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.
1. Best overall OM System TG-7
2. Best mid-price option Ricoh WG-6
3. Best budget option Kodak WPZ2
4. Best diving camera SeaLife 3.0
5. Best rugged option Ricoh WG-80
6. Best action camera GoPro Hero11
7. Best budget action camera GoPro Hero10
8. Best underwater disposable Kodak Sport
9. Best disposable for wet & dry Agfa Ocean
Whether you're jetting off to white sandy beaches, heading white water rafting, or 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.
You won't get the same dynamic range or the same depth of manual control. 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, the eternal question: how much have you got to spend?
Best waterproof cameras: our top picks
OM System is the new name for Olympus cameras - and this is the latest Tough camera in a long line of impressive waterproof models with impressive imaging tech.
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Best mid-price option
With many camera companies withdrawing from the compact camera market, Ricoh is one of the few companies making a range of waterproof options.
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Best budget option
Kodak is making a bit of a comeback as one of the main players in the compact scene. And this waterproof zoom point-and-shooter is a great example.
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Best action cam
Best action camera
It is easy to forget that action cameras are also underwater cameras too. The GoPro Hero11 is the best action camera around at the moment.
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Budget action cam
Best budget action camera
This GoPro is one generation old - but because of this, it is much better value than the latest model.
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The best waterproof cameras in 2023
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Best waterproof compacts
Since 2021, Olympus cameras have been sold under the OM System name. The Olympus TG-6 was our favorite waterproof compact camera - and this has now been reborn as the OM System TG-7. It is pretty much identical - but that is a good thing in our book, and ensures this newer version remains at the top of our recommendations for a rugged camera. Features we love include the built-in microscope setting that allows you to take amazing close-ups - and a Field Sensor System that records GPS coordinates and ambient temperature with your shots.
Producing 4K video at 30fps and offering the option to shoot Full HD video at 120fps for super-slow-motion, the TG-7 also has a generous 25-100mm optical zoom lens that lets you get closer and closer to the action. It's got an improved 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. We found the camera straightforward but sophisticated, making the TG-7 quite simply the best waterproof camera around.
Read our full OM System Tough TG-7 review for more details
With many camera companies withdrawing from the compact camera market, Ricoh is one of the few companies making a range of waterproof options - ranging right up to its industrial-grade G900 models. The WG-6 is an entry-level model - but impresses with its ability to be taken to depths of 20m without additional housing - and can be dropped from heights of 2m (6 feet).
It also has better camera credentials than some thanks to its backside-illuminated 20MP sensor and 4K video capability – and we loved that you get a decent 5x optical zoom, and GPS geo-location tagging. It is a tad more expensive than its older sibling the WG-80 (see below), but in our view is definitely worth the extra.
See our full Ricoh WG-6 review
Kodak is making a bit of a compact as one of the main players in the compact scene. And this waterproof zoom point-and-shooter is a great example of what the iconic brand is still capable of. The emphasis here is on value for money - significantly undercutting the cost of the Ricoh and the Olympus options, say.
So you need to be prepared not to get 4K video, and you don't get a mains plug for the USB charging lead. But you do still get all the waterproofing and shock resistance that we expect from a rugged camera. For the money, we were very impressed for this robust little camera.
Check out our full Kodak Pixpro WPZ2 review
Best diving camera
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 w recommend looking 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.
Read our full Sealife Micro 3.0 review for more details
Best rugged option
The Ricoh WG series have a reputation as being the Swiss army knives of tough cameras. WG-80 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 (these lights are twice as bright as its predecessor, the Ricoh WG-70.
The WG-80 has 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 a 16-megapixel resolution (as on the WG-70). 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.
Best waterproof action cameras
Best action camera
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 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. There is a more recent GoPro Hero12 Black - but we do not recommend this as it is more expensive, and no longer records your GPS coordinates.
Read our full GoPro Hero 11 Black review for more details
GoPro Subscription explained: what you get, and is it worth it
Best budget action camera
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 for more details
Best disposable underwater cameras
Best underwater disposable
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.
Best disposable for wet and dry
A ‘one size fits all’ option for holidaymakers, this Agfa branded camera with flip-up plastic ‘sports finder’ can function in the wet as well as the dry – and greatly aids accurate composition underwater.
Its plastic outer case, meanwhile, protects against sand and splashes. Loaded with ISO400 film, up to 27 exposures are provided. This one can’t be used as deep as some alternatives, as it’s waterproofed to just three metres, but that should make it just fine for pool use.
How to choose the best waterproof camera
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 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 the best 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!
How we test cameras
When testing waterproof cameras we pay particular attention to how easy they are to use when using them underwater, where camera controls are not a straightforward to see or use.
We test camera resolution, dynamic range and noise under scientifically controlled conditions using two key testing tools: Imatest Master and DxO Analyzer. All DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are subjected to these tests and, in some instances, high-end compact cameras.
We use these real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.
1. Resolution (ISO-12233): We use a resolution chart based on ISO-12233 from Applied Image inc to indicate the limit of the camera’s vertical resolution at the centre of the frame. The higher the value, the better the detail resolution.
2. Dynamic range (DxO Analyzer): This is a measure of a camera’s ability to capture detail in the highlights and shadows. We use DxO’s transmissive chart, which enables us to test a dynamic range of 13.3 stops.
3. Noise (DxO Analyzer): We use the dynamic range transmissive chart to analyze the signal-to-noise ratio for RAW and JPG files at every sensitivity setting using DxO Analyzer. A higher value means the signal is cleaner.
What is the best underwater camera for diving?
If you're looking for the best camera for diving then you have two options available to you, which are either digital or film. For digital the OM System TG-7 is a fine choice to take with you on your next dive. If film is your choice then you can pick up the Kodak Sport Underwater Camera that good for 15m / 50ft.