Best underwater camera

Reviews

For more control of the final image, consider purchasing an underwater camera that offers manual control. Adjusting the white balance can bring down the blue hues in underwater photos.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which underwater cameras are best?

An underwater camera can take your photography skills to the next level. While there are many factors to consider before investing in an underwater camera, the search is well worth it once you find the right one. 

In recent years, cameras have become more accessible to consumers, thanks to the advancements in photography technology. When purchasing an underwater camera, consider functionality, features and versatility. Here are some ways to navigate and simplify the world of underwater cameras. 

What to know before you buy an underwater camera 

Location

Choosing the best camera for your needs depends on where you plan to shoot. For example, a deepwater camera works best for scuba diving and has different capabilities than an underwater camera meant for shallower depths. 

Size

You may not mind how heavy your underwater camera might be, especially if that’s all you will be carrying with you. However, consider a lighter camera if you plan on bringing a lot of gear during your underwater excursions. 

Type

There are several different types of underwater cameras. Options include action cameras, compact cameras, mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. If you’re just starting out in underwater photography, a compact camera is a great place to begin. They are affordable and often rival in quality and performance even against some of the more expensive, bigger cameras. 

What to look for in a quality underwater camera

Accessories

The amount of equipment you choose to add to your underwater camera arsenal is solely up to you. Ask yourself what kind of shots you hope to achieve and what accessories you’ll need to get them. A few things to consider are housing, filters, flashes, connectors and cables.

Lighting

While lights are not necessary to begin your underwater journey, they will improve your photos and videos drastically. If you plan to shoot in deeper water, underwater light options such as strobe lights and focus lights can be valuable additions. 

Lenses

Lenses, such as wide-angle and macro lenses, are also a worthy investment. Wide-angle lenses allow you to get closer to your subject without compromising the quality of the image. Macro lenses allow you to fill the frame with your subject. Wet lenses mount to the front of the underwater camera housing and allow you to change lenses underwater.

Housing

Underwater camera housing is a great option for those who have cameras that can’t go underwater, such as mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. There are several things to keep in mind with housing, including camera controls, build materials, depth limitations, lens ports and buoyancy. 

Manual vs. automatic

If you want to get serious about your underwater photography, a manual camera is definitely the way to go. Manual cameras allow users to control features such as white balance, which is a great way to balance out the blue tint you often see in underwater images. 

Automatic cameras allow less control over the final image, but they’re still great for beginners who plan to shoot casually. If you choose an automatic camera, think about purchasing a red filter to help limit the blue tint in your images. 

Depth rating

If you plan to use your camera for snorkeling, you should only need a camera with a depth rating of 10 meters. However, scuba and free divers will need something higher. If you go further than your camera’s depth rating, your camera can lose its ability to function. And if you’re using housing, it can start to leak. 

Additional Features

  • Video: While video is not a necessity, you’ll find many underwater cameras have the ability to shoot 4k video footage. 
  • Shutter Lag: Shutter lag is the time it takes between pressing the shutter button to capture the image and actually recording the image. Compact cameras are notorious for their shutter lag. Look for cameras with low shutter lag to avoid missing those once-in-a-lifetime moments.
  • RAW Format: If you plan on editing your work, it’s imperative to have a camera that shoots raw images. Raw files are uncompressed files that retain the information of an image. This allows you to edit your photos in greater detail.  

How much you can expect to spend on an underwater camera

Underwater cameras vary in price depending on the type of camera. Disposable underwater cameras can cost as little as $24, while more expensive setups cost thousands. If you want a reliable smaller underwater camera, expect to pay anywhere from $250-$750, depending on the model.

Underwater camera FAQ

Can I just use my phone to record underwater?

A. There are some water-proof housing options you can use with your phone to get decent underwater pictures. However, underwater cameras really make your images stand out. 

Is underwater photography difficult?

A. Water creates ripple effects that can distort your view. This makes underwater photography a bit more challenging. To help mitigate this, try to get as close as possible to your subject. This reduces the amount of water between you and your subject so you have a cleaner image. 

What’s the best underwater camera to buy?

Top underwater camera

SeaLife Micro 3.0

SeaLife Micro 3.0

What you need to know: From a trusted brand, this camera has a depth rating of 200 feet and is a popular choice for both beginners and hobbyists. 

What you’ll love: This camera offers full manual mode, continuous lighting, three hour battery life and a time-lapse function to capture professional-quality images. It also includes a premium Sony 16 megapixel sensor to capture stunning 4k video.  

What you should consider: It can be an expensive option, especially if you opt for the set that includes a light.   

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

Top underwater camera for the money

Olympus Tough TG-6

Olympus Tough TG-6

What you need to know: This durable camera can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure and travel to depths of 50 feet. 

What you’ll love: This underwater camera shoots raw images in 4k at 120 frames per second (FPS). There is also a wide aperture lens with four times the optical zoom, and the WiFi capabilities allow you to connect to your smartphone using their app. 

What you should consider: It lacks full manual control, and though it’s quite durable, it’s easy to scuff or scratch the LCD screen. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ricoh WG-70

Ricoh WG-70

What you need to know: This pocket-sized camera is sure to meet your adventurous needs with macro lighting and a depth rating of 45.9 feet. 

What you’ll love: Even though it’s small, this shock absorbing camera has two hours of battery life and can withstand temperatures up to -10 degrees. It also offers image stabilization, a built-in flash and video capabilities.

What you should consider: There isn’t an option to shoot raw images. The lens is also quite slow and the LCD screen is very small. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Ashley Willis writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.

Trending Stories