Underwater Camera Housing Set-up, Protection & Maintenance Tips

  • Never let your underwater housing sit in the sun, to prevent camera fogging. When in the open, and especially in the hot sun, keep a wet towel over it. Letting the sun hit your underwater case can cause condensation later when you dive, and can dry it out and cause salt crystals to form. 

  • Always keep 1 or 2 desiccants in the waterproof housing to prevent fogging up

  • Always have your rig handed to you in the water, don’t jump in with it

  • When you exit the water, if you have a wide angle dome port on, train the crew to put your dome port cover on immediately to avoid scratches.

  • Soak the underwater case in fresh water for a few minutes after every salt water dive, if possible. Soak it for longer if the salt water had a chance to dry. “Work” the buttons and controls for a few seconds while the camera is underwater, if possible. Afterwards, quickly towel-dry the housing.

  • After your dive, don’t leave your camera unattended in the rinse tank*. I have heard many, many stories that start with “it flooded in the rinse tank”.

  • Get your housing serviced every year with the appropriate authorities.

  •  Keep a neoprene cover over your dome port as much of the time as possible, to avoid getting the dome port scratched. I try to enter and exit the water with a cover on my dome port.


  • O-ring maintenance

    • After every dive day, you should clean and relube the o-rings and grooves: Do this on the housing o-ring, the port o-ring, and the strobe battery compartment o-ring. Also, perform this on your sync cord o-rings after every few dives.

    • Do not over-lubricate the o-rings. Just a little bit is fine. Make sure you use the o-ring grease supplied by the manufacturer.

    • I use a q-tip and a high-quality paper towel to clean the groove the o-ring was in. First, remove the o-ring; wipe out any dirt from the groove using a q-tip, with a paper towel underneath it. Gently wipe off the o-ring, being very careful not to stretch it. I usually wipe the o-rings off with my fingers, gently feeling for any dirt or particles. Wash the o-ring off if it has sand on it that won’t come off, or if it is really dirty. Use an air-blower to blow off any hairs or dust from the groove, and relubricate the o-ring with a small amount of lube that your housing manufacturer suggests. Look at the o-ring one last time, and again being careful not to stretch the o-ring, place the o-ring back in.

    • Some people are comfortable going a couple of days without removing and re-lubing their o-rings if they are not opening the port or housing up.

    Underwater Housing preparation and your test shot

    • Very important – underwater housing care must be done in a non-hurried fashion, in a calm, uncramped, well-lit area. Preferable well before you dive. Rushing this procedure, or doing it on a small boat, has been the cause of many floods! Inspect the housing carefully before and after closing it to make sure nothing got caught in the groove, like a hair or the o-ring. After inspecting the o-ring and surfaces, close your housing quickly.

    • After preparing your camera, always do a test shot, with your strobes on. Make sure it took a photo, was properly exposed, and both strobes fired properly. Verify your camera ISO and JPEG/RAW quality setting. Verify the camera will focus. If you forget to do all these things, I guarantee you will go underwater with either the lens cap on, strobes disconnected, or the lens on manual focus. Or you will shoot the entire dive on ISO 1600, a small JPEG. You have been warned. The lens cap on is the most likely scenario, btw…

    • Some of the most common blunders include the following – leaving the lens cap on, having no memory card in the camera, having the lens set on manual focus, not having the hot shoe not plugged in. The most common test for me is leaving the lens cap on, I never remove my memory card. Your test shot should catch any of these problems. Always bring a spare memory card and spare batteries on a boat with you.

    • Make sure your test shot is at a small aperture or higher shutter speed, so that you can clearly tell if your strobes fire. Make sure you are in manual mode. You don’t want to have your camera exposing for ambient light during your test shot.

    • After receiving a new housing, or after repairs, always test your housing in a pool or ocean without the camera to make sure it is leakproof. Place a soft weight inside to help make the housing neutrally buoyant.

    Common Causes of underwater camera / housing floods

    • #1 top cause of flooding – closing the housing and having a desiccant pack caught in the o-ring or a large hair. This has happened to many people  – beware – always watch carefully when you close the housing. Nothing can be touched or laying on the o-ring as the housing shuts. Close it in a well-lit area so you can see. This applies to strobe and port o-rings also.

    • Salt/dirt building up in the o-ring grooves over time. Make sure you clean the grooves, I use a qtip over a good-quality paper tool.

    • Failing to fully screw in sync cords – always double check them.

    • small floods have happened when people jump into the water from up high with their gear, and the gear slams into the water – bring it into the ocean gently please, or better yet, have it handed down to you.

    • Latches on the underwater camera housing not being securely shut – always double-check them. This will cause a housing flood for sure.

    • Latches or tabs or clips locking the dome port coming undone or not being fully secure. This affects certain DSLR housings more than others, such as Ikelite housings. Always double-check your port lock if you need to before submerging your camera in the water.

    • O-ring popped out after momentarily opening the underwater housing. This sounds obvious, but always double-check the o-rings before closing the housing to make sure remain fully in the groove. If you open housing on a boat, you can’t be in a rush when you close it back up – inspect carefully, and re-read the 1st item in this list.

    • Water dripping into open sync cord connections – when removing sync cords, make sure saltwater can’t drip onto the metal contacts.


    Camera Fogging Prevention

    Has your underwater camera fogged up underwater? Is your waterproof housing fogging? Many people have had this problem. Here are some tips to avoid having a fogged-up lens. I have not had fogging problems in a long time, even with my compact cameras.

    • Always keep one or two fresh, newly “charged” desiccants in your housing

    • Try to set up your housing and close it in a cool, dry area to minimize the moisture inside the housing. Inside your cool, air-con room is a good choice. Outside on the boat on a hot, humid day can be a poor choice and can lead to fogging.

    • Don’t let your camera & housing get hot – keep it cool, out of the sun. Having a wet towel over it at all times is a good idea.

    • Be very careful when you close the housing, that the desiccant doesn’t get caught on the o-ring, and can’t fall onto the lens port

    • Compact cameras are more susceptible to fogging

    • Fogging is more likely to happen when it’s hot on the surface and cold underwater

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