The 10 Best Waterproof Cameras
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in May of 2015. If your photographic exploits have you fording streams and diving into oceans, you'll need one of these waterproof cameras. They can let you take awesome selfies underwater and share them with family and friends using features like built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. Even if the watery deep isn't your primary destination, many of these are great insurance against inclement weather. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
November 26, 2020:
One of the most beloved names in dive photography has a new model in the SeaLife Micro 3.0 Pro 3000, which upgrades a significant amount of features from its previous model, including the addition of 4K video. While there is a version of this camera that doesn't come with the dive light, the demographic it's aimed at pretty much demands it, and the bracket included is top notch.
We also saw upgrades in the Olympus TG-6 Tough and GoPro Hero 9 Black, the latter of which now has a display screen on the front and the back, making it easy to frame up selfies and create live streams. GoPro has also upgraded the quality of their video feeds when live streaming with a connected mobile device, increasing it to 1080p from 720, while recorded video in the camera has increased from 4K to 5K resolution.
One other interesting addition to our list is the Ricoh G900 Industrial, which may seem at first to be very similar to the Ricoh WG-70, but upon close inspection reveals a whole host of superior features, like a higher-resolution sensor and the ability to stand up to chemicals in addition to water and dust. Its password protection feature is also fantastic for industries who would wish to guard their trade secrets should the camera fall into the wrong hands.
April 26, 2019:
While the sixth iteration of the GoPro Hero had much of the industry scratching its head and wondering why the company decided to come out with a model that was such a lateral move — and even felt in some ways like a step backwards — the seventh installment reminds us of all the reasons the very first model was so important, and it earned them back a place on our list here with a decent spot. Some other noteworthy upgrades came along for the Ricoh, Fuji, and Sony models, with the latter incorporating an articulating screen that significantly enhances its versatility, especially among vloggers or anyone else who goes diving...to look at themselves. The new Fuji offers little improvement over its last version, though it has gained a few meters in its depth rating. This disappointment caused it to slip a bit, as other brands have improved their models more. A new budget addition to the list, the model by Dragon Touch, offers users a 170-degree field of view in a body that's a bit bigger than a GoPro, but also presents an easier hand-held experience thanks to its bulkier frame.
Ikelite Underwater Housings If you already have a high-quality mirrorless or DSLR camera, there's likely a custom housing this company can make for it. They feature rubberized handles that are comfortable to hold for long stretches, and are ribbed to provide added grip when in the water. The major downside to these is their significantly high price point, however. ikelite.com
Sealed To Perfection
Luckily, most of these cameras come with a little brush to help you maintain cleanliness along the line of the seals.
A lot of good photography is only possible underwater. The obvious images that come to mind are of fish and sharks patrolling reefs of explosive color and variety of life. Less obvious to you, but perhaps equally fascinating, are images of a child learning how to swim, or of a raucous pool party taken from within the pool.
Imagine you're on a ship at sea, a boat no bigger than The Orca, which you might remember was the fishing boat used to hunt the shark in Jaws. If the sea gets a little rough, the fishermen keep working, but you'd have to put your regular camera away for fear of getting it splashed as swells can bank up against the hull and crash buckets of water over your head.
Whatever your need for a waterproof camera, it's reassuring to know that they all function in ways that will be familiar to anyone who's operated a digital point-and-shoot camera, with the added benefit of seals against water.
The majority of those seals, the rubberized linings that prevent water from seeping into the camera, are put in place by the manufacturer along the camera's housing, and they require no maintenance for their performance. There are one or two seals, however, that do require some attention, and these you will find along the door to the battery compartment, as well as the door to the memory card slot. Most manufacturers have combined these two locations to cut down on moisture variables, but a few still separate the ports.
It is imperative that these seals remain clean and dry when you close their hatches. Any little bit of dust or moisture can render the seal ineffective, and as soon as the pressure is great enough, water will get in. I've even seen the integrity of a seal compromised by a single human hair. Luckily, most of these cameras come with a little brush to help you maintain cleanliness along the line of the seals.
One other vulnerable point on these cameras would be the lens, but if you look closely, you'll notice that the lenses on these waterproof cameras actually live behind an added element of clear plexiglass. Not only are the edges of this plexiglass sealed inside the camera body, the material itself is far more durable than the glass of the lens, meaning an angry fish won't break through your lens the way the shark in Jaws 3 inexplicably rammed his way through a thick glass window.
Slippery When Wet
One of the more fascinating properties of water is that it can act as an adhesive or it can cause you to slip and fall on your rear. While water's adhesive qualities are tied in with its ability to erode materials, we're more concerned with the other end of the spectrum today. Sure, your camera's plastic would eventually erode from constant exposure to flowing water, but that would take a few thousand years. It only takes a second for a wet hand to drop a camera.
Instead, it comes with a waterproof housing that fits around the entirety of the camera.
I bring this up because the some of the makers of waterproof cameras also decided to incorporate a certain degree of shock-proofing into their designs. You can let these cameras go from up to five feet off of the ground and their warranties will cover against any damage incurred from the drop. If you're a little on the clumsier side, or if you're looking at this as a summertime investment for your kids to get to know photography, shock-proofing is practically a mandate.
Beyond that little feature, the usual camera buying conundrums present themselves. How many megapixels do you need? How high a quality of video do you want to be able to shoot? Answer these questions, and your model will readily present itself from those on our list.
It's also worth noting that all but one of the cameras on this list are modeled after standard digital point-and-shoots. The GoPro is the only standout, and its waterproofing isn't built in like it is with the rest. Instead, it comes with a waterproof housing that fits around the entirety of the camera. It also has the widest field of view of any of the cameras, making for a more fisheye view of the world, which may or may not suit your interests.
Almost Sixty Years Submerged
Nikon produced the first amphibious camera marketed to the public back in 1963. Called the Calypso or the Nikonos, the camera was the first of its kind to operate independently of any additional housing. It shot using standard 35mm film, but its film and battery compartments carried with them rubberized seals not too dissimilar from what manufacturers use today.
Once the roll of film ran its course, you had to change it.
The obvious problem with this design was the same problem you find any time you compare film and digital photography. Once the roll of film ran its course, you had to change it. That's not the easiest or the safest thing to do underwater.
Digital photography changed the field dramatically, though the first underwater photography achieved digitally was done so with the use of housings, which still maintain a dominance among photographers willing to spend the extra money to bring their high-end equipment underwater.
As digital camera technology continues both to shrink and improve, the thought of bring five thousand worth of camera gear on a snorkeling trip becomes increasingly silly.