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Aquapac Underwater Enclosure Review

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Thread started 12 Jun 2008 (Thursday) 00:47   
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EveryMilesAMemory
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Aquapac Waterproof Camera Caseexternal link

If you've followed along with Our Blogsexternal link for the past few months, then you know what happened to us in Baja with our camera gear. To be 100% honest with you, I cant believe it hadn't happened earlier than that.

With as much paddling as we do, it's inevitable that sooner or later, the cameras are going to go in the water. It's sort of stupid to not have the gear in some sort of waterproof enclosure to keep it safe in the first place, I just never knew I could afford an enclosure.

Now I'm sure not too many people have priced out these enclosures, as almost everyone we've talked to has told us how idiotic we are for even bringing our gear into the kayaks unprotected. 90% of the time while kayaking, we're the only ones who have our cameras with us, so I know most people just play it safe and leave their gear at home.

Well if you could find an enclosure that was affordable enough to allow you to bring the gear along, wouldn't you go through the effort to do it? I know I would and that is what I did.

I never knew these bags existed or I would have had one on both of our cameras the entire time we were in Baja. I guess it takes having your equipment ruined to make you go looking for the next best thing.

IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/Aquapac.jpg

Once we got back in the United States, one of the first things I did was find a spot where I could order one of these cases so I wouldn't have to go through this hassle again. They're actually pretty easy to find, and most full service Outdoor Stores or Camera Shops will have one of the bags. If they carry any of the line, then they can usually order one to specifically fit your piece of equipment.

If for some reason you cant find any of them locally, then Adorama and Calumet has the full line, and we all know how much we love these top notch camera suppliers. Or you can order them directly from Aquapacexternal link themselves

In steps Aquapac

After searching out a few different companies that make underwater housings, I thought to myself "Why spend the cost of the camera on a housing that I'm only going to use a few times per month?"

If my wife and I were majorly into underwater photography, then I'd be buying a dedicated housing for each camera body like an Ikelight or a Sea&Sea type housing. But these beautiful housings are usually more than the cost of the camera itself, and way out of our price range.

Aquapac makes affordable housings for just about any piece of equipment you're going to bring with you, from cell phones, to point & shoot cameras, iPods, video cameras, UHF radios, to full size DSLR's like we use and most of you are using on this forum.

I ordered the most inexpensive enclosure they made that would fit our cameras thinking that I'd try one out first to see if it held up to our abuse. Cindy and I are known to use items to their limits and I didn't want to spend too much money if the item wasn't going to hold up to the type of thrashing we'd give it.

For just over $100, we ordered the Aquapac Waterproof Enclosure 455.

Here is what Aquapac's website claims the 455 Enclosure will accomplish

* You can take great photographs right through the hard lens tube (see below). Even underwater.
* PLEASE NOTE: The hard lens is permanently attached to the case and cannot be removed.
* The SLR Camera Case (code 455) is compatible with most SLR type cameras.
* It'll float with your camera in it.
* It's guaranteed submersible to 15 feet (5 metres).
* The UV-stabilized TPU material won't be broken down or discolored by sunlight.
* It keeps out dust and sand too. They're a particular problem for cameras (just ask the repairman at your local camera store).
* And all that for only $120.00. Bargain!
---------------

Supplied with:

* It comes with an adjustable and detachable shoulder strap so you can hang it round your neck or shoulder.
* It comes with a packet of 5 re-usable, re-indicating desiccant sachets. These will help absorb any condensation in the air inside the case. If you know you're going to be taking it somewhere particularly humid like Jacksonville Florida or the jungle, you'd be well advised to buy a few extra packets.
* It comes with our 3-year global warranty (see 'Buy with confidence' below).

Trying out the Enclosure

Once we got the Aquapac Waterproof Case, I was worried that it looked a little light weight for the camera, but to their defense, most of the edges had extra pieces of reinforcement to guard against a tear.
IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/Aquapac1.jpg

My only fear is the camera Hot Shoe rubbing against the top of the bag. That's metal on rubber, and we all know who is going to win on that argument every time. I'll have to keep you updated on the long term wear and tear of the enclosure and the hot shoe.

