Once upon a time, not so long ago, Canon would offer 4 or 5 different underwater housings for different camera models in each generation. Today as compact cameras are increasingly replaced by smart phones Canon only offers a single case; The WP-DC55 for the new PowerShot G7X MKII camera. This advanced compact camera still holds the Canon’s place in the UW photo compact market. But then again there is not much competition left. Unless you want to spend quite a bit more money, double or even 4 times the amount, for a third party housing the Canon G7X MKII package is almost your only choice for a camera of this statue. Most other companies don’t seem to bother anymore with underwater housings.
Canon PowerShot G7X MKII features:
It goes without saying that there are no huge differences between the earlier G7X and its younger sibling the MKII model. Externally these robust metal bodied cameras are very similar apart from two things: The MK II version has a screen that can be tilted to more positions and an enhanced hand grip for better handling. Neither of these features make a difference when inside the housing though.
The new camera has the same Sony made 1″ 20MP CMOS sensor that was also inside the MK1 model. Not that this is a bad thing as the large sensor provides amazing almost lower end DSLR quality photos and stunning videos. Slightly disappointingly canon has left out 4K recording capability from the new camera. This almost is a standard feature with higher end-cameras light this today. See the Sony RX100 IV camera for example, which has very similar speck to the G7X MKII model but comes with the UHD video options.
The powerful 24-100mm f1.8 – f2.8 lens is also still the same that could be found from the earlier model. Great lens, but as it is quite large the external wide-angle choices are still quite limited when combined with the housing.
I guess the biggest change from underwater photographer’s point of view is the G7X MKII’s new DSLR type UI. I think Canon wanted to emphasise the seriousness of the camera model by changing the user interface for a more professional style. Unfortunately this also means that the customary and extremely useful custom white balance feature has changed. With the G7X MKII you will need to take your white balance readings from a recorded image. This is familiar to all DSLR users out there I’m sure. Also the handy programmable short cut button can’t be anymore be used for taking the white balance reading. It’s a great shame as Canon was always the go to camera model for underwater photographers who wanted to take WB readings fast with only few button presses. What used to take 2-3 button presses with the G7X takes now almost 20 button presses with the MKII model. Good bye one touch white balance.
Canon WP-DC55 housing features.
The new 40mm depth rated WP-DC55 housing seems to have gained a useful grip extension, mirroring the camera’s similarly positioned piece. Apart from this small but handy addition the housing continues the safe and sound canon housing design range. You have controls for all camera buttons apart from the rear jog wheel. This is not a deal-breaker though, as you can still use the wheel controls via a button combination.
You can add lenses on the housing by using the Inon’s 28LD DC54 mount base originally made to fit the WP-DC54 housing (this probably will be named the DC54/55 mount base soon by the company). The suitable wet-macro-lenses are the Inon ULC-100LD and the ULC-165LD. For wide-angle the situation is slightly more complex. As the camera lens and the housing port is too large to fit the standard Inon wide-angle lenses your only option is the special zoom through UWL-S100 ZM80 lens. This lens can be slightly fiddly to use as it needs to be positioned carefully on exactly the right distance from the port glass with a help of a separate M52 to LD bayonet adapter. The camera zoom needs also to be at about 85mm position to get the desired view. The UWL-S100 ZM80 lens is also not very sharp when used with large apertures so you should stop down at least few stops to gain sharper corners. This warning has even been printed to the side of the lens. I would personally also recommend using the little Inon ZM80 dome unit add-on you can get for this lens. It further improves the image quality and also widens the view angle. To get the wide-angle system working you will need to buy all 4 parts; the mount base, the lens adapter, the lens itself and the dome port. Put together these costs £570 in the UK.
G7X II is a top quality compact with a nice housing and unless you are a dedicated wide-angle shooter I would thoroughly recommend. If you want to do lots of super wide-angle or fisheye-kind of photography underwater then maybe you will have to look at the Sony RX models as they are more forgiving when it comes to the external lens choices. If budget is not an issue Nauticam has announced a housing for the MKII version. Once available combined with a special N50 short port even a fisheye lens is a possibility. Just remember that the Nauticam NA-G7XII housing itself costs near £1000 so this option is not really viable for everybody.