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Last year (2000) I got into underwater video. I had originally thought of getting a still camera to take pictures of all the beautiful things I see underwater, but then I saw a friend's video from her trip to Dominica and I was hooked. I also got a nice bonus at work and thought that why not spend that on video gear.

I had two requirements for my video gear:
  • economical - I didn't want to spend too much money for my first underwater video setup
  • it had to be digital. This makes it real easy to edit the video on my computer.
Early on in my research I found out that to get an electronic housing (one with buttons conveniently placed near your thumbs - controlled with a LAN-C connection) you had to get either a Sony camcorder or possibly a Canon camcorder. There's nothing wrong with a mechanical housing, but I kind of liked the idea of the electronic controls. I started looking at used units but couldn't find anything I liked. I almost bought a used UnderSea Video Housings housing with a Sony TRV-900 camcorder (an excellent combination), but the idea of buying an out of warranty $1500 camcorder that had spend a good portion of its life under water in a moist salty environment didn't appeal to me.

As I didn't want to spend too much money I decided on a Sony TRV103 (their new model is the TRV120), a Digital 8 camcorder that is reasonably priced, and an Ocean Images Dolphin Pro housing that seemed to be the best combination. This housing has electronic controls, fits many different models, has a clear back so you can see the camcorder and if there is a leak, and isn't too heavy. I also got a red filter and a wide-angle lens. The red filter is important if you go below 5 feet and don't use lights. The deeper you go the more of the red component of the light is filtered out which gives the picture a bluish tint. To get back some of the red color in the picture, you use a red filter. If you use this filter above 5 feet or above water, the picture will have a distinct red tint to it. My housing does not have an external filter that you can remove/put on under water, so I have a filter that I screw onto the lens of my camcorder. This has the downside of not being able to film above the water at the beginning of the dive and then continue filming during the dive (without lights that is). It also precludes mixing filming with and without lights during the dive as you cannot use the filter with the lights (makes the picture turn red). Since then I have also added a small monitor to make it easier to view what I'm filming. The monitor I found at UnderSea Video Housings and really do justice to their claim that it is superior to the Citizen LCD Monitor that they, and others, sell. The cabling looks a little home made, but it works. It fits perfectly between the camcorder and the clear back plate of the housing. I do have to remove the camcorder's viewfinder, but since I have the monitor, I don't need it anyway, right?

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