Best Underwater Cameras Reviews & Ratings
There are a lot of underwater cameras to choose from in the industry, all with their own specific pros and cons. Some of the names making the top ten will be familiar while others come as a complete surprise. Most of the surprises are at the beginning of the list, although the #1 choice is from a brand that no one can argue with. The good news is that buyers have plenty of options when they start shopping for underwater cameras. The bad news? There are so many choices that the line between good and great is blurred.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Industry Leader
- Best Design
- Smart Capture
GoPro, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic and Kodak are the most notable on the list. There are a few other brands that have a following, but these five are instantly recognizable by name only. Despite the changes in the company, Kodak is still sticking around as a fan favorite for underwater cameras. Panasonic and Olympus continue to do great in all media and aren’t far behind one another. GoPro is GoPro, with little to no cons in their hardware or software setup. If you have the cash, they are the best in the industry at delivering the best experience.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
Yes, underwater cameras are durable- but they still need to be cleaned. Depending on which product you go with, it will have a removable housing. Once it is off, you can clean the camera and its case separately. There shouldn’t be any water on the camera if the housing is doing its job correctly. If water is present, then look for any cracks or creases in the housing. Checking for moisture within the camera is the biggest reason to do regular cleaning of the product. The only accessories you really need are a dry towel for the casing and a microfiber cloth for the camera. Buyers that get a starter pack with its own cleaning products will have it even easier.
10 Best Underwater Cameras
1. GoPro HERO6
The Best In The Industry
GoPro cameras have become top sellers due to durability, performance and their endless options. They are built from the ground up to take action photos and videos of the highest quality.
Sold as a base, deluxe bundle, sd card bundle, starter bundle and vacation bundle
2x the performance speed of Hero 5 Black
The Hero6 is the most expensive camera on the list, and that includes buying the cheapest form (base). However the value is unquestionable since you’re getting the best underwater camera available for your money.
To have no regrets when taking photos of videos underwater, purchase a GoPro Hero6. No matter which bundle version you decide on, it’ll be money well spent.
- Automatically sends media to your phone
- Waterproof up to 33ft.
- The most expensive camera on the list
2. Panasonic Lumix TS20 1
The Best Design
The TS20 is the best looking waterproof camera on the top ten, and is available in orange, blue and black. All of the colors look great, complementing the slim frame of this flagship device.
7 inch LCD
Available at an average price, the value evens out if you’re looking for a top tier camera. Buyers should spend a little time going through the manual so that the complex functions are recognizable.
Good looking with advanced controls is a nice summary of what this camera has to offer. The higher learning curve is worth it if you want top notch photos and videos.
- Rechargeable battery pack
- 25mm wide angle lens
- High learning curve for the controls
Kodak’s Smart Capture is a software mode on the camera that automatically improves the picture taking process. Photo opportunism that would usually look bad come out a lot better when this mode is activated.
4 inch 112k TFT LCD
Waterproof up to 10ft.
Even with expensive components and software the C123 is low priced. This should endear it to anyone looking for that magical Kodak value.
Kodak has a strong track record of great hardware/software combos. The EasyShare Sport C123 continues that tradition and is a strong contender on the list.
- Features Kodak’s share button
- Takes incredible pictures
- Slow to transfer media from SD card
4. Nikon Coolpix W100
Having onboard Bluetooth isn’t rare for a high grade camera, but pairing it with the included NFC and Wi-Fi functionality is. There are multiple ways to wirelessly transmit your media without showing favoritism to any protocol.
2MP low-light CMOS sensor
7 inch TFT LCD
The Olympus starter set is still the best, but for the average price of this Nikon set it makes a great alternative. And since the camera has Nikon’s usual grade A quality, it retains the brand’s values.
The only bad thing about this camera is the included tripod. Other than that small detail, the W100 can match up with any other on the list.
- Waterproof up to 33ft.
- Great starter package with nine different accessories
- Included tripod is flimsy
5. Olympus Tough TG-5
Everything In One Package
Multiple items are included in the package; 32 GB card, 1 Olympus batter+1 Polaroid battery, charger, tripod, point and shoot case, 8 in 1 cleaning kit, floating wrist strap, memory card wallet, memory card reader, and LCD screen protector.
