You may already own a waterproof camera. The latest top-end iPhones and Android phones are IP rated for submersion for short amounts of time. And the rise of quality smartphones has gone a long way in reducing the number of dedicated point-and-shoots on the market. But even if you're just taking a quick dip and want to snap a selfie, there are reasons not to take your expensive phone into the water.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K) is known as a disruptor camera, as it offers most of the features videographers hold in high regard at an impressively affordable price. The BMPCC4K has a Micro Four Thirds sensor, records 4K video at 60fps and even records RAW and ProRes files. This small, highly affordable cinema camera offers key features that were previously held captive by top-of-the-line, high-budget demanding cinema systems like the Canon C200, RED Digital Cinema Cameras, or the Arri Alexa Series. Recording in RAW or ProRes provides you maximum flexibility during post-processing and allows you to apply professional color correction to your footage.
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.
The Sony A6500 and A6400 are Sony’s top-of-the-line cropped sensor mirrorless cameras. They feature a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and records UHD 4K up to 30fps. The Sony A6500 offers many of the same pro-level features characteristic of Sony’s a7 series cameras, such as 5-axis image stabilization and S-Log picture profiles. The Sony A6400 offers the capability of shooting with hybrid log gamma, and an improved color science from the A6300 and A6500. Thanks to the smaller sensor, however, both cameras come at a much lower price point than the full frame a7 series.
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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.
There are some cameras that were made specifically for being used underwater for example the SeaLife DC1400. But, just from reading the mixed bag of customer reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that it’s not the best underwater camera for scuba diving. The buttons stick, the flash doesn’t work, the shutter delay is insanely slow… just a few of the problems you can run into.
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.
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.
You can get great wide-angle photos with the RX100 VA/VI and the UWL-09 super-wide lens,the Kraken KRL-01, or the Nauticam WWL wet wide-angle lens. For macro with the RX100 VA/VI cameras, 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.
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.
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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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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Canon is consistently a leading manufacturer of cameras and lenses in the video realm and the 1DX MkII is their flagship camera. The color science that is characteristic of Canon systems is highly sought-after and the sharpness of their lenses is not to be understated. If you are looking for a top-of-the-line DSLR that functions not only as an amazing stills camera but also as a professional-grade video camera, the Canon 1DX MkII is for you. The downside, is that the underwater housings are somewhat larger than the other housings listed in this guide.
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.
Because you need a few extra dollars in your pocket to splurge on activities actually worth capturing, the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is one of our favorite waterproof cameras available. It’s offered at a really attractive price point (slightly north of $200), yet still offers a rugged body with an excellent waterproof rating coupled with an excellent set of features.
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.