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.
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.
What makes the “Best Underwater Video Camera”? When shooting underwater video, or video in general, there are many factors to consider. To start, being able to record 4K video is now a luxury that is expected out of any respectable video camera and 4K capture is definitely something you should consider when choosing your underwater video camera. The good news is nearly every new DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera features 4K recording capabilities. Where it becomes complicated is the 4K Video Type, which basically is the way in which a camera records 4K video. There are three types of cameras when it comes to 4K recording. The most ideal camera is one that has a full pixel readout from a 35mm sensor (often shooting the initial video in 6K) that will downsample to 4K, adding additional details to the video. Intermediate 4K quality comes from cameras that use pixel binning to process their 4K video. The worst 4K quality comes from cameras that “crop” the video by using only part of the sensor to capture 4K footage. This produces the worst quality because less sensor area is being used to capture light while filming video. The Canon EOS R was a disappointment for videographers for this reason.
How do you attach GoPro 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 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.
Then there's resolution and video quality. You'll want a camera that can record in 4K for sure. The top-end models from DJI and GoPro offer 60fps 4K with digital stabilization that's absolutely incredible. They're also not limited to ultra-wide views; you can set a narrower angle to remove lens distortion, making them solid choices for vlogging and travel logs.