If you have read some of my previous reviews or my profile page you will know that I love travelling. This and a lifelong fascination with the ocean always caused me a lot of disappointment when I was not able to take pictures of colourful coral gardens, majestic sharks and pretty fish on any of my recent trips. Looking online for a solution I found several fitting underwater cases for my camera - a standard Casio Exilim. Imagine my disappointment when seeing the price tag; with way over 100 pounds they were more expensive than my recent one-way flight to Indonesia.
Google-ing around a bit brought me on the Hama homepage - a producer of quality electro accessories for reasonable prices. The Outdoor and Underwater Case instantly caught my eye and I ordered one on Amazon right away. Unfortunately I could hardly find any reviews online and the price of 30 pounds seemed slightly too cheap to convince that this product would be a winner.
- - - - - - - - - Where, how much and for who? - - - - - - - - -
I bought this Underwater Case on Amazon for 30 odd pounds direct buy option. Unfortunately I haven´t seen it in any retail store which I would have preferred and it cannot be ordered directly from the Hama website. Ordering via Amazon is easy and if you have enough points you can use a dooyoo voucher to help paying towards your new purchase.
"For who" is easily answered here - if you enjoy outdoor photography you will love this camera bag. It will allow you to take underwater photos with a normal camera until a depth of 5 metres which should be enough for any snorkeling trip. I assume pressure would be too high on a diving trip but usually the instructors bring proper underwater cameras to get some unforgettable shots of you in a wet suit diving with barracudas.
Unfortunately it is not suitable for everyone´s needs. If you have a professional camera equipment please invest the extra money to get a "proper" underwater case. While this product is perfect for any everyday user with a standard camera it is not suitable for professional pictures. Most SLR cameras will be too big for the case and the lens might be too limited to produce an acceptable quality.
The integrated lens attachment enables zooming in the bag and the lens is so good that I never noticed any differences with or without bag - on land obviously. It also has an UV filter and the waterproof zip-fastener with additional hook and loop attachment will protect it safely from water, snow or sand.
- - - - - - - - - My experience with the Hama Outdoor and Underwater Case - - - - - - - - -
When the day finally came that the postman brought me my long-desired package from Amazon I couldn´t wait to try my new Underwater Camera Case. Firstly however, I was slightly surprised and a bit worried by the small size of the package. This effect actually worsened upon opening and my only thought was "This tiny thing is supposed to protect my camera on a whole year of travelling?" The underwater case is less of a case than a small plastic bag that honestly does not look very trustworthy. The PVC looks rather thin and the closing mechanism looks similar to the ones you find with ice cube bags.
All in all not a very promising start and I already wrote off my 30 pounds to be wasted on this gadget. But having bought it and actually looking forward to taking underwater pictures prompted me to at least test the case once and see whether it would work or not.
I tested the case on two occasions before taking it on holiday with me - one test in the sink to see if it would leak and one test to see the quality of the pictures and videos. Read through it and please repeat at least the first test to make sure that your Underwater Case is not faulty.
- - - - - - - - - The sink test - - - - - - - - -
As suggested in the instruction booklet my first test was in the sink - without actually putting my camera inside. Filling the plastic bag with toilet paper and taking special care to close it properly I was actually holding my breath while emerging it in the water. After a few seconds I got a bit braver and started to splash it around and squeeze it a bit.
Imagine how worried I was when I saw tiny air bubbles rising up, scattering all my dreams of colourful underwater pictures. Thank god, and yes I should have realized that before, the tiny bubbles were only trapped air on the outside of the case which was released while moving it around. Opening the closing mechanism is pretty easy but I would recommend drying the area before taking your camera out.
But back to the sink trail and it results. Opening the bag without getting a few drops of water on the camera (or in this case the paper) is nearly impossible. However, those few drops should not be a problem is you are careful.
Thankfully all the toilet paper stayed dry and I could instantly image myself taking the most amazing underwater pictures, possible becoming famous and making loads of money selling them - ok, a slight exaggeration here but those things are entirely possible in my daydreams. Having passed the first test and convincing me that the bag would not leak I couldn´t wait to see the quality of the pictures it would produce - which leads me to test No. 2: The river and lake test.
