Find the best cameras to bring on your underwater adventures
- Best Overall: Olympus TG-5 Waterproof Camera “While the camera doesn’t come cheap, it’s truly the best rugged choice on the market.”
- Best Mid-Range: Nikon Coolpix W300 “The extra-large grip makes it easy to hold on to, even in the middle of the action.”
- Best Budget: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 “You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a solid all-weather camera.”
- Best Interchangeable Lens: Nikon 1 AW1 “This is one sturdy, robust, multi-purpose camera.”
- Best Design: Nikon Coolpix AW130 “If it’s design you’re after, but don’t want to skimp on specs, the AW130 is your best bet.”
- Best Budget All-Weather: Fujifilm FinePix XP80 “For that more-than-fair asking price, you get a sturdy little camera that’s waterproof down to 50 feet.”
Best Overall: Olympus TG-5 Waterproof Camera with 3-Inch LCD, Red (V104190RU000)
This freshly-minted waterproof camera claims to be waterproof to 15m/50ft, shockproof from 2.1m/7ft, crushproof to 100kgf/220lbf and dust proof. (If you’re looking to plunge down to depths of 45m, check out the PT-058 underwater housing sold separately.)
The TG-5 packs a new 1/2.3-inch 12MP BSI CMOS sensor, which is a change from the 1/2.3-inch 16MP BSI CMOS chip used in the previous model. While it drops from 16MP to 12MP, Olympus says this move helps to improve low-light capture. The lens is similar to that of the TG-4: it’s a 4x zoom lens (equivalent to 25-100mm) that features a variable f/2-4.9 aperture, but now also features anti-fog dual-pane glass that prevents the lens from getting foggy when it undergoes climate changes. Videographers will also be pleased to know that it supports 4K recording at 30p and Full HD high-speed footage at 120fps. While the camera doesn’t come cheap, it’s truly the best rugged choice on the market.
Best Mid-Range: Nikon Coolpix W300
For a mid-range camera, the Nikon Coolpix W300 performs like a heavyweight, with excellent performance both underwater and on dry land. Featuring water resistance up to 100 feet below the surface, the dust- and freezeproof W300 can also withstand a fall from heights up to 7.9 feet in the air. The 16MP lens captures sharp, beautiful photos as well as 4K Ultra HD video, making it a great choice for bikers, surfers, SCUBA divers and more who want the best images from their most extreme adventures. In the event the action is further away, the Coolpix W300 has a 5x optical zoom and three-inch LCD display with anti-reflective coating for clear shooting even in direct sunlight. It is also capable of recording time-lapse video.
A built-in GPS, eCompass, and altimeter add to this camera’s more adventurous features, and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities let you easily transfer photos off the camera and onto a separate device. And, unlike much more delicate (and expensive) smartphones, the Coolpix W300’s extra-large grip makes it easy to hold on to, even in the middle of the action.
Best Budget: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a solid all-weather camera that captures impressive, high-quality images. And let’s face it, do you really need a camera that’s waterproof down to 50 feet? Might 20 feet do the trick? Enter: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30. This sturdy little guy cis waterproof down to 26 feet, freeze-proof down to 14°F, and shockproof up to 4.9 feet. It’s even dust-proof. It captures bright, vivid still images through the 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and smooth HD (720p), whether underwater or on land. It has a number of built-in effects and shooting modes, and comes in three colors—red, blue and black. There’s an optical image stabilizer, time lapse shooting, and a torch light to bring to light those dark underwater vestiges you find on vacation.
Best Interchangeable Lens: Nikon 1 AW1
Interchangeable lens cameras haven’t traditionally meshed with waterproof designs. In fact, there aren’t many of these on the market, but if this is the type of camera you’re looking, check out the Nikon 1 AW1. It claims to be the first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera. It’s water resistant down to 49 feet, freeze-proof to 14°F, and shockproof up to 6.6 feet. It’s compatible with all Nikon 1 lenses and two proprietary waterproof and shockproof lenses. The camera itself features a 1-inch 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-speed continuous shooting at 15 fps and full 1080p HD video recording. This is one sturdy, robust, multi-purpose camera. However, if you’re tempted to pull the trigger, you should be sure you have the need for an interchangeable lens waterproof camera. Most people do not, and this one isn’t actually cheap (however, it does include a 11-27.5mm lens).
Best Design: Nikon Coolpix AW130
Let’s face it: If you’re in the market for a waterproof camera to accompany you on your next adventure, you’re probably not too swayed by design. After all, a sleek body will serve little purpose as it’s sinking to the sea floor. But the Nikon Coolpix AW130 has all the features to survive your journey; the fact that it will look good while doing so is just a bonus. The AW130 is freezeproof up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, shockproof for drops up to seven feet and waterproof up to an astounding 100 feet — that’s a good 20 feet more than almost any other in its class. It also has a handy rubber grip complete with an NFC tag, so you can pair it with your smartphone via onboard Wi-Fi and start sharing your photos while you’re still afloat. For those exploring uncharted territory, its onboard GPS has a points-of-interest feature that gives you a birds-eye-view of the surrounding area.
It rocks a 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor behind a 5x zoom 4.3-21.5mm (24-120mm full-frame equivalent) f/2.8-4.9 lens. The smaller sensor means more noise than most interchangeable lens cameras will produce, but most adventure-seekers won’t find it to be a deal-breaker. So if it’s design you’re after, but don’t want to skimp on specs, the AW130 is your best bet.
Best Budget All-Weather: Fujifilm FinePix XP80
No discussion of waterproof, all-weather cameras is complete without mention of Fujifilm. Perhaps best known for its line of impressive mirrorless cameras, Fujifilm also makes one of the most popular lines of waterproof compact point-and-shoots. The Fujifilm FinePix XP80, in particular, is credited as a competitor of the Olympus TG-3 and TG-870, but is can be found at a significantly lower cost. For that more-than-fair asking price, you get a sturdy little all-weather camera that’s waterproof down to 50 feet, freeze-proof down to 14°F, shock-proof up to 5.8 feet and dust-proof. It’s got a 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that works well in low-light underwater conditions, continuous shooting at up to 10 fps, Full HD (1080p) video recording, wireless image transfers and remote shooting. And it comes in a slim, sturdy package in one of three colors: graphite black, blue and yellow.
What to Look for in a Waterproof Camera
Depth limit – Are you planning on taking some deep dives with this camera? Do you want a model specifically for underwater photography? If so, you’ll want to keep those things in mind when picking a camera — some of these models can work at greater depths than others.
Interchangeable lenses – Most cameras that have switchable lenses aren’t waterproof. But if photography is a serious hobby, you might want to look into one. After all, you often get better-quality photographs when you’re using a separate lens (instead of one built into the camera).
Durability – If you’re looking into a waterproof camera, chances are that your lifestyle is pretty active. That means that you’ll want to consider a camera’s cold and heat resistance as well as its shock resistance. If a camera is waterproof but can’t handle a drop or two, it might not suit your lifestyle.