Holiday 2012: Take a Dive

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The underwater world is full of beauty, mystery and awe-inspiring sights. It’s no wonder divers are so drawn to capturing photos and videos of this beneath-the-surface realm. In this roundup, we’ll provide an overview of the professional underwater photography and videography gear we have available, while focusing on some of the best offerings in the category. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a hobbyist or novice looking to elevate your game to the professional level, this article will guide you toward making the right decision when it comes time to choose the equipment for your diving adventures.

First on the agenda is, of course, underwater housings for DSLR and mirrorless cameras, including kits that bundle a camera and a housing together. These high-end housings offer depth ratings from 33’ (10 m) all the way to an extremely impressive 300’ (91.4 m). Constructed from durable lightweight polyurethane, machined aluminum and clear polycarbonate, these housings are built to withstand water pressure, salt water and wear and tear—so you can count on them to function for the long term.

The Aqua Tech Underwater Sport Housings are form-fitting polyurethane cases for various Canon DSLRs, including the CC-14 Housing for Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 1D Mark III and 1Ds Mark III, as well as for the Nikon D3s, in the case of the NY-3s Housing. These underwater cases are ergonomically designed to emulate the feel of the camera itself, giving them superb handling in all underwater shooting scenarios. They also feature stainless steel and aluminum components.

The CC-14 housing features a depth rating of 33’ (10 m). It offers quick and easy camera installation. The mechanical controls are positioned right at your fingertips for convenience, and enable access to the following camera functions: Shutter Release, Multi-controller, Info, Playback, Function, FEL for video control on the Mark IV, AE-L, AF-ON, Delete, Protect, ISO, Set, Mode and Menu. Key features of the CC-14 include compatibility with the optional removable Pistol Grip 1206 and Pole Shutter Release (not included), as well as quick-release clips with a safety latch. Plus, the housing has an interchangeable lens port system, enabling the use of a wide range of lenses from fisheyes to telephoto zooms (ports not included). This feature makes the housing great for surface work, as opposed to those designed exclusively for diving, which often only permit the attachment of wide-angle and macro lenses.

The NY-3s housing for the Nikon D3s offers the same construction, design and features as the CC-14, but differs somewhat in terms of the camera functions that are accessible. It permits you to use Record, Live View, Main Command, Playback Zoom, Multi-selector, OK and Quality, in addition to the following controls matching those offered by the CC-14: AF-ON, Shutter Release, Info, Playback, Delete, ISO and Menu.

 For the Nikon D4, AquaTech offers the NY-4 Underwater Sport Housing. Constructed of durable lightweight polyurethane with aluminum and stainless-steel hardware, it features an ergonomic, form-fitting design that closely hugs the camera in order to provide as similar a feel to the DSLR as possible. The housing has a depth rating of 33' (10.1 m). Mechanical controls placed conveniently at your fingertips provide access to the majority of camera functions, including all essential ones. The interchangeable lens port system enables the use of a wide array of lenses, including fisheye and telephoto zooms with focal lengths ranging from 10mm to 200mm. The NY-4 housing is compatible with the optional Nikon SB-900 Speedlight in the optional NS-1A housing. You can utilize TTL flash control via the SB-900.  

The Aquatica Housings are machined from a solid aluminum block for superior corrosion resistance, and feature outstanding depth ratings of 300’ (91.4 m), enabling truly deep-sea exploration. Double O-ring seals on the knobs and levers ensure that the cases can withstand the considerable water pressure experienced at these depths. What’s more is that the housings can be fitted with optional deep-water spring packages that increase this depth rating to an incredible 425-500’ (130-152 m). These Aquatica housings accommodate several Nikon DSLRs, the Canon 5D Mark II and the Sony NEX 5.

The AN-5 Underwater Housing for Sony NEX 5 Camera with Tray and Grip enables you to shoot beneath the waves with your high-end Sony mirrorless camera. The shell features an anodized, powder-coated finish with a smooth, sleek look that will endure years of extensive use beneath the surface. The shafts and push-button mechanical controls are made of stainless steel and have been strategically positioned to afford you the greatest convenience possible. One of the most exciting features of the AN-5 is the inclusion of dual integrated optical strobe connectors for improving your underwater lighting with optional strobes, via optional Inon and Sea & Sea type sync cords. A series of compact interchangeable ports (not included) has been specially designed to fit the range of lenses made for the NEX-5 camera, and an optional adapter expands the set of compatible ports even further, to other Aquatica offerings. Plus, the rear LCD window has been adjusted with a 15-degree angle of view for more comfortable viewing underwater.

