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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Building and underwater housing, a few questions
Maxwell Yedor, Student/Intern, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 12:17 AM on 12.18.06
->> I've been looking at all the different surf housings on the market and they all seem to have different pros and cons. I've been looking at something along the lines of the SPL/Aquatech style of housing, and they seem easy enough to build. Most of the better housing I've seen seem to be made in a garage by an ellusive guy anyway, so I may as well make mine in my garage. I just have a few questions and I hope somebody out there knows the answers.

Buttons are the one item I do not want to fabricate on my own, I know Ikelite sells them, but are there any better, or less expensive suppliers for watter light buttons and dials, or strobe bulkheads?

Lens ports, I thik I could make my own, but it I could just buy and off the shelf item it would make my life much simpler, any recomendations?

Seals, I was thinking of just using seals from a Pelican case unless there is a better option.

Are there any books or website I should check out that have more details?

Right now I'm tinking a tig welded 1/8" think 7075 body, and a 1/2"-3/4" thick lexan front cover, like an SPL. Am I on the right track or completly nuts for trying it?

Thanks ahead of time, Max

Also if anybody in SoCal make their own and would let me come hang out for the day and learn a few things I'd be forever gratefull.
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Robert Benson, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 12:24 AM on 12.18.06
->> Interesting, I was looking at some homemade hacks for housings this morning. Do a google search for "homemade underwater camera housings" and you'll find some directions for building a housing for video cameras, using large diameter PVC piping.

I'm interested in doing the same thing, so let me know how it goes. There's a guy making them in Florida for decent prices, about $850 for the housing.
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Robert Beck, Photographer
Carlsbad | CA | USA | Posted: 2:09 AM on 12.18.06
->> I used to make my own plexi water housings. They are easy to make if you have a proplexi house do the cutting for you to the camera specs. Glands and controls were ALL from ikelite. My housings were simple but worked. They were boxy, not as fitted as are those made by someone who takes a mold of your camera and then lays out the glss. Dale Kobetich in Orange County makes the smallest, lightest housing anywhere. Not inexpensive...But very good for shooting surf.
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 4:24 AM on 12.18.06
->> Maxwell --

The Aquatech housings (
http://www.aquatech.com.au/waterhousings.htm) are top of the line housings, and worth every penny. When you are out there, do you want a case that defintively protects your camera/lens, or one which might work but hasn't been tested by the best aquatic photographers around?

Don't take my word for it, consider this excerpt of David Doubilet's from the November 2006 issue of Dive Magazine (
http://www.divemagazine.co.uk/news/article.asp?UAN=3330&v=1&sp=):
-------------
If you want to enter the league of the professional underwater photographer, for my money you have to go for the Nikon D2x or Canon 1Ds MkII. At the top end of underwater photography...The choice to be made was what housing to go for. I opted for the Canadian aluminium-machined Aquatica housing....after 300 or so dives there are only a few minor scratches on the housing's coating...The main adjustment wheels and shutter release are suitably large for use with gloved hands...The on/off and focus area select levers are a dream to use...this housing can probably withstand its claimed 90m depth rating.

The attention to detail is impressive. Even the housing's push buttons have been drilled to make a tiny drain for any water trapped around the O-rings. This is to help prevent salt build-up and aid rinsing with fresh water. Another feature that confirms how well the engineers have designed this housing is the three small anodes that are screwed into the base of the housing. These are manufactured from zinc and designed to protect the aluminium against corrosion...I chose to have the optional leak detector fitted, which comes in the form of a flashing LED (light emitting diode) that is also displayed in this window...be sure to specify that you require these and the type of fitting when you order.

In the water the housing is a delight to use. I would say it is by far the most intuitive housing I've come across...this is a superb housing of high build quality.
-------------

I'd be worried about the seam where the gaskets went, what happens to your joints when banged around a bit or under pressure, HOW THEY REACT TO SALT WATER AND CORROSION, and details like the inclusion of zinc anodes to attract the corrosion. As a boat owner I know of the importance of this, but as a photographer making a housing I'd probably forget.

