The Ikelite Story


When divers think about underwater photography gear they immediately think of Ikelite. Here’s how it came about. While he was wreck diving in 1962 all of Ike Brigham’s lights kept flooding or imploding. With necessity being the mother of invention, Ike invented the first o-ring sealed underwater light to incorporate a sealed beam bulb. Word throughout the diving community spread like spawning coral and everyone wanted one of Ike’s lights. That is how Ikelite was born. From that time forward Ikelite has remained an inventive company producing camera housings, video housings, underwater strobes, video lights and of course dive lights.

With the popularity of digital photography Ikelite stepped up to the challenge, they produce housings for many popular Point & Shoot as well as SLR cameras. This is not an easy task since the life span of a digital camera is shorter than that of a sardine in a bait ball, with new models being born monthly. Ikelite housings are injection molded from clear polycarbonate plastic. Ikelite produces one mold for SLR housings, and three for Point & Shoots. By having the molds already in place, when a new camera comes out all they have to do is refit the camera’s mounting system, rework the TTL flash bulkhead if there is one, and drill holes for the control placement. Because of this ingenious design Ikelite can produce new housings faster then most other manufactures.    

Ikelite SLR housings have many features that underwater photographers have come to depend on. The housings are sized and weighted to provide neutral buoyancy and superb handling underwater. The Release Handles not only allow an easy way to hold the housing, but they allow easy attachment and removal of SubStrobe mounting arms at the touch of a button.  Also the Ikelite Super-Eye magnifier offers enhanced viewing while wearing a diving mask. At this time Ikelite is one of the few housing manufacturers that have built-in TTL strobe control in their housings.  The circuitry includes two f/stops over and under exposure compensation in half-stop increments, and eight manual power settings in half-stop increments by simply pushing a button or rotating a dial. For the photographer who wants precise control, being able to fine tune your strobes from the back of the housing is key.

Ikelite is constantly working to improve their products and produce gear that meets the needs of underwater image-makers. Recently Ikelite made two very important improvements on their SLR housings. Housings produced after November 1st, 2009 now have a 1/4-20 threaded mounting point in the center above the port. This is the perfect place for mounting a focus light. Focus lights are extremely helpful when shooting macro, or on night dives, or when penetrating shipwrecks or caves.

The other improvement that Ikelite made last November was the four-point port locking system. In the past Ikelite ports attached to the housing with two locks; if the photographer was not careful in set-up, a flood could occur. This was especially true with the 8” dome port. The new four point locking system is much more secure, and gives photographers a warm and fuzzy feeling about keeping their equipment dry and safe.

The newest trend in cameras is the merger of high quality SLR still cameras that also capture HD video. Because of the larger chip size and the availability of different lenses, filmmakers immediately started using this new tool. Many still photographers, already comfortable with the design of an SLR, are now encouraged to shoot video. The Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D90 started this trend, followed by the Nikon D300s, Canon 7D, and Rebel T1i.  Ikelite produces housings for all these cameras, and you can easily switch between stills and video.


Ikelite has always been known for their strobes. The DS-51, DS-200, and DS-160 are reliable strobes with many handy features. Divers have used their video halogen lights for years, and recently Ikelite started producing the Pro-V8, which is an efficient LED Light. For the image-maker who wants to produce both stills and video, Ikelite has come out with an ideal tool: The DS-161. This light combines all the features of the DS-160 strobe, along with the Pro-V8 video light, and they also added some very nice extra features.  Just like the DS-160 the strobe is very powerful, producing 160 watt/seconds, and has a guide number of 38 underwater. It has a 90-degree beam angle without a diffuser, and a fast 1.5-second recycle time. The strobe has TTL exposure mode when attached to an Ikelite housing, and has ten manual power settings in half stop increments. Add to this a 15W LED video light that produces 500 lumens, at a 45-degree beam angle, and you have one kick-butt multi- purpose light. The video light can be used as an aiming/ focus light when in strobe mode. The light shuts off instantly when the strobe goes off, and then comes back on. This way even if you need to use a slow shutter speed the LED light will not affect your image. The LED will also act as an emergency flasher, if you need to grab the boat’s attention at night.

The DS-161 is again proof that the designers and engineers at Ikelite are carefully looking at the trends in imaging and coming up with inventive tools that image-makers don’t even know they need until they see them. So in 2010 just like in 1962 the word is spreading that you have to have one of Ike’s Lites.

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I am less than a novice dealing with underwater photography however when Larry Cohen writes I read and listen. I have learned much from his enthusiasm for the topic and knowledge of the subject. You go....Larry. Love you Edith

Great article, very informative, we have all come to expect no less from Larry!

I enjoyed the history of the Ikelite brand, it personifies the brand and their mission statement. I am due for a new camera and housing and will certainly look for Larry when I am at B&H and will consider Ikelite. I have attended some of  Larry's seminars on diving and equipment, and purchased my last camera from him. I also took some diving trips - based on his recommendations. If B&H ever offered diving trips and an opportunity to learn underwater photography from Larry - sign me up!

Veronica Gagliardi

Good story. Learned lots. Nice color words. Leg-iron this guy to a typing desk and have him write more.

Bob Sterner