My Panasonic Lumix GH5 has been my best travel buddy since mid 2019. I’ve always loved creating photos and videos on land. As I started diving in 2020 and absolutely fell in love with it, it was only a matter of time until I had to purchase an underwater housing to also pursue my hobby underwater. Three years later I decided to get the Seafrogs underwater housing for my camera.
The Seafrogs Meikon Underwater Housing for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is the only one I found on the market with an affordable price (January 2023). The other ones require an investment of at least 1,500 USD which, for me as a traveller, are way above budget. This blogpost will give you a full review about my experience with the following Seafrogs underwater products for my Panasonic Lumix GH5:
- Underwater Housing
- Dry Dome Port incl. Neoprene cover
- Lightweight aluminium tray
- VPS-100 Pre-Dive vacuum leak check system
- Coil Lanyard
Setup & cost overview
In the next few chapters I’ll introduce my whole setup when I go on camera dives. I prefer filming with natural light and therefore haven’t used any strobes yet. So far, I’ve dived with the housing in warm salt water (29 degrees and above). Please check the details of items included in the price of each product before purchasing, as I won’t list them here in detail. This blogpost focuses more on my personal experience and useful advice regarding the whole camera diving setup.
|Seafrogs Meikon UW Housing for Panasonic Lumix GH5||469 USD|
|Dry Dome Port & Neoprene cover||204 USD|
|VPS-100 Pre-Dive vacuum check system||107 USD|
|Aluminium Tray||120 USD|
|Silicone grease 5ml (2 pieces) – seafrogs||9 USD|
|Coil Lanyard||13 USD|
|Total (excl. shipping fees)||922 USD|
Seafrogs underwater housing for Panasonic Lumix GH5
The Seafrogs underwater housing for Panasonic Lumix GH5 weighs around 1.5 kg. It allows you to take your camera up to a depth of 40 meters. The housing provides mechanical controls for the main camera functions which are all labelled and therefore easy to find. There is a big shutter button as well as a dedicated button for filming. Despite its ergonomic design it is a pretty large housing which makes it a bit more challenging to take it with you in case you move around a lot. If you would like to travel with it I therefore recommend to take some extra preparations (read more below in ‘thoughts & advice’).
Inside the camera there is a water detector which beeps when liquid enters the housing. Further things to consider are that you can only set the shutter speed by going via the Q-Menu (F2) as the shutter wheels are not supported by the housing. Furthermore, the following camera features are not available using the housing:
- Zoom function
- Manual focus (if you shoot with manual focus you have to set it prior to the dive and guestimate the distance to the object)
All in all the Seafrogs housing is of good quality. It comes with two o-rings for the main door as well as some spare parts, e.g. for the vacuum seal. Due to its size and extremely positive buoyancy I recommend only taking it out with the aluminium tray and some weights. Holding the housing underwater while trying to push the buttons is – for my tiny hands – impossible. The standard port supports only a certain number of lenses. Therefore it’s worth considering getting the dome port.
Dry dome port & kit dive neoprene cover
The Seafrogs underwater housing has an interchangeable port lens system which allows you to switch the standard port to the dome port. The main reason why to get a dome port is because you can use more lenses than the standard port allows. Apart from that you can also play around with split content (half over water/under water). I highly recommend to purchase the neoprene cover as well to protect your dome from getting scratches. I always take it diving with me and put in on before handing my camera to the boat crew.
Since getting the dome port I haven’t changed it back to the standard port. Click here to see a video about how to easily change from the standard to the dome port.
Lightweight aluminium tray
The aluminium tray is an accessoire you should definitely get. Due to the size and buoyancy of the housing it’s no fun to only hold it with your hands. Furthermore it makes it easier to hand your camera system to other people. Not to forget that you will be able to attach additional accessoires like strobes and a safety strap.
VPS-100 pre-dive vacuum check system
The pre-dive vacuum check system is a good tool to make sure that all seals are watertight before submerging. However, I’m a bit conflicted about recommending to buy it.
Important: The VPS-100 is a pre-dive check system and not supposed to be used underwater. I assumed that it should be used underwater and had it on for two dives. Unfortunately it leaked on the second dive. Even though I know some people who always dive with the vacuum seal on I don’t recommend to do it! I’m still traumatized from watching water drops entering the housing and the alarm starting beeping at 18 metres depth. Luckily my camera was fine. Also I was able to change the battery of the vacuum valve and it is still working (the first battery burnt through).
The great thing about the pre-dive vacuum check system is that you can check if all seals, especially the main door, are airtight. What I don’t like about it though is that after doing the check and before going diving you have to replace the vacuum valve as the VPS-100 should not be used underwater. Therefore you don’t know if that switched valve is still fully airtight. Also with this specific housing you have to remove one arm of the aluminium tray each time to access the vacuum seal and to be able to pump out the air.
Before buying the VPS-100 I thought it was supposed to be used underwater which made much more sense to me as I want to know if the vacuum is still in-tact while I’m diving. It turned out though that I can’t check all seals before going diving as the vacuum valve has to be switched after the pre-dive check. I hope there will be a future version available which can be used underwater. Until then I’d say the VPS-100 is nice to have but not necessary due to the fact that you are constantly switching the valve which in my opinion is a leakage risk in some way. Not to forget about the fact of adapting the aluminium tray each time.
The correct use of the pre-dive vacuum check system is the following:
- Remove the vacuum pump system lid 10-30 minutes before your dive.
