If you have ever wanted to try your hand at underwater photography, the first challenge you are going to face is how exactly are you going to get your camera underwater? If you are looking for a high quality, simple and affordable underwater camera housing, you are really going to want to check out the underwater camera housings offered by EWA Marine. For details, please read on for our complete hands on review of the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 underwater camera housing.
Underwater Photography with the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing
I have been using the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing for my underwater photography for years. I also use it regularly when I am in a wet, humid, dirty or dusty environment rather than risk environmental damage to my camera. All of the sample underwater photography in this post were taken using the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 underwater camera housing.
Hard Case Versus Flexible Underwater Camera Housings
Before we get into our review of the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 underwater camera housing, we should first talk about the difference between a hard case (not the person – the camera housing) and flexible underwater camera housings. The U-BXP 100 is a flexible underwater camera housing – meaning that it is essentially a fancy plastic bag. In contrast, hard case underwater housings like these popular models from manufacturers such as Ikelite or Sea&Sea are hard plastic. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Hard case underwater housings generally feel more secure for submerging several thousand dollars of camera gear. Whether they are actually more watertight or not is debatable, but snapping your camera into a big bulky plastic box just feels safer. Protecting your camera with a hard shell underwater housing also offers some physical protection to your camera – although this is really only important if you are in the surf or another extreme environment where you might be smashing your camera around underwater. For most underwater photographers, this is not an issue. Hard case underwater housings also offer easy access to camera controls, so it is a lot easier to change your camera settings while underwater. Finally, hard case underwater housings usually offer a selection of interchangeable ports. This is important because certain lenses will only work with certain ports. For example, if you want to use a fisheye lens underwater – you have to have a domed port. The biggest drawback to hard case underwater housings are that they are very expensive. If you are in the market for a hard case underwater housing, expect to spend several thousand dollars. On top of that you could easily spend another thousand or more on ports and accessories. Compounding the high cost of hard case underwater housings is the fact that they are camera specific. If you buy a hard case underwater housing for a Canon 5D Mk III – it will only fit that exact camera – which is a big problem when it is time to upgrade your gear. In contrast, flexible underwater housings feel a little sketchy at first, but flexible underwater housings from a quality manufacturer like EWA Marine are totally waterproof (but watch out for low cost options). An interesting difference is how hard cases and flexible housings keep water out. Hard cases stay the same shape at every depth, so at depth water is pushing in against the seals trying to get inside the case. This means if you have a slow leak, you probably won’t notice it until you see water inside your case. Flexible underwater housings are physically compressed by water pressure, meaning that the air inside the case is compressed as you increase depth. This means that the water pressure outside of the case is the same as the air pressure inside, so you will likely see bubbles as an indication of a leak in your housing. The other big advantage of flexible underwater camera housings is that they are not camera specific. That means that you can use different cameras with the same flexible housing.
About the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing
The EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing is a transparent PVC bag with a large opening on one side. The opening is sealed using a metal clamp. On the front there is an accordion projection for your lens with an optically neutral flat glass port. There is also room for an on camera flash.
The entire housing is transparent, so you can easily see your camera controls and the LCD display.
The glass port is large enough to use 77mm or even 82mm diameter lenses. EWA marine also advertises that the port is large enough to use a 16mm wide angle lens without vignetting. I personally use my U-BXP 100 with a 20mm lens on a regular basis without any problems.
The U-BXP 100 is also large enough to fit professional DSLR bodies.
EWA Marine advertises that this housing is rated to a dive depth of 150 ft (50m)!
Compared to other flexible underwater housings, the quality of EWA Marine underwater camera housings is excellent. This is especially apparent when you compare the quality to lower cost options. The fact that the U-BXP 100 has a glass port is also a huge bonus. The housing is made out of double laminated PVC and although it still feels like putting your camera into a plastic bag. However, I have used my U-BXP 100 for years without any significant damage to the exterior. The metal clamp is solid, but it is a little lightweight, so you do have to be careful that it doesn’t get bent or deformed on land. I have never had a problem with the seal on my U-BXP 100. Again it seems a little sketchy at first that you are just clamping two faces of a PVC plastic bag together, but the system works and the seal has never leaked for me. I haven’t had my U-BXP 100 down to 150 ft (50m), but as well as using it near the surface, I have had it diving with me without any problem.
Performance In The Field
The EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing couldn’t be easier to set up and use. However, I do have a few minor complaints. First, I find it very difficult to change any camera settings beyond just turning camera on and off and pressing shutter release. This is usually not a problem as I normally set up my camera before I seal it in – but occasionally I do need to change something underwater and this can be a challenge. Next, because the volume of air inside the housing changes with depth, so does the buoyancy. This isn’t a problem if you are near the surface – in fact I usually suck the air out of the housing to make it negatively buoyant when I know I am only going to be in 5 or 10 feet of water. But if you are diving deeper than that, you have to start with some air in the case at the surface. This can make the housing very buoyant at the surface and neutral only at depth, which can be a pain. Last, it is very very difficult (borderline impossible) to see through the viewfinder underwater. Some hard cases come with a special eyepieces to make it easier to see through the camera’s viewfinder, but with the U-BXP 100 there is a lot of guesswork involved when framing your shots. Fortunately, you can easily see what your photos look like on the LCD.
Domed Port Versus Flat Port
Depending on the style of underwater photography that you would like to do it may be a limitation to go with a housing that only has a flat port. If you want to use a fisheye lens or do over-under shots (where half photo is above water and the other half is below) you need domed port. A flat port introduces about 1.33x magnification – so if you are using a 20mm lens the camera is seeing the equivalent of about 28mm. There are other issues associated with a flat port, such as chromatic aberration and pincushion distortion, but for the most part these can be managed with good editing.
The EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing can be fitted with a tripod mount, cable exits, and various lens adapters. Having the option for an on-camera flash has limited use underwater (unless you want a ton of backscatter). However, it is a nice option for photos where you are only at risk of being splashed – or if you want to use the on-camera flash to optically trigger other underwater strobes.
Value For Money
The EWA Marine U-BXP 100 retails for $450 in the US. On top of that you will likely need a $60 lens adapter ring or two, and the $30 lead weight isn’t a bad idea either. So at a cost about ten times less than an equivalent hard case, there is no question that the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing offers great value for money. On top of that, the fact that you can use the U-BXP 100 with different cameras means that you get even more value out of this underwater housing in the long run, compared to a camera specific hard case.
Would You Recommend the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing To A Friend?
Absolutely. I think a high quality hard case with a large domed port will give you technically better photos, but unless you are a working professional selling a ton of underwater photography, I think it is pretty hard to justify the cost. On the other hand, in the event that you do want to step up to a domed port sometime in the future, the EWA Marine U-BXP 100 Underwater Camera Housing is still a great way to start with underwater photography.
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