Scuba diving is always a great experience, but having the right equipment and being able to record or take photos of your encounters with sharks and turtles… that’s priceless!
Now you take a look at all the options, underwater cameras, types of housing, accessories, etc. and you may think, ‘Oh my god! Where to start?’
No worries. I’m here to explain to you all the different types of diving cameras and help you find the one that best fits your needs!
BEST DIVE CAMERAS
CANON ELPH 520 HS
The Canon ELPH 520 HS is one of the most popular compact cameras. Canon says it’s one of the thinnest cameras in the world. It comes with a 10.1 MP CMOS sensor, 28mm wide angle lens, 12x zoom and optical image stabilizer. It also records Full 1080p HD video in Stereo Sound.
Pros: Lightweight and thin, best price on the list.
Cons: Not very resistant, lower image quality.
Find a housing: Ikelite
The Canon S120 captures beautiful 1080p HD video, having great Wi-Fi connectivity, a 12.1 MP CMOS sensor, and the Canon DIGIC 6 image processor for fantastic low-light performance and image quality.
Pros: Compact, good quality for the price.
Cons: Not very rugged.
“Good value for the money”
GOPRO HERO 9 BLACK
We all have seen amazing photos and videos taken with a GoPro and we know the great results. I just love it. The new GoPro Hero 9 Black offers the best video quality ad it’s equipped with an amazing Hyper-smooth 3.0 technology with three levels of stabilization. If you want to save some money, you can find the GoPro Hero 8 Black (which has great video quality, recording 4K professional resolution) for a great price now.
Pros: Really compact, option to fit it to some masks, high-quality video.
Cons: It needs accessories.
“Amazing video quality”
BEST DIVING CAMERAS
SONY RX100 VII
The Sony RX100 VII will surprise you with a 20.1 MP CMOS sensor, 4K HD quality video and its consistently fast 24-200mm lens. It would be hard to find another camera that can provide better image quality in such a small package.
Pros: Super compact, high-quality images.
Cons: Autofocus can be slow in low light.
Find a housing: SaltedLine
“High quality in a small camera”
SONY ALPHA a7II
The Sony Alpha a 7II takes stunning pictures thanks to its full frame sensor format. It features a super fast auto focus system and 24.3 MP of resolution. The in-body image stabilization is very robust and works amazingly during both image and video capture.
Pros: Full frame, fast focus, high-quality images, interchangeable lenses.
“Great overall performance”
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Mark II
You will love the Olympus OM-D- E-M5 Mark II because it features a 16 MP sensor with a 40 MP high-resolution shot mode, full HD video capabilities and a 5-axis image stabilization system. If you want a great mirrorless camera at a reasonable price, this is your best choice.
Pros: Good value for the price, lightweight, interchangeable lenses.
Cons: It takes a while to figure out how the menu works.
“The best size/price/image quality balance”
BEST DIVE CAMERAS – TOP END
CANON 7D MARK II
The Canon 7D Mark II is one of the best dive cameras you can find for an affordable price (in its category). This is a top-end camera that features a 20.2 MP CMOS sensor with dual pixel autofocus, high-speed continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps and amazing full HD video. It’s one of the few that can auto focus very well during underwater videos.
Pros: Top-end image and video quality, interchangeable lenses.
Cons: Heavier and bigger than mirrorless cameras.
“The best value for the money in top-end cameras”
The Nikon D850 is one of the best cameras on the market for nature, landscapes and scuba diving. It offers stunning high-resolution images with a full spectrum of colors and a complete dynamic range, plus the best low light performance. The 45.7 MP CMOS sensor, EXPEED image processing engine, 153-point autofocus sytem and professional full HD video capabilites make it by far the best camera on the list.
Pros: Best DSLR quality, interchangeable lenses.
Find a housing: Housing
“Premium product for serious photographers”
Best underwater cameras for which you don’t need a housing
SEALIFE MICRO 3.0
The Sealife 3.0 is an underwater camera that you can actually use for diving, and not only for snorkeling. You can take amazing pictures (thanks to its 16 MP sensor) and videos (it can record in 4K), and bring it down as low as 60 meters in depth. The camera is easy to use with quick setup menus.
Pros: Compact, wide lens, good price, high image quality.
Cons: No zoom.
“Great diving camera without the need for a housing”
CHECK OUT the Sealife Micro 3.0 + 5000 Dual Light Set!
The Olympus TG-6 is a very popular, tough camera, and one of the best dive cameras you can get for snorkeling, without a doubt. Besides the underwater performance, this camera is pretty good at taking regular land pictures (great for hikers, bikers, adventure travelers).
Pros: Ultra-rugged, raw support, wide angle and macro modes.
Cons: Maximum depth: 12-15 meters.
