Introduction: Underwater Camera Housing for Small Video Camera

Picture of Underwater Camera Housing for Small Video Camera

Build yourself an inexpensive underwater video camera housing in about 2 hours with simple tools most home shops have. The housing is excellent for snorkeling, kayak, and other surface adventures. I'm not certain of its design for deeper adventures.

Start here

Those instructions give you the basics and sources for the materials. My design differs a bit in that I use simple bolts rather than spring latches. This was because I needed this in a day and couldn't wait for the latches.

Step 1: Build the "lens" Housing

Picture of Build the "lens" Housing

My version is based on a 4-inch PVC design. Start with a 4-inch straight connector. Trace the interior circlu on the Acrylic. Cut the circle using a jig saw and drum sander to take it right to the line.

Use 5-minute epoxy to glue it in. Tape off anywhere epoxy should not go including the face of the lens. Lay a bead of epoxy right in front of the flat side of the interior flange. Press the Acrylic into it. Lay another thing bead around the face.

Peel the tape while the epoxy is wet.

Step 2: Cut the Pipe to Length

Picture of Cut the Pipe to Length

Cut a piece of pipe a bit longer than your camera. A chop saw worked well for me creating a flat end better than the factory end.

Clean the pipe.

Step 3: Build the Template for the Acrylic Ring and Back Plate

Picture of Build the Template for the Acrylic Ring and Back Plate

You need to design the plates. I built a template on the computer, printed it, and double stick taped it to a piece of plywood. I will try to upload those templates. You can simply draw out a design on the plywood too.

The back plate and ring have the exact same outer design. The ring simply has the hole cut out of the center for the PVC pipe to fit through. Buld however many bolt holes you like.

Use a drill and jig saw to cut the rough shape out. Use a drum sander to get right to the line. Drill the 1/4" holes in the template. The template is now finiished.

Step 4: Build the Acrylic Back Plate and Ring

Picture of Build the Acrylic Back Plate and Ring

Cut out the 1/2 inch thick acrylic with a jig saw slightly larger than the template. Center the template and drill one hole into the acrylic. Do not press too hard or you will break out the far side.

Place a 1/4 inch dowel in the hole aligning the two pieces. Drill the next hole and dowel it to align it. Then drill and dowel the final hole.

Use a router with a flush trim bit to trim off the excess. For the photo I removed the paper backing. It is best to leave the backing in place, or replace it with masking tape. This will keep the acrylic from scratching.

Step 5: Assemble the Body

Picture of Assemble the Body

Take the PVC lens assembly from step 1 and use the chop saw to cut off the front 1 inch, just in front of the epoxy bead. This I will call the PVC ring.

Place the acrylic ring and the pvc ring on the pipe. The PVC ring placement is critical. It must be below the rim of the pipe less than the 1/4 inch o-ring thickness so that the o-ring has room to compress. 3/16" is not a bad distance. Mark and PVC cement the ring in place.

PVC cement the front lens assembly on. Just press it all the way on and turn it a bit to seat it right.

If you forgot to put the acrylic ring on, return to step 1.

Step 6: Build the Inner Plate

Picture of Build the Inner Plate

You are almost done.

Test fit your camera inside the housing. Press it up against the top and sight under it. Build a plate that is wide enough to push the camera against the top a bit. This will help stabilize it.

Glue small strips on either side of the plate inside the housing to keep it from rotating.

Locate and drill a 1/4" hole under the tripod mount hole. Cut a 1/4x20 bolt to length and put a nut on it to hold the plate to the camera.

Slide the assembl into the camera.

Step 7: Mounting

Picture of Mounting

For bolts, use 1/4 inch with wing nuts. Stainless is best. Be sure to use good solid washers on either end to help keep the acrylic from cracking. Do not overtighten. All you want to do is compress the o-ring slightly.

For my purpose, I am mounting the camera to a boat. A hose clamp around a board gives me the clamping surface for my temporary installation.

There have been suggestions about magnetically operating the start/stop button. But for now I operate the camera by starting it up and letting it run. I can edit the footage later. Sound is heavily muffles as you would expect.


ClandestineIntestine (author)2013-05-03

This is awesome! Much better than what I slapped together. I never thought to use 5 minute epoxy, just lots of silicone.

KeukaBoy (author)2012-03-27

I used this housing for a couple years with no issues. But technology advances. I picked up a used GoPro camera on Craigslist for $100. It does so much more it a tiny housing with on/off controls available. If I were to start today I would simply go buy a GoPro.

RC Guy (author)2012-03-23

Hey is a cuboidal shape for the housing or a Cylindrical one capable of taking more pressure? And what is a good sealant for taking on high pressures of about 50m-60m. What will be a high pressure taking material other than pvc?

KeukaBoy (author)RC Guy2012-03-27

Sorry, I have no idea. I have taken this to about 50 feet.

budabob07 (author)2010-08-30
KeukaBoy (author)budabob072010-09-04

Many similarities. Except my total cost is under $20

colossus135 (author)2009-08-16

How Perfect, I have the same exact camera and wish to make it submersible

GaDiver (author)2009-03-27

I would think using an "O" ring on the inside would be better than using a sealant. If the outer seal started leaking, the water pressure would keep the housing water tight.

jcub231 (author)2009-02-17

how did you cut the acrylic so perfect

KeukaBoy (author)jcub2312009-02-17

Acrylic tools with woodworking tools as long as they are sharp. Build a perfect circle out of wood first then use a patern router to make the perfect acrylic circle.

jcub231 (author)2009-02-17

you can paten this and make MILLIONS

KeukaBoy (author)jcub2312009-02-17

No, not really. Patent costs are prohibitive. The market for underwater housings is limited. Policing the design is costly. Plus I prefer the open exchange of ideas here.

jcub231 (author)2009-02-17

This looks sweet but i want to try something even more simple but i want to try to put good grip handles on it but i dont know how got any sugestions? also how deep will it go. im planning to film in a natural spring lake so i think it will be perfect since it is so clear.

