A review and article by Paul Toma.
My experience while using the OUTEX underwater housing. Also my first underwater housing.
Before I start, I should mention that all of the photos in this article(including the cover) were made using the Outex housing. If I can, I will try to write what settings and combo I used for each one and what different editing techniques I used.
I got in contact with Outex a few years ago when I decided to try underwater photos for the first time. It was just one month before my first trip to the Maldives (now on 4th) and was dead set to get into this amazing art.
As most of you know, when you have no clue what gear you need, you start setting some rules to help your decision and then google, google and google some more.
And I stumbled upon Outex on the 2nd day.
Outex was founded by JR deSouza, a former Olympic swimmer, now businessman, with a strong background in corporate sales, marketing & licensing... a proper executive "suit". He noticed an opportunity in the underwater housings used by professionals and regular consumers and decided to make a change.
Ok back to my story...
I was looking for something that needed to fit as many points from the following criteria:
- Relatively inexpensive ✔check
- Universal Fit if possible or at least upgradable ✔check (universal)
- Work underwater without issues (just like a GoPro) ✔check
- A maximum depth of 10m/33ft would do (just like a GoPro) ✔check
- Image quality better than a GoPro ✔check (main camera)
- Be able to make the over/under shots(with the waterline in the middle...just like the cover photo) ✔check
- On the small size if possible ✔check (SMALLEST!)
- Access to as many controls as possible ✔check(all)
Now I had a few questions for the gear that I used to own back then and planned to use... a SONY A7II & Samyang 14mm f2.8.
I reached out to them and they quickly responded... and indeed they had exactly what I needed. Just before my trip started, I had all that I needed.
- The rubber cover
- A flat port for regular lenses that have a filter thread
- A small 5" dome with the needed accessories to fit my lens (Samyang 14mm 2.8)
- The back viewing glass for the cover
Outex advanced a lot since then and released a lot of new products...larger domes, transparent covers, grips... etc.
If you decide to give Outex a try, you should start with these steps and then contact them if you have questions.
1. How it Works
2. Frequent Answers and Questions
Here's how Outex looks:
Large Dome... taking split shots with this glass dome is a piece of cake.
Ok, back to my story and my first underwater photos...
The hardest part when using Outex will be putting it on. As such, you should fit your camera before going out and make sure your battery is at 100%. You can't change the batteries underwater. Putting the cover completely on will vary in difficulty depending on your kit, but it should not take you more than a couple of minutes even if you have a dome kit.
After usage make sure you rinse the cover with tap water just like you should do with any other underwater housing.
Ok, ok... back to my photos. Here are THE first underwater photos I shot with the Outex(5" dome) + Sony A7II + Samyang 14mm f2.8(Manual Focus)
ISO 250 / f22 / Shutter 1/125 - The photo looks ok, but now I would have raised the ISO a little to make it brighter, also the underwater colors are not corrected
ISO 100 / f22/ Shutter 1/125 - Sad attempt at over/under but please imagine riding the jetski in these waters. What is interesting here is the strait line made by the water on the very small 5" dome.
Ok, this was Day #1 ... lessons learned... here comes the results from the next days.
The most important thing I learned here was that using a manual focus lens underwater was a bad idea. Contrary to beginner beliefs, f22 is not that sharp and everything ISN't in focus.
So next, I changed the Samyang 14mm 2.8 with the Canon 14mm 2.8 II + Metabones (EF to FE) adapter. That should solve a lot of problems... and allow me to play with different apertures.
And here is the result from a trip to El Nido, Philippines. So same gear as above, but with the Canon lens now.
ISO 250 / f14 / Shutter 1/160 - Much better, and that f14....makes that beautiful bokeh above the water.
ISO 250 / f14 / Shutter 1/160 - Amazing reedit of one of my most appreciated photos to date. Originally a landscape photo(featured by National Geographic and 500px) was transformed to fit a regular Instagram ratio.
ISO 640 / f14 / Shutter 1/160 - One of my most appreciated photos to date. The Sony A7II was not famous for extreme low ISO quality but it could hold. I also could have done a better color correction...maybe in the future. Shot just in front of El Nido Miniloc Resort.
ISO 800/ f9 / Shutter 1/250 - To deal with faster moving subjects, increase ISO and lower aperture number.
Again, shot just in front of El Nido Miniloc Resort
After this, I decided to finally try the fish-eye lens. So I purchased a Canon 15mm 2.8 fisheye. Fisheye lenses offer increased sharpness underwater at the "cost" of the fisheye effect. In the end... everyone decides for themselves what they want.
The Outex system is very capable and has only one obvious downside that is applicable to only 1% of the professional photographers. The "Rig" is as tough as the camera body and lens... because it does not have a hard case shell... BUT it also does not have all the disadvantages of the hard case. I would recommend going with the largest dome possible if you're planning on doing over/under shots. Sure, you can work with the smaller 5" like I did, but you'll have a much higher success rate with the bigger dome.
As for the flat ports, get a 77mm or 82mm one and then use filter adapter rings that are extremely inexpensive.
Oh...forgot to mention... I'm also part of the community ambassadors and one of the earliest adopters. 🤙
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