Whether you're an adventurer or accident prone, having a waterproof camera on hand can make sure you get the best shot without damaging an expensive piece of equipment. Believe it or not, waterproof digital cameras are still a new and growing field. Once available only to those with big budgets, manufacturers are finally cornering the market on lower-priced models for casual clickers. This means that the general public can now snag underwater cams for a reasonable price to capture all of those summer memories. But how do the cameras actually work, and how can you keep yours in perfect condition?

Camera housing. The first thing that separates an underwater camera from a regular digital camera is the housing. Anyone who has ever accidentally dropped a phone into water knows that, usually, electronics and water don't mix. That's why the housing for the camera has to be completely airtight   so that water cannot get inside the camera. You can also purchase a waterproof housing for your regular digital camera, but purchasing an underwater camera with factory-made waterproof housing is usually more dependable, since there's little chance for user error to allow water to seep into the camera and cause a huge problem.

Rubber seals. A factory-direct model features rubber seals around all of the parts that open to keep water out, but that also means that the camera should be clean, salt-free and dry before you pop any of them open.

Lens thickness. If there's anything we've learned from sci-fi movies about what it's like underwater, it's that glass breaks at certain depths. That's why submarines and other underwater vessels need super-thick windows. Well, a waterproof camera uses the same concept, on a smaller scale. When you purchase a waterproof camera, one of the first things you should check is the allowed depth. This is important, since the camera is only engineered to go a certain distance from the surface, thanks to the added pressure. As you go deeper, the water pressure increases, and so does your camera's chance of a shattered lens. Underwater cams have thicker lenses than regular digital cameras, but they aren't invincible. If you're planning to go deep sea diving, make sure you check the depth information for each model before you buy.

Themes. Camera manufactures often install their devices with themes, or settings, that are ideal for certain conditions, such as shooting outside or taking shots of pets. Luckily, waterproof cameras often have the same type of settings   especially beginner models   so you can easily get the most impressive shot. The difference is that an underwater camera has to make accommodations for the way light travels through water, and for the types of shots you'll be taking. Instead of parties and pets, you'll probably see themes like fish portraits.

A waterproof camera isn't exactly a necessary piece of equipment, but it's definitely nice to have if you're heading on vacation, or if you've had incidents with water and digital cameras in the past. Luckily, most consumer waterproof cams shoot decent pictures on land too, so you get the best of both worlds. Just make sure you know what you're buying; there are many options, and you don't want to end up with a camera that doesn't really suit your needs.

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