SCUBACAM SurfAce Slash Housing

Reviewed by Richard W. Adkins

Some days you win. Some days you lose. And some days you just can't tell the difference. It's one of those latter days that end in bitter irony I want to tell you about. And you thought this was going to be a simple product review.

Our story begins when I was approached with the idea that one of our hard-hitting news reporters would swim in a tank of sharks. Beyond the obvious "sharks don't eat their own" jokes, this was going to be a technical challenge, since this station doesn't own any underwater gear.

The need: How to get one of our Hi-Def cameras underwater to shoot the story. The answer: SCUBACAM's "SurfAce Splash Housing for Hi-Def Cameras" (Of course, the same product is available for most broadcast cameras).

16x9 Inc. out of Burbank, CA supplied the SCUBACAM to us. They were very helpful on the phone and very knowledgeable about the product... and they were willing to let me demo the product for our underwater project.

The SCUBACAM is a bright yellow latex cover for the camera, complete with waterproof zipper and video / audio connectors that allow you to use the product for live coverage. The specs will tell you that the unit is rated to a maximum depth of 4 meters... we took it to 4 meter and beyond without a leak. The SCUBACAM is also equipped with a high-pitched "leak alarm," you'll know in plenty of time to surface if a small leak does occur.

I talked with our Chief Engineer and News Director, we debated which camera to use in the SCUBACAM and finally decided on using one of our spare Sony HDW-700 cameras. We figure we'd use the spare Sony instead of one of our regular Panasonic HDC-20's just in case of trouble with the watertight housing.

The HDW-700 fits tightly in the SCUBACAM case... and I mean tight. To get the camera in the case I had to take off the lens and viewfinder then reassemble them inside the unit. It was a lot like tuning a piano wearing space gloves and a blindfold... reaching inside the case without being able to see the connections.

Once the camera was securely inside the SCUBACAM housing, the camera was easy to use. A built-in glove allows your left hand access to all the front controls while the contour shape of the unit allows you to use the lens functions with your right hands. It's a great design that really works well.

I handed off the SCUBACAM to the photographer working on the story, she in turn passed on the SCUBACAM to a professional diver who would be in the tank of sharks. It took several tries to sink the SCUBACAM... We had to add weight bags inside the unit again and again to get the unit underwater. This is both a testament to the air tightness of the unit as well as our inexperience operating it. With very few instructions, the professional diver was able to use that camera easily underwater.

SCUBACAM calls the unit a "Splash Housing." The unit is not intended for prolonged underwater use. Our brief underwater excursions seemed to work fine with the housing.

With this waterproof housing being easy to use, and relatively inexpensive, I'd suggest it would be great for anytime you have to work near water. Let me tell you about the bitter irony that ends this product demo. The day after our successful trial of the SCUBACAM SurfAce Splash Housing, our photographer was on the beach shooting waves. With the Panasonic HDC-20 camera unprotected on a steady bag at surf level, and blinded by the camera to her right side, she was caught off-guard by an incoming wave. The water washed over the camera, penetrated the case and ruined many of the circuits. Damage to the camera; about the cost of one SCUBACAM housing.

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As Chief Photographer of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, Richard W. Adkins has been influential in the development of one of the first total HDTV stations in the country.  He's taking the exceptional photography of his news department and pushed it to the next level. Richard has also sent many great submissions to B Roll Online, but we've had a hard time finding the right place for them.  We realized he needs his own section. Check out TREE'S HOUSE.  

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