SeaLife DC1400 Review

A look at the underwater camera that replaced the popular DC1200

By Scott Gietler

 
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The SeaLife DC1400 upgrades the popular DC1200 camera, with additional features for beginner and intermediate level photographers. The price is right, at $499 USD for the camera + housing, $829 with a strobe. Read on to find out what exciting new features this camera has.

 

 

DC1400 Overview

The camera and housing are designed to be easy to use. There's not too many dials on the camera. You have the following controls:

  • The mode button switched between video and still modes. On the housing, this is called "video".
  • The play button lets you review images
  • The menu button is for the menu.

Taking photos, reviewing photos and changing modes is all fairly easy.

 

SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing specs

  • Housing depth rated to 200ft / 60 meters
  • Housing has a single standard-size tripod mount (same size as Canon & Olympus housings)

 

 

Front view of the SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing.

 

Rear view of the SeaLife DC1400 underwater housing, showing the "piano key" design.

 

 

SeaLife DC1400 camera specs

  • 14 megapixel camera, 4288x3216, 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 26mm -130mm lens, F2.8-F6.5
  • 720p HD video (1280x720) at 30fps
  • 1/2.33" CCD sensor, about 2/3rds the area of a Canon S95/G12 sensor
  • 3 inch LCD, 230K pixels
  • Takes SD memory cards
  • Camera has built-in image stabilization

 

Front view of the SeaLife DC1400 camera.

 

Rear view of the SeaLife DC1400 camera.

 

What's in the DC1400 box?

Lots of good stuff. You get the standard cables and well-written manuals, along with a couple desciccants, a lens cloth, cleaning brush, international plug adapters, a diffuser for the internal flash, and an adapter for adding a strobe. Nice job, SeaLife!

 

Focusing Modes

The SeaLife DC1400 has several focusing modes, including 2 "macro" modes. Which mode you use effects the allowed focusing distance, and how quickly the camera can focus.

Here's the modes to use underwater:

  • Infinity mode - very fast focusing, basically there is only shutter lag. But subject should be at least 3ft away. Best when shooting sharks, pelagics, or anything that won't come too close.
  • Auto - pretty fast focusing, but won't focus closer than 1ft - which will be frustrating if your subjects gets closer than 1ft. Good for fish swimming nearby.
  • Macro - the camera focuses a little slower in this mode, but it is best mode to use for static subjects 4 inches to 1.5ft away
  • Supermacro - focusing can be slow, but it allows you to get as close as you possibly can. Zoom is disabled

 

Scene Modes

There are 33 scene modes, but you really only need a couple of them.

Dive and Snorkel mode both seem to add the same amount of red back into the photo, for ambient light underwater photography. However, it's best to learn how to use a white dive slate and manual white balance.

When using a strobe, external flash manual mode is the way to go.

When using the internal flash, none of the modes seemed to give me control over my settings, and some of them wouldn't even let me set the ISO. Av and Tv mode gave strange ISO or shutter speed settings.  "P" mode seemed just as good as any, defauting to F2.8, 1/60th -  not ideal for underwater though.

 

DC1400 Macro capability

I like to measure the smallest area width a camera can photograph. Here are the measurements:

Macro mode, zoomed out: 11.5cm (4 1/2 inches)
Macro mode, zoomed in: 8 cm (3 1/4 inches)
Macro mode, zoomed in 2/3rds of the way:   6.5cm (2 1/2 inches). Not sure why, but this is the "sweet spot" in macro mode.

Supermacro mode (zoom is locked to 1/3 of the way in supermacro mode): The DC1400 can photograph an area as small as 2.5cm (1 inch) across, but you will be very, very close to the subject - which means your working distance is tiny, and you may have a hard time lighting the subject. Taking a photo 3cm (1 1/4 inches) across gives you a little bit of working distance. One thing to note - in this mode you can't fire the internal flash unless you are in external flash mode.

 

Sealife Wide-angle lens options

There is a nice fisheye lens available for this housing, and also for the DC1200. While not a super-wide lens, it is much better than not having one, and at $280 it is an excellent value. Look for sample photos coming soon!

 

SeaLife DC1400 Quick Start Guide

  • Understand that inside the housing, you'll use the zoom control to move left and right in the menus, and the shutter release instead of the "select" button. If you don't know this, using the camera in the housing will be very frustrating!
  • Go into the menu and change "ISO" from AUTO to ISO 100
  • Change image stabilization on "ON"
  • Go to 2nd menu, turn "AUTO-OFF" to "OFF"

 

SeaLife DC1400 Pros

  • Rugged, durable easy to use housing
  • Several underwater modes make it easy for beginners to start taking shots underwater
  • Fast focusing in infinity and auto modes
  • Good price point, add a SeaLife strobe and you are at a great price point
  • Great macro capability in supermacro mode 
  • HD Video support
  • "Full manual" mode allows for adjustment of aperture & shutter speed, this is very nice. Shutter speed can be adjusted in one-stop increments, from 1 second to 1/2000th. Aperture can be set to 2 different values, which are 3 stops apart.

 

SeaLife DC1400 Cons

I don't consider any of these issues to be show-stoppers for the beginner underwater photographer. They are just minor issues that I felt were worth pointing out.

