For over 60 years, Ikelite has been built on the belief that you shouldn't have to spend a fortune to get the best photo and video results underwater. But there are a lot of people out there who may benefit from making you think you do.
Lead product designer and Ikelite VP John Brigham goes through the purposeful design choices that deliver professional grade performance at an accessible price point. Using the Canon EOS R5 as an example point, John talks through how Ikelite underwater housings stack up with more expensive aluminum alternatives.
Watch the video for the full breakdown or read the article.
Let us know you're watching by subscribing, liking, and commenting on our YouTube channel.
We've spent years refining choices of materials that hit the right balance between weight and strength. That's just like engineering for an aircraft. Every ounce and weight reduction will save energy in packing and travel and will reduce your drag in the water.
If you look at the polycarbonate body of our housing, it's light colored by design to reflect the sun and keep your camera cooler in between dives. Furthermore, plastics are much easier to maintain because they don't degrade with exposure to saltwater the way metals do.
Let's talk about confidence. We might be biased, but we like seeing through the back of the housing. Even when taking your time with assembly and doing a vacuum test, there's always a chance of a leak with any brand housing. With a clear back you can put your housing in a tank of water and see for yourself that it's not leaking without having to rely on a flashing light or an alarm.
When assembling an opaque block housing it kind of feels like a magician putting a $5,000 camera into a black box and hoping that everything comes back out in one piece.
There is a limitation worth mentioning, which is the 200ft (60m) depth rating. If you find yourself diving way beyond recreational limits, you'll need to consider an aluminum housing that's adapted to those pressures.
The whole point of an underwater housing is to waterproof the camera and the clear back puts that functionality front center.
When comparing weight, using our Canon R5 Ikelite Underwater Housing with the full size 8 inch Dome Port against the Nauticam equivalent, our housing is 2.2lbs (1kg) lighter than the aluminum version. Nauticam does offer more expensive and heavier port options, but this is the standard. 2.2lbs (1kg) is a significant difference when it comes to travel.
Most of us don't have unlimited baggage or unlimited funds. It's kind of like packing a backpack to climb the top of a mountain - every ounce has to earn its way into that pack. You want to max out your luggage allowance with the tools that will help you capture the best images.
We've heard our housings referred to as “bulky” but let's be honest, any underwater housing for a larger camera is going to feel bulky compared to the camera itself.
Both leave an appropriate amount of space around the camera inside of the housing to allow for attachments of accessories as well as to protect your camera in the case of a small leak.
In the case of the R5 system, our housing appears to be about the same shape and actually slightly smaller than Nauticam.
You'll hear the word ergonomics thrown around a lot when it comes to engineering. But what we really want to talk about is intuition and muscle memory. The best underwater photographers in the world know their camera like the back of their hand, and that's because they're using it in and out of the water all the time. When you get used to using a camera on land you know, in your mind and in your muscles, exactly where everything is.
That's why we replicate that on the outside of our housings. The controls are placed in the same relation to each other, only enlarged and made comfortable for underwater use. Because of this, you don't have to relearn everything. The camera's operations are accessed quickly and easily, the same way you're used to using it on land.
Conversely, if your housing has a different set of ergonomics than your camera, there is going to be a learning curve and retraining of your brain. Eventually the benefits might be realized after hundreds or potentially thousands of actuations, but unfortunately not all of us get to spend that much time in the water.
Another feature of our controls is their simplicity. Direct drive controls are more simple and therefore more reliable.
If something does need adjustment over time, it's generally something that you can do yourself. We offer O-ring Service Kits and the replacements can be done in the field as necessary.
If you want to send it to us for service, we currently charge around $250USD. On the other hand, I have heard that some of the aluminum housings cost upwards of $600USD for the recommended annual service, which is an added cost that most of us don't really consider when setting out to make the initial purchase.
Cost of Ownership
For this comparison we've priced out the housing for the Canon R5 using the RF 14-35mm F/4 lens, including some of our must-haves: the housing, two handles, vacuum pump, lens port, as well as the ability to trigger external strobes manually.
Adding that list up on our website comes to a grand total of $2,665USD while adding up that list on a US based Nauticam dealer came to a grand total of $6,828USD. You save $4,200 with Ikelite.
That is a big price difference for ergonomics. You can start to see why a lot of underwater photo stores will talk up an aluminum housing for that kind of money.
Invest that $4,200 savings in the true photography game changers: lighting and lenses. Equip yourself with two DS230s, a cord, and TTL converter and you'll still have money left over.
What could you be doing with that extra $4,200?
This is a no brainer for us: add strobes. Even after adding two of our flagship DS230 professional strobes, along with a cord, and a TTL converter, you're only using up $3,125 of the $4,200.
That leaves you with over $1,000 to burn. You could get another lens, ideally one you can use both above and below the water. Or you could use that money to actually go somewhere amazing and take photos. Which, let's be honest, is the most effective way to actually get good underwater photos.
Ultimately, there are so many great products underwater right now and just about any camera and housing combination on the market today can be used to produce spectacular results. Once you decide to invest in a quality system and learn how to use it underwater, you will not be disappointed.
Don't forget, we're here to help you along the journey. If you have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to us today.
John Brigham is the Vice President & head of product development at Ikelite. He was born with a flair for design and an entrepreneurial spirit as son of Ikelite founder Ike Brigham. He worked his way up in the business and is a natural fit in the R&D side of things. John dives the equipment as much as possible to test product and put himself in the "fins" of the user. You may also find him on the other end of an email or phone call when you reach out for product advice and support. When he's not underwater he's flying drones, setting off rockets, training his German Shepherd "T2", and spending time with his family.