This page highlights some of the underwater photo gear I’m using to create photos and videos (almost) live from the ocean. I’ve spent many years and thousands of hours experimenting with gear and learning what works for me. That’s personal preference, of course, and why I’ll be adding companion articles to this page highlighting the best underwater photo gear for all budget levels.
The most important thing to know is that you can create great photos with any camera. Understanding the basic principals of photography (the logic behind those default underwater photo settings) and how to shoot your gear in conditions where it delivers the best results will make all the difference in creating great imagery. This is my emphases during photo workshops once we move through the basics.
Want help deciding which camera gear is best for you?
Do You Travel? Read Packing Underwater Photo Gear
My Underwater Camera Gear
While I have shot many different camera and housing systems underwater, I own a DSLR kit. Of course, if money were no issue, I’d also have a mirrorless setup for mid-range shooting plus a slew of other lenses, ports and cool accessories. The gear below is what I use for all underwater photo and video these days.
Canon 5D Mk IV: My underwater camera workhorse. Photo, video, beautiful color tones, fast autofocus – I love it. Learn more.
Canon 5D Mk III: I still shoot this camera for most seascapes so that the 5DIV doesn’t take as much abuse from the salt. This camera is always in my hand when the 5DIV is inside the housing, ensuring I never miss the topside action. It also fits in my 5DIV housing, serving as a backup body for assignments.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Wide-Angle Lens: I’m all about optimization. This lens handles everything wide-angle underwater, as well as landscapes and seascapes above the surface. I prefer this rectilinear wide-angle lens over a fisheye underwater since I find it easier to control backscatter while California beach diving in less than ideal conditions. There are more expensive f/2.8L versions, but they are significantly more expensive and heavier with negligible differences in image quality. This f/4 version also uses 77mm filters (instead of 82mm), which I’ve long been invested in. Learn more.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens: The crispest in the business. This lens is tack sharp and used on all of my underwater macro video and photos. Learn more.
Canon EF 25-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens: I don’t use this lens underwater, but it’s on my surface camera any time the 16-35mm isn’t. It’s a nice versatile zoom and I find it’s much better for travel than the popular 24-70mm due to the lighter weight and extra zoom range. Canon has since released a Version II that I’ve linked. Learn More.
Sea & Sea MDX-5DMkIV Housing: This is the first Sea & Sea housing I’ve purchased, and it’s living up to the abuse I put on underwater photography gear. All housings have pros and cons compared to others in class, but I’m loving this housing. As a bonus, it fits the 5DIV, 5DIII, and 5DS and 5DS R. Learn more.
Sea & Sea YS-D2 Strobe: These underwater strobes are more than enough for macro and wide-angle. I have two of them. Strobes are one area where I always recommend spending more cash – if you can spend a bit more for more powerful strobes like the YS-D2s, you’ll find it’s well worth it on any camera and when you upgrade later on. On dive trips, I also bring an older YS-D1 as a backup. Sea & Sea has since released the YS-D2J that I’ve linked. Learn more.
Kraken Hydra 5000 Video Light: I have the older version, but you can check out the newest version – the Hydra 5000+ video light. I use two of the 5000s for all my underwater video footage requiring artificial light. The new 5000+ model has the wide video flood light, narrow dive spot beam, red light for focusing on seahorses and crustaceans at night (*ask me why), and blue/uv light for fluoro diving.
I-Torch V10 Focus Light: Small, powerful and affordable, with white and red beams. This is all you need as an underwater macro focus light. Learn more.
ReefNet SubSee +10 Diopter: This magnifier opens up the world of supermacro photo and video. I’m not hardcore about shooting the really small stuff (if I was, I would use a crop sensor camera instead of full frame), but still consider this diopter essential on any macro dive. It has 67mm threads so that I can screw it on and off my macro port as needed. Learn more.
If you have the budget, a flip adapter eliminates all the screwing on and off, allowing you to flip the diopter up and down easily.
Underwater Video Tripod: I made this myself. It’s a rotating collar that goes over the macro port, allowing me to easily pan up and down, plus rotate the collar for regular horizontal shooting or vertical shooting for Instagram story video. Check out my video How to Build an Underwater Video Tripod to see how I made this one!
Dive Travel! Learn how I pack my camera gear and the bags I use to do it in:
Be sure to read:
Check out my video on Underwater Housing Maintenance
Curious about beach diving with a camera? Here’s my Beach Diving Gear
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