I have owned a number of underwater housing (s) in my time. This includes housing from Ikelite (Sony TRV480 + Olympus Point and shoot), Amphibico (from my Sony TRV 950), Light and Motion (First Sony HDV) and most recently Aquatica (for my 5DMKII.) I am always interested to see how underwater imaging manufacturers re-invent themselves. Underwater imaging as we know is a very small niche market, and as technology changes so does the way we capture images underwater. So here are some pointers when it comes time to buy that underwater housing.
#1 – Materials, Cost & Batteries
Cost is always the biggest factor in purchasing underwater equipment, especially an underwater housing. Make sure when you are looking at a housing your understand where you are going to use it and what accessories you will need. The second will be the materials and electronic components. Solid Polypropylene housing vs solid machined aluminum, analog vs electronic components? Electronic components offer more easier access, but also can fail. leaving you without an importance feature such as white balance. Most DSLR housings are the body only. You still need to buy wider or macro ports which will set you back anywhere from $500 -$1000 each. Also strobes; how many, how much power do you need? Do you dive in darker or cold water conditions? You may need a focus light, and lots of extra batteries. Remember cold water limits your underwater burn time and battery life. I have strobes that take 4 AA’s each, which mean I need at least 16 rechargeable batteries for a day of diving.
Remember if you diving with equipment that takes AA’s it may be more manageable than diving with strobes or lights that have built in rechargeable packs. If this is the case then you will need two or enough time between dives to charge your gear. The best example of this is, if you wanted to buy a Sea&Sea YS 250 vs a Sea&Sea YS 110α strobe. The YS 250 battery will last slightly longer underwater and has a much higher flash output with a land guide rating of 32 vs the YS 110α which has a land guide rating of 22, but may not last 2, 3 or 4 dives. You may also want to consider the conditions do you dive in? When you dive places like the Galapagos you have heavy currents. Large wide dome ports and equipment create a large amount of drag in the water.