When I first looked at placing my camera into the water I noticed that there was a lot of different options. The most practical and safe method was the big and very expensive dive housings that are used for scuba diving. The cheapest, most dangerous option was the little plastic zip lock bag-type housings that can be found on eBay for $100. I wanted something that would not break the bank, but would also be safe enough that I could put in an expensive DSLR plus a lens, and trust it would be safe. These stipulations are what brought me to the Outex underwater housing.
The Outex underwater housing is a middle of the line underwater housing. It’s definitely better than the zip lock bag styled housings, but it won't keep up with the expensive housings used for scuba diving. In fact, this cannot be used for scuba diving at all. The Outex housing is IP08 tested, which means it can be submerged to depths of 10 meters. That makes this housing perfect for pretty much any water sport, other than scuba diving. It is also used for other events such as color runs, mud runs, and other types of activities where your camera may get dirty or wet. For this review, I will be talking strictly about using this housing in the water.
Installing the Outex
The Outex housing consists of five parts. The main blue rubber cover, optical lens, LCD viewfinder, viewfinder adaptor, and the LCD strap holder.
The LCD adaptor is what’s used to attach the LCD viewfinder to the camera. For my Nikon D750, I simply popped off the rubber eye cup and then this adaptor slides in to take its place.
The VF adaptor loosely threads into the LCD viewfinder. I say loosely, because the viewfinder needs to be able to rotate around the VF adaptor so that it can move in order to reach certain buttons. This is where the first problem arises. The LCD viewfinder needs to constantly be moved around in order to press certain buttons, but the VF adaptor just sits in its place. It does not lock into place like your standard eyecup does. The movement to reach buttons, plus the normal movement from bouncing around in water, means that the VF adaptor is constantly falling off. Once it falls off it’s nearly impossible to see through the viewfinder and it’s also nearly impossible to put back on while in the water.
In order to fix this, I wrapped one of my wife's hair ties around the VF adaptor and then stretched it down to be hooked onto a tripod mount. This little fix allows the VF adaptor to be locked down into place while still allowing the LCD viewfinder the ability to rotate as needed.
In order to install the optical lens, all that needs to be done is to thread this piece into the filter threads of your lens. The trick here is to buy the optical lens that fits your largest filter thread size. In order to adapt the optical lens to a smaller thread size you just need to install a step down ring. For example, I bought an optical lens at 77mm for my 20mm lens and then bought a step down ring of 77mm to 67mm so that I could use the same lens on my Sigma 35mm ART.
Now for the hardest part. Once the optical lens and LCD viewfinder are attached, we need to install the cover. This is done by pulling and stretching the cover around the camera. Since the opening at either end of the cover is smaller than the LCD viewfinder and optical lens, there is a decent amount of work in order to get the cover stretched over the camera.
To attach the cover to the optical lens and the LCD viewfinder, the same steps are followed. You pull the cover over the lip of the lens and press it down to the bottom in order to reveal the threads on the lens. Then, you attach the L shaped O-ring with the L facing down. Next, attach the threaded O-ring; this threaded O-ring is what seals everything up and makes everything waterproof.
Once both sides are sealed up you have this bunched up mess of rubber. The longer the lens you use, the less rubber you will have that is bunched up.
The last step is installing the strap. There is a piece that wraps around the LCD viewfinder and then little straps that wrap around the camera. The little straps tighten and are used to keep the LCD viewfinder in place and also keep the bunched up rubber from moving around. The neck strap then attaches to the straps that go around the camera. The camera straps are useful for attaching the neck strap, as well as keeping the extra rubber from the housing in place, but it is completely useless in keeping the LCD viewfinder in place.
Before you take everything into the water, you must test the seal around the lens and viewfinder. To do this, I just lightly squeeze the rubber cover to compress the air that is trapped inside and then I slowly put everything into the water while looking for streams of bubbles coming from the lens or the viewfinder. If I see any bubbles, I remove it from the water, tighten down the threaded O-ring some more, and try again till the bubbles stop. I have only had bubbles show up twice and each time was because I had not tightened things up enough.
Using the Outex
As you can see from the above process, installation can take a decent amount of time. My first time getting everything set up took me a good 30 plus minutes. Now that I have done it a few times I can probably do this in 10 minutes.
My first time taking the Outex out was for a deep sea fishing trip. For this trip I probably would have been fine without the housing, but there were a few times I got a large amount of water splashed on me and this made me glad I had it. I was also able to get a feel for how everything handled while not having to worry about staying above the water. The first thing I realized is that I still don't have all the buttons on my camera memorized. The Nikon D750 is still pretty new to me, but I have a general idea where everything is so that I just need a quick glance. Once the camera is in the housing though, you completely lose the ability to see where buttons are. A few times I had to hunt around for the ISO button and the biggest problem was that I could not reach my back-button focus. Even with the LCD viewfinder pushed to the side as much as possible, I was still not able to get my thumb on that button. I was left having to blindly switch my settings to relink the focus button the shutter button.
Thankfully, all the buttons were easy to press once I found the right ones. The most difficult part about changing settings within the case is when dealing with the dials. It was a royal pain to adjust the aperture and shutter dial as well as the MASP dial. Because the rubber of the casing is so slick and the rubber of the dials are slick, when I try to make an adjustment, the rubber on the case slides across the dial without changing anything. In order to get a dial to turn, I have to press my fingernail into the groove of the camera dial and use that to make an adjustment. The rubber of the housing is thick enough where this wouldn't cause any seal issues, but it’s still not easy.
When I got into the water, the dial issue became even worse because now my wet fingers were sliding on the rubber case as well. I eventually just gave up and got things set to one spot and left everything alone except for my focus point.
The most difficult part of using the housing in the water is actually seeing what you are shooting. When I was shooting on the fishing boat it was a little hard to see through the viewfinder but nothing really to take note about. Once I got into the water and added a pair of goggles to the equation it became an entirely different story. The first 10 minutes or so I didn't have a snorkel so I would have to hold my breath in order to get my head low enough to even see. As you could probably guess, a lot of the time I ran out of breath before I could even find something I wanted to shoot.
Once I started using a snorkel, the process got a little easier now that I could breathe and shoot at the same time. It was still difficult to see through the goggles and viewfinder but I was able to spend more time finding my shot.
I spent most of my time along the surface because I wanted those split-level shots that are half above the water and half below the water. What I later found out is that I needed a domed lens port to do this and the one I ordered at the last minute didn’t arrive in time for this underwater adventure. It was like threading a needle to get a split level shot. Almost every time I was able to get one, the top was blurred out by the water still shedding off the lens.
Once I figured this out, I was able to use this to my advantage to get some shots I really like. It’s not exactly what I was aiming for, but I’m still really happy with some of the stuff I got for my first time in the water.
What I Liked:
- It’s cheap, but still reliable.
- Most of the settings are completely usable while still in the case.
- It’s easy to use multiple lenses without having to buy additional parts.
- Since there is air in the case, it floats, making it so it won't sink.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The VF adaptor will not stay on without coming up with a DIY solution.
- The dials are hard to turn, and sometimes impossible to turn.
- It’s hard to see through the viewfinder.
- Some buttons are blocked by the LCD viewfinder.
- Since there is air in the case, it floats, making it hard to dive with.
- Split-level shots require a different optical lens.
The Outex housing is a perfect way to get started with underwater photography. It’s not crazy expensive and it’s a lot more reliable than most (if not all?) cheaper options. It has its little quirks that can be hard to deal with, but for what you are getting and the price you are getting it for, it's well worth it.
What questions do you have about the Outex? Have you ever used one before? What did you think and what did you use it for? Share your thoughts and images below.