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.

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.


The RX100 VA introduced an increased image buffer, burst shooting up to 24fps, and customizable menus. This is excellent for photographers seeking to capture quick pelagic animals that need good burst speed and more processing power. The RX100 VA still carries all of the advantages of the RX100 V including the 315 point phase detection autofocus system and the 20 MP/1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor. The main advantage of the RX100 VA over the VI is that the RX100 VA is able to shoot with both macro and wide-angle wet lenses on the same dive. This is because the lens is shorter and has less zoom capability than the RX100 VI. You also don't need to purchase additional ports/adapters for dedicated wide angle and macro set ups.

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is one of the most exciting cameras on the market right now for video. It provides the average videographer with high-end recording options that were previously inaccessible with a small budget. For underwater video, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with the Nauticam BMPCCII Underwater Housing is arguably the most enticing video system on the market right now.

How much does a GoPro cost?


If you’re a deep-water explorer, this is your pick of the best waterproof digital cameras. The Nikon W300 is rated to depths of 30m, outstripping most waterproof cameras, and it comes with a barometer that provides useful underwater data like altitude and depth, as well as an electronic compass. Bluetooth functionality is also on board, and this pairs well with Nikon’s SnapBridge technology for fast image transfer. Video shooters will also welcome the addition of 4K video to the W300’s toolkit, and the generous shockproof rating of 2.4m means it’s extra protected against bumps and knocks. While the lack of Raw support is a pity, if you're happy to stick with JPEGs you'll find it to be a superb all-rounder for fearless underwater adventures.
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.
Compared to the Olympus Tough TG-6, the Nikon COOLPIX can capture higher resolution images with more versatile zoom range. But the TG-6 has a brighter lens (f/2.0 versus f/2.8 in the Nikon), as well as the ability to shoot photos with higher ISO, so it's better in low-light photography. The Olympus also has higher burst-capture capabilities than the Nikon (20 versus 7 frames per second).
We believe that all moments spent exploring marine life are worth capturing. This belief, along with our passion and dedication to marine life, has led us to create our high quality SplashCam underwater cameras and underwater video products. Since 1988, our goal has been to give you the opportunity to document your underwater experiences and gather invaluable HD underwater footage.
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 may already own a waterproof camera. The latest top-end iPhones and Android phones are IP rated for submersion for short amounts of time. And the rise of quality smartphones has gone a long way in reducing the number of dedicated point-and-shoots on the market. But even if you're just taking a quick dip and want to snap a selfie, there are reasons not to take your expensive phone into the water.

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.

best underwater camera for snorkeling

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