Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5

Underwater camera follow-up

Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5 and MPK-THJ marine housing

I wrote a review of my Sony DSC-TX5 with its MPK-THJ marine housing in October, after our trip to Sodwana. At that stage I’d had an opportunity to take the camera on a number of dives, both deep and shallow, in various conditions, but it was still quite new.

Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5
Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5

I’ve had the camera for a bit longer now, and taken several thousand photographs on a large number of dives. It’s still giving me a great deal of enjoyment. I complained in my review that you can’t turn off the auto-preview after taking a photo, but I’ve adapted to that and gotten used to not being able to fire off a series of photos at high speed. It requires a bit more patience not to start shooting straight away but to wait until the shot is better composed before hitting the shutter release, but I think it’s good discipline.

Sony MPK-THJ Marine Housing
Sony MPK-THJ Marine Housing

I am still struggling a bit with the fact that the camera tends to let in too much light when I point it at a white subject in shallow water – I’ve taken a LOT of photos of orange clubbed nudibranchs at Long Beach, and there’s probably only one that’s satisfactory. I’ve tried angling the camera down, but no luck yet.

I don’t use the 4x optical zoom as much as I expected I would – I tend to zoom with my feet, because the camera focuses quicker that way. The 10MP capability is fantastic – Tony and I have been able to zoom into areas of the photos afterwards and see a huge amount of detail – the shyshark copepod parasite, for example.

I was charmed to realise on a very long, shallow dive we did (in Simon’s Town yacht basin) that the intensity of the flash is adjusted based on the amount of light in the water. The hour-long dive, on which I took about 200 photographs, only used one quarter of the camera battery. The battery indicator is misleading, however – the bars are at an angle, and it’s ill-advised to start a dive with only one bar available out of the four, because that last quarter goes very fast.

On deep dives I have struggled to get decent pictures, chiefly through inexperience and ignorance, and my biggest frustration has been being able to see the entire wreck in front of me but not being able to persuade my camera that there’s something there worth focusing on. On our last deep dive, to the SAS Good Hope, I finally managed to take a few photos worth writing home about, but they were all from close up while I was keeping very, very still.

The flash, like all camera flashes, is both a blessing and a curse. On low-visibility and deep dives, backscatter is a problem, but keeping very still and shooting from close-up, minimising the amount of gunk in the water between me and the subject, also seem to work wonders.

Tony has laughed uproariously as I’ve gone through a litany of newbie mistakes – forgetting to slide the lens cover down before putting the camera in the housing, and then only switching it on for the first time when I’m 20 metres underwater… Starting a dive on low battery when I have a spare battery in the car and it would be a cinch to change it… Not checking that I have battery life left before getting on the boat or into the water… You name it, I’ve done it. It’s made me a bit paranoid, which I suppose is necessary if one wants to be ready at all times!

I haven’t had any problems with the housing flooding, although sometimes I open it and there are droplets on the clip. It’s hard to tell if these are there because I was impatient and opened the camera when the housing was still wet (usually the case!) or whether they’re an actual leak. Whatever the case, the camera has never been wet when I’ve opened the housing. I also haven’t tested its capability to be used in shallow water without the housing, and have no intention of doing so – unless by accident.

Just a note: unless I mention otherwise, the still photos on the blog are taken by me with the DSC-TX5. The videos and stills from the videos are taken by Tony using his Bonica Snapper 1080P Dive HDDV.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.