Have Kayaks, Will Travel.
Up until now, most of the photos we took on the water in dynamic conditions were shot with small waterproof cameras like the Nikon coolpix aw110. It’s a very good camera, but it simply doesn’t provide the features and photo quality of the the DSLRs we use on land (and, occasionally, on the water in calmer conditions). Early this summer we learned about a new product that allows us to use our DSLR on the water without worrying about it or the lenses getting damp. The Outex system is comprised of a soft latex camera cover, optical glass lens, and a viewfinder or LCD screen lens. The camera cover is sized to fit specific cameras and a range of lenses. You then choose an Outex optical lens that fits the diameter of your lens and screws into the filter threads. The latex cover fits over this and is sandwiched by a washer and threaded ring that fit over the optical lens.
At the back of the camera, you can choose a simple viewfinder lens or the larger lens that allows you to see the viewfinder and LCD screen. We choose the later to enable us to shoot video as well as review photos on the spot. Either way, this cover slips onto your existing eyepiece and seals in the same manner as the front cover. The final step of assembly is to install a strap to hold onto the camera. Outex offers a neck strap and a wrist strap. We choose the wrist strap because it’s impractical to paddle with a full-size DSLR hanging over your PFD. That’s it! The brilliance of this system is that it isn’t bulky, heavy or expensive like a traditional hard housing. You can operate camera controls easily through the flexible latex (though you can’t see them, so you will have to do so by memory). So how does it work?
We have to admit that even though Outex rates this system to 30 feet, we were nervous at first. In fact, it has performed flawlessly. Here is what we have learned using this system so far:
Auto focus works most of the time with the cover on (though it sometimes has a hard time in lower light without the auto focus light).
Because of the depth of the lens ring, there is some vignetting when using wide angle lenses.
On our Nikon D90, the big LCD lens on the back of the camera can make it difficult to operate all of the controls on the back of the camera.
The wrist strap system is very comfortable and secure. We wish the strap was a bit longer; 12 more inches would make a normal forward stroke easier with the camera at the ready in your lap. Practice capsizing with this system if you are going to be using it on the water. Rolling worked fine for us, but your camera and lens may get knocked against your boat.
Depending on your comfort and balance, this system is great in rough water. But unlike point and shoot cameras, a DSLR requires both hands and is heavy, and if you use a zoom lens or telephoto lens it can throw off your balance (due to a loss of depth perception). For these reasons, it won’t completely replace our small, one-hand-operation waterproof cameras.
The whole system is modular. This means that if you puncture a cover or change cameras, all you have to buy is a new latex cover. The Outex website has a very friendly shopping system that will help you to choose the right parts for the camera and lens your have.
How much does it cost? Depending on the options you choose, the basic setup for a Nikon D-90 runs about $330.
Overall we are very happy with what the Outex system does for us. It does take some practice, but it allows you to bring the image quality and shooting options of a DSLR on to the water.
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