Underwater Photo Gear

This page highlights the underwater photo gear I’m using to create photos and videos. I’ve spent many years and thousands of hours experimenting with gear and learning what works for me.

You’ll notice that my kit is a bit different from many serious underwater photographers and that it’s not necessarily the top-of-the-line gear. I don’t own the latest accessories. Value and versatility have shaped my kit through the last decade, and I’ve slowly upgraded my gear with money earned directly through photography.

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 emphasis during photo workshops and in the tutorials on this site (once we move through the basics).

Want help deciding which camera gear is best for you?

Email me!

blue rockfish in channel islands kelp forest
Blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) swim through a kelp forest in California’s Channel Islands.
Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 16-35 f/4.
underwater camera housing gear

My Underwater Camera Gear

While I have shot many different camera and housing systems underwater, I opt for 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.

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Canon 5D Mk IV:  My underwater camera workhorse. Photo, video, beautiful color tones, fast autofocus – I love it. Learn more about the 5DIV.

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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.

Read my 2019 guide to the best Cameras for Underwater Photography.

canon-16-35mm-f4L-lens

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’ve been preferring 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 of the 16-35, but they are significantly more expensive and heavier with negligible differences in image quality. The f/4 gets the same number of magazine covers and contest wins, so that’s good enough for me!

In addition, the Canon 16-35mm f/4 version uses 77mm filters (instead of 82mm like the f/2.8s), which I’ve long been invested in.

Learn more about this lens.

Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens: I just picked this up again after a couple years shooting only the 16-35mm f/4 above. Big plans in the works for 2019 that will benefit from use of this lens and Sea & Sea’s Optical Dome Port II 100. Learn more.

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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, plus product shots, portraits and more. Another workhorse. Learn more.

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Canon EF 24-105mm 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.

sea & sea mdx-5dmkiv housing

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 Sea & Sea’s ergonomics, control design and overall handling. As a bonus, this housing fits the 5DIV, 5DIII, and 5DS and 5DS R. Learn more.

RELATED: Underwater Housing Maintenance video tutorial

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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.Learn more.

On dive trips, I also bring an older YS-D1 as a backup.

RELATED: 2019 Underwater Strobe Comparison

sola video pro le underwater light

Light & Motion Sola Video Pro LE:  Compact, light and packing 3800 lumens, these lights rock! I’ve just started using two of them and notice the smooth, even 100 degree beam diffused with a dome port optic. The mode switch is incredibly easy to operate with a single hand. They also charge fast. Learn more.

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Kraken Hydra 5000: More workhorses. 5000 lumens with flood, spot, red and UV beams make these a versatile tool for photo and video. They have removable batteries, so you can keep shooting all day if you purchase extras. These Hydra 5000s are discontinued, but check out the new 5000S+ version. Learn more.

focus-light-for-underwater-macro

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. This isn’t available anymore, but here’s the updated V12 version.

reefnet-subsee-diopter-for-macro

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 Sea & Sea 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-camera-tripod-for-video

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!

More Gear Articles & Videos!

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Packing Underwater Photo Gear: Learn how I pack my camera gear for dive trips, including specific bag recommendations.

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Underwater Housing Maintenance: Tips & tricks for o-ring care, avoiding floods, and keeping your housing working like new.

beach diving gear

Beach Diving Gear: Learn how I rig my DSLR housing and strobe system for hands-free beach diving.

underwater camera gear maintenance
Charging batteries and servicing my underwater camera gear on assignment.
Papua New Guinea 2014.