The best waterproof cameras allow you to explore and photograph in a host of new places. Take your shooting under the sea, capture frenetic scenes of white-water rafting, or shoot in the worst weather imaginable. The best waterproof cameras will handle it all, and the best part is, they tend to be fairly inexpensive.
Of course, there are trade-offs. Many waterproof cameras are compacts with fairly small sensors, so their image-capturing ability will be limited compared to, say, the best mirrorless cameras. You won't get the same dynamic range, or the same depth of manual concern. However, the weatherproofing on waterproof cameras often extends to being shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof, so they can handle a good deal more than more sophisticated cameras.
There is quite a bit of variation among cameras that can be designated "waterproof cameras", however. Choosing the right one means thinking about what you want to do with it: whether you want to shoot photos, video or both, for instance. Do you need a zoom lens, or a fast burst rate? How deep underwater do you want to take the camera? And then of course, the eternal question: how much are you willing to spend?
The best waterproof cameras in 2021
So, with the above in mind, let's define our terms! When we talk about waterproof cameras, there are a number of different types of camera we can mean. We've divided our guide up into sections accordingly, so here are some quick explanations of the categories.
Waterproof compacts are a whole lot like ordinary compact cameras: a self-contained camera with a fixed lens on the front. Many of them have a zoom lens, and this gives them an advantage over action cameras (see below), which tend to have lenses with a single fixed focal length. One thing that marks out most waterproof compacts is they tend to come in bright colours, in contrast to the staid blacks, silvers and greys of mainstream cameras. This makes them easier to see if you drop them in the water.
Action cameras like GoPros are much smaller than waterproof compacts. They are therefore easier to mount or wear on a harness or helmet, making them great for watersports. Their video specs also tend to be better, with resolutions of 4K and higher and competitive frame rates. The aforementioned fixed lens means that you're stuck with a fixed perspective (which is why GoPro-shot videos all tend to have the same fishbowl look).
You don't have to restrict yourself to digital! There are also some handy underwater disposable film cameras, which work just like the disposable cameras you used to take on holidays, with the crucial difference being that they can be taken underwater.
If you know what you want, you can click the headings to the left to jump straight to the section of your choice. Or, you can just scroll on as we count off the best waterproof cameras you can buy right now!
The Olympus TG series has a sterling reputation among the tough camera market, not only for being sufficiently specced to handle tough conditions, but also equipped with impressive imaging and video tech. The Raw-shooting, 4K-capable TG-6, is a fairly minor upgrade on the previous TG-5, but adds some nifty new features like improved LCD resolution and a new Underwater Microscope mode for getting in close. Producing 4K video at 30fps and offering the option to shoot Full HD video at 120fps for super-slow-motion, the TG-6 also has a generous 25-100mm optical zoom lens that lets you get closer and closer to the action. It's got a chunky handgrip providing a secure hold on the camera, while the internal zoom mechanism means the lens never protrudes from the body, protecting it from knocks and bumps. Straightforward but sophisticated, the TG-6 is quite simply the best waterproof camera around right now.
Read more: Olympus Tough TG-6 review
If you’re a deep-water explorer, this is your pick of the best waterproof digital cameras. The Nikon W300 is rated to depths of 30m, outstripping most waterproof cameras, and it comes with a barometer that provides useful underwater data like altitude and depth, as well as an electronic compass. Bluetooth functionality is also on board, and this pairs well with Nikon’s SnapBridge technology for fast image transfer. Video shooters will also welcome the addition of 4K video to the W300’s toolkit, and the generous shockproof rating of 2.4m means it’s extra protected against bumps and knocks. While the lack of Raw support is a pity, if you're happy to stick with JPEGs you'll find it to be a superb all-rounder for fearless underwater adventures.
The Ricoh WG series have reputations as being the Swiss army knives of tough cameras. Like its predecessors, the WG-70 is equipped with ring lights around its lens that function as a torch as well as a macro light, allowing you to see what you're doing underwater as well as keep your subjects illuminated. It's got a fair few nifty features that make it worth consideration. The microscope mode lets it focus at distances as close as 1mm, and this mode has been improved to offer higher resolution on the WG-70 than it did on the previous WG-60. Also, the Handheld Night Snap captures several images of a low-light scene in quick succession and blends them together to create a blur-free composite image. This is all housed in a body with serious protections, able to stay submerged in 14m of water for up to 2 hours.
