Canon S90 Underwater Housings

OEM, Fisheye FIX and Ikelite Canon S90 Housings

By Scott Gietler

 
 
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The Canon S90 is currently the hottest compact point and shoot camera out there. It has an excellent 10 megapixel sensor, large viewfinder, has full manual controls, RAW, and a fast F2.0 lens. It does not have a hot shoe and can't support an external flash. I would probably pick this camera over the Canon G10 or G11 because it's more limited zoom range (28-105mm) is better for underwater photography.

 

 Update: The Canon S95 is basically the same as the Canon S90, but adds HD Video. 

The Canon S90 has a new wheel, called the front control ring, to allow the user to easily control aperture, and a rear wheel that controls the shutter speed. It is a fairly small camera, smaller than the Canon G10 or G11, but I didn't find them very large either. I guess I'm used to the size of a dSLR.

 

Like other Canon cameras, Canon TTL works in P, TV, and AV modes. This is true whether using an internal flash topside, Ikelite TTL, or a strobe fired via fiber optics. In manual mode, you must set the strobe power manually.

 

I do not expect image quality of underwater photos to be noticeably different between those of a Canon G10 or Canon G11. I've used the camera several times and I thought the image quality was excellent for a compact.

 

Canon, Ikelite and Fisheye all make underwater housings for the Canon S90.

 

Canon S90 Macro Capability - the bad news

The macro capability on this camera is less than stellar, especially once you start zooming in. As you zoom in, the maximum size of an object you can take changes from 2 inches to 4 inches, not good, especially for skittish fish and critters you'll need to zoom in for. To make matters worse, the in-focus indicator does not seem to work properly when you get very close to the subject, and the camera easily slips out of macro mode unless you use custom settings. Test this out for yourself carefully.

Canon S90 Underwater Settings

I've done a separate writeup on the Canon S90 underwater settings

 

Canon S90 WP-DC35 underwater housing 

 

This housing made by Canon is actually quite well built and works well with the Canon S90 controls. However, there is no way to control the rear dial, so you must push buttons to change shutter speed. Depth rating is 130ft. Dyron sells an adapter that allows the housing to work with some wide-angle wet lens made by Dyron.

 

Controlling the rear dial

 

As with the G10 Canon housing (and the S80 Canon housing) there is no way to control the rear dial, so there is a workaround which involves two hands: Press the "S" (shortcut) button, and then the left and right dial pushbuttons change settings up and down, instead of rotating a dial.  This method works reasonably well, according to users, but it does require two hands on the camera and multiple button pushes even for relatively small settings changes. An alternative is to switch to Tv mode, use the front dial, and then switch back.

 

Here's some feedback from Kalani Patterson:

 

"I was very impressed with the precision fit of all the control dials and rods. All push or turn in the precise place needed. The mode dial turns the top mode dial very positively. I believe it is a thick rubber disk that is compressed against the dial when you close the housing, and thus easily maintains enough grip, regardless of depth, to turn the dial. The left side control for the front control ring has "gears" whose "teeth" positively engage the mode dial, turning it perfectly, and delivering tactile feedback in addition to the on-screen display. Again, it's position will make it impervious to depth issues. The zoom lever is spring-loaded to return to center... significantly, the Ikelite housing is NOT spring loaded, and there is little tactile feedback on the mechanism, and you can't see the control arm from behind the screen since the control is in the front of the camera."

 

canon s90 underwater housing

 

canon s90 underwater housing

 

Canon OEM housing photographs taken by Kalani Patterson.

 

Canon OEM Housing wet lens options

Inon has released an adapter that allows several wets lenses to be used with this housing. This is exciting news, here's the full article

 

Canon S90 Ikelite underwater housing 

 

This housing is much smaller than other Ikelite housings, and is more compact. It doesn't cost too much more than the Canon housing, $300 versus $175. Since the S90 does not have a hot shoe, this housing does not have TTL. 67mm threaded lenses can be attached, although due to vignetting issues, wide-angle capability is limited to the Ikelite WP-20 wide-angle lens, which has a flat port, and only restores the original 28mm field of view, not true wide-angle. If you do get the Ikelite housing, I also recommend getting the wide-angle lens.

