Last year my friend Dave got a Sony Cybershot DSC-U60, which is a somewhat wierd-looking but quite effective 2 megapixel camera. This year I was thinking of getting one of those as well, but I was turned off by the lack of zoom and the fact that is uses those annoying Sony Memory Sticks.
After doing some research, I stumbled across a review of the Pentax Optio 33WR in Canoe & Kayak magazine, which is a 3MP camera with a 2.8x optical zoom. I was more concerned about being able to use the camera in wet conditions than being able to actually use it underwater, so this water-resistant camera sounded pretty good to me. Then I stumbled onto the fact that Pentax just came out with the Optio 43WR earlier this year. 4MP vs. 3MP, better waterproofing, 1-second QuickStart mode, 640x480 movie mode. I was pretty impressed. I found it online for $282 shipped, so I got one along with a 1GB SD card. I also picked up a mini tripod at Micro Center.
So yesterday I packed everything up in a drybox and took it out to one of my favorite whitewater play spots on the Potomac. One of the cool things about this camera is that it has a mode where you can set it to take what are essentially time-lapse photos. So I set up the camera and tripod on a rock near the hole, set it to take photos every ten seconds with a five-minute delay before starting (so I can get back in my boat and get back in line for the hole) and let it run. Despite the random nature of this experiment, with lots of photos of an empty wave or paddlers upside down, it managed to get some really nice action shots. (The photos are completely unretouched.)
The only downside to the interval mode is that you can't set it to take photos until it fills up the memory card. It will only take up to 99 photos, then you have to go back and restart it. At 10-second intervals that means 16 minutes 30 seconds, so I had to get out of my boat every once in a while to restart the sequence. Nevertheless, pretty cool, and I think the photos came out great.