This package includes not only the housing but also a tray and hand grip capable of hosting an accessory arm for the attachment of lights and other accessories. The grip can be mounted in either left- or right-handed orientation.

Aquatica’s AD7000 Underwater Housing for Nikon D7000 with Nikonos Bulkhead and Optical Port is another impressive specimen. Sporting the same construction, corrosion-resistant finish and many of the same features as the AN-5, this housing also permits easy access to controls, with a rear button array angled at 15 degrees for more comfortable use and a Multi-Controller assembly designed to replicate the one found on the camera body, for a most natural feel. Like the AN-5, the AD7000 features a pair of optical strobe connectors. Connect any S-TTL strobe on the market, and enjoy spot-on TTL exposure via the camera’s integrated flash circuitry. The housing’s quick-access, internal flash control lever enables you to rapidly switch between strobe-illuminated and ambient light shooting.

A pair of ergonomic molded grips provides comfortable, easy handling of the housing, and feature mounting holes for lights and their support arms. The housing body itself provides a focus/video light mounting point, plus a trio of other points for a tripod. Unlocking and locking the port for lens swapping could not be easier, thanks to a single multifunction lever. The housing’s compatible ports accommodate lenses ranging from a 10mm, 180-degree fisheye to a 200mm macro lens. Viewing is done through a coated optical viewfinder offering a bright full view of the camera’s finder, or via the optional Aqua View Finder for an enlarged, enhanced view. If you like, you can purchase the AD7000 housing and Nikon D7000 camera together in one convenient kit.

Aquatica offers a number of versions of their AD800 Underwater Housing for Nikon D800 / D800E. All are the same except for the type and number of strobe connectors, and the presence or absence of the Aqua View Finder. The housing is constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel for durability. It has a depth rating of 295' (90 m), which is upgradeable to 426.5' (130 m). The housing provides access to virtually all camera functions via mechanical controls, and is the first of its kind from Aquatica to offer access to the Fn and DOF preview buttons. It is compatible with various interchangeable lens ports accommodating a wide array of lenses.

One version is equipped with  dual optical strobe connectors, while another has dual Nikonos connectors. A third is a hybrid, equipped with both Nikonos and optical connectors, while a fourth is configured with an Ikelite TTL connector. For each of these versions, there is another variation with the same type and number of connectors that is equipped with Aquatica's Aqua View Finder. For the dual optical strobe version, S-TTL exposure control is available with the proper strobes. On the dual Nikonos version, each strobe connector has 5 active pins. Both TTL and manual flash exposure are available, though TTL will require a converter (sold separately). The version with both Nikonos and optical connectors has one of each type. The Ikelite TTL strobe connector also has 5 active pins, and is usable only with the Ikelite #4301 / 4301.2 TTL converter (not included). Manual exposure is also possible.

The coated Aqua View Finder  provides an enlarged, enhanced image with sharp quality corner to corner, which is a great aid to shot composition and critical focusing. It gives you 100% coverage. The viewfinder has 8 elements in 5 groups and also features diopter adjustment.

 To accommodate your Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, consider Aquatica’s A5D Underwater Housing.  All versions are the same except for the type and number of strobe connectors, and the presence or absence of the Aqua View Finder. The housing is constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel for durability. It has a depth rating of 295' (90 m), which is upgradeable to 426.5' (130 m). The housing provides access to virtually all camera functions via mechanical controls. It has an interchangeable lens port system accommodating a variety of ports for wide-angle prime, wide-angle  zoom and macro lenses.

One version comes with dual Nikonos strobe connectors, while the rest of the variations include dual Nikonos strobe connectors and Aqua View Finder, manual strobe connector and manual strobe connector with Aqua View Finder. 

