The Best Underwater Cameras for Diving and Snorkeling: 2024 Buyer’s Guide

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We all like to relive our previous scuba diving or snorkeling trip through photos and videos. Who doesn’t? We want to take stunning pics and vids, especially if we want to post and share them in social media, and you can only achieve this if you are using an underwater camera of great quality (not to discount your photography and videography skills).      

In this guide, we’ve found the best underwater cameras for scuba diving and snorkeling so that you can capture the impressive moment while you are below the surface.

Nudibranch in the Philippines, picture by Kris Michael Krister

Why get an underwater camera?

They say that a picture paints a thousand words. Your dive experience will be kept in mind if you have incredible underwater photos to accompany it. And to have a good photo, you must have a good camera. Of course, you’ll need photography skills to accompany your underwater camera. This blend of gear and skills will give you imagery that’ll show the beauty of your previous dives.

If buying an underwater camera for scuba diving is on your to-do list, we’ll show you what factors to consider, how to choose between cameras, and our top picks.

The Best Underwater Cameras for Scuba Diving: At a Glance

Sony RX100 VIICompact$$$CheckCheck
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IIMirrorless$$$CheckCheck
SeaLife Micro 3.0Compact$$CheckNA
Nikon D7500DSLR$$$$CheckCheck
Insta360 X3Compact 360$$CheckCheck
Olympus TG-6Compact$$CheckCheck
GoPro Hero 12Action$$CheckCheck

The Best Underwater Cameras for Scuba Diving: In Depth

Sony RX100 VII

Housing: Seafrogs Waterproof Housing Case  

If you are into taking photos of highly mobile sea creatures like fish or dolphins, then you might consider the Sony RX100 VII. One of its main features is the single burst shooting mode that allows you to capture fast moving objects with high definition clarity. Aside from wide panoramic angles, this camera is noted for macro-photography. With its 24 – 200 mm zoom lens, you can get a good photo of the smallest visible marine critter, like nudibranch or a pygmy sea horse. The camera also has built-in stabilizers making your photos and video blur-free.

The recommended case for the Sony RX100 VII is the Seafrogs Waterproof Housing Case. The camera has all the knobs that allows you to have a direct access to the camera and zooming in up to 66mm.

Check Price at Amazon: Camera / Housing

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Housing: Ikelite Underwater TTL Housing

This is one the few remaining units that has that classic old school look. But it doesn’t mean that this underwater camera’s features are dated. In fact, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II has many state-of-the-art features worthy of consideration.

This camera has a built-in 5 Axis image stabilization that guarantees sharp and crisp photos shot through an ultra-crisp LCD screen. For burst shooting, the 8.5 frames per second guarantees each move, whether steady or highly mobile, is captured.

For its housing, manufacturers recommend the Ikelite Underwater TTL Housing. This transparent case allows you to access all the buttons of the underwater camera and can withstand depths of up to 60 meters (197 feet) deep. It also comes with a camera mounting and strobe-ready handles for added lighting.

Check Price at Amazon: Camera / Housing

SeaLife Micro 3.0

O-rings are in integral part of an underwater housing that keeps a tight seal and prevents camera flooding. However, o-ring requires maintenance, and in rare cases, it does not provide a tight seal and water may enter. What if you consider an underwater camera that is permanently sealed and the possibility of flooding is non-existent? If so, then try the Sealife Micro 3.0.

The Micro 3.0 is a leak-proof, fully rubber-armored camera that can take pictures and videos up to 60 meters (200 feet) deep. It can shoot 16MP images in a single mode or 10 16MP photos in 1 second if you use the continuous mode. For video, it can record 4k videos with add on features that can capture 8mp still images while recording. File downloading is wireless using its free iOS and android app.

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Nikon D7500

Housing: Ikelite 200DL Underwater Housing

If you’re planning to invest in a combination of a good camera with a good housing, then you might take a look at the Nikon D7500. This camera produces superior quality images, fast speed and reliable autofocus function. Aside from its rugged design, this camera is ideal for creative photographers where they are assisted by pro-grade creative tools.

