I have been using a number of underwater camera housings over the years – from inexpensive bag housings to professional dive housings.
The problem with most underwater camera housings is that they usually cost more than the camera you’re buying them for. With digital cameras being upgraded every 3 to 5 years, this makes the purchase of an underwater camera housing a significant investment.
After purchasing a Sony mirrorless camera for video work, I decided that I’d like to get an underwater housing for it. I eventually chose a Meikon underwater camera housing (also sold under a number of other brand names such as Sonovel, Andoer, Neweer and others) for my Sony mirrorless camera (a Sony a6300).
In this Meikon underwater camera housing review, I will look at why I purchased a Meikon underwater camera housing, and my experience using it in the field.
However, for my Sony mirrorless camera, I really didn’t want to spend over $1000 on a professional level dive housing (Ikelite is the most economical but you’re still looking at more than the camera is worth for an underwater dive housing and port).
I also wanted something smaller and more portable for travel.
(For a more in depth discussion, here is a comprehensive review of the best underwater camera housing options for underwater portrait photography and video.)
A soft-shell bag style underwater housing would be the lowest cost option – around $225 for an EWA Marine housing for mirrorless cameras or $365 to $760 for an Outex housing.
I have used an EWA Marine housing for years (click here for a full review), however, the seal clamp on my EWA marine housing broke last summer, flooding a D800 (salvaged) and 20mm f/1.8 (destroyed). Further, EWA customer service was less than helpful when I tried to get a replacement clamp.
The advantages of an EWA Marine housing are they’re economical, have a glass port, are small and portable and they’re not camera specific (meaning you don’t have to buy a new housing every time you change cameras).
However, I really prefer working with a domed port – which is not available with EWA Marine housings – and it is nearly impossible to actually access any camera functions through the bag.
A domed port is available with Outex housings which is a very big advantage – and they are much more customizable than the EWA housings, but they still have all of the same usability issues common to bag style underwater housings.
After some searching, I came across Meikon underwater camera housings on Amazon.
Depending on your specific camera, prices for Meikon underwater camera housings for Sony mirrorless cameras are around $200 – $250.
Meikon underwater camera housing features
Here is the feature list for Meikon underwater camera housings:
- Double o-ring seals.
- Moisture sensor and alarm.
- Double lock latch.
- Lens zoom.
- Dual fibre optic strobe ports.
- Tripod thread.
- Acrylic flat port.
- 40m / 130 ft depth rating.
The housing I ordered for my Sony a6300 is compatible with the following lenses:
- Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS (Manual zoom available, set camera to autofocus)
- Sony E 20mm F2.8 (Autofocus only)
- Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS (Autofocus only)
- Sigma 19mm F2.8 DN Art (Autofocus only)
- Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN (Autofocus only)
Even my Ikelite dive housing doesn’t have a double o-ring seal – or a leak detector. Having recently experienced a leaking housing these are two features that I was really impressed with.
The only big downside here is the acrylic flat port. A flat port is a big limitation for underwater photography and video (click here for more on domed port versus flat port).
There is a domed wet-port available from Meikon – but this is essentially just a big plastic bubble that sits in front of your lens.
The problem is you’re shooting through the housing’s built in flat acrylic port plus a thin slice of water between the housing and the wet-port plus the glass back plus the acrylic dome.
Adding four layers of plastic, glass and water to the end of your lens is obviously not ideal for image quality.
Meikon underwater camera housing build quality
Normally, I would be pretty wary of a Hong-Kong based underwater housing manufacturer – especially for something that I’m going to trust to keep an expensive camera safe underwater.
However, the price and features offered by Meikon housings were too good to ignore.
I ordered my Meikon underwater housing from Amazon and it was delivered a few days later – factory-direct from China (it still amazes me that Hong Kong / Chinese manufacturers can ship items so quickly and inexpensively – my sister sent me a postcard from Australia once that took two years to arrive).
After opening the package I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality.
I have a Canon polycarbonate underwater housing for my old Canon G9 camera and the quality and build style of the Meikon housing feels very similar.
It is solid and reasonably rigid (although not nearly as solid and rigid as a pro level dive housing like Ikelite).
The camera fits in the housing well and the hinge and latch are sturdy and well made.
All of the buttons match the camera’s buttons, are functional and as ergonomic as they could be.