“Good for snorkelers and adventure travelers”
Things to consider when choosing the best underwater camera for scuba diving:
Why do you want your diving camera?
This is actually the key question! In this article I focus on the best diving cameras; that’s why I’m going to recommend that you get a camera with good performance (those you already know of, like Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.) and a housing to make it waterproof.
If you are going to use your underwater camera for snorkeling, that’s cool, too! But maybe you don’t need to spend a lot of money; you can get a tough underwater camera like the Olympus TG-6 (here on Amazon), which is actually a great camera. But as I said, I’d use it only for snorkeling, traveling, etc.
Types of cameras
We can divide modern cameras into three types: compact, mirrorless and DSLR.
In addition to those, some companies have created specific cameras for scuba diving like the Sealife Micro (here on Amazon), and you wouldn’t need to use any housing in this case. I’ve heard different opinions about this camera, but it might be a good solution depending on your budget.
These are the smallest and usually the cheapest on the list.
- Good size and weight for travel
- Cheapest option
- You can use wet lenses and shoot macro and wide angle
- Less quality, more noise, smaller sensor
- Less battery
- Shutter delay and sometimes bad focus
I love mirrorless cameras when it comes to diving. These cameras allow you to take great photos without spending the fortune you would for a DSLR camera.
- More quality, larger sensor than compact cameras
- Usually lightweight for travel
- You can interchange lenses
- Good focus
- You can’t use wet lenses, which means you have to shoot either macro or wide angle
For those looking for a camera with the maximum performance, greatest image quality and the most options in terms of lenses, DSLR cameras are the best option.
- Best image quality, larger sensor
- Reduced shutter lag
- Best focus system
- Best performance with low light
- Great choice of lenses
- Heavier and larger
- More expensive
- You can’t use wet lenses
Finding the right housing for your dive camera:
Basically, there are two types of housings: plastic housings and aluminium housings.
Plastic housings are way cheaper than aluminium, and so you can assume that the quality is not the same.
Carefully choose the housing, because in some cases it migh cost you much more than the camera itself. That’s why they also have to be ergonomic, resistant and durable.
If you are a recreational diver who is going to use the housing from time to time on your vacations, a plastic housing might be enough. Ikelite has amazing plastic designs with almost the same quality as aluminium ones, and at half the price.
For serious divers and photographers looking for the most ergonomic and durable housing, and willing to get the best underwater pictures, I’d suggest that you go for aluminium housing. However, keep in mind that they are “quite” expensive!
WHAT IS IMPORTANT IN A CAMERA?
If you want to take high-quality pictures and then retouch them in Photoshop or Lightroom, your camera must have the option to take photos in RAW mode. This way, you get the image in raw, which means you can modify it, raise or lower lights, contrast, etc. You’ll get better results than if you made these adjustments on the photo in JPEG format.
A GOOD AUTOFOCUS
All cameras on the list have an autofocus option, which usually works well on the mainland. However, focusing underwater can be a bit tricky. This is because the visibility is worse; the same amount of light isn’t available down there, you might encounter suspended particles in the water and some fish move very fast.
Therefore, it’s important that the camera has a good autofocus system, including several autofocus modes and multiple focus points to achieve the highest accuracy.
It’s crucial that the camera lens offers a wide angle to properly capture an open image of the underwater world. When it comes to cameras with interchangeable lenses, your selection will depend on the type of photography you will be doing.
For open photos, a “fish-eye” lens works well. In the case of built-in lenses, some cameras, such as the GoPro and the Sealife, feature this type of fish-eye lens (an angle of about 140°). Other cameras offer 24mm lenses, which are equivalent to about 100º of amplitude.
Video quality in today’s cameras is one of the features that have advanced the most over the last few years. Even economical models have decent video. Most cameras on this list feature 1080p Full HD video quality, which is quite acceptable. The GoPro has an excellent video for its price and size.
A FEW EXTRA TIPS:
How to care for your camera
Most people feel love for their cameras (I do, at least). I mean, you go through many unforgettable moments together. After a while, the camera becomes like a travel buddy. In addition, cameras are not exactly cheap, so we want them to last as long as possible. It is very important that we take good care of our cameras.
Regardless of the type of camera you are using, whether it’s a compact, bridge or reflex camera, you must store it in a dry, fresh and clean place. Humid areas must be avoided at all costs, as they can cause the formation of fungi in the lens and other parts of the equipment.
Keep it inside a protective bag, always with the cap on.
TRAVELING WITH YOUR CAMERA:
Sometimes you want to save 20 euros by buying a cheap camera bag, but this can ruin an expensive camera. It’s important to bring a bag that adequately protects the camera from shocks. The camera must be fixed inside the bag without moving from side to side.
In this article we recommend several underwater housings for your camera. Make sure you get good protection to prevent water leakage. The housings can be very expensive but you must see this as an investment.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.