Most reviews usually start with the arrival of the package, proceed with unpacking that reveals the contents, and then go on into progressively finer detail.
So let me say right up front that the Paralenz Dive Camera arrives in style. The cardboard box may be just purposeful and instantly forgettable but at least it is, well, post-resistant and transport-proof.
The outer package is usually nondescript, but inside that rough shielding you’ll find a more elegant box, colorfully printed in underwater motives and tasteful lettering. It was worth some minutes of perusing before going in deeper, to see and handle all that the outer wrapping announces.
Cool enough, the final package to open is one elegant charcoal-colored holdall with a blue zipper running around its three sides. Zip it open, and there’s the camera sunken in its form-fitting lair in the bottom half.
Above it, there’s a dedicated cradle for the USB cable. Yet another indentation contains a tiny jar of lubricant for the camera o-ring sealings. Hmm… Maybe the available holdall space could include one more sunken area for spare SD cards? There’s room enough. Just sayin’…
Inside the lid you’ll see an elastic netting pocket with some smaller necessities. These include a Ziploc bag with spare o-rings, a simple wrist strap, and a leaflet that points you to the proper choice of a memory card (not included). There’s also a length of elastic cord with a carabiner and a pair of interlocking magnets (described below). Here, you’ll also find the User’s Manual and several stickers that you might want to proudly display and “spread the word”.
With the cam you also receive two more accessories; one to attach the camera to the mask strap, and the other to adapt the cam’s unique attaching system to the usual GoPro-type swiveling links. Since the tests should reflect the actual variations in the DiveCamera usage, I also got what some people would see as a “selfie stick.” However, it isn’t quite meant to be used that way.
With the stick one also uses two special flotation bodies that attach to the camera – so these were also in the blister pack with the stick. More about many among those optional items later.
Slightly off-topic, but before I forget: hey Paralenz! The product’s logo design is very good, that octopus tentacle tip is easily recognized from a distance. These stickers really, er, stick out nicely. It would be great if you could also add some front-adhesive sticker version, as the kids are sure to try and peel off the outer surface stickers. So, a sticker on the inside of the car window would make it live longer.
The Paralenz Dive Camera
While still appreciating the elegant, lightweight but tough carryall box, I naturally grabbed the central piece to inspect this highly interesting, although not-quite-cheap product at a closer distance.
Since I’ve been making the Paralenz DiveCamera preview solely from the photos and as much data as was available, I am quite proud to have been able to pre-guess so much about it at the time. Having the camera in my hands though, supplied a lot of missing information and in short, my enthusiasm grew with every detail.
I have rarely seen such a precisely manufactured product before. Aside from the obvious design features – like the form factor, sturdiness, good choice of materials, along with the best sealing and command principles – I had to admire the way this camera was finished and put together. It reminds me a lot of the Nikonos Model III and Model V, which were the top-class underwater cameras in the days of film photography. I still occasionally grumble about unwillingness of Nikon to give to the diving community a full-frame digital version based on those proven encasements and optics. I’m sure many older divers will know what I mean.
You know, this little camera here exudes the same feeling – and at a first glance. There is no detail sloppily left unfinished, and all parts show manufacturing exactness comparable to, say, an expensive, tough timepiece. Its components fit together in that unique way of precisely made handguns where the whole mechanism will work only when properly assembled – and you can’t put the parts together in two ways.
UPDATE (July 16th, 2018): I just received more good news from Paralenz. The changes in subsequent Dive Camera manufacturing introduced some new materials, like aerospace-grade aluminum and scratch-proof glass. The screws are now made of Titanium, and the selector ring system has been improved. In all, the new camera version is now considered safe for working depths down to -250 meters (820′) or in other words, it can now withstand 26 Bar pressure (about double the pressure than in an airplane tire).
So no wonder it’s been named Paralenz Dive Camera + …
Concept & Manufacture
If you think I’m just shoveling accolades here, let me say that I have spent 50+ years handling many kinds of underwater equipment including various photo and video gear, in addition to the usual dive-related mechanisms. So it is pretty hard to impress me with something among that line of products. But this small camera does impress me, and especially so when compared to better known — and by now ubiquitous — Action Cameras. This also includes those that list certain higher values within their specifications and prices.
The Paralenz Dive Camera is different by its absence of image monitor, which might be regarded as a minus. This is a sensible compromise. By giving up a commodity in order to gain toughness, the camera retained its clean tubular form which makes it resistive to high pressures. The principle here is to reduce the surface exposed to pressure while keeping the volume. After the ball shape, the next best form is a cylinder. Curved convex surfaces better resist the pressure, while the flat surfaces will always tend to cave inwards.
