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Ix4224

What to look for in a housing when buying used?

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Hi,

I recently got scuba certified in mid August and am really enjoying it! I borrowed a friend's GoPro at the time as my first experience with UW photography but am now looking into getting a bit more serious in it. I'm already a fairly enthusiast photography normally (I shoot a Fuji X system) so have a good understanding of photography/photo equipment in general.

After doing some reading/research here, I've decided I'm going to start out with a compact system for UW, just to keep things simple, cost down, and lower weight for travel. I noticed there's a fairly active classified forum here, so was thinking of getting a housing used.

My main question here is what should I look out for/what questions should I ask a seller when buying a used housing? Anything particular I should be concerned about in terms of wear/tear or malfunctions? And how do I properly test it when I do receive to make sure everything works properly?

When doing research in UW housing, I've already read an important part of the housing are the O rings and making sure they're well maintained/lubed. What's the best way to maintain/maximize the longevity of the O ring? What's the best place to buy extras? And what lube do people recommend?

Thanks!

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O-rings are not rocket science, you need to make sure there are no hairs or grit on the ring that could hold the o-ring away from the sealing surface which could cause a leak.  The grease is used to ensure the o-ring can move in response to the external pressure and push up against the sealing surfaces, the pressure difference is what forms the seal.  O-rings need different types of grease depending on their composition and it is important to get this right as the wrong lube could cause the o-ring to swell and prevent proper sealing.  The simple answer is use the grease supplied by the manufacturer or there are universal greases that can be used on all o-rings for example tribolube-71.

As to what to get some research will help match the housing to what you want to shoot.  Typical compacts (1" compacts such as RX-100 G7X series etc) don't go all that wide or do that great at macro and benefit from wet lens to get a wide view or macro diopters to focus closer and it's important to get a housing that will work well with the wet lenses you are interested in.  The problem is some of these lenses change length quite a bit when zooming so in some cases are too far away from the port and vignette meaning you need to zoom in and lose angel of view or for the macro end can't zoom all the way out or the focal length is too short limiting close focusing ability.

In looking at used housings age is a factor, the older the are the more chance for wear and tear generally.  Generally if a housing looks decent cosmetically it has probably been treated well.  Concerns will include failure of control o-rings which are not easily user serviceable.  Closely inspecting the main o-ring when you get it is a good start , beyond that getting a housing with a vacuum test/alarm system to check for leaks prior to diving is good thing to look for.  If you have any doubt purchase a new o-ring - they are not that expensive.  Any of the UW camera retailers will have spares for the main o-ring if they sell the brand you purchase.

I would also suggest getting a housing brand that is locally represented for ease of parts supply and purchase of accessories and a mainstream housing as well.   You can of course order things from overseas but having a local representative if possible will be a good point.   We do see people trying to source parts for obscure brand housings and it can be difficult - best to get something where spares are readily available. 

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Super advice from Chris.

A couple of additional thoughts: the value/cost of a second hand housing plummets probably as badly - if not worse - than the value of a new car. You can reckon on paying about 25%-35% of the new purchase price for a housing that is around 3-4 years old especially if the camera model has been superseded. So there are real bargains to be had if you are not determined to have the latest technology/model.

As you have probably read in other posts, the cost of the housing and camera body whilst important do not paint the whole picture. So think about the longer term and the aim of your pics. The "add-ons": strobes, arms, viewfinders, lens, ports  etc add a significant amount to the cost of your setup. So plan ahead. If you want to start with compact (and fair enough) will you be hankering after an SLR-based systems after 12 months? If so, how much of what you are planning to buy is recyclable to another system?

My experience of Wetpixel Classifieds has been consistently good in terms of purchases and sales. You can get some really good deals from honest, caring members who have looked after their gear extremely well. Have a look how long someone has been a member and how many posts have they made. Do they have a record of good sales? As Chris says, have a good look at the photos. Does the equipment look well cared for an in good condition. Has the housing been flooded? Serviced? Dinged? Again as Chris says, how obtainable are the parts in your area? If you go with one of the high-end housing manufacturers (say Nauticam, Subal, Aquatica.....) they are very well built and problems are relatively rare if the equipment has been maintained properly. 

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Thanks so much for the info/tips Chris and Tom!

I think I'll be okay with a compact system for now. While I understand that interchangeable lens systems will offer better quality, the size/weight are big concerns when traveling. I'd prefer not having most of my luggage dedicated to just UW camera equipment. The note about add-ons is good though; I'll keep that in mind.

And dumb question, what's a "control o-ring"?  

 

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27 minutes ago, Ix4224 said:

And dumb question, what's a "control o-ring"?  

 

Each of the control buttons that penetrates the case of the housing is sealed with a small o-ring.  Eventually these need to be changed out due to wear and just plain age.

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Ah got it.

And how do you actually get a control o-ring replaced? Do send a housing in to get serviced?

