Underwater photography can be a significant part of your scuba diving adventure. Many of us enjoy taking photos of the amazing things down there like coral reefs, colorful fish or shipwrecks. To be able to do this, you need a camera which will function properly underwater without risking damage.
Here’s where underwater housings come in. They shield your camera from water, while allowing you to operate it and take stunning photos. There is a variety of choices in this field, depending on whether you are an amateur photographer or a professional. We selected some amazing housings for different needs, but to get a clear idea of what you should get be sure to check our buying guide to the best waterproof housings.
Let’s get started.
How To Choose The Best Underwater Camera Housing – Buying Guide
The most important thing to look for is a housing which is compatible with your diving camera. This way you get both the security and functionality needed. Housings should be durable when put to the test. Of course, be careful and pay attention to the price tag. As you’ve seen, some are affordable while others cost several thousand dollars – as much as the camera itself.
Access To Controls
In addition to protecting your camera, a housing should allow you to control the different functions. Here’s the catch – not all housings are the same and some will have more controls compared to others. This is a matter of design, and manufacturers do this either to cut the building cost, or because the control itself isn’t very accessible.
Look for a housing which will grant control to important features of the camera, and see if the layout fits you. It’s not a bad idea to see what other people had to say about functionality. Also, controls should be large, especially if you’re diving in cold water. You’ll be wearing gloves and the precision will be lower, so think about this too.
You will find a depth rating on every scuba diving camera housing, which represents how deep it’s safe to take your camera. If you exceed this limit, you are risking malfunction, leakage and even cracking. The depth limit for recreational scuba diving is 130ft. If you’re not planning to go deeper, most housings will do the job. However, if you’re a technical diver and go deeper, you need a housing which is rated up to 200 or 300ft.
Water housings are usually made from polycarbonate (strong plastic) or aluminum. Some products are a combination of the two, with other additions. Polycarbonate housings are usually cheaper, lighter, and often more buoyant. On the other hand, they are not as durable and can be too bulky. Aluminum is a better choice in terms of quality, but these housings can be really expensive. However, they will last for a longer time, and usually have a greater depth rating.
For ease of use and practicality, housing with your camera inside should be neutrally buoyant. This way the camera won’t run from you when using it. Housings themselves will most often float, especially polycarbonate ones which have more space for air inside. When you add the camera, it’s weight will create the neutrality. Aluminum housings can have small negative buoyancy, so you’ll sometimes need to buy buoyant arms to improve it.
Port Type And Mounting
A lens port is the part you shoot through. It’s very important since it greatly influences the outcome. Some housings will have the port permanently attached, while more sophisticated products allow interchangeable ports. However, mounting mechanisms are not the same, and a port which is reliable and simple to use is the best choice.
For DSLR cameras you will often need to buy a port to match the lens. Most underwater photographers like using a wide-angle lens, and dome ports are best for this purpose. On the other hand, if you want to shoot macro images and have that lens type on the camera, you’ll need a different port.
Ports can be made from either polycarbonate or glass. First ones are cheaper, and while they give great results they are more prone to scratching. Glass ports offer better quality, but they can be very pricey. Also, they aren’t available for some housings. Finally, some water housings will come without a port, so you’ll need to get one separately.
Ergonomics And Size
When discussing design, ergonomics shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not just access to function that matters, it’s whether you can easily use it or not. This is where you can clearly separate best underwater camera housings from the rest. Size also plays a part in this, since the housing shouldn’t be too big and difficult to hold. Also, you will sometimes need to use the camera with only one hand.
Housing availability depends on the type of camera you have. Since they are made to be highly specific, some models will have no alternatives to housings offered by the manufacturer itself. Luckily, cameras which are popular among underwater photographers will have a wider choice. If you’re just beginning to venture into underwater photography and don’t have a camera yet, it’s not a bad idea to look at both simultaneously, so you can find the setup you like.
Different add-ons exist to further improve your camera setup. What is great is that these are often compatible with many housing types and brands, so you can buy it for one housing and use it on the next one too. Also, you can specifically choose a housing to pair with additions you wish to have. Three basic add-ons are strobes, trays with arms and wet lenses.
A strobe is an underwater flash, which will often be required to make vivid photos. Light is absorbed the deeper you go, and red is lost at about 15-20ft of depth. For this reason you’ll need a strobe, which creates a strong light flash which is much better than a steady-on light. A less sophisticated solution to this color problem is a red filter you attach to the port, which some manufacturers include with the housing.
If you choose to buy a strobe, you will probably need a tray and arms. The tray is attached underneath the housing, while the flexible arms are connected to the tray. You can them mount the strobe on the arms and position it any way you like so it can give proper lighting to your photos. Some housings (like several we featured) already have handles so you can attach arms on them without using the tray.
Finally, a wet lens allows you to quickly change the setting of your camera without changing the main lens on the camera. This one is mounted on top of the port, and both macro and wide-angle lenses are available among others. It can be useful to have since it gives you bigger freedom and flexibility.
Q: What Is An Underwater Camera Housing?
Q: Why Do I Need A Camera Housing?
Q: Is There An Universal Housing Or I Should Match It To My Camera Brand?
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Underwater camera housings are fantastic equipment which can really lift your scuba diving experience to a whole different level. To conclude – don’t compromise on the housing because you risk damage. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, but be sure get a quality product and test it before you take it underwater. Be free to use our list as a guideline so you can get something you will be happy with.
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Have you tried a camera housing that made it onto our list? Is it easy to use? Was it reliable when underwater? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.