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.
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 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.

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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.
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.
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. 

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While the original Sony RX0 drew plenty of attention for its 1-inch sensor in a tiny body, it was somewhat hamstrung by the fact that to record 4K video it needed to be physically tethered to an external recorder. So while it was waterproof, shockproof and all that jazz, this limitation meant you couldn't record 4K video in these extreme situations. The RX0 II does away with this restriction, recording pristine 4K video internally, and also adds welcome extra features like a flip-out screen. It's the most expensive on this list, but if you need the low-light latitude a 1-inch sensor gives you, it's really an unrivalled prospect.
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.)
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.

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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.

Another highly sought-after, and relatively exclusive, feature within the video camera realm is the ability to record in RAW or ProRes. These are uncompressed formats that maximize the information gathered by the sensor and provide you with extended flexibility when it comes to color grading and post-processing. As mentioned, this feature is quite an exclusive one and only available in a select few cameras on the market with good processors (again, excluding high-end cinema systems). Some select cameras can record in ProRes Raw with an Atomos Ninja V external recorder. Nauticam offers a housing for the Ninja V for use with your underwater system.

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The Panasonic Lumix LX10 is arguably the best compact, point and shoot camera for underwater video on the market. It uses a whopping 20MP sensor and shoots beautiful 4K video that you could expect from a high-end mirrorless camera. The footage is sharp and detailed due to the high megapixel count for such a compact camera. The f-stop ranges offered by the built in 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) lens allow for beautiful bokeh as well.
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.
This is the Swiss army knife of tough cameras, equipped with ring lights around its lens that function as a torch as well as a macro light, allowing you to see what you're doing underwater as well as keep your subjects illuminated. While it's not a big update over the previous WG-50, it's got a fair few nifty features that make it worth consideration. The microscope mode lets it focus at distances as close as 1mm, while the Handheld Night Snap captures several images of a low-light scene in quick succession and blends them together to create a blur-free composite image. This is all housed in a body with serious protections, able to stay submerged in 14m of water for up to 2 hours. 

Belonging to a previous generation of GoPro, the HERO5 Black is still a hugely impressive camera, one that can now be picked up for a reduced price with the advent of the HERO7. Like that model it shoots 4K video, albeit at a lower frame rate than the HERO6 or HERO7, and still has the useful 2in touchscreen on its rear. Full HD video can be shot at 120fps for super-slow-motion output, and it’s possible to shoot stills in Raw format, which gives you greater flexibility to tweak them in post-production. This was also the point at which GoPro HERO cameras received dual microphones, improving audio capture. If the HERO7 Black is too dear for you, this waterproof digital camera should more than satisfy your needs.

The Canon 1DX Mark II has been a staple DSLR camera for professional video since its release in early 2016. It comes equipped with a 20MP, 35mm Full Frame Canon CMOS sensor and records 4K video at 60fps or Full HD video at 120fps. Very few full-frame cameras can record video at these high frame rates and a high bit-rate, which can then be slowed down for slow-motion video.

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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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 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.


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.

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