I'm thinking if I'm going to go out for a day paddling with the camera in the enclosure, I might put some Gaffer's tape over the metal on the hot shoe to act as a buffer.

The enclosure has 3 twist locks that unlock the dual sided plastic closure which keeps the water or debris out. It's as simple as can be to lock the housing once the camera is situated inside.
IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/Aquapac2.jpg

The packaging also came with some desiccant packets to absorb moisture incase you're using the enclosure outside in the sunlight where condensation might build up. Along with the desiccant packets, the package also came with a strap that clips onto the plastic ends of the enclosure so you can easily carry the camera while it's protected.

I was able to fit our Canon 30D in the enclosure with no problems. I first took off the strap and the grip, and just put the camera body in with only a lens attached. It's tight, but I'd rather have a good tight fit than a bunch of extra plastic hanging around to get in my way.

One thing you should keep in mind is the diameter of the lens tube. I was thinking that I would keep one of my short telephoto lenses on the camera, excited that I would even be able to have a telephoto lens on the camera in a housing (something that is rarely possible with the much more expensive underwater housings)

Probably the only lens you'll be able to use is a narrow standard lens, but the fact that you're able to use a camera while out on the water with no worries, let alone underwater is way worth it to me. Forget going with any of Canon's 'L' Lenses. They're just too wide and big for the narrow enclosure.
IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/Aquapac3.jpg

For these pictures, I have a Canon 28-105 lens on the camera.
Zooming in and out with the lens in the bag is a bit tedious, but like I said before, being able to zoom at all is a bonus. Most underwater photographers just carry a standard fixed lens in their housings, so this shouldn't be an issue. Having the ability to zoom and **** about it is just complaining.

With the camera in the enclosure, the controls are all still perfectly usable, and nothing on the camera is rendered unusable that I could find. This was a big bonus as I worried that I would have to set the camera to full auto and leave it that way the entire time.

It was surprisingly easy to change any of the dials or make any adjustments and I think once you've used it a few times, even underwater you'd have no problem changing settings on the camera.

The bag has a big clear section where the LCD Screen is, and around the top and back of the body to be able to see all the controls very easily. You can still see the images on the LCD screen through the bag very easily to know if you got the shot with the enclosure still around the camera.

One thing that will be useless will be the pop up flash. So true underwater photography is out of the question, but anything close to the surface on a bright sunny day still should come out nice. Much better than a $10 35mm instamatic where nothing turns out 99% of the time!

The bag is only rated at 15' below the surface, so it's more for people like me who are just going to be using it as protection while kayaking, or boating on the water. This housing is not for the true scuba divers but would be great for fooling around on that next canoe trip or in the back yard in the pool or for basic snorkeling.

The lens actually shoots through a piece of clear lexan, so you'll want to be conscious of this when ever you're taking pictures. Don't let the camera be sitting on the floor of the kayak or canoe and pick it up to get a picture without first wiping off the front of the lens.

I haven't had a chance to actually use this enclosure on or underwater yet, but I did put some napkins in it and run it under water for a few minutes to make sure there were no leaks.

I then filled up the sink and submerged the bag for a few minutes to see if the napkins inside would get wet at all. After a test run, I was happy with the enclosure and put it safely in my camera bag ready for our next kayak trip.

This enclosure would also be good for those who like to shoot at the beach, or those who might bring their camera with them out in the field and have to worry about dirt or the harsh environment ruining their expensive camera body. Or for when shooting when there is a chance of rain in the forcast.

I really could have used this enclosure when we were exploring the mines in Death Valley a few weeks back. This is where an enclosure like this would be perfect! I'm also excited to try this out in August when we go to Burning Man. So many photographers have warned us about the nasty dust storms that can leave a camera useless after one blows through. I'm hoping this might be my saving grace and I wont have to claim any more gear on our insurance policy.

Conclusion

If you're the type who likes to bring you equipment with you in an environment that might be harmful to the camera, a Aquapac Waterproof Enclosureexternal link might be just the answer to keep your investment safe.

For just over $100, I know I'm kicking myself for not having this sooner.

I'll also update this after I bring it out with us in the kayaks, and post a few pictures of what I got while shooting through the bag.

