Most people interested in underwater photography usually start with: a GoPro, a mobile phone in a plastic pouch or a compact underwater camera. It was no different in our case. We first tried underwater photography/video using a GoPro when snorkelling on our honeymoon and whilst a GoPro is an impressively capable camera for what it is, it also has some serious limitations so soon we started looking for something else.
The next step for us was a plastic bag type of housing (Ewa Marine) for the Sony A7RII. As we were planning to use it no more than a meter or so underwater, we thought it would work just fine… well, it didn’t. We had two main issues with it: the first was that the handling was dreadful – just pressing the shutter release button was a challenge let alone adjusting anything or reviewing the photos, and the second was with the size of the port (lens opening) – we used a 28mm lens, and with a flat port, the field of view was substantially smaller than expected. As a result, we sold the bag after just a couple of uses.
Finally, towards the end of 2017 we took the plunge and bought a proper underwater housing. We opted for an Ikelite housing – one of the cheapest options amongst professional underwater housings, although ‘cheap’ is very subjective in this context 😉 The main reason why Ikelite housings are cheaper is due to the fact that they are made from plastic rather than aluminium and tend to be a bit more bulky, neither of which posed any issue for us.
Buying a ‘proper’ housing is quite a big commitment. They are expensive, often similar in price to the camera they are designed for and every camera model requires a different, dedicated housing. We have a couple of different cameras, but we decided to get a housing for our Nikon D850 as it’s the most future-proof.
To use a housing, you must also buy a lens port. These come in various sizes to accommodate different lenses and in two different types: flat port (used for macro), and dome port (used for wide angle). Water decreases the angle of view of the lens by approximately 25-30%, e.g. 24mm lens becomes roughly 30-35mm. Dome ports are used to reduce or remove this effect entirely. As we wanted to do over/under shots and photograph people underwater, we opted for a dome port.
Our full setup for the first shoot included the following: