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Does an Underwater Camera Bag Work?

Updated on March 25, 2016

Yes, An Underwater Camera Bag Works, and It's Great for the Pool, Lake or Ocean

Underwater photography has become quite popular in the past few years as affordable waterproof cameras have made it possible for just about anyone to take photos while swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or hanging out at the local water park. But what if you can't afford another camera? Then an underwater camera bag is the answer. These affordable and reliable waterproof bags can help you take great photos in and around water. And they work great! I recently purchased a DiCAPac waterproof case to take my Canon DSLR into the pool, and I love it. Here's why a flexible waterproof case is a great purchase.

(Photo of the author by Cayne Howard)

Why Buy An Underwater Camera Bag?

It's the cheapest option for shallow underwater photography

I already owned a few waterproof cameras before I splurged for an underwater camera bag. My waterproof collection includes two rugged compacts, a POV sports cam and a scuba mask with a built-in camera. So why get a bag, too? Simple - I wanted to take my DSLR into the water. Although today's compact cameras are pretty impressive, they still can't match the quality and speed of a good DSLR.

Unfortunately, I can't afford a pricey hard case housing to take my digital SLR underwater. Hard cases are made for scuba divers who want to take their camera to depths far beyond the reaches of your average swimmer or snorkeler, and each housing is designed for one specific type of camera. As a result, these cases can cost well over $1000.

Underwater camera bags, on the other hand, are designed to be used in much shallower depths and to work with a variety of cameras. That means that they're much more affordable than the scuba housings. In fact, you can get a waterproof bag for a small compact camera for less than $20. This makes underwater camera cases even cheaper than the cost of a couple of disposable film cameras plus developing and printing. Larger bags for larger cameras cost more (the bag for my DSLR, for instance, was about $80), but they're still cheaper than buying a good rugged camera or a hard waterproof case.

With my new bag, I've got all the advantages of a DSLR at less than the price of a good waterproof compact camera. Of course, the bag does present some challenges of its own. For instance, looking through the viewfinder under the water can be difficult once you don a pair of goggles or mask, and pressing any of the buttons is definitely more awkward underwater than on land. But if you need an affordable way to take photos in the water, a waterproof bag is the way to go.

DiCAPac WP-S5

DiCAPac WP-S5 Waterproof Case for Digital SLR Cameras
DiCAPac WP-S5 Waterproof Case for Digital SLR Cameras

Product features:

- Made from high-grade vinyl

- UV-coated polycarbonate lens cover

- Waterproof to 16 feet (5 meters)

 

The Waterproof Camera Bag I Own - DiCAPac WP-S5 for Small DSLR Cameras

The DiCAPac WP-S5 is the case I own. I use it with my Canon EOS Rebel T1i, an older entry-level Canon DSLR that I use as a backup to my Canon 7D. (I admit that I'm still nervous about putting the more-expensive 7D underwater!) This underwater housing has worked great with my Rebel. I simply make sure to check all the seams and seals before I put my camera in the water.

Tips for Using an Underwater Camera Bag - Follow this advice before jumping in the water

  1. Test your bag before using it

    It should go without saying that you shouldn't put an expensive piece of electronic equipment in any type of underwater case without testing it. But I'll say it anyway - don't put your expensive electronic equipment in ANY waterproof case without testing it first. Visually check all the seals and seams, place a dry piece of paper inside, follow the manufacturer's directions for sealing, and then put the bag under water. If the paper stays dry, you're good to go.

  2. Practice with the case before you need it

    If you're going on a big vacation, plan to take photos at your child's birthday pool party or simply want to be sure to get the best results from your photos the very first time you use the case, PRACTICE beforehand. I can't stress this enough.

    Because I've taken underwater photos and was going to be using a camera I'm very familiar with, I thought I'd just jump in the pool and start taking amazing photos as soon as I got my case. Wrong! It took me awhile to figure out how to use the bag for the best results.

