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5 Uses for Submersible Cameras

Rachel Doornekamp   |   April 8, 2021

There are many reasons you may want to check out what's going on beneath the surface of the water, including to make sure all is well with a research project or to capture unique shots for an advertising campaign. To get those underwater photos, you'll need a camera that's waterproof and submersible. An underwater camera has a lot of uses, from monitoring marine projects to capturing images or video for documentaries and ads. Get to know more about submersible and sea life cameras so you can choose the equipment that will work best for your project.

What Is a Submersible Camera?

A submersible camera, sometimes called an underwater camera, is a camera that works underwater, capturing video or still images beneath the surface. Usually, a submersible camera takes one of two formats. One type is a standard digital camera encased in a waterproof, submersible housing. As long as the camera is in the housing, it can safely go in the water, without damaging its components. Other types of submersible cameras are designed specifically for use underwater. Their housing is waterproof and often shockproof, so they can withstand certain amounts of pressure as well as exposure to water.

A submersible camera can be a compact camera, which looks like a standard point-and-shoot digital camera. Usually, compact cameras are meant for light use. They can get wet and can go underwater but won't survive a deep dive into the ocean. Another type of underwater camera is a drop camera. The camera lowers into the water while the person operating it remains on the surface. While the average scuba diver usually needs to exercise caution when diving to depths between 40 meters and 100 meters, a submersible drop camera can reach depths that are easily three times as deep.

Some drop cameras are tethered, meaning a cable ties them to the boat on the surface of the water. Others are untethered. They might have an anchor that pulls them down into the water. When it has finished taking photos, an untethered camera drops its anchor and begins to float back to the surface.

How Do Submersible Cameras Work?

The world is different underwater than it is on dry land. Two of the biggest differences between the surface and the water's depths are light and pressure. At just one meter below the surface, seawater absorbs 60% of visible light. By 150 meters deep, 99% of visible light is gone. That means a submersible camera needs to have a good light source connected to it, otherwise, all the photos it takes or video it captures will come out dark.

Along with lights, some submersible cameras have filters on their lenses that color correct. Since red is the color that disappears first as you go into the water, many filters are red-orange in color. If a photographer uses a submersible camera to capture shots both in and out of the water, they will need to install a split filter on the camera lens, which accurately captures the part of the shot that's out of water as well as the part of the image beneath the surface.

When submerged, there is considerably more weight and pressure on a camera than when it is on dry land. At just 10 meters below the surface, pressure is twice as much as it is at surface level. At 100 meters, the pressure has increased to 10 times what it is on the surface. Submersible cameras have depth ratings that determine how deep they can go without being damaged.

The operation of a submersible camera depends on its style. A compact camera works pretty much the same as a point-and-shoot meant for use on dry land. The photographer looks through the viewfinder, lines up the shot and takes the picture. If the camera is underwater at a depth beyond its depth rating, there's a chance the button won't work.

When using a drop camera, the person operating it remains above the water. The camera connects to a handheld controller, which lets the operator adjust the angle of the camera's lens and the camera's position in the water.

5 Uses for Submersible Cameras

Who uses underwater photography? Everyone from professional photographers and filmmakers to hobbyists. Take a look at some common uses of submersible cameras.

1. Shooting Documentaries

If you've ever watched a nature documentary that discussed ocean life or took you below the surface of the water, you most likely saw the work of a submersible camera in action. Submersible cameras let documentary filmmakers capture images and video of ocean life. The cameras also help create films on the mysteries of the deep, such as stories behind famous shipwrecks or the discovery of caves near the bottom of the ocean. A filmmaker creating a fictional film can also use an underwater camera if they need to shoot sequences in the water.

2. Sports

Lots of sports require athletes to get in the water, whether it's swimmers who swim laps in a pool or surfers who are riding the waves. An underwater camera provides a unique angle and point of view during a sporting event in the water. During an Olympic swim meet, for example, the camera can capture the swimmers' form as they race from one end of the pool to the other. During a surfing competition, a submersible camera lets the photographer get under the waves, capturing the maneuvers of the surfers on their boards.

3. Underwater Exploration

Some types of submersible cameras can go to depths humans can't reach when they are diving. An underwater camera offers the ability to see what's going on in the depths of the water. In some cases, the camera can discover new species or formations in the water that were previously undetected. Some cameras have been developed for deep-sea exploration that can reach all the way to the floor of the ocean, several thousand meters deep.

4. Research

A submersible camera is a handy tool for researchers to have, particularly if they are doing research involving marine life. A drop camera makes it easy for a research team to check on the health and development of a school of fish it is studying, for example. A camera can also make it easy to inspect equipment that is submerged in the water, making sure it remains in good working condition. If the research project needs to follow regulations or remain in compliance with local laws, the camera allows the research team or inspectors to verify compliance when needed.