And generally, when do you send in housings to be serviced? Is it just when things break? Or is there a recommended checkup thing after a certain number of dives?

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1 hour ago, Ix4224 said:

Ah got it.

And how do you actually get a control o-ring replaced? Do send a housing in to get serviced?

And generally, when do you send in housings to be serviced? Is it just when things break? Or is there a recommended checkup thing after a certain number of dives?

Yes you get it serviced.  some people do it themselves as well, but it's fiddly work.  Some people get them serviced regularly, some don't unless there's a problem.  If you look after the housing well - soak it after each dive session and exercise all the buttons to get the salt water out it should last a along time.  If the salt water dries out it leaves salt crystals which eventually will damage o-rings, it also gets very corrosive as it evaporates.

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Thanks everyone for their help on this! I ended up buying a used housing and have a few more questions about it.

I bought a used Sony RX100 VII separately and the equivalent Nauticam housing with the vacuum system from the Classified forum here (great experience btw). I followed all of you guys' suggestions of checking the housings + o rings and everything looks good/functional.  I have a few more questions about testing the housing.

I first tried the vacuum system at home and left it on overnight and it did not appear to have any leaking issues. I then took the housing to my local pool (that goes down to 12ft deep) and played around with it in the water for about 40min: first without the camera to check for leaks and then with the camera and did not encounter any issues.

A few questions here:

  1. Is that a reasonable test to make sure nothing major is wrong with the housing? I understand things can change as I go deeper + o rings can wear out. But is there anything else that's reasonable for me to do other than actually taking it out on a dive?
  2. When I took the housing for the first time, I was initially surprised at some bubbles coming from the housing, near the connection to the lens port connection area. Nothing actually leaked though. It seemed like the bubbles mainly showed up at the beginning and did not continue after a minute or so. However, I did see some bubbles "lingering" near the port.  Is that normal?
  3. I realize handling the setup UW during a real scuba might be more difficult, especially making sure I don't drop/lose anything. I've seen online you can get lanyards/handle straps for the housing. Is that generally what people use? And any recommendations?
  4. Any other general accessories you recommend having?

Thanks!

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2 hours ago, Ix4224 said:

Is that a reasonable test to make sure nothing major is wrong with the housing? I understand things can change as I go deeper + o rings can wear out. But is there anything else that's reasonable for me to do other than actually taking it out on a dive? 

In general, it's a good idea to take a housing on a full dive without a camera inside at the start of a trip, whether it's new, used, or just has been sitting dry for a while.

2 hours ago, Ix4224 said:

When I took the housing for the first time, I was initially surprised at some bubbles coming from the housing, near the connection to the lens port connection area. Nothing actually leaked though. It seemed like the bubbles mainly showed up at the beginning and did not continue after a minute or so. However, I did see some bubbles "lingering" near the port.  Is that normal?

I'm not familiar with that specific housing, but in general, there are quite a few places where a bit of air can get trapped as you splash down, and then gradually get squeezed out by the pressure. This is normal.

2 hours ago, Ix4224 said:

I realize handling the setup UW during a real scuba might be more difficult, especially making sure I don't drop/lose anything. I've seen online you can get lanyards/handle straps for the housing. Is that generally what people use? And any recommendations?

Look for bolt snaps rather than carabiner loops as attachment points, example. If you have your housing mounted on a tray with handles, a braided cord handle that attaches on top of the rig is a convenient way to carry it around and pass it from/to the boat deck, example.

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Good advice from Barmaglot.

It’s worth a first dive without camera just to check out the housing. Generally if you use the vacuum valve pre-dive and after 20 mins there’s no indication of a leak, you’re good to go. And, yes, a few small bubbles are not unusual especially around the port mount. A stream of bubbles is a different thing! But the vacuum system should alert you to a real leak  

Some sort of quick release connection between you and the housing is a good idea They’re really easy to make: a couple of carabiners and some Paracord  Have a look for the Cobra knot on YouTube and you can make what ever colour and length you want in about 20 minutes. And it costs pennies. 

Have a great time with your new system :good:

 

 

IMG_1748.jpg

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I would add to what Tim says, that if you are going to dive without the camera to test, to make it worthwhile exercise every button and dial.  O-rings seal better at depth and if it passes the vacuum test at the surface the only way it's really going to flood is to have an o-ring hangup when you use a control, or a control rod with corrosion or something like that allows the seal developed by the o-ring to be disturbed. 

The vacuum system is really a test to see that you haven't introduced a problem like hair across an o-ring.  To be effective it needs time to set off the alarm if there is a leak that is very slow.  You need a reasonable volume of water to leak in to set the vacuum alarm off and you would probably first alerted by moisture sensor.  So test that is working as well - just place a slightly damp finger across the two wires on the sensor to test it - it should alarm instantly.  The reason is that enough water needs to leak in to increase the pressure inside the housing to set the vacuum alarm off and that's more than the few drops needed to set off the moisture alarm.

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