It’s festive season again, folks. Time to get together with family and friends, and spend a little quality time… showing them your shiny new photographic gear! Which is why we’ve once again done all the hard work for you and compiled another fabulous Underwater Photo and Video Holiday Gift Guide!
So whether you have your beady eye on a glorious new mirrorless or just want to find a nifty little gadget for your dive buddy, we’ve got some awesome underwater imaging equipment to recommend—including some of very latest gear just unveiled at this year’s DEMA show.
Please help support DivePhotoGuide by choosing to purchase your gear through our knowledgeable retail partners at Backscatter.
1. DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras
With the D850, Nikon has managed to achieve something that hasn’t been seen in a full-frame DSLR before—both mind-blowing resolution (45.7 megapixels, no less) and awesome speed (7fps continuous shooting with AF). Boasting the 153-point AF system taken from the flagship D5 and a sensitivity range of ISO 64–25,600, the D850 also offers exceptional low-light performance and class-leading dynamic range. To top it all, the camera records 4K from the full width of the sensor, plus slow motion video up to 120fps at 1080p. $3,300 | www.nikonusa.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Enthusiast and pro photographers who love shooting fast action underwater—think southern Africa’s Sardine Run—finally have a camera that can deliver wall-sized prints.
- Ikelite: Constructed using Ikelite’s signature white ABS-PC blend, this corrosion-resistant underwater housing is depth-rated to 200 feet and features the company’s “Dry Lock” (DL) port system, which can accommodate the large-diameter pro lenses users will likely pair with the D850. Various strobes can be connected using electrical sync cords. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: The NA-D850 housing boasts a patented port locking system, integrated vacuum monitoring, a multi-controller pad, and four easy-to-access, assignable push buttons. To take full advantage of the rapid-fire 7fps shooting, an optional TTL converter allows for automatic exposure with compatible strobes via both optical and electrical connections. $3,800 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Sea&Sea: In order to reduce the weight of the housing, Sea&Sea engineers revised the internal design, making it 11% lighter than previous D800 series housings. Frequently used controls are now ideally located on the right side of the housing and feature a damper to prevent slip. The housing is depth-rated to 330 feet and is contructed using corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy. $TBA | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Nikon’s new D850 had to be awesome for one simple reason: Canon has the 5D Mark IV, the latest and greatest model in its hugely successful full-frame 5D series. It may not impress quite as much as its rival DSLR on paper—with its 30-megapixel sensor, 7fps RAW continuous shooting, and 4K/30p video recording—but the Mark IV’s spectacular autofocus system (borrowed from the flagship 1DX Mark II) makes it a formidable tool for underwater imaging. $3,500 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
For Canon users, the 5D Mark IV is a great compromise between price and performance, and remains a serious contender for the enthusiast and pro photographer’s affections. As is the case with most DSLRs, even at this level, a lack of video features like focus peaking and punch in zoom while recording likely means hard-core videographers will look elsewhere.
- Aquatica: As the 5D Mark IV is similar to the camera bodies that came before it—the 5D Mark III and the 5DS/R—only a few small changes were required for the A5DIV housing. Aquatica has included the AF Area button, which allows users to select any combination of the 60 AF points on offer. The SET button has also been moved a bit closer to the the right side of the housing for easier reach with the right thumb. As is typical for Aquatica, the housing is depth-rated to 300 feet as standard with an upgrade available to 425 feet. $2,795 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
- Subal: The ergonomically designed, seawater-resistant, aluminum alloy CD5 MIV housing is depth-rated to 230 feet and is offered in a variety of colors—white, yellow, red, blue, and black. Subal’s 4mm O-ring and Quick Lock closure system ensures accidental crushing of the O-ring won't happen. The housing is compatible with various user-interchangeable viewfinders. $3,550 | www.subal.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: With its usual emphasis on optimizing ergonomics, Nauticam has produced another solid housing that has all the controls you use most often at your fingertips. You get automatic TTL flash exposure with Sea&Sea DS-TTL and Inon S-TTL strobes by fitting an optional hotshoe-mounted trigger. $3,800 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 Kit
Fancy using all those lovely Canon lenses, but don’t want to spend a fortune on an underwater rig? Canon’s small and lightweight entry-level DSLR, the Rebel SL2, paired with Ikelite’s new housing, may be just the thing. The camera features a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, the latest DIGIC 7 image processor, and Full HD 60p video capabilities, while the housing offers access to all important camera controls, the latest “Dry Lock Micro” port system, and even built-in TTL circuitry—so it’s ready for hooking up a nice pair of Ikelite DS strobes. Bundled with an 18–55mm lens, this system will eat your old compact for breakfast! $700 | www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com (camera + 18–55mm lens) | $2,000 | www.ikelite.com (housing + camera + dome port + zoom gear + 18–55mm lens)*
*The previous-generation Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is also currently available from www.ikelite.com as a bundle with the 18–55mm lens, Ikelite housing, and Ikelite Tray with Dual Quick Release Handles, for only $1,500.