So the only flat surfaces on this camera are at the front and back glass ports. Were there an image monitor of any usable size the part of the cam’s design, that would be its weak spot, resulting in a lot lesser depth pressure rating.
As the Paralenz DiveCamera’s working depth is safely rated at 200 meters (seawater), which translates as 21 kilograms per square centimeter of its surface, calculate for yourself what a humble monitor port of, say, 5 by 7 centimeters would have to withstand. Sure, there are ways to solve this… but not in this price range!
The Paralenz DiveCamera body consists of a cylindrical profile and two end caps made of aviation-grade aluminum. Its cylinder segment has eight longitudinal T-shaped ribs which augment the profile rigidity and strength, and serve as locking edges for accessory attaching. Although everything is polished smooth, these ribs offer good body grip, and also effectively enlarge the camera’s cooling surface.
Both end caps have solidly sealed glass ports secured by metal rings over the gaskets. The camera’s front port is sealed by its own o-rings over the lens assembly. The whole is fixed by a large screwed-on ring. This simplifies the maintenance and eventual replacement.
By the way, you can find out here in more detail about sealing and maintenance.
The end port cap screws over the rear of the camera casing via an extra-tough steep thread profile, to allow for multiple trouble-free openings and closings without any significant wear. This high-helix thread is made to begin and finish in one point only, thus featuring a positive stop at the end of its travel, and so no further tightening is neither possible nor needed. The rear glass port enables visual control of a small monitor, a memory card slot, and a USB C-type cable contact. Rear cap rim also has a protrusion with a hole where the wrist loop (or some other means of camera-securing) is attaching.
This is an elegant solution that enables simple, positive and user-friendly settings of all the options that the DiveCamera offers, and there are plenty of those. It is my humble and firm opinion that all electronic underwater equipment should make use of a similar solution.
This blue anodized octagonal aluminum ring is placed at about the back 3rd of the camera body, and there are six symbols currently etched on its surface, hinting at the possibility that two more setup positions could still be added (like some more user-customizable settings).
The ring rotates around the camera axis in eight distinctive clicks. Each time one of the symbols click-aligns with the camera logo, a small magnet within the ring activates one of the internal switches. This opens one or more (sets of) camera functions. No sealed pins pass through the camera case; all camera commands are magnet-operated. Neat, huh?
Blue ring is kept in place by four small screws that retain it in its rotating groove and is additionally shielded by the rear end cap. In the recent camera version there are no screws, however, the ring is still easily removable if one has to clean some sand grains or dirt from that area.
There is one more magnetic switch, actually a trigger used to operate the camera functions. This one is wedge-shaped and situated in the topside groove between two T-shaped rails or ribs; right behind the lens port. It is activated by sliding it back about 5 millimeters, whereupon a magnet activates whatever cam function has been chosen. You pull back the switch, release it, and the spring returns it to its front position. That’s all?
Not really. This switch operates in several ways:
- The first way is pulling back the switch and holding it through four seconds.
In combination with command ring’s “Power” position, this switches the camera On or Off.
- The second way is pulling back the switch and letting it snap home.
Depending upon the mode the selector ring is in, this moves one line of setting forward, snaps off a photo, starts / stops a video recording, or adds a “tag” to the running video record.
- The third way is to activate one among the options in the settings.
Pull back and hold for one second to select the chosen option “active”.
- Finally, you can record an impromptu video while shooting photos in the “Photo” mode. Instead of pulling the switch and letting it snap back (taking a photo), you pull the switch and hold it. This records a video footage for as long as you are holding back the switch.
Seems complicated? That’s only because you’re not (yet) holding the cam in your hands. The fact is, this system is so easy to etch into your mind that you’ll be totally familiar with it after only several usages. You probably won’t even have to consult the Manual any longer.
One more thing important to mention is the DiveCamera’s haptic response to any switch actuation. It issues a confirming vibration that you can feel through the gloves and certainly should hear well while underwater. These vibes differ; some actions return a single buzz, some other action will respond beep-beep, and so on. Thus, with no monitor and not looking at the data screen, you always know what the cam does at the moment.
3rd Person Viewer
What I mentioned above as a “selfie stick” is only visually and partly functionally appearing like one of those. The Paralenz stick is something else. Made with carbon tubes, it starts from 35 centimeters when closed, and extends to 180 centimeters in eight telescoping segments. Much like your everyday fishing pole, that.
