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Breakthrough Designs: Optics
All prices in U.S. dollars
Before the introduction of systems like the SeaLife ReefMaster MAXX, you had to shell out upwards of $5,000 for a quality underwater-photography setup. The MAXX's sub-$700 price tag includes the point-and-shoot ReefMaster camera itself, a case, a snap-on 3X macro lens, and dual wide-mounted, external flashes to ensure that you illuminate that moray eel, not the water's myriad suspended particles.
Tested to 160 feet (49 meters), the ReefMaster also works as a land camera when taken out of its casing.
2. Night-vision monocular: Night Owl Optics Explorer Marine
The Russian-designed light-amplification module inside the Night Owl Optics Explorer Marine night-vision monocular boosts available light and hurls it against a phosphorescent screen, yielding green but crystal-clear images in near darkness. You can see without being seennever again will rival spies or snooping grizzlies go undetected.
The Explorer Marine is waterproof and compact, and it will float if you drop it in a creek. Its infrared illuminator lets you use it on a moonless night.
3. Digital camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1
Even by itself, the palm-size, 3.3-mega-pixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1 digital camera is no slouch: It has a 3X optical zoom, a USB port for easy downloads to your PC, and a long-life battery that lasts through 1,700 images or 110 one-minute MPEG movies. But encapsulate it in Sony's MPK-P1 marine pack (shown here), and this may be the first digital camera you can take into the wilds without fearing for its life.
The MPK-P1 keeps sand, wind, and snow off the sensitive electronics, and you can dive with it to a hundred feet [31 meters].
The Canon ZR30 MC has most of the features of a high-end digital video camera without the staggering cost. Equipped with a 200X zoom and an image stabilizer for shake-free shooting, the ZR30 offers optional manual control over focus, white balance, and shutter speed, and an auto-exposure mode for shadows and mixed light.
Best of all, it doubles as a still camera with the flick of a switch, and its extended-recording function lets you capture four hours of video on a normal 80-minute cassetteso you don't have to lug an extra camera or additional tapes when traveling.
Photographs by Spencer Jones
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