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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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Basic video shooting techniques overview

Most rules of topside video are applicable when shooting underwater video. Composition involves the same elements and guidelines such as the rule of thirds, leading looks, leading lines, and color balance. However, the underwater environment adds some new challenges to conquer in order to get decent video.

Here are the sections of this article to read over for basic video shooting techniques:

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Underwater Video Camera Lights

As underwater still photography benefits from strobes, underwater video is better with video lights. Water strips warm colors from sunlight as you dive deeper. Artificial lights sources (video lights) help to add the warm colors back into your shots during daylight, and they provide a primary source of light during night dives.

If you’re new to underwater video and only dive in open water during daylight, consider just adding video lights down the road. Most of today’s camcorders have relatively decent low-light sensitivity so you may be content with the results you get without video lights. One you gain experience you’ll have a better idea if you’ll benefit from video lights.

Most housing manufacturers sell video lightning kits that are designed to integrate well with their housings. These kits include light heads, arms, cables, switch assemblies, and battery packs. Several flavors of lightning technologies are available. Halogen is the most reliable and inexpensive. HID (high-intensity discharge) systems provide a whiter light and longer burn times per battery charge with the trade-off of being less reliable and more expensive to maintain.

Underwater Video Frequently Asked Questions

What does an underwater video system cost?
Like anything else, the start up cost of getting into underwater video spans a range depending on the results and features you require. Basic underwater digital video systems w/o lights start around $900 new. At the far high end, a full featured prosumer-level HD system including HIDlights and an external monitor can run over $16,000.
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