Choosing an underwater housing for your camera is an important investment that should be an exciting step in your photography or videography ventures. With different options in features, construction materials, and a range of price points, it can be overwhelming to find the right housing to fit your needs.
In this article, I try and help simplify the decision-making process by compiling a list of the pros and cons of each brand of underwater housings made by some of the most popular manufacturers on the market. Recognizing what a housing will, or will not offer, can help tremendously when deciding which one is right for you. Realizing that there is not a “one size fits all” solution, my purpose is not to recommend one housing over another but to give you the information to make an informed decision for yourself.
Pros and Cons by Housing Manufacturer
Fantasea Housings: Fantasea produces a range of polycarbonate housings for popular Canon compact cameras, Sony compact, and Sony cropped-sensor mirrorless cameras. They are lightweight housings with features that can be found on more high-end housings with a good overall build quality, 200' depth rating, and dual housing o-rings.
Gates Housings: Gates is known for their “bulletproof” aluminum video housings. With options for consumer camcorders up to professional cinema cameras, Gates is one-of-a-kind when it comes to housing underwater video systems. System customization is available on request and all housings are backed by a renewable 2-year warranty.
Ikelite Housings: Ikelite houses an extensive range of cameras from point-and-shoot
compacts to professional DSLR. Their housings are made of impact-resistant, durable ABS-PC (an Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and Polycarbonate blend). Their new Dry Lock port system is the lightest on the market. While their compact housings offer optical sync cord compatibility, their higher-end mirrorless, and DSLR housings are supported by electronic sync cord TTL connections for Ikelite strobes. Other strobes are supported via manual sync. The newest mirrorless and DSLR housings now offer M16 bulkhead accessory ports that can be used for adding an external monitor to your system. All Ikelite products are built and tested in the USA.
Kraken Housings: Kraken released a camera housing for Olympus/OM Tough cameras. Its aluminum alloy design with a built-in vacuum pump is built for reliability and durability. Kraken also makes a rugged universal smartphone housing that includes a vacuum seal system and a built-in battery charger to keep your phone charged inside the case.
Nauticam Housings: Nauticam is renowned for their advanced, extensively engineered housings made from hard anodized aluminum alloy. They are depth-rated to 100 meters and have a 2-year warranty. Housings are available for a range of cameras including, compact, mirrorless, professional DSLR, and cinema video cameras. Nauticam also provides housings for several external monitors and a wide variety of accessories are available.
Olympus/OM Housings: OM produces a limited selection of housings for their compact tough series cameras and micro-four-thirds mirrorless systems that are affordable and reliable.
Sea & Sea Housings: Sea & Sea produces high-quality corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy housings for Sony compact cameras and a range of mirrorless and DSLR cameras. They have a 100-meter depth rating and come with a one-year warranty. Each housing features a superior ergonomic design and luminescence stickers to see camera controls in dark environments. Sea & Sea NX ports have long been an industry standard.
Final considerations for choosing an underwater camera housing
There is a lot to consider when choosing an underwater housing. While this is not an exhaustive list of pros and cons by manufacturer, it highlights the availability of key features such as control placement, port locking system, sync-cord compatibility, accessory availability, and price. When shooting shy or fast-moving subjects, the placement of controls may be the difference in getting or missing the shot. The size and placement of the controls also dictate whether gloves will be a hindrance. Security of the port system plays a major role in the overall integrity of the housing and ease of installation is preferable for swapping out port configurations. Sync-cord connection availability determines the strobe model and TTL compatibility. Some housings offer only optical or electrical sync-cord connections, while others allow for either to be used.
Additionally, size and weight are also important considerations for travel-friendly systems. For technical dives, depth ratings are an important factor. Other components like leak detection and vacuum seal systems give peace of mind when housing expensive equipment. The ability to attach external accessories such as a monitor, may also be important depending on the system’s purpose. Budgeting might lead to compromising and sacrificing certain features. Above all, an underwater camera housing should be reliable and durable to cope with all underwater conditions.