Product Reviews

Underwater Review – Sony RX100 V and Fantasea Housing

I was lucky enough to take the exceptional Sony RX100 V (Mark 5) on an underwater test run in one of the most incredible dive spots in the world – Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. I tested the RX100 V in the Fantasea FRX100IV underwater housing, and needless to say, I was super pleased with the results!

Silky Sharks - Gardens of the Queen, Cuba
Silky Sharks – Gardens of the Queen, Cuba

The Sony RX100 series needs no introduction. These small, high-end compact cameras have taken over the market ever since the release of the first RX100 Mark I. They received a significant quality boost when Sony switched to the 20.1MP Exmor R CMOS 1″ sensor on the RX100 Mark III, and the newest RX100 Mark V is the epitome of technology and design, boasting the newest focusing technology, highest 4K video resolution, ultra sharp Zeiss lens and all packed in a tiny pocket size camera.

Main highlights of the Sony RX100 Mark V include:

  • 1.0″-type (0.52″ x 0.35″) Exmor RS® CMOS sensor.
  • ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm lens with fast F1.8-2.8 aperture.
  • BIONZ X™ Advanced image processing engine for superb detail and noise reduction
  • ISO 125-25600 Sensitivity with very low noise in higher ISO.
  • Fast Hybrid AF system, combining both phase and contrast detection resulting in lightning fast AF – just 0.05 sec!
  • Brilliant 4K movies.
  • Twice as long 960fps Super slow motion videos (compared to the RX100 IV).
  • Smart AF-A – automatically switches focus mode for moving subjects with a smart algorithm which knows which mode is best.
  • I could go on and on. This camera is incredible. Seriously. Check out the full specs on Sony’s website.

Sony RX100 Mark V

Fantasea FRX100 IV Underwater Housing

UPDATE: Fantasea have released the FRX100 V housing, which is identical to the FRX100 IV, only it has a 67mm thread instead of 55mm.

Fantasea’s FRX100 IV is already well known in the market, providing an excellent value underwater housing for the two previous models – RX100 III and RX100 IV, both sharing the same physical dimensions thus fitting in the same housing.

Luckily, Sony has kept the same physical design and button layout on the RX100 V, which means it fits in the same housing!

The Fantasea FRX100 IV is super easy to use. The camera slides right in, no prior adjustments needed.

All controls and buttons are conveniently placed at your fingertips. The buttons are clearly labeled and large enough to use even with gloves.

Fantasea FRX100 IV

Baraccuda in Gardens of the Queen - Sony RX100 Mark V Underwater

One of my favorite things in Fantasea’s housings is the dual O-rings and the leak sensor, built into the housing. A main black O-ring is located on the back side of the housing and a secondary white O-ring is seated in a groove on the front part. Two O-rings minimize the chance of a leak, in case there’s a fault in one of the O-rings. In the unlikely event of a flood, your housing will immediately started blinking and beeping, letting you know there’s a problem.

The ring dial of the Sony RX100 V, located on around the lens, is controlled by a large knob on the left side of the housing, easily accessible with your left hand. The rear dial is control by a small spinning knob, which can be operated with the right thumb only, but easier to handle with two fingers, while holding the housing with your left hand.

All other controls are well within reach, positioned in the most natural way, with the real user in mind. Everything in this housing, from the location of the buttons to the thumbrests on the back, was based on rigorous testing and user feedback, to make sure the result is as intuitive as possible.

Stingray in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba
Stingray in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba

Included Accessories

Fantasea includes several accessories with the housing:

Diffuser – A large white diffuser snaps on the front of the port, bringing the light from the pop-up flash to the front, so that it won’t be blocked by the lens port itself, as well as diffusing the light to prevent harsh shadows and create more uniform lighting. When using just the housing, with no external strobes, this is a very useful tool!

FRX100 IV Diffuser
FRX100 IV Diffuser

Sony RX100 V with Fantasea FRX100 IV and pop-up flash only
Sony RX100 V with Fantasea FRX100 IV and pop-up flash only

Hand Strap – This handy accessory attaches to the right side of the housing, firmly attaching the housing to the palm of your hand. This significantly reduces the strain from your wrist when holding the housing, and especially useful for snorkeling or freediving.

LCD Anti-Glare Hood – On the back for the housing, Fantasea have installed two rails, dedicated for the attachment of an LCD hood, a valuable accessory when shooting in bright daylight, which are the most common conditions for diving. The soft rubber hood provides much needed shade on the screen, making it easier to make out what you’re shooting while you’re shooting it.

