The Sony A7S II has been a go-to mirrorless camera for underwater video since its release in September of 2015. For the Sony loyalists looking for top-of-the-line image quality in a small and compact form, the A7S II is for you. It embodies a 12.2MP full frame CMOS sensor and can shoot true cinema 4K video at 24fps, as well as UHD 4K at 30fps and smooth slow-motion video at HD 1080p video up to 120fps. Paired with an impressive 5-axis in-camera image stabilization you can get ultra-sharp, steady footage even when shooting hand-held.
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The Nikon Z6 is the Nikon equivalent of the Panasonic S1 -- Nikon’s lower-megapixel version of their Z Series full frame mirrorless cameras. The Nikon Z6 offers a 24MP, full frame sensor with fewer, larger pixels than the Z7 making it a more favorable choice for video due to the low light advantages. One benefit of the Nikon Z7, as compared to the Panasonic S1, is its size. The Z7 is small and compact -- a major reason why people are turning from DSLR cameras to mirrorless cameras. The Nikon Z7 has phenomenal autofocus capabilities with 273-point hybrid phase-detection contrast autofocus technology. It tops out at 4K 30p but can natively output 10-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI in the new N-log color profile, promising greater dynamic range and flexibility in post. Beyond that, with its new firmware, it will become the first hybrid camera to offer RAW video output when coupled with the Ninja V monitor/recorder.
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What is the best camera for underwater photography? As you may know from reading the Underwater Photography Guide, it is important to select a compact camera that offers full manual controls, the ability to shoot in RAW, HD video, and the ability to accept wide-angle and macro wet lenses. We need to look at not only the camera features, but the quality of available underwater housings.
The SeaLife DC2000 is the best underwater camera from a company you've probably never heard of. It doesn't look that much different from the TG-5—it's about the same size, and the style and controls are similar too. But inside is a sensor that's four times the size, and a lens that's a little brighter. It's not necessarily a crowd-pleaser—the lack of zoom power and generally slow operation make it a niche camera. But serious divers will find it a good option, as it can go as deep as 200 feet using the included case, and is good to sixty feet without it.
The A7 III, with its compact and ergonomic design, has been a very popular camera for video recording. The battery life is drastically improved compared to the previous A7 Series cameras, which was a primary complaint of Sony Alpha users and is particularly beneficial for underwater video, as it allows you to shoot for much longer without the need to open the housing. The A7 III also has dual SD card slots, which play an additional role in the maximum allotted time you can record underwater without having to open the housing. The auto-focus during video works very well.
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We've added a couple of models to this ranking since we last visited it, including the Marcum LX-9, which boasts some serious resolution, as well the ability to toggle between black and white and color modes, which can make finding certain fish in certain waters much easier. Its price is the only thing that kept it from breaking into the top slot. Our top pick moved up from the number four position mainly on the strength of its battery, which far outlasts most of the competition.
The Sony a7II is the only full-frame mirrorless camera to offer in-body image stabilization systems and its performance is excellent. The body is comfortable to shoot with and offers a broad set of features that should appeal to both still and video shooters. The Sony a7 II has a 24.3MP resolution, great Full HD video capabilities and fast auto focus.
Like I mentioned, underwater housings can cost more than the camera itself so choosing the right one is an extremely important decision. They do more than just keeping your camera dry. They also protect it from pressure, allow you to use the camera controls, enable the use of different lens ports and hold accessories like lighting. Be sure to invest wisely on this one!
The Sony A6500 and A6400 are Sony’s top-of-the-line cropped sensor mirrorless cameras. They feature a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and records UHD 4K up to 30fps. The Sony A6500 offers many of the same pro-level features characteristic of Sony’s a7 series cameras, such as 5-axis image stabilization and S-Log picture profiles. The Sony A6400 offers the capability of shooting with hybrid log gamma, and an improved color science from the A6300 and A6500. Thanks to the smaller sensor, however, both cameras come at a much lower price point than the full frame a7 series.
Is GoPro good for underwater photography?
The Panasonic Lumix GH5s has been the go-to mirrorless camera for video use over the last two years and even with the advent of newer full frame mirrorless cameras (as listed above) the GH5s still holds its own as a professional video system. There are various underwater housings available for the GH5s and with Nauticam’s newest version of the NA-GH5 you have the option of including an M28 bulkhead for use with HDMI 2.0 and the Atomos Ninja V recorder.
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.
Housings are a topic that deserves a detailed post of their own and you’ll see one here on The Adventure Junkies in the future. But, until then let me briefly talk about choosing an underwater housing. Also, you can read Basics of Underwater Photography: Choosing Cameras & Housings which goes into more detail about housings as well as ports, lenses and accessories.
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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a powerful 4/3 mirrorless camera. It has 16-megapixels but is also capable of shooting in a 40-megapixel (64 in RAW), high-resolution shooting mode. The E-M5 Mark II also has WiFi to make sharing photos with your dive buddies even easier. This camera is a great option for photographers who travel often and want a camera that won’t break the bank.
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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.