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The Mark of Macro – One Camera, One Passion

Getting a chance to review a camera in Anilao has to be one of the most exciting opportunities an underwater photographer can have. This little dive area just over 100 kilometres south of Manila has, over the past few years, flourished into one of the world's top destinations for macro photographers. Anilao's proximity to the Philippine capital city makes access to this prime macro spot, from anywhere in Asia and beyond, extremely easy and convenient. (Review by: Tim Ho)

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Test out Canon's most powerful compact yet

Of the dozens of dive sites in Anilao, for many the most coveted are the muck diving sites. Here, those with an untrained eye might survey the desolate sandy, rocky bottom and wonder why your guide had chosen to dive such a "desert". But on closer inspection - and with the right guide - you'll quickly realise there's actually an abundance of critters to be photographed. In fact, there's so much going on, it can easily take over an hour to cover just a 10-square-metre area.

Conditions are excellent for underwater photography, as dives are mostly close to shore, with gradual slopes and areas well protected from currents, and critters can be found at depths as shallow as two metres. Two-hour dives are not unusual, with non-stop shooting from start to finish.

With this perfect spot as my playground, I was thrilled to receive the new 20-megapixel Canon PowerShot G7 X to review. I've been using Canon compacts for the majority of the time I have been shooting underwater, and this was my chance to test out Canon's most powerful compact yet.

There's no point in telling you the camera is amazing but only if you add two focus lights, two strobes, two wet lenses and all kinds of add-on accessories, plus some powerful editing tools. So, as I have done in my previous reviews, I started off with an unembellished set-up and then worked with only the bare essential accessories.

Single strobe but no wet lens.

Natural Light and White Balance

On my first dive, I concentrated on testing out the natural-light capabilities of the PowerShot G7 X. With compact cameras in particular, the accuracy of white-balance customisation at depth varies with different models, with some capable of bringing back colours well and others producing an undesirable tint. In the case of the PowerShot G7 X, I was pleased with the white balance accuracy.

Natural Light and Macro

Next, I tested the macro capabilities of the PowerShot G7 X with no add-on close-up lenses. The camera has a 5cm minimum focusing distance, and a feature I found useful is an indicator on the display that shows you the minimum distance from the subject required as you are zooming in. This visual feedback allows you to zoom in as close as possible to nail the shot.

Macro with natural light at a depth of 17 metres (no cropping).

Wide-Angle Tip

If your subject is at a depth of 20 metres and you want to shoot from 15 metres, descend to 20 metres and set your white balance before coming back up to 15 metres and taking the shot. This ensures that your white balance is set for the depth where your subject is located.

I was very satisfied with the results I achieved with the PowerShot G7 X. Even under challenging ambient-light conditions, the PowerShot G7 X managed to perform well, for a compact camera in this class. Adding a single strobe and a close-up lens, I was able to get good results with a variety of subjects.

Another Winner for Canon

Equipped with a bigger sensor and more megapixels, the Canon PowerShot G7 X proved to be a capable tool for underwater photography - despite its compact size. Accurate white balancing is easily achievable and the AF can be moved to a desired position. The PowerShot G7 X performs well in low-light conditions, with better noise handling than its predecessors, even at higher ISO settings.

* Article first published on Asian Diver 2015 issue 2 volume 137

Waterproof Case WP-DC54

A waterproof case, water-resistant to a depth of 40m and designed for the Powershot G7 X, may be purchase separately.

Tim Ho

Tim left the city in 2009 to become a full time dive instructor. He is currently the Field Editor of Asian Diver (Philippines Chapter) and organises specialised “Dive and shoot” trips for people who want to do 2 hour long dives with the best guides and spotters available. Tim’s working adventures have based him across Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia over the past years, and he is currently set to spend the coming year in the Philippines.

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