    For instance, looking through the viewfinder can be a challenge while wearing goggles or a mask, and seeing the LCD screen underwater can also be tough. I discovered that I can hold the bag underwater and look through the viewfinder without goggles for very shallow shots, and then put on goggles or a mask when I want to get shots farther under the water. For quick action shots, I prefer to use the viewfinder rather than Live View on the LCD screen because the focusing is faster. However, the LCD screen is easier to use when shooting still objects.

    Practice to see what works best for you and your camera, or you might be very disappointed with your first attempts to take photos underwater.

  3. Choose your settings before sealing

    Although you can change your camera's settings once it's inside the case, it's much easier to do it before you seal the bag. Then you won't have to struggle with adjusting the buttons and wheels through the case.

  4. Add weight to keep the bag underwater

    Because your camera bag is filled with air, it will float. Adding weight to the bag solves this problem and makes it easier to keep the camera below the surface. I use a soft 2-lb. scuba diver's weight bag on the bottom of my bag. If you don't have a scuba store near you, you can purchase soft lead weight bags online or look for bean bags (which typically aren't as heavy, so you might need several).

  5. Position your camera properly to avoid vignetting

    Unlike hard case housings that are specifically designed for a single type of camera, underwater camera bags are designed to fit a variety of cameras. So the fit for each camera is not going to be exact. This means you may need to adjust your camera inside the bag to avoid vignetting, those dark areas around the edges of the photo. These dark areas can be caused when the lens sees the inside of the housing.

    To avoid vignetting, make sure your camera is fitted properly inside the housing and the lens is pressed as close as possible to the inside of the housing.

  6. Don't exceed the product limits

    No housing is going to keep your electronic devices waterproof forever under every condition. So read the manufacturer's product specs and make sure you're well within your bag's time and depth limits. For instance, my bag is rated waterproof for 30 minutes at 5 meters.

    If you need to use the bag for longer than the allowed limit, be sure to come up, check the bag, and reseal everything before submerging it again.

  7. Get a weight belt if you want to remain underwater

    Depending on the type of photography you plan to do, you may want to get under your subject while shooting. But unless you plan to dive under and shoot while your body naturally rises back to the surface, you're going to need a way to stay down. A scuba diver's weight belt is the solution. You can buy or rent one from any dive shop, and they'll help you get just the right amount of weight so you don't need to fight to stay below the surface.

    If you follow these tips, you'll get the most from your waterproof camera bag and have a great time taking photos under the water!

    (Photos by Lisa Howard)

Sample Photos from the DiCaPac Underwater Camera Case - Shots from above and below the water using the DiCaPac bag

Click thumbnail to view full-size

More DiCAPac Underwater Bags - Designed for all types of cameras (and phones and tablets, too!)

DiCAPac is a South Korean company that makes flexible waterproof cases for cameras and other electronics. The list below shows some of the underwater camera bags you can purchase online from Amazon, but for a complete list and to find the one that works best for you, check out the DiCAPac fitting guide.

Be Sure to Check Your Bag's Seals Before Every Use

Learn More About the DiCAPac Underwater Camera Bag - Overview from the Consumer Electronics Show

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Would You Try an Underwater Camera Bag? - Please sign the guestbook

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    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 22 months ago from Florida

      I went scuba diving and it was like a dream. Thanks for the information about under water camera bags. Thank you for also visiting my Christmas beach gifts page.

    • Christine Cameron profile image

      Christine Cameron 4 years ago

      Great underwater pictures! I just bought a new camera, I'll have to check out these underwater camera bags!

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 4 years ago from Johanesburg

      Am always fascinated about underwater photography and would really like to try this under- water camera bag .Thanks for this wonderful review

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      I have seen some really amazing underwater photography, now I know how it is done, great idea.

    • Maui-photographer profile image

      Maui-photographer 4 years ago

      We are photographers in Maui, Hawaii and use one of these underwater camera bags for trash the dress sessions. They work great for occasional underwater use.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      This is an awesome review. Well done on creating a great Lens and for being awarded LOTD. I had no idea that you could get these types of bags for your normal everyday DSLR cameras. I might have to look into getting one for my Nikon.

