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The Pros and Cons of Popular Underwater Housings


Choosing an underwater housing for your camera in an important investment that should be an exciting step in your photography or video ventures. With different options in features, construction materials and a range in price points, it can be overwhelming to find the right housing to fit your needs. In this article we try and help simplify the decision-making process by compiling a list of what we consider the pros and cons of underwater housings made by some of the most popular manufacturers on the market.

Some points are subjective, based on our considerable experience. 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, our purpose is not to recommend one housing over another but to give you the information to make an informed decision for yourself.

Pro and Cons by 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 overrall build quality, 200' depth rating and dual housing orings.

Pros Cons
  • Large, Labeled and Easy to Use Controls
  • Limited Camera Model Compatibility
  • Secure Port Locking System
  • No Tray or Handles Included
  • Optical Sync Cord Compatible
  • Bulkier than Aluminum Housings
  • Leak Detection System included
  • Auto Focus Only for Most Lenses
  • Vacuum Seal System or M16 bulkhead for thrid party systems for Sony Mirrorless Cameras
  • Lacks Bulkheads for External Monitor
  • Include Sunshade, Flash Diffuser, Handstrap, Spare orings
 
  • Budget Friendly ($-$$$)
 


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 back by a renewable 2-year warranty.

Pros Cons
  • Large and Easy to Use Controls
  • Expensive ($$$-$$$$$)
  • Secure Port Locking System
  • Made for Larger Pro & Prosumer Cameras only
  • Leak Detection and Vacuum Seal System
 
  • Simple and Robust Design
 
  • External Monitor Compatible
 
  • Customization on Request
 
  • Lifetime Warranty (when serviced every 2 years)
 


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). 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.

Pros Cons
  • Largest Selection of Housings from any Manufacturer
  • Important Controls can be hard to Reach from Handles on Larger Housings
  • Large Glove Friendly Controls
  • Buttons are tightly placed directly over the camera controls
  • Improved Dry Lock Port System
  • Electrical Sync Cord Connection only on most Mirrorless and DSLR Housings
  • Optical Sync Cord Connection on Compact Housings
  • Manual sync only for all other 3rd party strobes.
  • Vacuum Seal System for Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras
  • Bulky and Heavy when compared to Aluminum Housings
  • Field Serviceable
  • Auto Focus Only for Most Lenses
  • Budget Friendly Mirrorless and DSLR Systems ($-$$$)
  • Lacks Bulkheads for External Monitor
  • 2-year Warranty

 


Kraken Housings: Kraken recently released its first camera housing for Olympus TG-6 and TG-5 cameras. It’s aluminum alloy design with 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 pro version that includes an additional temperature and depth sensor.

Pros Cons
  • Large and Easy to Use Controls
  • Limited Camera Model Compatibility to Olympus TG-6/TG-5 and Smartphones
  • Optical Sync Cord Compatible (Camera Housing Only)
  • No Tray or Handles Included
  • Vacuum Leak Detection with Integrated Pump System built-in
 
  • Simple and Rugged Design
 
  • Great Price for High-Quality Product ($$$)
  • Rugged Aluminum Construction, 100 Meter Depth Rating


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.

Pros Cons
  • Camera Controls are Optimally Placed within Fingers Reach
  • Complicated Internal Design
  • Easy to Use and Secure Port System
  • Large Parts count for Handles and External Handle Assembly
  • Optical and Electrical Sync Cord Compatibility
  • Not Field Serviceable
  • Leak Detection and Vacuum Seal System
  • Expensive ($$$$)
  • Manual Focus Rings Readily Available
 
  • Bulkheads for External Monitor on Mirrorless/DSLR/Video Housings
 
  • 2-year Warranty
 


Olympus Housings: Olympus produces a limited selection of housings for their compact tough series cameras and micro-four-thirds mirrorless systems that are affordable and reliable.

Pros Cons
  • Large and Easy to Use Controls - User Friendly
  • Limited Camera Model Compatibility
  • Secure Port Locking System
  • Pen Mount Ports Require Tools to Install
  • Accepts wide variety of third-party AOI, Zen ports and accessories
  • No Tray or Handles Included
  • Budget Friendly ($-$$$)
  • Bulkier than Aluminum Housings
  • Lacks Bulkheads for External Monitor or electrical sync
  • Auto Focus Only for Most Lenses
  • 140’ depth rating


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 superior ergonomic design and luminescence stickers to see camera controls in dark environments. Sea & Sea NX ports have long been an industry standard.

Pros Cons
  • Camera Controls are Optimally Placed within Fingers Reach
  • Limited Camera Model Compatibility
  • Secure Port System
  • Internal Screws Easy to Strip
  • Optical and Electrical Sync Cord Compatibility with optional connections/triggers
  • Price ($$$$)
  • Leak Detection and Third-Party Vacuum Seal System
  • Manual Focus Rings Readily Available
 
  • Simple Internal Control Design
 
  • Bulkheads for External Monitor
 

Considerations

There is a lot to consider when choosing an underwater housing. While this is not an exhausted 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, placement of controls may be the difference in getting or missing the shot. Size and placement of the controls also dictates 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 strobe model and TTL compatibility. Some housings offer only optical or electrical sync- cord connections, while other allows 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 the system’s purpose. Budget might lead to compromising and sacrificing certain features. Above all, a housing should be reliable and durable to cope in all underwater conditions.

More Information

Please visit the Housings section on our website and look under the “Features” tabs for complete features and specifications. You can also selct several housings to compare their specifications against each other.

To search for available housings see our "Housing Finder", located on the left hand side of the pages in the Housing sections.

For an introduction to typical camera and housing models, design, features and nomenclature, please read our Handbook “Choosing an Underwater Camera and Housing”.

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