The 10 best waterproof cameras in 2018

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Although many camera manufacturers have moved away from offering wide-ranging compact camera lines, one area where they have maintained a footing is with waterproof options. So which is the best waterproof camera for you? That's where we can help. 

There are many good reasons for choosing a waterproof digital camera, even in the face of a slew of smartphones crafted with waterproof casings. Dedicated waterproof compacts are fashioned with a greater range of physical controls, and are easier to handle and operate underwater than smartphones. Most also come with stronger optical zooms as standard. 

Furthermore, the best waterproof cameras will protect against freezing temperatures, shock and even being crushed. That means you're far more likely to use them where you might feel it too risky for your smartphone.

Here are the top 10 options for all budgets, from affordable, kid-friendly models through to advanced waterproof digital cameras that marry their robust housings with equally strong image quality.

1. Olympus Tough TG-5

A strengthened waterproof digital camera able to deal with all the rough and tumble active families can throw at it

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm (equiv.) f/2.0-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 460k dots | Waterproof: 15m/50ft | Shockproof: 2.1m/7ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14°F | Max video resolution: 4K

4K video recording
Raw shooting
15m waterproofing bettered elsewhere
460k-dot LCD screen

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-enabled TG-5, which arrived on the scene nearly two years after the TG-4, brings significant improvements, most notably 4K video at 30fps and the option to shoot Full HD video at 120fps for super slow-motion output. A chunky handgrip allows for 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-5 is a winning digital waterproof camera for photographers of all levels.

2. GoPro HERO6 Black

The latest flagship HERO delivers the most advanced image and video quality yet

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 14-28mm (equiv.) f/2.8 | LCD: 2in | Waterproof: 10m/33ft | Shockproof: Not rated | Freezeproof: Not rated | Max video resolution: 4K

4K video to 60fps
Video stabilisation
No claimed shockproofing
Not freeze-proof like other options

In 2017, following a few financial bumps in the road, GoPro needed a hit. It got just that with the HERO6 Black, a stolid update that wasn’t about headline-grabbing stunts, just about improving on what had come before in the most efficient way possible. Thanks to its new GP1 chip, the HERO6 Black can shoot at a maximum 4K video resolution, at frame rates up to 60fps, a significant quality bump compared to the HERO5. It’s also waterproof without a housing down to 10m, and can make use of GoPro’s QuikStories feature, which allows for quick cutting together and sharing of short clips.

3. Nikon Coolpix W300

With 30m waterproofing, the W300 is one of the best waterproof cameras for the deeper divers

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm (equiv.) f/2.8-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 921k dots | Waterproof: 30m/100ft | Shockproof: 2.4m/8ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: 4K

Decent zoom range
Excellent waterproofing
Somewhat pricey
No Raw shooting

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.

4. Ricoh WG-50

One of the toughest available, with nifty extra features and a price to match

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 28-140mm (equiv) f/3.5-5.5 | LCD: 3in, 230k dots | Waterproof: 14m/45ft | Shockproof: 1.6m/5.2ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: Full HD

Decent zoom range
Useful built-in ring lights
Very similar to WG-30
Low-resolution screen

It’s safe to say that the WG-50 is not just another tough camera. Not only is it crushproof up to a hefty 100kg, but it also has a few additional features that make it an extra-compelling photographic prospect. Chief among these is a built-in macro ring-light on the front of its lens, which provides handy extra illumination in a pinch. A 5x optical zoom has a decent reach, while the option to capture slow-motion video at 120fps is also a very welcome addition. It’ll cost a little more than some of the options on this list, and the slightly garish styling may turn off some, but the WG-50 is a well-specced camera that’s definitely worth consideration.

5. Panasonic FT30

Sleek but well-powered, Panasonic’s waterproof offering is ideal for stills photography, if a little lacking in video

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Lens: 25-100mm (equiv) f/3.9-5.7 | LCD: 2.7in, 230k dots | Waterproof: 8m/26ft | Shockproof: 1.5m/5ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: 720p (HD)

Very affordable
Smart design and four colour options
Showing its age with many specs 
Lens has relatively narrow max aperture

The FT30 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 FT30 doesn’t get away from you. Provided you keep hold of it, the FT30 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. 

6. Fujifilm XP130

Get creative with Fujifilm’s latest underwater camera

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm (equiv) f/3.9-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 920k dots | Waterproof: 20m/65ft | Shockproof: 1.75m/5.8ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: Full HD

Healthy level of protection
920k-dot LCD screen
No 4K video recording
Not a huge jump over the XP120

The impressive imaging spec of the Fujifilm XP130 is bolstered by sensor-shift image stabilisation, which allows sharper images to be taken hand-held, even in poor lighting conditions. A relatively minor upgrade on the XP120, the XP130 adds a few useful extra features like Bluetooth connectivity in addition to the existing Wi-Fi option, as well as an electronic level function to help you ensure your horizons are dead straight. Like the rest of the XP series, the XP130 is comprehensively toughened, able to withstand some severe punishment, and there's also a choice of creative art filters available for those who like to add a little creative flair to their images.

