I always have a camera with me. Greater photographers than I can be quoted as saying that you can’t take pictures if you don’t have a camera.
But, when it rains or if I go to the pool or the beach, the camera has always had to stay in the bag or better yet in the truck. I couldn’t stand having to put the camera away at the first sign of rain, so I started looking for a waterproof housing for my Canon 5Dmk2.
I was shocked. They start out at $1600. This prompted me to look at smaller cameras. After a bit of research I settled on a Canon G9 and the Canon WP-DC21 waterproof housing.
In short, I love this set.
Waterproof to 133ft. And it floats or not.
Rather than a soft bag the WP-DC21 is a dive-rated hard case. The manufacturer rates the case to be waterproof down to 133ft. A soft bag style case works fine in wet weather or in shallow water but as depth increases so does pressure, and the water pressure will actually press the buttons for you, but not the way you want.
The case with camera installed is a bit less than neutrally buoyant so it floats, but Canon sells a set of weights that screw on to the bottom to make it easier to handle for diving.
Handling the WP-DC21. Real buttons.
All of the cameras controls are duplicated on the outside of the case, except the main control dial on the back. Not sure why Canon left this off but I had no problem without it.
The controls are well spaced and easy to find. In fact, the case feels good to hold and use. However, practice is a good idea, as the labels for them are embossed in the same clear plastic as the case. Printed labels would be nice.
Quality of photos taken with the WP-DC21 underwater housing
The photos taken with the WP-DC21 housing are as good or better than without.
The front optic is the same as any high-end filter, high quality glass and multi-coated to reduce or eliminate internal reflections. Also, the part of the case the houses the lens has a black rubber lining which acts a hood, so less lens flare.
The sound on the video is somewhat odd and muffled and the sounds of your hands on the camera are amplified.
Under the water with the Canon WP-DC21
It is worth mentioning that water absorbs the red section of the light spectrum so the deeper you go the less red light exists. This is when the cameras built in flash is useful and effective.
The effective range of the flash while under water is reduced dramatically. (There are many companies who sell underwater flashes most of which are triggered by a sensor which detects the firing of the camera’s built in flash.)
After using in salt water it is a good idea to soak the case (before opening) in fresh water so that salt will not build up in the controls.
Swim with a digital camera without worry
I first used this set in a pool and it was great being able to swim with a camera without worry. The following week was vacation at the beach and then the water parks at Disney. At the beach I could have used a different camera or simply used the G9 without the housing, but even with out going into the water I would have used the housing just to avoid the salt spray. The best use was at the water park. The cast members never stopped me from using the camera on slides. So I was able to take video while on the rides.
What I like about the Canon WP-DC21:
- The combined cost of the housing and the Canon G9 is significantly less than a hard case underwater housing for a DSLR.
- Protects a camera from the elements such as sand, dust and water spray.
- Waterproof to 133ft.
- The case floats with the camera in it but you could weight it to be neutrally buoyant.
- Lightweight and well-made.
- The controls are easy to use.
- Included flash diffuser.
- Included adjustable wrist strap.
- All camera functions including video and flash work any time any where. Even on a water slide.
What I dislike:
- Having to re-grease the O-Ring.
- Probably no more impact resistant than the camera would be with out it.
- Some what bulky but less so than a DSLR.
Some concerns from the manual
The WP-DC21 manual indicates that the O-Ring that has to be cleaned and re-greased each time the housing is used. It says a even a bit of lint can lead to a leak.
Also the housing should never be left in the sun. It will act like a green house and given enough time, cook the camera. However, I have carried it around in the sun for 8 hours and had no problem. The camera was quite a bit warmer than it would have been normally. If you will be in the sun, carry a bag or a light colored towel to cover the case when not in use.
Humidity is also a concern with any waterproof housing. If the case is loaded and closed in a high humidity environment and then you dive in cold water the case could condense water on the inside. Either load in low humidity like an air conditioned room, or buy some descant to put in the case.
Underwater cases are available for the Canon G10 and many other digital camera models.
Click images to enlarge