With the advent of waterproof cameras, many people have suddenly taken an interest in underwater photography. The endless possibilities of digital technology have enabled practically anyone to capture and produce professional-looking images of marine life and various water activities. In fact, even those who are relatively new to the hobby are making a noticeable progress in their photo shooting skills.
Still, there’s an ongoing debate regarding which is the best underwater camera to use. Apparently, being waterproof is not the only criterion that matters; with this feature comes a long list of other considerations that should also be met in order to achieve the desired results and photographic experience.
Hence, we’ve created this guide to assist the photographers—especially the amateurs—in making the right purchase. It covers most of the necessary functions and features that should be present in your underwater camera.
The Importance of Waterproof Depth
It is common for newbie photographers to comprehend things at face value. While you may perfectly understand that waterproof means anything submersible, it doesn’t necessarily suggest that you can take it down to great depths. The same thing applies to underwater cameras. They each have their specific depth ranges that correspond to the level at which the devices remain workable underwater.
Today’s line of underwater digital cameras typically has a maximum of 35 feet depth range—all without the use of housing. Although there are models that can remain impervious to water for up to 50 feet, this technology seems to be available only in high-end cameras. For amateur photographers (and also occasional divers), it is advisable to pick an underwater camera that has a decent depth rating. If your main goal is to capture images of subjects from a shallow level, a digital camera with a waterproof depth of about 30 feet should be fine.
The first lessons in underwater photography tell us that water absorbs basically all colors. Hence, the deeper you go, the dimmer your images will be. Fortunately, with the use of flash, you can restore all the “lost colors” of the underwater surroundings. This can be a built-in feature or created by an external attachment.
It is important to note that flash can create images with “backscatter”. The light that is coming from the flash may bounce off the water particles, thereby creating an appearance similar to dust. Several models of underwater camera have somehow provided a solution to avoid this phenomenon. For one, there’s the macro diffuser which can be applied to photo shooting with macro, a function that allows you to snap photos of subjects at a close range. You should consider having this feature in your underwater camera if you want to be able to shoot images in uniform light.
This refers to the overall appearance of the subjects on the photos. To make it easier for you to assess the image processing quality, here’s a breakdown of important technical features that you should look for in your underwater camera:
- Resolution – In photography, this is often translated as megapixels. Apparently, the higher the megapixels, the sharper the images that you will get. As much as possible, go for an underwater camera that has a good MP range.
- Zoom – Underwater subjects are best photographed within 1 meter from the lens to avoid water from spoiling the balance in color and contrast. This is why it is necessary that you check the zoom range of your digital camera to make sure that you can get as close to the subject as possible.
- Auto-Focus and Anti-Blur Options – Due to ripples and body movements, it is sometimes difficult to shoot stills underwater. Even if you have successfully taken a photo of a coral reef, chances are the image is out of focus or the edges are blurred. You can avoid these flaws by choosing an underwater camera that has auto-focus and stabilization features.
Thanks to digital photography, you don’t need to lug around a heavy film camera like many underwater photographers used to do in the past. Since the weight and size of a camera can cause a drag to the user, many manufacturers have started to produce streamlined models that are compact and lightweight. As there are no standard dimensions set for an underwater digital camera, it should somehow depend on your photographic requirements. A unit can get heavier due to a number of specifications added to it. But remember, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better so you only need to find the right weight for your ideal camera.
Considering the kind of environment under the surface of water, it is almost impossible to fidget with the complicated buttons of a camera and still set it right. For your convenience, you should get yourself a camera which can be operated with minimal hassles. Make it a point to check the spacing between the buttons to ensure easier navigation of camera settings.
High Damage Threshold
Many of the latest models of underwater cameras have adopted a similar rugged construction. Although not stylishly sleek, this design enables the users to keep shooting photos without the fear of causing major damages to the camera. Underwater photography can sometimes be very clumsy so make sure to look for a camera that is insulated from sudden drops, cold weather and pressure. Look for cameras that are labeled as shock-proof, freeze-proof and even crush-proof.
Taking underwater photos is a gadget-intensive task which can result to a high battery usage. Hence, it is advisable that you find a camera that is able to produce more than 100 shots or an equivalent of 3-hour video shooting in a single continuous operation. This way, you’ll never have to experience early battery drain.
