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Waterproof camera buying guide

How to find the best camera to keep up with your active lifestyle

Updated

A scuba diver taking a photo of a turtle

Quick facts about waterproof cameras

  • Underwater cameras are designed to keep up with your active lifestyle.
  • They are usually small and light enough to fit into a pocket and rugged enough to withstand harsh weather and extreme climates.
  • The price of a fully waterproof camera typically starts at around $150 and can go into the thousands for a high-end model.
  • How much you'll spend depends on how you plan to use the camera and any additional accessories you may need including mounting gear and tripods.

How to compare waterproof cameras

No matter what type of camera you're comparing, you'll want to think about how easy the camera is to use and how high the image quality is. For a full list of what to look for when buying a camera, check out our comprehensive digital camera guide.

Waterproof cameras are generally compact cameras. This means you don't have as many choices in terms of style and advanced features as you would when comparing other types of cameras. That being said, you do still have to consider your budget, desired image quality, level of durability and other key features.

When choosing an underwater camera, consider the following:

Cost

The price of waterproof cameras typically ranges from $150 to thousands of dollars. The amount you'll spend depends on the brand, the type of camera, image quality and any additional accessories you may need.

Image quality

Generally, you get what you pay for. If you want to take professional quality photos while scuba diving at 30 metres, you'll probably have to pay thousands for a camera and other underwater accessories. If you're looking to document your next backpacking trip so that you can share photos with friends, you could find one for just a few hundred dollars.

Level of waterproofing

Some cameras are water-resistant and can withstand rain and water splashes. All of the cameras featured on this page are fully waterproof and submersible. The right choice for you will depend on how you plan to use the camera.

Battery life

If you are choosing between two similar cameras, pick the one with the longer battery life. When you're taking photos of your next adventure, the last thing you'll want to deal with is a dead battery.

Accessories

Do you want a mountable camera? Look for a brand that offers a range of accessories to make it easier to use your camera in any situation.

Additional features

Waterproof cameras can come with a wide range of fun and useful features including Wi-Fi connectivity, geotagging, smart device apps and compasses.

Pros of using an underwater camera

Here are several ways that you could benefit from using a waterproof camera on your next adventure:

  • Portability. Waterproof cameras are designed to be compact and portable. They can typically fit into a pocket or small bag.
  • Durability. You can use waterproof cameras in virtually any condition. Most of them are built to withstand shock, freezing temperatures, dirt, mud, sand and, of course, water.
  • Easy to use. Like most compact cameras, waterproof cameras are generally very easy to use and require little to no set-up. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take professional looking photos with a waterproof camera.
  • Video quality. Durable action and waterproof cameras are designed to keep up with any activity. Some cameras shoot in high-definition or 4K (ultra high-definition) resolution to help you capture the clearest videos possible.
  • Mounting options. Waterproof cameras are typically compatible with a wide array of mounting accessories including hand mounts, head mounts and chest mounts so you’ll never miss a shot.

Cons of using an underwater camera

Drawbacks to using a waterproof camera include:

  • Limited zoom. Waterproof cameras have limited zoom ranges because the entire camera and lens must be sealed within the waterproof frame. The maximum zoom range for underwater cameras is typically 5x.
  • Additional cost for accessories. Tripods, flashes, mounts, carry bags and additional waterproof casings can help make your camera more versatile but they will take up space and add to your overall cost.
  • Limited battery life. If you plan to spend a whole day shooting, you’ll likely need a back-up battery or some way to recharge. Remember to plan ahead, especially if you’ll be travelling somewhere remote.
  • Image quality. Underwater cameras are typically compact or point-and-shoot cameras. This means that while they are small and easy to carry, they don’t offer the high image quality of larger cameras.
  • No viewfinder. Waterproof cameras do not usually come with a viewfinder, which can make it difficult to preview your shots in certain lighting conditions.

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