Fortunately, we are now blessed with several cameras and great underwater housings that meet these criteria for the "best underwater camera". Whether you are looking for the best underwater camera for scuba diving or snorkeling, we are sure you will find it here. I'd also like to point out, that we define a compact camera as a camera with a fixed lens.

best underwater camera for snorkeling


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 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 highlight of the RX100 VI over the RX100 VA is its unprecedented macro capability. The zoom on the 24-200 mm f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens cannot be beaten by other compact underwater setups. Details captured with this lens are remarkable. When combined with a wet macro lens (diopter), the realm of super macro photography is attainable. The tiniest details of the smallest subjects can be captured with this set up (once you get a little practice in of course).

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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 W100 isn't a camera you reach for if you want professional results. But it's a good one to get if you don't want to spend a lot of money. It manages smartphone-quality results in bright light, is able to survive modest drops, and is waterproof to 33 feet. It's also priced around $160, which puts it in the low-cost category. We recommend it as one of our top picks for kids learning about photography as well.

underwater video camera reviews


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 BMPCC4K has a built in 5” monitor, which makes viewing and framing your subjects underwater a breeze. The LCD screen on the BMPCC4K is lovely -- it’s sharp, bright and has good contrast. The BMPCC4K has no in camera stabilization, but this can be solved in post-production with the free Davinci Resolve subscription that comes included with the camera. Also, the BMPCC4K only has single-point autofocus, which is challenging when shooting video underwater. The solution to this, which most videographers prefer anyway, is to use manual focus. With the Nauticam BMPCCII Underwater Housing, there are numerous MFT lenses that Nauticam supports manual focus for. To see a list of supported lenses with the Nauticam BMPCCII Underwater Housing, see our Nauticam Port Chart.


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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.
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.
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.

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