2. Mirrorless Cameras
The new flagship from Sony is a full-frame mirrorless camera geared towards professionals shooting fast action such as sports—and sharks. While the sensor is a relatively modest 24.2 megapixels, the rest of the camera’s spec sheet will give DSLR loyalists the shakes: “blackout-free” continuous shooting at an incredible 20fps, a massive buffer of 241 RAW images, and an autofocus system featuring some 693 AF points—covering nearly 93% of the frame. $4,500 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Professional underwater photographers (with deep pockets) chasing the ocean’s fastest swimmers—in natural light—will relish the α9’s blistering speed. Videographers will also appreciate the decent video capabilities—4K/30p and 1080/120p recording at 100Mbps—though the pro-level video tools found in the Sony α7S II aren’t on offer here.
- Nauticam: Depth-rated to 300 feet, this rugged aluminum housing features ergonomic rubberized handles, a patented port locking system, and integrated vacuum monitoring and leak detection. The port system supports more than a dozen Sony lenses as well as Canon EF lenses via a port adaptor and lens converter. $3,200 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: Ikelite’s α9 corrosion-resistant housing is designed to be used for any application in or around the water, including scuba, snorkel, surf, or pool work—where the camera’s high-speed capabilities might be tested. Ikelite DS-type strobes can be used in automatic exposure mode with an added TTL kit, while non-Ikelite strobes with electrical connections can be triggered in manual exposure modes. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com
Panasonic Lumix GH5
As we discovered when we tested the GH5 earlier this year, Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds mirrorless flagship is the perfect choice for the “hybrid” shooter—the user who wants a camera that can deliver both excellent stills and quality video. The 20.3-megapixel sensor, 9fps continuous shooting and snappy autofocus system allow the photographer to take on virtually any subject. But the videographer is also well looked after, with the ability to record 4K/60p video (for half-speed slow-mo playback), capture white balance accurately, and make use of a suite of pro-level video tools. $2,000 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If you’re serious about shooting moving pictures, but you don’t have silly cash to spend, there is (still) no other camera that can match the GH5 for video features and performance. The camera has been warmly embraced by housing makers, and there are countless options to choose from.
- Isotta: With dual O-rings and a humidity alarm, Isotta’s GH5 housing—finished in signature red—provides peace of mind for underwater photographers. Constructed using thermo-coated anodized aluminum, which is corrosion resistant, the housing goes a little deeper than most, at a maximum depth of 300 feet. The camera’s built-in flash is used to trigger strobes via fiber-optic connections. $2,600 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
- Ikelite: The latest tech found in Ikelite’s DSLR housings is incorporated in the company’s GH5 housing: the new Dry Lock port system, redesigned controls, and included vacuum valve. Users can choose various add-on options for triggering strobes, including, of course, automatic TTL exposure with the company’s DS strobes. $1,695 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
While the α6500’s spec sheet seems very similar to that of its sibling, the α6300—including a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, 425-point autofocus system, 4K capture, and 11fps continuous shooting—there are also some important enhancements. Faster processing power means a continuous shooting buffer of 107 RAW images (up from 21 RAWs), new five-axis in-body sensor stabilization helps keep video footage wobble-free, and an improved menu interface makes the camera even easier to use. $1400 | www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
If you’re upgrading from compact to mirrorless—to avoid the bulk of a DSLR—the α6500 is one of the best options out there. The large APS-C sensor gives you DSLR-like image quality in all but the most demanding conditions underwater.
- Sea&Sea: Compatible with the α6000, α6300, and α6500, Sea&Sea’s housing allows users to access all camera functions, features controls that glow in low-light conditions, and offers two ergonomic thumb rests on the rear. Two accessory ports allow the connection of strobes and an optional vacuum system. $1,800 | www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com
- Fantasea: Both the α6500 and α6300 are accommodated by Fantasea’s lightweight but rugged housing, which is depth-rated to 200 feet. It features double O-ring protection, a built-in moisture detection alarm, and the ability to trigger strobes both via electronic and fiber-optic connections. $980 (housing only) | www.fantasea.com | www.backscatter.com | $1300 (US price) (bundled with lens port and two free gears)
*Fantasea also makes the FA6000, an almost identical housing for the previous-generation Sony α6000, which is currently available as a bundle with lens port and two free gears for $1,000 (US price).
