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Underwater compact camera review
Canon Powershot S110 | Nauticam NA-S110 housing
Underwater photography product review
Compact cameras change at the speed of light. One day you have the perfect model for your needs and the next, it has been superseded. After using a range of Canon Ixus and Fuji Finepix cameras for a couple of years, both become outmoded and I chose this as the next best option. Here are the results after two dive trips.
Canon Powershot S110
Just a couple of steps up from the Ixus range, at first glance this is really a very similar camera – just a tiny bit larger and with a longer and wider lens. Functionality is much the same as previous versions so the things I disliked are still there. However, it becomes a case of learning to live with things as no camera of this type will ever be perfect underwater. I have had to adapt my thinking and learn to manipulate the S110 to suit my requirements.

Dimensions: Weight:

12.1 MP CMOS sensor
24 - 120 mm, f 2.0
5x zoom lens
Wi-Fi and GPS
98.8 x 59.0 x 26.9 mm
198 grams
7.5 cm touch screen
Full HD

Above: front and back of the S110
Below: wide angle taken at 20 metres in natural light using manual white balance,


My main focus underwater is video and this camera gives almost too many choices of settings. The ones I found best on the mode dial were Scene (SCN), Movie and P (programme). Pick one of these, then press the central function button to start playing with all other settings.

Next, choose either manual white balance or use the preset underwater one. The software allows you to save two manual white balance options so you can set that at say 10 metres and save it then set again at 20 metres and save that. You can then revert to either one. This is a good option but I gave up using it as I found that readings needed to be done far more often.

The preset underwater setting was very good in shallow water and useful for instant shooting. It gives great colours but very frustratingly, will continually adjust colours as you swim along – one minute the video has one colour caste, then it suddenly changes to another. Very annoying!

Over the course of a week, I decided that no one setting is better than the other and no one will do the job all the time. In general, Canon's WB function tends to make things too red unless there is a lot of natural light. Regardless of which one you are using, you need to adjust the exposure compensation down (the +/– button at the top of the click wheel) as everything is always, always too light.

PHOTOS: I took a few photos just to check things out and Shaun had a play with it as well. The setting and colour balance issues are the same on photo as video but it does take some great shots. The only thing to be VERY aware of is that whatever white balance you have done on video will not work on photo – everything turns lime green! – so you must start over.
FEATURES: One bonus with this camera is the ring function dial, a rotating dial around the lens. You can choose to assign this a specific function depending on shooting mode, for example, manual focus or white balance correction. I found it nigh-on impossible to correct WB underwater as you can't see the screen well enough to bother. The screen is also touch screen, which is useful on land plus you can set up GPS on land via a mobile phone.

PROS AND CONS: My biggest complaint with all Canon compacts is that the camera will not retain the brightness setting between shots or video unless you leave the camera turned on. And that means it has be on for the entire dive so you need to change and recharge batteries constantly. Note that I spent several days talking to Canon UK about this and they finally conceded that (despite what is written in the manual) you cannot retain a brightness setting.

On the other hand, the biggest thumbs up is the focusing. This little camera focuses like a dream, every video is sharp and clear and the inbuilt anti-shake software is also very good.


The video on the right was taken exclusively on the S110 in Saba. It is a short and small version – go to these inks for full length videos from St Kitts and Saba.

Editing and corrections were made in Apple iMovie but clips needed far less adjustment than those taken on some other compacts I have used in the past.

Nauticam NA-S110 housing
There are several housings available for this Canon including the one made by Canon. Theirs is the cheapest version and is a clear polycarbonate with a single o-ring. I never feel 100% confident in these as I have given various versions a saltwater bath in the past.

Other options include Nauticam and RecSea, which are machined aluminium. Both of these seemed to be very good but I chose the Nauticam based on the 180º rotating clasp that closes the housing very firmly and easily.

The front port has a 67mm thread for attaching accessories and they supply a second reduction ring for items with a smaller thread.

The Nauticam hotshoe is ideal for adding light sources. I did a couple of tests using an Ikelite Gamma, which was excellent plus you can add a focus light or flash to the hot shoe on the top of the housing.

Left to right: rotating closure lock; housing with focus light; rear button layout

Above: the NA-S110 housing
Below: camera in the housing showing
the snug fit


I will always have reservations about Canon compacts – it's not that they aren't great but I want a small compact that has some very specific features and that simply doesn't exist. If you get one feature you want, it's likely you lose another. All the same, this is as close as I have found so far and with a bit more practice, I'm sure I will learn to love it. As to the Nauticam, it does what it claims to do, so am very happy with the choice.

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