OK I opened a can of worms, thanks for the messages regarding the cameras, they are only meant to be a guide, Fuji are very good, but i simply have very little experience with them, so all Fuji lovers I apologise. The other questions were what is the best Waterhousing, and whats the best all round camera for surf/adventure photography, so I’ll do two more blogs starting with water housings.
After your camera, this is the most expensive item you will probably purchase, especially if you want to get into the water. Things have changed rapidly over the last few years, new companies, old ones getting better, and a general improvement in housing design and cost.
In the past there were really only a couple of different models pros used, and thus the housings were limited in model and manufacturers, but the explosion of mirrorless cameras, and the shrinking of size, has really mixed things up. So this is a manufacturer by manufacturer guide.
These guys have been around for ages, my first film housings 18 years ago were Aquatech and I have been using them on and off ever since. They are incredibly well designed, and absolutely bomb proof. Some people don’t dig the clips, but I love them, and they were essential back in the days of film. Some people worry that they may pop, but it has never happened to me, or anyone I know. The housings are pretty light, the port system is easy to change and covers everything you would ever need. They also have a very sensible system of allowing people to start off with a control-less base housing, which can be modified to fit Sony/Nikon/Canon/Panasonic and then as you get better you can just convert the housing for more controls until you settle on the long term camera. They are not crazily expensive either. Down-side, the Polyurethane construction is awesome, it is light, and I prefer it to metal housings, however, it does mean the moulds are not as tight to cameras, this doesn’t bother me when it comes to things like a 1DX or a 5d or even the Sony A7 series, but the housings for the A6000 series, and the Fujis are a little bigger than I would like. When compared to a liquideye or Salty housing for the same cameras, they are huge. It’s a minor gripe, but if you own one of these smaller mirrorless cameras one of the advantages is swimming with something tiny.
Matt at Salty has really shaken things up with these housings. They are aluminium front loading, with a front plate with a changeable port system. Nothing massively revolutionary, but Matt spotted that cameras were changing much faster than housing manufacturers, and he came up with the solution, so much so that he has more housing models than any other manufacturer and if a camera comes out, he is onto it, and what is more the housing is barely bigger than the camera, which when you want to shoot in decent waves helps a lot when swimming. Some people don’t like the screws, but they work, we don’t have to change film anymore, so it’s all good. But loving these well thought out housings, for me these are leading the way at the moment, especially when it comes to a housing that exactly fits your gear.
I’ve owned a couple of these housings and got to say they are solid. I had one for a 1d Mkiv and one for a Sony A6000, they are light, robust, well thought out and pretty much bomb proof. Their cable-less pistol grip connections are great/boardering on magic, and I’ve never had any issues with them. They are decent value, and well made, only real gripe is my bank wouldn’t let me transfer the fee to the Indonesian bank where they are based, so when I came to get a new one I couldn’t! Other than that good housings. They have a recessed bolt system which requires a tool, but means there are not wing nuts sticking out.
I had looked on with envy at these carbon fibre beauties for years. I hadn’t really seen one in the flesh, then out of the blue I ended up owning one for my Canon 1DX. They are quite simply the lightest housings out there, and when you have a 1DX or something of that size you want to save the weight, I bloody love it, and the overall construction and port system is epic. They have a screw system like the Salties, which works just fine. From what I have seen of the smaller housings they cant get them as small as the salties and liquid eyes for cameras like the A6000, but they are beauties never the less.
Back in the day, realistically you either owned an SPL or Aquatech, when I was at Wavelength mag I couldn’t afford an Aquatech, and they didn’t make one for a Nikon D300 with a booster, but SPL did, and it was an absolutely bomb proof water housing, and one that I have shot more with than any other. Can’t really fault them too much, they are aluminium again, well made, good port system and trusted for years.
The above housings I have used a lot, so have detailed knowledge of the next group I have seen/used briefly so do not have an in-depth knowledge of.
Essex – solid housings, their modular slanted design was a good idea, but I always though it was limited when it came to housing models, not sure they are still in existence.
Brother – These are a good budget idea, they fit every camera except the Nikon D and Canon 1 D series, come with interchangeable ports and different cables for different models, they are quite large, but at only around £600 pretty good as a proper budget option.
Box Waterhousings – Never used one in the water, just held one, pretty close to CMT housings, carbon based and seemed really nice.
Wave Housing Solutions – This Portuguese outfit make some nice housings, I’ve never used one but held one, and they are well made, and from what I hear work really well.
There are more, in Australia, Hawaii and the States, and there are plenty of smaller makers as well, so check them all out.
There is a final one to mention and that is Meikon. These guys are essentially plastic housings for a variety of cameras, and they come from Hong Kong. When the Sony A6000 came out they were first to market for months with a housing and it only cost £125, and I got to say for long lens work was a pretty OK housing. They are a dive housing company, but have just launched a surf focussed arm for the A6xxx series of cameras and reports are good. They are not as bomb proof as the above manufacturers, but if you only have £150-350 to spend and cant find a second-hand camera housing then these work, and it’s better to be in the water than not.
It’s hard to totally recommend one housing, I love the Aquatechs they will not let you down, but are a little more pricey than most, but you are getting years of R and D in there and a solid backup service.
I really love Salty Surf housings they really have shook things up for me and make epic housings that are the best fit and design for a lot of cameras now, and they are constantly developing and have some sick colour ways. I use one with an A6000, and it is an incredible housing, and I’ll be getting one for an A9 when I can afford it.
The CMT I am using is also amazing, I’ve only used it for a 1DX so I’m not sure not he others, but I love the carbon fibre lightness.
I would recommend any of the above anyway, and if you had the chance to get a liquideye or an SPL, I’d say the same as well. I wouldn’t say there are bad housing manufacturers, and there definitely isn’t a perfect one either, so go for something in your budget and try and match it to a camera that you will be using for a while.
One last bit of advice, try and avoid bulky dive housings, they really are not designed to shoot in the surf.
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