Product Review of The Kraken Universal Underwater Housing
by Briton Tarter
The Kraken Universal Underwater Housing is designed to fit most smartphones and allow the user to snap photos and video using an app connected to the housing via Bluetooth. I recently took the housing on a live aboard trip for 3 dives to Catalina island off the coast of California to checkout this new and inventive take on underwater photography.
First impressions of the housing are great, the sleek black exterior with the large port for a variety of camera phones provides flexibility and looks great. The shutter button and rear menu buttons were easy to use and when pressed felt good even with gloves on. The camera on my Samsung Galaxy S6 provided sharp images and the camera housing was easy to haul in and out of the water. The housing uses an O-ring to seal the initial structure and then is pressurized by using a syringe to create a vacuum seal. An LED indicator flashes red or green to tell the user if the housing is sealed properly. The vacuum seal method is an interesting method that can sometimes be tedious between dives when you may need to charge your phone. The camera body includes a large viewing port in the rear of the housing for you to preview your photos and interact with the interface and a very comfortable ergonomic handle.
The Kraken android app interface allows the user to change the image quality, set a 5 shot burst mode, a time lapse feature, and change the flash mode. The system settings of the app allow the user to set the depth units, depth alarm, temperature unit, water type, data stamp, location stamp, language, updates to the app and removing the max depth. The Bluetooth syncing was easy to pair with the phone and provided an easy to use interface to get them linked.
The only limitation to the image quality is the camera phone within the housing. This is great for divers who are worried about purchasing a camera and then having it be outdated within a few years. This also provides the diver with an array of options for image quality simply by changing the phone inside. The menus were clear and easy to navigate with a few pushes of the rear buttons on the housing.
One of the many benefits of using your smartphone for underwater photography is the incredibly large viewing screen you get underwater. The screen provides a crystal-clear image and lets you preview your shots underwater the same as if you were shooting them outside of the case.
Another big advantage came after the dive when I went back to my hotel room. Since my phone had taken all the pictures, it was easy for me to back them up to Google Photos through WIFI. Within a few minutes all my photos from the dives had been saved in a safe and secure location. This eliminated the need for a computer, external hard drive, or SD cards to back up my photos. It made previewing and sharing my images easy as well I showed them to my family over dinner and uploaded them to Facebook and Instagram in the same sitting. Additionally, it was easy to edit them using the Adobe Lightroom App on my phone and I had no problem adjusting my photos over dinner.
The biggest disadvantages of the housing came from the android app itself. While diving and on the boat, I was unable to get the app to switch to movie mode to capture video underwater. The app would switch from photo mode into the picture gallery skipping right over the video option. Additionally, when the phone ran low on battery the screen dimmed and made it hard to preview my shots underwater. I found it hard to unseal the housing and get a full charge between dives using my own 2.1A 5v travel power bank and the boats available charging station.
The latency between shots was challenging as it would take a few seconds to reset for another shot. I missed a few opportunities to capture some photos while waiting for the app to reset for another picture.
After the dives, I contacted Kraken Sports so they could weigh in on the issues. The representative explained that they are always improving the app and some of these issues will be fixed and improved in later android releases. Many of the issues I was experiencing had already be fixed on the Apple version of the app. I was unable to review the Apple version of the app, but I hope to in the future.
Keep an eye out for the Kraken Universal Underwater Housing. This unit provides a unique solution to underwater photography and as smartphones improve will give the photographer a flexible solution and a strong return on their investment for years to come. With a few updates to the app and some improved features for power conservation this unit will be a main contender for underwater photography very soon. Kraken Sports has also announced the addition of a dome port and a macro lens for the housing the should be released soon.
I would give Kraken a little longer before investing in this housing. Once the android app has been improved this housing is a great choice for someone wanting to capture a few pictures on their next dive. If you’re an iPhone user, then this would be a great choice if you wanted to capture a few pictures of your next dive.