    • LisaDH profile image
      Author

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @inagreement1 lm: It really depends on the phone and the camera you're comparing. There's no doubt that today's smartphones take amazing pictures in many circumstances. Where you're going to see the most difference in smartphone cameras vs. dedicated cameras is in low light situations, with fast moving objects, with distant subjects, and in other situations where cameras have more controls to get the proper exposure.

      In the case of waterproof cameras vs smartphones, most of today's rugged camera models have specific settings for underwater photos. As you go below the surface of water, you start losing light from the red end of the spectrum almost immediately, and the deeper you go, the more color you lose. The underwater settings on a rugged camera help compensate for this. But if you're shooting up close, very near the surface, in clear water and with good natural or artificial light, a waterproof smartphone should be able to take good photos.

    • profile image

      GameHelp 4 years ago

      Interesting, I didn't even know they existed. Awesome lens and congrats on the LOTD

    • inagreement1 lm profile image

      inagreement1 lm 4 years ago

      Wow to cool

      I wonder if you could compare the quality of a smart phone to an under water camera. Because my phone is waterproof.

    • profile image

      MiaMusement 4 years ago

      I don't always agree with LOTD selections, but your lens deserves the honor. Nicely done!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 4 years ago

      Interesting! Glad to know I have the option of using my Canon SX40HS underwater.

    • HappyMomof4 profile image

      HappyMomof4 4 years ago

      Great lens! thank you for the info.

    • profile image

      scales9 4 years ago

      Cool and informative lens!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      Congratulations! I had no idea you could even get one of these. The pool takes on a whole new appeal with this possibility.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! interesting and informative lens...

    • FLtraveler profile image

      FLtraveler 4 years ago

      Good lens and info

    • bobnolley lm profile image

      bobnolley lm 4 years ago

      Congrats on the lens of the day....not a topic of interest for me, but it is really beautifully crafted!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Not sure if this is something I would try only because I don't go diving. Terrific lens with a lot of great information. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Wow, I would be so afraid to put my camera in an undrwater camera bag! But now maybe I will try it. Congrats on LOTD!!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Great underwater photos. I'm amazed at how well they turned out. You are braver than I. I'd be a nervous wreck submersing my camera, even in a bag. Thanks for all the tips. Perhaps I'll get brave.

    • Ash2013 profile image

      Ash2013 4 years ago

      Congrats on LotD! Well deserved and great info here

    • x10dit lm profile image

      x10dit lm 4 years ago

      What a great idea! A brilliant way to take some really interesting photos while on holiday.

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 4 years ago

      Congrats on the LOTD. Well deserved, never heard about this, but would definitely consider one now. Lovely pictures.

    • profile image

      DebW07 4 years ago

      Congrats on LotD! I didn't even know there was such a thing as an underwater camera bag, very interesting!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love your photos taken with your underwater camera bag. I had no idea such a thing even existed!

    • profile image

      BasantSoni 4 years ago

      Hearty congrats for 'Lense of the Day'..very interesting to read details on Camras i was in search of good camara now i select one of the above for taking snaps of my work on art,

      i generate " Organic art " from only Treasure of nature ..no Colors or artificial materials used to generate this art.My canvas is also Bark of palm tree.Wish to share that the concept of " Eco Friendly Organic Art " is also avaiable for on line teaching ..!!.My best wishes.

    • profile image

      LUMOSE 4 years ago

      Great lens. Last year I bought Nicon Coolpix AW100 and I took wonderful pictures under water. It makes great video too.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      What I know about cameras could be inscribed on the head of a straight pin, but I know a good lens when I see one. Congratulations, both on the purple star and on LOTD!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Well written and informative lens, I have an EOS XT and have never tried it underwater. I found the cases too expensive and was extremely interested to see how it worked in practice with the flexible bag.

      I was pleasantly surprised at how well it appears to work. The advice on weighting is something I think many people would have missed. I would even though I have been scuba diving! Well done on a well deserved LOTD.

