So you are thinking about making the plunge into underwater photography! Awesome! You've come to the right place to learn about the equipment you will need to take a photograph underwater.
Let's begin with a bird's eye view of the options currently available on the market today. There are basically three options: a) soft housing, which is very much like a fancy ziplock b) a goPro and c) hard case housing which are often more custom fitted to specific cameras or cell phones. In general the soft housings are priced lower than most hard case housing.
It is wise to consider what the overall goal is for underwater photography before you choose what the best underwater option will be for you.
Instead of asking 'what housing does so and so use', ask yourself a few questions and you can determine first, which type of housing will be best for you. Everyone's needs are different and no sense in going extreme if you don't need to. :-)
Will you be shooting for fun or is the plan to shoot for business in the near future (like within a year or so) ?
If you plan to shoot for fun, basically the world is your oyster, so to speak. So you just have to decide what your budget is and then anything from a case for your phone to a goPro, to an underwater point and shoot would serve you well. I'd venture to say that if your plans are to shoot professionally, it will serve you best to choose a housing for your dslr camera.
What bodies of water will you be shooting in and how deep will the water be that you plan to shoot in?
This is very important for choosing the right equipment. If your plans are to shoot in deeper and/or potential fast moving water (such as the ocean with waves) your best bet will be to choose either a solid underwater point and shoot or a hard case housing. Even though the underwater bags might be 'rated' for certain depths, I personally would not take the risk. Also if choosing an underwater p&s or a hard housing, you must make certain the one you choose offers you plenty of room for extra depth.
Pros of soft housings are that they are often priced much lower than hard housings. However, they are more prone to leakage and also many are not suitable for mid level or deeper bodies of water. Soft housings often also make it more difficult, if not impossible (on some models) to change the settings of your camera while in use.
Hard casings are most often fitted to specific camera bodies, be it point and shoots or dslrs. This offers a less likelihood of leaks (if properly cased before use) and also most often offers the user the ability to change some if not all settings of the camera. In addition, hard case housings are most often rated for the deepest water use.
After considering what kind of housing will likely be best for you, now to look at just some of the many options you have for each. Keep in mind, these are just a snapshot of options. We will be sharing much more in-depth information and recommendations for these and other related products in time.
If considering a case for your cell phone, check out options specific to your cell phone.
As for the GoPro options, I recommend just picking the one that is in your price range.
For those interested in an underwater point and shoot, here are some options listed from lowest to highest price.
1) KINGEAR Underwater Camera, retails for about $80.00
2) Nikon Coolpix S33, retails for about $105.00
3) Olympus TG-4, retails for about $400.00
4) SeaLife Micro 2.0, retails for about $500.00
As for underwater bag choices, here are some brands I would recommend. Price range for such are about $100.00-$500.00. The specific bag you need to order would be contingent upon which camera body you have. Please check with specific company you are interested in in order to purchase the right one for your camera.
Last, but not least, if it's a hard case housing (for compact or dslr) you are seeking, here is a good list of brands to consider. You will find that most of the manufacturers do not make housings for all camera bodies. Hard case housings can run from about $1200.00 and up, average for a dslr case is about $2200.00.
Choosing an underwater housing can take some time and some research to ensure you make the best choice. It is important to remember no housing or camera is completely 100% infallible. Being prepared for worst case scenarios such as housing leakage and complete loss of equipment needs to be heavily considered. In particular when using housings for a dslr camera, I would always recommend using a backup camera for such or investing in equipment insurance and the highest quality hard housing you can possibly afford if you are using your primary camera.
We look forward to sharing with you all lots more about underwater camera equipment over time including in depth, first hand reviews and such. Stay tuned for lots more and be sure to share your underwater images on our Instagram as you dive in to the water this season!