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Stuck on land, we’d all like to relive our last scuba dive or snorkeling trip. In this guide, we’ve found the best underwater cameras for scuba diving and snorkeling so that you can hang on to that memory just a little bit longer.
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 last dive.
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.
Table of Contents
The Best Underwater Cameras for Scuba Diving: At a Glance
The Best Underwater Cameras for Scuba Diving: In Depth
Sony RX100 VII
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 Fantasea FRX100 VI Underwater Housing. The camera has all the knobs that allows you to have a direct access to the camera and zooming in up to 66mm.
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 Olympis 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.
If you want a versatile camera that can be used in a variety of environments, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is worthy of consideration. This is brought to you by its operating temperature that ranges from 0 – 40OC (32 – 104OF ). This means that you can use the camera in cold water areas as well as tropical dive sites without worrying about performance issues.
This camera features a large 1.0 inch, 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor which helps you capture both high quality images and videos. Its autofocus system features ttl autofocus and manual focus. The camera also has a 3.0 inch high resolution LCD monitor that can be tilted up to 180 degrees and down 45 degrees which is ideal for selfies or photos with low angles. Its burst function is rated up to 8 frames per second.
For the housing of the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II, its manufacturer recommends the Fantasea FG7X II A M16 Vacuum Housing. It has an ergonomic design with an on-dive leak detector.
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 professional quality lenses like the Nikon 14-24mm or Sigma 10-20mm.
With a drop resistance of 1.6 meters (5 feet), this is a rugged underwater camera with 2 depth ratings: 14 meters (46 feet) with the camera only and 55 meters (180 feet) with the housing and can work as cold as -10OC (14OF).
This camera features a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with 5x optical zoom lens. It runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the unit, the six (6) LED macro lights and the 2. 7inch 230K-dot LCD monitor. The macro mode is superb where you can bring the camera as close as 4 inches away from your subject–ideal for snapping pictures of tiny critters. For video, it records high definition video at 30 frames per second.
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.
Considered as one of the best action cameras, the GoPro Hero 8 Black has several features and functions that will make both your photos and videos amazing. Aside from the streamline design that lessens water drag, its HyperSmooth 2.0 function that has 3 levels of stabilization (on, high and boost) guarantees the widest photo view and smoothest video.
Most newbies prefer to use the GoPro Hero 8 since all you need to do is point and shoot. No need for complicated control adjustments. This is brought to you by its built-in features like the TimeWarp 2.0 which captures super-stabilized time lapse videos while in motion, the LiveBurst function that records 1.5 seconds before and after your shot and the SuperPhoto + HDR which creates 12 megapixel photos, whether you’re stationary or moving.
The only downside that we see with the GoPro Hero 8 is that it is only rated to go 10 meters (33 feet) deep. So, if you plan to go deeper, purchase its recommended underwater housing AKA the “Super Suit” where your camera depth limitation is increased to 60 meters (197 feet).
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.
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 (like the Sea & Sea DX-6G) 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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