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.
Prior to 1923, costly 35mm film stock was the standard for movie cameras. However, when Eastman Kodak released 16mm film stock, this lower-cost alternative sparked a new market fueled by amateur movie makers. While dismissed at release as inferior, 16mm film remained in production until the late 2000s, when digital movie cameras rose to prominence.
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When combined with a wet macro lens (diopter), super macro photography is within reach. The tiniest details of the smallest subjects can be captured with this set up (once you get a little practice in of course). With the RX100 VI 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.
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.
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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).
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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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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 SeaLife DC2000 is the best underwater camera from a company you've probably never heard of. It doesn't look that much different from the TG-5—it's about the same size, and the style and controls are similar too. But inside is a sensor that's four times the size, and a lens that's a little brighter. It's not necessarily a crowd-pleaser—the lack of zoom power and generally slow operation make it a niche camera. But serious divers will find it a good option, as it can go as deep as 200 feet using the included case, and is good to sixty feet without it.
Our passion and growing interest in marine life is reflected in our desire to offer high definition underwater cameras that will help expose its wonders and educate others. For those who are just as passionate as we are, we understand the importance of finding the best quality underwater equipment at an affordable price. We have a range of customers, from professors and students at universities around the world, to research facilities, to charter boats, to television production companies, to local anglers and divers. Regardless of who you are, you should never compromise on finding the highest quality equipment from a reputable company.
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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a powerful 4/3 mirrorless camera. It has 16-megapixels but is also capable of shooting in a 40-megapixel (64 in RAW), high-resolution shooting mode. The E-M5 Mark II also has WiFi to make sharing photos with your dive buddies even easier. This camera is a great option for photographers who travel often and want a camera that won’t break the bank.
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 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 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.
The Sony A7S II has been a go-to mirrorless camera for underwater video since its release in September of 2015. For the Sony loyalists looking for top-of-the-line image quality in a small and compact form, the A7S II is for you. It embodies a 12.2MP full frame CMOS sensor and can shoot true cinema 4K video at 24fps, as well as UHD 4K at 30fps and smooth slow-motion video at HD 1080p video up to 120fps. Paired with an impressive 5-axis in-camera image stabilization you can get ultra-sharp, steady footage even when shooting hand-held.
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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.
The Nikon D810 raises the bar for image quality and dynamic range. It performs with great speed and precision, making it great for shooting wildlife. With 36.3 megapixels and an all-new full-frame sensors paired with Nikon’s innovative EXPEED 4 image processing, this camera delivers flawless detail retention and noise-free images from ISO 64 to 12,800. For those seeking the best in DSLR image quality, the D810 is for you.
Collecting footage is one of the strongest and most effective ways to educate others on marine life. The underwater images and videos you capture will give the world a more informed and clear perspective of underwater life. Although we reside on land, we should make an effort to understand all surrounding life, and our hope is that our products will inspire people to explore and reveal the beauty and mystery that exists beneath us.