Why limit your photographic adventures to dry land? An underwater camera is a great way to capture your aquatic adventures.
From taking a dip in the pool, to deep sea exploration, the best underwater cameras will be along with you for the ride, capturing your journey without the worry of damaging it.
Not only should they be sturdy, stable and robust, but it shouldn't compromise on the quality of the images/footage. You still need high quality sensors and zoom for amazing photos.
Each model offers a unique combination of features and benefits that will allow you to enjoy your sub-aquatic fun with ease and convenience.
Find our top picks for the best underwater cameras listed below, as determined by ratings and reviews of 2020, to help you find one that suits your individual needs and desires!
5 Best Underwater Cameras Australia
1. Olympus Tough TG-6
The Tough TG-6 from Olympus is a great point-and-shoot camera due to its excellent custom settings, so if you’re not a camera buff you’ll love this one.
The TG-6 is rugged, very rugged. It’s waterproof to 50ft, dustproof, shockproof to 2.1m, crushproof to 1000kgf, freezeproof to -10C, and anti-fog as well. It’s lightweight – 59g. And compact – 6.6 x 11.2 x 3.3cms.
For a compact 12mp underwater camera, the TG-6 performs extremely well. The pictures are very bright and clear even in lowlight conditions. Shadows are appropriately exposed, and its custom settings are excellent.
Its stabilisation is also very good with great anti-blur functionality. The 8X zoom ability is higher than many other brands. The microscope mode gives you the chance to photograph tiny sea-life with perfect results, even when your target is moving!
Take the time to learn about this camera’s features and you’ll be amazed by the results you’ll get from using it underwater, at the sandy beach or anywhere else where conditions are adverse, which is, after all, what it has been designed for.
Its specifications are: high-resolution F2 0 lens; zoom up to 8X; true pic VIII; back illuminated CMOS Image Sensor; variable macro system with 4 shooting modes and magnified shooting up to 1cm from the lens end; 5 underwater shooting modes including microscope; 3 underwater white balance modes; 4K movie mode and full HD 120 fps high-speed movies can be recorded.
All these specifications and how to make best use of them are well-explained in detail in the User Manual and understanding them can save you time and bring you photos which you never thought you’d be able to take.
But if fiddling around with settings is not your thing, the default settings are still extremely good according to anyone’s standards.
2. GoPro Hero 7 Black
The GoPro Hero7 is a rugged little camera with waterproof capacity up to 32ft without a housing. It’s fully voice controlled so you can be totally hands-free enjoying your underwater or other adventure whilst recording or photographing or even live streaming to Facebook Live! Share your extreme experiences as you live them!
SuperPhoto mode intelligently applies HDR, local tone mapping and/or noise reduction to optimise your photos.
And so user friendly – just simple voice instructions like: “GoPro start recording” and you’re in business.
You can save all your recordings to your SD card in high resolution.
The GoPro Hero7 has 4K60 video and 12mp photo capabilities so the videos and photos it produces are truly amazing. It’s like being there all over again.
And another really special feature this camera has is an 8x Slow Mo Video (using an ultra-high frame rate of 1080p240 video) to slow everything down by 8 times.
And conversely it has TimeWarp Video to speed things up by 30 times to collapse longer videos into interesting shorter moments.
Use these features to relive those extra special moments in the water, whether they be funny, interesting or maybe even epic!
The camera also boasts an all-new HyperSmooth image stabilisation technology which ensures gimbal-smooth video footage.
The GoPro Hero7 Black is the brand’s top of the range underwater and action camera.
3. Nikon Coolpix W300
Waterproof to 98ft, shockproof, cold-resistant and dustproof the Nikon Coolpix W300 is a camera to take with you on all your adventures, to capture those precious moments and to share them with your friends as they happen.
The camera is compact enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
The Coolpix is so user-friendly that all you need to do to get a great shot is to aim and snap. Or press the button to start the video. The camera has a 16.05mp back-illuminated CMOS sensor and 4K UHD video functionality which ensure that you’ll have brilliantly clear and sharp images wherever you are.
