Canon WP-DC20

The WP-DC20 is the underwater case for the Canon PowerShot S1 IS camera. All the controls of the camera are availble through watertight (you hope) extensions that pass through the case to the outside.

Underwater Cameras and Cases

I was at a camera show a year ago and found a Canon underwater case for
a camera: a WP-DC20. I didn’t
know that Canon made underwater
gear for amateur and enthusiast photographers so it was a
revelation. The owner was junking
out his basement, i.e. his wife was
fed up with the camera stuff in the basement, so he was offering it
for very little, like almost giving
it away.  I had to buy it. Really no choice. And that began my research into Canon underwater gear.

It came as a surprise to me that Canon made watertight cameras as well as cases for regular ones. They made a few 

cameras but a lot more cases for PowerShot cameras. I had no idea that they were in to this until I found that first WP-DC20.

So, how are we to approach what has turned out to be a large subject. Well, lets start with the Underwater Cameras. There are only a few and it shouldn’t take long. Then we can get into the Underwater Cases which is a much larger subject.

I am not a fan of the water and really don’t like being under it so I have not tried out any of these things. So, no amazing pictures at the end of this page. Sorry about that.

Aqua Snappy AS-6

Called the Aqua Snappy in North America and the AS-6 everywhere else all cameras of this model seem to have been made from the same moulds because AS-6 is embossed on the front.

Aqua Snappy

The earliest Canon underwater camera I can find is the Aqua Snappy, or AS-6 everywhere else, brought out in February of 1986. Although it was called the Aqua Snappy in North America the AS-6 logo appears on the body moulded into the plastic. It was produced until 1994 when it was replaced by the A-1 Sure Shot camera.

This is a 35mm film camera with automatic exposure. The f/4.5 lens is a 5 element design and is fixed focus.

The Aqua Snappy was the first purpose built 35mm underwater camera by a major manufacturer. The idea was to have a camera that could go with you to the beach, that would be impervious to sand, which can wreck a camera in an instant, that that can go into the water with you. It will float in water and is easily visible  with its bright yellow case. A fun camera for the beach!

Aqua Snappy AS-6
Aqua Snappy AS-6

I do nat have an Aqua Snappy and so I am beholden to an E-bay vendor for the three images of the camera that I show here. Externally this camera looks like any other small oint and shoot except for the robust latches and weather sealing.

Aqua Snappy AS-6

A page from Popular Mechanics of July 1986 talking about underwater cameras.

Aqua Snappy AS-6

Read the manual for the operating instructions which are explained there better than I could do!

On the technical side, the camera is powered by 2 AAAcells, either Lithium or Alkaline batteries. Canon says that it is waterproof to 10 meters, or about 30 feet. Shutter speeds range from 1/40th to 1/250th. The camera sets film speed from DX codes on the film can and it will accept film speeds between ISO 100 and 400.

The lens is fixed focus but it is a little wierd in that above water the lens is set for 5 fett to infinity but underwater it is set for 3.3 feet to 10.7 feet. The lens does not actually change focal point. The index of refraction of the water is what causes the difference in focal difference.

The camera is designed to be used above water as well. Because it is sealed it can shoot in rain, snow or sun and suffer no damage. Even dropping it in the dirt will not affect it as no dirt can get past the water seals.

However, read the instructions about camera care and maintenance very carefully. If water does get into the camera the film will be damaged and very likely the camera will be as well.

The camera could be used simply as a beach camera but if you intended it for underwater photography the camera could be purchased with an accessories pack to make underwater photography better. There was an attachable viewfind that made framing the picture easier with a face mask on. And there were various devices that allowed close-up photography above and below water.

Exactly how these attachments worked is shown in the USer Manual for the camera, available on the left for you to read.

Canon Sure Shot A-1

This camera is an improvement on the Aqua Snappy in that it is auto focusing above water but still fixed focus below. Being waterproof it is also sand proof so it is perfect for the beach. But read the instructions carefully about care of the camera and the rubber seals.

Sure Shot A-1 (Prima AS-1)

Canon replaced the Aqua Snappy in 1994 with the Sure Shot A-1, called the Autoboy D5 in Japan and Prima AS-1 in Europe. This camera, too, was a water tight camera good to depths of 5 meters or about 15 feet.

Lens is 32mm f/3.5 with 6 elements in 6 groups. It is fully automatic. Above water it is auto focusing but below water it is fixed focus. Again, the water’s index of refraction throws the optics for a loop.

Film speed is read from the DX code on the film can. If film has no DX code then it defaults to ISO 25. The  camera is powered by one 123A Lithium battery.

I have this camera and have prepared a separate page for it. Click on the camera image to go there.




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