Clear LCD Backlight
With a digital underwater camera, you have the advantage of instantly viewing the images that you have taken even before resurfacing. However, this is only possible if you can clearly see through all the water. To address this visibility concern, a few manufacturers have come up with bright LCD screens with an anti-glare functionality. You don’t necessarily have to buy a camera with a larger display; as long as you can see the images clearly, you should do fine with a 3” screen.
Check out the 10 Best Underwater Cameras on the market right now:
1. Olympus TG-4 16 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD
Tough TG-4 takes all you can dish out and keeps shooting! waterproof to depths of 50ft/15m, it’s perfect for snorkeling or battling the waves. Robust construction is crushproof to 220lbf/100kgf, shockproof to 7ft/2.1m, and dustproof. And because TG-4 is freezeproof to 14°F/-10°C, even frigid conditions don’t faze it. From snowy slopes to coral reefs, this is the camera you can always keep with you. Olympus has designed TG-4 with an unmatched combination of features. For the first time in a rugged compact camera, you can shoot in RAW for the highest resolution capture and maximum creative control. With the sophisticated 16 Megapixel BSI CMOS Sensor and the TruePic VII Image Processor, you will shoot the smallest details and the brightest colors of every exciting moment.
2. SeaLife Micro HD 16GB Underwater Digital Camera Waterproof up to 200 ft. (60m)
Capture the tranquil beauty of the undersea world with the SeaLife Micro HD 16GB, the first permanently sealed, flood-proof underwater camera. With 16GB of onboard memory and a high capacity internal battery, there’s no need for memory cards, batteries, O-rings, or maintenance. Small and ergonomic, the Micro HD is easy to handle underwater, operating with three wide control keys. With colorful 13MP still images, full 1080p HD video and a 140-degree fisheye lens, the micro HD provides everything needed to capture and share your underwater encounters down to 200 feet (60m).
3. Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera with Built-In Wi-Fi
Make the Nikon Coolpix AW130 Shock & Waterproof Wi-Fi GPS Digital Camera part of your go-to gear and start turning those radical moments into photos and Full HD 1080p videos that amaze. Waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof. With built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, you can transfer your photos right to a compatible smartphone; and built-in GPS records your coordinates and maps your shots. Additional features: wide-angle (24mm equivalent) NIKKOR glass lens, 5x Optical Zoom, Hybrid Vibration Reduction, 3.0″ OLED screen, built-in flash, plus more!
4. WIFI Sports Action Camera, KINGEAR MR08 Waterproof Video Camera 16MP
Break the general practice of sports cameras, innovative design of the communication transmission signal can be connected via WiFi or insert the SIM card network to support the EGSM, WCDMA network standard, and built-in WeChat, QQ common social software, sports real-time shooting, the ability to instantly share the circle of friends quickly. This camera can waterproof, shockproof, antifreeze, dust powerful features that allow you to any scene in any scene to shoot at any angle, so you are free to diving, skiing, surfing, mountain climbing. Joint professional optical team innovative design, using 180-degree large-angle wide-angle light glass lens, so that more into the mirror screen, the screen image effect is more shocking. 2.6-inch industrial touch, the screen larger and more beautiful. Support glove touch, you just tap and slide the camera, you can achieve the perfect framing shot, photo video playback, easy to enjoy sporty moment. The camera can be compatible with 95% of the market variety of accessories, self-timer pole, spare batteries, fixed shoulder straps and so on.
5. PowerLead Gapo G054 HD 1080P Two-headed Waterproof Digital Cameras
Usage scenarios: extreme sports, outdoor sports, bike, car DVR, diving, home security, etc. Waterproof to 60m, freeze proof to 14 Degree/-10 Degree, shockproof to 5.8feet/1.75m. Wi-Fi sharing and remote shooting, video resolution: front 1080p/after 720p, waterproof dept: 60m. High quality backed with reliable warranty.
