I use Sony a6000 as my primary underwater camera. It is 24.3MP so I can easily compose in editing. The kit lens is sharp and shoots wide. The Sony shoots in RAW, necessary for white balance and editing after the fact. It has very fast autofocus which can keep up with my subjects as well as three continuous shooting speeds. But, the primary reason I went with the a6000 over any other model was because I was able to purchase an underwater hard case for the camera for around $200.
I selected the Neewer 40m/130ft Underwater Housing. Amazon also has an identical Meikon branded case. They are not too bulky, but with this case, the camera must be used in live view (Monitor-only mode) as the case triggers the sensor next to the viewfinder. It has easy access to all the controls and comes with a sensor that lights up and squawks if any moisture gets into the case. It is very well built and secure. I’m not going to be focusing on the design of the case in this article, but how I use it.
In the Surf
There are a few downsides to this case. Unlike a lot of expensive underwater cases, The Neewer case doesn’t have a domed glass front. This becomes a problem when water beads don’t roll off the glass. As you can see in these images, the water droplets are highly visible when combined with the glare from the setting sun.
Since I primarily shoot fully underwater, this typically isn’t a problem, but it became one when I was doing surf photography. A simple solution is to spit on the glass and wipe. For these images, I didn’t mind the flare of the water combined with the sun, but if you require really clean images at the surface of the water, this case might not be the ideal solution.
The a6000 has a more sensitive Autofocus than I have grown used to with my Canon bodies used in live view. It is a struggle to use the camera with certain autofocus modes while on the surface of the water. I thought automatic or continuous autofocus would be the way to go, with the wide or zone focus areas selected. I was wrong. With the Sony a6000, it was so very good at picking up the waves in front of my subject, and not the surfer.
I had to adjust my settings to Continuous AF, but with the focus area set to a flexible spot. I got used to framing my subject in a certain way to catch that spot. It wasn’t impossible to change focus points in the water, but it wasn’t easy. I would keep my images composed using the same point for a few minutes at a time.
A Good Buy
Once I nailed down those few changes, I feel very comfortable and confident that I can get quality images using the a6000 and the Neewer case in the surf. For an entire set up at less than $900 total, I really couldn’t be happier. I don’t dive deep, and I don’t need to use external lighting control with my underwater work. So, I’m willing to put up with the few downsides to this combination as the quality combined with the price can’t be beat.
Erika Thornes is a San Diego photographer who spends countless evenings at the beach. She captures life as it unfolds, especially near the water, above or below. She has been recognized as a leader in silhouette photography, teaching others how to convey emotion and a story through their images. Erika is an author on Lynda.com a contributor to The Photoshop Show, as well as This Week in Photo, and was the featured gallery artist for the Google+ Moment that Matter gallery show in San Francisco.
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