By Nigel Marsh and Helen Rose
The Canon Powershot G series has for a long time been one of the most popular compact digital cameras with underwater photographers. Housing this range of cameras has always been a bit of a headache with the choice between the cheap Canon housing or paying over a thousand dollars for professional housing. Fortunately Fantasea have released housings for both the Canon G15 and G16 that have all the features of an expensive housing but without the hefty price tag.
We first looked at the Canon housing, but there has been no improvement in this housing since the last time we looked at it. It’s okay for snapshots, but if you are serious about your underwater photography and you want to build up a system with an external strobe and add-on lenses, this housing will limit you completely. We then looked at the professional housings made by Ikelite, Recsea and Nauticam, but at two to three times the camera price they are a big investment.
We then noticed that Fantasea was making a housing for the Canon G16 at a very affordable price. The Fantasea FG16 looked very stylish, a smooth black finish and nice lines, but looking closer at the specifications it suited the bill in every department – depth rated to 60m, full access to all camera controls, light weight and compact. Plus the housing also came with a built-in moisture detector and Fantasea make a wide angle and macro lens to fit the housing. It had everything required and at a price that was half that of other professional housings.
We placed an order for the Fantasea FG16 housing. First impression was “wow, what a stylish unit”. The polycarbonate housing is black on the front and clear at the back, so you can check on the camera at all times for minor leaks (even though the moisture detector should pick these up quickly). The housing feels comfortable and light in the hand, and only weighs 1.1kg with the camera installed, another bonus for travelling with the camera gear in your hand luggage. Another feature that quickly stood out was that all the buttons and dials are labelled, so you know what each one is doing, great for when you are still getting familiar with a new camera.
The housing comes with a hot shoe, always handy for adding a torch or other accessories, and includes a hand strap and padded port cover. The base has three screw holes that gives you great flexibility for connection to a baseplate.
Opening the housing, we found it had a good locking mechanism, so it can’t get accidently opened, and uses a double o-ring seal. The camera fits very snuggly into the housing and all the controls align perfectly. Fantasea provide a getting-started guide on their website that gives recommended camera settings, which proved invaluable for getting great photos from the very first dive, without having to experiment.
We quickly had the camera in the housing and then put it through its paces in the lounge room, just to see how easy it was to reach all the buttons and take photos. On land everything was very simple to use and we quickly discovered its best feature – the fibre optic cable connection. The designers at Fantasea have created a compartment for the lens, so separating the lens and flash, and a plate that slides in front of the housing flash window with two outlets for the fibre optic cable (so allowing two strobes to be connected). A simple solution that works perfectly to prevent backscatter under water and improve functionality on land.
For in-water tests we took the Fantasea FG16 housing to Indonesia to do some muck and reef diving at Sekotong on the island of Lombok. Helen did almost a dozen dives with the Fantasea FG16 housing and found it wonderful to use; the housing, camera and strobe worked perfectly together.
The housing is slightly buoyant, which ended up being a bonus as Helen found it easier to hold for hour-long dives without tiring her hand. The ergonomic design of the housing also contributed to the comfort of use underwater, with Helen finding it easy to hold in one hand and simple to position when framing images. All the buttons were simple to use underwater with gloves on, especially the shutter release, which has quite a smooth action. Helen also loved the image review dial, a quick way to review images after the dive or while underwater.
The Fantasea FG16 housing worked brilliantly, we couldn’t find a fault with it; Helen actually had more problems getting used to the new camera. The Fantasea FG16 is an excellent housing for the Canon Powershot G16, a combination of good engineering and wonderful styling at an affordable price, it is one of the nicest housings we have ever used.