Outex has long been manufacturing underwater housings to allow photographers to take their cameras under the water, or out in aggressive weather. Outex’s approach is a flexible skin for the device, with an optical glass dome so the image quality isn’t compromised (offered in both flat or dome options). It’s a patented design that leaves access to camera controls and viewfinder, and now it has created a new skin to fit many people’s best camera: the phone. On the face of it, that seems a great idea, but does it work? Also, given Outex’s pro glass is designed for full-sized lenses, are we looking at some serious overkill? We decided to find out in a nearby muddy pond!
Waterproof: Depth of 10m (33ft)
In the box: Universal phone cover, optical glass dome
Dimensions (case): 150 x 180 x 15mm
Dimensions (dome): 130 x 130 x 65mm
Design and handling
The Phone Pro kit consists of a gorgeous dome of glass fitted to a black screw mount and what looks like a phone-shaped prophylactic. The camera case is a single piece of slightly cloudy clear rubbery plastic, which is thin enough to operate a touch screen through. To fit the phone you need a small amount of assembly; the handset needs to be persuaded into place. We found this was possible with an iPhone 14 Pro Max in a case (though Outex suggest using without one). More or less any phone with the main camera on the top left (including Samsung’s Galaxy line) will fit, so you can swap phones as you choose.
One your phone is more-or-less in place, you take the ring and manipulate it into a groove in the 120mm cut-out circle which you just squeezed your phone through. Then, finally, gripping the ring through the rubber, you screw the domed glass lens on. This has a quality tooth grip and the rubber isn’t slippery so it’s easier to manipulate than you might imagine. After that, it’s time you use your phone’s camera as usual.
The Outex system manages to live up to its promises. Although we’ve not had the opportunity to test below 1m of pressure, we had no issues with leakage. The glass provided an exceptional image through all of the iPhone’s cameras. There was no distortion visible in the images or video, though the water we tested didn’t really lend itself for the zoom lens! The more significant factor is the lack of light bending, and that the dome is sufficient to minimise the apparent thickness of the waterline, making possible under/over shots.
We were impressed that that the phone’s touchscreen even seemed to work under the surface. The shutter button will also work, though is less tactile than the bare handset given the even ‘universal fit’. It’s just as sensible, though, to hit record once and keep capturing footage.
Viewing the screen is subject to some air bubbles but it is perfectly possible to compose a shot.
We also found the thoughtful wrist strap with pull-tight grip did a good job of ensuring we could briefly let go of the phone and housing without the worry of losing it.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to make your phone camera your underwater – or damp conditions – device of choice. Pro video recording apps can make your phone equivalent to some top notch cameras, and the options for immediate editing and sharing without the trouble of copying/downloading are high on that list.
That said, the Outex’s undoubted quality is reflected in the price. While the flat glass version ($149) puts it in the accessory bracket, go for the $349 Dome kit and you’re spending a similar amount to a waterproof action cameras like the best GoPros. There is something to be said for having a separate device, especially weighed against the time taken to remove and keep safe the delicate glass and sheath of the Outex offering.
The dome, however, does offer serious photographers more than a GoPro can. The distance from the camera’s lens opens photographic possibilities which surface tension on a small lens makes impossible. For that reason alone, this is an easy recommendation for serious enthusiasts and pros.