For its housing, the manufacturer highly recommends the Ikelite 200DL Underwater Housing. Aside from having full control of the camera, the housing allows you to use the following professional quality lenses:

Nikon 14-24mm

Sigma 10-20mm

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Insta360 X3 

With its full view capturing features, 360 cameras are invading the market, and with the availability of underwater housings, they can now be used in diving and snorkeling, like the Insta360 X3 that is housed in a Birgipar underwater case. 

Check Price at Amazon: Camera / Housing

Olympus TG-6

Housing: Olympus PT-059

This is another rugged underwater camera that has 2 depth ratings: 15 meters (50 feet) with the camera and 45 meters (147 feet with the housing). The Olympus TG-6 is ideal for those liveaboard and dive trips when you’re exploring on land and in the water. You can use this while diving, hiking, flying–everywhere you want because this camera is everything-proof.

On top of durability, this camera has a built-in stabilizer that can take photos of fast moving objects. The Olympus TG-6 is ideal for scuba diving as it captures and stores amazing underwater photos. This underwater camera will even create good shots if you use the zoom in function which makes it ideal for basic macro-photography.

Check Price at Amazon: Camera / Housing

GoPro Hero 12

Housing: FitStill Waterproof Case

If we talk about high-definition point and shoot cameras, the GoPro does not need any introduction. It has been the mainstay for capturing various action sports, and the latest in its series is the Hero 12. With the camera only, it can take 27MP photos and 5.3k60 ultra HD video up to 10 meters deep. 

Taking further to the depths, the Hero 12 can fitted inside its own underwater casing. As an alternative to the brand, you can use the FitStill Waterproof Case where the camera can be taken to as much as 60 meters deep.

Check Price at Amazon: Camera / Housing

How to Choose an Underwater Camera for Scuba Diving: Considerations

There are so many types of cameras to choose from. Action cameras, DSLR, mirrorless–it can be a challenge to know what to choose. We’ll guide you on features to look for when choosing the best underwater camera for diving and snorkeling.

Camera housing

The best underwater camera you can have is the camera you’ll have on you. Before you look into an underwater camera to buy, you need to see if it has a compatible underwater housing. Underwater housing is what allows you to take the camera itself underwater–and there’s no point in investing in a high-end camera if there’s no underwater case to accompany it.

Some cameras come with their own housing, while others require a separate purchase. Note that in some instances, the underwater housing is more expensive than the camera itself.

Different cameras have different housings. There is no such thing as a generic, one-size-fits-all. And if the underwater housing does fit, check to see that it offers access to all essential camera functions.

For cameras that need a housing, always follow the manufacturer’s recommended housing unit and never try fitting a camera to a housing that is too small or too large. If you do put your camera in the wrong case, it is sure to be flooded in just a few feet of water. Bye bye camera.       

Full Manual, RAW, and Macro mode    

Beginner photographers might not yet appreciate full manual mode and simply set their camera on auto.

For photography enthusiasts, the manual shooting allows you to control exposure and the amount of light that enters the camera. While it may take up space in your memory since it’s not compressed, shooting in RAW mode allows you to manipulate your photos after the dive in more detail through photo-editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. This is important as many images taken underwater tend to lose their color–which is best brought back through the help of photo editing tools.

If your plan is to shoot marine life, look for a camera that offers a dedicated macro feature. Most of the interesting and photo-worthy subjects underwater are small marine critters. Consider cameras that have an optimal focus distance which is usually 5cm from the subject for macro subjects.

Megapixels and Sensor Size

Increasing megapixels is the current market trend. The higher megapixels, the better. But if you have to weigh megapixels over sensor size (which is often neglected), prioritize sensor size.

As a general rule, the larger the sensor size, the higher the image resolution is.

Other Features to Consider

Battery life. You’ll want an underwater camera for diving that can last the duration of your dive. Or, pack a spare battery and swap it out during your surface interval.

Strobe and camera mountings might be the next thing you consider on your list. Strobes help illuminate your subjects, allowing you to get more accurate colors of the world below. Some cameras cannot accommodate these strobes, so purchase accordingly.

Multi-use. Are you someone who mostly explores on land, occasionally going underwater for a dive? Maybe it is best to prioritize a camera that has every feature you want for the majority of its use. See if this camera has an underwater housing or is compatible underwater.

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