Yes, the housings are $1500-$2k, but they are worth it. They will protect $5k-$10k in gear consistently, and would pay for themselves in just a few good assignments and then give you years of safe use. I'd suspect that, combined, you will spend 3-5 days thinking about, researching, buying tools and supplies, trying, retrying, and then remastering the equipment, and then time testing it -- at depth -- to ensure it does what other products already can do off the shelf.

John
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Maxwell Yedor, Student/Intern, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 4:52 PM on 12.18.06
->> Thanks for the advice guys! I''ve emailed Ikelite and just need to figure out how to order order a few switches and dials and I think I'll be all set to start working on it.

As far as cost, I have all the alluminum, exan and tools I could possibly need allready, so all I need to buy are the switches and lens port materials. I figure I'll give it a shot and see what happens, I've welded pressure vessels that stand up to a lot more than a housing before and never had a failure, and plastics are easy to work with so I't can't be too difficult. Of course I'll be testing it by sinking it in a swimming pool overnight, taking it out in the surf and draging it behind a boat before I put my camera in it. Right now it looks like building a housing for my MarkII and a 24mm lens is going to cost about $60 plus whatever the Ikelite buttons run, and being a college kid on break I have nearly unlimited free time to build it. If all else fails I'll buy a professionaly built one, but not untill I have at least tried building my own.

John, those Aquatica housings are really nice and for scuba that's what I would buy, but having been whacked in the face by an Ikelite while shooting surfing, I know a dive housing isn't what I want while being pounded by waves.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 5:18 PM on 12.18.06
->> I wonder if insurance would cover a 1dsMkII and "L" lens that were drowned in salt water in a homemade housing? Just thinking out loud....
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Maxwell Yedor, Student/Intern, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 6:41 PM on 12.18.06
->> Ian, I had that same thought at 3:00 AM last night, I left a message with my insurance company just waiting on a call back, I need make sure I'm covered no matter what housing I use.
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Brian Cripe, Student/Intern, Photographer
East Lansing | MI | USA | Posted: 11:48 PM on 12.18.06
->> I do quite a bit of underwater work (not a lot of surf work, but I've been around a lot of surf housings). I can second the opinion that I wouldn't want an Ikelite housing in the surf - it's way too asy to dislodge a port. However, the bayonet-type ports by Aquatica, Sea & Sea, Aquatech, and others is very secure. There is a reason they are expensive - there are very well built. The controls work well and the ergonomics are very good. a couple of things about your plan -

1) Don't use a pelican seal for your housing seal. I would use an o-ring or x-ring, ideally two of them if you're going to be in ther surf.

2) For your lens port, if you're using a wide-angle lens, you'll want a dome port. Thick lexan will distort an incredible amount. If you're only shooting it above water it's not as big an issue, but it will still cause problems.

Since you're located in Cali, there are a ton of underwater photography shops that will rent you a housing - it might be cheaper to just go that route depending on your usage of it. Hope this helps.
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Aric Crabb, Photographer
Castro Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 4:56 PM on 12.20.06
->> Aqau Tech and Aquatica are two different companies, making two different styles of housings on two different continents. One for surf the other for dive photography.
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Fredrik Naumann, Photographer
Oslo | Oslo | Norway | Posted: 5:22 PM on 12.20.06
->> I've used Ikelite for surf and dive, no accidents yet. Used to have a more expensive aluminun housing, but I managed to get a leak in that one. And I think all UW snappers have eventually at some point.

Maxwell, when trying to save money you may try to work out how much time you'll be spending on this DIY project. Perhpas it would be worth spending that time taking pictures that you could sell (or other work), and earn enough to buy "the real thing".
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Derrick Tuskan, Photographer, Assistant
San Diego | Ca | USA | Posted: 5:38 PM on 12.20.06
->> I'm an SPL guy, I used a few different housing by them and they worked well. Sean is a great guy and makes great products. When it comes to the security of knowing my gear is protected from the water the cost doesn’t bother me one bit.

http://www.splwaterhousings.com/
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Jesse Bowman, Photographer
Haleiwa | HI | United States | Posted: 11:17 PM on 01.08.07
->> Good Luck!!! If you are serious about shooting surfing you'll soon realize you need more than a water tight box. Getting a great shot in the water is a lot harder than it looks, your gear makes a difference.
Let us all know how it works for you.
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Thread Title: Building and underwater housing, a few questions
Thread Started By: Maxwell Yedor
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