If you're heading into the water with your camera, you'll need a bit of extra kit. We round up some of the best accessories for underwater photography
Underwater photography can be a bit of a challenge: just a few metres under the waves, colour is lost rapidly, which can leave your shots looking washed out or lifeless – and the deeper you get, the harder it is.
Compact system cameras and DSLRs with larger sensors will invariably get better results at higher ISOs. However, you will need to invest in a waterproof housing unit (as well as a bespoke lens port to protect the lens) and these can start to get quite expensive. Ultimately, if you just want a camera to take into the sea, or for a bit of light snorkelling then a waterproof compact might be a more cost-effective option – so be sure to check out our list of top underwater compacts!
Either way, if you’re venturing into the water, you’re going to need some extra kit to get the best out of your shots. Below are some of our picks for the best accessories for underwater photography.
Nautican waterproof housings
Based in Hong Kong, Nauticam is considered by many to be the Rolls Royce of underwater camera housing manufacturers. It makes waterproof housings to fit all types of camera – from advanced compacts to CSCs and DSLRs. Prices vary, though as a rule the bigger the camera, the more expensive the housing will be. For example, a Nauticam housing for the Sony RX100 VI will currently set you back £860, while one for the Canon EOS 5D Mk III will cost £3,543 – more than the 5D Mk III itself! In return you can expect a premium-grade aluminium housing that is water resistant to a depth of 100-150m and neutrally buoyant for easier handling underwater. Since each housing is tailor-made, you can also expect to operate all of the main external buttons on your camera while underwater. For more information on the Nauticam range check out its UK distributor at www.nauticam.co.uk.
Ikelite waterproof housings
Based in Indianapolis, USA, Ikelite is another company that specialises in underwater housing units for digital cameras. The company offers polycarbonate housings for all the major camera manufacturers, covering everything from cheap compacts to professional-grade DSLRs. Prices are much cheaper than for equivalent Nauticam housings: a Canon 5D Mk III housing, for example, costs £1,400. Note that when choosing a housing for CSCs or DSLRs you will need to add a dedicated Lens Port that’s compatible with the lens you intend to use, which will cost you extra. The depth rating of Ikelite housings is 60m, which is slightly lower than Nauticam ones. That said, for most divers 60m is likely to be more than ample. Ikelite also offers a generous range of underwater flash lighting rigs. For more detail on the full list of cameras covered and UK prices go to www.camerasunderwater.co.uk.
Sea & Sea YS-01 Underwater Strobe
£360 | www.seaandsea.com
Sea and Sea specialises in underwater photography equipment. It offers a limited range of waterproof housings for DSLRs, as well as underwater strobes that come highly recommended. Chief among these is the YS-01 (£360), which features a circular beam angle of 100° and a maximum guide number of 20. The YS-01 is triggered by built-in wireless optical slave technology which makes it compatible with compact cameras that lack a hotshoe. It can be operated in Digital Slave TTL mode, TTL mode or in a fully manual mode that offers ten graduated power settings. In addition to the main strobe, the YS-01 comes with a single LED target light that’s useful for night diving or lighting up darker reefs. Sea and Sea also has the YS-03 (£270) that is TTL only, but delivers the same power and comes with all the accessories you need. Sea and Sea products are distributed in the UK by www.sea-sea.com.
While your camera’s white balance settings can be used to correct underwater colour temperature to a degree, at depths deeper than 2-3m you may benefit from using a lens filter. Generally red in appearance, underwater filters accentuate colour in things like coral reefs; and can also help turn washed out open ocean backgrounds into a pleasing deep blue. Magic Filters is a respected brand set up by two experienced underwater photographers that produces filters for use with compact cameras and DSLRs. Most of these are supplied as internally mounted gels that attach to the rear of the lens, though there are also some front-mounted acrylic filters that will fit 77mm filter threads. For best results you should ideally shoot at a depth of 3-10m with the sun on your back. Also, don’t use a strobe and a Magic underwater filter together as this can affect colour temperature.
Fourth Element Hydroskin UV Rash Suit
£75 | www.fourthelement.com
While swimming and snorkelling in warm seas as the sun beats down is undeniably pleasant, it’s also a surefire way of getting yourself horribly sunburnt if you don’t take precautions. This is because the salt in seawater reflects the sun’s harmful UVB rays, essentially focusing them back onto your skin. Using a high factor sunscreen (SPF 50+) certainly helps to reduce the effects, however the sea combined with the sweat from swimming can soon wash it off, leaving you exposed. The Hydroskin UV rash suit covers the whole body and offers a SPF of 30 when dry and over 30 when wet. Constructed from high quality lycra, the suit allows for easy movement and also acts as a barrier to some stingers. The Hydroskin suit is available in a range of colours and in all sizes for both men and women.