The Good: Easy to use, Works, Durable
The Bad: Expensive!
The Basics: Hardly an indispensable piece of camera equipment by any means, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing does exactly what it promises by allowing photographers to take pictures underwater.
Right before my wife got rid of her Nikon Coolpix P5000 digital camera (reviewed here!), I went through all of the swag she had to accompany it with her and I marveled at some of the weird accouterments she had inherited for it. Arguably the most obscure and weird one was the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing. Have you ever wanted to take your digital camera underwater to take pictures? Well, that is exactly what the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is for. No kidding, this clear plastic shell is designed to keep the Coolpix P5000 (and P5100) camera safe to take underwater. The beautiful thing about it is that it actually works!
Exactly what is sounds like, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is designed to protect the Coolpix P5000 and for a novice, I found it remarkably easy to use. For the purpose of the review, I experimented with the underwater housing in a bathtub and at Green Lakes State Park. As a result, my experiments with the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing took my Coolpix P5000 down to a depth of about thirty feet underwater. Those doing photography at depths deeper than that would need to experiment in ways I was not able to. That said, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing did exactly what it promised and was an accessory that enhanced my partner and my ability to have fun, even if it did seem extravagant or esoteric to me when we first unearthed it.
The Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is a clear plastic case that is essentially the same shape as the Coolpix P5000, only slightly larger. This hard-plastic case a little over 1/8" thick, so while the Coolpix is four inches wide by 3 1/8" tall and 2 1/2" thick, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is about 4 5/8" wide, 4" tall (to the top of the buttons) and 2 3/4" thick. The hollow shell is quite light, adding less than a pound to the overall weight of the camera when one is using it and this is offset because when one uses this, they are underwater, so it feels lighter anyway. Comprised primarily of plastic, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing has metal latches on the sides and a rubber ring that creates a watertight seal around the entire seam.
Basically, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is two halves of a plastic shell. If one imagines a plastic, camera-shaped clam, they have an idea of how the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing looks and works. To use the device, one need only have a dry, flat place. I tend to err on the side of paranoia and when it comes to cameras, the thing that needs the most protecting is the camera lens. As a result, I always start by placing the back side of the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing on a table. Then, simply lay the Coolpix P5000 into it, which is easy because the housing is molded to fit the camera housing. There is only one way the base of the Fantasea will fit on the back of the P5000, so this is pretty much idiot proof.
Next, take the front molded portion - this is easy to distinguish from the back because the back part is flat, whereas the front has an extended area over the lens which allows the user to have the zoom function engaged - and press it into the back. The seam will get tight as the sides press into place because there is a rubber ring in the female side of the back. The front half of the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing has a male ridge around the seam, which presses into the back portion. To lock the housing sides together, there are four metal latches - two on the left, two on the right - which simply pull into place and lock the unit together, making it watertight. The latches are simple metal tabs which are attached to metal loops. The loops extend from the back to the front half and then when the tab is pressed down, the pressure keeps the two pieces together.
Getting the camera out after one is done using the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is easy as well; simply use your thumbs and flip the four latches and the housing splits open when the metal loops are lifted above the plastic ends on the opposite side. The fact that there are four latches adds to a feeling of security when using the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing. If one latch accidentally gets knocked, the camera will not come out of the housing, nor will it (in my experience) allow water into the housing. In other words, the design of this device makes it very easy to protect one's camera while underwater.
Using the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is very easy when the housing is properly surrounding one's camera. Atop the camera housing are two buttons, one which allows the user to access the shutter control and the other that allows one to adjust things like the time delay dial. I saw no real point to using the time delay wheel while underwater - the Housing has a button which is depressed, then twisted for that and it seemed to work - as I was mostly working on breathing underwater and taking pictures, as opposed to posing for photographs underwater. The other button, though is an easily-usable spring-loaded button which one presses and it pokes the shutter control, allowing one to take a photograph subaquatically!
The housing is that easy to use. It snaps and latches on, allows the basic functioning of a camera underwater and because it is clear allows the camera to take pictures and use the automatic flash function. It may be easily cleaned with any glass cleaner (not recommended if one is taking the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing back into water with lifeforms one does not want poisoned) and it is quite durable. I dropped my Coolpix while inside the Fantasea twice on land and once into the tub and it did not crack, shatter or scratch! For those looking to take pictures underwater, this does exactly what it promises in that it protects the camera and allows for basic functioning of the Coolpix P5000 underwater.
What the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing does not do is make it easy to make adjustments underwater. Here one learns quickly about exactly what type of water they are in. I had no problems with the Fantasea in the bathtub. Everything we photographed was close and the water was clean. However, when we took the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing and the Coolpix P5000 to Green Lakes State Park, we got a crash course in the difficulties of shooting underwater.
First, the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing inhibits the use of any of the dials on the back, as well as the power button on top. As a result, one needs to make all adjustments to the camera and turn it on before one seals the camera into the Housing. This is problematic if one has it to the factory-set settings like "powersave mode," which puts the Coolpix into a stasis if a picture is not taken within thirty seconds of the last adjustment. So, that's something that needs to be disabled first. Then, there is making the choice of zoom or no zoom. Personally, I figure anything one wants to take a picture of underwater is going to be at a distance where they'll want the camera's zoom function engaged. The Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing easily accommodates the fully-extended lens of the Coolpix P5000 as it is designed exactly for that.
But the idea of the crash course in shooting underwater raises issues that have nothing to do with the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing, save that to make any adjustments, one needs to surface, go back to dry land and open the Housing, make adjustments, reseal it and return to the water. The chief problem that made me wonder why I was bothering with this product was the flash. The flash seems like an obvious thing for one to have engaged in most freshwater sources, especially as one dives down a bit. The Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing protects to a depth of at least thirty feet below the surface in my experience, but at our perfect and beautiful state park, the water down there gets a bit dark, especially if the clouds come and cover the sun. So, I did what any photographer would do, I left the water, went back to dry land, turned the flash function on and went back underwater. Unfortunately, this was a mistake in my setting; Green Lakes is a very clean lake, but the camera's flash illuminated the particulate matter (i.e. algae) in the water and the photographs that resulted were pretty much worthless. As a result, the Coolpix tended to work better without the flash (the controls for which are not accessible with the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing) and one pretty much gets the pictures they get underwater with it.
The screen that shows the pictures on the back of the Coolpix P5000 is visible through the back of the Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing, but while some might want to dwell underwater and see what the pictures they just took look like, I was much more concerned with surfacing and breathing again.
The Fantasea FP 5000 Underwater Housing is ideal for Coolpix P5000 owners who have spent a lot of money on a trip that takes them underwater in exotic and well-lit locales and the otherwise stifling price in the $200 range seems minimal when one considers the underwater pictures one might get on a trip to, say, scuba diving in the Bahamas.
For other camera and camera product reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Nikon Coolpix S60 digital camera
Nikon L16 digital camera
Fuji Finepix A200 digital camera
For other electronics product reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.