  Another great choice in a Canon EOS 5D Mark III housing would be the MDX-5D Underwater Housing For Canon EOS 5D Mark III from Sea & Sea. Precision-machined from a solid block of anodized aluminum for light weight and durability, it has a depth rating of 330' (100 m). The housing enables access to virtually all camera functions via mechanical controls. The MDX-5D is compatible with the line of NX series ports from Sea & Sea. See the Port Chart for macro lenses, Port Chart for wide-angle lenses, and Port Chart for zoom lenses.

The housing is also equipped with a sync cord connector port for a manual converter (requires #SS-50122, sold separately) or YS Converter/C (requires #SS-50121, sold separately), which will permit the attachment of external strobes, including those that support TTL. There is an HDMI accessory output for use with external monitors, as well as a tripod socket.

The Sea & Sea RDX-600D Underwater Housing for Canon EOS Rebel T3i is constructed of black polycarbonate and is safe to use at a maximum depth of 200’ (60 m). Mechanical controls enable access to all essential camera functions. Various ports including NX ports can be mounted via the RDX Port Base L or the RDX Port Base S, in order to accommodate many kinds of lenses (ports sold separately). The housing features a Camera Quick Shoe for easy mounting and removal of the camera. You’ll also find dual fiber-optic cable sockets for connecting fiber-optic cables (L-type), so you can fire external strobes along with your camera’s built-in flash to improve lighting. Automatic TTL flash adjustment is available when using an optional YS Converter/C 6 pin Connector. Use a Sync Cord/N to connect the converter to a genuine Sea & Sea strobe. The housing also features a 0.5x optical viewfinder that makes it easy to see the whole field of view. An easily operated shutter lever is excellent for taking quick snapshots.

The Sea & Sea MDX-D7000/VF45 Viewfinder Package for Nikon D7000 DSLR bundles an MDX-D7000 underwater camera housing for the Nikon D7000 with a VF45 1.2X SLR 45° Prism Viewfinder. The durable aluminum housing is protected by a highly corrosion-resistant, anodized coating, and has been given a depth rating of 328’ (100 m). Mechanical controls afford access to virtually all camera functions. The viewfinder is constructed of the same tough anodized aluminum. The housing accepts a variety of macro, fisheye, wide and dome ports (sold separately), accommodating a wide range of lenses. An integrated leak sensor alerts you immediately to any water leakage.

The viewfinder eyepiece rotates 360° in increments of 90° to give you the ideal camera position in both landscape and portrait orientations. The viewfinder is great for all conditions, but is designed especially for macro photography, when the camera is often positioned lower than you are. The eyepiece keeps out unnecessary light, covers the entire field of view and features 1.2X magnification.

For the Nikon D800 / D800E DSLR, Sea & Sea offers the MDX-D800 Underwater Housing. It’s constructed from a solid aluminum-alloy block with an anodized finish, making it highly corrosion  and abrasion resistant. It has a depth rating of 328' (100 m). The housing provides access to virtually all camera functions, with the exception of the Fn button located on the front of the camera, via mechanical controls. It is compatible with the line of interchangeable NX series ports from Sea & Sea (sold separately). Various ports are available to accommodate macro, wide-angle and zoom lenses. See the Port Chart for macro lenses, Port Chart for wide-angle lenses, and Port Chart for zoom lenses.

Dual fiber-optic cable sockets are available on the housing, permitting the attachment of an L-type cable so that you can fire an external strobe by the light of your camera's built-in flash (cable and strobe sold separately). There's also a sync cord connector cap, which can be removed to install the optional Sync Cord 2-pin Connector (#50122) or YS Converter/N 5-pin Connector (#50123; all sold separately) for strobes, via the sync connector set and 5-pin strobe connector set (sold separately). Wired TTL flash exposure is possible with the YS Converter (#50117) (sold separately). The MDX-D800 is equipped with the 0.5x optical viewfinder, as well as an HDMI output enabling you to view images and video on an external monitor. There is also a tripod mount.

