Photo above: That’s me, doing extreme camwhoring! Shot by Boogs Rosales.
EDIT 3: Have a look at the new Patima housing for the GoPro HERO / HERO2
EDIT 2: Instead of hardware, iOS 5.1 users can download the i-Patima app that lets you use the camera underwater. DOWNLOAD IT HERE.
EDIT: Since the new iOS 5.1 update that changes the way users access the camera from the lock screen, Patima is releasing an adapter that will allow you to continue using the iPhone4s as intended underwater.
Some time ago I got word of a pretty little item that would amaze SCUBA divers and iPhone users. Made in Korea, the Patima underwater housing could withstand pressures up to 300 meters deep. That’s almost 1,000 feet and way way beyond recreational depths. Well I finally got the chance to try it out thanks to Jovic of Splash UW Imaging. Before I continue, note that I am not affiliated with Splash UW Imaging in any way nor do I get anything from the sales of this product.
Boogs and I had to shoot a few things (underwater) for an upcoming project so we decided to do all of this over the weekend. It so happened that Jovic also was willing to lend out the iPhone 4s case for demo purposes. So it looked like a plan came together just like that and Sunday found us in Planet Dive for two shore entries into the beautiful Twin Rocks.
I wasn’t going to take any unwarranted chances with my personal phone so in our first dive instead of putting the phone, I put a piece of silica gel which I can check on after the dive to see if it got wet due to flooding.
I stuffed the Patima inside my BCD and proceeded to do a short 30++ minute dive with Boogs. We went down a maximum depth of 12 meters. Not very deep. The case was intact after surfacing. I usually dive with 8 lbs of weights attached to my BCD without a camera. With my DSLR, I trim down to 6 lbs. The Patima housing added about 1 lb of weight to my suit so this may be something to take into consideration if you’re very particular about perfect buoyancy.
Patima designed this case like a bunker. Made out of a marriage of aluminum and steel, it’s solid and heavy. It’s easy to set up. Unlock both ends, apply silica gel (comes with the unit) and close the unit making sure no particles are left on the O-ring.
One important thing to note is that unlike Ikelite housings that can bring difficulty with pressing down some of the buttons (and can cause your thumb to sore afterwards) the iPhone 4/4s fit is perfect that you don’t need to exert too much effort to press any of the buttons. The three “soft” buttons work for the review, shoot, and video / photo selection. The fourth button activates the home screen and a button on the side turns the iPhone on. So essentially, you will need to wake the iPhone from sleep mode, double tap the home button then launch the camera. The bottom of the housing comes with a tripod dock so you can leave your phone above land while recording in bad weather. The Patima housing fits the iPhone 4/4s (or future iPhones at exactly the same size). The downside of the housing is that since it fits the iPhone snug and tight, there’s no space for Leak Insure packets unless you cover the screen.
How does shooting with an iPhone case work? This baffled me at first because I wondered how unlocking the phone underwater would work. Then it hit me: iOS 5. You absolutely NEED iOS5 to use this properly underwater (thanks to my Twitter friends for pointing out that the feature is with iOS 5 and not just an iPhone 4s feature). The latest software update for the iPhone shows the camera shortcut when you double-tap the home button. In other words, you can use the camera and video functions without having to slide anything to unlock the device.
Here are some samples of shots at varying depths from 0-34 ft.
Here’s an example of a 1 minute video stitch. No editing done w/ image quality save for a few shots where I used a red filter and it will look really obvious where those scenes are.
Truth is, that’s the real reason why you’d want an iPhone underwater. Not for the photos, but the videos are really amazing in HD. So in essence if you already have an iPhone 4s and still want to buy a camera for underwater use for video, you may just want to get this case instead.
So is it worth it? The Patima housing costs PHP 15,000.00 (~ USD $450.00) and can be bought from Splash UW Imaging in Greenhills (2nd Floor Shoppesville across Krispy Kreme). That’s a lot of cash for a case. You won’t be able to do anything else except take photos and video with it but it sure as heck will protect your iPhone from everything. But you know what? It does what it was built to do and it does it very well.
And to answer your question, YES there is signal underwater. I wasn’t checking all the time but 5-10 ft still gives you signal (using SMART). Snorkeling depths gave me 3G!