View Full Version : Canon G12 + WP DC34 underwater housing mini-review

13-01-2012, 7:57pm
Last year, I went on my honeymoon and knowing that I'd be doing some scuba diving I really wanted to try some underwater photography.

So when the opportunity came to acquire a Canon G12 relatively cheaply, I jumped at the opportunity. One of the reasons I bought a G12 was the availability of a cheap underwater housing from Canon, the WP DC34 so I bought one as well as a 270EXII flash for the G12. I was also interested in how it'd perform as a substitute for when I don't want to carry my DSLR around.

So here is my mini review coming from an enthusiast DSLR user's POV.

First reactions: The camera appears solid enough but coming from a D700, it was somewhat of a disappointment. The wheels and dials felt a bit rickety.
But in retrospect I'll put that down to unrealistic expectations on my part. After a few months use, I have no problems with the build and finish of the camera. Not that I'm particularly hard on my gear but it still looks brand new after a wipe down and functions perfectly.

Handling: the camera fits well in my hands (I have fairly small hands, size S for rubber gloves if that's any indication) and the placement of direct external controls for important settings such as ISO and exposure compensation were big pluses.
It is not jeans pocketable. I use a hand strap to carry it around. For pocketability, one should consider the S95/S100 instead but a swivel LCD and hotshoe were things I wanted so I went with a G12.
The swivel LCD is very useful.
The OVF is tiny and IMO unusable.
The customisable Shortcut button is very useful although I wish there were further customisation options (eg. My menu options are very limited). A second customisable button would have been very nice.

The AF speed and general responsiveness of the camera is my biggest gripe. I have become accustomed to my camera firing whenever I release the shutter and not having to wait for focus to acquire lock.
As well as being frustrating, it also meant some missed shots.
I also dislike the powerzoom. Its imprecise, slow but when taking videos I get why it has a powerzoom so its forgiven.

Image quality:
Colours are nice, if a little contrasty. I shoot RAW anyways so OOC jpegs wasn't really something I tested much.
IMO, ISO up to 320 in RAW is very usable and its very easy to get beautiful results particularly in good light at base ISO.
http://swifty.smugmug.com/photos/i-CZfLnrZ/0/M/i-CZfLnrZ-M.jpg http://swifty.smugmug.com/photos/i-5mtMsR7/0/M/i-5mtMsR7-M.jpg http://swifty.smugmug.com/photos/i-rRdHTFF/0/M/i-rRdHTFF-M.jpg

In poorer light, I tried the G12 with the 270EXII.
Great little flash with bounce capabilities. Pity it doesn't swivel so bouncing off the ceiling is only possible in landscape orientation. Of course you can bounce off walls in portrait orientation but it won't swivel up to the ceiling.
The bounce flash results are very good but not very powerful so as soon as the room gets very big with high ceilings (eg. large halls) the 270EXII runs into its limits. It takes 2 AA batteries that seem to last forever (I use Sanyo Eneloops).
Slightly unbalanced when mounted on the hotshoe of the G12 as it becomes very top heavy and topples easily.
Works in ttl for P, Av, Tv modes but not M.
Here's another big gripe.
My preferred night shooting method is manual mode where I set exposure manually for ambient light. I'd then use ttl flash (with flash compensation), to light my subject.
For the G12, when in manual mode ttl flash is not available. Only manual flash although the 270EXII does expand the usual low/med/full power option to 1/128-full power.
In Av mode, the shutter is locked at 1/60 when flash is enabled. I'd really like an option to select the preferred shutter speed. You can enable slow-sync but that often drops the shutter speed down to an unusable setting eg. 1 second and its not controllable.
All up, quite disappointed with the flash capabilities to be honest.

Disclaimer: I'm quite a novice when it comes to underwater photography but here are my observations.

The G12 fits well in the WP DC34 housing and has an easy to use latching system. The rubber seal needs to be lubricated with the provided silicon lube after each use. The whole housing also needs to be hosed down with fresh water after each use.

