SeaLife DC1400 Review
A look at the underwater camera that replaced the popular DC1200
By Scott Gietler
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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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.