RecSea Canon S95 Underwater Housing
An underwater housing review
By Scott Gietler
I am not sure which I am more impressed with, the Recsea housing or the Canon S95 camera. Both are amazing feats of technology, with very few flaws. Aside from a full-fledged dSLR system, it's difficult to find a more potent combination underwater than the RecSea+ S95.
Recsea is a brand name of high-quality Japanese-made underwater housings, manufactured by the same people who make Seatool housings, and who also manufactured the FIX S90 housing.
This housing is a marvel of compact engineering. The Recsea + S5 results in one of the smallest housed cameras ever, just like the S90 + Fix housing did.
The Canon S95 adds 720p HD video to the Canon S90. It's a small, pocket size camera with a fast F2.0 lens, 28mm-105mm zoom range.
It has raw, a 10MB sensor, full manual controls, an excellent LCD, excellent image quality, and a zoom range that is not too long - in summary, an underwater photographer's dream camera - almost. It is not perfect, and we will cover the imperfections later on. More Canon S95 specs are here.
Recsea S95 underwater housing
Holding the Recsea S95 housing, you can't help but feel that this is the most perfect underwater housing ever made. The well-built locking mechanism means that you won't be accidently opening the housing, or partially closing it - it is either open or shut. The o-ring is easily removed, cleaned and replaced. Because of the single thin o-ring design, I recommend the o-ring is carefully inspected and cleaned often, and changed each year.
This housing is tiny - the Canon S95 fits perfectly inside. I can easily grasp my entire hand around it, and it is extremely light.
Improvements over the FIX CanonS90 housing
Although the name has changed, at first glance the Recsea S95 housing looks identical to its predecessor. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice careful improvement. The precise shutter release button has been made wider, to fit your finger more comfortably. The buttons seem to work more smoothly, and the rear control wheel is easier to turn. The LCD screen area is noticeably bigger, and the housing says Recsea instead of FIX. But for the most part, the housings are almost identical.
Full access to aperture and shutter speed rings
Unlike the Canon and Ikelite housings, the Recsea housing gives you complete control over the innovative Canon aperture and shutter control rings - a nice feature when shooting in full manual mode.
Precise shutter control
The shutter control is a lever rather than a button and is located on the front right top of the housing. The lever offers tactile feel providing feedback for both full actuation and half press (to lock exposure and focus).The shutter release gives you precise control, meaning it's simple to lock focus with the Canon S95 before shooting, a nice feature when focus lag in compact cameras can be significant.
A mode dial that actually works
For some reason, housing manufacturers have trouble getting housings to properly rotate mode dials on cameras - dials that change between auto, video, program mode, aperture mode, etc. The mode dial works great on this housing - no doubt because it lifts up when you place the camera in the housing, and then you push it back down & rotate it to change modes. Don't forget to pull it back up in order to remove the camera from the housing.
Perfectly made for fiber optics & TTL
The housing does not block the internal flash, although for close-up macro you'll need to use a diffuser, or zoom the lens in, to avoid the short port blocking the flash in the lower right corner of the photo.
The housing supports up to 4 fiber optic connections in 2 different styles, meaning getting almost any fiber optic cable to work should be seamless. The connections seem ready made for Sea & Sea or Inon fiber optic cables.
Installing a Sea & Sea fiber optic cable took only moments, and TTL with a Sea & Sea YS-01 strobe performed flawlessly in aperture priority mode.
Great wet lens support
The Recsea housing has native 44mm male threads, which gives the flexibility to support a range of wet lens mounts, from fisheye lenses all the way to different macro setups. Different adapters or step-up rings are often used with the various wet lens combinations. The Fisheye UWL-04, Dyron Fisheye, and Inon UFL-165AD fisheye are commonly used with this housing & camera. There will be future articles on various wet lens combinations.
Recsea makes some excellent flip-diopters for macro photography, including a 2-diopter flip lens and a 3-diopter flip lens.
For more details, see the review of the previous version of this housing - all of that still applies equally.
Canon S95 vs Canon G11 / G12
Because the Canon S95 has a smaller zoom range than the Canon G11 & G12, the port on the housing can be made shorter, allowing wet lenses to be attached. Most Canon housings that I know of require a port change to be made on land to attach wide angle lenses.
Downside of the Recsea / Canon S95 combination
I have yet to find a flaw with the Recsea housing, although small-fitting housings often fog up easily, so I'll have to be careful to use fresh desiccants with this housing.
The Canon S95, on the other hand, is not perfect. Its macro capability out of the box could be better: it has trouble properly focusing up close, especially when zoomed in. It's not known for a long battery life. And last, but not least, you will not get TTL in full manual mode - thank Canon for not giving you TTL in manual mode. The Sea & Sea DX-2G is better in these areas, making it a strong competitor in the high-end compact camera space.
The Recsea housing is sold in the USA at Bluewater Photo.
Simnia snail. Canon S90, stacked Inon macro lenses. Photos from the S95 will look the same, it's basically the same camera. Expect the Recsea + S95 to go underwater soon! It would have been this past weekend, but a storm came in. Images will be posted. Photo by Kalani Patterson