The wide-angle lens and 5X zoom capacity (plus 10X Dynamic fine zoom) mean that you can reach the action with the lens even when you’re far away from it.
And on the other hand, the camera will take macro shots from 1cm away just as clearly. Make your shots even more personal and artistic with Creative Mode and Quick Effects with modes like fisheye, painting and miniature.
Enhancing the underwater world for photos there are optical accessories like Underwater Speedlight. There is an LED light for dark surroundings.
Use SnapBridge to share the photos and videos with the world (or just your family and friends) via social media or just email as you take them.
And to save you the trouble the W300 has built-in GPS, GLONASS, QZSS, altimeter and depth gauge to automatically record the details of where your shots were taken.
This is a great little camera for your next adventure underwater or on dry land.
4. Fujifilm FinePix XP130
At a budget-friendly price point the FinePix XP130 from Fujifilm is a great ‘ready to go’ camera for adventures underwater or above.
Waterproof to 65ft, shockproof to 5.8ft, freezeproof to 14F and dustproof, this camera can go anywhere you go.
The FinePix has an internal 5X zoom lens plus an Intelligent Digital Zoom which gives 10X zoom effect whilst counteracting any degradation in quality.
Its 16.4mp back-illuminated CMOS sensor gives great image quality in poor conditions such as underwater, and the stabilisation system controls camera shake in low light or in zoom mode.
The integrity of underwater colours is maintained by Fuji’s Underwater and Underwater Macro functionality.
The camera has full HD video capability with a dedicated movie recording button. The action can be slowed down to an incredible 320 fps (frames per second) if it’s all happening too quickly to see properly.
You can slow down to a range of speeds above the 320fps as you wish.
FinePix has Bluetooth connectivity so you can transfer images and videos to your devices or share with family and friends. And the camera also has a remote function which can be accessed by downloading the app from FUJIFILM Camera Remote on your smartphone or tablet.
The device will then be able to operate the shutter, adjust the zoom, and switch the camera to video mode remotely.
The pairing of the camera and your smartphone or tablet also allows you to use Auto Time Adjustment and Geotagging for time/location tagging of all your photos and videos (when these apps are turned on).
To sum up, the FinePix is a really fun camera to have around. It has a lot of features which enable non-professionals to take great quality and interesting photos and videos, especially underwater or in other difficult places.
It is a budget-friendly price for a user-friendly camera.
5. Olympus TG-4
The Olympus’ TG-4 is an underwater camera which delivers.
It’s waterproof to 50ft, freezeproof to 14F, shockproof to 7ft, and crushproof to 220lbs.
Its features include a wide-angle optical zoom of 4X with high-speed lens. It has RAW capture, Live Composite, Microscope, Macro, Portrait, Landscape, HDR, Underwater and Underwater HDR modes. With WiFi, GPS, and e.Compass it allows you to share and also tag your photos.
Recommended by those ‘in the know’, the Olympus TG-4 Waterproof Digital Camera is an excellent choice for those who are serious about getting great quality photos in an underwater setting and who care about the technical details such as microscope mode and ‘Raw’ capture ability.
At the price point it may not be the ideal choice for amateurs who are not interested in learning about how the more technical functions and settings of a high-quality camera work.
However, the TG-4 does have reasonably intuitive controls and user-friendly operational modes for those who want a good rugged outdoor camera.
For example, the iAuto mode is a good one for amateurs – it will set the camera up to take the best photo in whatever the conditions happen to be. Other custom modes also suit an ‘aim and shoot’ photographer. It depends who you ask.
The TG-4 has many great features. Its focusing is super-fast and accurate. Its underwater shots have excellent image quality – sharp, bright and clear.
The microscope mode is amazingly good quality on this camera. The focus in Macro mode is excellent even at just 1cm away from the target. The camera will magnify up to 44X which is simply incredible.
The exposure time and aperture size are completely automatic – there is no manual setting for these. This is where the camera suits an amateur.
This is the camera you want when you drop it in the water or it gets covered in sand. And then you brush it off and take more photos and they’re just as amazing as the ones you took before it got wet and sandy.
The TG-4 is a very very good camera, for pretty well everybody.