Ikelite housings are constructed from clear polycarbonate to allow for easy, full visibility of seals and camera controls while protecting against corrosion for superior durability. The mechanical controls have depth ratings of 200’ (60 m). Apart from the convenience of this clear design, one of the primary selling points that sets Ikelite housings apart is the inclusion of TTL flash circuitry in all DSLR housings. These housings fit a variety of Nikon and Canon DSLRs, as well as the Sony a33 and a55 DSLRs.

One of the best- and most oft-rated of the Ikelite line is the 6871.02 eTTL Housing for Canon 5D Mark II. It provides controls for every camera function except the multi-controller, and allows you to use the live preview feature for framing photos with the LCD screen. Ikelite-pioneered Quad-Ring seal glands, proven to be extremely reliable, to keep the housing watertight. You can comfortably access the large zoom control knob without taking your hand off the handle. Thanks to an update a few years back, you can now operate the camera’s settings and movie shooting button via a convenient lever. Use your thumb while maintaining your grip on the handle. A complete range of optical grade flat and dome ports (not included) fits the majority of macro, wide angle and zoom lenses for the 5D Mark II. The housing features a modular port system for maximum versatility and performance, accommodating 8” assemblies. The simple locking mechanism makes port attachment and lens swapping quick and easy.

This housing comes standard with a finder that offers a full, bright view of the camera’s viewfinder. Called the Super-Eye magnifier, it provides enhanced visibility, similar to the optional Aqua View Finder for the AD7000 from Aquatica, a capability that can make such a difference when wearing a diving mask. The Canon eTTL2 conversion circuitry built into the housing is compatible with all current model Ikelite DS Substrobes, giving you a slew of options for enhancing your underwater image quality through better lighting. As of 2009, an update to the housing’s design gives you a top mount for attaching lightweight accessories. The release handles with comfortable rubber grips provide additional mounting points, and the whole assembly, including the tray, is easily removed for optimal portability.

For your Nikon D7000, consider the Ikelite 6801.70 housing. Very similar to the 6871.02 for the Canon 5D Mark II, this housing, too, is kept watertight by Ikelite’s Quad-Ring seal glands and features the conveniently accessible zoom knob and movie-recording control. The housing has controls for all camera functions except the diopter adjustment dial and depth-of-field preview button. The Super-Eye magnifier is included here, too. Like the 6871.02, this housing features dual release handles with comfortable rubber grips that give you mounting points for lights and other accessories, and the tray assembly can be easily removed for travel. The modular port system, like that on the 6871.02 housing, accommodates most macro, wide-angle and zoom lenses that are compatible with the camera.

Another main feature shared with the 6871.02 is the precise TTL exposure control that's right at your fingertips. The 6871.02 offers eight manual power settings in half-stop increments; the 6801.70 gives you seven. You can purchase the 6801.70 housing and Nikon D7000 camera together in this kit.

Ikelite’s 6871.65 Underwater Housing for Canon EOS Rebel T4i is crafted from durable clear polycarbonate and depth rated to 200' (60 m). It offers access to all camera functions, except the Diopter Adjustment Control and Flash button, via mechanical controls. The optical glass viewfinder is designed to provide enhanced viewing beneath the surface. Optional modular and standard dome and flat ports are available for most popular EF and EF-S lenses, ranging from 8mm to 135mm in focal length. Ports can be removed and replaced quickly with a simple positive locking system.

The housing is capable of electrical TTL exposure with strobes, thanks to its built-in, hard-wired Canon eTTL2 circuitry. The camera's built-in flash does not have to fire, giving you extended battery life and eliminating lag between exposures. The eTTL2 circuitry enables direct communication between the camera and Ikelite DS Substrobes for highly accurate TTL metering control of an off-camera flash. Exposure with an Ikelite DS Substrobe is quickly and easily adjustable through the rear of the housing via two push buttons. Manual exposure is also possible.

Now that we’ve covered the DSLR and mirrorless housings, let’s move on to underwater housings for camcorders. All of these at the pro level are from Equinox. Constructed from durable, thermal-based polyvinyl carbonate (PVC), and featuring depth ratings of 200-250’ (60-76.2 m), these housings accommodate select Panasonic and Sony camcorders. Equinox’s HD10 housings come with an EO bulkhead installed, which allows for topside viewing.

