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From the beginning of time the human race has used the world’s lakes, rivers, and oceans for gathering food, transporting goods, for sports and recreation. Modern human beings have a need to document activities, usually by taking photographs. We want photos for record keeping, showing people where we have been, what we explored, and who we, our family, and friends are. And for creative art and fun.
When taking photos around water we have special problems, especially for today’s modern digital cameras. Getting wet can be fun and desirable for people; it is very bad for digital cameras. There are many different waterproof cases (housings) for us to choose from. The one we decide to use really depends on the camera we are using, the environment we are using it in, and our budget. In this article we are going to explore our options for shooting snapshots of the family at the water park, snorkeling on the reef, and exploring the seas with your point & shoot camera.
For taking snapshots of the family in the pool or at the beach the economical Dicapac soft housings are a very good choice. The housings are constructed from PVC vinyl plastic and come in a variety of sizes. Each housing will fit many different camera models within a certain size and design. Dicapac housings are available for Point & Shoot, SLRs, and some camcorders. They even make the WP-MS10 case for your iPod. What is neat about the Dicapac camera housings designed for cameras with external zooms such as the WP-110 is that they are not flat plastic bags. You have an extended hard polycarbonate lens port. This way when you use your zoom there is plenty of room for the lens to zoom. Also shooting through the solid lens port is better than shooting through soft plastic. This is the Dicapac that will keep you dry while kayaking, boating, skiing, or even hiking in the rain. And while it's true that these housings are best for shooting at the surface, you can still dive down to 16.4’ (5.0m) with them. In order to figure which one is for your camera you measure the length and circumference of the camera, and how much your lens protrudes when zoomed out to its longest point.
EWA Marine is the granddaddy of soft camera housings. This German company has been producing these housings since 1969. In my pre-teen years I remember going into Herman’s Sporting Goods and looking at all the dive gear, including the Ewa Marine housing for the Kodak Instamatic. I would day dream about becoming a scuba diver and taking photos with my camera in this double laminated plastic bag. Although some of these soft housings are rated down to 66’ (20m), there are problems using them under pressure. As you go deeper, the pressure squeezes the soft plastic housing tight around the camera, so the controls become hard to manipulate. There is a valve on most housings that allows you to blow air into the housing to equalize the pressure. Of course this has to be done before entering the water. It is possible, but difficult to know how much air to blow into the housing beforehand. Still and all they are perfect for surface work and shooting in shallow water. The double laminated plastic is very durable, but you still have to be careful not to puncture the housing. Each housing will fit many different camera models, but you must check the housing compatibility list link that is on every Ewa Marine housing page on the B&H website. They make housings for most cameras from consumer point & shoots to high-end SLRs and video cameras. Some of the SLR housings, including the U-BXP, allow you to attach a flash to the hot shoe. Many of the housings for video cameras are used for
For the professional still sports photographer Aqua Tech has the perfect tool. A team of photographers specializing in surfing, wakeboarding & shallow water advertising photography wanted a light-weight housing to use at the surface. Housings designed for scuba diving were too heavy and the lens ports usually supported only wide-angle and macro lenses since telephoto lenses are useless underwater. So they designed a lightweight professional housing constructed of composites, stainless steel and anodized aluminum. One of the most interesting parts of their design is the interchangeable port system. Just like most housings designed for diving, the port is not included; you must go to the port chart link and pick the port for whatever lens you will be using. Since these housings are designed to be used no deeper then 33' (10m), and are primarily designed for surface work, ports are available for telephoto as well as wide-angle lenses. The housings are lightweight so they are easy to handle on the surface. Aqua Tech has housings compatible with many Nikon and Canon Pro SLR cameras, including but not limited to the Nikon D300s, D700, Canon EOS 7D, and 1D Mark IV. They also make housings for some flash units. They even produce a custom housing for the Pocket Wizard that has been used for pool work at the Olympics. Aqua Tech also produces rain covers and fowl weather clothes. The clothes are made of the same material as the rain covers. These garments are designed for the active photographer and feature many waterproof pockets to store and protect camera gear.
For scuba divers looking to take their point & shoot camera on a dive, Fantasea is a good option. Fantasea’s owner Howard Rosenstein was a pioneer in diving the Red Sea. In the early 1970's Howard was David Doubilet's expedition leader, dive guide, and photo assistant for David’s first National Geographic assignment. So Howard, a member of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, really knows what the underwater photographer needs. Fantasea makes housings for Nikon Coolpix cameras such as the Nikon CoolPix L20 and some Canon PowerShot cameras including the A480. They are rated down to 200’ (60m), permit complete control of the camera’s functions and allow you to attach a wide-angle conversion lens to the port. This last is a big advantage over the other manufacturers of camera housings. Since the most important rule of underwater photography is to shoot close, wide-angle lenses are very important. Fanatsea also produces many other underwater accessories including strobes, lighting sets, focus lights, and auxiliary lenses that can be used on their housings as well as on other manufacture’s housings.
In our next article we will explore more options to go diving with your digital camera. Some of the housings even allow for depths down to 300’ (100m)! In the mean time take a look at your options, match them to your goals, grab your camera and go get wet; but keep your camera high and dry!