Mirrorless + DSLR

Real World Tips for Charging and Data Transfer with the Ikelite USB-C Bulkhead

Real World Tips for Charging and Data Transfer with the Ikelite USB-C Bulkhead

By Bruce Carlson and Marj Awai

My wife, Marj Awai, and I have become enthusiastic users of Ikelite’s USB-C bulkhead connector in conjunction with our Canon R5 cameras. We learned about this new optional feature from well-known photographer David Fleetham and decided to test it during two recent dive trips, first in the Solomon Islands and most recently in Palau. We have learned a few things along the way that should be of interest to other underwater photographers. 

Platax orbicularis, Solomon Islands © 2024 Marj Awai
"On our Solomons trip, Marj never removed her camera after sealing it up in her housing. She was able to download her photos and recharge her battery between each dive."

The concept of sealing up our cameras in the housing and not having to remove them for the entire trip immediately appealed to us. Over the decades that we have been taking underwater photos, we have flooded a few cameras, but always because we failed to notice some mistake when putting the cameras back in the housing. On our Solomons trip, Marj never removed her camera after sealing it up in her housing. She was able to download her photos and recharge her battery between each dive.

For me, I had a different experience. The Ikelite USB-C bulkhead connector on my housing worked fine, but the USB-C port on the Canon R5 did not. Apparently this is a weak-link on the Canon cameras (not just the R5), so the first lesson is to always be gentle inserting or removing the USB cable from the camera. I gently jiggle the USB connector a bit as I remove it from the camera to minimize any chance of damage.

Yellowstriped Fairy Basslet, Mirolabrichthys tuka, Solomons 2023 (4K) © Bruce Carlson

Recording all day in 4K is no problem with the USB Charging & Data Transfer Bulkhead. 

Utilizing a Portable Power Bank

After I had my camera repaired by Canon, we made our next trip to Palau. This time both of our housings and cameras worked perfectly the entire trip. But I had another concern in Palau. During our Solomon Islands tip, we stayed on a liveaboard vessel and we could plug into an outlet between dives. But in Palau, we were working from a small boat with no source of power. For me, this was going to be a problem because I mostly shoot video in 4K or occasionally 8K, and this really drains the battery. I certainly didn’t want to remove the camera and change batteries on a small, rocking boat often in rainy conditions. After some research, I bought a portable Anker Power Bank (25,600mAh, cost around US$100 ) and during the surface interval between dives, I plugged it in and was able to get enough renewed charge to carry me through another dive shooting video. I never reached 100% charge because the surface interval was too short, but on most dives the extra charge was sufficient.

Bruce and Marj utilize a power bank to charge their Canon R5 cameras during surface intervals on the boat, keeping everything safe, dry, and fully charged for long days of diving.

On a wet boat with dripping wet suits and wet hands, care is certainly required to keep all the connections dry. I kept the battery inside a plastic box with the lid on, except for a small gap to accommodate the USB cable. I also put a towel over the Ikelite housing to ensure no stray water drops would fall on the open USB bulkhead. This might not work in pouring rain and pitching sea conditions, but I had no problem during our stay in Palau.


Helpful Tips

A few additional nuances are important to recognize. The USB cable connection from the computer to the bulkhead will only work in one direction. If the connection seems to fail, flip the connector over and reinsert it. We have our USB cable marked with a dot so we can always insert it in the correct orientation.

On our Canon R5, you have to use the EOS 3 Utility app to download images, but to make the connection there is a sequence to follow. First insert the USB cable in the correct orientation between the computer and the USB bulkhead, with the computer OFF. Then, turn the camera ON before starting up the computer. This will make the proper connection with the EOS Utility app when the computer boots up. To charge the battery, simply turn the camera off and wait a couple of seconds for the green charging light to appear on the back of the camera.

There was an era when we were restricted to shooting 36 photos, then taking everything apart to replace film and a fresh battery, and at the end of the trip waiting a day or more to see the results. No one could imagine back then the great technology we have today and it just keeps getting better and better.   

Additional Reading

Never Take Your Camera Out of the Housing! // USB-C Charging & Data Transfer Bulkhead [VIDEO]

Canon R5 A-Z | Everything You Need To Know To Take It Underwater [VIDEO]

DSLR To Mirrorless | How Making the Switch Improved My Photography

Studio Lighting Secret for Underwater Photographers [VIDEO]

Canon Mirrorless Lineup Explained for Underwater [VIDEO]


Dr. Bruce Carlson and his wife Marj Awai have been diving buddies and taking underwater images since they met in 1984 in Hawai’i. Bruce has been using Ikelite housings since 1972 when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji. Marj started underwater photography in 1983 using a Nikonos camera on a trip to Enewetak for the Bishop Museum. She moved up to a Canon camera in an Ikelite housing after diving with Bruce. Together they have used their cameras to capture images for educational purposes, with many of Marj’s photos used in museum and aquarium graphics, educational books, and magazine articles. Bruce now shoots mostly video to help people see and appreciate the underwater world. His videos and Marj’s photos were particularly important to document the effects of bleaching events on coral reefs in Palau (1998) and Fiji (2000), as well as their research on chambered nautilus. Both are now retired from careers spent at the Bishop Museum, the Waikiki Aquarium, The Florida Aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Videos featuring their combined images can be viewed on YouTube @Exallias1.

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Becoming a BETTER Underwater Photographer in My Florida Backyard // Ikelite Ambassador Bryant Turffs [VIDEO]
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