12MP image sensor
Dual Quad Core TruePic VIII Image Processor
For a high price you get an underwater camera with all of the fixings. The long-term value in this product is magnified by the excellent resources online from satisfied buyers.
Starter sets are great, but starter sets that have everything but the kitchen sink can be infinitely better. Olympus is a trusted brand that did a solid job of gathering the most important camera accessories and assembling them into a single package.
- The most complete set on the list
- Waterproof up to 50ft.
6. AKASO EK7000
Wireless Wrist Remote
Not only is the wireless wrist remote control useful, it is consistent. Attaching it makes taking pictures and videos much easier when you’re away from the camera.
4k Ultra HD/12MP
2 rechargeable 1050mAh batteries
As far as price goes, it is low no matter which color you choose. Even with the tablet/phone app being annoying, the EK7000 is a beastly value.
If you go with a different editing app, then this is a top three product. Other than that this is an underwater camera that comes highly recommended by multiple sources.
- Available in black, royal blue and sage/silver
- 100 ft. waterproof
- iSmart DV app is a pain to use
7. Fujifilm FinePix XP120
There are four available colors to choose from; sky blue, blue, lime green and yellow. All colors are well done and won’t chip due to old age.
4 MP BSI CMOS sensor
Waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof and dustproof
Price is about average for both the base setup and the model with the 32 GB card. They are appropriately priced for the value given.
This is a great choice for consumers that don’t want to dive headfirst into high priced underwater cameras. With all of the powerful features from the XP120, you’ll have all the tools necessary to take great photos.
- Alternative 32 GB version can be purchased
- Cinemagraphs feature is improved from previous iterations
- Battery life is subpar
8. APEMAN 4K 20MP
In today’s world 1080p is still the current standard for media, but there is no denying the brilliance of 4k. At the consumer and professional level there is a big difference in how good 4k looks when this camera outputs to a television.
Multiple viewing angles up to 170 degrees
Surprisingly, the price is low for this camera even though it does 4k and has built in wifi. With the full accessory kit that comes with it, this is a fantastic value.
Buyers will have few choices for 4k in the low price range. This Apeman model is a solid choice that will give you top tier performance.
- 2x 1050mAh batteries
- Waterproof case and case cover
- Mounting pads (included) are low quality
9. Powpro Kfun PP-J52
Easy To Use
An important feature of any kid approved electronic device is ease of use. The PP-J52 meets this criteria while still offering a lot of control over the quality of media.
Waterproof and Dustproof
0 TFT screen
Even with an odd color choice for kids, the price is low so this camera has lasting value. It’s the easiest camera on the list for kids to use underwater.
Beginner friendly doesn’t always mean kid friendly, and that is why this camera is important. The PP-J52 is the right camera for kids to start out with if they’re interested in underwater photography.
- 3m waterproof
- Ani-falling housing
- Only available in yellow
The first thing you’ll notice about wearing this mask is the angle it takes pictures and videos. It is the most immersive camera on the list by catching all of the important action.
20 meters underwater max
The price is low, and you get a pair of goggles with a capable camera. Even if you only want the camera, the value is solid.
Having a top tier camera won’t matter much when you can’t get the best angle. This mounted camera does everything possible to record the best action shots.
- Can be dissembled and used separately
- Available in blue or yellow
Camera is the weakest on the list
Product Criteria For Evaluation
Our criteria for the top ten was based off of the most important components about an underwater camera. There were a lot of products that came close to the #2-5 spots, but none that were even close to overtaking the GoPro series. They are a clear #1 winner with this top ten which is why the majority of our listed criteria was based off of the finer points from the Hero6.
Price is where we started, and while it was simple enough there were a lot of cameras that didn’t make the list because of price. Only a few high priced cameras made the list, and it was only because their exceptional features earned them a place. This led to a couple of notable choices being left off the list, and that includes Sony. Instead a comparable camera at a lower price with a Sony sensor made the top ten in its place. Pricing kept the list clean, and as a result there were no brands that made the list twice.
