View Full Version : DC800 Maxx kit first impressions...

01-29-2009, 16:34
My kit arrived yesterday with ScubaToys's usual promptness.

I haven't had a chance to use the camera underwater, yet, but here are my first impressions of the kit.

The camera:

From I have shot several shots with it, and so far I am EXTREMELY unimpressed with the image quality. I don't know if I have a bad copy of the camera, but the IQ is actually not good at all.

So far, leaving it on programed mode, I have taken pictures of several items in different modes. The biggest problem I see is that the camera is VERY soft when the lens is about half way out... wide angle image quality is OK (not good, but OK) and at 4X the image quality is OK (again, not good but OK) but in the middle range it is just really, really soft... strangely enough, it isn't soft even across the focal plane.

Here's an example:


You can click on a bigger link version of it here:


Notice how stuff in the right hand side of the frame is in focus (the drain pipe, curb and rocks), and the stuff in the left side of the frame isn't (the window and snow)... even though I am standing square on to the building.

Here's another I took a couple minutes before, it badly missed the exposure (a simple building picture in the sunshine).

Here is a link to the series of pictures that I took, including one of a badly exposed picture of the building with horribly grainy sky and another badly exposed picture of a car with blown out whites.

The Kit:

The kit looks really cool, everything seems to be well made (except for those plastic braces under the flash units, which look very breakable).

SO... I don't really know what to do at this point. I didn't expect the camera to have DSLR performance, but I though it would be at least as good as my $120 Canon A590... it's not even ballpark in image quality.

I may have a bad one, I am not sure.

Needless to say, not very happy on dropping over $1K on this system so far.

Zenfolio | Zoopictures.net | Scuba Diving 2008 (http://zoopictures.zenfolio.com/p766306524)

01-29-2009, 16:39
For comparison's sake, I just ran out and took a picture with my cheapo Kodak Easy Share Z710.

Here it is:


01-29-2009, 17:18
I am EXTREMELY unimpressed with the image quality

Welcome to owning a Sealife Camera. You'll only make the mistake once.

Also, underwater, you won't want to use the zoom function AT ALL. Get physicaly close!

01-29-2009, 17:49
I talked to Joe... they are sending me another one. Hopefully it will be better.

01-29-2009, 17:59
I talked to Joe... they are sending me another one. Hopefully it will be better.

Hopefully it will solve your issues.

Im also on my second Sealife camera (warrantied through Sealife) but still having problems. I give up and will never buy another.

Goodluck to you! Cheers :smiley20:

Let us know how it turns out.

01-30-2009, 11:41
Are manufacturing defects common to Sealife products?

01-30-2009, 17:09
I haven't had a chance to use the camera underwater, yet, but here are my first impressions of the kit.

Sealife makes a good entry level camera. That being said, it is what it is. If you have advanced topside photographic experience, witch it is apparent that you do, this may not be the best set up for you.

While the DC800 is improved over the DC600 & DC500 all of these cameras are geared for beginning to intermediate experience levels. The real benefit to systems like these is that they take the guess work out of the "how" and "what" with a easier learning curve. Basically they are plug and play.....

Now with this being said you can take very good to great U/W photos with these systems but you have to know and work within the cameras limitations. Underwater the strobes will make a big difference by adding light into the photos witch I would hope would help with detail and focus.

I agree with your assessment on the posted photos. The only thing I can say here is the photo #38 and #42 have a lot better exposure and detail. I would guess possibly there could have been better lighting (maybe less cloud cover) for these photos. As with most digicams low light can really affect detail and increase noise levels. I have not used the DC800 (have worked with the DC500 & DC600) so I do not know how much control you have over settings to help out with this.

As far as the soft left side, this could be a problem. I hope the replacement camera fixes this issue.

02-05-2009, 09:54
OK... here's my first update...

Before I begin, I HAVE to tell you that the folks at ScubaToys ROCK THE BOAT... their customer service is incredible.

The original camera is defective. The focusing system didn't work right, and the only zoom settings where the camera was remotely sharp was all the way in and all the way out. Several of the ranges had the camera completely out of focus on the left half of the frame.