  • Only 2 levels for aperture, for example F2.8 and F7.9 when the lens is wide open
  • No threads on port for adding external lenses
  • No zooming in on images during image review
  • No zooming in/out during video
  • No access to exposure compensation via the housing
  • ISO and focus modes are sometimes set back to the auto settings, especially when the camera is turned off in some modes, or you switch modes.
  • No RAW support

 

Conclusions

For beginner underwater photographers who want a good quality housing at a good price, the SeaLife DC1400 is a good value. The ability to change aperture and shutter speed means that photographers who want to take their photography to the next level can do so, especially when the wide-angle lens comes out. The supermacro capability, and the fast-shooting infinity focus mode gives it some advantages over camera/ housing combinatons that cost much more. The SeaLife strobe is highly recommended when getting this camera.

 

Purchase the DC-1400 on Bluewater Photo

 

 

Further Reading

Great underwater photos without a strobe

Sony RX-100 underwater review

 

 


Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice! Here is their Sealife DC1400 page.


 

 

Comments

Save your money and buy a

Save your money and buy a higher quality product. Sea Life cameras are not very high quality and they offer no service outside of their warranty. Our's failed with less than 100 dives. We followed all the service recommendations and the camera was never flooded or dropped. It just stopped recognizing sim cards. The really bad part about Sea Life is that they offer no long term service for their products. By the time you buy a camera, strobes and unique accessories you have a substantial investment for a product that can not be serviced and is not very high quality. Ikelite will service their products and you are much better off buying one of their housings with a quality camera.

Hello all. I am wondering if

Hello all. I am wondering if buying a flash light or video light is a must for dives less than 40meters depth with a fair amount of sun light. Does it really worth buying flash/video light for just photo shooting?

Can you help me to choose

Can you help me to choose between SeaLife DC1400 Pro Duo (#SL726) or the Sealife DC1400 Pro X2 SL-723.
I used to take more pictures than video but some times I whish like to take videos too.
with just one strobe is enough? or 2 are significantly
better?
does it worth it?

Martin

i bought this camera with the

i bought this camera with the strobe this year as a push into underwater photography... i do love this camera and have got some great results from using it.

i do want to upgrade it already to something that shoots raw and with better lens and settings.

but for a beginner underwater photographer i would def recommend this product for the cost it is great.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/77813728@N02/?saved=1

here are some pictures i shot in Roatan in April 2012. ( second time using this camera, and 2nd time shooting under water.)
lots of features to get used to, it was very fun to play around with the settings on each dive.

Mike -- If you are upgrading

Mike -- If you are upgrading I wonder if you'd like to sell your used Sealife DC1400 camera, housing, strobe and whatever else you've added to it, to me. I'm looking for a good used one to start with. If you're interested, let me know your original cost and what now have in mind in terms of a price for selling it used to me. Reply to this and we'll figure out a way to contact each other directly.

Your website helped me alot

Your website helped me alot for under water photography.Thanks a lot!
removing skin tags

Trip to Mexico Feb 18-28

Trip to Mexico Feb 18-28 Akumal Beach Resort. 6 day dives and 2 snorkeling days. 344 pics, Great above and below water pictures! My facebook page with the photos (cut out 20 or so photos, blurry ones)

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.345867648787890.75423.100000939...
..

I had the video light and would buy the flash if I had been smarter. Maybe for next years trip.

Amazing album!!!

Amazing album!!!

Looking at purchasing the DC

Looking at purchasing the DC 1400 (my first UWW Camera) w. either the flash or video strobe. If I win lottery might get both.

Question re: if I get the viedo strobe and then switch to the camera will the video stobe stay on and provide some additional light? Will the camera's internal flash also fire with the video strobe on?

Thanks for your support.
Jim

Can reply to JimQNY@nyc.rr.com

Jim, I bought the camera with

Jim,
I bought the camera with the video light and it worked as advertized. I would recommend that you buy the flash if you are mainly looking for the photos and not video. I bought the video light and after the first few dives, really wanted to change out to the flash. Maybe next year.

Bought one in Nov 2011.

Bought one in Nov 2011. Initially used in St. Lucia, took over 500 pix, mostly under but some above water. Got some great pictures and I give most of the credit to camera, not the operator. Just got ext flash and heading to Fla tomorrow, we'll see if the pix are that much nicer. Will advise on request. Got incredible pricing after a lot of searching. Am sure will satisfy novices and a lot of intermediate photographers.

Where did you get yours from

Where did you get yours from and how much did you pay, if you don't mind us asking?

I bought one three weeks ago

I bought one three weeks ago for $749.00 on Amazon with a $30.00 rebate through Sea Life. I beleive the rebate was only through February 1 though.

GOOD investment.

GOOD investment.

You mention in your review

You mention in your review that there may be a wide angle lens out for the DC1400 in the spring. You also list in the "cons" remarks that there are no threads on the port for adding a lens.
How will the new lens be incorporated?

If the wide angle lens for

If the wide angle lens for the DC1400 Is like the one for the DC 1000 model it slips on the housing (is not threaded on). There is a tether attached from the housing to the lens if you want to take the lens off or in case it falls off.

I've not gotten an answer to

I've not gotten an answer to my comment on the new wide angle lens for the DC1400. If you've sent a reply could you please resend as I may have deleted it in error.

hi, im interested in buying

hi, im interested in buying this... how can i purchase? Im from Philippines but based in Bangkok, can it either be shipped to my parents house or here in Bangkok if you have office here? Please let me know. Many thanks,Len

From the sound of this review

From the sound of this review it will be a great investment for everyone. There are many things that we see every day that we just have to guess on but you have given a great review and description.

I would like to review this

I would like to review this camera but Sealife wont ship it to a small dive shop that only orders one. Seems like they favored the large order companies first. I preordered mine a week before it came out and as of October 27th sealife is still telling my local dive shop it will be at least one more week if not more. VERY SLOW shipping from sealife and makes me wonder what will happen if I have problems with it later.