Best Underwater Compact Camera

September 24, 2016

Whether you are into diving, snorkeling or enjoy any of the many activities that will bring you in the water, capturing those amazing underwater scenes on photo and video can be a very rewarding part of the experience.

Underwater compact cameras are a an affordable way to get into this type of photography, specially designed for this unique environment, allowing you to capture pictures and videos as clearly as if you were on land.

Our Pick

Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera

Our pick, the Olympus Tough TG-4
From
$22.95 on amazon.com

Our top pick for best underwater compact camera is the Olympus Tough TG-4 , which we prize for it’s ultimate durability and specific attention to underwater video quality. This underwater camera may not be the perfect choice for everyone, though, so keep reading in order to make an informed decision.

GoPro is known for making great underwater action cameras, however their lineup focuses mostly on video, not photography, which is why depending on your needs (Perfect underwater selfies?) one of these compact cameras might be the right pick for you.

Nikon Coolpix AW130

Nikon Coolpix AW130

Nikon Coolpix AW130
From
$359.00 on amazon.com

This fun camera has a lot to offer, and is priced and designed to compete comfortably with the Hero4 Silver . First, it’s rated to go up to 33m (100ft) underwater, which is less than the Hero4’s 40m (131ft) standard casing depth, but the Coolpix AW13 doesn’t need underwater camera housing at all. It’s also shock, dust, and freeze resistant for all your land adventures. As rugged as the Coolpix AW130 is, it still takes amazing video in excellent 1080p resolution and still photos with a very decent 16MP sensor. It has a fairly narrow f/2.8 aperture which comes in handy in low-light situations.

Pros

Cons

Image Quality

Video Quality

General Features

Durability

  • Optical Image Stabilization and 5x Zoom

  • 16MP sensor

  • 3” OLED screen

  • Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC

  • Aggressive noise correction can make images fuzzy

  • Imperfect smartphone app

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Olympus Tough TG-4

Olympus Tough TG-4

Our pick for best Underwater Compact Camera, the Olympus Tough TG-4
From
$22.95 on amazon.com

For adrenaline junkies who could be found BASE jumping day and scuba diving the next, there’s none better than the Olympus Tough TG-4 . The name says it all, as this camera is shockproof from 2.1m (7ft), waterproof up to 15m (50ft) or 45m (150ft) with waterproof housing, crush-proof to 220lbs, and of course freeze- and dust-proof. You can take this camera from the desert to the sea without skipping a beat. It also performs very well in low-light environments (especially underwater), capturing details with the help of Underwater HDR and Live Composite. You can also use optional conversion lenses for even more versatility.

Pros

Cons

Image Quality

Video Quality

General Features

Durability

  • 16MP sensor

  • Raw file support

  • Great low-light performance

  • GPS, Wi-Fi, e-compass

  • No built-in viewfinder (must use screen)

  • Only cleared for 15m underwater depth without additional housing

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Sealife Micro 2.0

Sealife Micro 2.0

Sealife Micro 2.0
From
Too low to display on amazon.com

Although the Sealife Micro 2.0 is more expensive than the other underwater action cameras on this list, we think the price is more than justified. This camera can go to depths of 60m (200ft) underwater, and its durability doesn’t stop there. It can also survive temperatures between -29 and 60 degrees Celsius (-20 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and is shockproof up to 1m. It captures 1080p video at up to 60fps, and can take slow-motion footage at 720p. You can get this model with either 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage.

Pros

Cons

Image Quality

Video Quality

General Features

Durability

  • 16MP sensor

  • Underwater depth of 60m (200ft)

  • 3+ battery life

  • Diver-friendly piano keys

  • Bigger and heavier than competition

  • No flash

  • Subpar 2.4” LCD screen

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Fujifilm FinePix XP90

Fujifilm FinePix XP90

Fujifilm FinePix XP90
From
$99.99 on amazon.com

For its incredible price, it’s hard to find fault with the FinePix XP90 . Its 15m (50ft) depth-rating is good enough for most people, and it provides solid 1080p60 recording. Low-light filming is lacking, though there are plenty of modes and filter options to try and bring the best out of every picture or video. To its credit, this is an incredibly rugged camera for its price, comparable to the GoPro Hero4 series with dust-, freeze-, and shockproof (up to 1.75m or 5.8′) features.

Pros

Cons

Image Quality

Video Quality

General Features

Durability

  • Affordable on any budget

  • 920K-dot, 3” LCD screen

  • 5x Optical Zoom

  • Larger and heavier than the competition

  • Poor battery life

  • Struggles in low-light conditions

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Canon PowerShot D30

Canon PowerShot D30

Canon PowerShot D30
From
$359.99 Used on amazon.com

This camera’s claim to fame is its incredible underwater depth rating of 25m (81ft). For a camera that regularly sells for under $300, that’s a great achievement. The bad news is that this camera doesn’t have the greatest specs, especially compared to the other underwater video cameras on this list. For instance, it can only record at up to 1080p24, though 720p runs smoothly at 30fps. The PowerShot also starts showing serious noise disturbance around 400 ISO, making it difficult to get the perfect shot in low-light situations. Get this camera if you need a quick, affordable underwater camera for deep-diving.

Pros

Cons

Image Quality

Video Quality

General Features

Durability

  • 25m (81ft) Underwater Depth

  • GPS

  • Good grips and design

  • No Wi-Fi

  • f/3.9 aperture

  • 1080p video at 24fps

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What If I Like the Camera I Already Have?

Seashell SS-2 Waterproof Universal Camera Housing

Seashell SS-2 Waterproof Universal Camera Housing
From
$69.95 on amazon.com

Do you already have a standard camera to use? The Seashell SS-2 provides universal underwater housing for dozens of different models and is rated for depths up to 40m (130ft), though of course you will be mostly limited . Individually, you can likely find underwater housing for your specific camera model although depending on the model it can run you the same as the price of a new action/underwater camera.

MEIKON Underwater waterproof camera housing

MEIKON Underwater waterproof camera housing
From
$199.00 on amazon.com

MEIKON builds a great range of underwater housings for a wide variety of camera brands and models including SONY, NIKON, OLYMPUS, Panasonic and Fuji-film.

Can I just use my Smartphone underwater?

Moonmini MEIKON Underwater iPhone

Moonmini MEIKON
From
$99.99 on amazon.com

Smartphone cameras are swiftly catching up to the video and image quality of compact and action cameras, so why not use your phone instead? To convert your phone into a deep-sea diving device, try the Moonmini MEIKON Underwater Photo Housing for iPhone 6 Plus. For the iPhone 6/6S, check out the PRO Line Underwater Camera Housing Kit by Watershot.

 DiCAPac Action DSRS-C2 Waterproof Underwater Case

DiCAPac Action DSRS-C2
From
$59.95 on amazon.com

Android phones have slightly more limited options, but for some of the bigger brands like Samsung you can find cases like the DiCAPac Action DSRS-C2 Waterproof Underwater Case for up to 10m (30ft) of underwater protection for your Galaxy S6 or Note 4. If you have an older phone, hard cases may be available for your particular model.

Conclusion

Many times, the underwater camera you buy will be appropriate for above-water action, too. Don’t be afraid to take these cameras on your hiking, biking, driving, and aerial adventures. Of course, the best underwater action cameras give special considerations to the challenges faced underwater, by providing excellent low-light performance, motion stabilization, and focus options.

Do you have any experiences with the cameras on this list? Leave a comment below with any stories or questions about the cameras listed in this article.

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