Years ago, I saw the legendary underwater cameraman Peter Scoones pumping air away from inside his home-made Nekton broadcast camera housing, before a dive. The external electrically operated pump system was the size of a small suitcase. At that time the system was more of a curiosity than anything everyday underwater photographer could use. Fast forward 15 years and most serious housings manufacturers like Hugyfot, Nauticam and Aquatica offer an internal “vacuum” check circuitry and valve as standard. Recently these kinds of systems, that use low-pressure air to determine if the housing O-rings are properly sealed, have started to appear even in more basic housings. Now Fantasea has introduced their so-called “hybrid vacuum safety system” as an add-on for the full range of their current housings.
Fantasea, like most of the other manufacturers, uses the word “vacuum” with their pre-dive leak check products. Luckily, you don’t have to create a vacuum inside the housing. A small drop in air pressure is all that is needed. With Fantasea, the low-pressure is created with a small hand pump that ships with the housing. The housing is prepared for the dive and closed with the camera inside. The pump is then inserted on the valve that sticks out from the rear of the housing. The battery-powered built-in sensor circuitry will observe the pressure changes and report to the user with an LED indicator, which can be seen through the clear rear door of the case. Once required low pressure is achieved the housing is left for a few minutes for analysis. If the air pressure does not increase inside the housing, you are ready to go and test the O-rings against water molecules 😊
All the current Fantasea Sony mirrorless housings come with the leak check as standard. With the Fantasea compact camera housings, you can choose if you want the system or not. It currently costs £150 extra for the system. Even if you initially get the housing without the circuitry and the valve, the system can be retrofitted, although this will cost somewhat more. The older Fantasea compact camera housings can’t, unfortunately, be upgraded with the system as they are missing the M16 bulkhead needed for the valve installation.