Silica Gel Packs – These little gel packs are a great help with preventing moisture from building up inside your housing, resulting in the port fogging up and ruining your shots. Moisture is common in humid areas, which most of the best dive spots are known for.

Security Lanyard – A mandatory accessory with any camera / housing. The camera + housing without additional lights / lenses will be slightly positive, so the lanyard is important to prevent the camera from flying up to the surface.

EyeDaptor M55-F67 Lens Adapter – The thread built in the port of the FRX100 IV is a 55mm one. Since most lenses in the market are compatible with a 67mm thread, Fantasea includes a free 55-67mm adapter (step-up ring), making it compatible with any 67mm threaded wet lens or filter. This is no longer needed! The new FRX100V housing comes with a 67mm thread built in! So all lenses will fit directly on the front of the port.

Fantasea FRX100 IV with 67mm adapter

I love wide angle, so I was excited to get a pre-release UWL-09 lens from Fantasea to try out with this bundle. The lens performs beautifully, with very little vignetting (just a touch of zoom eliminates the black corners).

Just like many wide angle lenses, the corners will be a bit soft, but if you close down your aperture to about f/8, they become much sharper and blurriness is barely noticeable.

FRX100 IV with Fantasea UWL-09 Wide Angle Lens
FRX100 IV with Fantasea UWL-09 Wide Angle Lens


May 2017 UPDATE: Way to go Sony! The new firmware update fixes the flash issue and adds much needed UW White Balance! More on the update here

I used the Sony RX100 V with the Fantasea housing for an entire week in the beautiful Gardens of the Queen archipelago in Cuba.

I was testing this kit immediately after using the Sony A6300 for a while, and the first thing I noticed is how similar the experience was. Even though the RX100 V is a compact camera, it easily stands up to its bigger mirrorless brothers and delivers an incredible shooting experience.

The AF-A mode blew my mind. Most cameras offer AF-S and AF-C, which determine Single shot AF or Continuous, but the magical AF-A determines Automatically which method would be best for each shot, and acts accordingly. The result is that a moving subject would automatically be tracked and followed, for optimal focus, while a static subject would allow you to half-press and compose easily without losing focus.

Hogfish in Gardens of the Queen - Sony RX100 Mark V Underwater

Whichever method I chose, focusing was lightning fast in almost any conditions. I was surprised how fast this camera responds compared to other compacts I’ve tried out. It practically feels as if you’re using a DSLR!

I was shooting mostly JPG’s while testing the RX100 V, since Adobe hasn’t released RAW support for it yet at the time of testing (It is supported now!). Even when shooting JPG, colors were deep and vibrant straight off the camera, with little post processing required.

I did shoot several RAW images, but could only really work on them after Adobe released their support.

Sony RX100 V With Fantasea FRX100 IV Housing and UWL-09 Lens

Macro Shooting

Even though the RX100 V’s zoom is slightly limited, with a focal range of only 24-70mm, the camera is still fantastic for macro photography, especially when paired with a good sharp close-up lens (diopter). What it lacks in magnification, it makes up for with sharp focus and high MP count, which allow you to crop the image later on and fill the frame with your subject, while still maintaining a hi-res image.

The iconic focusing system is a huge help for the actual shooting, and while with most cameras I usually get a mediocre ratio of sharp images out of a set, with the RX100 V I find the ratio to be much higher, and I get 80% of my macro shots perfectly in focus, even with small critters.

One of the lenses which I found that works very well on this bundle, is the Backscatter Macromate for GoPro. Since it’s a 55mm thread, it fits straight on the housing, no adapters needed. It’s very strong as it is a +15 and still allows a reasonable working distance.

UPDATE: Fantasea’s new housing, the FRX100V, includes a 67mm port built in, instead of the older 55mm port. So the Macromate is no longer a good choice for it, but rather the dedicated 67mm close up lenses.

I’ve included a few samples taken with the MacroMate and the Inon UCL-165 lenses.

RX100 V with UCL-165, cropped
RX100 V with UCL-165, cropped

RX100 V with UCL-165, uncropped
RX100 V with UCL-165, uncropped

FRX100 IV with Backscatter Macromate +15
FRX100 IV with Backscatter Macromate +15

Sony RX100 V with Backscatter Macromate +15 Cropped
Sony RX100 V with Backscatter Macromate +15 Cropped

Sony RX100 V with Backscatter Macromate +15
Sony RX100 V with Backscatter Macromate +15

Sony RX100 V with Inon UCL-165
Sony RX100 V with Inon UCL-165

The samples below were taken with the Sony RX100 V in the FRX100 IV housing + Backscatter Macromate +15 macro lens, and the pop-up flash only! No external flash used. The diffuser on the housing was useful in creating a nice even lighting on the subjects.

