Saturday, October 10, 2009

Underwater buyer's guide. (equipment for underwater photography)(includes list of suppliers)(Buyers Guide). USA, LLC

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The features of cameras, housings and strobes for underwater photography are described. Waterproof single-use point-and-shoot cameras are appropriate for vacationers on a budget. One of the best and most popular self-contained underwater cameras is the Nikonos-V.

If you love to scuba-dive, or even if you just love to play in the ocean during a day at the beach, give underwater photography a try. Here is a collection of gear and accessories that will help you to get into this exciting and totally different area of photography.

The world beneath the surface of the sea is truly something to behold. If you are a diver or are considering learning to dive, sooner or later you are going to drawn into underwater photography. This realm of photography is exciting and highly rewarding. To take those great underwater photos, you will need some pretty specialized equipment and fortunately, now is the best time ever to be considering buying it. Today there are more products that are more technologically advanced than ever before. There are housings for 35mm SLRs, self contained 35mm cameras, underwater strobes and an array of other equipment that gives you every advantage for great pictures.

Getting into underwater photography can seem a daunting task, just from the equipment side. Needless to say, all underwater camera gear is highly specialized for the underwater environment. Fortunately, there are many manufacturers producing all kinds of gear to make underwater photography both easy and rewarding.

Once you have been diving you know that the underwater kingdom is like nothing else on earth. Capturing it on film and being able to look at those pictures later is an awesome way to preserve the experience. Both self contained underwater cameras and camera housings are readily available to get you into the water and making pictures. The down side to housings is they are expensive. A typical housing will cost you more than the Nikonos V, for instance. If you do not have a big investment in a 35mm SLR outfit, but you want to be doing underwater photography at depths beyond 20 feet, the self-contained underwater cameras are a great choice. On the other hand, if you are a casual skin diver and you want to increase your photographic repertoire at a minimal cost, an underwater point-and-shoot or single-use camera may be the right choice. In any case there are plenty of manufacturers making excellent equipment. With a little research you should have no trouble finding gear perfect for you.


One possible route for underwater photography is with waterproof point-and-shoot cameras. There are waterproof single-use cameras that can be taken to a depth of about 16 feet. These cameras are a perfect choice if you are going to be snorkeling a little while on vacation and you want underwater shots, but you don't want to spend a lot of money on a complete underwater outfit. The cameras will do an adequate job of capturing underwater snapshots. A big plus with the underwater single-use cameras is that they are so reasonably priced that you can effectively use them to try out underwater photography and use them on dry land as well. They are also the perfect choice for beach photographs if you do not want to take a chance with all of the sand and salt getting into your SLR.

Point-and-shoot cameras that are dedicated to underwater photography are another easy way to get into underwater photography. These cameras are less expensive than housings for an SLR and can be taken deeper than their single-use counterparts.


If you would rather not deal with a separate housing, there are self-contained underwater cameras available that may suit your needs. These cameras may or may not have interchangeable lenses. They tend to be rangefinders and are very popular with many recreational divers and are fully capable of taking excellent photographs.

The Nikonos-V underwater camera is one of the most popular cameras in this category. It is also one of the best. The Nikonos-V is a 35mm underwater camera that is point-and-shoot simple. It takes a varieties of lenses including a 15mm f/2.8, a 20mm f/2.8, a 28mm f/3.5, a 35mm f/2.5 and an 80mm f/4. To shoot with the Nikonos-V you set your ISO, choose an f-stop that best suits your situation and the camera will automatically determine the proper shutter speed. If you prefer to set all of the camera's controls manually, you can do that too. The viewfinder on the Nikonos-V displays the camera's exposure information. It is able to handle depths to 165 feet without taking water. The list price for the camera is $705.

Another self-contained underwater camera from Nikon is the Nikonos RS AF SLR. It is the world's first underwater SLR and it takes Nikonos lenses that have been designed to take full advantage of the camera's reflex capability. The Nikonos RS AF SLR is able to go to depths of 328 feet below the surface. The AF system works at all depths as does the sophisticated metering system. The camera has been designed from the ground up (or from the surface down) to be easy to use underwater. The controls are easily visible and the camera employs excellent ergonomics for comfortable use. Nikonos has developed four lenses-13mm f/2.8 AF fisheye, 50mm f/2.8 AF macro, 28mm f/2.8 AF and 20-35mm f/2.8AF zoom- for the Nikonos RS AF SLR. The list price is $3380.

