Matt Gieselman | Diving

Fixing sticky buttons on underwater camera housings

After a while you might find that the buttons on your underwater camera housing are stiff or some of the buttons work fine on the surface but not at all underwater.  This guide shows how to remove and lubricate the buttons on your housing which in most cases will fix the problem.

Before trying anything else you should follow the manufacturers recommendations for cleaning your housing, the directions for housings made by Canon can be found here

Here is a list of the tools you will need to remove the housing buttons:

  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Small pair of pliers
  • Pick with a dull point
  • O-ring lube


Start by removing the e-clip holding the button mechanism together.  The clip can be removed by using a small flat head screwdriver and prying until the clip comes off.

The e-clips have a tendency to fly off, to help prevent the clip from being lost you can place the housing in a clear plastic bag and poke a hole for the screwdriver to fit through.

Note: Some buttons may have a rubber tip on them like the ones shown to the right, the tip can be removed by pulling on it.
Now remove the button arm that was held in by the clip. UWCaseCleaning_0012
Not all buttons will have 2 e-clips but this one does, removal of the second is the same as the first one. UWCaseCleaning_0013
Now the button can be easily removed, clean the button shaft with a damp paper towel and inspect it for any corrosion or damage. 

If the button shaft shows any signs of damage the entire housing should be returned to the manufacturer for repair.
Carefully remove the o-ring, here a brass pick that has a dull tip is used to prevent the o-ring from being damaged. UWCaseCleaning_0016
Inspect and clean the o-ring with a damp cloth, as you can see this o-ring was pretty dirty.

Use a damp clean Q Tip to clean the o-ring seat, after cleaning make sure no fibers or other debris is left that could potentially cause a flood.
Place a small amount of silicone lubricant on your finger and spread it around. UWCaseCleaning_0005
Lubricate the o-ring by rolling it between your fingers. 

Once the o-ring is lubricated place it back in the button shaft, be sure that the o-ring is fully seated.
Installing the e-clip can be a challenge, the easiest method I have found is to use a small pair of pliers, place one jaw on the e-clip, the other on the button shaft and gently squeeze until the clip pops on. UWCaseCleaning_0011
After assembly it’s a good idea to take the case on a test dive without the camera to be sure there are no leaks.  

Underwater Camera Buying Guide FAQ

This guide is aimed at the first time buyer of an underwater camera and housing.

Question: Should I buy a specific brand of camera?
Answer: Although I recommend Canon several manufacturers including Nikon, Sony and Olympus make great cameras also.  The Digital Photography Review website has lots of great information on most digital cameras and serves as a great resource when comparing different models.

Question: Are there specific features I should look for when buying a camera for underwater use?
Answer: There are 2, first you need to find a camera that can also be used in an underwater housing, for a list of housings made by Canon and the cameras they are compatible with click here.

The second feature you should look for is a manual white balance control, simply put this feature lets you take underwater pictures with more vibrant color than when not using a flash.  For a nice write up on using white balance when diving click here.

Lastly if the camera you select can shoot video that’s a bonus.

Question: Should I buy an external strobe?
Answer: For first time buyers I don’t recommend an external strobe, I do this because a good many people will be satisfied with the internal strobe of their camera.  As soon as you become serious about underwater photography you will want at least one external strobe to reduce backscatter and allow for better color and creative lighting.

Question: Where should I buy my camera and housing from?
Answer: Wherever you are comfortable purchasing from, this might be your local dive or online retailer.  You local dive retailer may have cameras and housings you can demo in the pool or ocean and can provide advice on what to buy.

Question: My camera manufacturer doesn’t make a housing for my camera, what do I do now?
Answer: All is not lost, there are other manufacturers of underwater housing such as Ikelite, Sea & Sea, Subal and Aquatica.

Question: This faq is great but I want more information where can I get it?
Answer: Scott Gietler’s website Underwater Photography Guide is a great reference. This article from BH Photo Video is also a good guide, you can also contact me using the link above or drop by your local dive retailer for some great advice.

Scuba Diving in Bahia de los Angeles

I went on my second dive trip in as many years to Bahia de los Angeles, the 406 mile trip down was mostly uneventful although I did get pulled over by the Federales for passing in a no passing zone.  I got lucky, the Federales got a more important call and let me go.

The trip down with stops took us about 12 hours, you can do it in 8 or so if you just stop for gas.  In Bahia we stayed at Villa Bahia which has A/C from 7 PM to 7 AM, it's hot and humid in Bahia but tolerable after the sun goes down.

This year as in years past we used Ricardo's Diving Tours to shuttle us to the various local dive spots.  Ricardo does an excellent job and has the best outfitted pangas I have ever been on, with marine radios, oxygen and life jackets.  It may not seem like a luxury but Ricaro's panga has a ladder which makes for an easy exit.  

Ricardo picked us up each morning in front of Villa Bahia and took us out for 2 dives per day, at the end of the day Ricardo filled our tanks and rinsed our gear, he gets bonus points for that.  The visibility (20-40 feet) this year was less than last year however the lack of vis meant more plankton and more plankon meant more Whale Sharks.  We got to dive with a total of 8 or so Whale Sharks varying in size from 12 to about 21 feet.   

Water temperature ran from 77 to 81 degrees. 

Here are some pictures from the trip.