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Underwater camera housings have been around for ages. And a few brands - such as Sea & Sea - have offered consumer underwater cameras for many years. But few major manufacturers have offered an underwater digital camera.
Olympus has been the big exception, with Pentax also offering some decent waterproof models in recent years. Now they've been joined by Canon - and the PowerShot D10.
Canon seems to be taking aim at the current leader of the waterproof pack: the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000. The D10 matches the competition almost point for point, and even exceeds the Tough 8000 in a few categories. For example, the Canon's lens is a little faster. (And a little can be a lot when shooting 25' or 30' below the surface.)
But the one critical difference, in my mind, is what you'd think would be a no-brainer. Canon includes a white balance setting for shooting underwater; Olympus does not. Anyone who's ever gotten back blue-tinted shots from a snorkling trip will appreciate this handy feature.
When I searched for underwater shots made by these two cameras, I found plenty of examples from the D10... but only one from the Tough 8000. The color of the D10 shots ranged from fair to very good. The lone Olympus example was decidedly blue. Retouching with Apple's Aperture software gave good results... but no better than the Canon produced without adjustment.
All other things being equal, I'd say Canon has a winner here.
But all other things aren't equal. The D10 comes with an estimated street price $50 lower than the Tough 8000. And to use the Stylus model, you'll have to purchase Olympus' proprietary xD memory cards, which increases the price difference further.
Witht the D10, it looks to me as though Canon may be the next king of the underwater hill.