Video Performance

One of the highlights of the Sony RX100 V are its excellent video capabilities. The RX100 V produces high quality 4K footage at 30 fps, or full HD 1080p at 120fps. For those of you looking for some more extreme slo-mo, you will surely enjoy the HFR modes, which allow you to capture 1080p video at 960fps!

The Fast Hybrid AF system is very noticeable during video shooting, with precise focusing when tracking a subject or when moving between background and foreground.

Bottom Line

The RX100 V is the best compact camera to date. Just when you think it can’t get any better than this, a new camera comes along and proves you wrong. The Sony RX100 V produces incredible high quality photos and videos, allowing fully advanced features with the simplicity of a compact camera. Paired with the Fantasea FRX100 IV housing, this is one of the leading options in the market, highly recommended for every diver, whether a complete novice or a seasoned pro looking for a more compact rig.

As of Dec 2016, this is my personal favorite at the moment, until the next one comes along!

Fantasea FRX100 V Underwater Housing AND Sony RX100 V Camera
Sony RX100 V bundle

Rated ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 based on 1 review
Best compact camera for uw photography , The newest RX100 Mark V is the epitome of technology and design, boasting the newest focusing technology, highest 4K video resolution, ultra sharp Zeiss lens and all packed in a tiny pocket size camera. – by

Ran Mor
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  1. Christian November 15, 2017

    Hello, I’m not a new diver but I’m new to diving photography. I want to buy something good for pictures and videos and I’m looking for a compact camera. I have read that the RX100 V has a limit of 9900K for the color temperature of a white balance, which is insufficient at depth 40 feets and more. What are your thoughts about that ?

  2. Tal Mor
    Tal Mor November 15, 2017

    Hi Christian, Frankly, you would get far better results by shooting RAW and then set the white balance on your computer using Adobe Lightroom or similar software. The processing ability of this software is better than the camera and you can do it for each batch of pictures separately as opposed to manual white balance which you only do a couple of times in a dive.

  3. Christian November 17, 2017

    I agree with you that shooting raw would be the solution. But what about videos? According to you can this be a problem when shooting video at more than 30-40 feet? Have you tested it?

  4. Tal Mor
    Tal Mor November 17, 2017

    This would be a great solution for video :

  5. Oscar November 20, 2017

    Hi Ran, great pictures! What would be the best focus area setting in order to go from still to movement/following a moving subject and vice-versa, while using AF-A? (Center, Flexible Spot: S-M-L, wide)

  6. Tal Mor
    Tal Mor November 20, 2017

    I personally prefer to shoot spot focus at all times.

  7. Christian November 21, 2017

    Hello Tal,
    You seem to love Frx100 IV housing. Could explain the main advantages of this one versus Ikelite or Nauticam. What explains the difference in prices? I’d like to add a strobe or a light to my RX-100 M5, is it possible with these housings ? I want to avoid having a tray to keep my kit as compact as possible.
    Thank you

  8. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor November 27, 2017

    Hi Christian!

    The Nauticam housing is an aluminum one, which means it’s more rugged, more streamlined, and thus pricier.
    Both the Ikelite and Fantasea are similar polycarbonate housings for the RX100 V. Fantasea’s housing is more compact, with better ergonomics, dual o-rings and an integrated leak detector. It also allows the use of the internal flash, which is better for you if you don’t want a tray.

    Let me know if you have any further questions!

  9. Jan February 26, 2018

    Can I shoot split shots/over-under water shots with the UWL-09 and the Sony RX100 V? Does the lens of the UWL-09 scratch easily and if yes what can you if it happens?

  10. Amartya Banerjee April 18, 2018

    Great post and great photos / videos !! For shooting videos, do you normally recommend using a red filter (as you have suggested above) or adjusting the white balance in post processing ? How about when good video lights are available ?

  11. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor April 19, 2018

    Hey Amartya!

    Thanks 🙂 Glad you liked it!
    Yes, for video a red filter is super helpful. In addition, some adjustment is always helpful in post.
    Remember that you cannot shoot raw video, so adjusting colors degrades quality and you want to keep it at minimum.
    A red filter works beautifully at certain depths, ideally around 7-10m (20-30ft).
    It can also work deeper, but ideal at that depth.

    The best option is video lights. Good quality video lights will give you the most natural lighting for video, far better than any adjustment or filter. You just have to be fairly close for them to work properly.
    No filter is needed when using external lights.