- Attach the vacuum pump system valve & unscrew the protective cap.
- Press the button to turn on the LED inside the valve, it should blink red indicating ambient atmospheric pressure.
- Start pumping the air out with the pump until the LED turns green.
- Screw the protective cap on to ensure airtightness and observe the LED for 15 minutes.
- If the LED is still blinking green after 15 minutes it means there is no air leakage.
- Open the protective cap, press the button to release the pressure & turn the valve LED off.
- Remove the valve and place the original valve into place (make sure the o-ring is still there).
- Safe to dive!
Last but not least I highly recommend purchasing a coil lanyard to never lose your camera while diving. The hand strap that comes with the housing is a good idea but if you let it go the camera would float up and away.
Once the boat crew hands over my camera I attach the coil lanyard to my BCD so I always have both hands available in case I need them. With the quick release I can either keep the camera close or a bit further away. Overall the coil lanyard super helpful and gives a lot of safety for you and your camera!
Advice based on my experience
All in all I’m super happy with my camera setup and would recommend the products mentioned; with the VPS-100 as an exception. Compared to other housings on the market the Seafrogs line is affordable and comes with good quality. It opens up a new field for those who would like to try underwater photo- and videography with their Lumix GH5.
Due to its size the housing is not always easy to handle – when there is a current for example – but using it underwater is great fun! I also went diving with only my phone and the Sealife phone case but for me it’s a totally different feeling. It’s like taking photos on land with your phone vs. camera, I always have more fun using my camera.
Last but not least I have some advice I’d like to pass along. It’s things I didn’t know about when I purchased the housing.
1 Manual focus & slow motion
As mentioned above you can’t change the focus underwater manually. When filming in slow motion it is required to film with manual focus though. If you want to use manual focus with the housing you therefore need to set it before the dive. I usually guesstimate my distance to a fish and set the focus like that. Underwater I then only have to change the distance to the object so it’s in focus. Admittedly it’s sometimes a bit challenging but works.
2 How I transport the Seafrogs underwater housing
To transport the housing to and from the boat you could get a proper crate or camera bag. I’ve been transporting my case a bit differently. While I understand that there are better ways to do that, I needed to find one which didn’t require another investment. So if you are in a similar situation don’t feel pressured and rather find a way that suits you.
I usually wrap the housing (incl. aluminium tray) in a towel and then put it in my feelfree 30 l dry bag. The vacuum pump and accessoires I keep in a smaller bag which also fits into the backpack. This method works really well for me! It also makes it possible for me to transport both my housing and my dive bag on my scooter.
3 Travelling by plane
When I first travelled with the housing to Thailand I made a big mistake: I left the o-ring in the main door & closed the housing. During the flight it created a vacuum and I couldn’t open it anymore. In case that happens to you as well you can unscrew the top valve and release pressure through there. Then the housing should open again. My advice is to remove the o-ring and not fully close the housing when travelling by plane.
Another big question that comes up is how to transport the housing on a plane. To me it was clear that the housing has to travel in my carry-on as it’s too valuable and fragile to go with the checked luggage. I managed to pack the whole kit into my travel backpack (very full and probably too heavy).
4 Buoyancy & weight system
The Seafrogs underwater housing is very buoyant and much easier to use with some weight. Using weights for underwater housings was another point I wasn’t aware of when purchasing it. So like I did with my transport system on land I had to come up with an idea that didn’t require another investment.
To make my housing less buoyant I use the trim weight pocket from my BCD and attach it to the aluminium tray before the dive. I usually use 0.5 kilos (the smallest weight on the boat) which works really well. Other options could be to use a trim weight system or floats.
5 First time testing before using
Before taking the housing on a dive I recommend to do some testing in a pool without the camera. This way you can find out how to best attach your weight system and to get a first feeling for the housing including the whole setup. If everything is alright on the first try I would then do another one with the camera inside.
To use your Seafrogs underwater housing as long as possible it’s important to properly maintain it before and after the dives. After the dives I wash the housing with clean water and press the buttons to make sure there’s no salt water left behind. I also always remove the o-ring, put grease on it and then store it in a closeable plastic bag. When I’m not using the housing I close the door and keep it in a safe place. Additionally I make sure to cover the dome with the neoprene cover unless I’m using it.
7 While diving
As mentioned above I only take the neoprene cover off when I’m in the water. While still on the boat and when handing the housing to the crew I always have the cover on to avoid scratches. It’s recommended to put the housing into a tank of clean water before and after the dives. On the boat I’m diving we don’t have that so I rinse it after the dives and give it another clean at home.
I also usually don’t change the battery in between the dives to minimize the risk of getting a leak (due to water drops on the o-ring for example). After two 45 minutes dives I usually have around half of the battery left. I set up the whole system at home in the morning as I don’t want to feel rushed on the boat. Also wavy conditions might make it harder to do it properly.
All in all I’m super happy with the Seafrogs underwater housing and love doing my hobby underwater. Seafrogs offers a less expensive alternative which comes with great quality. It’s amazing for many reasons. I can show the underwater world to my family and also other people on Instagram. I can start offering underwater photo- and videography services. But overall I just love editing the footage. It’s a beautiful world down there but if you add some nice music it’s even more impressive. I could watch the videos over and over.
Do you have experience with underwater housings? Or are you interested to get started? I’d love to know in the comments below!