- - - - - - - - - The river test - - - - - - - -
Oh believe me, I was incredibly nervous when I went to the park on that day. It´s a lovely park with a little lake and a small stream - and the place for my first real test to see how well the Hama Case would work.
Emerging the camera into the lake was horrible; I was convinced that the bag would rip resulting in me losing my baby (yes, that´s my nickname for my camera). Luckily baby stayed right where it belonged and I was able to take some pictures. Doing so with the bag being under and me above the water can be quite tricky as you cannot really make out the exact position of the buttons. I had the feeling that I have to press harder on the buttons which is probably not really good for my camera and using the zoom was next to impossible. My zoom function is operated via a little wheel on the upper bit of my camera; through the relatively thick PVC it was quite difficult to use it accurately and after a while I settled for "not at all" or "as much as possible".
As there is practically no current whatsoever in the little lake I tried the camera in the adjoining stream where I instantly recognized the advantages of the little strap that is attached to the bag. My recommendation would be to tie the strap around your wrist while snorkeling, underwater currents are surprisingly strong and losing your camera would certainly spoil even the nicest holiday.
Taking my camera out of the bag - carefully of course to ensure that no water would come into contact with it - I was so curious to see the quality of the photos and the short video I took. Imagine my disappointment when all I saw was a green/brown blur that resembled a slice of bread that was forgotten in the cupboard for too long. After seeing about 10 variations of the same blur I was about to cry - no pretty pictures, no world-fame, nothing. The eleventh picture however showed crystal clear the rocky underground and the outline of a small fish. My boyfriend actually thought that I was crazy; he couldn't understand that this picture (which was still mainly brown) made me so happy. Ah well, he never understood my obsession with photography and fish anyway.
Giving it another try I realized that pictures and videos taken right in the current don´t come out well, the object has to be as still as possible and moving the camera around taking random shots is not going to get you any good results. With a bit of practice I managed to get some decent pictures of a quality I didn´t dare dreaming of.
Now everything was ready for my big trip to Indonesia and for our final test - the ocean test!
- - - - - - - - - The ocean test - - - - - - - - -
And here we go - a snorkeling trip to Indonesia and in my luggage - the Hama Outdoor and Underwater Case! Arriving at the Spice Islands was quite an adventure which took me from England to Malaysia; from there with another airplane to Markassa in Indonesia where I took a connection flight to Ambon. Right now I was already closer to Australia than to any of the big islands of Indonesia. From Ambon I still had a 1 day ferry trip before finally reaching my destination - the Banda Islands aka the Spice Islands where the British and the Dutch were fighting for exotic spices in the 16th century. Imagine my arrival like this: a stunning sunrise over a cluster of lush, green islands, in the middle of all a majestic volcano, dolphins following our boat swimming in water so clear that I soon began to see the first corals.
My guesthouse on Ay Island - the Green Coconut - is one of the loveliest places I ever stayed at. From my room I had the most stunning view on the crystal clear sea that is so unspoiled that this area is considered one of the best diving and snorkeling places in the whole world. The biodiversity is only comparable to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia and is the habitat of many species that can only be found here
Snorkeling in these unspoiled waters is a stunning experience that I will certainly never forget - and every time my memory starts to get a bit hazy I simply have to look at my great underwater photos to remind myself of its beauty. Before describing how to use the underwater bag I can tell you right away that the pictures and videos I took were absolutely amazing. The colours were brilliant and all the objects were almost as sharp as if the photo would have taken under normal conditions. Taking pictures of animals is always a bit tricky - unlike humans they won´t stand still till you took the perfect shot.
Unfortunately this is reflected in the photos as well; although the fish can be clearly seen they are usually at the bottom or half cut off but never exactly where I want them to be in the picture. The only solution I found was hovering as still as possible and taking loads of pictures of the fish you want to photograph. Corals are much more grateful objects and looked brilliant on my photos - especially the green and blue ones looked almost vibrating and their colour just as nice as in real life.