  12. Amartya Banerjee April 29, 2018

    Thank you so much Ran !! Those tips are most helpful !! 🙂

  13. Natasha Hinojosa May 25, 2018

    Hi Ran!
    I love your pictures! I was wondering if you only used the camera’s flash for all the samples you posted? Or did you use strobes? If indeed, you only used the camera’s flash then that’s amazing! Strong flash!

  14. Natasha Hinojosa May 25, 2018

    Hi Ran!
    I love your pictures! I was wondering if you only used the camera’s flash for all the samples you posted? Or did you use strobes? If indeed, you only used the camera’s flash then that’s amazing! Strong flash! Also, can you use the Nauticam CMC-01 or is it not needed and you can achieve great macro for a cheaper price?

  15. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor June 4, 2018

    Hey Natasha!

    Thanks 🙂 Glad you like them!

    Most of the photos were taken with an external flash. I was using mostly the S&S YS-01 and Inon S-2000 strobes.
    I did take a few with just the built in flash and the included diffuser. You can see the one with the french angelfish for example.
    Also, the macro shots I took with the Macromate were also built-in flash only.
    The CMC-1 is the best and most powerful macro lens you can get for this. However, for some it is perhaps too powerful, so I would actually recommend getting either the CMC-2, or even the more affordable Fantasea UCL-05 or Inon UCL-165, which are both excellent beginner lenses and much more affordable.

  16. Rolf Schmid August 16, 2018

    Hi Ran

    Thank you very much for your excellent reviews.

    In your review on the Canon G7X Mark II you mention: “The built in pop-up flash is a bit slow to recycle, so I would suggest giving up on TTL, setting the pop-up flash on manual with the lowest possible setting, then using the external flash on Manual as well. This would be the best way shoot continuously with a flash.”
    Do you have any experience with the Sony RX100 V Camera and TTL in combination with one of the big INON or Sea&Sea strobes?

    Kind regards

  17. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor August 16, 2018

    Hi Rolf!

    Glad you enjoyed the post.
    The RX100 V’s flash cannot be set to manual, it’s always firing TTL, so the best you can do to save battery would be to lower the flash compensation to minimum (-2.0 I believe).
    Yes, I use it constantly with the Inon Z-240 and S&S YS-D2. It works perfectly.
    I usually don’t use TTL, since I prefer having my strobes on manual, but it does work very well.

  18. Nicolas August 22, 2018

    Dear ran,

    I plan to buy the sony rx100 iv, fantasea housing, sea and sea ys03 kit and Fantasea UWL-400Q Wide Angle Lens. What do you think about thos items? And specially about the lens? Do you have any other lens to propose to me? In the same range of price..?

    Thank you for your shots, i hope to be able to do that one day 🙂


  19. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor September 3, 2018

    Hey Nicolas!
    Sorry for the late reply!

    Sounds like a fantastic kit!
    The UWL-400 is an excellent lens. I’ve just recently tested it out on the RX100 V. You can see my results on the recent blog post:
    I would definitely recommend it over any other lens in its price range.

    Glad you like my work 🙂 It’s just a matter of practice! I’m sure you’ll be able to get similar shots soon enough.

  20. Mary September 21, 2018

    I have the Sony Rx100 V and its housing (FX100 V). Wich lense is better? ( UWL-400 or UWL 09).
    Thank you

  21. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor September 26, 2018

    Hi Mary!
    UWL-09 is the better lens out of the two!
    However, the UWL-400 works beautifully on the the FRX100 V as well, so it’s a great budget option.

  22. Gregory Flanagan November 15, 2018

    Hi Ran. I have the sony Rx100v in the fantasea housing. I am having trouble getting focus on macro shots both with diopter and without. Can you offer any suggestions to help on land so i can get dialed in
    Thank you

  23. Tal Mor
    Tal Mor November 20, 2018

    Hi Greg,

    Are you not able to focus at all ? How about outside the water ? I would suggest to first practice outside the water, then in a pool and only after you are better trained, do macro on diving. The focus distance has to be very accurate. By the way, the RX100 has a neat manual mode feature and that is also worth considering.

    Regards, Tal

  24. Brian March 1, 2019

    Hi Ran,
    Until now i used a Canon S95 with a Ikelite housing, and its time for a change.
    Do you think this is the best compact camera for underwater photography at this moment? i am looking for a versatil camera that i can use for macro, wide angles and videos, a little of everithing.
    Thank you

  25. Петр March 4, 2019

    Здравствуйте, я сейчас выбираю между Sony rx100 lll и Sony rx100 V. Выбор очень сложный, 3 модель более доступна по цене, но в 5 модели улучшена фокусировка. На столько она стоит этих денег, действительно она превосходит 3 модель? Меня в большей степени интересует съемка видео, ну и фотографии тоже. Реально снимать в 4К под водой? Или HD? Всё таки цена в два раза больше. Хотелось бы узнать ваше мнение.
    За ранее спасибо.