3. Compacts and Action Cameras
SeaLife DC2000 Pro Duo
If you’re starting out in underwater photography, SeaLife’s easy-to-use DC2000, which we recently reviewed, is an excellent choice, but its advanced feature set will continue to deliver as your skills progress. In the affordable Pro Duo package, the camera is combined with the Sea Dragon Flash as well as the Sea Dragon 2300 Auto, a new video light that has two switchable special modes: auto shut-off when a flash is detected and brightness that adjusts automatically depending on the distance from the subject. $1400 (Pro Duo) | www.sealife-cameras.com
Panasonic Lumix LX10
Considering its compact dimensions, the LX10 sounds impressive on paper: Equipped with a 20-megapixel 1"-type CMOS sensor and a fast 24–72mm equivalent f/1.4–2.8 zoom lens, it achieves 7fps continuous shooting with AF, and shoots both 4K/30p and 1080/60p video. But it was only when we took this tiny marvel underwater that we could appreciate just how amazing an imaging tool the LX10 is. So DSLR-like were the results that we concluded: “It’s hard to imagine that a compact camera was the tool used.” $600 | www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
Even when housed, the LX10 seems tiny, making this little compact not just a very capable performer but also a travel companion that takes up the very minimum of space. Considerably cheaper than rivals such as the Sony RX100 V, it’s an excellent option for beginners who want a camera that will grow with their abilities.
- Ikelite: With its transparent back, Ikelite’s affordable housing for the LX10 allows you to see the O-ring create a reliable watertight seal. Buttons are designed to reduce weight and salt build-up, and labels are laser engraved so won’t fade or rub off. You can hook up dual strobes via fiber-optic cables connected to the two ports. $550 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
- Nauticam: We tested the LX10 in Nauticam’s solid aluminum housing and were impressed with the “top-notch ergonomics that make adjusting settings on the fly as pain-free as possible.” Attaching Nauticam’s CMC-1 macro or WWL-1 wide-angle wet lens easily expands the camera’s ability to capture sharp, high-quality images. $995 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
The entry-level model in Canon’s lineup of compacts with 1" sensors, the G9 X boasts 20 megapixels, the latest DIGIC 7 image processor, 8.2fps continuous shooting with a buffer of up to 21 RAW frames, and a built-in lens with an optical zoom range of 28–84mm (equivalent). The ultra-slim compact also features Full HD 60p video recording capabilities for smooth half-speed playback. $530 | www.usa.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
Who Should Buy It?
When we tested the Mark I in Fantasea’s housing, we loved the camera’s simple controls and impressive image and video quality. With the Mark II, Canon fixed the camera’s only serious flaw—RAW continuous shooting shot up from 1fps to 8fps—and the result is a great little compact for beginners.
- Fantasea: Offering compatibility with both the G9 X and G9 X II, Fantasea’s housing offers not just an inexpensive way to get Canon’s powerful compact underwater, but also an impressive feature set. In particular, it gives users access to certain contact points on the touchscreen, allowing more advanced control over camera functions. The FG9X is compatible with a full range of wet lenses, filters and other accessories. $400 | www.fantasea.com | www.backscatter.com (housing) | $830 | www.backscatter.com (housing & camera bundle)
- Ikelite: Ikelite’s new “action housings” are designed to make taking pictures underwater even more flexible and fun. Whether you’re a freediver, surfer, or adventurer who doesn’t mind getting a good soaking, you’ll appreciate the durable construction and simplified controls. Scuba divers aren’t left out, either, as the housing is still depth-rated to 200 feet. $200 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
While GoPro’s hold on the market may be slipping, their action cams still command a loyal following, with each successive HERO iteration offering incremental improvements. With the HERO6, we are finally treated to 4K/60p recording, making it possible to play back footage at half speed for that coveted “cinematic” look in UHD. If Full HD is good enough for you, the HERO6 manages 1080/240p for sublime ultra slow-mo playback. The camera without a housing is waterproof to 33 feet and offers super-smooth advanced image stabilization. $500 | www.gopro.com | www.backscatter.com
Note: The manufacturer of this product discontinued production in April 2018
