Water Housing for surf photography

As a surf and ocean sport photographer, I have often been approached by other surfers and photographers for advice on selecting their Water housing for surf photography.

I hope this article will answer some important questions we should ask before purchasing a camera and housing for surf photography.

CAMERA HOUSING FOR SURF PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO BY Malka Nihom

Before I begin detailing the types of housings and different companies, I would like you
to ask yourselves the following questions:

  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Do I wish to engage in surf photography professionally? (enlarging and/or selling photos, surf filming days, etc…)
  • Is the most important detail for me regarding the housing its compactness?
  • Is the most important detail for me regarding the housing its compactness?
  • Do I want to use the housing in stills photography only or with video as well?
  • is full control of the camera functions and buttons importent to me?
  • would i like a support for an external flash through the housing?

Okay, let’s do this in order.  I’ll start with the less expensive types of water housing for surf photography: 

soft-water housings ( from stiff plastic bags or silicone) –

EWA MARINE Water Housings :

German
company Ewa Marine has specialized in ocean sports water housings since
1970.  On their website, you can find
various models of DSLR, mirrorless or video cameras.

Price range:  From $250 to $450 for DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

מארז מחברת | camera housing ewa marine

Camera housing from ewa marine

Water Housing advantages:

  • Compact in comparison with hard case housings.
  • Lightweight
  • Convenient to travel with
  • Inexpensive
  • There are models that can accommodate an
    external flash!
  • This casing can go down to depths of 20-50
    meters.

Water Housing disadvantages:

  • Inconvenience in operation of various camera
    buttons and functions – a bit awkward to get to.
  • Cannot accommodate wide angle or fisheye
    lenses.
  • Not comfortable and less functional with using
    zoom lenses.

ewa marin housing

During my
first years as a surf photographer, I used Ewa Marine housings because I
couldn’t afford a hard-cased water housing. 
The Ewa Marine housing served me faithfully, and I never had any leaks
or problems at all.

Some of the photographs I took with this housing also won prizes and first place in Israeli and international competitions.

DICAPAC Water Housings

This company doesn’t offer as many models as Ewa Marine, and they’ve been in the market for less time.

  I haven’t tried their housings, so I can’t say much about them.

DICAPAC WATER HOUSING

OUTEX Water Housings

The Outex Pro Kit works
with ALL Mirrorless, DSLR, Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras and more!

The new revolution in
soft-cover water housings.

Outex are the only ones in the marketing offering a silicone housing with option for switching front (glass) ports. 

This technology enables one to use their housing together with a wide or even Fisheye lens.

*You can also mount a Dome Port.

Advantages:

  • Their ports are made of glass and not acrylic.
  • You can use a wide variety of lenses including fisheye.
  • You can also mount a pistol grip and/or an external flash.
  • Great option for Travel or project when you need to be compact

Disadvantages:

  • I’ve never tried this housing,
    so I don’t know how comfortable it is to use in the field.

Hard-cover Water Housings:

  • water housing for surfing

    Photo by 42 SurfPhotography
  • water housing for surfing

Before I go into detail and offer recommendations on the various manufacturers’ hard-cover water housings for surf photography, I would like to clarify the differences between water housings for surf photography and water housings for diving photography.

These differences are huge, including what the housings are
intended for.  A diving housing has a lot
of advantages that most surf housings don’t have, but you should keep in mind
that a diving housing is fairly heavy and not intended for surf photography.

Housings designated for diving photography can be up to 4 kgs
heavier, because they are made of strong materials that are resilient to
underwater pressure.

underwater housing

In the photo: hagai nativ holding an ikilite diving housing

The most common advantages of a diving photography housing
over a surf photography housing:

  • Connection for flashes
  • Full control of all buttons
  • Monitoring and warnings of
    water leaks
  • Can go down to depths of
    40-100 meters

The objectives of housing manufacturers for surf photography
are:

  • Lightweight housing –
    comfortable above water when swimming and filming.
  • Can float on water surfaces,
    so swimming is easier.
  • Resilient casing that will
    withstand wave intensity.
  • Multiple control of camera
    buttons and functions (most surfing housings don’t allow you full control).
  • Housing suited to correspondent
    lenses for surf photography, with manufacture of ports accordingly (a port is
    the cover that protects the lens from water and connects to the housing.  Some ports can control the lens zoom, and the
    port quality is also determined by the type of glass or acrylic used).
  • Option for connection to
    pistol grip.

WATER HOUSING | מארז לצילום גלישה

With surf photography, we swim on the water’s
surface and during photography we raise the housing above the water, so we will
want a fairly lightweight housing.  Most
surf housings don’t allow you full control of the camera buttons, but there are
manufacturers who offer additional buttons, which might prove persuasive when
deciding what housing to purchase.