Sea & Sea also offers self-contained underwater cameras, namely the Sea & Sea Motormarine 35 MX-10 and the Motormarine II-EX. The Motormarine 35 MX-10 is an underwater point-and-shoot model with a focus-free 32mm lens and a built-in flash. It is a great choice for underwater snapshots and it can take an off-camera flash which is activated via an infrared connector. The list price is $413. The Motormarine II-EX camera features lens attachments that can actually be added underwater. It is a good choice if you want to do more than basic snapshots underwater, but you don't want to go with a full-on housing setup. The Motormarine II list price is $672.

Pioneer Research has introduced the Sealife Reefmaster SL200 underwater camera. It is capable of depths to 164 feet and with a list price of $199 is a very economical choice.


The camera housing is a device that keeps your camera from getting wet, and thus destroyed, when you take it into the water. Most housings are made for a specific camera or family of cameras, so be sure that your camera will fit in the housing you choose. The housings being produced today are made to very high standards to sufficiently protect your camera gear. In the not too distant past, underwater housings were not always as reliable as they are today. It was not entirely uncommon to return to the surface with a housing full of water and a destroyed camera. Today, the possibility of leakage is kept to an absolute minimum, and housings have easier-to-use controls than their older brethren.

Most housings are built for Nikon, Canon and a few Pentax cameras. Housings must be designed for specific cameras due to the fact that the camera must fit perfectly in the housing. Without a perfect fit, the controls will be unuseable. Furthermore, housing manufacturers have determined which cameras tend to be the best for underwater purposes and the most common amongst divers. Then they build their housings for those cameras.

Aquatica housings made by Aqua Vision Systems, Inc. of Canada are distributed by Nikon Inc. As you might expect, they are designed for Nikon SLRs. Aquatica housings are among the most advanced made. They are built to the highest standards to both protect your gear and help you to get the best underwater pictures possible. New this year are six Aquatica SLR housings-the Aquatica 90 for the Nikon N90/N90s, the Aquatica 4s for the Nikon F4s, Aquatica 4 for the Nikon F4, Aquatica 3 for the Nikon F3, Aquatica 80 for the Nikon N8008/N8008s and the Aquatica Sport for the N4004(s)/N6006/N8008(s)/N50/N70/N90. Aquatica offers a full array of ports to optically match the Nikon lens that you wish to use. Each housing is built from the highest quality parts. They are precision manufactured to give you trouble-free usage and a range of useful accessories are available for each housing. In addition to the Nikon camera housings, Aquatica makes a VS housing that accepts Nikon and Sony 8mm camcorders (list price $2240) and the Aquatica 67 housing made for the Mamiya RZ67 PRO II medium format-camera (list price $10,602). The Aquatica VS can be used with over 140 different camcorder models thanks to a special mounting system.

If you prefer to go with a housing for Canon cameras and lenses, you should look at Kenko Delphinus housings. The Delphinus CE-05 (list price $1999) and CE05N (list price $1890) are designed for the Canon EOS A2/A2E, the CE-100 (list price $1949) and CE-100N (list price $1840) are for the EOS Elan and the CE-RX (list price $1530) and CE-RXN (list price $1450) are for the EOS Rebel X/XS. The Delphinus housings are precision constructed devices that allow you to get excellent underwater photos with your Canon EOS camera. They are able to use a broad range of Canon lenses and can take a host of accessories to help you get the shots you want.

There is even a housing made to take the Hasselblad 903SWC. Peterson/Gates produces the H38 Plus which makes it possible to use the Hasselblad 903SWC underwater. The H38 Plus has a list price of $3750 and is distributed by Marine Camera Distributors.

