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 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.
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
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Before you start digging into the reviews, a few notes on choosing a cam that's right for you. You'll definitely want to consider frame rate, expressed as frames per second (fps). Some action cameras offer up to 240fps recording, while others only go to 30fps. For standard playback, 30fps is perfectly fine. It's when you want to slow footage down in editing to create dramatic scenes that frame rate matters. Footage captured at 240fps can be slowed down and played back smoothly at one-quarter speed. You may also want to go for a cinematic look, in which case you'll want one that has a 24fps capture option, the same speed used by most Hollywood productions.
How do I set up my GoPro hero 7?
Waterproofing is important to consider if you'll be recording footage underwater or even around water. Some waterproof cameras can go deeper than others, and some have built-in waterproofing so that you don't need to think about extra housing. And if you're already invested in a system, like GoPro, which uses a proprietary mount, then sticking with what you've got can help save money on extra accessories.
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.
You can get great wide-angle photos with the RX100 VA/VI and the UWL-09 super-wide lens,the Kraken KRL-01, or the Nauticam WWL wet wide-angle lens. For macro with the RX100 VA/VI cameras, we recommend using the Bluewater +7 if you are just getting the hang of macro and super macro photography. The Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) are top of the line wet lenses with amazing lens sharpness but have a lot of magnification and can be a little more difficult to use.
The Nauticam Panasonic S1/S1R housing offers an M28 bulkhead, designed to be used with the HDMI 2.0 cable with the Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder. When shooting the Panasonic S1 with the Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder, you will immediately be able to record 10-bit 4:2:2 HDR footage direct to Apple ProRes or Avid DNx. This is highly advantageous and the Nauticam housing for both the Panasonic S1 and the Atomos Ninja V work hand in hand to provide a particularly user friendly system.
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.
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.
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.
Canon is consistently a leading manufacturer of cameras and lenses in the video realm and the 1DX MkII is their flagship camera. The color science that is characteristic of Canon systems is highly sought-after and the sharpness of their lenses is not to be understated. If you are looking for a top-of-the-line DSLR that functions not only as an amazing stills camera but also as a professional-grade video camera, the Canon 1DX MkII is for you. The downside, is that the underwater housings are somewhat larger than the other housings listed in this guide.
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.
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.
Despite having a cropped sensor the A6500 and A6400 boat a highly reliable focusing system made up of 425 phase detection points. Not only that but they are two of the lightest and most compact cameras on the list despite having a fairly competitive sensor pixel count. If you are an aspiring or professional video shooter, the Sony A6500 and A6400 prove to be a great option for underwater video.
The feature-set and price point of the DJI Osmo Action make it pretty obvious from the get-go that it's an attempt to undercut the GoPro HERO7. Does it succeed? Like all things, it's complicated. The front-facing screen is a boon, the stabilisation is just as silky smooth as the HERO's, and it's wallet-friendly price is nothing to sniff at. That's not to say it's perfect; there are a few lag issues at high resolutions, the app can be unreliable, and video from the HERO is a touch flatter, which counts in professional realm when it comes to the grade. For an affordable alternative to the HERO7 Black though, the Osmo Action is a fantastic choice.
Which underwater camera is best?
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.
How long does GoPro battery last?