There are a handful of options out there right now when it comes to protecting your dSLR camera underwater.
There are two types really. There are the soft case housings and then there are the hard case housings.
I’ll try to offer you the most precise and clear information so that you will be able to decide easily on which product you want to buy.
The first thing I would consider when choosing your housing is what you are going to be shooting and in what kinds of water. For those who are mostly shooting in swimming pools or just want some splash around photos or near shore, shallow water photos at like a freshwater lake or the beach, then a soft case would likely be a good option for you.
If you are going to be taking your camera into deeper waters, like 10ft or more…and you will be shooting against waves in the ocean or spending hours in a body of water at a time (without the ability to easily get on to dry land in case of a leak) I would say a hard case housing is the only way to go.
There are many differences in soft cases compared to hard casings, but the largest that most folks see first is price. Hard cases start at around the $1800.00 range and go up for additional accessories. You can get a really cheap soft case for as little as $60.00.
I (Amy) personally used the EWA Marine soft bag for years, which held my Nikon d700 with a 20mm lens. I only shoot in pools up to like 8ft, so this bag was great for many years. I since have purchased the Outex soft case, for a few reasons which will be reveiled further in this post.
Jennifer and Christi from Underwater Kids, both have the Ikelite hard case housing. Christi shoots a lot in lakes and Jennifer in the ocean, so this was the ideal housing for them.
The biggest limitation, minus depth limits, to a soft case housing is the inability to use a spherical shaped lens on most bags. You are limited to a flat faced lens, which actually for most folks is not an issue. However, there is not the a DOME option on the soft Outex bag that can be purchased to fit a round nosed lens. I do not know of any other soft case that offers this option. So if you are wanting to use a fisheye, but want a soft case, then the Outex soft bag might be a good option. Side note: domes are a standard option with all hard case housings, just not with ‘bags’.
One of the biggest benefits of a soft case is that one housing will fit like almost any sized camera body. So as you change your equipment over time, you can use the same bag. This is unlike a hard housing which is limited to one, yes, one specific camera body. So for hard cases, if you change camera bodies, you will have to buy a completely different case to fit that new or different camera body.
But hard cases are amazing in many ways and we could list so many reasons why they are justifiable more expensive. First of all they are more strong in their construction and I would say, overall a ‘safer’ option for protecting your gear. And because they are specially fitted for your special camera, you can easier access to you camera controls. You are still able to utilize your controls on the soft bags, although it takes a bit of ‘creativity’ to do at times…hehehe….accessing your settings on a hard case is very precise.
Hard cases are much larger than soft cases. So portability may be something that is important to you if you travel alot. Also, soft cases take less time to put on your camera than a hard housing, in many cases. The hard cases are just more complex overall because they are more ‘robust’ as I would call them.
Just a few final notes. Me, personally, even though I have used soft cases exclusively for over about 500 dips in the pool (between personal and professional photo taking) over the years…. I would never trust a soft case housing with my main or most expensive equipment. I would only use it with a backup camera or equipment valued at maybe $1500.00 or below (camera and lens combined). If you are looking to dunk your Nikon d6 with a $1000+ lens, I personally think that would be crazy to trust a soft case. No way.
And sure, so much of the safety is contingent at some level to user care. These products need a little TLC . Proper attention should be taken with such things before, during and after use. So if a hard case is not assembled properly, it can be less ‘safe’ than a soft case. This is common sense, but worth mentioning still.
So the main players in cases are here:
SOFT HOUSINGS (entry price range)
HARD CASES (mid price range)
HARD CASES (high price range)
Hope this has been helpful and please head over to our Underwater Kids Instagram feed for any additional questions and/or eye candy. Happy Snapping!