The HD10 Underwater Housing for Panasonic AG-HVX200A from Equinox features a depth rating of 250’ (76.2  m), and sports mechanical controls for the following camcorder functions: Power On / Off, Record Start / Stop, Zoom, ND filter, Autofocus, Manual Focus, and White Balance. The BRS (Ballast Release System) allows for easy travel or escape from trouble during a dive. Just pull the quick-release pin on one of the wings and the wing and handle (ballast) release, thus changing the housing’s buoyancy to positive and lifting it—and you as you hold on—up to the surface. The housing comes with a 2.5” (6.4 cm)  color LCD monitor, complete with rechargeable battery and charger, as well as a convenient carrying strap.

Equinox also manufactures the HDPro Underwater Housing for Sony PMW-EX3.  Like the HD10, this housing can be used to a depth of 200’ (60 m). Its 9 manual controls enable you to manipulate the following camcorder functions: Power On / Off, Record Start / Stop, Zoom, ND filter, Iris, Iris Dial, Autofocus, Manual Focus and White Balance. The HDPro features the same BRS as the HD10 for easy travel and fast transport to the safety of the surface in case anything should go wrong during your dive. It’s also got the EO waterproof bulkhead installed for video out to the surface, and comes with a 3.5” (8.9 cm) LCD monitor with rechargeable battery and charger, plus a carrying strap.

A bunch of lens ports of the dome and flat variety are available to you, to accommodate various lenses. For the Aquatica AN-5 housing discussed above, there are two dome ports that fit the bill quite nicely. The #30200 Glass Dome is for the Sony E-mount 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens. Constructed of BK-7 mineral glass, it’s treated with a BBAR (Broad Band Anti-Reflective) coating on the inside to reduce reflection, and a SiO2 (silicone dioxide) coating on the exterior to protect against scratches. The port is 62mm long and has a diameter of 113mm.

The second of these dome ports for the AN-5, the #30204 Wide Angle Zoom, is designed for the Sony E-mount 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 mid-range zoom. Made of optical-grade acrylic, this port allows for a nice degree of flexibility in terms of focal lengths beneath the surface.

A wide selection of Ikelite dome ports is also available. These cover wide angle, wide-angle zoom, wide angle to telephoto zoom, and wide angle to mid-range telephoto zoom lenses.

On the flat port side, Ikelite dominates again, offering a dozen ports. Several accommodate select tele macro prime lenses from Canon, Nikon and Sigma, while others are made for a variety of lenses that fit into a specified length range—allowing you to accommodate primes or zooms from different manufacturers that fit the specifications. The Ikelite Flat Port for SLR Housing for 3.1 to 4.125" (7.87 to 10.477cm) Lens accommodates the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro-NIKKOR lens, as well as the Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM and the Sony 50mm f/2.8 macro lens.

A host of underwater lens gears are here for the taking, as well. Focus gears from Aquatica, Sea & Sea, Ikelite, Light & Motion and Seacam are available for various lenses from Sigma, Canon and Nikon. There are also a couple of shift gears from Seacam for Nikon lenses, plus zoom gears from Aquatica, Ikelite and Sea & Sea for Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Tokina wide angle and wide angle to telephoto zooms.

Underwater filters for color correction are available for blue water and green water from Equinox and Ikelite, to help restore color fidelity, richness and variety to your still images and video captured beneath the waves.

For accessorizing your underwater photography system with lights, such as Ikelite substrobes, we have complete underwater arm sets from Aquatica and Sea & Sea. If all you need is a single appendage, check out these arm sections from Aquatica, Beneath the Surface, Ikelite and Sea & Sea. Perhaps you need smaller arm components, such as clamps, adapters, clips and the like; or underwater strobe and light head adapters. Find your underwater trays, handles and base mounts here, including ball joints and ball-head adapters. This category includes the Aquatica Accessory Tray & Grip for the AN-5 Housing discussed above. Once you’ve got a tray, you might find these underwater straps and lanyards from Beneath the Surface helpful for easy entry through surf and for preventing your camera system from getting away from you.

