Are you the adventurous type? Like to be one with the mud? Want to get great underwater snorkel shots? Don't mind getting wet, gritty, dusty, and dirty? These protective cases for your fragile mobile devices and digital cameras, are designed for you.
The latest generation of smart phones and compact digital cameras are pretty cool devices that are getting cooler with each new product announcement, but there's one design feature that, I think, is kinda dumb. These gadgets are filled with electronics that would be destroyed if they come in contact with water. And yet, they are, with few exceptions, not protected against water damage.
Even worse: Some brands' warrantees don't cover water damage! If you get caught in a downpour, too bad. Dropped it in the toilet while, er, texting? You're on your own, buddy. With replacement phones costing hundreds of dollars, it pays to have protection.
So, if you're the adventurous type, what are your options?
There are two ways you can go about making sure your camera (on a cell phone or stand-alone) will keep working if it has been splashed: Buy a waterproof camera (see this Waterproof Camera buying guide), or buy a protective case for your smart phone or non-waterproof camera. The advantage of buying a case is that it's a lot less expensive than buying a specifically waterproof camera or switching to a waterproof smart phone.
(Waterproof, by the way, does not mean you can take your gadget underwater. For that, you would specifically need to look for cases that are rated to be submerged.)
TIP: If you buy a waterproof case and the manufacturer says it is submergeable, test this out beforehand by stuffing it with paper towels, taking the case as deep as you plan to go with your camera. Then bring it up to the surface, dry off the outside, and open it up. If the paper towels are dry, you're good to go. If not, return it!
Let's look at all of the choices and specific products you can buy at Adorama to protect your digital investment. (Prices are accurate as of August 7, 2014)
Waterproof cases for compact digital cameras
Finally, what if you already own a compact digital camera or DSLR that's not ruggedized, and you want to take it below the waves? We've got cases!
While there are numerous waterproof/underwater cases designed for specific digital camera models which you can find at Adorama, I selected these three cases because they are more universal in design and can be used for many cameras within a certain size range. The advantage is that these cameras are less expensive, and the ones rated to work underwater are fine for pool and snorkeling.
• Save the case as you upgrade camera
• You can use zoom lenses
• Some cameras that fit in these cases have large sensors and deliver near-pro image quality
• Costs less to buy a waterproof case than an underwater camera
• It's another gadget to carry...plus a case
• Cases fitted to specific camera models are more expensive
My Aqua Case 6810, Large Underwater Case
Adorama price: $14.95
This case is designed for low-cost, compact digital cameras, and is good protection for rain and sand. It also can be submerged, but based on user feedback we suggest pool or snorkeling use, nothing deeper than around 5-10 feet. Available in Green or Pink.
DiCAPac WPS10 Waterproof Case for DSLRs
Adorama Price: $62.50
Claimed to be usable underwater down to around 16 feet (according to JIS IPX8 requirements), the DiCAPac WPS10 is designed for DSLRs with wide-angle lenses. It is sealed via an easy to open and close Roll Velcro zipper system, it features a UV-coated polycarbonate lens window. Controls are accessed via a built-in finger sleeve. User suggestion: Be sure to keep the lens window clean!
Kaiser Universal Underwater Digicam WaveCase
Adorama price: $27.95
A submergable case that floats safely if dropped in water, the Kaiser WaveCase accepts any camera with measurements up to 4.2x2.2x1 inch, and a zoom lens that extends no more than 18mm, or 0.7 inches. It has a protective hard-foam frame and removable hard-foam elements that hold different sized cameras in place, and a clear scratch-resistant coating on the lens side allows for clear shooting, while a flexible silicon foil covering lets you easily see the LCD.
Waterproof cases for smart phones
• No need to buy an expensive specialized camera
• Immediate image sharing capabilities
• Most let you operate touch screen through housing
• Keep the armored case on at all times to protect expensive device
• Most smart phones don’t zoom
• Limited feature set
• Resolution not as good as many stand-alone cameras
Aquapac 108 Mini Whanganui Electronics Case for iPhone
Adorama price: $25.95
While you don't want to dunk this below the surface, this case offers great protection against wind and accidental drops into water (it floats). A patented injection-moulded plastic seal opens and closes with a twist of two levers, protecting your iPhone from dust, dirt, sand and of course, liquid invaders. It allows you to operate any touchscreen device (phone, camera, whatever) through the case. The company says that when using a cell phone you can talk and hear with no problem.
OtterBox Armor Series Waterproof Case for iPhone 5
Adorama price: $49.95
OtterBox is well known for protecting iPhones against bangs and bruises which it is built to absorb, and this version is completely sealed against splashes. A built-in screen protector lets you use the touch screen while fulling protecting it. This case, while waterproof, is not submergeable.
DiCAPac WP-C1 Waterproof Smartphone Case
Adorama price: $19.95
With the growing popularity of Android and Windows 8, the world of non-Apple smart phone accessories is expanding. The DiCAPac WP-C1 provides underwater protection for Samsung, LG, HTC, Blackberry, Nokia and other smart phones up to 4.7 inches. It floats with your phone in it, and is waterproof to 10 meters.