Near as we can find, this is definitely something new. It’s an underwater video camera, Sanyo model “Xacti VPC- E1.”

Almost all cameras used for underwater photography are mounted in special waterproof housings. The cameras and housings are sold separately. This one is waterproof right out of the box. Joy tried it out diving into Lake Michigan andUnderwater Camera everything worked fine. She didn’t see any sunken ships, so she pointed it at her own face while swimming and talking. Bob asked why she didn’t smile, and she said it was too cold. It picked up sound quite well, however. It’s remarkable how much noise there is underwater.

The manufacturer says the depth limit is 1.5 meters, which is about five feet. Bob has a general rule that most manufacturers’ guidelines can be pushed to double the stated limits, because the lawyers told them to play it safe. That’s so later, if the camera fails and you admit you took it a full two meters under, they can wag a finger and brush you off. Saltwater use is not recommended, as it’s highly corrosive.

The camera weighs only eight ounces and easily fits in the palm of one hand. Video is stored on SD flash memory chips, just like those used for many still cameras. Video clips are stored as MPEG-4 files, which are handy for e-mailing and uploading. You can film for 10 hours with an eight-gigabyte memory card.

With the push of a button you can also take still photos, either separately or in the midst of shooting video. Video shooting uses image stabilization software that eliminates all but the worst shaking. Playback can be on the camera’s own bright viewing screen, a TV set, your computer, a video iPod or saved to a VCR or DVD.

Picture and sound quality were excellent, whether above ground or underwater. We found the camera for $500 at SharperImage.com and $432 at Amazon.com. We checked around for user opinions and everyone seemed to lvoe it. We quite agreed and were impressed with the camera, despite the depth limitations.

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