Over the years I’ve found there to be generally 2 types of camera for the average underwater enthusiast. And by average, I’m talking about the majority of us who are mostly interested in our dive or snorkel trip, often taking some photos to show off to friends and loved ones. We aren’t the type to run out and purchase an expensive digital SLR camera, a housing that costs several times the price of our camera and then a lighting package that makes the housing price look like a bargain! We are generally the normal neighbor around the block in the normal neighborhood, who frequently has to get permission from their spouse to spend a little money. We’re one who also might like to bike, or camp/hike, kayak or boat and a variety of other outdoor activities and frequently wish we had a small reliable camera that works for it all. Until recently our choices have been limited to cheap disposable, splash proof cameras and camera/housing sets that are not designed for use much deeper than a local swimming pool or choose to invest in full blown point-and-shoot cameras with housings designed primarily for scuba divers and packed with all the features and conveniences one would need 60m underwater to capture that perfect professional memory with amateur skills. It seems like there was never much for the person who not only did a little light diving and snorkeling, but also spent time on the kayak, paddle board or even hiked or backpacked in damp environments. Thanks to Sealife it would appear that has all changed.
When I first saw the Sealife Reefmaster Mini II Dive & Sport Camera my initial reaction was “Finally! A decent quality, moderately priced snorkel camera”. While a true assessment it turns out this camera is actually quite more! At first glance I noticed this was a self contained camera as opposed to a camera with a housing designed to fit it. Simplicity is a bonus for the active, on-the-go types or those of us not as interested in the more technical and involved camera combinations. The next thing I noticed is the size of the camera. It is designed to fit easily into a pocket. It is covered with a rubberized coating that gives it a sturdy feel which, according to Sealife, makes the camera shockproof up to a 2m drop! This coating also serves as to add a slip resistant grip when its wet. Convenience and ease of use were at the forefront of Sealife’s thoughts when designing this camera. Before even turning on the power I noticed how it is designed for one-hand operation with the front being slightly raised giving an idea where my fingers would stop and prevent them from accidently being in front of the lens, and the back of the camera having a dimple where my thumb will be positioned. When being held like this the buttons to operate the camera are very conveniently located.
Once you finally do power up the camera the Easy Setup on-screen guide quickly walks you though the steps to correctly set your camera up for land or underwater photography giving any user the best possible set up for the conditions. The process is very simple and laid out in a most common sense manor. During use, the large, 3-button layout makes changing between settings and features a quick and easy process. One very interesting feature I was surprised to find is Spy Mode. In Spy Mode that camera is set to take pictures automatically at set intervals. This allows the user to set the camera on a tripod or some other stable surface and walk/swim away from the camera leaving it to do its job. If your subject is a small wary critter hiding due to your presence or maybe a subject that is going to change colors or possibly positions over the course of a brief time period, this setting will allow you to get the perfect shots as close as 60cm.
The next feature I discovered was video mode. The camera will shoot video with sound at 30frames per second which is on-par with some of the more common economical digital cameras on the market today. With the 6cm TFT color, LCD display screen the user can keep an eye on their subject matter while recording as well as keep some attention on their surroundings. Playback of your images or recordings is also quite simple so I could see there, on the spot, the quality of the work I’d done. The Auto-Focus lens takes much of the worry out of the user’s hands allowing the camera to be simply pointed at the subject and its image captured, and with a 9 megapixel processor sharp, high resolution images are the norm.
The people at Sealife also seemed to think of everything in regards to the user’s needs. Included with the pack are a wrist lanyard and a small cleaning brush/tool, your first set of AAA batteries, a spare O-ring, a soft camera case and a USB cable to allow you to transfer your photos/video to a PC should you not already have one equipped with a standard SD/SDHC card reader. Also, included is a CD containing Photo Express that will allow you to edit your photos before sharing your masterpieces with the world.
The final bit of thought from Sealife makes this reasonably priced gem one of the best bargains around! Sealife engineered the Mini II to be as versatile as it is easy to use. It will accept the Sealife Wide Angle Lens giving the user the opportunity to create a more panoramic shot by increasing the shooting angle by 33% and focus as close as 30cm. It also offers a standard tri-pod mount on the bottom giving the option to add either the new Sealife L.E.D. Video light or the Sealife Pro Flash allowing for optimum lighting and/or color correcting of every shot.
All in all it seems Sealife has offered us that perfect camera designed around the on-the-go type person. Whether you are going to grab your dive and snorkeling gear, hiking or camping equipment, your board, boat, bike or kayak, this rugged little camera is ready for any activity in a moment’s notice!