Why You Should Get a Waterproof Phone Case
From choice, most photographers would rather be out shooting on a sunny evening than a rainy afternoon. Just as importantly, most cell phones don’t play nicely with liquids. Yet water brings many creative opportunities, from lights reflecting on soaking wet paving to colorful life beneath the ocean waves.
A waterproof case allows you to explore these subjects without fear of ruining your device through unwanted water damage. These accessories are usually relatively inexpensive, and many are designed specifically with smartphone photography in mind.
Do Waterproof Phone Cases Really Work?
As their name would suggest, most waterproof smartphone cases provide effective protection. Most are made from durable plastic, with secure rubber seams. Cases that are designed primarily for underwater use are generally thick enough to cope with the pressure.
Of course, no protection is infallible. However, most of the horror stories involve cheap cases that are poorly designed or manufactured. Such tales serve as a reminder to invest in quality when the fate of your expensive device is on the line.
Things To Consider When Buying a Waterproof Phone Case
Waterproof cases come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are designed to shrug off precipitation, while others are made for plunging to the ocean floor.
The key things to look for are ease of use and the IP rating.
What Does the IP Rating Actually Mean?
Among the specs for any waterproof case, the IP rating is the most important. This code provides a definitive measure of the water- and dust-resistance of any device or accessory.
Although the numbers seem cryptic at first, the IP rating is actually very straightforward. The first number represents resistance to dust and other solid substances on a scale of 0 to 8.
The higher the number, the better the protection, although each number actually represents a very specific test standard. Sometimes, you may see an “X” instead of a figure; this means the case hasn’t been tested with dust.
When searching for a waterproof case, the second number is the more telling. This tells you how water resistant the case is. As a guide, you want to be looking for at least IPX6, which represents being blasted with 75 liters per minute of water.
For regular shooting in the rain and the occasional dunk, consider IPX7. A case that reaches this standard will keep your phone dry for 30 minutes in one meter of water. The IPX8 rating is a little more nebulous, simply requiring a case to outperform the IPX7 standard.
More Than Waterproof Protection?
Although a waterproof case is primarily made to shield your phone from liquids, you may want a case that offers other forms of protection.
While most waterproof cases prevent bumps and scratches, some are more rugged than others. Cases with thicker bumpers are easier to hold in wet conditions, and they are more likely to bounce than break. Some are designed specifically to withstand significant falls; the trade-off is usually added bulk.
Many waterproof phone cases are designed to fit any smartphone within specific dimensions. In most instances, they live up to this claim. However, the one-size-fits-all approach comes with downsides.
In order to accommodate the various designs of different makes and models, case makers will create something loose-fitting. The extra material may get in the way when you are trying to shoot. Furthermore, universal waterproof cases might not fit very well with unusually shaped devices.
For these reasons, look for a case that is designed specifically for your device.
Made for Photography?
The other key consideration is image quality.
Just because a case can protect your phone from water does not mean it is well suited to photography. While it may not obscure the camera, the plastic might scratch easily or distort your photos. Where possible, choose a case that has a dedicated window for the camera lens.
What Is the Best Waterproof Phone Case?
A quick search through Amazon will turn up hundreds of waterproof cases. But which one is best? Here is a closer look at five popular choices.
Hitcase Shield Link iPhone Case
As a compromise between everyday usability and protection from the elements, the Hitcase Shield Link finds a good balance.
The case has a frame made from aluminum, with shatterproof panels and stainless steel button covers. The Shield case is meant to be waterproof in 10 feet of water, or three meters, and it can withstand a fall from the same distance above solid ground.
Hitcase provides two options for sealing the front of the case. When your phone isn’t likely to come into contact with liquid, you can attach a simple rubber bumper. The other option is a waterproof and scratch-proof seal.
Some users struggle to make calls with the waterproof seal installed, and this layer makes the touchscreen less responsive. However, it seems the Shield does provide solid protection.
The case works perfectly well for photography without any modification, but you can add glass. The Shield has a magnetic mounting point, which is compatible with three TrueLUX lenses (sold separately): Macro, Wide and Superwide.
The lenses themselves are entirely waterproof, and the magnetic design means you can attach or remove them instantly.
Waterproof to 10 feet / 3 meters
Strong metal frame and shatterproof panels
Relatively slim design
Compatible with high-quality lenses
Removable screen protection
Poor audio in waterproof mode
Touchscreen less responsive with waterproof cover
Vansky Dry Bag
There is nothing particularly elegant about the Vansky Dry Bag. This universal waterproof case looks baggy when wrapped around smaller phones, and the oversized top seal will only fit in the largest of pockets.
What the Vansky does provide is IPX8 protection at a very affordable price. Made from TPU, the Dry Bag can theoretically protect your phone down to 100 feet (30 meters) below the surface.