  26. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor March 26, 2019

    Hey Brian!

    Yes, this is the best compact for UW photography at the moment, in my opinion.
    Definitely a great upgrade from what you have an matches your needs, assuming you add some wet lenses as well.
    The built in macro isn’t very good, so I suggest getting a diopter.
    As for wide angle lenses, everything just looks so much better with one of those on! So I definitely suggest one.

  27. Kate May 9, 2019

    Hi, can you tell me your exact settings to use when you’re shooting video, not photos? ISO, WB, aperture, etc. Also, do you shoot in video mode or picture mode? I’m having the hardest time finding the ideal video settings! Thanks a bunch.

  28. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor May 15, 2019

    Hey Kate!

    I don’t specialize in videos, but I found that it always works well for me if I use double the shutter speed from my fps (1/60s for 25 fps or 1/125s for 60fps). For ISO I would often use Auto ISO, which adjusts according to available light and works well. Aperture is safe to leave on f/5.6, which is a good sweet spot for sharpness. If you need more light, you can open it up to a lower number (e.g. f/2.8) or if shooting macro and you need more depth of field, close it down to f/8 or f/11.
    As for WB, for me the underwater WB (fish icon) works really well on the RX100 V! Whether using lights or not, it automatically adjusts to give a very decent result.
    I would experiment with automatic and manual modes to see what gives you the best results.
    Good luck!

  29. PETR STARODUB July 25, 2019

    Здравствуйте! У меня Sony Rx100 Va . Хотел бы с вами посоветоваться, есть возможность взять корпус Fantasea FRX100 IV по стоимости он дешевле FRX100 V, и вы использовали макро линзы Backscatter Macromate +15 . Как они по качеству и есть ли смысл.

  30. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor July 30, 2019

    Hi Petr!

    Yes, the RX100 VA would fit in the FRX100IV housing, if you can find one. Those are no longer being sold, but you might be able to find a used one.
    If you do, then yes it would work well with the Backscatter Macromate +15 which is super affordable.
    It all depends if you can find a used FRX100IV. I would search eBay and such to try to find a seller.
    Otherwise, the FRX100V is available on our store. You can match it with the affordable +8 lens:

    Good luck!

  31. Edu June 24, 2020

    Hi Ran, very interesting article, thanks!
    Look I have a fantasea housing and I am getting a sony rx100 for it. Since the housing is the frx100 any model from III to VA can fit. I was thinking to go all the way and get a second hand VA but it will cost me $400 less if I get the III mark (2 hand as well) instead. Is it worth it to get the VA only for the more power focus and improved menu? thanks for your help!!

  32. Ran Mor
    Ran Mor June 24, 2020

    Hey! Glad you found it helpful.
    The advantages of the VA vs Mark III includes improved AF, better video (4K and slow motion), faster continuous shooting and perhaps better image quality since it has a newer stacked sensor.

    If those are worth it for you, then go for the VA. Otherwise, the RX100 III is still a very capable camera.

  33. Socrates June 29, 2021

    Hi Ran, I really enjoyed the post, thank you. I’m currently using an old S100 with its housing and would like to upgrade. I shoot stills only, day time, free diving (max 10-12 meters) and my subjects are usually shy, so speed is requested. I’m between RX100 M5 because of the fast lens, RX100 M6 because of the 200m zoom and Sony mirrorless a6000/63000 as an overall better camera (is it?). Obviously, I’m on a tight budget. First, out of the two compact, what would you suggest? Fast lens (M5) or the benefit of distance that a 200m lens provides (M6)? Lastly, would you suggest Sony a6000/63000 over the compacts and why? Thank you in advance.

  34. Tal Mor
    Tal Mor June 30, 2021

    Hi Scorates, great questions!

    When shooting underwater, in most cases you will use an external light and for that reason a fast lens does not give you an y advantage. The zoom does give you an advantage for macro shots and certainly for topside photography and as such I would recommend the RX100 VI or VII. A mirrorless is far more expensive, it will obviously provide better image quality but the complexity , travel weight and price burden will be significant.

    It sounds like the RX100 VI would be your best choice and I would highly recommend the Fantasea housing for it.

    Feel free to reach out via email or chat for help from our CS team.


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