Underwater Camera Housing blog

Beginner’s guide to professional underwater camera housing

We visited LITES STUDIOS, the biggest underwater studio in Europe! 🤩

We visited LITES STUDIOS, the biggest underwater studio in Europe! 🤩 We wanted to check out the underwater film equipment must-haves and see what the go-to brands are for professional underwater camera housing. Let’s find out!

Lites Studios water set

TD;DR? Watch this video instead of reading the blog post 😅 👇🏼

What is underwater camera housing?

Underwater housing for cameras is also known as waterproof camera housing or underwater camera housing. Basically, it's a protective case that wraps around your camera and keeps it safe from water damage when you're underwater. These housings are commonly used by divers, snorkelers, underwater photographers, and filmmakers to capture images and videos in aquatic environments.

Lites Studios - ARRI camera

Key features of underwater camera housings typically include:

  1. Waterproof seals: The housings come with O-rings and seals to make sure water doesn't get in and ruin the camera. It's super important to make sure these seals are well taken care of and in good shape to keep the camera waterproof. Make it extra easy with Cheqroom, an equipment management software with which you can flag gear as broken or due for maintenance. That way, others won’t be able to reserve those items anymore, and you won’t lose maintenance out of sight. Find out more.

  2. Controls and buttons: Housings come with built-in controls that allow users to access various functions of the camera, such as adjusting settings, zooming, and capturing images or videos. And the best part is, you can use these controls even when you're underwater!

  3. Material: Underwater housings are usually made of durable materials such as polycarbonate or aluminum, providing protection against the pressure and corrosion that come with underwater use.

  4. Lens ports: These housings have a transparent port in front of the camera lens to maintain image clarity. Different ports may be available for different types of lenses.

  5. Buoyancy and weight: Some housings are designed to be neutrally buoyant underwater, while others may require the use of additional weights or buoyancy control devices to achieve the desired underwater stability.

Even though we’d love to talk about how you can find Nemo with your camera in Aruba, we’ll only focus on professional filmmaking in this blog post.

Lites Studios - filming in action

How does a water studio work?

You want to keep your baby safe. Especially when shooting water scenes. That’s why you need to invest in housing that’s completely waterproof. At LITES STUDIOS, they have figured out the best setup for water scenes. With a multicurl cable, the camera is connected to the control room.

Lites Studios - control room

There, the rest of the crew is responsible for monitoring, focusing, and controlling all the camera settings of the ones used on set, and there’s the intercom with the cameraman. So, basically, the cameraman can communicate with the DP or director without having to control the camera itself and start pushing any buttons.

Lites studios - monitors

If you’re already thinking, “Oh, so they just have to hold the camera and frame the shot? Easy-peasy!”, just hold your horses. You also have to be able to dive well, control your buoyancy, and frame up nicely.

"I'm always saying, as the underwater camera operator, I'm just holding the camera.”
Wim Michiels Underwater Cinematographer at LITES

Why do you need two camera housings at the same time?

The top tip from LITES STUDIOS is always to use two housings at the same time in order to switch lenses easily and quickly. So, for instance, there are two Sony Venices in the housing with two focal lengths.

Why? Changing a lens could easily take you 20 minutes, which is simply too long in a setting like this. You want your actor to be able to continue moving in the water and not pause everything to take the camera out of its housing to switch lenses.

If you’re seeing it big with multiple shoots at the same time, you should invest in multiple housings
. At LITES, for instance, they have ten housings in varying sizes. They prefer using Nauticam as those are the ones that offer full remote control. Camera-wise, they can use the housings for Sony cameras, ALEXA Mini LF, Phantom Flex4K for slow-motion shots, and more.

With the smaller housing sizes, they can strip it from all its accessories, put a smaller lens, and shoot in very cramped spaces. They also rent out the smaller housings to other film studios, while the bigger housings are too customized to be rented out.

What to consider when buying underwater camera housing?

So, what should you look at when you want to buy gear for filming underwater? Here’s what you need to consider.

1. Choose your camera wisely

What camera(s) are you currently using? Do you want to keep using those? And are there dedicated underwater housing systems available for them?

It's important to note that not all cameras are compatible with underwater housings, and housings are typically designed for specific camera models. Each housing is usually custom-fit to a particular camera's dimensions, providing access to buttons and controls and ensuring a proper seal.

However, there’s good news! You can find underwater housing systems for many of the popular camera models out there. The compatibility between a camera and an underwater housing depends on the specific design and dimensions of the camera. Here are some well-known camera brands and models that often have corresponding underwater housings:

  • Canon:
    • Canon EOS series (e.g., EOS 5D, EOS R)
    • Canon PowerShot series (e.g., G7 X Mark III)
  • Sony:
    • Sony Alpha series (e.g., A7, A7R, A7S)
    • Sony RX series (e.g., RX100, RX0)
  • GoPro:
    • GoPro HERO series (e.g., HERO9 Black, HERO10 Black)
Lites alexa
Lites red

So, in short, make sure your gear is compatible, follow proper maintenance procedures, and stay within the depth and pressure limits recommended by the manufacturer. That way, you can avoid any pesky leaks and damage to the camera.

2. Camera housing vs. splash bags

Let’s get straight to the point: Underwater camera housings are not cheap. 💸 So before investing in one, ask yourself the question, “Do I really need one?”.

Underwater camera housings and splash bags serve the common purpose of protecting cameras from water while filming in aquatic environments, but they differ in their design, construction, and the level of protection they offer.

