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!
10 Best Dive Cameras Review 2018. Comparison:
|Canon ELPH 300 HS||12.1 MP||$||4.3|
|Canon S120||12.1 MP||$$||4.3|
|GoPro 6 Black||12 MP||$$||4.5|
|Sony RX100 III||20.9 MP||$$||4.4|
|Sony Alpha a 7II||24.3 MP||$$$$||4.3|
|Olympus OM-D- E-M5 Mark II||16 MP||$$$||4.5|
|Canon 7D Mark II||20.2 MP||$$$$||4.7|
|Nikon D810||36.3 MP||$$$$||4.7|
|Olympus TG-4||16 MP||$$||4.2|
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-4, 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, 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!
Best Dive Cameras. Budget
CANON ELPH 300 HS
The Canon ELPH 300 HS is one of the most popular compact cameras. Canon says it’s the thinnest camera in the world. It comes with a 12 MP CMOS sensor, 24mm wide angle lens, 5x zoom and optical image stabilizer. It also records 1080p HD video.
Pros: Lightweight and thin, best price on the list.
Cons: Not very resistant, lower image quality.
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 6
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 6 offers the best video quality, delivering twice the performance compared to its predecessor. If you want to save some money, you can find the GoPro Hero 5 Black (which has great video quality, recording 4K professional resolution) for an amazing price now.
Pros: Really compact, option to fit it to some masks, high-quality video.
Cons: Wide angle (fisheye).
“Amazing video quality”
Best Diving Cameras. Mid Range
SONY RX100 III
The Sony RX100 III will surprise you with a 20.9 MP CMOS sensor, 1080 HD quality video and its consistently fast 24-70mm 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.
“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 D810 is simply the best camera on the market for nature, landscapes and 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 36.3 MP CMOS sensor, EXPEED image processing engine, 51-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.
“Premium product for serious photographers”
Best underwater cameras for which you don’t need a housing. (Mainly for snorkeling)
SEALIFE MICRO HD
The Sealife is an underwater camera that you can actually use for diving, and not only for snorkeling. You can take pretty good pictures and videos, and bring it down as low as 60 meters in depth. The camera is easy to use with quick setup menus.
Pros: Compact, good price.
Cons: No zoom, no manual white balance adjustment.
“Great diving camera without the need for a housing”
CHECK OUT the Sealife DC2000 with Pro Dio Light & Flash Set!
The Olympus TG-4 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: No great video quality, maximum depth: 12-15 meters.
“Good for snorkelers and adventure travelers”
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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