The best waterproof cameras massively expand the number of places you can shoot. There's no fear of getting it too close to the sea or dropping it in a river because even if you do you know it will be safe. Whether you're jetting off to white sandy beaches, heading white water rafting, or are even just shooting somewhere you know it rains a lot investing in a waterproof camera is a wise idea. Image quality is so much better than it used to be and they're not even that expensive.
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 (opens in new tab). 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 2022
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 cameras 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 colors, 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 (opens in new tab) 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!
Waterproof compacts(opens in new tab)
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 our full Olympus Tough TG-6 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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.
Read our full Nikon W300 review (opens in new tab)
SeaLife cameras are the most serious underwater option - without having to get into buying separate underwater housings (opens in new tab) 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.
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Read our full Sealife Micro 3.0 review (opens in new tab)
The Ricoh WG series have a reputation 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.(opens in new tab)
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.
Action cameras(opens in new tab)
Despite the Hero 11 Black looking like every other GoPro this side of 2019, with upgraded hardware and software, it's a triumph on all fronts. The new, almost square sensor is supremely versatile, the camera's software has been simplified successfully, and GoPro's companion app, Quik has also been improved. With best-in-class stabilization, great-looking video in all but dimly-lit and dark scenes, and some fun new modes like light painting, the Hero 11 Black is an excellent addition to the line.
The Hero 11 Black's 8:7 aspect ratio is also a standout highlight for content creators. Able to shoot in 5.3K resolution, 8:7 video at up to 30fps, its footage can be losslessly cropped to create new 4K portrait, landscape, and square clips from a single video.
On top of 8:7 video, the Hero 11 Black captures 5.3K resolution video at 60 fps, 4K resolution video at 120 fps, or 2.7K resolution at 240 fps. You can also grab 27MP stills from 5.3K video.
The Hero 11 Black might not have wildly improved the line's lowlight performance. Still, with its new 8:7 sensor, a simplified interface, and enhanced horizon leveling, it's upgraded GoPro's offering in a meaningful way. Particularly appealing to folks who use multiple social platforms, nothing else can do quite what the 11 Black can.
Read our full GoPro Hero 11 Black review
GoPro Subscription explained: what you get, and is it worth it(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab) 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 a GoPro camera though, the Osmo Action is a fantastic choice.
Read our DJI Osmo Action review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
It may look almost identical to the Hero9 Black in almost every way, the Hero10 Black is nevertheless a significant upgrade. That’s all down to its use of the all-new GP2 processor, which powers both a speedy user interface, doubles the frame rates, and fuels the best image stabilization tech yet.
The highlight is 5.3K video with 60 frames per second, but don’t underestimate the usefulness of GoPro’s new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization – in all modes – alongside 23MP photos and best-ever low-light performance. Add a nifty cable for super-quick camera-to-app content transfer and auto-upload of videos and photos to the cloud while it recharges and the Hero10 Black was worth the wait.
Read our full GoPro Hero 10 Black review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Facing fiercer competition from the likes of DJI (above), GoPro needed to pull something out of the bag for its ninth Hero camera. It did so with the inclusion of a front-facing LCD screen, just like rival DJI included on its Osmo Action. This is hugely useful for vlogging, and GoPro upped the ante elsewhere as well, boosting 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 does make the HERO9 Black a little heavier than previous cameras in the serious, but not a lot. Though it was pricey at launch, now the HERO9 Black has been replaced by the HERO10 Black, discounts can be had on what is still one of the best waterproof action cameras around.
Read our full GoPro HERO9 Black review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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 accessorize 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 our full GoPro Hero8 review (opens in new tab)
Disposable underwater cameras(opens in new tab)
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.
How we test cameras
We test cameras (opens in new tab) both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.
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