I called ST and they sent me out a replacement camera the same day.

It arrived as a full unopened DC800 kit with waterproof housing and all, and I took the camera out of the case. The first thing I noticed as I unwrapped it is that there was a DENT in the front of the camera. The dent appears to be entirely cosmetic, and looked to not affect the functioning of the camera... still, I don't really want to have a brand new camera with a dent in it (I can make my own dents, thank you very much). The housing is metal, and there was a sharp dent right under the flash. Curious to see whether the camera worked (or had any different lens than the first camera), I took it outside shot a few shots, then did a controlled series of shots inside my kitchen. The camera lens was sharp at all but one of the "zoom stops" (basically each time you touch the button it moves the zoom to another apparently predesigned stop) in the center of the frame. Better, but still not nearly as good as my $120 Kodak that I am comparing it to.

Again I called ST and told them about the dent. There was no damage to any of the packaging, and Joe sent me out another camera the same day.

This one arrived yesterday (for those that are counting, that is a camera arriving every two business days).

The third camera doesn't have a dent, and it focuses sharply in the CENTER of the frame at all distances in the zoom range. OK... the upper left quarter of the frame is still horrible in all three of the cameras, so I assume that the people who make this camera simply either don't know how to make a sharp point & shoot lens or don't care... but at least the center of the frame is now in focus. Barrel distortion and fringing are frighteningly bad... worse than many of the cheapest of point & shoots.

Three different cameras of the same make, each with significantly different levels of lens clarity. That tells me quality control at Sealife (or their manufacturer, which is either Minox or the manufacturer who makes Minox cameras in China) is frankly not very good.

The worst of the distortion is at the edges of the frames (typical for point & shoots) but I am guessing the lens has a "sweet spot" that one just has to find.

The pictures I have taken so far have been just tests out of the water. I haven't yet started messing with the settings (I am hoping that when I set the lens to a higher aperture it will clean up a bit).

While I am not at all impressed by the quality of the camera, the flashes seem actually quite nice. I popped it in the case and started playing around shooting stuff in the house, and the flashes fired no problem, and they seemed to do a pretty good job. Auto exposure was blowing out the whites really bad, but multi-flash setups require tweaking and training...

I plan on getting the set up wet at the pool in a couple weeks and playing with it.

I am disappointed in the camera, no doubt, but it will be "good enough" to use for learning. The rest of the system looks pretty good though. I will probably end up getting a G10 and a canon housing and the Sealife flash connectors and throwing this DC800 in the trash (or, more realistically, on Ebay) when I can swing the cash.

More updates when I get it wet... now I gotta go get a couple "bad" cameras ready to go to back to ScubaToys.

02-06-2009, 03:52
Thanks for the update. I was wondering if there was a significant difference with the new camera's focus.

02-06-2009, 18:01
I have taken sample pictures and sent them to Sealife and am talking to their reps. I am shipping back the two worst ones to ScubaToys as defective.

Make no mistake, my problem is with the product NOT ScubaToys, the folks there have been way above and beyond the call.

02-09-2009, 11:50
Yet another update:

Sealife looked at the sample photos and asked me to send the camera in for repair or replacement.

I'm out $15 bux shipping the defective's back to scubatoys (they sent prepaid label which was nice in thought, except for they sent it for one pounds worth of weight and the cameras (and full DC8000 kit) the sent weighed in at about 5 pounds so I ended up having to pay postage and shipping out of my pocket... plus another $15 for shipping the same items off to Sealife, plus I am unable to use the camera on a couple dive sessions was planning on using it at.

We will see how it goes from here. I will keep y'all informed.

02-09-2009, 13:27
Thanks for the update, I will be interested in hearing what Sealife says and or does.

02-10-2009, 23:43
Please PM with what happens as I have a DC800, and I would like to know what the resolution with the folks at SeaLife is.

Thanks in advance!