Known for their brilliant Light Shaping Device (or LSD), Retra has now joined the exclusive club of manufacturers that make underwater strobes—and the Retra Flash is a doozy. As well as being extremely bright, the strobe has a speedy recycle time of just one second when used with the optional additional battery compartment—which also allows you to shoot around 900 frames on a single charge. Multiple modes are possible, including TTL, electronic, optical slave, and an SOS signal for emergencies, and there are nine levels of brightness in manual mode. Oh, and it also looks super-cool with the matching LSD attached! $820 | www.retra-uwt.com | www.backscatter.com
SeaLife Sea Dragon 4500
SeaLife’s Sea Dragon range of continuous lights has been designed for beginning and intermediate shooters, with the most powerful light in the range maxing out at 2,500 lumens—until now. The new model packs 4,500 lumens and is aimed squarely at advanced and pro videographers. With a COB LED array on board, the light’s color rendering index (CRI) is 96, which is very close to natural light. The Sea Dragon 4500 offers auto-brightness, which operates based on subject distance, and an auto-off feature that turns the light off momentarily when a flash fires—in order to avoid hotspots on images. $700 (head only) | www.sealife-cameras.com
In the crowded marketplace of underwater video lights, it’s becoming increasingly hard to stand out—unless of course you have “bunny ears”! Featuring two wide-beam 2,000-lumen lights mounted on integrated flex arms, the novel BS40 mounts to a single point on your housing, such as the hotshoe, and allows you to position your light sources exactly where you want them. There are four power levels, and the burn time at full power is 55 minutes. $900 | www.itorch.ca
Fantasea Radiant 3000F
Fantasea has packed lumens, features, and the latest tech into the newest addition to their Radiant series of video lights. Depth-rated to 330 feet, the 3,000-lumen light has six modes, including a 100° flood beam, a 15° spot beam, a red light, UV/blue light, and two flashing modes for signaling or emergencies. The flood beam is produced by a COB LED array boasting a high CRI of 90, closely resembling sunlight. $500 (US price) | www.fantasea.com
SeaLife Sea Dragon Mini Fluoro
SeaLife got into fluoro imaging earlier in the year with the release of its powerful Sea Dragon Fluoro-Dual Beam light. Now, the company has followed up with a handy new fluoro light for viewing fluorescing marine life. Designed in collaboration with Fire Dive Gear, the Mini Fluoro offers three brightness levels—100%, 50%, and 25%—and has a burn time of two hours at full power. The anodized aluminum light is also effective in daylight. $160 | www.sealife-cameras.com
Backscatter FLIP5 Pro Package
If the underwater footage from your lovely new HERO6 seems underwhelming, it’s probably because you’re not using an essential GoPro accessory: FLIP5, the latest iteration of Backscatter’s easy-as-pie flip filter system. The Pro package is everything you could want: three filters for beautiful color at various depths, and the brilliant Macromate Mini +15 for crisp close-ups. $160 | www.backscatter.com
Fantasea-AOI UCL-09F Super Macro Wet Lens
At the beginning of the year, Fantasea teamed up with AOI to introduce a range of four premium-quality macro and wide-angle wet lenses. The most powerful in the lineup is the +12.5 diopter UCL-09F super-macro lens, which makes it possible to get up really close and personal with the tiniest of critters. Like the other lenses in the range, the barrel is hard-anodized aluminum, while all glass elements have anti-reflective multilayer coatings. A standard 67mm thread means the lens can be attached to most compact, mirrorless and DSLR housings. Read our review of the UCL-09F and the UWL-09F wide-angle lens. $320 (US price) | www.fantasea.com
This three-in-one macro wet lens system provides users with three levels of magnification—all in one clever device. Using external levers, a +5 diopter or +10 diopter lens can be rotated into position—or both together for a combined +15 diopter lens. Best if used with a 100mm or 105mm macro lens, the Trio also works with a 60mm, 150mm, or 180mm. The device easily attaches to macro ports with a 67mm thread, but it can also be fitted to different size ports with adapters available through Saga. $815 | www.sagadive.com | www.backscatter.com
SeaLife Super Macro Lens
Designed for the DC2000 camera, this +10 diopter Super Macro Lens makes it possible to focus as close as 4" (10cm), opening up a whole new universe of tiny critters that could not previously be captured with the built-in lens. Depth-rated to 330 feet, the lens features an anodized aluminum frame and a standard 52mm mounting thread, allowing it to be used on any compatible housing. An included press-fit adapter allows the lens to be attached to SeaLife’s DC-series housings. $130 | www.sealife-cameras.com
When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.
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