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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Cheap underwater housings?
Gil Batzri, Photographer, Assistant
Oakland | CA | USA | Posted: 10:46 PM on 10.02.10
->> I am researching a waterhousing for my Mark II with either my EF 24-70 2.8L with 77mm front and/or my Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX Aspherical DG DF with 83mm front and built in hood.

I am toying with maybe getting a bag that can accommodate my 550EX

Thus far I am looking at the EWA marine bags, several models and concerns. I am going to be shooting snorkeling frames in Hawaii, so I don't expect too much issue with exposure, is the flash worth it for shallow work? Secondly I am seeing in some of the descriptions mention of a max size of front element at 72mm.

Ewa-Marine U-B Underwater Housing
Ewa-Marine U-B 100 Underwater Housing (says 82mm) can I step this down for my 24-70?
Ewa-Marine U-BF100 Underwater Housing (this seems the non-flash bag that would work best for my purposes)

Ewa-Marine U-BXP Underwater Housing (can you use the shoe mount "bag" without the flash practicably?)

I would love to hear anyone's experiences with these bags and similar lenses. I have never photo'd underwater, and this is for personal use, so I am not stressing, but I would like usable frames.

I would prefer to keep the cost of the housing/bag to less the $500 if at all possible.

Thanks a bunch!
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Shelley Cryan, Photographer
New England | CT | USA | Posted: 11:40 PM on 10.02.10
->> Hi Gil,
I've used the ewa marine bag model that fits a flash. I never mounted a flash, though, just a pocket wizard a few times for some shallow work to trigger some poolside flashes. Example on my opening slideshow on www.shelleycryan.com.

Never used a flash in it because I figured the random detritus in the water would get highlighted by direct flash and wreck the frame.

Bag worked fine in the Galapagos, shooting without flash (and no pw) while snorkeling. Just kind of bulky. There are shots in my archive at that same website -- just do a text search for galapagos and underwater. Light levels were fine in the first couple of feet underwater.

It fit a 77mm front element just fine. Can use smaller lenses, but they slide around a bit.

I had bought the add-on weights but they were unnecessary in shallow water and I never used them.

Overall, it is kind of unwieldy to use but easier to travel with than a plastic housing and the price is great. In no way is it a precision piece of gear but it gets the job done.
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Harrison Shull, Photographer
Fayetteville, WV | Asheville, NC | | Posted: 11:45 AM on 10.03.10
->> Gil-

I have had several EWA bags and they all work adequately on a budget. They are not a rigid housing so don't go into looking for those characterisitics.

The EWA bags will work great for what you propose. I use my 5d with a grip and the 16-35 2.8 in it. It is model UAXP100 with a 77mm ring in the front.

A few words of advice...

You will want to shoot was wide as you can and as close to the subject due to light falloff underwater. I would not shoot the 24-70 but would instead shoot the 16-35. I gaff tape mine at about 20mm so that the EWA bag does not vignette so much and speeds up post time.

Make sure you get a few extra bags of silicone dessicant. If you load the camera into the bag in warm/humid conditions and then go underwater in cold water, the inside of the bag - including the lens front glass - fogs up and renders photos impossible. Load the camera with a very large CF card and then put it into the bag in an air conditioned room. Add several dessicant bags, clamp the bag shut, suck some excess inside air out via the port and then let the bag sit for awhile so the desicant bags can do their work.

These bags are not real durable. I had one years ago to snorkel in Hawaii and after a day underwater I had come into just enough contact with coral and rocks that I had put some tiny holes in the plastic walls.

These bags are very positively bouyant which can be a struggle. Consider weights and add as/if needed.

The biggest drawback to me though, is that once these EWA bags cover your camera, it turns a nice DSLR into a point-and-shoot. Despite any claims otherwise, all practical access to buttons and dials is severely handicapped. I put my 5D on P at an ISO of 200 with AF on in eval metering and blast away. I get decent results considering I have a $300 rather than $3000 bag.

Feel free to email me offlist if you want more beta. I owe you one for the help you gave a few months back when I was researching smartphones.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 11:57 AM on 10.03.10
->> everything harrison said is SPOT ON! I prefer a fixed lens 20mm on my 5d but the real deal is that although they purport that the different controls are easy to operate it is anything but true. it is nothing short of impossible to change your settings through the bag and the colder the water the harder it gets (the plastic gets very rigid in cooler water. in the last couple of years I have used my g9 in the hard case I acquired for it. it does a pretty good job but I really miss that 20mm underwater. good luck
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Dylan Lynch, Photographer, Assistant
Edmonton | AB | Canada | Posted: 12:38 PM on 10.03.10
->> ewa marine and dica pac are the two "budget" options, they should carry them at most camera stores.
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 1:01 PM on 10.03.10
->> Keep in mind that any lens that changes length while you zoom won't work underwater at anything other than its most collapsed setting due to the fact the water pressure squeezes in on the bag.