Another great manufacturer of underwater camera housings is Ikelite. Ikelite's range of SLR housings are made of injected clear polycarbonate plastic. This process allows the user to see the entire inside of the housing so all camera controls and the housing seals can be inspected from time to time to check for leakage. Ikelite housings are inexperisive compared to some other manufacturers and are built for a wide range of camera models including Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta and many other AF or manual-focus SLRs. Ikelite is able to offer housings for so many cameras because they can customize their housings to fit many different size cameras. Although they cannot go as deep as many aluminum SLR housings, the low price and ability to take older non-AF SLRs may make Ikelite housings a good choice you. List prices for Ikelite housings are around $600-$700.

Sea & Sea is another manufacturer of high-quality SLR housings. The company is best known for their excellent underwater strobe equipment and they are now taking their experience in underwater strobe manufacture into underwater SLR housings. The Sea & Sea CX-500 (list price $1344) is for the Canon EOS Rebel X and EOS Rebel XS, the NX-50 (list price $1344) is for the Nikon N50 and the SX1000, Sea & Sea's own combination housing-camera-lens system. It takes the Sea & Sea SX-1000 TTL camera and is compatible with six Sea & Sea lenses. The SX-1000 lists for $1792 in gunmetal and $1680 in yellow.

If you have an old or particularly unusual camera that you want to use underwater in a housing, take a look at EWA-Marine. EWA-Marine manufacturers unique housings that can fit almost any camera. They are made out of flexible plastic and have a glove-like fitting that allows you to operate the camera's controls. The housings are effective to depths ranging from 30-60 feet, and are great for protecting your expensive SLR during a day at the beach. The EWA Master Series C housings are designed for compact, point-and-shoot cameras (list prices are around $90). The Master Series M housings (list prices around $175) are perfect for manual focus SLRs. There are models for a variety of lenses and on-camera accessories. The EWA Adventure Series housings fit AF SLRs with various models to fit on-camera accessories (list prices around $240). EWA-Marine even makes a housing series for video camcorders- the Video Series. The EWA-Marine housings are great for protecting your camera gear from sand, salt and water at the beach, and for occasional use underwater.


Speaking of strobes, as you get more into underwater photography, you will probably want to buy some. Current technology has made great strides in this area. You can buy strobes that are powerful enough to light your scene and are very reliable. With the proper attachments, you can add more than one strobe and have them at broad angles to your subject to eliminate a bad shadow. If you are shooting with your SLR in a housing, it is usually very easy to use off-camera strobes.

Ikelite is one of the better known producers of underwater strobe equipment. Ikelite Substrobes are made in a variety of sizes and power configurations. They even feature TTL metering with Nikonos cameras and can be slaved.

Nikon also produces underwater strobes for their line of Nikonos cameras. The Nikonos SB104 Speedlight (list price $1480) and the Nikonos SB-105 Speedlight (list price $78) can both be used with TTL metering in conjunction with the Nikonos-V and Nikonos RS underwater cameras. The SB-104 Speedlight is a professional-quality, high-performance strobe that can attain depths of 328 feet and has a recycling time of three seconds. The SB-105 Speedlight is a more budget-minded alternative to the high-power of the SB-104. Although it does not have all of the features of the SB-104 it is none the less a very capable underwater strobe that is excellent for use with the Nikonos-V and Nikonos RS.

Sea & Sea also offers a product line of underwater strobes as well as underwater high-intensity video lights. The Sea & Sea strobes are available in a full range of power capabilities and prices.


Many of the manufacturers mentioned in this article produce other underwater accessories. Macro kits that help you position yourself the proper distance from the subject. Extension arms from Nikonos, Sea & Sea, Ikelite, Delphinus and Bogen support your strobe equipment and keep it at a good relative position for perfect lighting and other useful accessories.

If you have thought about scuba diving as a hobby, but you haven't pursued it yet, go and give it a try. Whether you are an experienced diver or you are just starting out, our sister magazine, Skin Diver, available at newsstands, is a great source for information and advice about the latest technology, products and diving destinations. Have fun under the sea.

Source Citation:Robinson, Christopher. "Underwater buyer's guide." Petersen's Photographic 25.n3 (July 1996): 42(5). Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 10 Oct. 2009

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