibilities!

How About Underwater?

Underwater in tide pools, swimming pools or out in the deep blue sea, the camera performed well. You do have to be aware of putting into underwater mode to keep your colors true if you’re going to go underwater more than an inch or two (more about that later), but assuming you’ve got that part right, the results can be quite fun. Here’s a few samples; info about each shot in the captions.

Hawaii_2010-06-20_16-07-04_IMG_0266_©JosephLinaschke2010
The camera can't help it if there's a lot of sand floating around in the water. So no matter what camera you have, if there's stuff floating in the water, it's going to reduce image quality dramatically.
Hawaii_2010-06-21_15-39-48_IMG_0420_©JosephLinaschke2010
The swimming pool is a REALLY fun place to play with the camera as well!
Hawaii_2010-06-26_18-10-11_IMG_0876_©JosephLinaschke2010
Some of the biggest fish in the ocean have amazing colors on them! Nice clear sunny day here, and look at how much brighter everything is.
Hawaii_2010-06-26_18-06-16_IMG_0872_©JosephLinaschke2010
In clearer water, it does really well. Although with the water moving us around as much as it did, it's simply hard to hold steady enough to get a good shot. We never did a boat-snorkeling tour, so all of these are just off-shore-meaning we have a lot of waves to contend with.

Is It Any Good as a “Normal” Camera?

A camera like this (especially at this price) better be good for more than just playing underwater. And this little point-and-shoot doesn’t disappoint. Now keep in mind, this is not a critical test environment review here. These are snaps from a family vacation (many of which my kid took), so take it for what it’s worth. I haven’t put the camera on a scope (nor do I intend to), and I’m not checking sharpness of magazine print on a macro shot-I’m simply looking at the photos we got and evaluating them for being photos that I’m happy with for putting online, adding to a family photo book, and maybe making small prints for my parents. I’m not selling these as stock, printing them as billboards, or comparing this to my 1Ds Mk III!

So that said? Here we go… some good, fun, above-water shots, all made with this little PowerShot D10.

Hawaii_2010-06-22_20-32-07_IMG_0551_©JosephLinaschke2010
It even does great out of water! The camera is a little on the big side to just drop in your pocket, but the quality looks great.
Hawaii_2010-06-24_14-00-35_IMG_0695_©JosephLinaschke2010
In full-auto mode, it switches between modes nicely. Here you can see that it went into Macro mode and did quite a good job.
Hawaii_2010-06-26_17-26-39_IMG_0869_©JosephLinaschke2010
One problem you'll enconter is water (or sunscreen) on the lens. Once you've gone underwater, it's nearly impossible to clean the lens properly until it's dry. This is an extreme shot (clearly big drops of water right on the lens), but many shots were smeared due to water, sand and oily sunscreen.

Any Complaints?

Not many, to be honest. Overall it’s very easy to use, and the auto-mode works very well. However, there is one point that I find quite silly and sadly think it’s something Canon can’t update in firmware (maybe some clever engineer can figure out a way though).

The full-auto mode does a great job of switching between portrait (it has face and even blink detection), landscape, backlit, etc. modes. Really good job. But there’s one mode that it doesn’t switch to automatically, which frankly, seems silly. And that’s the underwater mode.

Why do you need an underwater mode, to begin with? Because as soon as you go underwater, the color of light changes. You lose the red spectrum first, so when you put it in underwater mode, all the reds get super-enhanced. Which looks GREAT for underwater shots. But since it won’t go there automatically (and really… the camera doesn’t know it’s underwater? What, no sensor to tell it that it is?), if you forget to switch, all your photos are overly blue and flat.

So OK, you gotta remember to switch it. Fine. So now you’re in underwater mode, and you’re snorkeling (this isn’t a dive camera, it only goes to 10m/33ft… it’s a snorkeling camera), and you pop up above water to take a picture of your kid, the scenery, whatever. Now your photos are overly red, like this.

Hawaii_2010-06-20_17-28-16_IMG_0354_©JosephLinaschke2010
If you forget to take the camera out of underwater mode, all the shots will be overly-red. It's one of the few complaints I have about this camera, that it doesn't switch into underwater mode automatically.

So you have to remember to switch it back and forth. Which isn’t ideal, but not the end of the world, either. I actually had to dig to find a photo that was red like the one above; I must have gotten good at switching, and my daughter probably never took out-of-water pictures while in the water.

How Did it Hold Up?

So after nearly two weeks of use in tide pools, swimming pools, snorkeling and the back seat of the car, how did this camera last? As I mentioned on TWiP recently, if any company out there wants to put their product through five years of abuse in just a few weeks, send your product to my daughter to test. She dropped it, slipped and fell on lava rocks with it, dragged it across the ocean floor, buried it in sand, and frankly did who-knows-what-else to this thing-’cause it’s a mess. Check out these photos of the body in its current two-week old condition. Wow!

CanonD10Review_2010-07-05_12-57-34_IMG_2889_©JosephLinaschke2010
After two weeks of abuse by an 8-year old girl, the thing looks trashed but works just fine!
CanonD10Review_2010-07-05_12-58-13_IMG_2891_©JosephLinaschke2010
Even with the button area really mashed up, the buttons all work fine and don't stick.
CanonD10Review_2010-07-05_12-58-47_IMG_2893_©JosephLinaschke2010
Most impressive is that the lens didn't get scratched. The glass is well recessed, so even though there's no built-in lens cap, it seems to be reasonably well protected.
CanonD10Review_2010-07-05_13-00-54_IMG_2899_©JosephLinaschke2010
You can attach accessories to any one of four points on the camera. This is the standard wrist strap that it comes with, and while I wanted to buy the floating strap (but it was out of stock), I realized it's unnecessary. This strap cinches down on your wrist quite easily so you can't accidentally drop the camera to the bottom of the ocean. Great!

But you know what-it’s working great. No leaks (kinda important), all the buttons still work, and something I’m impressed with-the lens isn’t scratched at all. I was a bit concerned about that since there’s no cover for it, but it’s pretty far recessed and it managed to stay unscathed.

Final Thoughts?

Would I recommend this camera to anyone going snorkeling, river-rafting, or who has a butter-fingered child? You betcha. The images look great, it’s durable as advertised, and probably most importantly-my kid loved using it. And no matter how great a camera is, if no one wants to use it, then what’s the point?

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

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