Since underwater cameras will be introduced to a lot of dangers while in operation, the durability of the casings are an integral part of their operation. Casings that had shockproof/drop proof protection were rated highly. And with the majority of the cameras on the list having screens, it was necessary for the company to protect the weakest part of the product. Low durability knocked out a lot of good cameras from the top ten. There was no way around this, even if the company offered a fantastic warranty. Durability also covered the components of the camera and how well they held up against random failure.
Extras is a criteria that shined the light on starter sets and kits, so only a few models from the top ten were rated. It wasn’t enough to include a lot of extras in a kit, what was included had to be of good quality. The entire point of getting accessories bundled is to save you money and time upfront. When those accessories are subpar, you still have to go out and make an extra purchase. The Olympus Touch TG-5 was the best in this category. It earned several points for including all necessary materials in one big package. Nikon was another brand that earned a lot of points in this category and placed higher than the Olympus model.
Battery life was a tricky criteria, and we had to measure three things; how long it lasts, how long it takes to fully charge, and how many packs are included in the package. A few brands included 2x rechargeable battery packs to play with. There was an important uptick in quality when this happened, as companies often kept the charge time similar to the usage time. When that happened, users would always have a fresh battery to use even under heavy usage. There were no penalties to cameras that only came with one battery, but we did end up removing a lot of products from the list that had no batteries included
Underwater depth played a role in deciding how true the marketing claims were about the cameras waterproofing. Devices were tested at their listed depth for at least ten minutes, multiple times. The bad signs we looked for were; fogging of the lens, water leaking into the casing, electronic malfunctions and any type of software lag due to the depth.
A lot of really good cameras were kicked off of the top ten by not meeting their listed depth, and in some cases the cameras weren’t waterproof at all. It was exhaustive testing that paid off by separating the real cameras from the frauds.
Ease of Use
When you buy an underwater camera, you don’t expect it to be simplistic, but you do want it to be friendly enough to use underwater. All of this has to be done while giving full access to the advanced options of the camera. You won’t get DSLR-type settings, although there are a lot of post editing functions to improve quality. We rated cameras using an ‘ease of use’ criteria with the settings. Models that did well in this category had large LCD screens and built in shortcuts. The top three cameras on the list have improved UI over previous models that is streamlined for one touch use. Bonus points were given out in this category for wireless remote control and voice activated shooting.
Photo quality was tied to the stabilization techniques that are built into the camera. Some handle it better than others, so even a camera that was capable of great pictures would suffer at getting a usable shot. Blurriness or color blending was a problem for the cameras that we feel didn’t deserve a place on the list. Models that remained had excellent stability options without the need for messing with customization settings. A lot of the heavy work was done during the initial shot and after, with the best cameras automating photo improvements without user prompts. All of this is reversible with the touch of a button, and can be further improved with built in editing options on the camera.
Videos were rated on all resolutions instead of having 4k compete with 1080p. Audio was tested to make sure it wasn’t crackling or distorted, yet the main focus remained on video quality. At this point in the list we had some off brand cameras that were hanging on, but was quickly removed after they introduced micro-stutter with finished video. The remaining cameras on the top ten had buttery smooth media that played well on television sets and computer monitors. And with proper tweaking in the appropriate software, it turned into an even better experience for the user.
What Makes GoPro So Good?
GoPro realized early on that smartphone cameras had the same features as 90% of digital cameras. On top of that, they also started to cater to the consumer that uploaded a lot of their photos and videos to social media. GoPro has an incredible amount of accessories to extend the performance of their cameras. With high durability, they also outfit their devices with the latest wireless technology. In short, every bell and whistle you could ever want will be stuffed into their latest model. Each generation of GoPro cameras attaches new improvements that handle media better. And depending on which ga you get, the price to own one can be low or high.
Are Starter Sets Worth It?
Even if you have all of the accessories for a camera, getting a starter set is helpful. Starter sets come with all of the accessories at a much lower price than buying them separately. Buyers that do a lot of traveling will appreciate the storage that comes with starter sets. With it you can put everything in one spot so that it is ready to go when needed. All starter sets are different, so try choosing one that has extras that resemble what you’re looking for most in a kit. And if nothing really matches your interest, choosing the base model will do the job just fine.
