There are some cameras that were made specifically for being used underwater for example the SeaLife DC1400. But, just from reading the mixed bag of customer reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that it’s not the best underwater camera for scuba diving. The buttons stick, the flash doesn’t work, the shutter delay is insanely slow… just a few of the problems you can run into.
Fortunately, we are now blessed with several cameras and great underwater housings that meet these criteria for the "best underwater camera". Whether you are looking for the best underwater camera for scuba diving or snorkeling, we are sure you will find it here. I'd also like to point out, that we define a compact camera as a camera with a fixed lens.
The next most immediate specification to consider would be the frame rate that your video camera allows you to record in. Top-of-the-line video cameras record at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (fps), giving your footage that smooth, slow-motion cinema look that everybody loves. This is a highly sought-after capability and only a select few cameras on the market (excluding high-end cinema systems) provide this feature.
So what makes a good underwater camera? In addition to image and video quality, there are several other important factors to consider, like the overall quality of the camera's optics, including zoom range and maximum aperture. The latter is crucial for low-light photography, as larger aperture typically results in better photos since it allows more light in. It also minimizes motion blur, making larger apertures perfect for action shots. (Note: The smaller the number, the larger the aperture.)
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The Sony A7 series has led the charge in full frame mirrorless cameras and the A7 III and A7R III have been some of the most popular cameras on the market since their release in April 2018. Similar to the Nikon Z6 and the Panasonic S1, the Sony A7 III has fewer, larger pixels compared to the A7R III and therefore, a more favorable for video use due to the resulting low light capabilities. The A7 III tops out at 4K 30p and records internal 4:2:2 8-bit video. You also have the ability to shoot on various picture profiles like HLG & S-Log3 Gammas, which offer less-compressed video capture and facilitate maximum color rendition and dynamic range for post-production flexibility. It also has impressive autofocus capabilities with a 693-point hybrid autofocus system.
“As the Directors of Photography for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” we have the responsibility to bring home high quality professional images that will be viewed by tens of millions of people worldwide. This is an awesome responsibility considering the incredibly harsh environment that we work in. All of our photographic systems are challenged by salt water, freezing spray, and violent collisions with hydraulic cranes and swinging crab pots – not to mention the times that we loose our footing and fall or get washed across the deck by waves. In this crazy environment our most reliable tool has always been the SplashCam” …more>
Prior to 1923, costly 35mm film stock was the standard for movie cameras. However, when Eastman Kodak released 16mm film stock, this lower-cost alternative sparked a new market fueled by amateur movie makers. While dismissed at release as inferior, 16mm film remained in production until the late 2000s, when digital movie cameras rose to prominence.
Action cameras have replaced traditional point-and-shoots and camcorders for many types of underwater and outdoor work. Their small, go-anywhere designs and ultra-wide lenses make them ideal for mounting—whether it be to a surfboard or dive helmet—and they are built tough. While many of these cameras still require an external case to be waterproof, the GoPro Hero8 Black can go down to 33 feet without one, and offers class-leading video stabilization, making it our top pick.
What can I do with my GoPro?
Here, we have outlined the best cameras for underwater video in order from best to last-best. Yes -- indeed the last camera mentioned has been classified as ‘last-best’ since if it were not an excellent choice for underwater video, we would not put it on this list! Here we will walk you through some of the key points that make each camera great for underwater video and hopefully make the process of choosing which underwater video camera is best for you, a little bit easier.
The BMPCC4K has a built in 5” monitor, which makes viewing and framing your subjects underwater a breeze. The LCD screen on the BMPCC4K is lovely -- it’s sharp, bright and has good contrast. The BMPCC4K has no in camera stabilization, but this can be solved in post-production with the free Davinci Resolve subscription that comes included with the camera. Also, the BMPCC4K only has single-point autofocus, which is challenging when shooting video underwater. The solution to this, which most videographers prefer anyway, is to use manual focus. With the Nauticam BMPCCII Underwater Housing, there are numerous MFT lenses that Nauticam supports manual focus for. To see a list of supported lenses with the Nauticam BMPCCII Underwater Housing, see our Nauticam Port Chart.
The TG-6 can capture excellent 12 MP stills in up to a whopping 20 frames per second, as well as ultra crisp 4K video via a 4-times magnification optical zoom lens with f/2.0 aperture. Microscope mode for ultra close-up shooting is also among the camera's features, as is the ability to capture panoramas and time-lapses. Advanced photographers have the option to save their images in RAW file format for more extensive edits.
Is the GoPro hero 7 silver good?
Another particularly exciting camera that we are anxiously awaiting, and which should be released anytime time now, is the Sony a7S III. Due to the success of the Sony a7s II we think the a7S III will be an even more exciting release. When Panasonic announced 6K capability in the S1H, there has been some speculation that Sony may try to match this capability with the a7S III, but it’s impossible to know.
You'll also want to keep your specific needs in mind. Not all cameras are suitable for every sport, and certain form factors lend themselves better to certain activities. On top of that, different shapes allow for different mounting accessories and possibilities. If you want to catch a unique perspective, like an under-skateboard shot, you'll want to pay close attention to size.
The Sony RX100 VA, VI & VII cameras are the latest additions to the Sony RX100 series and are packed with lots of awesome features for underwater photography. They are the top of line compact cameras to date. Autofocus is lightning quick in both cameras, which is very beneficial for underwater application. Both feature a large 1" sensor with 20 MP resolution, which provides excellent image quality, fast autofocus, useful video modes (like slow motion) and full manual controls. The RX100 VI's key upgrade is its enhanced zoom using a 24-200 mm f/2.8 – 4.5 lens. The RX100 VA's key upgrade is 24fps sequential shooting, enhanced image buffer, and a customizable menu system. The RX100 VII has some minor improvments over the VI.
The Canon G7X III is a tiny camera with a large 1-inch, 20 MP sensor, a direct competitor to the Sony RX100 series cameras. It is an excellent, fast-focusing camera with great image quality and has dedicated macro focus. The camera also boasts 4K video, slow motion video, a bigger image buffer, a new stacked sensor, a better image processor, and quicker burst shooting over the G7X II.
Do you need a filter for GoPro underwater?
The Sony RX 100 III is one of the most popular options for underwater photographers looking for the balance between image quality, price, size and ease of use. It’s a step up from the RX 100 II. This model has a better video bit-rate and adds an electric viewfinder. The RX 100 focuses faster that most other compact cameras. It’s a great option for pro photos without the weight and bulk of a dSLR camera.
Lead camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H... See Full Bio