Moving now into underwater lighting, let’s take a look at underwater strobe lights. One of the most exciting and useful products in this category is Ikelite’s SubStrobe DS-161, designed especially for video. Combining all the functionality of the DS160 with a powerful 500-lumen LED video light, this strobe will help you achieve stunning movies and stills. Three extremely bright LEDs provide a 45-degree beam angle free of hotspots. Daylight-balanced color temperature helps bring out natural color with or without corrective filters. The DS-161 is adjustable in ten half-stop power increments, and also features an SOS mode for emergencies. Thanks to customized circuitry and efficient drivers, the light offers 5 hours of continuous burn time on a fully charged battery, with no waning effects. It’s got a depth rating of 300’ (91.4 m).

Also leading the pack is the Sea & Sea YS-110a Package with Sea Arm VII Compact. The powerful YS-110a strobe enables spectacular creative effects with subtle light balance. By connecting it to digital cameras having a pre-flash function via fiber-optic cable, you can use the strobe in fully automatic DS-TTL adjustment mode (Digital Slave TTL). Enjoy complete creative control by using a main strobe in this mode and a secondary one in manual, or set up an advanced lighting system using two strobes in DS-TTL. Choose from 13 levels of manual control. The YS-110a features a flat, round 105-degree beam angle (with diffuser), and a guide number of 22.

As far as continuous lights, Ikelite’s Pro-2800 LED Video Lite is one of the primary standouts. Designed for use as a primary video lighting source for your underwater system, this powerful light features a perfectly-diffused 100-degree beam, offering even coverage from macro to wide angle. Its near-daylight color temperature ensures true, natural tones, especially when used in conjunction with ambient light. Reduce the power from 75 to 25% for fine-tuning exposure and conserving battery life. The 700-lumen Flashlight mode is ideal for use as a primary night diving light, focus light, spotting light or macro video light. Like the Ikelite DS-161, the Pro-2800 features an SOS mode for emergencies. The light is available with a Flex or SA-100 arm.

Also worth noting in the continuous light category is the Equinox UK Light Cannon HID Video Light with Flexi Arm. Featuring a highly impressive depth rating of 500’ (152.4 m), this powerful 450-lumen light is intended for use as a primary dive light. It burns for 3-4 hours with alkaline batteries or 2 hours with rechargeable batteries, and throws its beam a maximum of 531.5’ (162 m). A cool 6000K color temperature gives the light beam the color of sunlight, and a pair of wide-angle filters is included for video lighting. Constructed of a tough, anti-corrosion ABS and polycarbonate body, the light comes with the UK Flex Arm, Light Arm Adapter and Removable Pistol Grip.

If you’re looking for a dive light, you’ll find a solid selection here. Two standouts are the Intova Meganova Waterproof Torch and the TUSA TUL-1000 LED Dive Light. The Meganova boasts 3 LEDs providing a formidable 2000-lumen output, offering a 2-hour burn time at this maximum output, or up to 12 hours at 30% power. Take this light down deep, as it has a 400-foot (122 m) depth rating. With a compact aluminum body, lantern grip and three-position switch, the light is ergonomically designed. Its wide-angle beam offers maximum coverage.

The TUSA light offers a respectable 1000-lumen light output when used as a flood light, or 520 lumens when used as a spot light. It also has a strong depth rating of 300’ (91.4 m). In Flood mode, it provides a 60-degree beam angle; in spot, a 12-degree angle. The light features three power levels and a burn time ranging from 60 to 240 minutes. SOS emergency mode is available. The pistol grip features an ergonomic design that conforms comfortably to your hand.

In need of some lighting accessories? This selection includes a port locking collar extension, battery doors, diffusers, a fiber optic adapter for substrobes and more. If you’re looking for power supplies, connectors and accessories, we’ve got a variety of them as well, including sync cords, spare batteries and more.

To keep your O-rings properly lubricated, be sure to pick up some silicone grease. You’re also going to want some Silica Gel Packs to help prevent condensation from forming inside the housing.  

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our extensive line of underwater gear and perusing the equipment on our website. If you're looking for any items not included here, including consumer gear such as underwater cameras,  check out our full line of underwater gear. If you have any questions, feel free to speak with a B&H Sales Professional via live chat, over the phone or in the B&H SuperStore.