Post #1, Jun 12, 2008 00:47:14


Pat Bonish
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keegsmeister
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awesome review. I know this might sound very newbish but would they last UNDERwater? :D

Post #2, Jun 12, 2008 00:55:02


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EveryMilesAMemory
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The material seems pretty durable, so I'm guessing it probably would. Like I said, I just got it last week and havent had a chance to actually put it in the water yet.

It does come with a 3 year warranty though, so Aquapac must think it will last the long haul.

Like I said, I'll post some pictures as soon as I get them and keep everyone updated on the hot shoe worries

Post #3, Jun 12, 2008 00:59:30 as a reply to keegsmeister's post 4 minutes earlier.


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kja
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Great review and your use is precisely the use that these types of enclosures were meant for, regardless of the marketing!

keegs - short answer "no". These are not the enclosures you want underwater. I personally wouldn't even use them snorkelling and definitely not on a dive. I've had one student with one of these around his dslr on an uw photography course. It wasn't pretty for the most part, though, to be fair it didn't flood or leak - that time. After two dives, he got online and bought a real housing.

Underwater work is probably beyond the scope of this thread, but I'd be happy to help via PM or in a new one so we don't hijack Pat's excellent review!

Post #4, Jun 12, 2008 01:01:45


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keegsmeister
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haha thanks for that kristin, but like you said Pat for $100 what more could you ask for! I was looking for a underwater housing which wouldn't cost me a fortune i.e. for use in shallow waters. thanks for this review again.

Post #5, Jun 12, 2008 02:56:43


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kja
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Keeping things dry during rain, storms, kayaking, river rafting, splashing and romping on the beach is one thing, keeping things dry when the whole shebang is underwater at any depth for any length of time is a whole 'nuther.

You will also likely find that accessing buttons and the like becomes a pain with very little depth.

If you are really going to chance your dslr to this baggie for snorkelling or any submersion time, I heartily recommend a good insurance policy - your normal one will most likely not cover damage sustained in the water (we call it flooding).

DEPP will insure Australians and have very good coverage for disaster and their rates aren't too bad. I've been using them for years.

Or look at a compact with as much or as little manual control as you like - there are some extremely capable systems to be had out there and many can accept real underwater strobes to get the colours you long for. Their relative inexpense, small size and great capacity for not only good images but for evolving makes them excellent choices for those who don't want to deal with dslr in/underwater.

Post #6, Jun 12, 2008 03:25:12


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EveryMilesAMemory
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Thanks Kristin for the comparrison between this bag and the true underwater housings. I tried to make it clear that this isnt one of those.

Like I said, I'll keep my 30D or 5D in this enclosure from now on when we kayak, as to not have to worry about splashing water or tipping over. But I dont plan on doing any real diving or underwater photography with it.

Just sort of an enexpenisve insurance policy if you will. For only $120, its even cheaper than the $500 deductible we have on the policy we carry on our gear already.

Post #7, Jun 12, 2008 11:52:52 as a reply to kja's post 8 hours earlier.


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gembobs
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I have got an aquapac case for my VHF handheld radio and their large compact camera case for my point and shoot.

I have a jet ski which I use on the sea, and had both cases for about 3 - 4 years. All I can say is they are great! We have no qualms about putting them in the water, and I have regularly submerged both in the sea while waiting for people to get their gear sorted. The bags are not always rinsed with fresh water after use and they have held up well.

Post #8, Jun 12, 2008 12:20:22


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Great to know, that will make me feel much more secure when testing them out for the first time with the cameras in them:D

Post #9, Jun 12, 2008 15:13:52 as a reply to gembobs's post 2 hours earlier.


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thanks for the writeup pat, I've been thinking of getting one for sailing. For now I'm using a crappy old P&S I don't care about and it's in a pelican case so it's only exposed when shooting. I've been playing with the idea of using a similar case with the 5D but if it got wet I'd be bummed...

Would this work for a FE though? Seems the front screws on like a filter?

Also, what happened in Baja? I didn't catch that, can you link to that blog post? The teardrop behind that bike looks sick though, especially for a dog! Also, I love the shot of you 2 in front of Big Sky on your "our story" page. You're living my dreamlife!

