If you’re thinking about going to an exotic locale and want to take some photos (and video) of a snorkeling expedition, or you just want to capture images poolside, you’ll want to use a camera that can get wet on the outside and stay dry inside. Start with our picks for the best waterproof cameras and accessories.
Our social media feeds are inundated with images of bright beaches with stunningly perfect palm trees and the deepest blue water. But even taking your camera to the beach can be risky—sand gets in places you’d never think it could—and most models won’t survive a quick dip in the ocean.
You may already own a waterproof camera. The latest top-end iPhones and Android phones are IP rated for submersion for short amounts of time. And the rise of quality smartphones has gone a long way in reducing the number of dedicated point-and-shoots on the market. But even if you’re just taking a quick dip and want to snap a selfie, there are reasons not to take your expensive phone into the water.
If you lose it, you’ve lost all the data on it. It’s especially risky for travelers, as documents like boarding passes and hotel confirmations are often stored on your smartphone. And let’s not forget how much a new phone costs, once you’ve taken your monthly payment plan
So the answer is to get a waterproof camera. Something that doesn’t cost as much—so if something does go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Many waterproof cameras are also ruggedized, so they can survive drops.
Read on for our top recommendations. We’ve tested most of them, with a couple of exceptions. We decided to put a disposable 35mm film camera on the list for fun, and haven’t delved into the world of testing accessory housings.
Olympus Tough TG-5
Now in its fifth iteration, Olympus’s top-end rugged camera, the Tough TG-5, has owned our Editors’ Choice recommendation since it introduced the series in 2012. The TG-5 can go as deep as fifty feet underwater, has a bright f/2 lens with a stellar macro function, and records video at 4K quality. It’s also tough, with Wi-Fi and a 4x zoom lens.</ziffbin>
The SeaLife DC2000 is the best underwater camera from a company you’ve probably never heard of. It doesn’t look that much different from the TG-5—it’s about the same size, and the style and controls are similar too. But inside is a sensor that’s four times the size, and a lens that’s a little brighter. It’s not necessarily a crowd-pleaser—the lack of zoom power and generally slow operation make it a niche camera. But serious divers will find it a good option, as it can go as deep as 200 feet using the included case, and is good to sixty feet without it.</ziffbin>
GoPro Hero7 Black
Action cameras have replaced traditional point-and-shoots and camcorders for many types of underwater and outdoor work. Their small, go-anywhere designs and ultra-wide lenses make them ideal for mounting—whether it be to a surfboard or dive helmet—and they are built tough. While many of these cameras still require an external case to be waterproof, the GoPro Hero7 Black can go down to 33 feet without one, making it our top pick.
Nikon Coolpix W100
The W100 isn’t a camera you reach for if you want professional results. But it’s a good one to get if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. It manages smartphone-quality results in bright light, is able to survive modest drops, and is waterproof to 33 feet. It’s also priced around $ 160, which puts it in the low-cost category. We recommend it as one of our top picks for kids learning about photography as well.</ziffbin>
SeaLife Micro 2.0 WiFi
If the DC2000 is SeaLife’s serious camera, the Micro 2.0 WiFi is its fun one. With a fish-eye lens, a 200-foot depth rating, and big buttons that are easy to press, even when wearing gloves, it’s a point-and-shoot for deep sea exploration. Add-on lights are available, also rated for extreme depths, to shed some light on subjects obscured by murky waters.</ziffbin>
Fujifilm QuickSnap Disposable
</ziffbin>If you’re on a budget, or just want an old-school aesthetic, a disposable, waterproof film-based camera is still a thing you can buy today. For around $ 10 you can get the Fujfiilm QuickSnap, which is loaded with a 27-shot roll of Superia 800 color film and is rated to survive pressure at depths of up to 35 feet.
If you already have a mirrorless camera or SLR you can take it swimming, but you’ll need to protect it. There’s a boutique industry out there, offering waterproof housings for popular cameras and lenses. Popular brands include Ikelite, Nauticam, and Sea and Sea.