The housing comes with a lens cap cover that protects the acrylic port when not in use – which is a nice feature to avoid accidentally scratching the port.
Unfortunately, this housing was very positively buoyant (my Ikelite housing is slightly negative which I prefer). With the Meikon housing, if you drop it, your camera isn’t going to sink into the abyss, but if you’re freediving it makes it much more difficult to swim down and maintain your depth.
I tested the housing down to a depth of around 10m (30ft) and had it with me in the water all day without any issues. However, I was snorkeling so this wasn’t a sustained pressure at depth. I wouldn’t take this housing on a prolonged dive deeper than half it’s rating 20m / 60ft but for most recreational snorkelers and divers that shouldn’t be much of a restriction.
Underwater camera settings
Like all underwater housings, it is important to set-up your camera above water in order to minimize having to navigate too many buttons underwater.
I set my camera to RAW, auto-white balance, continuous wide focus, matrix metering, auto-ISO and usually shutter priority with the shutter speed set to 1/250th or 1/500th depending on what I’m photographing.
(For a complete set of tips for natural light underwater photography – click here.)
A few specific settings that are important to note for the Meikon underwater housings:
There is no viewfinder option (the housing in front of the viewfinder is frosted so you can’t look through it). However, when you close the housing, your camera will think that you have your eye up to the viewfinder and hide the monitor screen. This means you have to set your camera to use the monitor screen only.
I always have a hard time seeing a camera monitor screen underwater (using the viewfinder on my Ikelite housing is much better). To help you see what you’re photographing, turn up your camera’s monitor brightness to maximum (or set it to sunlight).
Performance in the field
Overall, the Meikon underwater camera housing worked very well with my Sony a6300 mirrorless and the 16-50mm kit lens.
Zoom is not that useful underwater since you’re always shooting as wide as possible, but it is a nice feature to have if you’re also taking photos above water or just in a wet environment.
There is some vignetting in the corners at 16mm due to the port – so I ended up having to crop in a little in post.
The housing is reasonably lightweight and portable – not quite as small to pack as a bag housing but nowhere near the size and bulk of a DSLR dive housing.
I did find it annoying that the housing is so positively buoyant – this makes it difficult to dive down very deep (of course I was trying to swim down into a Florida freshwater spring shooting out 102 million US gallons of water every day), and it also makes it impossible to maintain your depth while underwater.
I am sure that this housing is based on a generic mold to save production costs – so it is not optimized to fit the camera as closely as possible and reduce buoyancy.
In the future, I will have to figure out a way to add some weights.
Having physical buttons for the camera controls is night any day between trying to control your camera from a bag housing – especially jog dials which are impossible to use through a bag housing. I didn’t have any problems using the camera or setting functions underwater.
It is extremely difficult to see anything on the camera monitor underwater, even with the brightness turned up to full blast. If you’re scuba diving or it’s an overcast day this would be less of a problem – but on a sunny day in Florida you’re really guessing at what you’re photographing. I personally find the optical viewfinder on a DSLR dive housing is much better for composition.
I still think that using an underwater housing with a flat port is a major compromise and the wet-port offered by Meikon is not a great alternative.
I was using my Ikelite housing with it’s 8″ dome port at the same time as the Meikon and you really notice how much the 33% crop factor, chromatic aberration, and pincushion distortion introduced by the flat port affect your final images.
Value for money
The Meikon hard shell underwater camera housing is roughly the same price as an inexpensive EWA Marine soft shell housing housing.
Both have a flat port – although EWA at least has a glass port. Both are relatively lightweight and compact enough to travel with.
Given the choice between the two I much prefer working with a hard shell housing – it is just so much more user friendly.
I did find the flat port to be a compromise – but given the price differential to upgrade to an Ikelite housing with a domed port it’s hard to justify the extra cost.
If I didn’t already own an Ikelite housing for my DSLR, I would probably bite the bullet and pay the premium for a professional quality dive housing. If you are a professional photographer, you can probably justify the extra cost in exchange for improved image quality.
However, since the Sony a6300 is more of a second camera for me, you just can’t go wrong with a good quality, fully functional underwater housing for $200 – $250.
For recreational use or limited professional use, I would certainly recommend a Meikon underwater camera housing.
What Do You Think?
What underwater camera housing would you choose? Why?
If you already have an underwater camera housing – what housing do you use?
Leave a comment below and let us know!