Taking pictures and video while diving has become increasingly popular since the advent of digital cameras. But the camera market has also become more and more complex with numerous pitfalls for would be underwater photographers. In this series of blogs I'm going to try to clarify some of the factors that make some cameras better for underwater photography than others.
Let's start with Custom White Balance.
If you have a limited budget to spend, getting a camera that will Custom White Balance underwater is something to prioritise. Custom White Balance will allow you to take pictures underwater using just the available light down to about 20 metres depth and get colours other than blue and green in your shots.
You can white balance images after you have taken them using editing software but if you don't want to do this then Custom White Balance should be near the top of your list of features to look for when buying your camera. It will allow you to get colourful images with just a camera and housing without spending any more money.
Not all cameras have this feature and some that do require you to navigate through menus each time you use it. Some cameras including most of the Canon compacts until recently allowed you to set the CWB to one button press on the camera. For a video on how to do this go here
Some cameras have CWB as a feature but when underwater they struggle to actually set the white balance. We found this with the Olympus mirrorless cameras such as the EPL-3's.
Using CWB is a more precise way of dealing with colour loss than adding a filter and if you do it every time you change depth you'll get more consistent colour in your stills photography and, depending on the camera video as well.
You can use a range of neutrally coloured surfaces to white balance against, such as a diver's slate (white or preferrably grey), the grey of an aluminium cylinder, sand on the bottom or even your hand. Trial and error will show what works best for your model of camera.