Several manufacturers offer their underwater (amphibious) camera models which are in many ways more practical than cameras inside waterproof casings. Typically, all amphibious cameras are heavier than water, as they do not have enough of internal gas volume to keep them afloat against their mass. The cameras in underwater housings, though, will float, so sometimes there is an added weight inside the housing to make the buoyancy neutral for the kind of water one uses the camera in: less weight in freshwater, a bit more in seawater.
(By the way, excellent and precise weights shaped to measure for that purpose can be made from lead shot mixed with ordinary household silicone sealant).
There is no great danger of camera loss if you remember to slip over a wrist strap every time you use the camera, but an accidental drop from the boat might find you sadly watching your camera sinking into unreachable depths.
The solution is in flotation add-ons in order to neutralize the camera’s negative buoyancy. It is usually a wrist strap made of closed-cell foam, a hollow handgrip or a bobber. These devices cost from $5 to $30, but you might well decide to make your own. It is simple to make, and if you look around for some suitable materials, doesn’t have to cost you anything.
The version I made consists of small fishing net floats, a length of braided synthetic string, a milk carton cap, a bit of wire bent to form a safety catch, and a small piece of plastic tubing.
Net Floats: I have found those attached to the torn-off piece of an old net. I’ll always remove such a thing from the water, as it continues to trap and kill fish and crustaceans. You might find such floats anywhere where there are fishermen, or you may decide to use cork; for instance, the bulbous tops of champagne corks are excellent, but any cork will do.
Experiment a little to find out how many of such floating pieces it takes to overcome your camera’s negative buoyancy. The number depends upon the size of the floats you use. I attached a string of net floats to the camera and watched how many of them were pulled down before the camera stopped sinking. To this number I then added one more float.
String: You will need a piece of braided synthetic string and fine-pointed tweezers. Use a lighter to melt a blob #1 at one end of the string, so it can’t unravel. Line your floats or corks over the string and make a loop. Then use tweezers to loosen the string strands apart about 1” from the blob #1. Push the tweezers between the strands, grab the free end of the string, and pull it through after the tweezer tip. Cut the surplus length of the string ¼” from where it emerged, taking care to leave enough of the length so that the floats have place to move and the strap bends easily. Melt blob #2 at the cut-off end. Pull the string back so the blob touches the string.
Now push the tweezers through the strands of the string end where you just have made the blob #2. Cut off blob #1 from the tip of the string, and pull the string through. Shorten that end to ¼” too, and melt blob #1 anew. Your flotation wrist strap is finished. This mode of connecting the string ends is elegant, compared to knots. More importantly, it creates a safety factor in an emergency, as that’s where the wrist strap will break (blobs tear off) if you pull real hard on it.
Milk carton cap: Of course, the milk cap can be replaced by any other similar object, even one of the surplus floats… I used the milk box cap because it serves the purpose just fine.
Its form and position enables me the single-handed use of the camera. In the swimming / snorkeling position the body isn’t upright, so it affects the camera handling. I use the camera underwater somewhat differently than on dry land. As these amphibious cameras often have no handgrip, especially the small soap-like Canon D10, I needed additional support to hold the camera securely while operating its command buttons. I'll even press the shutter button by thumb; it's more natural in swimming position.
The milk cap is located at the wrist strap about 1” from the camera body. It lets me brace my camera-holding fingers against something, replacing the function of the grip. Now I can hold the camera firmly even with my palm open, access any command button, and shoot photos using my thumb. As the D10 has a posibility to connect the wrist strap to any of the four camera corners, I keep it locked to the lower right corner, so that the milk cap rests against the outer side of the middle and ring fingers of my right hand.
Safety catch: You can find two pieces of flat, springy, non-corrosive metal inside every windshield wiper rubber. Those are stainless steel, and excellent for the purpose; just remember to pull the length of it out of the worn wipers before you discard them. Use pliers to bend it into any form of catch that goes best with your wrist strap connecting point on the camera. File the ends of the finished catch smooth, and attach the flotation strap you have made to your camera. Alternatively, use one of the large fishing spinners, there are very good line-to-hook connectors on those.
Fig 2: Connection
See the strap I use: The finger-bracing plate (milk carton cap) is attached to the D10 strap connector by a short string loop, and held in place by the safety catch. This allows me to swap the “usual” wrist strap for a flotation wrist strap, depending whether I intend to swim, or use the camera on dry land.
The piece of nylon tubing that goes over the string loop simply keeps the distance between the camera and the milk cap. It serves no other purpose.
Fig 3: Canon D10 version
Fig 4: Complete
Fig 5: Holding
Fig 6: Floating
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