SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Review

Our thoughts on this robust underwater smartphone housing for iPhone and Android
By Charlie Gardiner & Nirupam Nigam

The SeaLife SportDiver smartphone housing turns most modern smartphones into underwater cameras for a fraction of the cost of a dedicated camera and housing setup. It's an excellent choice for people who want to dip their toes into the world of underwater photography but don't want the expense or hassle that comes with typical underwater camera systems. As the SportDiver is significantly smaller than most underwater camera systems, it's the perfect traveling companion.

The SeaLife SportDiver is compatible with both iPhone (from the iPhone 7 up) and most Android models, so it's incredibly versatile and likely won't need to be changed if you ever upgrade your phone. To check your phone's compatibility, see this helpful guide

The SeaLife SportDiver

The SeaLife SportsDiver fills in a gap in the market. Compact cameras are hard to source at the moment, thanks to supply chain issues that are forcing manufacturers to focus on the production of their more lucrative, high-end models. Beginner underwater photographers, and those who value affordability and portability are left with little to choose from; that's where the SeaLife SportDiver comes in.

With smartphones, we all have excellent cameras in our pockets, and the fact that the SportDiver housing is compatible with all iPhone models (iPhone 7 & up) and most modern Android phones means this housing can stay with you when you inevitably upgrade your phone.

We took SportDiver out diving in the Pacific Northwest with the Samsung Galaxy S20 and were quite pleased with the intuitiveness and ergonomics of the housing. 

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Features

  • The housing is connected to and controlled by a free app via Bluetooth that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play 
  • A big shutter button and four easy-to-use buttons on the back make operating the housing a breeze
  • RAW image capture
  • Depth rated to 130 ft/40m
  • A vacuum pressure alarm will notify you of any leaks before even getting in the water
  • Built-in moisture audio and visual alarm
  • Red color correction filter
  • Controls include lens selection, exposure, focus, zoom, white balance, background blur and tint

One of the standout features we really loved about the SportDiver was the leak detection system that alerts you to any possible leaks before you even get in the water. As long as the vacuum detectino system is used correctly, it's highly unlikely that you will flood the housing. In fact, we have yet to hear of a flood with the SportDiver. The housing also has a built-in audible moisture alarm, so if any water finds its way inside, you know about it as soon as possible and can prevent significant damage.

With the SportDiver, it is possible to shoot photos in RAW (instead of the common JPEG photo format). RAW photos are an absolute must-have for people who like to edit their photos. These days, with the improvements in Lightroom's mobile app, you can do all of the post-production directly on your phone. So now you can shoot, edit and upload your photos to social media all from your smartphone, even before you're back on dry land!

The only downside is that it isn't compatible with external strobes, so you'll have to use video lights instead. Our advice is to buy the SeaLife SportDiver Pro 2500 Set, which comes with a powerful 2500-lumen video light that will help bring the color back into your photos. 

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U.S. MSRP: $349.95

 


 

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Order Your SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Now at Bluewater Photo!

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Pro 2500 Set (with video light)

SeaLife Screen Shield Protector

 


 

How it Works

Unfortunately, your phone's touchscreen won't be accessible in the housing, but that doesn't mean you won't get complete control over the camera's operation. Before doing anything, you first need to download the SeaLife SportDiver app (Android app link & iPhone app link) on your phone and set it up. The housing's built-in Bluetooth functionality allows it to connect to your phone via the app, which means when you press one of the buttons on the housing, it communicates with your phone over Bluetooth, telling it what to do. There is no mechanical connection between the housing and your phone; it's all done wirelessly. There are four simple buttons on the outside of the housing that give you control over settings, and a large, easy-to-use shutter button on the top makes shooting easy even when wearing thick gloves. 

Lens & Phone Compatibility 

Most modern smartphones are compatible with the SeaLife SportDiver. Both iPhone and Android models will work, but keep in mind that the Android application doesn't support the use of telephoto lenses yet. So if you have an Android with dual or triple lenses, you'll have to make do with the mid-range and wide-angle lenses for now. This may be a big drawback for Android users who want to shoot macro subjects since you'll only be able to do so with the mid-range or wide-angle lens. iPhone users don't have this problem. 