Lites studios - splash bags

Here are the main differences between camera housings and splash bags:

Level of protection

  • Camera Housings: These are generally more robust and provide a higher level of protection. They’re designed to be fully submersible and can withstand greater depths underwater. They have tight seals, O-rings, and are made from durable materials like polycarbonate or aluminum to keep your camera nice and dry.
  • Splash Bags: These are designed for lighter protection, often against splashes, rain, or light water exposure. Don't go dunking them in the water though, as they’re not built for that. They’re suitable for surface-level water activities or situations where only occasional exposure to water is expected. You know, some occasional splashy-splashy. 💦

Depth rating

  • Camera Housings: Housings are typically rated for specific depths, indicating the maximum depth at which they can be safely used without messing up the seal.
  • Splash Bags: These bags are not usually rated for specific depths and are best suited for surface-level water activities or situations where the camera is likely to encounter splashes or light rain.

Controls and functionality

  • Camera Housings: Housings are designed with built-in controls that allow users to access various functions of the camera, such as adjusting settings, capturing images, and recording videos. They provide full control of the camera's features even underwater.
  • Splash Bags: While splash bags provide some level of control through their transparent material, they may not offer the same ease of access to camera controls as camera housings. Adjusting settings or operating buttons can be more challenging with splash bags. Challenge accepted? 😅


  • Camera Housings: Housings are typically designed for specific camera models, ensuring a snug fit and proper functionality. They are available for a wide range of camera brands and models.
  • Splash Bags: Splash bags are more generic in design and are often available in various sizes to accommodate different camera shapes and sizes. However, they won’t fit perfectly the way only custom-designed housings do.

Ultimately, the choice between an underwater camera housing and a splash bag depends on your specific needs and the level of protection you’re seeking. If you plan on serious underwater scenes at significant depths, definitely go for dedicated camera housing. For lighter water exposure, a splash bag may be a more convenient and cost-effective option.

Lites nauticam
Lites camera6

3. Buying underwater camera housing

When buying underwater camera housing, there are several important factors to consider to ensure compatibility, functionality, and the level of protection needed for your specific underwater photography or videography needs. Here are key considerations:

  1. Compatibility: Check if the underwater housing is compatible with your camera before buying. Housings are designed for specific camera models and brands.
  2. Controls and access: Ensure housing allows easy access to camera controls. Look for well-designed buttons and controls for effective underwater camera operation.
  3. Depth rating: The depth rating indicates the maximum depth it can be used without compromising its waterproof integrity.
  4. Material and construction: Pay attention to the materials used in housing construction. Common options are polycarbonate, aluminum, or a combination. Prioritize sturdiness, durability, and the ability to withstand underwater conditions.
  5. Lens compatibility: Check if the housing supports specific underwater lenses. Some housings have interchangeable ports for different lens sizes and types.
  6. Buoyancy and handling: Some housings are neutrally buoyant underwater, while others may require weights or buoyancy control devices. Choose a housing that suits your preferences for underwater handling.
  7. Seals and O-rings: Inspect the quality of seals and O-rings on the housing, as these are critical for maintaining a watertight seal. Regularly check and maintain these seals according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
  8. Port options: Evaluate available port options for housing. Choose ports suitable for macro, wide-angle, or zoom lenses that match your underwater filming preferences.
  9. Ease of maintenance: Look at how easy it is to maintain and clean the housing. Housing that is easy to disassemble, clean, and reassemble is great for longevity and reliable performance.
  10. Additional features: Some housings come with extra features such as vacuum seals for added security, moisture alarms, and accessory attachment points. Check if these match your needs.
  11. Budget: Last but definitely not least… Budget. 🙃 Prices can vary significantly based on the brand, model, and features. There are a few top-notch brands, like Nauticam. For big housing, you’re looking at 30K EUR. But you need to keep in mind the accessories you might need as this can top up the budget quite rapidly. Balance your requirements with your budget to find the best match.

Before you go ahead and buy something, make sure you check out what other users are saying about it, watch videos to see how it works, and have a chat with experts or fellow underwater cinematographers to get their thoughts on how well different underwater housing models perform and how reliable they are.

Lites studios - camera

Underwater filming: How to get started

Now that you’ve figured out what gear you want to use and buy, you can get into the specifics of underwater filming. Not only did we talk about camera housing at LITES, but they also took us behind the scenes of their advanced interior water stage.

How are underwater scenes created?
What gear are they using, who is the ‘water crew’, how do they create waves, and, most importantly, how warm is the water? Read this blog or watch the video here:

How to manage your camera housings properly

However, we know you’re not dealing with cheap equipment here. That’s why it’d really be a pity if someone on your crew were to damage the gear or, worse, lose it.

No worries. Equipment Management Software like Cheqroom can help you with that. With Cheqroom, you’ll know where your gear is at all times. Who is using what gear for what project, and for how long? Send automated reminders to users when the gear has to be returned. Flag items when they’re broken and due for maintenance, and discover which items broke down the most last year. Perhaps you could sell them? What items were rarely taken off the shelves of the gear cage? Perhaps you could rent these out? So much info, so much efficiency, all with Cheqroom.

Try it out yourself for 7 days! No costs, no strings attached. Start a trial today!

Elke 4
Written by Elke Swinnen Feb 08, 2024

Elke Swinnen is Cheqroom’s video reporter and event queen. Most of the time, you’ll find her out in the world visiting Cheqroom customers and shows like NAB and IBC. She is passionate about sharing the latest gear updates, film industry insights, and top gear management tips and tricks. Her favorite pieces of gear are the ARRI ALEXA 35 and Aputure MC Pro. She’s also a Content and Social Media Marketer at Cheqroom.