Quick tip: if you're leaving an airconditioned hotel in the tropics, put the G12 in the casing in the hotel and latch it shut. This will avoid any condensation problems.
Tip 2: don't get sunscreen on the casing's polycarbonate back. It quickly becomes very difficult to see if you do so. The exposure is already difficult enough to judge in the casing so learn to use your histograms.

The housing gives you practically all controls of your G12 and the one it doesn't (control rear dial), you can emulate it with the shortcut button and multidirection pad.
I was very pleased with the underwater image quality I got from the underwater housing.
I mostly had my ISO up at 320 but in retrospect after checking the shutter speeds, I could have got away with lower. But nevertheless I'm happy with the quality, much better than other waterproof P&S cameras i've used in the past.

With flash:

Near the surface snorkelling:

Another tip: shoot in RAW. The underwater environment plays havoc wit the WB. Without flash, you also typically loose a lot of reds the deeper you go so your images may benefit from adding some reds back in PP.

Again the slow AF was a hinderance. The shutter release also lacks tactile sensation so half pressess were difficult with the WP-DC34.
The built in flash diffuser works but only for close subjects and clear water. Stirred up sediments just lights up like using flash in the snow so it needs to be used with care.

OK thats about it.
In the end, I sold my G12 and housing but kept the 270 EXII.
The annoyances were too much of a hindrance for me. And so my search for the perfect compact continues.
Canon does have a good history of producing good compact cameras hence I kept the 270EXII for use with potential future purchases (maybe a G1x if they've improved most of my dislikes about the G12).

If you have any questions, fire away although as I've said I've sold my G12 now so will have to answer things from memory.

14-01-2012, 2:03am
Interesting write up and good to see other peoples opinion.

I have a G12 which I use for all of my underwater photography and I can't fault it as it does a great job - but it is a compact and therefore you have to work within those limitations. I have only ever used compacts for my underwater photography and to date I have been published over 8 times in national and international magazines - so you don't need a DSLR just be able to work within your cameras capabilities.

One benifit of a compact is that I can shoot wide angle or macro - no need to change lenses - in the one dive and you can't do that with a DSLR :D

I have mine in a Recsea housing (aliminum) and I have two YS 110 Alphas strobes to complete my setup plus I have a x3 Macro wet lens to boost my macro capabilities.

Perhaps you need to try one of the micro 4/3 cameras from Olympus, Sony or Panasonic.


14-01-2012, 10:02am
Hi Karl, thanks for chiming in.

I don't want to give the impression I don't like the G12 or that it's not a capable camera. I hope my write up didn't give that impression.
I was just a little frustrated after not using compacts for so long and most of my annoyances relate to above water general Photogtaphy.

And I want to emphasize that the G12 is capable of superb images and I've seen many examples of this.
I'm not an experienced diver let alone an experienced underwater photographer although I have many years of general Photogtaphy experience. But I do believe the lights make a lot of difference in underwater photography, particularly macros and avoiding direct on-axis flash with the telescopic arms.
And everything happens in slow motion underwater anyways so speed is less of an issue.
I still didn't like the slightly sticky feel of the WP-DC34 shutter release button though. I don't like half press for AF in general but that's another story.

If I wanted to take my underwater photography to the next level, I have no problems buying the G12 again. It's cheap(ish) which leaves more money for nice underwater strobes.
But since I do so little diving (mostly on holidays) other factors will drive my purchasing decision for a compact.

Thanks again for your viewpoint Karl. Perhaps I bit off more than I can chew trying to review an underwater housing. I should stick to dry products :)

14-02-2012, 8:16am
Thanks for your review. Something else to buy for my G12.:cool:

Nice pictures by the way.:)

25-03-2012, 10:15pm
Thanks heaps for the review. I'm still looking into updating an underwater rig and think something like the G12 is pointing in the right direction, and adding a few strobes to the mix. :)


26-03-2012, 8:43am
Thank you for taking the time to give this interesting review.
I also use a D700 as my main camera, but am also looking for a compact to take with me on holidays for those occasions when a bigger camera is not an option. The Canon G12 was the one I was considering so I found this review very helpful. :)

25-04-2012, 5:21pm
Thanks for the detailed review :)

Awesome shots by the way.