View Full Version : Recommendations on a UW Video Set-up

09-19-2007, 12:50

I've been shooting stills underwater for sometime now and am considering trying video. Any recommendations on a good video camera/housing/light set-up ???

09-19-2007, 21:12
Some questions:

What's your budget? You can put a $300 camcorder in a $400 housing or you can put a $3500 camcorder in a $6000 housing. Lights in some cases double that.

What do you plan to do with the video? Show family/friends, burn it to DVD's? post on YouTube etc...

Where would you be shooting video? What sort of light conditions? Including night dives?

Interested in HD output? Do you have the computer power to support it?

Do you travel? Looking for a carry-on solution? Or would you check your video gear?

09-19-2007, 21:58
Look at buying used!!
Another question to ask is electronic or manual controls. Electronic controls aren't available unless the camera has a LANC jack. Which now is just about Sony and only Sony.
I dive a decent set up and bought it all used... Ocean Images Dolphin Pro housing, Sony HC1000 camera and Niterider lights. For what I do it does the job.

09-20-2007, 21:22
My intention is to show my vids to friends and family. I'm not into HD yet so will pass on that option and would like to spend no more than $2000 for the whole set-up (lights included). Finally, I'd prefer to keep it small enough to go carry-on.

09-20-2007, 22:50
New it can't be done for under $2000.

Unless you're willing to accept having just one video light, but most people recommend two for overlapping uniform coverage.

The least expensive housings that have enough of a control set to be functional are the Ocean Images Dolphin or the TopDawg electronic models which start at $899. Ikelite is another option around this pricerange depending on camera selection. Ikelite may in fact have a better control set on it's lower models since the controls are all mechanical.

The O/I Dolphin really needs to be configured with a few options to be really useful, the TopDawg works as shipped.

Tradeoff with the Topdawg is that it has a flat port so any red-correcting filter has to be installed on the camera prior to diving. Ikelite will have the same issue or an external removable filter depending on the model. Also on all their models they offer an optional mirror to see the LCD screen, on the lower end models it pans backwards...

Lights negate the need for the filter usually though. But then you'll need stronger lights than the base models in daylight.

Lighting systems will be another $900-1200 more for the really basic Halogen models. Ocean Images sells a dual-light setup in this range. The TopDawg light kit is $1200 also. Getting into better batteries and HID lighting will be more than your $2000 generally.

And you'd still have to buy the camera...

If you approach it from another angle, there's several camera/housing packages starting at about $14-1500. B&H Photo Video has 3 different options, one a JVC MG225 in an Ikelite housing at $1379. The other two options are either a Canon HV10 HD camcorder in an Ikelite housing or a Sony HDR-HC5 camcorder in an Equinox housing. Only $70-80 more for HDV...

The Sony will output in SD so you don't need to worry about HD editing but it will be able to do so if you decide to upgrade to it. Also you're shooting all your footage in HD for future use. I think the Canon does also, I just didn't look.

I shoot HD without lights in clear tropical waters using just a color correcting red filter. The red filter puts back the red that being at depth blocks. I've shot as deep as 120' on a bright Bahama day and get really excellent results from 20-80'. As long as it's fairly bright.

Others will tell you that Manual White Balance controls are essential for good footage. At the price point you're looking at they'd be optional except for some mechanical models that allow you to touch the LCD screen.

Cloudy, overcast days I get more monotone results. Some of which can be fixed in post-processing if you're willing to take the time. So lights might be something you consider adding later.

I've handled the TopDawg, it can be carried on. I assume the same is true for the O/I, maybe crpntr133 can comment on that. Ikelite has a removable handle and bottom weight so it's designed to pack small. I'm not sure about Equinox as I've only seen pictures.

You'd also want to check compatibility between the housing and camera you buy, unless it's a package deal. Top Dawg and O/I both list compatible models on their websites, Ikelite's are model specific.

Sometimes there's good used gear on eBay. I've seen a couple of really nice O/I housings, one had two dives on it. And the TopDawgs show up often. If you buy a used Ikelite, make sure that the seller can tell you specifically what model camera it's for, they're not interchangeable due to placement of the mechanical controls.

Nocturnal Lights also sometimes has some good deals there.

There's also a lot of old junk, often misrepresented as to the model it fits. Specifically I've noticed that people seem to think the old Sony housings are upwardly compatible - they're not - so know what you're buying.

hth, sorry it's kind of disjointed, I'm not able to focus tonite. I may rewrite some of this tomorrow.

09-20-2007, 23:49
LOL..uhm, yah, what he said.

The OI Dolphin Pro can be carried on. I think with lights,charger,batteries and all I can pack it easily in a 20"x20"x12" soft sided cooler. This also allow me to stow it easier on a boat. It probably weighs in at around 20lbs.

I do agree that the Dolphin Pro does need a few things to really make it nice. I bought my own monitor and wired it so that it turns on with the camera. I don't know why OI doesn't offer this for another $70. I also bought the red flip filter. At any rate those things can be bought as you go if needed.

I have a friend that had an OI with a Sony camera. Since he is shooting stills I'm not sure what he did with the video rig. I will check.
I just bought another Niterider light. Since the battery is too big for the way I have mine set up, I'm going to sell it. It has a new battery with one 12/20/32W light.Plus charger and a couple handles and stuff for diving. Another light and a "y" can be bought for less than $200 if I am thinking right. I just did this a couple month ago.

Maybe we can get you on your way to shooting video.

09-21-2007, 00:00
Gezz the board is acting screwy.

OK one more point. With the manual controls if something goes wrong with the camera..hope you can find another camera like it. The controls have to line up just right. Most of the electronic ones have a list of cameras. The Dolphin Pro, if you can fit it in then it will work.
Just something else to chew on.

09-21-2007, 09:31

Thank you for your input. Think I'll just wait a little while longer and save up some more money so I can buy a nice set-up. Thanks for your advice.


09-30-2007, 19:33
I agree with the writer who suggested a Sony HC1000 camera. It's an absolutely excellent camera for underwater. It takes beautiful digital video and even does it in 16X9 format. Also takes stills. The Light and Motion Mako Housing is an excellent housing for it.

10-01-2007, 16:35
Keep an eye open on eBay. There are often used systems there, which can be picked up reasonably if you are willing to go the used route. Also, wetpixel.com and most of the other boards have classified sections, which may offer a setup in your budget. Underwater video is a great, but pricy hobby.