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.