 

Using the controls is fairly easy, even with 5mm gloves. The shutter lever could be a little longer, it's fairly short - so pressing the shutter halfway to lock focus is not easy.

 

The Ikelite housing partially blocks the internal flash on some shots, so if you get this housing you should probably plan on getting an external strobe. Also, there is no way to control the rear dial, so you must push buttons to change shutter speed in the menu (see the instructions in the Canon OEM housing section above), or switch to Tv mode and then use the front dial.

 

One other small complaint is that the fiber optic cable is difficult to attach to the housing in front of the flash because of the round shape of the housing, and comes off sometimes underwater. One other small complaint is that the zoom lever is not spring-loaded to return to center, making it a careful affair to stop zooming. And until the zoom control is released (centered) other buttons will not press.

 

One person I know actually bought a B&W +4 67mm diopter for macro, and simply screws it onto the underwater housing. A very simple, innovative solution for macro! When not using the lens he must carefully place it in a case which he keeps in his BCD pocket.

 

Depth ratio is 200ft.

 

Canon S90 FIX underwater housing 

 

Read James's FIX housing review

 

The FIX housing is the most expensive ($800 in the USA with standard port), but the one serious underwater photographers are leaning towards, because of it's wide angle lens support.

 

It looks like this housing may support, with adapters, both the Inon UWL-100 wide angle lens, and the FIX UWL-04 wide angle lens. It will also have a couple choices for macro - using Inon UCL-165 AD macro lenses, or the FIX flip macro lens. The Fix housing offers adapters to attach Inon AD28 mount, 67mm, or Fix add-on lens accessories. This housing also has a "cold shoe" on the top of the housing to allow the mounting of focus lights and similar accessories without needing to attach them to strobe arms, which saves complexity. 

 

Changing F-stop and shutter speed is very easy with this housing, as it has controls for the front and rear dials. The housing also has built-in adapters (4 total, 2 different sizes) to attach one or two fiber optic cables from Inon or Sea & Sea strobes. 

 

The housing may not come with a user guide, so make sure whomever you buy it from will give you support when you need it. The company that made the FIX Canon S90 housing now makes the RecSea S95 housing, and it's even better.

 

Canon S90 or S95 purchases:

Support the UWPG and purchase your Canon underwater housing from the UWPG staff at Bluewater Photo

Further Reading:

 

Canon S90 / G11 Underwater Settings

Underwater Camera Modes

Underwater Camera Guide

Underwater Strobe Guide

Canon G10 Underwater Housings

 

Many thanks to Kalani Patterson for help with this page.

 

Comments

I have the S90 in the Ikelite

I have the S90 in the Ikelite housing and I stand at approx. 6.500 uw-shots taken with this gear until now. I'm slightly disappointed by the rather poor image quality in the edges (not really sharp, a lot of CA) when shooting with 28 mm focal length without any additional lens mounted on the port. The distance between the front lens of the camera and the glass of the port is rather long (14 mm = approx. 1/2").

My questions:

a) Is there any (simple) possibility to put a shorter port onto this housing?
b) Can I expect a significant improvement of the image quality when the above mentioned distance will be reduced to approx. 2 mm?

Ota

Hi Peter, I have recently

Hi Peter,

I have recently purchased a Canon s90 in a Ikelite Housing (67 mm thread) and am confused as to the best wide angle lens option. I have read various reports about the Ikelite, Inon, Dyron and UN all of which have a WA lens option that provides a similar field of view and all priced in the $230 to $300 range. Can you advise which one is the best ? I am not considering the fisheye FIX option at this time.

Thanks

Mike

Hi, I have Richard Franiec's

Hi, I have Richard Franiec's custom grip attached to my s90. I'm considering on buying an underwater housing that will fit. Which would you recommend?

I am trying to decide whether

I am trying to decide whether to get the canon or ikelite housing only because I prefer something that I can buy a green water filter for. But based on your review, it looks like the canon housing is better? I decided to upgrade to the S90 but I am not a technical camera user. I am a beginner but wanted to buy housing I can buy accessories for. What can you suggest? I am also having a hard time locating a store selling the green water filter for the ikelite housing. Can you help me with this? Adorama CS is hell to deal with.

 hey rori - post this in the

 hey rori - post this in the forums. thanks!

