SportDiver Underwater Smartphone Housing Review
Introducing the SportDiver Underwater Smartphone Housing:
Now Compatible with Both Android and iPhone!
New underwater compact cameras are hard to come by these days. With supply chain issues and a lack of demand, camera companies just aren't investing their time in the entry-level market. But who needs a compact camera when your smart phone is just as good? (or better!). With SeaLife's recent announcement that the SportDiver Smartphone Housing is now compatible with Android devices, we think that smartphones are the ideal choice for taking your first steps shooting underwater photo & video, or having a reliable B-cam at hand.
We had the exciting opportunity to be some of the first divers to test out the updated SportDiver app and housing combination. Though the conditions this time of year are less than ideal, our Samsung Galaxy S20 performed far beyond our expectations and solidified our belief that smartphones are the future of underwater photography.
Now before we get into the review, there are a few key points about this system that we think is unique:
- The SportDiver underwater smartphone housing has a built in vacuum system to detect leaks before you get into the water - so it's extra safe to make sure you don't have to deal with the pain of replacing a phone
- This housing has a built-in moisture alarm that you can hear underwater
- The App is FREE
- You can shoot RAW! That's right, if you like editing your photos, you're not giving up anything using your smartphone. The SeaLife SportDiver app is complete with RAW capability.
- You use buttons to control the smartphone, not the touch screen. The housing connects to the phone using internal Bluetooth - and we've never had any issues with the housing disconnecting. Bluetooth control also means no shutter lag!
- This housing is not compatible with strobes, so you will need to use underwater video lights to bring color back into your photos and video
- Smartphones are the only tools that can post immediately to social media after a dive!
All of our photos and video were captured using the SeaLife Sea Dragon 5000F video light. It's a great light, but we found that it might even be a little too much power for a small system like this in the dark waters of the Eastern Pacific. We recommend the SeaLife SportDiver Pro 2500 set if you want to bring back color into your content. And with that, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the incredible content captured with the SportDiver smartphone housing.
U.S. MSRP: $349.95
SeaLife SportDiver Housing Overview Video
Order Your SportDiver Underwater Smartphone Housing Now at Bluewater Photo!
- Smartphone controlled through FREE app for iPhone or Android
- Compatible with most Android models & iPhone 7 and up - check your compatibility here
- Depth Rating: 130 ft/40m
- Housing connects to phone using bluetooth wireless technology
- Vacuum pressure alarm to detect leaks before getting in the water
- Internal moisture alarm (audible and visual)
- External red color correction filter
- RAW photo capture capability
- Controls include zoom, lens selection, exposure, focus, white balance, tint, and background blur
- Four easy to use buttons, and one large shutter button to takes photos and video
Reefscene Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing
How It Works
You may be wondering how you'll be able to use your smartphone's touchscreen underwater with the SportDiver housing. Unfortunately, you can't. But the SportDiver comes with the perfect in-house solution. The phone is controlled with four simple external buttons on the housing and a large, ergonomic shutter button that you press to capture a photo or video. The buttons activate a wireless bluetooth signal that runs from the housing to the phone. When you open the SportDiver app (see features section to download) on your phone, the app will read the bluetooth signal coming from the housing and allow you to control your smartphone.
Compatibility (Phones and Features)
The SeaLife SportDiver underwater smartphone housing is compatible with most smartphones on the market. The easiest way to check if your smartphone is compatible is to click this link. The housing is compatible with most higher-end smartphones that have triple or dual lens cameras. However, it's important to note that the android app does not yet support the telephoto lens. Therefore, you are going to get better macro and close up photos with an iphone. With an Android phone you can still get pretty close (as you can see in the photo we captured below), but you'll need to use your wider lenses. The app also has additional features for controlling the camera on your smartphone. Much like a higher end camera, you will be able to control the zoom, white balance, tint, background blur and more. The app does not have full manual control, but it does allow you to capture RAW photos in case you want to do additional editing in Lightroom.
