SO ENGROSSED WAS I with getting the best out of this little Olympus digital camera in its submarine housing that I was shocked to find that I had racked up 20 minutes of decompression stops during a dive. Thats a positive danger with a camera that allows you to take a picture again and again until you get it right. At least I hadnt run out of air!
     As with most digital cameras, there is a time delay between pressing the shutter and recording the picture. Diving from mv Emperor Pegasus in the northern Red Sea, I had taken a lot of pictures of empty spots vacated by fleeing fish before I came across an obliging moray eel that posed elegantly for me.
     Elegantly, that is, until it decided to try to take a bite out of the clear Perspex housing. I guess it thought the flash it saw repeatedly twinkling might have been a tasty little meal in the form of a silverside. My buddy said he had visions of me writing a letter to Olympus to tell it why it couldnt have its camera back.
     The 3.2 megapixel Olympus  (mju) 300 is one of the latest generation of tiny digital cameras that is driving the high-street one-hour mini-labs out of business. No-one wants to wait for their holiday snaps now.
     It delivers 50 jpegs in the higher of the three qualities possible on one 128MB xD-Picture card, and these are perfect for making A4 prints and e-mailing to friends. The camera comes with a standard 16MB card, but that stores only six shots in super-high-quality (or 99 in standard-quality for simply viewing on a PC).
     Either way, no more inviting a reluctant audience round to see your holiday slide show. You can now bore them to death on the information super-highway without having to buy them any beer and Twiglets, or remove any stains from your carpet.
     I had the Olympus  (mju) set up so that I got a post-viewing of each picture I took. It was perfect. I could throw away most of my attempts to get a good shot long before I got home. My dustbin men will be pleased about that.
     I found that for good colour I needed to use the built-in flash, and for any result at all I needed a static subject. Its perfect for shots of your buddy, too. Not only that, but instead of swimming round encumbered by a massive lump that represents a 35mm film camera and flashgun, I could put the little Olympus  in my BC pocket until I needed it.
     Compared to my buddys equally small digital, the Olympus gave me more time to study my results as I went. There also seemed to be less delay between pressing the shutter release and getting the shot, even if it was still significant. The Olympus  runs on a rechargeable lithium-iron battery.
     Resistant to damp conditions, you need to put it in its purpose-built PT-106 housing to take it under water. This has big buttons you really can use under water, though it takes some time to navigate around the menu. I was surprised that I was so quickly able to get the hang of changing from close-up (0.2m) to mid-range focus mode, and to turn the flash on and off as required. I also liked the fact that the housing came with a viewing hood so that I could actually see what I was getting on its LCD screen. The optical viewfinder is useless under water.
     I kept the cameras 3x optical zoom at its widest setting and got in close to my subject. And I enjoyed the instant gratification of shots that turned out well, even though I wasted much time trying to get them.
     The list of options available with this camera is endless. I suggest that the second most important underwater accessory after its PT-106 submarine case is a second cylinder of gas to breathe for the extended deco-stops you might unexpectedly incur!
     Pictures were quickly downloaded on to my eMac via the USB cable provided, and all the Olympus software you might need for other PCs is supplied bundled with the camera.
Expect to pay around £400 for camera and housing. Prices reduce daily as new models arrive from Japan.

  • Olympus, 0800 0720070, www.olympus.co.uk

  • Divernet Divernet Divernet Divernet
    + Instant gratification
    + Good value

    - For subjects prepared to stop and pose