Read more: Fujifilm announces the XP130

7. Sony RX0

A large sensor, 4K video and tiny body. What's not to like?

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1in | Megapixels: 15.3MP | Lens: 24mm (equiv) f/4 | LCD: 1.5in touchscreen, 230k dots | Waterproof: 10m/33ft | Shockproof: 2m/6.5ft | Freezeproof: No | Max video resolution: 4K (external recorder required)

Tiny size but 1in sensor
4K video (with external recorder)
Small LCD screen
Expensive

Thanks to its 1in sensor, the relatively new Sony RX0 stands head-and-shoulders above most waterproof digital cameras here, being able to produce significantly cleaner, richer images than its counterparts, with reduced noise. Designed for the high-end user, it features a touchscreen LCD, high-frame-rate, slow-motion video in Full HD, and even 4K recording if you hook it up to an external recorder (though this will of course reduce the extent of daredevil stunts you can perform with it). Sounds great – so what’s the bad news? Well, as you might suspect, all this tech doesn’t come cheap, and with an RRP of £800/$699.99/AU$1049, the Sony RX0 is considerably more expensive than the majority of other options in this list. If this doesn’t put you off, however, you’re in for a treat: this is one of the best waterproof cameras you can get. 

Read more: 10 tips on getting the best from your Sony camera

8. GoPro HERO5 Black

Last generation’s GoPro HERO model still holds up

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 14-28mm (equiv.) f/2.8 | LCD: 2in touchscreen | Waterproof: 10m/33ft | Shockproof: Not rated | Freezeproof: Not rated | Max video resolution: 4K

4K video with effective stabilisation
Voice Control is useful
Many cheaper competitors
Touchscreen can be fiddly

Belonging to the previous generation of GoPro, the HERO5 Black is still a hugely impressive camera, one that can now be picked up for a reduced price with the advent of the HERO6. Like that model it shoots 4K video, albeit at a lower frame rate than the HERO6, and still has the useful 2in touchscreen on its rear. Full HD video can be shot at 120fps for super-slow-motion output, and it’s possible to shoot stills in Raw format, which gives you greater flexibility to tweak them in post-production. This was also the point at which GoPro HERO cameras received dual microphones, improving audio capture. If the HERO6 Black is too dear for you, this waterproof digital camera should more than satisfy your needs.

9. Fujifilm XP120

An older waterproof camera that's missing a few features, but its price makes it tempting nonetheless

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm (equiv) f/3.9-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 920k dots | Waterproof: 20m/65ft | Shockproof: 1.75m/5.8ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: Full HD

20m waterproofing
Very affordable
Relatively narrow maximum aperture
No Bluetooth or NFC

While it's recently been superseded by the XP130, the Fujifilm XP120 is still a perfectly capable compact camera, and well worth looking into if you’re working on a tight budget. If you can live without Bluetooth and the other extra features, this is a well-specced waterproof camera that will serve you well in tough environments. Generous resolution, speedy autofocus, a bright (but sadly not touch-sensitive) rear screen and Full HD video all mean you’ll be equipped to take on whatever your adventures throw at you, while the bright colour options are an additional nice touch.

Read more: 10 tips on getting the best out of your Fujifilm camera

10. Leica X-U (Typ 113)

With an APS-C sensor and a fast prime lens, this is a decidedly premium option that promises great things

Type: Compact | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 16.2MP | Lens: 23mm (equiv) f/1.7 | LCD: 3in, 920k dots | Waterproof: 15m/50ft | Shockproof: 1.22m/4ft | Freezeproof: No | Max video resolution: Full HD

Large sensor
15m waterproofing
Very expensive
20cm minimum focus distance

With an APS-C sensor, a fixed-focal-length Leica Summilux 23 mm f/1.7 ASPH optic, and the expertise of one of the most respected names in the industry behind its development, the Leica X-U (Typ 113) is designed to produce far better image quality than the other options here. Other key features include 15m waterproofing and aluminium used in both the top plate and control dials, together with a non-slip body to make it easier to handle underwater. Despite its high price, you do have to put up with the fact that video recording is limited to Full HD capture, together with a minimum focusing distance that's significantly longer than rival options, and Leica doesn't make any claims regarding protection against freezing temperatures. Still, if image quality is paramount – and your bank balance isn't – this is clearly the answer. 

Read more: The 10 best action cameras right now