A Small Anemone (about four inches in diameter) Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing in the Cold Water of the Pacific Northwest
Keeping Your Phone Safe
We love the SeaLife SportDiver underwater smartphone housing because it's one of the safest smartphone housing options on the market. At no point during our underwater tests did we feel like we had to worry about our phone. The housing itself is made with a sturdy polycarbonate material that hardly scratched during intense days of back-to-back beach dives. But more importantly, the housing is designed so that you know if there are problems even before getting in the water. When you mount your phone in the housing, you will need to vacuum the system with an included vacuum pump. The housing will automatically "lock" and test the vacuum for five minutes. After testing the vacuum, it will tell you that it is safe to get in the water. While underwater, there is a secondary layer of safety. In the rare event that water was to get in the housing, a built-in moisture alarm will produce an audio-visual signal to alert you to any water in the housing. With most smartphones having at least a little bit of weather sealing (if not full waterproofing), it's unlikely that a few drops of water would damage a phone. But again, we never once saw any drops in the housing - and we did some deep dives with it down to 100 ft.
Our Thoughts on the SeaLife SportDiver Housing for Underwater Photography & Video
The quality of the content you capture is really dependant on the capabilities of the phone you carry. While the smartphone app does do a lot to improve your underwater photos and videos, and we love being able to shoot in RAW, a better smartphone will yield better results. But given that the majority of the population has a smartphone, the SportDiver housing is an incredibly affordable way to capture underwater photos and videos. For just $300 for the housing, the content produced from modern cellphones is far beyond what could have been created with a far more expensive compact camera system even a few years ago. With a higher-end phone, like the Galaxy S20 or the iPhone 12, the photos with the SportDiver are almost comparable to the Olympus TG-6 or Canon G7X Mark III! While both of these compact cameras are slightly better options for macro underwater photography, smartphones do surprisingly well when it comes to wide angle photography. Despite the small sensor size, we thought our photos had nice dynamic range and detail. We did notice that some of our wider images had soft corners in low light.
Anemone Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing in the Cold Water of the Pacific Northwest
It's important to note that the SportDiver app does not allow you to shoot manual photos. So if you want to learn underwater photography and hope to upgrade to a new system, you may want to consider a compact camera like the Canon G7X Mark III. But if you want something that's easy to use and has a little bit of control, we loved the small adjustments we were able to make with the SportDiver housing. Overall, the app was pretty accurate when it came to white balance. But it was nice to make small adjustments in the zoom and switch lenses for different fields of view.
If you want color in your underwater photos & video, you will need an underwater video light. The Pro 2500 set is a great option as it comes with a tray and flex arm. A light introduces white light back into your scene so that warmer colors that are lost at depth come back into your photo. The housing is not compatible with an underwater strobe, so if you want to do strobe photography, you will need a compact camera. We were pretty happy using a video light with our smartphone. Because the water was a little dark and murky, we never felt like we need more than 5000 lumens, even for wide angle photos.
Overall, we really didn't have many complaints about the SportDiver housing. Our one main complaint would be that without a video light, the housing is buoyant. While this is good if you accidentally drop it overboard, it can be annoying underwater. It doesn't float very fast, but when you clip it to your BC, be aware that it will float up. This is all solved if you get a light and tray with the housing (which we highly recommend).
Who Should Buy This Housing?
- Divers looking for the most affordable option to capture quality photos and video underwater
- Divers that want to immediately upload their content to social media
- Beginner underwater photo and video shooters
- Divers that want a back up camera option
The SportDiver Smartphone housing is an excellent option for bringing your smartphone underwater to capture photos and video. It's also a future-proof investment. SeaLife is continuously improving their app and adding new features. Without the need for a hardware update, anytime they upgrade the app, you'll get an upgrade yourself! But most importantly, smartphones continue to produce incredible photos and video. If you need the most affordable, best bang-for-the-buck system to bring underwater, you can't go wrong with the SportDiver.
Sculpin Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing in the Cold Water of the Pacific Northwest
Sample Underwater Video
Order Your SeaLife SportDiver Underwater Smartphone Housing Now at Bluewater Photo!
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