Ultimately, your choice in action camera should come down to performance and ease of use. We've filmed hours of footage with many of the major contenders to determine where each device stands in the field. Some excel in all manner of extreme situations, while others can fall apart underwater or once the sun goes down. And what good is an action cam if it's not built for action?
What's the best helmet camera?
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.
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.
What comes with the GoPro 7?
“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>
How much does the GoPro cost?
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.
The latest flagship GoPro model is our favorite action camera available right now, and it brings some brilliant new features. A key difference from its predecessor (and especially the less expensive Hero7 Black) is that there are fold-out feet, so now you have a camera mount is now built in. That's not all – you can accessorise the Hero8 Black with a new series extras called 'Mods'. We especially like the Display Mod because it adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers. There are plenty of other Mods too, including a Media Mod for improving the production value of your videos, and a Light Mod LED light too. These extra capabilities – and the fact it's already waterproof down to 10m without a case – make the Hero8 Black our favorite underwater action cam right now.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Olympus TG-6 is the same size as the TG-5 and has very minor improvements which you can read about in the link above. The TG-6 will work in the TG-5 housing. This section applies equally to both the TG-5 and the TG-6. Either of these cameras can also be considered the best waterproof camera, outside of a housing. The TG-5 is just as good as the TG-6, and we have a great deal on it.
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.
How do you use a GoPro hero?
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.
What can I do with my GoPro?
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.
The FT30 isn't the newest waterproof digital camera here, and doesn't quite offer any best-in-class specs, but what it does offer is commensurate with its very reasonable asking price. It’s also pleasingly slim enough to fit in a snug jeans pocket or similar, although this does come at the cost of a secure grip; you might want to invest in a wrist strap to ensure the FT30 doesn’t get away from you. Provided you keep hold of it, the FT30 is a solid and versatile waterproof camera that should prove well-suited to recording your aquatic adventures – in stills form, anyway. The lower video resolution of 720p means that if you’re a video aficionado, you’re probably better off with one of the other waterproof digital cameras on this list.
There have been many improvements in the compact camera lines over the past few years. Larger sensors, faster focusing, and more controls have all led to a selection of cameras that work smoothly, keep size tiny and are functional with a variety of lenses and accessories to round out your underwater photography experience. Sony and Canon have both given their compact cameras one inch sensors, and greatly improved focus speeds over the cameras of a few years ago. Olympus continued to add features to their cameras while keeping both price and size down.
How much is a GoPro hero 7?
The latest flagship GoPro model is our favorite action camera available right now. A key difference from its predecessor (and especially the less expensive Hero7 Black) is that there are fold-out feet, giving you the advantage that the camera mount is now built in. Furthermore, you can accessorise the Hero8 Black with a new series of bespoke optional extras called Mods – we particularly like the Display Mod, which adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers, but there are plenty of others, including a Media Mod for improving the production value of your videos, and a Light Mod LED light too. These add-ons cost you more – but if you are looking for the very best action camera, and the best GoPro for image quality and features, then the Hero8 Black is it.