Today’s Question: Given your recent underwater iPhone photos, could you provide a brief outline on the best attributes and brands of waterproof cases for the smartphone?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I have had great fun using an underwater case for my iPhone in a variety of locations. Admittedly, this involves what might be considered a bit more risk than you would take if you purchased a waterproof point-and-shoot camera. But since I always travel with my iPhone it seemed the more efficient to make use of my iPhone, with a degree of caution. I’ve opted for the LifeProof FRE case (http://amzn.to/1UbMLXo) in conjunction with the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device (http://amzn.to/1S4BuZU).
More Detail: Most recently I was using my iPhone to capture underwater photos and videos while snorkeling in Huatulco, Mexico. You can see one sample (and follow me!) on Instagram here:
To be sure, it is important to take a cautious approach when you are taking a smartphone underwater. If the case leaks your phone could be ruined, and you might lose the data that is on your device.
There are two very important precautions that I recommend in order to minimize the risks. First, be sure your device is completely backed up before every underwater photography adventure. That way, if your case leaks and your smartphone is ruined, at least you’ll only lose your underwater photos (and the phone) without losing existing data.
Second, be sure to test the underwater case for leaks before every outing. I recommend submerging the case in a sink full of water, for example, using a weight to keep the case underwater. After an hour or so, check very carefully for any water inside the case. Then be sure to seal the case properly before use, and to limit any diving to the depth limit indicated by your specific case.
Since I use an iPhone, I was looking specifically for cases that fit the iPhone. Based on reviews and in-person evaluations, I decided on the LifeProof FRE case. There are other underwater cases available for different make and model smartphones, but I have not evaluated any of those in great detail.
I also highly recommend the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device if you are an iPhone user. First you put the LifeProof FRE case onto your phone, then you slip that assembly into the LifeProof LifeJacket. The LifeJacket serves primarily as a flotation device, so your iPhone can float on the surface of the water. But I’ve also found the LifeJacket to be a real smartphone saver for activities on dry land. For example, if I want to take photos while riding a bike, the LifeJacket helps protect the phone in the event I should drop it. I can assure you from personal experience just a few days ago that the LifeJacket can indeed keep an iPhone safe when dropped from a moving bicycle.
Another option that works well for virtually any smartphone is the Phone Pouch from Ewa-Marine. I use an Ewa-Marine underwater bag for my digital SLR, and have found their products to work very well. You do need to be sure that the iPhone rests against the “back” surface of this underwater bag without any ripples, in order to ensure the best photos. But this bag does work very well, with the added flexibility of being usable with a variety of different devices. As long as your device fits in the underwater bag, you can use that device for underwater photos.
It is important to keep in mind, of course, that an iPhone or other smartphone won’t perform as well as a digital SLR for underwater photography. The smaller sensors on smartphones work best with good lighting conditions, and you don’t have to get very deep underwater before the light levels drop off significantly. That said, getting an underwater case for your smartphone is a great way to have fun while capturing some interesting photos!
Here are links to the products mentioned above:
LifeProof FRE for iPhone 6: http://amzn.to/1UbMLXo
LifeProof LifeJacket for iPhone 6: http://amzn.to/1S4BuZU
Ewa-Marine Phone Pouch: http://amzn.to/1UbNbgp