Why Are Megapixels Important?
Megapixel counts have gotten out of hand over the years, and it has become more of a marketing ploy. Ridiculous megapixel counts are added to the features but has no bearing on how nice the photos or videos are. So a camera with a high megapixel count is capable of taking bad photos, even with all of the correct settings. Referred to as the ‘megapixel myth’, it is a common trick played on consumers. But that doesn’t mean that megapixels should be ignored; it just means that you shouldn’t ignore the other features of the product. The two things that need to be top quality in order for megapixels to count are lens and the camera’s image sensor. Without these two things, the megapixel count is nothing more than a flashy number. For reference, one of the most popular cameras among professionals in the industry is only 13 megapixels. The Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II is a big deal thanks to the above average lens and image sensor. When buying underwater cameras, the same formula applies.
Is 4k A Big Jump From 1080p?
Yes, and it isn’t something that needs to be visualized side by side. The jump to 4k is similar to the same jump that consumers made from 720p to 1080p. You can go into any store and see a live display of 4k in action and it will be an incredible difference in quality from the rest of the televisions. But 4k isn’t the standard yet, and is still firmly in the enthusiast’s category. That still doesn’t mean there is no benefit to getting a 4k underwater camera. Households that have 4k computer monitors and television sets will see a nice improvement in visual quality if the footage comes from a 4k camera.
What Is The Difference Between 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi?
The former provides faster speed with a shorter distance, while the latter is about half as fast but with a longer distance covered. Just like 1080p, 2.4 GHz is still the standard because it covers a much longer distance with improved wall penetration. There aren’t a lot of instances where that connection will be taxed to the point where it can’t deliver relevant information. But to simplify 5 GHz with a single pro and con would be doing a disservice to the technology. With so many people still on 2.4 GHz signals, 5 GHz is the go to option for a less crowded wireless experience. With underwater cameras you’ll be transmitting large files wirelessly to the internet or another device. If your SD card is full, then the quickest way to transmit that information is by using the faster signal. The only reason to use 2.4 GHz is if you are out of range from the access point.
Does Camera Software Matter If You Use Alternative Software?
All major brands have their own camera software for desktop computers. Some of them even have apps for smartphones and tablets. The core function of the software is to allow editing and sharing of the pictures. These aren’t robust programs, although the GoPro app with QuickStories has gained a massive following. Camera software is meant for ease of use, so you can use any software you want and get similar results. A lot of users prefer to edit and upload their photos using the adobe suite. Macintosh users also have their own choice of photo/video editing software that is far superior to what the camera maker’s offer.
Are The Zoom Settings Inferior On Underwater Cameras?
Zoom settings for underwater cameras are not inferior, they’re just more appropriate for water use. The high powered zoom settings of regular cameras allow them to be effective for their intended use. With underwater cameras, the zoom settings aren’t as powerful so that the integrity of the picture isn’t compromised. You’ll see a lot of changes with the settings when dealing with an underwater camera that are for the benefit of picture or video quality. Buyers shouldn’t be surprised if the max zoom setting is capped at 4x even when they’re dealing with high priced underwater cameras.
Why Is It Important To Have A Quality Screen On The Camera?
You can throw any old screen on the back of a camera but it won’t provide the same experience as a quality screen. This is where components make a big difference in how you take pictures. A quality screen is large and gives you quick access to the most important functions of the camera. More importantly, it shows you a 1:1 image of the photo/video you’re going to be taking. There are no surprises with the finished product when you have a high tier LCD. Consumers that purchase cameras with a bad screen are forced to spend a lot of time editing the media, with no guarantee it will look as stunning as the live version.
What Happens When Water Gets On An Underwater Camera?
The lens will fog up and it will be impossible to take a good picture. You also risk damaging the internals of the camera when the water seeps in deep enough. That is why having a removable housing is a good idea. It is the last line of defense before the camera gets ruined and you have to call in the warranty. Underwater cameras have high durability, but they are still susceptible to leaks from bad usage habits or a cracked exteriors. The worst part about water damage is the potential risk of losing everything on your memory card. Once water compromises that information, the camera is all but finished.
