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How to Choose the Best Underwater Camcorder Housing

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2011

Choosing underwater camcorder housing is not always an easy task. There are several things you need to take into consideration. Here are some tips on what to consider before buying underwater housing for your camcorder.

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    Underwater Housing for Your Camcorder

    If you’re planning to shoot underwater video, an attractive option would be to buy a waterproof camcorder. However, this option may not be that attractive after all if you learn of the limitations of waterproof camcorders, especially the consumer models. For one, most can’t be used beyond 5 feet underwater and then you may not be satisfied with the video quality they offer.

    If you have a good camcorder and would like to maintain the visual quality, the way to go would be to consider underwater housing for your camcorder. This would save you the hassle of having to buy a new camcorder for your adventure.

    At this juncture, you may be thinking that you just have to fit any housing into your camcorder and you’re ready to go. Please be informed that camcorder housings are made according to camcorder models. Say, if you have a Sony TR 420, you would have to look for underwater housing for that model. What this means is you can't fit in another similar-sized Sony model.

    Your worry could be whether you could find a housing that is made for your camcorder. If you own a camcorder of an established brand like Sony, Canon, Panasonic or JVC, chances are you’ll find underwater housing without much difficulty.

    What if your camcorder is of an older model? Could you easily find housing for it? Chances are you could. Aquavideo for instance, carries housings for older models (read analog) of the major camcorder brands and even has housing support for certain Sharp and Samsung camcorder models. Another housing provider is Ikelite, providing housing for even Flip and Kodak camcorder models.

    Let’s consider the following tips to help you make an informed buying decision.

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    Frequency of Use

    How often will you be using the underwater housing for your camcorder? If you’re just going to use it for the occasional outing, you would want to consider a cheaper model without all the bell and whistles, but still deliver the goods. If you’re shooting underwater video as a hobby, you would also want to stick to an entry-level model, lest you end up with pro features you don’t really need.

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    Manual or Electronic Controls?

    It depends on your budget. Underwater camcorder housings with manual controls cost relatively less than their electronic counterparts. However, housings with manual controls are designed to give you access to every control in your camcorder. Underwater housings with manual controls score higher marks on durability and are less prone to malfunction. However, if the manual housing is not properly aligned with your camcorder buttons, then you would have a hard time even activating your camera.

    The electronic version is designed for convenience. All the controls are placed in a central location within the reach of your fingertips. But then you would have to fork out more cash for the convenience.

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    LCD Option

    If you’re wondering how you’ll be viewing what you’re shooting underwater, let it be known that all underwater housings come with a port for you to look through your camcorder’s eyepiece. You’re offered a magnified view of what the camcorder is capturing.

    If this black-and-white view doesn’t satisfy you, and you want to get a true view of what you’re shooting without straining your eyes, then you can choose underwater camcorder housing with the LCD option. This allows you to see clearly in color what you’re shooting without having to bring your eyes close to the camcorder.

    The drawback of using an LCD panel is it will set you back by about $800. You would also not be amused if you learn that the LCD panel would have to rely on your camcorder battery for power. So, if you decide you can’t do without the LCD panel and have the cash to spare, then you would want to invest in a long-lasting battery.

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    Changeable Lens and other Features

    If you need to switch lenses to take macro or wide angle shots, you could opt for underwater housing which allows for lens change. White balance and aperture control features are usually not available for consumer camcorder models.

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    Color Correction Filters

    If you want to improve the visual quality of your underwater video, you would want to use color correction filters. Water changes colour even at a shallow level, cutting out red light. This results in video with a bluish tinge. Filters could be used to correct this situation. Basically, there are two types of filters commonly used - one for blue water (tropics) and the other for green water (for temperate zones).

    If you’re going to be using filters, you must check whether the underwater housing supports internal or external placement. With some models you place the filters outside the housing and you remove them when not in use. The internal type is within the housing and is placed before the lens. Some housings have a moveable arm which can place or remove filters as and when required.

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    Battery Power

    Get the largest battery pack available and have at least two spares ones. Some underwater camcorder housings drain more power than others, especially if you’re using a LCD screen as was mentioned earlier.

    It’s also wise to bring a charger along if you’re going to be out in the sea for a few days. Go for a dual voltage type (110V and 240V) that could be used on live aboard boats and fro International travel. The last thing you would want is run out of battery power during an interesting underwater shoot.