The best waterproof and underwater camera in 2019: ready to splash out?

Best underwater camera: GoPro Hero4 Black
(Image credit: GoPro)

The best waterproof cameras let you take pictures where others won't. There's a whole range of waterproof cameras designed specifically for splashing about in the sea with the kids, and surprisingly affordable underwater cameras for much more grown up underwater adventures.

So how much do you want to spend? Maybe you're just looking for the best cheap camera? Do you want to shoot photos or video? Do you need a rugged camera that can survive all kinds of tough environments, not just watery ones? Do you need a cheap, cheerful and expendable option, or are you looking to make some serious photographic statements?

That's where we can help. We can show you some of the most popular waterproof, underwater or generally tough compact cameras on the market, but we've also got some other ideas you might like to consider – like ditching a regular compact camera for a GoPro instead. It's as easy now to shoot video as it is stills with the best action cameras, and arguably a lot more engaging for your audience. 

Or, if you want to keep your family beach holiday costs (and risks!) to a minimum, why not just get a disposable film camera? It'll cost little more than a couple of Cornettos and if it does end up being carried out to sea by some kind of giant multi-tentacled monster (only joking, kids), it won't be the end of the world.

We'll keep dedicated dive cases for cameras for another buying guide, since these are for serious dive experts only, but we can show you ten other ways to start your adventures in underwater photography. And we can help with the cost, too – there are lots of cheap camera deals right now, and you'll see today's lowest prices below.

(Image credit: Olympus)

1. Olympus Tough TG-6

Tough as nails, without the danger of going rusty

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm (equiv.) f/2.0-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 1,040k dots | Waterproof: 15m/50ft | Shockproof: 2.1m/7ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14°F | Max video resolution: 4K

4K video recording
Generous optical zoom
15m waterproofing bettered elsewhere
Newer so more expensive

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

Best waterproof camera: GoPro HERO7 Black

2. GoPro HERO7 Black

The latest and best GoPro has the best 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. And that's exactly what it got with the HERO6 Black, an update that wasn’t about headline-grabbing stunts, just about improving on what had come before in the most efficient way possible. Now, though, there's the Hero7 Black, with new HyperSmooth image stabilisation, and the ability to capture 4K video at 60fps (like the previous Hero6 Black), for a smooth 2x slow motion effect during playback. You can also livestream your adventures while simultaneously capturing them to the internal memory card. The GoPro Hero7 Black is  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. It won't be for everyone, but the tiny form factor and mountability mean it can go where other models can't. 

(Image credit: DJI)

3. DJI Osmo Action

An extremely well-specced GoPro rival

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 145° field of view, f/2.8 | LCD: Front-facing; 2.2-inch rear LCD | Waterproof: 11m/36ft | Shockproof: Up to 1.5m/5ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14°F | Max video resolution: 4K

Fantastic image stabilisation
Useful front screen
App can be temperamental
Some lag at max resolution

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 GoPro HERO7. Does it succeed? Like all things, it's complicated. The front-facing screen is a boon, the stabilisation 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

Best waterproof camera: Nikon Coolpix W300

4. Nikon Coolpix W300

With 30m waterproofing, it's a great underwater camera for 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.

Best waterproof camera: Ricoh WG-50

5. 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.

Best waterproof camera: Panasonic FT30

6. Panasonic FT30

Panasonic’s waterproof FT30 is ideal for stills first, video second

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. 

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

7. Fujifilm XP140

The XP140 delivers creative effects and eye-popping design

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | 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: 4K

Healthy level of protection
920k-dot LCD screen
4K video 15p only
No manual control

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.

Read more: Fujifilm announces the XP140

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony RX0 II

Improves on the original by adding internal 4K

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

Tiny size but 1in sensor
4K video 
Small LCD screen
Expensive

While the original Sony RX0 drew plenty of attention for its 1-inch sensor in a tiny body, it was somewhat hamstrung by the fact that to record 4K video it needed to be physically tethered to an external recorder. So while it was waterproof, shockproof and all that jazz, this limitation meant you couldn't record 4K video in these extreme situations. The RX0 II does away with this restriction, recording pristine 4K video internally, and also adds welcome extra features like a flip-out screen. It's the most expensive on this list, but if you need the low-light latitude a 1-inch sensor gives you, it's really an unrivalled prospect.

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

Best waterproof camera: GoPro HERO5 Black

9. GoPro HERO5 Black

Previous generation’s GoPro HERO model is as good as ever, but cheaper

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 a 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 HERO7. Like that model it shoots 4K video, albeit at a lower frame rate than the HERO6 or HERO7, 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 HERO7 Black is too dear for you, this waterproof digital camera should more than satisfy your needs.

Best waterproof camera: Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine 35mm (24 Exposures)

10. Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine 35mm (24 Exposures)

This disposable film camera is perfect for families on the beach

Type: Single-use | Film format: 35mm | Exposures: 24 | Lens: 32mm f/10 | Viewfinder: Direct vision | Modes: Auto | User level: Beginner

Waterproof and disposable
Easy enough for anyone
Uncertain results
No control over anything

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 colour 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.

Read more: 

The 10 best action cameras right now
• The best dash cams to protect you and your car