GoPro is undoubtedly the most popular, at least when it come to numbers, diver’s camera currently. Originally it was designed by bunch of surfers and was never really intended as an underwater camera. None of the various action cameras on the market are generally really good as a dive camera. A group of Danish divers noticed this also after trying a few and decided to make their own. The resulting product is the new “action” dive camera Paralenz. It started it’s life as a Kickstarter campaign but is now available for general purchase and Mike’s Dive Cameras are among the early stockists.
The first thing that makes the Paralenz stand apart from the crowd is the fact that the camera itself is depth rated to 200m. No housing needed. The lipstick shaped aluminium bodied camera fits nicely in your hand and the large activation switch is easy to slide even with the thickest of gloves. A nice touch is the haptic feedback that will confirm the start and stop so you really know when you are recording even without looking at the camera. The camera comes with a mask mount that allows you to easily attach the camera on your mask strap. In the box you also get something called “an universal mount” which is basically a Gopro mount. So any GoPro mounting accessory will work. Soon to arrive is also a 1” ball mount for underwater photographers who want to use the camera on top of their existing housing set-up.
The Paralenz camera can record in 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at 100 fps. For super slow motion you can also choose 200 frames per second 720p option. The camera has an 8MP sensor for stills and currently only records Jpegs. However the company promises that RAW capability will be added on soon via a firmware update. The camera view angle is 140 degrees on land (less underwater of course) with a fixed focus lens. For more technical specs check out our Paralenz page.
Action cameras like GoPro have always lacked features like colour correction for underwater photographers. This has given a birth to a large aftermarket filter selection ranging from basic plastic disks to high-end glass filters and elaborate hinged system like the FLIP filters. No such gadgets are needed with the Paralenz as it has a depth sensitive automated colour correction filter. Just choose between green or blue water and the camera adjusts the amount of filtration depending on your depth. The early results I have seen indicate that this works really well. The depth info with a temperature info can also be added as an overlay to the video footage if you want.
In comparison with the GoPro Hero5 and 6
The Paralenz camera kit costs £580 currently in the UK. At first this might sound a lot when comparing it to the GoPro Hero5 camera that retails for £399 (£499 for the new Hero6). But for the GoPro you will also need to buy at least couple of filters or a Backscatter Flip5 system, that will costs £85, plus the Super Suit underwater housing which is £50. The Paralenz also comes with a case and a mask strap mount, which is something you would need to purchase separately for the Gopro. Add all these and the GoPro will suddenly cost you more, especially if you want the latest expensive Hero6 model. GoPro still draws the longer straw when it comes to image quality but the Paralenz is very near. It is worth remembering that be it a GoPro or any other action camera like the Paralenz the image quality will plummet in the dark. So if you really want to shoot high-quality footage at depth bring some lights with you. Another big advantage for underwater videographer is that with the Paralenz all possible settings can be changed underwater. With the GoPro Super Suit no settings can be changed underwater. Obviously the Paralenz camera does not have a screen/viewfinder unlike the Hero cameras. The camera has a small LCD screen at the back that can be used to see the functions and adjust different settings.
The truth is that it is almost impossible to compete with GoPro. They have such a grip of the action camera market. Many large camera companies have tried to dethrone GoPro but so far miserably failed. The Paralenz approaches the issue differently. They are not trying to be the next GoPro killer. Instead they bring in features especially designed for divers that are missing from other makes. There’s nothing wrong with the product. They just need some luck to be visible enough to compete with the big boys.