A lens like the 17-40 which doesn't change length works pretty well though as you can somewhat manipulate the zoom ring through the bag, but most of the time you'll want to be as wide as possible underwater.

I believe the largest front element that you can fit is 77mm as well due to the size of the glass port. That rules out a number of lenses

Flash can be useful underwater because at more than a few feet to help restore the proper color balance that otherwise gets filtered out through the water.

The bags really aren't neutrally buoyant either, and you can't really work any camera controls, or even see to compose very well but they do work. You'll no doubt curse it the whole time and want to switch to a rigid housing after one use but it will get you some cool shots.

From what it sounds like your uses are, I'd honestly suggest you go instead for a p&s, as they have a lot of specifically designed underwater housing for them and they are usually quite affordable, under $300.

Its much easier to work with a LCD screen with a dive mask on and the camera itself will be small enough to not get in your way while swimming.

In all honestly, simply being there and the experience are far more important to enjoy rather than the images, because frankly they really don't turn out that great no matter what you use. You've got to invest several thousand dollars, get a real lighting rig and dive to some nice locations to truly produce underwater images worth showing off.

I might even go as far as to suggest just a $15 underwater "funsaver" camera. It will work great to get those fun underwater photos of you and your family snorkeling and a few shots of fish, reefs etc.
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Harrison Shull, Photographer
Fayetteville, WV | Asheville, NC | | Posted: 5:12 PM on 10.03.10
->> A few followup thoughts...

I have the G10 and Canon's rigid housing too. It is WAY MORE compact and easy to deal with but the shutter lag will drive you crazy. I will grab the 5D in the EWA bag anyday over the G10 in the "real" housing.

You WILL curse the EWA's inflexibility when it comes to changing settings, but if you are just going after shots to record your vacation, any of today's DSLRs will do a very nice job in P&S mode.

One last thought... look into getting something from a dive shop for water drops on the lens prt. they make some sort of goo that you can put on there that causes the water to sheet off and does not distort the view. I always seem to get back to the office and find that the best frame of the day is ruined by a few inconveniently located water drops.

For around $300, I think these EWA bags are a great option for those on a budget.
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Gil Batzri, Photographer, Assistant
Oakland | CA | USA | Posted: 5:28 PM on 10.03.10
->> So my takeaways thus far:

I should think about the bag with shoe mount flash.

the 24-70 is not going to be so hot, because it will only really shoot at 70mm, is that reading of things correct? Can I put the hood on and tape the zoom ring wide?

Following up on that, Do you or can you affix the front element of the lens to the "glass" bit on the front of the bag somehow? My impression is there might be a threaded deal but I am a little confused.

Images are gonna likely be iffy (which I know)

So the superwide I have is 3.5-4.5, should I try to rent/borrow a 16-35L for the extra stop?

I don't have a p/s, I shot some disposable underwaters last year and didn't care for it too much. I am toying with getting a micro 4/3s camera, but I am not sure that will be in my hands before this trip.

Anyone use the EWA MARINE UBF100? with the glove or mitten?

This has been really helpful so far thank you all again.

gil
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 7:00 PM on 10.03.10
->> Gil, a hood won't fit, and there is not solid connector for the front port glass, it just sits up flush against it. They have a little step up ring thats 82mm you'd put on a 77mm lens to keep it from moving around off center.

You might want to check on the new 16-35 for fit as well. I think thats an 82mm thread on the new lens so should fit still without the spacer step up ring but I can't confirm that.

If your looking at m4/3 the Olympus EPL-1 has what I hear is a very nice housing, $500 though. Wet Pixel has a pretty in depth review on it. I really love the system overall and think they make fantastic travel/everyday camera's for when you don't want to lug all the DSLR gear around.

I've personally never used the UBF100 with the glove but wouldn't have high hopes for it because the vinyl just is not very flexible in the first place and again, underwater its going to all compress against the camera/lens with a surprising amount of force with just a few feet of water above you.

If you do go for the EWA option, I'd go for the cheaper option because its not an item that will see much use after your trip most likely.
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 12:16 AM on 10.04.10
->> For starters, I don't do hardly any underwater photography, so I don't really know what I'm talking about.

