You might be thinking, “why would I buy an underwater camera when my phone is waterproof?” Sure, new Samsung and iPhones are waterproof, but only for a limited amount of time and neither is meant to be submerged in deep water. Plus, you’d probably never forgive yourself if you dropped your new phone into the bottom of the ocean.
Underwater cameras are specifically designed for diving and snorkeling and are far more rugged than your phone. Many underwater cameras can be submerged under 45 feet of water, operate under freezing temperatures and withstands five-foot drops without any damage. Their lenses and aperture are also designed to take in as much light as possible and form crisp underwater pictures that are just as detailed as the above water. And nothing puts your adventurous side on display for your social media or Tinder profile like capturing awesome photos of you swimming with fish.
As much as you probably want to take your phone on the beach or near the ocean to capture all those social media-worthy moments, you’ll be much better off using an underwater camera for those photos instead. This keeps your $1,000+ phone safe, and you can get as adventurous as you want and capture all those great moments. It’s time to get a camera that loves the water as much as you do.
Below are our recommendations for the best underwater camera.
1. Olympus Tough TG-6
Your secret weapon for snorkeling is the Olympus Tough TG-6, which is waterproof to 50 feet and can go even deeper with the additional case. You can capture schools of fish in slow-mo in 120 fps, 1080p video. Snap close-ups thanks to the 4x optical zoom and the Olympus TruPic VIII image processor which creates incredibly sharp underwater images from the 12-megapixel sensor. Make sure this underwater camera is in your travel bag on your next tropical vacation.
2. Fujifilm Finepix XP140
Don’t let the “budget” tag scare you away, especially when you consider the ability to go 82 feet underwater without issue and withstand drops up from six feet. It has a 16MP sensor and a 5x optical zoom to get up close and personal with underwater life. It does have the ability to take 4K video, but at a slow 15fps frame rate, making the video quality look more like buffering video than a smooth one. When you’re all done in the water, you can quickly transfer your photos via Bluetooth. Not bad for under $200.
3. Nikon Coolpix W300
Depending on your needs, this could easily be the best underwater camera for you. It goes deeper than the Olympus Tough TG-6 — down to 100 feet — and has 5x zoom, a little better than the Olympus in that category as well. That being said, it’s aperture isn’t as great and lets in less light, resulting in less vibrant underwater pictures as the TG-6. And it doesn’t take RAW file format pictures, so you’re out of luck there, too. If you’re cool with JPEGs and prefer deeper diving capabilities, this is a stellar underwater camera option.
4. Ricoh WG-70
Built like a tank, the Ricoh WG-70 not only handles being submerged 45 feet underwater but also drops from 5.2 feet and freezing 14-degree temperatures. While you’re underwater, the macro light ring illuminates your surroundings to help you see better but also works to light up the subject for better pictures. Speaking of better pictures, the Night mode takes several images and blends them together (much like HDR on your iPhone) for the best image possible. The Ricoh WG-70 is up for your adventure regardless of how cold or rugged.
5. Sealife DC 2000
When snorkeling doesn’t quite cut it, the Sealife DC 2000 can handle going underwater 200 feet with the included protective case. Without it, it can still handle being submerged in 60 feet of water. The large image sensor inside combined with a wide aperture can take some truly crisp underwater photos, even though the zoom is rather lackluster. After you’re out of the water, you can easily transfer photos over to your smartphone or other mobile device thanks to onboard WiFi capabilities.
6. GoPro Hero9
BEST ACTION CAM
The Hero9 features a front-facing screen, which is great when you are vlogging your snorkeling or diving session since you can actually see what you’re capturing. It also features improved stabilization over its predecessor, along with 5K video. Plus, you can grab stills from the video for those frame-worthy moments. It’s a little bit of a bigger and heavier action camera, and it’s pricey, but all that new tech is worth the extra weight and cost.
7. Fujifilm Quick Snap Waterproof Single Use Camera
BEST DISPOSABLE CAMERA
We get it, buying a piece of hardware specifically for underwater-use when you might only use it once is difficult to justify. A great solution for a one-off water-based trip is the Fujifilm Quick Snap. It’s a disposable camera, so you can capture all of those underwater moments without having to spend hundreds on a camera that is capable. It can handle going under 17 feet of water, making it a great snorkeling companion, and if you accidentally drop it to the bottom of the ocean, it’s only a $10 investment. These cameras have been discontinued by Fujifilm, but are currently available on Amazon while supply lasts.