02-13-2009, 19:59
Sounds like you got a lemon.
I picked up a DC800 at ST - I previously used a DC500.
I've taken both on 2 trips to Cayman, and I've been totally impressed by the DC800. I generally prefer "aquarium" dives and like to dive "light", so I've used it without external stobes. I set the U/W focus mode to infinity and use the blue water color correction - if you are <60' in good vis (why else would you shoot?) everything >2' is in focus. For the price, I'm very impressed. Will it replace a Hasselblad H2F in custom lexan housing with dual external strobes and a shirpa to carry you gear? Of course not. BUT, for the difference in cost I can do 4 trips to Cozumel...
My previous experience with the tech support folks at Sealife has always been excellent. Call their support line and ask for help. They are great.
If all else fails, call ST and talk to Joe - he is super and will make things right.

02-13-2009, 20:31
Wow you are extremely patient. I would have sent the second one back and got a completely different setup. I hope it works out for you after all the trouble you have gone through.

02-16-2009, 16:06
The camera arrived at Pioneer Research (Sealife) the day after Thursday the 12th. We will see how it goes.

02-20-2009, 13:47

OK, I contacted Sealife via email to see what was up with my camera. It arrived a week ago, and the person answering the email told me "I should get to your return by next week".

I guess I may as well cancel the UW photography training class and dives I had scheduled next week.

02-20-2009, 14:25
Wow! I wonder if they are either
A: Busy with a lot of the same camera issues that you have had
B: Just slow
C: Combo of the two?

At this point I think I would be requesting a full refund.

02-25-2009, 07:35

When I contacted Sealife last Friday, the person I corresponded with asked me when the next time I was planning to use my camera was, and I told her that I was planning to use it in a class this monday (i.e. two days ago from when I type this). A series of emails popped back and forth. I basically told her that I was having to cancel my class. She said she pulled my camera and looked at it, and that she was going to send me out a new camera and that she could overnight it if that would help...

I asked her to please shoot a few shots and check the lens on the new one (after three bad ones in a row, I really don't want a foruth) and she said that the company also wanted to have another person who was not in the office that day check out the one coming to me... and that this person would be in the office Monday... after which she could overnight the camera to me if that would help.

I replied that while I appreciated the thought, since my class started Monday and the best case scenario got the camera to me Tuesday, there's no point in spending the money overnighting it. My goal here is to get a camera that takes sharp pictures, not put the hurt on Sealife financially.

I rescheduled my class for next month (not nearly as convenient for me since I have a BUNCH of other classes over the next two months, but it is what it is).

The Sealife rep contacted me again on Monday and said that they wanted to send me a DC1000 as a replacement, but that they wouldn't be available for another week, was it OK to wait until they were in.

Since I am a month away from when I need the camera now, I agreed... hopefully it will have either a better lens design or no lens defects like the DC800's I have been getting have had.

Back to the DC800.

I honestly can't figure out whether it is a design flaw or a defect in manufacturing. I would be absolutely amazed that any company would intentionally design a lens that doesn't focus across the focal plane at many or all focal lengths... sure, every zoom lens has its limitations, I understand that... every zoom is a compromise, and there's always a sweet spot to every lens design. The three DC800's that I had though all had multiple bad spots, and at different focal lengths they distorted in different ways. That would lead me more towards the manufacturing defect theory.

I admit I am not your typical Sealife customer... as somebody who takes 20-30K pictures annually with three different DSLR's, I am certainly not the typical point and shoot user. I do, however, really enjoy shooting point & shoots, because they have advantages on their own. My Kodak Z710 IS is my constant companion, and if I don't have that with me I have my $99 Canon 570IS.

I want to make it perfectly clear that when I was comparing image quality of the Sealife DC800 I was comparing it against the Kodak (which I bought for $99 with a coupon from Dell) and the Canon 570IS which I bought on sale at Staples. I was not comparing it to my D300 with the pristine 105 VR macro that I use for bugs, or the 70-200 VR that I use for wildlife and on my zoo trips.

To me, I think it is reasonable to expect a $250 (the price of the camera alone) point & shoot to have the same image quality as one that costs half its price.

End of updates until the DC1000 arrives.