That said, I think it would be prudent to take the title of this thread, "cheap underwater housing," and proceed it with "I want to put $4,000 worth of camera equipment into..."
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 12:43 AM on 10.04.10
->> I'm sure statistically though Bradly your far more likely to drop said $4k camera while you trip over a curb and a million other things far more likely to cause damage than water housing failing.

Realistically even when it comes to something like a EWA marine bag, at most its going to leak a little bit and thats really not a very big problem as most any camera can handle a few drops of water.

Gil is also just going to be snorkeling with it as well so if it does spring a leak he's only going to be at best 10 feet or so down and just for under a minute, not on a deep water dive using scuba equipment and that is going to require 30 minutes to resurface.

Your point is taken though, and I wouldn't suggest something off of Ebay for $30 that says "ziplock" on the side of it, but at the same time, a housing failing, even if its EWA would be the least of my worries on a trip.
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Jeff Frings, Photographer
Milwaukee | WI | USA | Posted: 1:29 PM on 10.12.10
->> I've used the Dicapac underwater "bag" with my p&s canon sx200. It did what it was supposed to do, but like others have said it was virtually impossible to change settings once in the bag. I could change the top dial, but it took some doing. I would think about a high quality p&s and leave the DSLR at home. You should get good quality and not need to risk a multiple thousand dollar camera/lens setup on a 50 dollar housing.
Good luck and post photos when you get them.
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Augusta | GA | USA | Posted: 4:38 PM on 10.12.10
->> "These bags are very positively bouyant which can be a struggle. Consider weights and add as/if needed."

There is a little inflate hole on the U-AXP 100 that I suck all the air out of which reduces the buoyancy by a fair amount. It all depends on your lung strength though.

Pretty much I set the camera to aperature priority at 24mm, usually ISO 400, and let 'er rip. Once in the bag it's pretty much set.

I've used the flash a couple times and fills in nicely. However, since the cameras with the nice high ISO's have come a long way, I don't fill in anymore. And I personally have grown out of the look, haven't filled in since 2006. So with your question, you'll be fine without flash but it depends on how far down you dive past the light.

Corey
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Augusta | GA | USA | Posted: 4:46 PM on 10.12.10
->> Here's one my co-worker uses and he finds it adequate. He just shot a local Ironman using it.

http://www.amazon.com/Underwater-Case-Following-Canon-Cameras/product-revie...

It's if you want something dirt cheap. Personally I think it sucks because the front port doesn't secure your lens like the EWA-Marine bag.

My two cents.
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Joe Morahan, Photographer
Denver | Co | USA | Posted: 5:44 PM on 10.12.10
->> SPL housings are great as well
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Joe Morahan, Photographer
Denver | Co | USA | Posted: 5:44 PM on 10.12.10
->> http://www.splwaterhousings.com/
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Rich Obrey, Photographer
Gorham | ME | USA | Posted: 10:35 PM on 10.12.10
->> Jeff wrote "a housing failing, even if its EWA would be the least of my worries on a trip."

Umm, that's what I said a few years ago, standing in water to mid-calf, a Canon 1D in my EWA bag. I was taking photos of a trout release and didn't notice that I had ripped a tiny bit of the welded plastic seal, probably wedging the camera and flash into the bag.

Anyone want a nice, black paperweight?

The EWA folks gladly repaired the bag for me, all I had to do was send it to Europe for a few weeks.

Having said all that, I would recommend the EWA bag. I bought another one while waiting for the repair, and I have successfully used both since. I'm just a lot more careful.
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Dave Collyer, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 12:35 AM on 10.13.10
->> I shoot surf in Hawaii and other parts of the world and can tell you from experience that I would not recommend the Ewa bag for Ocean photography. Why? Because you will probably be snorkeling near reef and as much as you think you won't bump it, you will. It is inevitable. A reef bump on a housing is no worries, but on a Ewa bag? 'Black paper weight'.

Next, making adjustments as you are floating in the water can be hard enough when a housing is custom made for your gear. Imagine trying to do that with a bag whilst framing and shooting.

You may want to consider renting a waterhousing. Sean Labrie, the owner at SPL (see link above), will rent gear and he should have a housing for what you need. He can be a bit curmudgeonly at moments, but I really like the guy and he's super knowledgeable. I have been buying housings from him for almost 10 years.

Good luck and enjoy the warm water and beautiful photos.
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Thread Title: Cheap underwater housings?
Thread Started By: Gil Batzri
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