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Should I Worry About Camera Buoyancy?

I have to admit that I am rather obsessed with having the correct camera buoyancy.  I have spent considerable time just trying to get the rig right.  The three main benefits of this is Good Handling, Safety & Expense 

I even made my own modular system from Divinycell 80.  A material made in yacht building that does not compress until 80m.  This is very helpful as it maintains its buoyancy at depth, basic foam does compress and as a result, your rig will become progressively more negative at depth.  I now though use INON float arms and Stix arms to achieve the same result.

So what is correct buoyancy of a camera rig?  Although a lot of it will be down to preference I have found that being very marginally negative is best.  A positive rig has the rather large annoyance of constantly bashing you in the head as you go diving.  Perfectly neutral has the same effect.  However, a rig that is slightly negative 10-50g will not.  

Good Handling

Camera rigs on land can get heavy and just by carrying them on land can strain those arms.  It’s exactly the same underwater.  A camera with two strobes and wide angle lens can already have an underwater weight of over 1kg.  Try holding out a 1Kg weight at arm’s reach for 60 minutes and see what happens.  

By removing this negative weight it makes it a lot easier to handle the rig underwater.  More importantly the lighter the rig the easier it is to keep it steady especially if your arm is extended.    

Safety

This comes down to your personal buoyancy underwater.  As we know over-weighted when diving requires the diver to add extra air into their BCD.  This has a number of issues, first is that this puts extra exertion on the diver.  More importantly, it makes buoyancy harder to maintain through the dive, requiring the diver to constantly adjust their buoyancy at different depths.  

So surely diving with a heavy rig the common sense approach would be to adjust your diving weights to compensate for your rig.  What would happen if your rig snapped off?  What would happen if you needed to unclip your rig? Or just simply how do you maintain trim?

Expense

What is an underwater photographer’s biggest fear, losing your rig in the blue?  

We have all either done it or had a near miss.  Mine was in Thailand at the end of a 30m+ dive.  The boat was moored off the reef with a depth of in excess 50m.  We were all ascending towards the boat ladder.  I usually only ever unclip my camera from my BCB when I have one hand firmly on the ladder.  For some reason still unknown to me I unclipped my camera at 5m during the safety stop.  At the end of the safety stop we all started to ascend, I became distracted and I just let go of my camera, not normally an issue if it was clipped on…

A minute later I look round for my buddy and see her back down at 5m holding onto my rig.  As my rig was only slightly negative my buddy had the time to react to me dropping the rig and drop down after it.  If the rig was truly negative the rig would have sunk too fast and it would have been lost.  She had a smug look on her face when we got back to the surface, it cost me pride and a few drinks…

Keeping your rig slightly negative can save you money too…

How much does my camera rig weigh underwater?

See some pre-designed balanced rigs here for ideas