However, it is primarily meant to make the camera follow and oversee your dive, by being pulled behind and above you. For that, you also receive two buoyant bodies or “bobbers” along with the 3PV. The bobbers click solidly to the T-rails at the camera sides by means of clip-on locks unique to Paralenz cameras, and so keep the camera afloat. Fix the extended stick tip to the camera, the other end of the stick to the diver’s back. The camera looks from above at whatever the diver does.
To facilitate this and more, you also get some more practical bits and pieces. There is a large carabiner clip, a length of elastic string/rope, and a pair of very strong magnets on keyrings. Combine these to keep any of your camera gear pieces secured to you and/or your diving tackle, and you’ll still be able to free yourself from any entanglement. Imagination is your only friend and limit here, but Paralenz makes sure you have what’s useful during your dive.
Paralenz, yet another idea here, purely from the practical aspect. The buoyancy bodies have their proper place in the original 3PV blister package. Throw away the package and you have three separate pieces to worry about, with all the diving paraphernalia one has to tote. Two simple things could make it all more portable.
Create a new 3PV handle by shaping it with two to four T-rails at its sides, so as to be able to snap the buoyancy floats there when not used on the camera.
Then, if you add two Velcro fastening loops to the spine of the holdall (sewn on, or by two stainless rivets), it combines all the accessories into a single package. The Velcro-fastened 3PViewer could then also serve as a carrying handle. This could make the whole a lot less cumbersome to carry.
As already mentioned, Paralenz DiveCamera uses unique connecting pieces to be attached in various ways. The T-profiled longitudinal “ribs” or rails are the locking point on the camera side, while the attaching lock consists of a groove-wide plastic block flanked by two sets of “teeth” that grab onto the T-rails.
To attach the camera to such a connecting piece, press the connector’s central block between two T-rails until the teeth are properly locked. To disengage, pull the releasing levers of the connector lock away from the camera body. The two releasing levers have slits which allow you to additionally secure the coupling with, say, a length of Velcro. Well, when it concerns underwater I am the “belt plus suspenders” type of person myself; however, the connectors do lock quite positively and for most purposes, the add-on strap seems superfluous. Still, as the Germans say, “doppelt gemoppelt hält besser”, so – you decide!
There’s one such connector at the tip of the 3rd Point Viewer device. Each flotation body has two connectors, set apart so as to lock at the ends of their respective T-rail grooves to distribute the camera weight for optimal floating position.
There is one connector at the Paralenz-to-GoPro-type swivel adapter, and one at the mask strap attachment piece. The new mask mount has a rotatable arrangement that lets you change its inclination. Both of said adapters are included with the camera. As if it weren’t enough, there are more (optional) attaching systems. The Ball Mount Kit allows you to mount and point the DiveCamera in whichever way you imagine. Then there is a Speargun Mount Kit… best look them all up here to round up the information.
Dive App – Paralenz
What the DiveCamera lacks in image viewing monitor, it gets via its unique App and way more than that. The App is available as usual, for iOS and for Android smartphones, but also for Windows. The cam uses either Bluetooth or WiFi to facilitate the wireless photo and video transfer to the smartphone storage. Once transferred, you can perform all the usual stuff, from editing to sharing of your adventures. Firmware updates and cam controls? Yours to command, too.
But the Paralenz App does a lot more. Whatever kind of data the camera gathers can subsequently be interpreted and combined with the visual records.
Time, temperature and depth data are aligned to display in the form of a diving profile and all accompanying stats. While the data do not replace your diving tables or computer, it is still more than you need for your usual dive-logging. Even better, you can use the data overlay with the video to present your visit to the WaterWorld in a uniquely interesting way, especially if your records are documentary.
I won’t go into all the possible combinations here. This review is meant to give you just a taste of the Dive Camera, and not to transcribe the Paralenz website or their Manual. If you feel hooked to this nice tech piece, just visit the links provided and feed your curiosity!
Paralenz DiveCamera’s visual output is very good, comparable to many equally priced or more expensive devices. Its 140° FOV lens is distortion-corrected, and gathers lots of light in the ambient where light is sparse and frequently changing. The cam is capable of producing 8MP stills and 4K @ 30fps video records in very low-level lighting, and better when the artificial light source is brought along. Lower the resolution and you can record at greater speeds, as shown in the camera Specs. The time-lapse function is also available.
