Advanced underwater photographers have the training and skills to wield big photo rigs on every dive and produce quality images. But for those divers who want to take photo and video underwater with easy-to-use equipment, there's still hope. Check out some of the latest underwater action cameras and photo accessories.
The two lenses on either side of the VIRB 360 can capture up to 5.7K footage in every direction. Complete coverage means this camera doesn’t need a viewfinder, and instead opts for a simple, easy-to-read menu display. Control buttons are clearly labeled, although divers in gloves might find them a little on the small side. No housings currently exist for the VIRB 360, but it is depth-rated to 33 feet. The camera’s lightweight handgrip/tripod is ergonomic and surprisingly sturdy. It also comes with an adapter for standard GoPro fittings. The VIRB app offers a 360-degree live view and will auto-stitch your footage together (when shooting in 1080p) to create instant 360-degree videos. The depth-restriction and price tag mean this camera isn’t for everyone, but for divers interested in creating cutting-edge spherical videos both above and below the waterline, the VIRB 360 is worth a look.
SeaLife Photo Pro Backpack
This backpack’s spacious, padded compartment has six adjustable dividers that can be positioned to accommodate just about any combination of cameras, lenses, strobes and accessories. The red liner makes it easy to locate small, loose pieces and is waterproof so it keeps wet camera gear from leaking into the bag’s dry compartments. This includes an accessory compartment with five zippered pockets for small items and one large, padded compartment for tablets or small laptops. The bottom of the bag features drainage holes and six rubber feet that keep the bag standing securely upright and off the ground.
The VIRB Ultra 30 is a handy little shooter that’s also tough as nails. It’s capable of capturing stunning 4K video and recording in 1080p at a slow-motion-friendly 120 frames per second. The three-button layout and clear 1.75-inch touchscreen make navigating menus and adjusting settings a breeze. For underwater use, the camera comes with a housing depth-rated to 130 feet. The best part? The touch screen is still functional, even while the camera is encased and submerged. The housing is compatible with standard GoPro mounts, so you can easily attach it your favorite tray or accessory. If you flip the dedicated video-recording switch while the camera is off, the Ultra 30 will boot up in an instant and automatically start recording as soon as it turns on — a useful feature for conserving battery life (which can last around two hours) without missing those surprise encounters. Even in less-than-perfect light or visibility, this camera gets the goods.
The illuminated, color-coded control panel on the back of this strobe makes it easy to adjust and confirm your settings at a glance, even during a night dive. Additional user-friendly features include ergonomic controls and audible signals for TTL and Ready Light confirmations. The strobe is powerful enough to illuminate a wide area, even in bright sunlight, but also has a manual mode for more-subtle exposure control. Recycle time is approximately one and a half seconds when using four AA NiMH batteries.
SeaLife Sea Dragon Fluoro-Dual Beam
If you’ve ever wanted to visit an underwater rave, this is your ticket. The wide beam of blue light emitted by the Fluoro-Dual has been fine-tuned to a wavelength that produces high levels of fluorescence in underwater plants and animals. The light comes with yellow barrier filters for your mask and camera so you can clearly view the excitement. The LED light also features a white spotlight mode for general use. Switch between the modes and power levels — full and half power — with the push of a single button.
Kraken Universal SmartPhone Housing (With Dive+ App)
This anodized-aluminum housing runs on two AA batteries and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The Dive+ app (for Android and Apple) lets you use your phone’s camera to capture high-quality underwater images and video. The app lets you take full control, including a manual-focus mode (only on iOS currently) and saves media straight to the phone. It also features an impressive color-correction tool. Many will hesitate to take their phone to the 262-foot depths this housing is rated for, but the built-in vacuum port system will put your mind at ease. The housing can attach to a tray and is compatible with wet lenses using an optional accessory.
Backscatter FLIP6 Pro Package
Colored filters remove the blue hue often found in underwater photos and videos. The Flip6 lets you swap between two different filters with the touch of a finger and no loose parts. It’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is compatible with GoPro models, including the Hero5 and Hero6. The kit comes with three interchangeable colored filters — with a whole assortment of available additions — and the +15 MacroMate Mini Lens.
The Paralenz was built specifically with scuba diving in mind. This bullet-shaped camera fits in your hand like a flashlight and operates with a similarly styled switch. Different modes are accessed by rotating the blue ring on the camera’s back. Each mode has a corresponding vibration pattern to help confirm your settings even when you can’t see the OLED display. Rails along the aluminum body click into place in order to secure the camera, and included adapters ensure you can use it with your existing rig. There isn’t a viewfinder, but the 140-degree lens doesn’t miss much and works very well with the included mask-strap attachment. The camera features an impressive automated depth-dependent color-correction mode that makes footage as easy to edit as it is to capture. With its simplified operation, three-hour battery life, and the ability to go to 656 feet, the Paralenz is capable of looking after itself, leaving you free to focus on the dive at hand.