There are plenty of reasons to opt for the best waterproof camera out there in 2015: you might be the outdoorsy rugged type, a professional diver and videographer, a parent who enjoys capturing their kids’ adventures in the ocean, or anything in between. These cameras are sturdy, shockproof, and sealed for more than just water – they can also withstand extreme temperatures, as well as snow, dust, or whatever other particular conditions you may find yourself in.
That being said, it’s also important to bear in mind that the technology market in general, as well as the gadget market in particular have grown increasingly competitive over the past few years. Not only have the main players, Nikon and Canon, been struck by the effects of the recession and the global economic downturn that followed – but serious contenders, like the GoPRO have also carved their niche on the market. To boot, technology is becoming more and more accessible by the minute, with independently crowdfunded cameras of all sorts popping up all the time.
All of the above obviously works to the advantage of the consumer. A more competitive waterproof camera market spells out more choices for the potential buyer. A plethora of options usually comes along with overall lower prices – but also with the pitfall of being overwhelmed by too much choice. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the year’s best waterproof camera models, adapted for specific needs and budgets.
The best waterproof camera for action shots
The GoPRO Hero 3+
By now, the GoPRO camera has over a decade of sustained popularity under its belt. Following its 2004 launch, this incredibly compact gadget has completely revolutionized the way in which action and diving enthusiasts approach the field. In turn, the brand has diversified its offer, which currently includes three different models. The best waterproof camera from GoPRO is the Hero3+ Black Edition. It comes with a still shot sensor of 12MP and can shoot video at 15fps at a maximum resolution of 4K. This camera may be small, but it’s impressive insofar as waterproof specs go. The original kit is sold with underwater housing which allows the user to go as deep as 131ft underwater – that’s one foot over the recommended maximum depth.
You can also purchase additional underwater housing for depths up to 197ft – it only costs $60. You’ll also need to invest in some filters and/or lights, because water filters out light and color. A GoPro tray and BigBlue diving light kit will cost a further $260, but you can also opt for products from other manufacturers. In fact, this is one of the best parts about buying a GoPRO: there’s a virtually limitless array of mounts, clamps, suction cups, filters, touch-screen backs, et al, available from third-party producers. The GoPro comes with a built-in Wi-Fi option, which allows you to share photos and videos almost instantly, via dedicated Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apps.
The best waterproof camera with a compact body
The Olympus TG-3 Tough
Olympus has a history on the waterproof and shockproof camera that spans back to 2006 and the jewel in its crown is the Olympus TG-3 Tough model. You can go rather deep underwater with this tiny, but sturdy gadget. It has been awarded a depth rating of about 30ft (15m), which is more than decent (for deeper sea diving enthusiasts: check out the Canon D30, which goes deeper than 50ft). The coolest thing about the TG-3 is that it’s virtually indestructible. It’s been designed to withstand 220 pounds pressing down on it, drops of 7ft, and temperatures that go all the way down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. As expected, it’s also dustproof and crushproof.
In terms of camera performance, the TG-3 also fares well. It’s got a quick aperture of f/2.0, which allows plenty of light to come into your frame, deep underwater, where light is scarce. Passionate about details of sea life? The Olympus has options both for wide angles, as well as for extreme close-ups, i.e. macro shots. Some of the more experienced camera users out there might scoff at the camera’s lack of full Manual Mode; however, the in-built modes are customizable enough. The Olympus TG-3 Tough can be operated in Aperture Priority Mode, Intelligent Auto, and Program Auto. There’s also a bunch of funky Art Filters you can apply to your shots, plus options to create videos in HD and time-lapse. To top it all off, the camera is Wi-Fi ready, GPS-equipped and comes with a manometer that records the depth at which you’ve dived.
The best waterproof camera for advanced users
The Nikon 1 AW1
Along with Canon, Nikon is one of those brands that targets prosumers, or advanced users in simpler terms. That’s why it they’ve been championing innovation for a while – and they couldn’t have ignored the underwater photography niche. They have recently released the Nikon 1 AW1, which is the world’s first ever digital camera with an interchangeable lens, which can even be changed underwater!
This model is as rugged as they come and it’s also got some mighty impressive specs. It can withstand being submerged at a 49ft depth for a whole hour. If you’re a snorkeling aficionado, this will more than suffice, and it will even do the job for casual deep sea divers. The mirrorless camera shoots at a 14MP resolution and the camera is strong enough to withstand a drop of as high as 6.6ft onto a relatively hard surface (think plywood or something similar). And, of course, the best part about this camera is how small and light it is: 4 x 2.9 x 1.5 inches and weighing no more than 11.1 ounces. As expected, it also comes with all the trimmings you’d expect from a professional camera: full manual mode, aperture priority, shutter priority, 400fps video recording and 1200fps for slow motion videos. The video resolution is a whopping 1080HD, with 60i/30p. The GPS function is fully workable, but not necessarily underwater and Wi-Fi is not built into the base model.
The best waterproof camera for deep sea divers
The Canon PowerShot D30
Priced at a rather hefty $329 online, the Canon PowerShot D30 is a simple, small, but incredibly powerful camera for the most passionate of deep sea divers. If you’re into this rather expensive hobby, however, you’ll have no problem doling out a few extra hundred bucks on the absolute best camera in its class you can think of. It comes with a 12MP resolution and can withstand depths of as much as 82ft. Like any good camera in its league, it can survive a drop of up to 6.5ft and also works in the 14F to 40F freezing temperature range. Goin’ ice fishing? You can safely take the D30 along – and you needn’t worry about dropping it, it comes with a great rubberized handgrip on the front panel.
In terms of camera specs, this one is not the most complex, but it does have a solid white balance feature, which can balance out the blue hues under the water. It can focus as close as .4in, so it’s great if you fancy yourself to be the next Jacques Yves Cousteau. Since it’s a point and shoot type camera, don’t expect anything remotely similar to a manual mode, but do enjoy its special modes, like toy camera, super slow motion, and fisheye.