The Nikon Coolpix L22 (and L24) and Ikelite housing is a good little go to camera set up for divers, whether you’re new to the scene or more experienced but looking for a camera for travel purposes. I picked mine up in August, 2010, and since then it has been through a variety of conditions and has proven to largely be capable of handling them. It’s been in tropical conditions, which gave me the best performance, and in cold water conditions, where despite particulate and darkness, it has managed to take some fantastic photos. Here’s my take on this little workhorse:
Durable. The Nikon Coolpix L22 camera is pretty good, and lives in a small Pelican Case when it’s not in service. The Ikelite housing has survived air transit, my dive bag, being stuffed in pockets, dropped, banged off of things in the boat and only has some scuff marks to show for over a year of very heavy usage.
Easy to use. Once you memorize which buttons on the housing are for what functions, this camera is very user friendly and easy to operate. I typically have mine set to -1.0 for exposure, and have the flash set to “always” because of the dark nature of the water in the Pacific Northwest. My image mode is 3m 2048×1536.
Portable. Without a strobe system or tray, this camera is very portable and fits easily in the side pockets of many vest style BCD’s. This is very handy when you need to have both hands free; mine is typically attached to a retractable lanyard so if I need to let it go, I can without fear of losing it. As a bonus, without a strobe or tray, it is very positively buoyant, and will shoot to the surface if released. A huge plus in my mind!
Upgradeable. Ikelite offers a series of upgrades, including lenses, filters and strobe set ups for this camera.A fully kitted out Nikon Coolpix L22 is easily the sort of starter set up a professional underwater photographer might have, and the sort of advanced set up an enthusiast might want. As a bonus, the same housing will hold and operate a Nikon Coopix L24 camera, which is 14Mp as opposed to the L22’s 12Mp.
Field Ready. This camera runs on AA batteries, which immediately catapults it into field friendly status. As an additional bonus, you can replace the camera for much, much less than say, a Sea&Sea or Sealife camera should the housing flood. These two factors alone make this camera a good choice for the travelling diver.
All the pictures with this post (save for the official Ikelite one) are raw, unmodified pictures taken during dives around Vancouver Island. I’ve done this to give an idea of what this camera is capable of. Next week I’ll go over some maintenance tricks and photography techniques that I’ve found handy with my Nikon Coolpix L22 and Ikelite housing set up.