I purchased my Canon A95 shortly before a trip to Maui in 2005.  The trip was wonderful and the photos were wonderful.  Well, all of them except the underwater pictures taken while snorkeling with the single-use (disposable) Fujifilm underwater cameras we bought.  This year the opportunity presented itself to go to Hawaii again.  This time we chose the island of Hawaii which is aptly named the “Big Island”. 

This year our trip also coincides with my birthday and my mother, being the excellent mother she is, bought me an underwater housing (WP-DC50) for my Canon A95 camera.  And she sent it to me before my birthday, so that I could have it during the trip to Hawaii.  Thanks Mom!

I've had the underwater housing on my Amazon wishlist for some time now.  But, its price of over $160 has kept me from buying it, and until now everyone else away from buying it for me as a gift.

First Impressions

The first thing I have to say is that an underwater housing is that it is not for you if you're looking for simplicity or if you're faint of heart.  The o-ring that is the foundation of the water-proof nature of the case requires a lot more maintenance than what would be immediately obvious.  And the manual does a great job of terrifying you about taking care of it.

Besides the maintenance with the o-ring you have issues with condensation and heat.  The manual and webpages I read online warn you about keeping it in direct sunlight for fear of fires or warping of the case.  But, lets face it the biggest fear when using an underwater camera housing is leaks.

This is where the manual excels.  It goes on to describe of plethora of reasons from hair or sand in the o-ring to storing the housing in a closed state as reasons for leaks.  To be fair these concerns are not limited to the Canon underwater camera housings.

The housing itself appears to be of really good quality.  Most of the functionality of the camera is still available when using the underwater housing.  I couldn't see anything missing with the exception of the view finder.  The buttons, the option dial, the zoom, et al are all there.

The housing comes with a neck strap, wrist strap, a hood for the LCD, silicon grease for the o-ring, and a flash deflector plate for the flash.  I really don't understand the purpose of the deflector plate, but I can see the hood being really useful in bright situations.

What is glaringly missing was a mechanism for controlling condensation within the case.  The sources I read seemed to indicate that condensation was generally only an issue when opening and closing the case in a humid environment.  However, the resources also suggested commercially available anti-condensation products as well as a silicate gel packs.  Unfortunately, the lack of reviews for the underwater housing leave me without much support for using either or both.

Information for the underwater housing is sparse online.  However, I did find two particularly useful links for maintenance and information considering underwater photography.  Here are the links:

Post-trip Report

My wife and I had a great time in Hawaii.  We only got to go snorkeling once mostly due to the schedule and a few weather hiccups (we were much better off than the other islands though).  But, we did have a great time on the Fair Wind II which is a catamaran that docks in Keauhou Bay.

I like the larger boats, because you get a better lunch, you have a bathroom, and you have room to move if you need to mess with anything (like an underwater case).  I was particularly concerned with the ability to address leaks, fogging, and battery problems.  This is a good time to recommend a large memory card.  I took over 200 pictures in the one snorkeling excursion, so a 512MB CF card was a blessing.  You want to take a lot of picture, because many of the pictures don't turn out that well for various reasons including: fish movement, disturbed water, and depth

The case performed wonderfully and the only issue I had was a little fogging when we came up for lunch.  As far as I could tell it wasn't extensive enough to affect the pictures.  (I never got any anti-fogging liquid or silica gel packs which I don't think would fit in this case.)  The biggest problem with the fogging is that for some time the LCD was particularly useless.  And that's a problem since the underwater housing doesn't let you use the viewfinder.  The fog went away pretty quickly after the camera cooled down, and we didn't have a problem with it for the rest of the day.

One unexpected bonus is that the camera floats with the case.  That could be a detriment to divers (a weight set is sold separately), but to snorkelers its ideal.  The wrist strap that comes with the case has an easy to use button-type adjustment which was much nicer than dealing with a buckle-type adjustment.

Here is a selection of some of my favorite snorkeling pictures:

Ornate butterflyfish Yellow tangs
Coral and urchins at kealakekua Bay Yellowfin surgeonfish

Out of the camera that housing was less useful.  The housing added way too much bulk, it was hard to work with, and there was often a terrible reflective glare off of the case over the LCD.  I was wondering why all I saw was my face when I was trying to take a picture of Kilauea Caldera.

I also had one problem where the zoom stopped working inside the case.  My wife had been using it and apparently she was a little too rough and the guide slipped off the zoom dial.  I was so glad it wasn't broken, because we hadn't gone snorkeling yet.

Overall, I was really pleased with the camera although I will limit its out of water use to the beach.  The cost of the case might not be worth it to most people.  In those cases the cheap single-use cameras are a much better value (we noticed some higher quality ones for sale in Hawaii this time).  But, to me the case was a great value and convenience, because I can use my photo printer.