“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>
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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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 Olympus TG series has a sterling reputation among the tough camera market, not only for being sufficiently specced to handle tough conditions, but also equipped with impressive imaging and video tech. The Raw-shooting, 4K-capable TG-6, is a fairly minor upgrade on the previous TG-5, but adds some nifty new features like improved LCD resolution and a new Underwater Microscope mode for getting in close. Producing 4K video at 30fps and offering the option to shoot Full HD video at 120fps for super-slow-motion, the TG-6 also has a generous 25-100mm optical zoom lens that lets you get closer and closer to the action. It's got a chunky handgrip providing a secure hold on the camera, while the internal zoom mechanism means the lens never protrudes from the body, protecting it from knocks and bumps. Straightforward but sophisticated, the TG-6 is quite simply the best waterproof camera around right now.
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.
Panasonic is the latest manufacturer to release their line of mirrorless full frame cameras. They released the Panasonic S-series in March of 2019 and swept the photo world of its feet with these impressive new mirrorless cameras. The Panasonic S1 is the S-series camera designed for video, as it incorporates fewer, larger pixels that yield impressive low-light capabilities. The Panasonic S1 incorporates a 24MP, full frame sensor with a new Leica-L lens mount. The S-series cameras bested all other full-frame mirrorless lines in many categories. The Panasonic S1 (and S1R) is the first full frame mirrorless camera to shoot 4K at 60fps -- a feature that full frame mirrorless shooters have been waiting for for years. Not only that but with the latest firmware update, the Panasonic S1 can record 4:2:2 10-bit footage internally, making it an absolute workhorse for color science and post-processing workflow.
The rest of the camera's highlights include Wi-Fi for smartphone connectivity (via an app), GPS, a built-in eCompass, and a temperature sensor. You can embed data from the sensors in your images when you edit them, thanks to a dedicated app by Olympus. And the 3-inch LCD display means navigating through all the camera's features is easy. The screen is considerably sharper than one found in the device's predecessor.
Now, as mentioned previously, the 4K Video Type is an important factor to consider as well. In order to record 4K 60p, the Panasonic S1 crops the sensor to a APS-C sensor at 4:2:0 8-bit. Although this is not as impressive as the Full Frame 4K 60p recording available with the Canon 1DX MkII, it is still a leap forward in full frame mirrorless technology and a particularly favorable feature.
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.
Action cameras like GoPros have their advantages too though. They're generally much smaller than waterproof compacts, making them lighter and easier to mount via a chest harness or helmet mount or similar. The best action cameras also tend to have better video specs, offering pristine 4K in high frame rates, which many waterproof compacts currently lack.
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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.
The design of the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is fun and kid-friendly, making it a solid choice for family holidays, but this doesn't mean it skimps on imaging tech. While it's not going to challenge something like the Olympus Tough TG-6, it's a capable little camera in its own right, able to shoot 4K video (albeit at a disappointing 15p) and equipped with an impressive 5x optical zoom lens with an equivalent focal range of 28-140mm, and all this comes at an extremely friendly sub-£200 price tag. A new scene recognition mode helps the XP140 assess for what it's photographing (which goes some of the way towards compensating for a lack of manual controls), and the controls are well laid-out and easy to use, even when in murky underwater conditions. For the price, this is a really solid buy.
The W100 isn't a camera you reach for if you want professional results. But it's a good one to get if you don't want to spend a lot of money. It manages smartphone-quality results in bright light, is able to survive modest drops, and is waterproof to 33 feet. It's also priced around $160, which puts it in the low-cost category. We recommend it as one of our top picks for kids learning about photography as well.
Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).
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