The quickest way to tell if your smartphone works with the SeaLife SportDiver is to head over to their website, where they have an excellent in-depth compatibility chart.

Build Quality

The housing itself is built from an incredibly tough polycarbonate material that makes it extremely scratch resistant and protects your phone from drops, bangs and scrapes. It can stand up to a beating no matter how rough you are with it. Dive after dive, it proved its build quality, and we felt 100% confident that the Samsung Galaxy S20 we were using was fully protected at all times. The built-in leak detection system that works even while on dry land gives you an extra layer of confidence that your phone is safe from getting wet. Once the system has been vacuumed with the included pump, the system automatically tests the vacuum's integrity for five minutes before signalling that all is ok to go diving!

The housing also has a moisture detection alarm built-in for additional protection that gives off a loud audio and prominent visual warning that something has gone wrong (not that we experienced it ourselves though!).

Sample Images Taken with the SeaLife SportDiver and Samsung Galaxy S20

SeaLife SportDiver sample image

Anemone Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing in the Cold Water of the Pacific Northwest

SeaLife SportDiver sample image

Overall Thoughts on the SportDiver for Underwater Photo & Video

As an underwater housing, we absolutely love the SeaLife SportDiver. Its built quality, versatility and price point make it a firm favorite. But, ultimately, the quality of the images and video you can capture with it is largely down to the phone you are using, which is to be expected. 

People with newer models will have no problems capturing stunning images and video with the SportDiver though, so if that's you, we highly recommend picking up one of these fantastic housings. 

Being able to shoot in RAW is a huge plus, and with the advent of excellent mobile editing apps like that of Lightroom, there's really no need for keen underwater photography enthusiasts to carry around big rigs and laptops to create stunning photos if they don't want to. In fact, you don't even need a computer.

SeaLife SportDiver sample image

The image quality in modern smartphones like the iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S22 is almost comparable to what dedicated cameras like the Olympus TG-6 or Canon G7X Mark III can produce. Overall, the wide-angle images and video we captured were the standout winners - it's a little harder to shoot macro subjects with a smartphone and underwater housing combo, but it can still get the job done.

Something we'd love to see in future app updates is the ability to shoot in full manual mode. At the moment, the SeaLife app gives you control over some things like exposure and white balance but lacks the full manual control that would help more accomplished photographers get the most out of their setup. 

We recommend getting a good video light and tray to go with the housing since you'll need the additional light to bring vibrant colors back into your images; the Pro 2500 Set is an excellent option. An indirect advantage of adding a tray and light to the housing is that it makes it more neutrally buoyant. Without, it is slightly positively buoyant, which can be less than ideal when you've clipped it off to a D-ring, and it's floating up in your face while diving. 

Conclusions

The SeaLife SportDiver is an excellent option for people looking for either an affordable way of taking great underwater photos or those looking for a small, lightweight underwater system to take on their travels. It's also a future-proof investment since it's compatible with almost all modern smartphones; you won't have to buy a new housing every time you upgrade your phone. It's also the perfect tool for people who want a backup system to their main rig.

Because everything is controlled via an app, SeaLife can update features and functionality without the need for people to buy new hardware, a key feature in our eyes. SeaLife maintains and upgrades the app in-house so they can push updates lives as and when they need to rather than having to wait for a third party to do so.

Overall, this system provides underwater photographers great value when looking for an easy-to-use and capable system.

Video Captured with the SeaLife SportDiver

 


 

Bluewater Photo Store Logo

Order Your SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Now at Bluewater Photo!

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing Pro 2500 Set (with video light)

SeaLife Screen Shield Protector

 


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from the UK but now living in the south of Spain, Charlie is a diving instructor, associate editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and avid ocean lover. You'll find him exploring the many local wrecks and travelling to new places in his spare time. 

You can follow him over at World of Travel Photography where you can also see some more of his photography. 

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