Want a smartphone that can shoot underwater? Thinking of getting a video camera, but not too convinced by all the hype surrounding the GoPRO? What about the best photo cameras out there, which can work at big diving depths? We’ve got them all covered, as we introduce you to the year’s top waterproof camera brands.
Top waterproof cameras by brand
We’d love to know that most consumers choose their electronics based on performance rather than brand name and marketing. However, we know that, in the day and age of advertising, some buyers are simply too loyal to a particular brand to even consider trying anything else. With that in mind, we’ve selected the top waterproof camera from each of the moment’s biggest names in photography and videography. Compare, contrast, and analyze – and pick your favorite.
The best waterproof cameras for photos
Nikon Coolpix AW110
If you’re looking for the absolute best, in terms of image quality on a waterproof camera, then it’s the Nikon Coolpix AW 110 that you’re looking for. It’s the only proper DSLR waterproof camera, so, given the complex technology inside, you might want to consider investing in cases – both for the camera and its interchangeable lenses. It’s got automatic motion detection, vibration reduction, and a whopping 16MP resolution. In other words, even if your hands shake as you click the shutter button, you still have fairly good odds at taking a clear picture. The ‘son’ of the Coolpix AW100 16 MP camera also comes equipped with auto focus, a 5x optical zoom, and continuous shooting mode. You can snap a single picture, or you can shoot as many as you like, until you get the desired results.
The ample CMOS sensor on the AW110 allows plenty of light in, so that you can take great pictures even in dim lighting conditions. The camera also has a built-in flash, WiFi, and GPS geo-tagging functions. The only problem with this camera is that you can’t turn the wireless connection on or off without accessing the camera menu, since there’s no button for this on the body. However, this is but a small impediment. All in all, CNET and other reviews agree that, like the Nikon S31 10 MP digital camera, this is a great little gadget. In fact, the S31 series from Nikon is very popular among DIY waterproof camera makers and can even be purchased as a refurbished device online. Bottom line: the AW 110 is a very rugged, very versatile camera, which we wholeheartedly recommend, mostly because it can safely withstand water and very cold temperatures.
Olympus TG 830 iHS
Since this is one of the earlier releases on our list, it somewhat makes sense that it’s a bit bulkier and lacking in terms of esthetic appeal, at least when compared to some of the slimmer, lighter options in here. The camera is part of the Olympus Stylus Tough line, which you can explore at length here. It scores very high ratings, both in terms of ruggedness, as well as in terms of image quality. The 16MP CMOS sensor can operate in very low light conditions, with perfectly clear pictures as a result. It’s also crushproof, shockproof, and can be submerged down to as much as 33ft underwater. The only gripe is the grip (pun intended), which may strike many as a bit more unwieldy, in comparison with other cameras in its class.
Canon PowerShot D20
Many contend that the Canon PowerShot D20, released in 2012, is the best waterproof camera out there, a sort of a special, ruggedized point and shoot with SLR capacities. There’s certainly a lot to like about it, from its great resistance to extreme conditions (freezing temperatures, shock, diving depths), to its user friendliness and design. It’s got a dedicated movie recording button on the back, which means you can just press record and start shooting, whenever the opportunity arises. The picture quality is nothing short of what one would expect from a reputed brand like Canon. The only slight downside has to do with the placement of the buttons at the top of the camera. One millimeter to the wrong side and you could press a button you definitely didn’t want to press. All in all, with its sturdiness and nearly impeccable image quality, the D20 is a must-have for those passionate about underwater photography and loyal to the Canon brand.
Sony CyberShot DSC-TX30
This is also one of the absolute finest rugged photo cameras out there. Not only does it have a very sleek exterior, a slim profile, and optics provided by the legendary Carl Zeiss brand, but it’s also been ruggedized with awesome results. To boot, it comes in an ample range of bright colors, including pink, orange, and more. It’s durable and can reach impressive diving depths, fares well in extreme freezing conditions, and can work perfectly as the active photographer’s companion. The only drawback in this respect is the fact that it doesn’t have an in-built GPS function, so you will require a separate device for this purpose. At the same time, if you’re into nature photography, the stunning results of this camera’s micro mode are ideal for you. In terms of usability, the DSC TX30 has a highly sensitive touch screen, which makes the camera menu very easy to navigate.
Fujifilm FinePix XP60
It’s affordable, it looks like something taken out of a Sci-Fi movie, and it’s not hugely expensive either – in fact, it’s one of the top quality cameras for which you can find deals under $ 200. The FinePix XP 60 from Fuji has a lot of unique features going on for it. First off, it can shoot in up to 70fps, which makes it absolutely amazing for underwater videography, as well as for shooting spectacular images in unusual conditions. Secondly, it also comes with a one of a kind slow motion movie mode, which makes it highly appropriate for would be videographers. Expert reviews don’t necessarily recommend it for professional divers, since it can only reach a maximum depth of 20ft. At the same time, if you want to get creative on the ski slopes, or simply want to record some memories poolside, this might just be the camera for you. Another hint to the fact that it wasn’t necessarily designed for action-packed holidays is the lack of a GPS feature, plus the fact that the lens is placed in a rather strange position.