5. Underwater Photography

In some cases, an underwater camera can be used purely for fun. For example, waterproof and disposable single-use compact cameras let people take photos in the pool or ocean while on vacation. While the heyday of disposable cameras has passed, special waterproof casings let people take their smartphone cameras into the water with them. Professional photographers can also use underwater cameras to capture shots beneath the surface. A fashion photographer might use a submersible camera to capture models swimming in the ocean or floating beneath the surface in a pool.

What to Consider When Purchasing Your Own Submersible Cameras

Whether you need a camera for underwater research, filmmaking or hobby use, there are several factors to consider before you purchase a submersible camera.

1. Your Budget

How much you can spend on a camera will play a significant role in determining what type of submersible camera you purchase. Generally, cameras meant for use in research or for making documentaries will cost more than a camera meant for a hobbyist or occasional use. Along with considering the upfront purchase price of the camera, keep in mind there may be additional costs, such as accessories and the cost of owning and maintaining the camera. Take a look at the different price points of various types of underwater cameras to see if what you expect to spend lines up with the typical price point of the equipment.

2. Camera Type

Underwater cameras can be compact or drop cameras. A compact camera can be something as simple as a standard point-and-shoot put into a waterproof housing. A drop camera gets lowered into the ocean and is controlled from above the surface. Drop cameras, such as the DTPod underwater camera, usually work best when used for monitoring and research projects. A compact camera is typically a good pick if you plan on taking pictures or video for recreational purposes.

3. Depth Rating

The deeper you go into the water, the greater the pressure. A camera needs to be able to withstand the force of pressure on it beneath the surface. If the camera goes too far below the surface, it can break from the weight put on it. An underwater camera should include a depth rating, which lets you know how deep into the water it can go without breaking. The DTPod has a depth rating of 305 meters, for example, meaning it can go about 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the water without issues. If you plan to use your camera for underwater exploration or research, you'll most likely need one with a greater depth rating than if you plan to capture pictures of people swimming in the water or film water sports.

4. Size and Weight

The size of the camera is something to think about carefully, especially if it's something you'll be transporting frequently or holding yourself while diving. Compact cameras are meant to be handheld and usually don't weigh that much. If the camera is bulky or has lots of attachments, it can be tricky to use while you're underwater. Even though you won't have to hold a drop camera in your hands when underwater, its size still matters. Ideally, the camera will be small enough that you can move it easily or take it with you wherever you are going. For example, the DTPod fits into a carrying case that you can transport with ease.

5. Controls

How you control the camera is also important. If you're considering a compact camera, is it a basic point-and-shoot, or will you need to adjust multiple settings to bring the camera into focus or make sure the lighting is correct? If you're using a drop camera, how do you control it? A separate, handheld controller that lets you steer the camera to adjust its angle can often be ideal.

6. Tether Length

Although there are untethered models out there, many drop cameras connect to the surface above with a tether. Depending on your project and the depth rating of the camera, you might need to buy additional tether length so the camera can reach deep enough below the surface. When thinking about the tether length, it's also a good idea to consider whether or not the camera comes with a reel or gives you the option of purchasing a tether reel as an accessory. The reel holds the cable in place and makes it easy to raise or lower the camera as needed.

7. Lights

The ocean is a dark place that absorbs light quickly. You need light to capture colors and take visible photos or videos. Your camera should have lights included, whether they are standard strobe flashes or lights that you can raise and lower based on how deep in the water the camera is. For example, the lights will need to be brighter when the camera is 100 meters deep than when it is 25 meters deep. You might also need to adjust the brightness of the lights based on what's in the water. Algae can create a reflection that obscures the video. Lowering the brightness of the light when algae is in view can help keep the image clear.

8. Power Source

How does the camera get its power? Some submersible cameras run on batteries, while others get their power from the controllers. A battery-powered camera can present difficulties, particularly if it lives in the water. If the battery dies, it can be tricky to bring the camera up, take it out of the housing and replace the power source. A camera that gets power from the controller will always be ready to go, provided the controller is properly charged.

9. Accessories

Some submersible cameras have accessories that make them more convenient to use or help them stay in good working order. Wipers for the DTPod help to keep the lens and lights clean and clear, for example. A tether reel or carrying case reduces the risk of someone tripping on the cable and also speeds up the process of moving the camera from one location to the next.

Request a Quote From Deep Trekker Today

The DTPod underwater camera from Deep Trekker is a fully submersible, low-maintenance camera designed for underwater inspections and more permanent installations. The DTPod is portable and easy to maneuver. If you're interested in using a submersible camera for underwater research or monitoring, contact Deep Trekker for a quote and to learn more about the DTPod camera today.