As an underwater photographer, autofocus speed and accuracy are vital qualities to consider when purchasing a camera. So when Canon introduced the PowerShot G1 X Mark III, the first compact to feature the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system from its DSLR line, I was intrigued to know if this pocket-sized camera would be fast enough for my purposes.

Fortunately, during a recent dive trip to the Egyptian Red Sea, I had the opportunity to find out.

An oceanic whitetip photographed with the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III, f/11, 1/160s, ISO400 (Photo by Ace Wu)

As well as testing the autofocus system, I wanted to challenge the biggest limitation that all compact cameras have in underwater photography: wide angle shooting. At 24mm equivalent focal length at its widest, the typical built-in zoom lens on a compact isn’t wide enough to allow you to get close to big subjects in order to light them with flash. One way of compensating for this shortcoming is simply to shoot from further away, but that means increasing ISO so that the light from your strobes has a longer reach.

My wide-angle subject of choice was the oceanic whitetip shark. Commonly sighted in the Red Sea, these dark knights of the ocean are known to be swift and agile, and they often approach divers out of curiosity. These sharks are usually found in shallow waters of around three to five metres, and it’s best to use a narrow aperture, preferably f/9 or smaller, for eye-catching images with a rich blue background. I was hoping to capture some great shots, but in such a dynamic and challenging shooting situation, would I really be able to use a compact camera to capture this speedy shark?

I was amazed to see the results with the PowerShot G1 X Mark III. Not only were the oceanic whitetips and their pilot fish entourage captured in perfect focus every time, the images had vibrant colours and stunning detail, thanks to the camera’s 24.2-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor, much larger than those found on other compacts. I couldn’t believe that this was the work of a compact camera!

While I love diving around the world, carrying all my gear has always been the biggest headache. But with the small and lightweight PowerShot G1 X Mark III in Canon’s compact dedicated WP-DC56 underwater housing, my life has been made much easier. This impressive camera is definitely a boon for both beginners and enthusiasts, and it makes an excellent backup for the more advanced underwater shooter.

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