The Panasonic Lumix TS30 (FT30 in other markets) isn't the newest waterproof digital camera here, and doesn't quite offer any best-in-class specs, but what it does offer is commensurate with its very reasonable asking price. It’s also pleasingly slim enough to fit in a snug jeans pocket or similar, although this does come at the cost of a secure grip; you might want to invest in a wrist strap to ensure the TS30 doesn’t get away from you. Provided you keep hold of it, the TS30 is a solid and versatile waterproof camera that should prove well-suited to recording your aquatic adventures – in stills form, anyway. The lower video resolution of 720p means that if you’re a video aficionado, you’re probably better off with one of the other waterproof digital cameras on this list.
The design of the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is fun and kid-friendly, making it a solid choice for family holidays, but this doesn't mean it skimps on imaging tech. While it's not going to challenge something like the Olympus Tough TG-6, it's a capable little camera in its own right, able to shoot 4K video (albeit at a disappointing 15p) and equipped with an impressive 5x optical zoom lens with an equivalent focal range of 28-140mm, and all this comes at an extremely friendly sub-£200 price tag. A new scene recognition mode helps the XP140 assess for what it's photographing (which goes some of the way towards compensating for a lack of manual controls), and the controls are well laid-out and easy to use, even when in murky underwater conditions. For the price, this is a really solid buy.
SeaLife cameras are the most serious underwater option - without having to get into buying separate underwater housings and optical ports for a mirrorless camera or DSLR. The ability to be able to be taken down to depths of 200ft/60m is deeply(!) impressive, but it is photographically able too, thanks to a 16MP Sony-derived sensor and the ability to shoot RAW files. The camera is permanently sealed to safeguard against any possible leaks, and weighs just 329g. You can buy the camera on its own - but if you are using this for deep dives (and that really is the point of a camera like this), then take a look at the various kits including one or two of SeaLife's powerful 'Sea Dragon' LED lights. These can output at least 3000 lumens to illuminate murky underwater depths, while also acting as chunky ergonomic carrying handles.
Facing fiercer competition than in the past from the likes of DJI (more on which shortly), GoPro needed to pull something out of the bag for its ninth Hero camera. It hit on firing right back at its rivals with the inclusion of a front-facing LCD screen just as they had. This is hugely useful for vlogging, and GoPro upped the ante elsewhere as well, upping video resolution to 5K, improving the stabilisation and adding the ability to extract 14.7MP stills from video, ensuring you never miss a moment. All this tech makes the HERO9 Black a little heavier than previous cameras in the serious, and its status as the new kid on the block means it's the most expensive GoPro you can get. However, if your budget stretches this far, it's currently the best waterproof action camera around.
Read more: GoPro HERO9 Black review
The feature-set and price point of the DJI Osmo Action make it pretty obvious from the get-go that it's an attempt to undercut the best GoPro cameras. Does it succeed? Like all things, it's complicated. The front-facing screen is a boon, the stabilization is just as silky smooth as the HERO's, and it's wallet-friendly price is nothing to sniff at. That's not to say it's perfect; there are a few lag issues at high resolutions, the app can be unreliable, and video from the HERO is a touch flatter, which counts in professional realm when it comes to the grade. For an affordable alternative to the HERO7 Black though, the Osmo Action is a fantastic choice.
Read more: DJI Osmo Action review
The 2019 flagship GoPro model brought in some brilliant features and is still a great buy. A key introduction was fold-out feet, providing a built-in camera mount, as well as the ability to accessorise the Hero8 Black with extras called 'Mods'. We especially like the Display Mod because it adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers. There are plenty of other Mods too, including a Media Mod for improving the production value of your videos, and a Light Mod LED light too. These extra capabilities – and the fact it's already waterproof down to 10m without a case – make the Hero8 Black a terrific underwater action cam.
• Read full GoPro Hero8 review
Disposable underwater cameras
This is a waterproof camera at a throwaway price! Yes, it does cost a few pounds more than your usual disposable camera, but you're getting a waterproof camera, for heaven's sake! Fujifilm says its plastic case is water-resistant to a depth of 10m, so it's likely you're going to be in trouble long before the camera is. The Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine comes loaded with 24 exposures of Fujifilm ISO 800 Superia color negative film which you should be able to get developed at any regular high street chemist or online photo lab. Control is limited, obviously, in that there isn't any. The exposure is fixed at 1/125sec at f/10 so really you're going to need good outdoor light to get decent results, but that's true of any single-use camera. While the Quicksnap Marine is still widely available in the US, in other territories like the UK it's getting harder to find, so depending on where you are, you may want to consider the Kodak Sport (see below...).
An alternative to the Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine, that also gives you a fully waterproof camera that you can take diving with you. This one is good down to depths of 50 feet (15m) which would even make it attractive to the scuba diver. It comes preloaded with ISO800 Kodak color print film - which you will obviously have to wait for (and pay for) before you see your pictures.
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