The GoPro Fusion, for instance, is only rated to 10 meters. That’s not really scuba-friendly. My last dive got below 20 meters, and that’s not even that deep really. Also, in my testing, the GoPro’s underwater footage doesn’t look very good. This is really more of a surfing camera than it is a diving or even snorkel camera.
The Garmin VIRB 360, also rated to 10 meters, does a bit better underwater. This is a mighty expensive camera, however. It’s a cost that isn’t really offset by not needing a dive case for snorkeling.
As great as the images are from the Rylo, its waterproof case is only good down to 3 meters, so again, not a “diving” case per se.
The two best options are, conveniently, two of the best 360 cameras. Both the Ricoh Theta V and Insta360 One X have dive cases available.
The Insta360 Dive Case is rated to 30 meters, and costs $90. There’s also the Venture Case which is only $50, but it only goes down to 5 meters. The Dive Case has a standard tripod mount on the bottom, and comes with moisture-absorbing tabs.
The Ricoh TW-1 underwater housing is also rated down to 30 meters, also has a tripod mount, and costs $170. It comes with a “Dew condensation prevention sheet.”
By the way, these moisture-prevention tabs are important as the cameras are sitting in a plastic-enclosed bubble of air, probably warm air from the surface, and its surrounded by the cold water.
The cameras with housings are not only the only option to get that deep, but this is actually a better option for detail and stitching. Water essentially magnifies compared with the same lens in the air, which isn’t a big deal with a traditional camera. You just get a slightly narrower field of view. When you’re trying to combine two hemispheres into a single photosphere, that magnification becomes an issue. These dive cases counteract that, so the stitching is far better than what you’d get with a camera that doesn’t have a case. Also, the Insta360 One X has a special stitching mode to help look its best with the dive case.
The main issue, though, is that because of the case’s necessary bulk, it’s visible in the photo sphere. Above you can see it in the videos and photos throughout this article.
Ricoh made a similar video to demonstrate the TW-1.
Is that lump of plastic at the bottom of the sphere a deal breaker? No, but it is a little disappointing. After getting used to the excellent stitching of these two cameras in air, this seems like a step back. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a completely logical step back. Oh well.
After making several dives with the Insta360 One X, I have some thoughts. First, the lens dome meets the body of the case right over where the screen is. This makes it hard on the surface to see what mode you’re in, and even harder underwater. Since it’s easy, for me anyway, to accidentally push the mode button instead of the shutter button, I found myself multiple times per dive trying to get the just the right angle catch a glimpse at the screen to see what mode I was in. I got the hang of it, but it took a few dives.
I haven’t used the TW-1, but since the Theta V doesn’t have a screen but does have its mode button far from the shutter, this won’t be an issue. The mode lights are easily visible through the entirely clear case.
Another option I haven’t seen in the wild but looks, well, wild, is a 360 dive bubble. This sphere of air should allow you to use any 360 camera you want. It’s not cheap, at around $200.
It’s also only rated down to 10 meters. Still, it does work with just about any camera, and will prevent any refraction issues since the water isn’t near the lenses. I can see this working great in certain situations.
It is bulky however. I think you’d get some annoyed looks on the dive boat. It’s also a sphere of air, so it’s very buoyant. You can see in this picture how many weights they’ve put on it.
To me this is more of a professional product, with professional divers looking to create underwater 360 video tours. No photos, I assume, since you can’t access the shutter. Still, pretty interesting.
By Geoffrey Morrison (FORBES)