I will state some leading companies in the market
today:

Aquatech Water Housing:

Aquatech has been making surf photography housings since 1998 and without a doubt is the leading company in its field today.  They improve and direct their products to professional photographers engaging in ocean sports, surfing, wild nature and movie-filming.

aquatech water housing

Photo by Basti Hansen

Aquatech water housings are made of polyurethane, with aluminum buttons. Aquatech is considered to be one of the leading companies in water housings for surf photography and ocean sports, with an extensive variety of products and surf housings supporting a great variety of ports (including control of zoom).  In addition, In 2017 Aquatech released the AxisGO water housing range, designed for iPhone.

water housing

aquatech water housing + Axigo

Advantages of Aquatech
housings:

  • Very reliable
  • Strong and resilient to wave
    intensity
  • Many options for use with
    various lenses.
  • Comfortable closing before
    entering water.
  • High-quality port
  • Connections for external flash
    and pistol grip
  • Option for universal housing
    and switching of different models with addition in price.
  • Convenient customer service
    for consultation or repairs, if necessary.

Disadvantages of Aquatech housing:

  • Relatively expensive (ranging
    from $1400 – $3000)
  • Fairly large in size
  • Not that lightweight
  • No full control of buttons
    (but most of the important ones can be reached)

SEAFROG or MEIKON:

seafrog water housing

These water housings are for mirrorless and compact
cameras.  From among Meikon’s housings
you’ll find a wide range of models like Sony Panasonic, Fuji, Canon.

The Seafrogs water housing is particularly suited to surf photography and is definitely an excellent option for those who wants to get into the field and save purchase of an expensive housing for $2000.

Housing advantages:

  • Much less expensive than
    housings from other companies in the market ($300-900).
  • Full or almost full control of
    camera buttons, in accordance with model.
  • Also suited for diving to
    depth of 40-60 meters.
  • Option for connection of
    pistol grip.
  • Option for connection to
    external flashes and all kinds of accessories.
  • Relatively lightweight and
    compact.
  • Wide range of ports available
    for lenses.

Housing disadvantages:

  • Ports are of lower quality.
  • Cheap production

SALTY SURF Housings:

These water housings are made in Australia, of aluminum, using CNC cutting, and are relatively strong yet lightweight.

salty surf housing

Advantages:

  • Relatively lightweight and strong housing
  • Option for almost full control of housing
  • Suited to a wide range of lenses and cameras
  • High quilty product

Disadvantages:

  • Relatively expensive
  • A little more complicated to assemble.

SPL, United States

SPL is also one of the leading companies for water housing for surf photography housings.  The housings are made of aluminum and support a wide range of ports.

SPL housings come with many buttons and you can add more at
an additional charge.

Housing’s sealing method – SPL uses 6 butterfly closers to seal the housing before entering the water. 

SPL WATER HOUSING FOR SURF

Advantages –

  • Strong and reliable housing.
  • Easy to use.
  • Relatively lightweight.
  • They have a wide range of
    models for video cameras and the use of different lenses.

Disadvantages –

  • Assembly is less user-friendly.
  • Relatively expensive.
  • My own contact with the company has been less easygoing, but then, I don’t have a lot of experience with them.

LIQUID EYE Housings:

Liquid Eye is based in Europe and has
been operating since 1995, founded by a surf photographer named Philippe
Chevodian.

Their housings are made of epoxy and
fiberglass in a light but strong construction, and they support a wide range of
ports.

Buttons can be added at additional
charge.

liquid eye water housing

Advantages –

  • Housing is relatively small and lightweight.
  • Relatively inexpensive ($1200-2500 including 1-2 lens port)
  • Wide range of ports available for different lenses.

CMT Housings –

CMT is based in the USA.  Their housings are made of carbon fibers and
are particularly lightweight.

The housings are not made on a production
line, but rather each unit is custom-made.

Their housing accessories include pistol
grips and additional ports.  The housings
support external flashes and you can order external flash housings as desired.

cmt water housing

Advantages –

  • Particularly lightweight
  • Strong and resilient to wave intensity.
  • Each housing is custom-made according to
    customer requirements.

Disadvantages –

  • More production time

WATER HOUSING SOLUTIONS Housings –

The company is based in Portugal,
operating since 2006.

If you don’t find the model you want in
their catalogue, you can order custom-made housings.

water housing solutions

ESSEX Housings –

Essex was founded in California in 1983.

since 2019 Essex is the first waterhousing manufacturer to embrace the new technology of 3D Printing housing

Didn’t found any photo of the new 3D housing yet.

In summary:

From the details I’ve laid out before you, you will understand that you should select the right water housing only after you have determined with the manufacturer which model housing suits your camera.  It should also support a port that suits the lenses you have now or a lens you wish to use in future.

All the other accessories (buttons, flash connection, pistol grip) depend on the manufacturer’s ability to supply them.  Some of these are available at extra charge at specific manufacturers.

I hope my experience and research will help you in selecting the right water housing for surf photography or any other activity.

Please feel free to leave comments, and
if you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to help.

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