This cheap little camera from Polaroid is one of the more affordable, low budget options on the waterproof camera market niche, an improvement on their IF045 model. This, combined with the fact that its casing contains a floating device which will keep it on the surface, even when dropped in water, makes it one of the best options out there for children. Case aside, it’s very easy to use – a further argument to buy it as the little ones’ first digital camera. The only issue is that it’s rather basic in terms of features, functions, and image quality. Don’t expect this camera to perform anywhere near its Sony, Olympus, Canon, or Fujifilm counterparts, but do invest in it, if you’re keen on getting your kids started on the basics of digital photography. Strap one of these to their backpacks, and get ready to see them explore the world!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 comes with an impressive array of shooting modes, which will make taking photographs a breeze, regardless of your level of skill and shooting conditions. Another perk, in terms of how easy it is to use this camera, is the fact that it has a dedicated button for recording video on the body. No matter how tough the weather you’re shooting in may be, it will be easier than ever to start recording: simply press that button, even underwater, or with your gloves on, and start capturing your memories. In fact, given the fact that the follow-up on this camera, the TS5, was named the best waterproof camera of 2013, highly rated by features and functions, it’s no wonder that the TS4 also puts in a solid performance. It’s also based on the Panasonic Lumix TS20, which adds greatly to its pedigree.
On the downside, this camera’s GPS geo-location feature is an energy guzzler for the battery, so it’s best to keep it turned off, unless you really need it. At the same time, the video it records comes with no audio whatsoever, so forget about capturing the sounds of the ocean, or anything of the sort. All in all, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 may not be the best waterproof camera out there, but it’s clearly one of the more sturdy ones and it also yields very good results in terms of video and photo quality.
Pentax Optio / Ricoh 8557 WG4
The Ricoh WG-4 GPS follows in the footsteps of the Pentax WG-3 GPS, after Pentax was taken over by Ricoh. In terms of toughness, it’s one of the best cameras out there: it can withstand a 2 meter drop, temperatures down to -10C, and 100kg of pressure, while its diving depth stands at 14m. Its technical specs are not half bad either, with a 16MP CMOS sensor that boasts back illumination, an ISO range of 125 to 6400 and Full HD video. The optical zoom lens goes up to 4x, with a focal range of 25 to 100mm (the 35mm equivalent), while the maximum aperture stands at f/2.0. The camera also comes with Sensor-shift Shake reduction, GPS geo-tagging capacities, and a price tag below $300 – which makes it rather good value for the money. All in all, the camera comes as a subtle improvement over its WG-3 predecessor, with fairly good image output results, an acceptable price for how sturdy it is, plus relatively good ease of use stats.
Speedo Waterproof Camera for Kids
You best know Speedo for their swimwear, so it may come as a surprise to learn that they’ve also released a fully digital waterproof camera for kids. Usually, kids’ cameras are toys – which makes their lifespan last only until the child in question realizes that they won’t learn much about taking pictures if they keep using it. In comes the waterproof kids’ cam from Speedo, which is fully functional, and also built to last. Not only will it last for as long as it remains the catalyst of your child’s creativity, but it can also survive drops and water splashes. Since it’s one of the best in its category, it goes without saying that it comes with most of the basic functions you’d find on a regular digital camera: automatic flash, shutter speed, and image stabilization settings, USB transfer capacities, and internal memory (albeit limited, in the sense that it can only store some ten pictures). We recommend adding an SD card for extra storage, for super prolific budding visual artists. To boot, you can also record video, which is all the more reason to buy an external memory card.
The best waterproof cameras for video recording
Going on vacation? Then you might want to consider any of the following cameras to toss into your traveling bag (if you lack a special waterproof bag), right before you walk out the door. Many are available as a good deal, either in offline stores like Coleman, or online, new and used on eBay, Amazon, and the like. Bear in mind that the following only has to do with camcorders for traveling and moviemaking; we’ll discuss cyber cams, webcams, and IP TV / CCTV security cams in a separate article. Without further ado, here are the best waterproof cameras on the market.
Casio Exilim EX-G1
The Casio Exilim EX-G1 was this brand’s first foray into the waterproof camcorder niche; incidentally or not, this product surfaced onto the market in the immediate wake of the recession, when there were plenty of reasons to consider making a rugged video camera. After all, who knows when you’ll find yourself stranded in a desert, or threatened by a massive incoming storm, right? The EX-G1 comes equipped with a 12.1MP resolution, withstands 3x zoom, and, at the time it was released, stood as the thinnest, most compact underwater camera available. Almost in spite of its ultra-slim profile, this camera weighs in at a relatively massive 154g, complete with battery and card. Its strong suits, even in the face of such great competition from the likes of Pentax, Panasonic, Canon, and their ilk, is its shock resistance, relatively good price, and decent diving depth.