Post #10, Jun 12, 2008 15:29:48 as a reply to EveryMilesAMemory's post 15 minutes earlier.


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I used one of these for a year for my old Canon S2... pools, salt water, rainstorm, etc... it survived everything I threw at it...
depending on how much air you left in the bag, the buttons were either tough or easy to activate (sometimes to the point of being accidentally touched)
Easily recommend these for the few times you're going to need or want it

Post #11, Jun 12, 2008 21:48:08


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EveryMilesAMemory
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jacobsen1 wrote in post #5710707external link
thanks for the writeup pat, I've been thinking of getting one for sailing. For now I'm using a crappy old P&S I don't care about and it's in a pelican case so it's only exposed when shooting. I've been playing with the idea of using a similar case with the 5D but if it got wet I'd be bummed...

Would this work for a FE though? Seems the front screws on like a filter?

Also, what happened in Baja? I didn't catch that, can you link to that blog post? The teardrop behind that bike looks sick though, especially for a dog! Also, I love the shot of you 2 in front of Big Sky on your "our story" page. You're living my dreamlife!

Actually the front doesnt screw on, the lens just slides in and rests againts the front of the lexan front.

We were kayaking in Baja trying to get some shots of the Jumping Manta Rays, this area was known for, and I tipped over in my kayak. On my deck bag unprotected was a Canon 1D, 28-300L lens, 580EX Flash, and 3 batteries for the 1D at $120 a piece.

IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/FlyingMobulasontheSeaofCortez8.jpg

So that little mishap cost me a bit of money.

Thanks for the compliments on the site

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Post #12, Jun 13, 2008 00:10:57


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kja
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Nice capture!! :)

Post #13, Jun 13, 2008 00:47:41


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kja wrote in post #5713563external link
Nice capture!! :)

Thanks Kristin. It was a once in a life time experience!

Post #14, Jun 22, 2008 01:16:44


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Yesterday was my first real day of spending the entire day shooting with the 30D in the Aquapac. Thanks to Luca Diana for taking the time to take Cindy and I out paddling in Grand Teton National Park.

IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/ImagesShotwithAquapacHousing2.jpg
That's Luca and Cindy

Here are my results.
1. All pictures turned out great! All these images were taken with the Aquapac Housing on the camera and straight out of the camera, no PP. Big help in knowing that I now have a housing that will keep the camera safe while paddling
IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/ImagesShotwithAquapacHousing.jpg

2. Figure out a lens that you dont have to rotate to zoom. My smallest lens is a Canon 28-105 f/3.5-5.6. I found it very hard to rotate the lens to get it to zoom.

It's do-able, but takes some time, and if you're grabbing the camera to get a quick shot of something, dont plan on being able to zoom fast.

What does this mean? I'm going to put the lens in there from now on with it set to a certain focal length and keep it there. Maybe something Medium like 35mm or 50mm.

This housing only cost $129, I didnt expect it to be everything I dreamt of an underwater housing. I know guys who have spent thousands and not been able to use all the available options on their cameras. So I shouldnt be complaining about an item that only costs $129!

3. Did it keep the camera dry? Yes! I even held the bag underwater just to see if it would leak, watching very carefully to see if any water would go inside I could snatch it out very quickly.
No water in the bag after a full day out paddling. I did try to snap some underwater images, but this was next to impossible to do from the kayak

My lens doesnt go all the way to the end of the lens tube, so I have to hold the tube against the front of the lens with one hand and press the shutter down with the other. Not a big deal at all, but something that cant be done from the cockpit of a kayak.
The water we were paddling on was spring run-off, so needless to say, I was more worried about my butt going in than I was about the camera:D

4. Would I recommend this Housing? If you're a serious diver or really into underwater sports, than this probably isnt the housing for you.

If you're like me, and paddle ALOT, then you shouldnt be on the water without one. For kayaking, canoeing or just spending time on the beach or near dirty environment, this should be in your camera bag. It's too affordable not to have
IMAGE: http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q190/Bonishphoto/ImagesShotwithAquapacHousing1.jpg

Post #15, Jun 25, 2008 12:23:47 as a reply to EveryMilesAMemory's post 3 days earlier.


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