    • profile image

      AmitSoni 4 years ago

      Congrats for the lens !! Great Info !!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congratulations on the LOT D, it couldn't happen to a better lensmaster. I'm always impressed with how much information you give a reader about a product. You make me wish I had an underwater camera! Your kids are adorable, as always.

    • calconcrete profile image

      calconcrete 4 years ago

      Good ideas! My underwater Canon had its seals rot out (guess I haven't been washing off the salt water thoroughly enough). It takes fine photos but is no longer waterproof. This looks like a practical solution without having to replace the camera.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a point and shoot underwater camera already, but like you say, the quality just doesn't match what I could get with a DSLR. But I'm not sure I'd want to risk my DSLR at this point. It's a pretty big investment and we've only had it for 6 months.

      I do like your tips on using a weight belt to keep underwater. That is one area that I've struggled with.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      The underwater pictures you took are awesome! The underwater camera bag sounds like a great investment. Thank you for your review! I really could have used the bag when we took a cruise to the Bahamas and went snorkeling.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      Just wanted to pop back over to congratulate you on your LOTD! :) Nicely done! :)

    • ConnieGreen LM profile image

      ConnieGreen LM 4 years ago

      Excellent info here. My family is into this and now I have some great ideas - thanks!

    • Mommy-Bear profile image

      Mommy-Bear 4 years ago

      That's ideal for a holiday. Thanks for some some great info it's great to know that they do actually keep the water out and are pretty easy to get used to. Much better option that buying a specialist camera.

    • msmith1386 profile image

      msmith1386 4 years ago

      Fantastic Pictures! When I first saw the camera with the bag around it I was a little nervous, but then I read your warning about making sure to check the bag's seals before going under water! I had to laugh because that could spell disaster! Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 4 years ago from Michigan

      @Swisstoons: Beautiful pics, by the way!

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 4 years ago from Michigan

      I've never taken a camera underwater and it's been years since I've even snorkeled. But your extremely interesting and well-written lens will no doubt capture the imagination of a lot of folks who plan to spend time in the water this summer. Congratulations on your well-deserved LofD!

    • profile image

      jpmny999 4 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      Sleah48 4 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I might have to get one before my next vacation.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Cool pictures! Great explanation about how to use an underwater camera bag, too. Bet people tend to be lazy and not test theirs out so well ahead of time. Great lens! Congratulations on your well-deserved Lens of the Day!

    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 4 years ago

      Really nice lens. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      Great idea. Love the pics. Congratulations on LotD!

    • marktplaatsshop profile image

      marktplaatsshop 4 years ago

      Great lens and amzaing foto's, congratulations on LotD

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I love seeing your underwater photos. Congratulations on LoTD!! Well-deserved!!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I would definitely try one of these camera bags. Great review. Cool photos. Like you, I would be nervous to put my high end Nikon in one. Still, I have plenty of older cameras I wouldn't hesitate to use underwater. Hoping to go scuba diving and snorkeling soon. Will use your underwater photography tips. Thanks and congrats on LotD!

    • profile image

      VinhDX 4 years ago

      wow! the quality of pictures are really good. I might try this product for my next vacation :). Thanks

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      I have to figure out how they work first. It isn't obvious to me. But I'd like to try it at some point, when I can dive and swim again.

    • profile image

      joshin-meth 4 years ago

      superb solved my problem of taking pics during treking and rainy season. Thanks a lot man

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      Congrats!

    • profile image

      Amp6009 4 years ago

      Great tips

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      Yes, absolutely! We have an underwater camera but the pictures don't turn out as well as a conventional camera would in this camera bag. Congratulations on your well- deserved LOTD.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      A long time ago, I took scuba diving lessons, and rented an underwater camera... It was a lot of fun to take photos under water, and now you've got me thinking of it again! Nice!

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 4 years ago from BC, Canada

      I would love to try an underwater camera bag! Taking photos underwater sounds like so much fun!