7 Water- and Weatherproof Photo Gadgets for Your Next Adventure

October 13, 2014

By Theano Nikitas

Whether you’re exploring the skeletal remains of an underwater shipwreck, photographing the waves at your local beach or trekking to a location shoot in a rainforest, you’ll want the right gear to cope with the elements. We pulled together some of our favorite underwater and weatherproof products so you’ll be well equipped for your next adventure, wherever it takes you. 
Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo carries a full range of underwater imaging products, but also makes some of its own, including the Wahoo HD underwater housing for the Sony CLM-V55 monitor. Perfect for underwater videographers and DSLR still shooters, the monitor’s 1.1-million-dot, 5-inch screen eliminates the challenge of trying to compose and focus with a tiny viewfinder or LCD screen while wearing a mask. The Wahoo HD also features focus-peaking and high- contrast black-and-white modes for fine-tuning exposures.
Designed to endure the rigors of diving, the anodized aluminum housing is engineered to withstand the pressure of extreme depths—down to 450 feet—so you know it’s more than capable of handling typical SCUBA diving limits (130 feet). The control knobs are large enough to adjust with gloved hands, and the housing features a special pluggable cable design for HDMI connections. The Backscatter website has details on camera and camera housing brand compatibility.
PRICE: Starting at $1,324 (housing only); $500 (Sony CLM-V55 monitor) 
There’s no way around it: Underwater photography requires more gear. That often means extra airline baggage charges or a car packed with tanks, cameras, housings and everything else necessary for a safe and productive underwater shoot. Fortunately, Inon’s Z-240 underwater strobes are nice and compact, measuring 3.89×3.93×4.80 inches—in some cases, about half the size of traditional underwater strobes.
Despite their smaller size, the Z-240 strobes boast some powerful specs, including a guide number of 24 and a minimum recycle time (at full power) of about 1.6 seconds. The strobe offers a wide, 100-degree circular beam angle (110 degrees when the bundled white diffuser is used) and a powerful 180-lumen LED multi-function focus light. In addition to automatic and semi- auto modes, the Z-240 offers a 13-step manual mode with 1⁄2 EV increments and can withstand pressure down to a depth of 328 feet. For its size and price, the Z-240 sure packs a lot of punch.
PRICE: Starting at $799 
“Like a drysuit for your gear” is Lowepro’s tagline for the DryZone 200 backpack. It’s an apt description. When sealed properly, this backpack will keep your camera gear dry in up to approximately three feet of water, so it’s good for kayaking, rafting, and those times you need to ford a river or walk through a waterfall to get the shot.
The pack is large enough to fit a pro DSLR or video camera plus four or five extra lenses; you can even leave a 24–70mm f/2.8 lens (with the hood reversed) attached to the camera and still have room for a flash and accessories. A tripod holder with a bungee cord sits on the back of the pack, and outer mesh pockets drain quickly, should you find yourself shoulder-deep in water. Just be sure to follow the directions for sealing up the bag before you head out.
PRICE: $330
New camera bodies like the Panasonic Lumix GH4 mean that 4K video no longer has to be a budget-buster, and Nauticam’s newest waterproof housing can help frugal 4K filmmakers go beneath the waves. (GH3 Nauticam owners can update their housing to accommodate the GH4 for about $20.)
The housing is machined from hand- anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum and is rated down to depths of 328 feet. It comes with a built-in vacuum check and leak-detection system, and features a large acrylic LCD window that’s treated with an anti-reflective coating. Without handles, the housing measures a manageable 8.66x 6.29×4.52 inches and weighs 3.52 pounds; you can also add a large accessory monitor. Nauticam repositioned the housing’s ISO and white balance control, giving you easier access to the GH4’s essential controls. The housing was available for pre-order at press time; check your local dealer or the Nauticam website for an update and available ports and accessories.
PRICE: Starting at $2250 
Pelican cases are well-known for their durability and watertight features, and are a staple among a wide range of photographers. Ideal for travel or for stowing gear on a dive boat, the Pelican 1510SC (1510LOC with padded dividers) is sealed with rubber gaskets to keep out water, dust and any other havoc-wreaking elements that could damage your camera gear and electronics.
In addition to plenty of room for camera gear, the case is equipped with a removable computer sleeve and accessories pouch. At 22×13.81×9 inches, it fits in most overhead bins and meets airline regulations for carry- on luggage (but check with your airline; some have made recent changes to their carry-on policies). An extendable handle, smooth- rolling wheels and stainless-steel hardware and padlock protectors are just some of the features that make this Pelican case an excellent option for transporting gear.
PRICE: $250 ($280 for desert tan or green) 
LED lights are becoming as popular underwater as they are on dry land, especially for photographers who want to use a continuous light source instead of strobe lighting. FIX Neo offers a number of LED options, including the Fisheye 2500 DX. Its 100-degree ultra- wide-angle coverage is perfect for underwater, where wide-angle lenses are often required. 
The light is powerful, too, with an output of 2500 lumens and the ability to cycle between 100-, 75-, 50- and 25-percent power settings by simply pressing a button for each level. For even more control, right and left buttons increase/decrease light output in 1-percent increments; emergency signal modes (SOS, flashing) are available as well. The battery has a burn time of about 55 minutes and a depth rating of 328 feet. The 2500 DX weighs 12.52 ounces and measures a mere 2.08×2.24×4.33 inches. Whether you’re shooting video or stills underwater, this little light should serve you well.
PRICE: $799
Nikon’s experience making underwater cameras dates back more than 50 years, but was put on hold in 2001 when the company ceased production of the 35mm Nikonos SLR. But they’re back in the underwater game with the diminutive (11.1 ounces) Nikon 1 AW1, the first (and, to date, only) underwater interchangeable lens digital camera. Essentially a Nikon 1 J3 modified to be waterproof to a depth of 49 feet for about an hour, it uses O-ring seals to protect its guts from dust, dirt and other contaminants. Like your typical “rugged” digital cameras, it’s shockproof from a height of 6.6 feet and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to manual and automatic shooting modes, full HD and slow motion video, the AW1 offers a setting that compensates (automatically or manually) for the blue cast that occurs when shooting underwater.
While the AW1 is compatible with all 1 NIKKOR lenses on land, you’ll need either the weathersealed 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 (27mm equivalent) or 1 NIKKOR AW 11–27.5mm f/3.5–5 (30–74mm equivalent) lens to take it underwater. The AW1 has GPS, an altimeter/ depth gauge and is compatible with the non-waterproof WU-1b Wi-Fi adapter. Other accessories include the waterproof (to 328 feet) SB-N10 speedlight and a filter that helps prevent lens condensation.
PRICE: One lens kit (11-27.5mm) $800 
Two lens kit: (11-27.5mm; 10mm) $1,000 
SB-N10 Speedlight: $750