Will Videos Have Good Sound?
Good sound is going to be related to the user rather than the camera quality. Sound quality is not a problem with any of the recommended cameras in the industry. They will pick up anything that is near the microphone, just like a smartphone. So even at their worst, underwater cameras have at least average sound. The problem with quality comes from the viewpoint of the user that may have the camera mounted to a helmet, side of their vehicle or any area where the sound will be mixed in with other actions. Unless you plan on attaching a wired or wireless microphone, expect to pick up everything within the area of the camera mic.
Is There A Big Difference In Quality Based On Price?
In base quality, no. The important parts of what makes an underwater camera great will remain available at any price point. The differences in prices will net you more bells and whistles or a more complete starter set. A good example is how a low cost camera will have 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi but a high priced GoPro will have 5 GHz. They both do the same thing, it just so happens that the GoPro uses a stronger wireless protocol than the lower priced camera. You’ll see this a lot from products, usually with the 1080p to 4k comparisons. By purchasing a low priced underwater camera you’re not missing out on a technology that will improve your photo or video quality to a massive extent.
When Is GPS Important?
Geotagging is directly tied to the GPS function on a camera. You’ll notice it in photos from social media sites like Facebook or anywhere that supports location based tagging. It is a convenience feature, but one that is helpful to buyers that travel a lot. It’s also a great way to order photos by location for quick editing. GPS functions are completely optional, and not needed for the full enjoyment of an underwater camera. The best way to decide about the importance of the GPS feature is to look at how often you use it with your smartphone camera. This is standard protocol for any modern device, so should give you a general idea of how frequently you use Geotagging.
Is Bluetooth Or NFC Wireless Functions A Necessity?
Like GPS, they’re optional. NFC is really not needed by modern standards, but is considered a ‘nice to have’ feature. Bluetooth on the other hand is a major feature that is included in a lot major electronic releases across the industry. Even television sets have started incorporating Bluetooth functionality thanks to its efficient way of handling data. Depending on your current technological level, Bluetooth may be a bigger necessity than Wi-Fi. When you’re out in the middle of nowhere without a wireless signal, having Bluetooth can be a lifesaver. It should be noted that it is almost impossible to add Bluetooth to an underwater camera that doesn’t already have it as a feature. So for some consumers, it is smarter to purchase a product with Bluetooth even when you don’t plan to use it.
How To Make The Best Decision
A couple of important features will determine the true value of a camera you’re interested in. Some of the not so obvious choices turn out to be the most important ones (like size). Buyers shouldn’t get too hung up on the details, but at the very least they should require a minimum of any two of the below features;
1080p – While 4k is nice to have, 1080p is the minimum to go for with the resolution. It is the standard that has left 720p behind for a while now. That doesn’t mean that 720p is obsolete, it’s just considered dated by today’s standards for cameras.
Wi-Fi or other wireless connectivity – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or NFC is a must with any modern camera. It is the quickest way to transfer data from the device without plugging it in or removing the card. Wi-Fi is also important for built in social media features while Bluetooth is great for connecting other devices.
A Strong Case – Durable housing is something that is overlooked when going for an underwater camera. Yes, you obviously want a waterproof camera, but it also needs to be able to withstand some damage. That is why a lot of the cameras on the list are shockproof and drop proof.
Capable Zoom – Bad zoom features are related to hardware or software not meeting the minimum standards of an underwater camera. So even if the zoom feature works great out of the water, when you get underwater it will seem a bit off. Quality cameras will function the same no matter what situation you put them in.
Starter Sets – Starter sets aren’t just for beginners, so don’t overlook them when buying an underwater camera. All of the accessories you see in a starter set are things you’ll end up purchasing separately anyway. And depending on the device you’re interested in, a starter set may be a much better value.
Underwater Depth – There is no point buying a camera that is good up to 10ft. if you plan on using it for 20ft.+. When deciding on underwater depth needed, always choose more than what you actually need.