But where its concept really shines is in doing away with physical filters of the kind the other cameras need to either be slotted to the front of their lenses, or solve through pre-programmed “underwater mode” (by shifting the White Balance) aiming at returning the water-filtered light frequencies – in itself, a kind of “mission impossible”. You can’t return what isn’t there anymore, right? So how does the Paralenz camera do it?
It uses the depth/pressure metering to determine the thickness of the water layer. This, in turn, adds the light frequencies that get filtered out from the full Daylight spectrum. Thus the water depth tells the camera how to go about its WB shifting. As this gets done dynamically, the camera user doesn’t have to do anything, bar picking up among the available options prior to submerging, or within the first meter of depth. After that, the subroutine named DCC (which is Dynamic or Depth-controlled Color-correction) takes over.
There are basically three options to choose from. The DCC lets you prepare the cam for either Blue or Green water, in accordance with your aquatorial ambient and preference. And you can also use Normal WB function which locks the color shifting and records the normal Daylight-based colors. You can also use this with artificial lighting. Simply tweak the settings to your light source’s color temperature accordingly (in °K). You can alternate between DCC and Normal white balance at any time – just triple-trigger the activation switch.
Some test video footage
The Paralenz DiveCamera was primarily made to be used underwater, but it works just as well above. Its metal casing and T-rail “cooler” surface will dissipate the generated heat well, however, I’d suggest you avoid overly longish footage. In warm weather and above the surface, it is only sensible to create sufficient pauses so the cam can cool off a bit – and that should be normal use for all water-tight photo and video cameras. It may prolong your camera life.
Simply and to-the-point, this is an excellent product all the way from its concept thru its design and perfectly executed manufacture. Its form factor is next best to the ball form, which makes it very sturdy and pressure-resistant to the working depths that the modern diving tech has made available, and surely way over the recreational diving depths. This camera also appears to be very well usable for the largest percentage of professional dives.
The vast majority of even industrial diving depths occurs within its rated pressure resistive abilities, so as an affordable recording device for a variety of application it surely surpasses many other higher-priced cams.
Whether you SCUBA dive, snorkel, or simply enjoy diving in apnea, this cam can be your addictively regular and reliable recording device. Since I think all underwater imaging serves the noble purpose of bringing to the surface the fascinating beauties, but also the alarming information of what humans do to this World’s bloodstream, it is only logical to use the best there is, whenever you can.
As an “old whale” (walrus?), I still fondly remember those never repeated Nikonos analog cameras, especially the models III and V. Such photographic tech marvels were made after the idea of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and made more than just good. On several occasions, I’ve used said models down to -90 meters, although they had ratings for only half that depth/pressure. Both cameras simply shrugged away that fact and performed flawlessly.
Now, after too many years to mention, there is a camera that reminds me very much of those old technological pearls. So that’s the most sincere opinion I can think of in describing the Paralenz DiveCamera. And it’s digital, with all the undisputable advantages this has in our times.
Paralenz, I’d like to add a suggestion here: I wish there was some horizon indicator on the camera since its form makes it difficult to hold in a precisely horizontal position. The simplest way would be to add a small spirit bubble level to the upper half of the cam’s end cap port. You could perhaps have such a device even built into the glass itself. It would cover the view of the microSD card and USB contact point, but it is not important underwater. The monitor would still remain visible, and it would also sufficiently backlight the bubble level, so the diver could check the camera inclination at all times; even in the dark! This I see as an useful add-on, as it is rather complicated to post-correct an unevenly tilted video footage.
• Idea, concept & design
• Innovative solutions
• Range of accessories
• Materials used
• Manufacturing quality
• Software & firmware solutions
• Easy learning curve
• The dedicated App
• Well made User Manual
• High-class packaging
Not So Good:
• Non-removable battery
• Relatively high price (still, it’s highly specialized tech)
• Currently without its own lighting system(s)
The Paralenz Dive Camera’s an excellent product, though maybe somewhat niche for the population majority.
This camera was made by divers and for divers. While many outdoors folks will be happy with (ever) more affordable water-going cameras, the trend of high-quality miniature photographing devices is already noticeably on, replacing many among the cheap series of half-thought-through products that even many among the well-known names in photo industry were guilty of.
In my honest opinion, it’ll be hard to find a dive camera better than this one for a long time, and for the price. I predict that many among us who are lifelong water addicts will want one!
UNRELATED but URGENT & IMPORTANT:
Spread the word; you just might save a life! Thank you.