6. SJCAM SJ5000X Gyro Sports NTK96660 Diving 30m Waterproof Action Camera
SJCAM SJ5000X Elite Edition Action Camera is the first 2.0? LCD Screen SJCAM Action Camera to support 2K Video Record & 4K @ 24fps. It will also have built-in Gyro Anti-Shake stabilization sensor.The Elite Edition has an upgraded Sony IMX078 sensor. It will also have adjustable viewing angle wide view lens. Special Function: Cycle recording, WDR, USB function, AV-OUT, Time and date display, HDMI output, Motion detection, Anti-shake, Auto power on/off, Microphone, Photograph, WDR, Digital zoom, Exposure control. SJ5000x is packed with electronic Gyro which can angular rate resoslution, programmable interrupts, power-saing, software algorithms. That is why SJ500X can take more stabilization image. Sony Imag sensor had 6G Glass to increase lght sensivtivity and reduce background exposure, automatic white-blace. With enhanced colors and contrasts, you will got professional images.
Slow moive: Slow movie at VGA 240fps mode, recording each real movement patterns, feeling the times close up.
7. Intova DUB Waterproof Hi-Res 8MP/1080p Photo and Video Action Camera
The Intova DUB Waterproof Action Camera offers 8MP still photo resolution and 1080p video resolution at 30fps, making it an affordable hi-res addition to Intova’s line of waterproof action cameras. The DUB’s removable housing is small, rugged, waterproof to 200 feet (60m), and it floats, making DUB camera perfect for all ages and activities. The DUB captures POV action above, below, or out of the water using a 108-degree wide-angle lens, and it includes a built-in, rechargeable li-ion battery that provides up to 2 hours of battery life. Out of the housing, the DUB is a super-small camera capable of capturing shots from just about anywhere. The DUB utilizes a 32GB MicroSD card (not included), which means users can capture and keep long days of adventures. Additional features include burst mode, which fires 3, 5, or 10 photos in rapid succession; a self-timer, which snaps the shutter automatically after 2 or 10 seconds; and 1/4-20 threaded mount for use with all standard accessories and tripods.
8. Fujifilm FinePix XP90 Yellow Waterproof digital camera
Tough enough to shoot in all situations. The NEW FinePix XP90 integrates four rugged protection features: waterproof to 50ft/15m, freeze proof to 14 degree/-10 degree, shockproof to withstand drops from 5.8ft/1.75m, and dustproof to keep out sand and other foreign particles. The camera is suitable for a variety of outdoor scenes. 16 million pixels BSI-CMOS sensor makes even dark scenes bright for high-quality images. Optical image stabilization reduces the blur that tends to occur when the camera is zoomed in.
9. AKASO EK7000 4K WIFI Sports Action Camera Ultra HD Waterproof
AKASO EK7000 features ultra HD 4K video recording. You can capture stunning 4K 25fps/2.7K 30fps/1080P 60fps video which is sharper and more lifelike than ever. High-resolution, high frame rate 4K 25fps and 2.7K 30fps video delivers distinctly smooth video. With 12MP Burst photos at a blistering 30 frames per second, AKASO EK7000 Camera helps you capture the moments you don’t want to miss. Capture single photos, Burst photo or choose Time Lapse mode to shoot photos automatically at set time intervals from 0.5 to 60 seconds. Be able to captures the 170 degree wide angle perspective, AKASO EK7000 features built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to connect to the smart phone, tablet, computer and more to sharing via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, and more to your friends, family or followers . The built-in Wi-Fi can control cameras from distances of up to 50-feet (15-meters). Use the remote control of the camera to choose the mode you prefer as you recording. You can shift from video to photo, burst photo to time lapse with just press the button of the remote for super convenience.
10. KINGEAR KG003 16MP Digital Camera Underwater 10m Waterproof
Dustproof, waterproof up to 10m, and cold resistant to -10C making it tough and reliable to take anywhere. It comes with a 2.7″ TFT LCD screen with waterproof buttons, great for viewing details of what you’re taking.With a 5 MP CMOS sensor clear and 8x digital zoom photos are guaranteed. 5 Megapixels delivers quality images, up to 16M by interpolation.With 6.9 cm (2.7”) LCD screen, record videos with sound. Scene: auto, night portrait, night scenery, portrait, scenery, sports, party, beach, high sensitivity, underwater.