Kodak PlayFull Waterproof Pocket Camcorder
It comes from a brand best-known for their disposable cameras (since surpassed only by VistaQuest). However, it’s tiny. It’s sturdy, as our review will explore in a second. At $69.95 it’s highly affordable, one of the more inexpensive cameras you can fit into your backpack when you go out to snorkeling, diving, or simply set out to explore the great outdoor. In a way, it’s the moviemaking equivalent of the Easyshare Sport C123 digital camera, as well as a ‘cousin’ of the Kodak PlaySport ZX5 and ZX3 HD pocket cams.
So, should you spring for Kodak’s PlayFull waterproof version of their popular mini camera – or should you skip this one? Perhaps the biggest plus for this camera is how well it was built and designed. It comes with some impressive hinges, which likely have something to do with its impressive waterproofing and underwater capabilities. The ports are hidden behind two doors and the camera still manages to remain slim and light, even with a 2in display. While it’s easy to use, it still features Kodak’s signature D-Pad, which sometimes fails to register clicks. The problems crop up when you start looking at video specs and output. It shoots in 720p HD, as well as in WVGA and comes with a host of filters and effects for in-camera editing. However, after all is said and done, this camera produces some very poor video and audio. Even so, the footage is overall better than the stills – which you can barely see on the blurry little display. Finally, Kodak had better start include some trimmings, extras, and accessories in the base pack of future similar cameras, if they want to keep up with the Go PRO.
JVC Waterproof Pocket Video Camera (JVC Picsio GC-WP10)
You can find this tiny camera on sale at Amazon for about $131 these days, since it’s been released a long enough time ago that you may not be able to locate it at Walmart, Costco, or other bricks and mortar stores. At the time of its release, it was revolutionary in size, as well as specs. The image quality is as good as you’d expected to be, given the following specifications: the camera’s diving depth is 3m (10 ft), it comes with a 3in touch screen, and shoots full HD video at 1920x1080p, with a 5MP maximal resolution for still shots. So, then, why is this not a more popular camera? First of all, because of the GoPRO is too popular to be surpassed these days, and, secondly, because, as some reviewers have noted, the camera will sometimes malfunction underwater. Not only this, but the sound quality is particularly poor – so going for the GoPRO might still be your best bet, if you’re into underwater cameras.
GoPRO Hero 3+
The GoPRO needs little introduction – and, in fact, we’ve got more in-depth coverage of it on our top waterproof video camera page. Check out the specs and recommendations there. Meanwhile, hit YouTube and watch this tiny, yet incredibly versatile camera dropped from 3000m, attached to cats and snowboarders’ helmets and many more. You will be amazed, we guarantee – and you’ll be looking forward to pinning it to your own helmet and recording a quick descent down the slopes.
The 3 best smartphones with waterproof cameras
We would’ve liked to see the iPhone on this list, given the fact that it’s got some of the best camera specs out there – but it looks like Apple isn’t that interested in turning its flagship smartphone into a splashproof device. This may have something to do with the generally urban profile of their buyers; however, in the meantime, numerous other companies are making strides in turning their phones into an active user’s best friend. And the best part about this trend is that it’s moving away from the bulky image of the rugged phone. Today’s waterproof smartphones are becoming ever skinnier and more high-end. Take a look at the top three choices and then get ready for your next rafting trip or pool party:
1. The Sony Xperia Z3
This gorgeous looking handset is compatible with the PlayStation 4 and will allow you to play games remotely – but that’s not the only feature that makes it one of the most fun phones to own. It can be taken for a swim and will even withstand a dive of up to 5ft (1.5m). The camera, which boasts a whopping 20.7MP, can be shot with by using a dedicated button on the body of the phone. Want an even smaller, sleeker phone that’s also waterproof? Sony’s got you covered, with their Xperia Z3 Compact.
2. Samsung Galaxy S5
This smartphone is the embodiment of the current trend, which is all for making phones splashproof and sturdy. The previous Samsung Galaxy generation, the S4, only had the waterproof feature for the S4 Active version. With the S5, the company’s flagship phone has been endowed with the same quality. Water cannot reach the charging slot, battery, or internal electronic components thanks to the rubber gaskets that protect all that smart technology inside. To boot, the phone’s jack for the headset is coated with a special substance against water. Taking a swim? Take the S5 with you!
3. HTC Desire Eye
Think this slinky, slim phone from HTC couldn’t possibly be waterproof? Think again. It is the first such handset from HTC, but it’s perfectly resistant to water, be it from waves, spills or drips. Think they couldn’t have topped that? Well, the phone also comes with an impressive 13MP front camera. In other words, if you’re into taking selfies underwater, you’ve just found your ideal phone.