Underwater Video Camera Housings

An underwater housing is what keeps your camera dry at depth. This is a critical job, since one drop of saltwater hitting the camera in the wrong place can destroy it. The prominent companies making housings generally have this problem well solved by design, else they wouldn’t be in business very long. However, being a dependable moisture barrier is not the only important quality to look for in housings. There are other key features and characteristics that, if absent, can really limit the capabilities and enjoyment of your underwater video system. We’ll look at all these areas to help you make a choice that’s right for you.

Optics

Water removes warm colors from sunlight with depth. It also magnifies subjects by about 33 percent. To compensate for these two effects of water on underwater video, it’s extremely important that the housing support the proper lens optics underwater. There are two fundamental requirements.


The housing should support a color-correcting filter that can optionally be selected underwater. This can mean one that is inside the housing and flips in front of or away from the lens using a mechanical control, or it can mean an external ‘wet’ filter that can be pushed on or pulled off the housing’s lens port. Most housing manufacturers incorporate the optional use of a color-correcting filter underwater. Optional is the key, because you only want to use the filter when your primary source of light is the sun. If you start out a dive in open sunlit water, but then penetrate a wreck or enter a swim-through where it becomes dark and you switch to artificial lights, you’ll need to remove the filter.
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Deep Diving Training Frequently Asked Questions

Where can you get deep diving training?

A number of training organizations offer different types and levels of deep diving training. Training organizations such as, IANTD, GUE, NAUI, PADI, and TDI all offer deep diving training. If you are looking for technical deep diving training, finding a dive shop in your area with technical instructors may be difficult. Typically, only dive shops that categorize themselves as “technical” shops offer this type of training. You may have to travel out of your area to find a dive shop or instructor.

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Why Is Choosing Your Underwater Housing Important?

by Chris Kovaz

Every time I go diving on a boat, I always get a remark, “What is that thing?” The “thing” the diver is referring to is my underwater camera housing. After I explain what it is and tell him/her how much it costs, they think I am completely insane. Underwater camera housings can cost from $200 to $10,000 or more with all the bells and whistles. I think that the cost of your housing should reflect the price of your camera. For instance, I wouldn’t have a ten thousand dollar housing with a cheap compact 5 Mega pixel camera. And vice versa, putting a Canon 1DS Mark II or the Nikon D2X in a cheap, hundred dollar housing just doesn’t fit. For people who shoot compact digital, I will always tell them to go for something plastic, like Ikelite housings. It’s likely that, down the road, they will replace their camera system, so this is just something they have to get by with for now. I have sunk way too much money into finding the right housing, and the ordeal of switching systems has got to be one of the hardest things to do financially. On the other hand, if someone has a digital SLR camera that I know they will be keeping for a while, I wouldn’t send them down the plastic housing route.

I chose Sea Cam for my housing, but I will not always recommend Sea Cam, as your housing needs depend on the camera and the photographer. Not to mention that there is a chance that Sea Cam won’t have a housing for your particular system. When I had my Canon 300d digital Rebel, I used Sea and Sea. This was a great housing that had an inverse of half metal (front) and half plastic (back). I had no problems at all with this housing and have great respect for the company. After I had decided to shoot the Canon 1DS Mark II, I discovered that Sea and Sea had no housing for the MKII, so I went with Sea Cam. It is an all-metal housing with a moisture alarm system. Housings have various controls, options, and features for using your camera underwater. It’s important to understand how your camera works and then research the features of the different housings that work with your camera. Depending on what you’re looking for, you could easily narrow your search by eliminating housings that don’t meet your requirements.

Figures: Inside of the housing

Now, I can’t say which type of housing is better. It’s all about the user and what you want to do. I like Sea Cam better now for a few reasons. It’s the lightest housing I have ever used, which makes it easy to position my camera when setting up my subjects. It has the most interchangeable port systems. Along with that, they can make a focus ring for any lens that you use. What they do is measure the lens and then create a focus ring just for you. That way, I never have to worry about buying new lenses and them not working with my housing. Next are the viewfinders. With the new 45 and S180 viewfinders, Sea Cam really got my attention. These new enhanced viewfinders give you an increased magnification of -0/+3, which gives you the advantage of perfect vision underwater, even for those of us who wear glasses. Finally, Sea Cam created optical coating for the ports. This ensures that there is a better chance of not having the lens’s reflection from the port in the image. I don’t know about other photographers, but I have had countless images ruined because of my lens’s reflection in the image. Even with Photoshop, sometimes the image just can’t be saved, which can be very frustrating.

Dome Port
Dome Port

I hope that, in the future, photographers take their time and research their cameras and housings before buying them. While ultimately the decision is yours, I urge you to take advice from tech’s and professionals before spending a lot of money.