To avoid blurry pictures you should chose objects that are not more than a couple of meters away - but this depends entirely on the water quality and light conditions. Murky water will turn all your pictures in an unidentifiable blur and if you are too far away from your desired object you will not get any good result as well. This is not a good Underwater Case for anyone that wants to take some random shots but you will actually have to think about where the right place is and which light conditions are the best.
Using the camera while snorkeling was much easier than during my test at the lake. With my head being under water the buttons where easier to use and the camera in general better to control. I always tend to hold it too hard but for the sake of your camera you should avoid that.
One thing I would like to point out here is that using the strap is vital - if you can attach it to your bathing suit or your wrist and make sure that is always secured. Simply holding it is not enough when you have to swim against a current at the same time and will take your concentration off what you are doing - it happened a few times that I was so fascinated with taking photos that I drifted off far too wide away from the boat.
I really enjoyed all my snorkeling trips and will continue using my Underwater Case whenever possible. It was a great addition to my travel bag and well worth the money spent. The Banda Islands were amazing anyway but I have the feeling that my trip was made a bit more enjoyable by this little gadget. Thanks Hama for providing a cheap and easy option to take some unforgettable photos.
- - - - - - - - - As an Outdoor Case - - - - - - - - -
Leaving Indonesia after about two months was so very difficult and I nearly cried the last time I went snorkeling around my little island. I knew I would come back one day but living without the sound of the waves, the colourful coral gardens and the pretty butterfly fish following me around while snorkeling is something that I can hardly live without.
Catching a flight to Laos made things a bit easier and the warm welcome my friends gave me made me instantly smile again. I´ve already put my Hama Underwater case right at the bottom of my backpack without the intention of using it again on this trip but surprisingly it came in more than handy over the following few weeks.
Laos in late august is in the middle of rainy season which means frequent, strong rainfalls that will soak you in seconds leaving nothing dry and most of the time come so surprisingly that I never had enough time to find shelter. If you have ever been in a tropical rainstorm you might know how refreshing it can be - the water is pleasantly warm and cleans the air leaving it fresh and cool. Although I never had a problem with getting soaked I was understandably worried that my camera would get wet - therefore losing the opportunity to take another 4GB in one month.
After the first day I remembered that my Hama Underwater case was also advertised as an Outdoor case - the perfect protection my camera needed to stay dry throughout a whole month in rainy Laos. Wrapping my lovely - and in case you are interested bright green - digital camera into the plastic bag I did feel much more comfortable carrying it around. I´ve got some very unique pictures taken of people running for shelter, kids jumping around in the streets and market vendors packing in their good during one of the frequent rain falls - and all this without having to worry about the safety of my camera and the quality of the pictures.
Seeing the Tad Sae Waterfall in Luang Prabang is one of those once in a lifetime experiences as well as a perfect opportunity to take pictures that will be the envy of all your friends for many years to come. One of these pictures is me posing right in front of the waterfall with the sunlight creating tiny rainbows all over the mist of the falling water. It is this mist that would have gotten my camera wet if it wouldn´t have been in its protective case, thus allowing me to take some spectacular shots of the tumbling masses.
- - - - - - - - - Would I buy the Hama Outdoor and Underwater Case again? - - - - - - - - -
This is a product that really deserves 10 out of 10 possible points; if I could I would probably give it even more points or at least a little (sea) star.
30 pounds is nothing compared to all the joy and envious looks I got due to this little gadget. The stunning pictures are absolutely unique and will keep my spirits up while working to earn enough money for a plane ticket direction Asia. Now please don´t think that this is only a useful addition while travelling; no it is perfect for so many everyday situations. Think about days at the pool with friends and family, a summer day at Scarborough beach or any other situation in which you want to have this extra bit of reassurance that your camera is protected.
This product cannot be valued highly enough and I can recommend it without even the slightest bit of doubt. Have fun taking pictures that you were never before able to take - and all this for the price of a night out!
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Thank you for reading and rating my review
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Take your compact digital camera anywhere.