Most owners leave positive reviews, although a few have found that the Dry Bag isn’t so dry when tested with submersion. These costly accidents are likely caused by owners not sealing the case correctly. However, the fact you have to get it right every time in order to avoid catastrophe water damage is something to bear in mind.
The Dry Bag is made from clear TPU, with enough space inside for any device with a 5.7-inch screen or smaller. This includes most iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets, along with other makes and models. You can use your touchscreen through the waterproof skin, and those clear panels are good for photography. The supplied lanyard also ensures your phone can’t float away.
The Vansky may not be as good as a specialist diving case, but it provides decent protection for an occasional underwater photographic foray.
IPX8 waterproofing (100 feet / 30 meters)
Fits most phones
Allows full touchscreen use
Must be sealed properly to avoid disaster
Clear windows can steam up and reduce image quality
JOTO Universal Waterproof Pouch
Another universal option, the JOTO Pouch is a little larger than the Vansky. This protective bag works with phones that measure up to 6.8 inches diagonally, including iPhone Max, Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy Plus devices.
In most other respects, the JOTO Pouch offers a very similar spec sheet. The case is waterproof to 100 feet of water (30 meters) with an IPX8 rating. It has clear front and back panels, and a large top seal that operates on a quick-lock mechanism.
Most users seem to be satisfied with the protection afforded by the JOTO Pouch. Even underwater, it remains dry on the inside.
The main weakness of the Pouch is that it does not always work well with touchscreens. In fact, JOTO recommends using the volume keys on your phone to capture photos under a certain depth. Some users even report the sides of the Pouch triggering their device .
These rough edges can be forgiven when you consider how little the JOTO Pouch costs. In addition, this case has the edge over the very similar yet slightly more expensive Vansky Dry bag.
Works with nearly all smartphones
Reliable IPX8 waterproofing
Oversized for smaller phones
Interferes with touchscreen functionality
OUNNE iPhone Waterproof Case
Designed for general outdoor use, the OUNNE case meets Military Standard 810G-516. In English, this means the case will protect your phone from a vertical drop of 6.6 feet (2 meters). The case is also dust- and dirt-proof.
As part of the general ruggedness, the OUNNE case has an IP68 rating. You should be able to float around in 10 feet of water (3 meters) for an hour without seeing any water ingress. By and large, the case seems to live up to these promises.
The main concerns expressed by owners relate to the charging port cover, which seems to pop open on some units. Before taking a dive, it might be worth taping it shut.
In terms of photography, the OUNNE case performs very well. It has a clear window on the front that does not seem to interfere with the touchscreen. On the back, there are dedicated portholes for the camera lenses and flash.
The sides are raised slightly to protect the screen — but otherwise, this is a very slim case that is perfect for everyday use.
Durable construction with drop protection
Both waterproof (10 feet / 3 meters) and dustproof
Dedicated portholes for camera lenses and flash
Good access to controls
Slim yet rugged design
Support for wireless charging
- Questionable sealing on charging port cover
HAWEEL Underwater Housing for iPhone
Few photographers who take pictures underwater will ever venture out of the shallows. For the intrepid minority who dive deeper, a proper watertight housing makes a wise investment.
Although the HAWEEL diving case is rated at IPX8, you can take it down through 130 feet of water (40 meters) without a problem. Thanks to thick polycarbonate walls, the case is robust enough to take serious pressure.
The inevitable side-effect of this impressive protection is reduced usability. Instead of tapping on the touchscreen through a thin film, you have to operate your phone with fixed buttons.
Being designed specifically for the iPhone, those buttons are placed perfectly over the shutter and mode buttons within the iOS Camera app for easy access. At least they should be; some users complain that the alignment is slightly off.
On a positive note, the HAWEEL case has a clear window for the camera lenses and a 37mm adapter ring on the outside. The latter feature is perfect for attaching wide-angle adapters and filters. On the bottom of the case, a quarter-inch screw hole allows you to mount your iPhone on a tripod or monopod.
Given the protection it affords, the HAWEEL case is very reasonably priced. That said, you need to be planning a dive in order to justify the purchase.
Waterproof to 130 feet / 40 meters
Durable design with solid seals
Physical controls work with the iOS Camera app
Adapter ring and screw hole for accessories
Great protection for the price
Compromises access to settings
Buttons not always perfectly aligned
For anyone wanting to try photography at the water’s edge, the JOTO Pouch should suffice. It is ugly and unrefined, but cheap enough that you will get good value from a single shoot.
Outdoor iPhone photographers who regularly meet with rain and snow might want to upgrade to the OUNNE case. It can handle a short dunk and protect your device from falls, without compromising image quality.
To capture ocean life, you really need to get the HAWEEL underwater housing. It allows you to visit the seabed without worrying about your device.
In the end, choosing a waterproof case comes down to what you need. Consider what you want to capture, and invest in appropriate protection. A good case can unlock creative opportunities that go unnoticed by most photographers — meaning your work will stand out from the crowd.