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Epoque EHD-900 Ai Underwater Camera Kit - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

6/10

Review Price free/subscription

While the EHD-900 Ai housing is extremely well made and works very well, the camera inside it is unfortunately a very different story. One reason the combined kit is so cheap is that the camera is a generic 9-megapixel 3x zoom OEM Chinese product with no brand name, that on its own would probably sell for around £40, and even at that price it wouldn't be worth buying. It is, without a doubt, one of the worst cameras I have ever seen. It is extremely slow, taking around six seconds to start up and take a picture, and it has a shot-to shot time averaging around four seconds, although that largely depended on whether or not it would focus.

The AF system barely deserves the name. It is very slow, taking around two seconds to focus and often failing to do so even in good light, but worse still is its low light performance. In a room lit with an 80w bulb in one of those cheap wire-and-paper spherical lampshades, most digital cameras will have no problem focusing on normal objects in the room. This camera kept producing a “Low Light!” warning even when pointed directly at the lampshade. For a camera that is supposed to operate in the low-light environment 45m down in the ocean it is utterly hopeless. Its only redeeming feature is a macro focusing distance of around 5cm, but in macro mode it won't focus at distances greater than 40cm. It has what purports to be a smart scene recognition mode, but this didn't actually appear to do anything.

The monitor screen is very small at 2.4 inches, with a resolution of about 115k and a very limited viewing angle. Oddly it does have a good anti-reflective surface, but this is not much consolation. The menu is also incredibly primitive. It has no manual ISO setting, no white balance, and it's not a massive surprise to discover that the limited range of scene modes does not include an underwater option. The picture quality is unremittingly awful, with massive over-compression, appalling lens distortion, chromatic aberration and corner blurring, low detail and washed-out colour. The few underwater pictures I was able to take were terrible, mostly because the camera simply wouldn't focus.

This is frankly tragic. The EHD-900 Ai housing is so good, would it really have hurt to add maybe £30 to the price and put in a better camera? Even among the brandless OEM Chinese products there are better cameras than this. As it stands it is simply not going to produce the kind of results you'd want after spending £200. You'd be far better off buying a cheap but cheerful £80 compact and putting it in the Seashell SS-1 case.

Verdict

The Epoque EHD-900 Ai is a bizarre paradox; a very high quality waterproof case surrounding an absolutely appalling camera. Underwater performance is excellent, the design is unattractive but functional, however the resulting picture quality is extremely poor compared to even a budget compact. It may be relatively cheap, but it's a false economy.

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Liam

August 19, 2010, 1:20 pm

While I agree the camera itself looks terrible and no doubt would be even worse at depths of more than a few feet with available light further reduced, but how can a review of an underwater camera and case rated to 40m be complete without actually using it for its purpose? from the test shots it looks like you simply stuck it in the pond in your back garden?

Cliff Smith

August 19, 2010, 4:05 pm

Hey, I'll have you know I took it snorkelling in the sea at Exmouth, and dived down to at least three metres. It was freezing cold and I got sand in my pants, but I gladly make these sacrifices for our beloved readers! I'd love to have taken it deeper, but unfortunately I'm not a qualified SCUBA diver.

Hans Gruber

August 19, 2010, 7:54 pm

Epic, or should we say Epoque fail!





Nice chassis, shame about the engine. Same could be said of many celebrity socialites though this camera definitely ain't sexy.





A lot of effort (and expense) to protect a hopelessly under performing camera. So, why not just buy a waterproof digital camera instead? You'd be bonkers not to. But one question, is it possible to use this camera case with another camera? I guess the design has to be pretty tight so doubt it.





Will you be reviewing any further such products for DSLR users, Cliff? And if so, would it not be possible for TR to send you somewhere nice, like the Bahamas say, so you can get some proper underwater pics?





All in favour, say 'Aye!' Or even (in your best pirate voice), 'Aye aye, yarrr!' ;)

Otispunkmeyer

August 19, 2010, 11:08 pm

you know, you should really consider a weekly review of a terrible product. i was actually laughing at the complaints for the poor camera, honestly i enjoy it when a reviewer creatively rips a product a new one.





Jeremy Clarkson used to be epic at this kind of dressing down, in all his old books its the reviews of the terrible cars that entertained the most.





seriously have a lemon product of the week or something. it will be great.

Cliff Smith

August 21, 2010, 2:54 am

nooneinparticular - Sending me to the Bahamas is a great idea. I suggest you get some sort of petition started at once. I figure I'll need at least a month for a really thorough test.





Otispunkmeyer - I like this idea as well. I used to work on computer games magazines about 10 years ago, and I have to admit I used to really enjoy trashing a crap game. Writing a really scathing review is a lot more fun than writing fawning praise. Jeremy Clarkson is very good at it, but if you want to see a master at work try Charlie Brooker. I used to know him when he worked on PC Zone, and his media personality is exactly what he's like in real life.





However I wouldn't trash a product like the EHD-900 Ai just for fun. The actual case itself is superb, it's just the camera inside that's crap. With some constructive criticism maybe the MkII version will be better.

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