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo http://www.uwphotographyguide.com http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com

You may want to look into

You may want to look into INON products for the S90. I believe that they now have a mount-base for the WP-DC35 allowing you to use wide-angle and macro lenses. I have done that with previous Canon P1S and it works well.

I m very intersting by your

I m very intersting by your article because I just bought a S90+ikelite housing with Inon D2000 flash which look a very compact and powefull set.I like to dive light !
And as you write I was surprised I cannot put the optical fiber 'scratch'for s-ttl in front of the internal flash ( ikelite surface too small !)
So I put it on the top of the box .it seems working well but i just tested outside , not yet underwater ! I plan my first dive next thursday !
What do you recommend to fix the optical fiber on the best way for this housing ??
Thank you
marc (the french living Jeddah)

What would be the proper mm

What would be the proper mm setting(28-105) when shooting with an inon 165 lens and shooting super macro? (stacked inon 165's)
I am shooting with an s90. Also should I put the camera in normal or macro mode?

Dave, I'd zoom in about

Dave, I'd zoom in about half-way, macro mode. Also, zoom in all the way to 105 and see how you like the results. - Scott 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo http://www.uwphotographyguide.com http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com

Hi, Which wide angle wet

Hi,
Which wide angle wet lenses other than the Ikelite are appropriate to use with the S90 in an Ikelite housing - from what you say I assume that the Inon 165 would not work correctly - also can you use any "dry" 67 mm lenses on the housing or does their design mean that they cannot work underwater?
Best Regards
Michael

hi, I have the Canon

hi,
I have the Canon S90+WP-DC35 , i noticed that on the link you provided to the Dyron website, has many diffrent wide angle lenses. Is there a specific feature i should be looking when purchaseing a lense ? and how about macro and fisheye for the WP-DC35?
Thanks for all the info , i actually made my choice for buying the S90 after reading the info on your website. I have absolutley no experiance in photography and have been takeing pics only about a month , however with the info on your website i can see my pics have improved.

thanks, great job on your website

Peter

hi Peter i'm really glad the

hi Peter

i'm really glad the underwater photography site has been helpful to you, thanks for the feedback. Choosing a good wide-angle wet lens for a digital underwater  camera can be difficult, and options are usually quite limited for a housing like the Canon WP-DC35. If I were you I'd try finding a french speaker, and calling Dyron, and also some niche uw camera shops that help people with less expensive setups. It will take some time but the results will be worth it if you find a good solution.

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo http://www.uwphotographyguide.com http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com

The Fisheye FIX S90 housing

The Fisheye FIX S90 housing is a compact aluminum housing. The controls function smoothly. Pressing the shutter button part way is easy without making the user push the button much. The housing does not, however, allow the user to see the green status light located on the back of the camera.

The housing has a plastic ring to protect the front of the lens port and the area where the lens adapter attaches. This plastic ring easily falls off in the water. Fortunately, it have very little value.

The shoe mount on the top of the housing appears effective. If something is attached to it, the attached item will partly cover the power button, making it difficult to operate.

The fiber optic adapter screws in tight and will not likely cause any problems. It makes adding two fiber optic cables (each of two different types) simple. The diffuser clips on the lens port firmly and can be used in conjunction with cables attached. A poor man's flash mask can be made by blacking out the back side of the diffuser. The better solution is to buy the flash mask accessory. It covers the entire flash window other than a hole it leaves for the fiber optic adapter. This mask bends over the top and side of the housing to completely block out unwanted light.

For people using a two-arm Ultralight Control Systems tray/arms, the standard digital camera tray, with lip pointed away from the camera, works great. The "step up" of the second arm is low enough that the housing's back can be opened without removing the housing from the tray.

Overall, this housing is a clear winner when compared to the other two choices. The addition of the back dial control makes this housing a great choice. The smooth operation of the buttons separates this housing from the others. The thought put into the design so it inter-operates with third party accessories makes this the clear winner if money is not considered.