KeukaBoy (author)jcub2312009-02-17

Use a couple large hose clamps to clamp on some cheap handles. I did that plus added a hunk of lead under the straps at the bottom to help with buoyancy.

Bobby_M (author)2008-12-12

Hi, I'm pretty sure I'm the guy who's design you based yours on (at least I see the link to my instructable). Great work on yours. I had never thought of using bolts and it certainly cuts down on the cost since I'm in for $18 on the stainless latches. In a boat scuba situation, the wingnuts could be a little annoying to work with (or drop) but it's a very small downside. I can see no other flaws in the design even as far as deep scuba is concerned. For most people, the cost is going to be up near $50 if they have to buy the parts.

KeukaBoy (author)Bobby_M2008-12-12

There are two uses for this housing for me. The first is for underwater, in which case this is fine. The second is for above water but wet situations like sailing. For this I wanted sound. So I mounted a microphone, then ran the unsheathed wires through pinholes in the o-ring to the camera. This seems to work well. So I have one o-ring for diving and one for sound. As far as the money, the only part I think someone would have to buy that I got for free is the acrylic. $50 may be a bit high, but possible. Your design with the PVC is the key. Thanks.

Bobby_M (author)KeukaBoy2008-12-13

When I wanted to build, I tried hard to find scrap 4" PVC and while I thought it would be all over the place, I couldn't find any. Lowes and HD in my area did NOT sell shorter lengths than 10'. Now I noticed HD has 3' sections. All said and done, I was into it for about $70 with $20 of that going to latches but mine also has handles with bike grips, lead weight, etc.

BuhlMan (author)2008-06-14

Great instructable! A friend of mine has built under water cameras for some time (I did tell him to put the project on the site but he never did), but what he used is a rubber seal and glass instead of acrylic for the view. The reason why he used glass is that it will hold up better against scratches and easier to clean. The glass was cut at a glass house and he had several pieces made. He used PVC threads to hold it in place or even glue a couple pieces together to hold the glass (with the gasket in place). He used a cheap infrared camera along with wiring (water tight fittings) and balance the weight out to be level. He used this while ice fishing. The reason for the infrared vision is that it is illegal (in Minnesota) to use light to attract fish. If anyone is planning to build or buy a underwater camera, check your state regulations before using any light. I am not sure on any other practices other than fishing. Anyways,great project and thanks for sharing.

KeukaBoy (author)BuhlMan2008-11-02

Glass was far more expensive than my free scrap plastic. Remember, this whole build was for less than $20.

joshuaschrock (author)2008-09-23

You guys with smaller camcorders should consider a 4" "test tee" pipe. It's got a giant screw in cap where you can get camera in and out and two ends (though I would suggest truncating them some) that you can glue plexi onto. Personaly my problem is that I need a 6" and I can only find the in cast iron lol.

KeukaBoy (author)joshuaschrock2008-11-02

My prior housing had a clean-out screw on cap. I placed an o-ring inside the cap. Unfortunately the o-ring was difficult to compress with two faces that had to slide across each other. Without an o-ring it leaked at minor depths.

sinhue (author)arcidae20002008-10-31

nice but i prefer mechanical control do you have any idea?

KeukaBoy (author)sinhue2008-11-02

There are commercially available controls. I chose not to use any to keep the cost down, and to keep the housing simple.

arcidae2000 (author)sinhue2008-11-02

no... I think that the only solution is to use o-ring

sinhue (author)2008-07-30

simple things are always the best, how deep could be used?
do you think could be add some external camera controls, something like:
really nice work

bitterbug (author)2008-06-07

Neat. With a GPS and both it and the camera set to the same timestamp, you could go back over video afterwards and get the exact location of recorded underwater features. Sweet!

KeukaBoy (author)bitterbug2008-06-08

We are actually doing that. We sail. That is the primary purpose. We use the video next to GPS data logger after races to evaluate performance.

wingbatwu (author)2008-06-07

now all you need is a waterproof spotlight

KeukaBoy (author)wingbatwu2008-06-08

Yes, I have that. A little duct tape and I'm alls set.

marien13 (author)2008-06-08

nice instuctable but isn't it hard to hold it under water because it's full of air?

KeukaBoy (author)marien132008-06-08

Yes, handles are needed if you want to use it underwater. I'm using it for watersports, so I have a horizontal board under it for mounting it to a boat. I used it underwater with the board yesterday, not too bad.

snarfnugget (author)2008-06-06

WOW...An incredible Inst. Great diagrams. Ive never considered Underwater potography, but with this, I may give it a try. Thanx

Ben.land101 (author)2008-06-06

i would like to see someone put this on a waterski and that would be cool footage.

xboxteen01 (author)2008-06-06

awesome and clean looking desing. i have some astak wifi cams i could scale this down for, for use outside and in the weather.

nilmahj (author)2008-06-06

no button to turn record on and off? awesome though, I've been looking for exactly this for a while.

marc92 (author)nilmahj2008-06-06

If you camera has a remote you could waterproof it.

KeukaBoy (author)2008-06-06

All said and done, this cost me about $19. The acrylic I got free from a local plastic firm from their scrap pile. The PVC, well let's say my dust collection system is 6 inches shorter now. The connector was about $4. The epoxy was about $4. The bolts were about $7. Pics of the finished camera mounted on the boat coming Monday. Enjoy!

Brennn10 (author)2008-06-06

Neat! I hope to get a camcorder over the summer, and this would be great to take with me on trips!

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