How To Choose Best Underwater Camera?
When it comes to choosing the best underwater camera, there's many different factors you should consider. We've gone over the main points below,
Probably the most important consideration is your budget. Underwater cameras are not cheap, especially those at the upper end of the market.
Whilst you can find action cameras for around $100 these are not going to suit serious underwater activities and will not have anything more than fairly basic functions,
Underwater cameras which are worth considering range in price from $250 – $2,000+.
Custom vs Manual Settings
As with any camera, underwater cameras can be as easy to use as ‘aim and shoot’ or as technically complex that a lot of the settings are manually chosen, or somewhere in between the two. Deciding where in the range you fit is important.
It will have an impact on the price and on how comfortable you feel with using the camera once you have it.
And many of us assume that if a camera is expensive and has a lot of modes and features it will be way too difficult for us to use. What we don’t realise is that modern cameras have both automatic (custom) as well as manual settings.
It’s the best of both worlds. Of course, there is no getting around the need to change settings occasionally, eg from shoot mode to video mode. And even a novice with a new toy may be prompted to learn how to use a camera to its best performance.
Some underwater cameras have in-built GPS and can tag the date, time and location of the photos you take. This is a popular feature.
WiFi connectivity is a feature in some underwater cameras. When connected, this allows you to download your photos and videos to your paired device. It also means that you can share exciting, fun or special moments straight away with family and friends.
The common depth in which underwater cameras are safe is 30 meters, with 15 meters being not uncommon. An experiment using a camera in a waterproof housing showed that a depth of 40 meters is possible but probably not without good housing.
However, it’s important not to rely on generalisations and to check what depth your particular camera is proven to be safe for. The main issue is water pressure which increases with depth.
When you’re underwater and busily enjoying yourself amongst the coral reef and its wildlife you want to be able to take photos without worrying about having steady hands. By the same token, you don’t want blurry photos.
Underwater cameras often have some form of stabilisation system to avoid degradation of the quality of the shot from shakiness or other factors like the movement of the surrounding water. This is an important feature to have.
Anybody who is anybody who knows anything about photography will tell you that shooting and storing images in RAW format rather than in JPEG is an absolute must-do.
RAW format saves every bit of data captured by the camera so it can be fully processed later. JPEG files are compressed and lose quite a lot of the data because the camera has done the processing itself and changed the data file in that process.
Video and Still Quality
Another very important feature to consider when choosing an underwater camera is the quality of the stills and videos it gives you.
That quality is determined by a few factors including the size of the light sensor inside the camera, the type of sensor, the number of pixels, and the resolution (pixels per inch).
The ballpark specifications you’ll be looking for are 10 - 16+ mp (stills) or 1080p240 (video) with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor.
Selective underwater cameras have many special features, too many to mention all of them here, but we will talk about a few of the more interesting and exciting ones.
The Microscope mode is simply breathtaking. This mode lets you shoot the smallest thing imaginable on the ocean floor (or elsewhere) and get an amazingly clear, bright and sharp image of it, greatly enlarged.
Even if it was moving! The Microscope can take a shot even at just 1cm away from the target. The camera will magnify up to 44X, which is incredible.
TimeWarp & SlowMo Functions
There is a camera which has the ability to slow down or speed up the video it’s shot so that you can view it in detail either slowly or quickly.
Zoom Range and Macro
Zoom range and Macro function is all about focus, which is all about getting the clearest, brightest, and sharpest images from your camera every time.
Ideally you want your camera to have a wide-angle focal length between 24mm and 28mm at its wide end, and no more than 35mm at its widest.
Turning to macro, you want the focus to be as close as possible, preferably 3-10cms. Some cameras can go as close as 1cm to the target.
What is the best for snorkelling?
All underwater cameras should be just fine for snorkelling. You won’t be going very far underwater so depth shouldn’t be a problem.
Looking for one that comes with a neck strap can be very beneficial so you can use your arms for swimming without losing your camera to the depth of the ocean floor!
Do underwater cameras work above water?
Yes, it should be able to be used above water. Underwater cameras are really a subset of action or adventure cameras. Gopro is the probably the best known of these.
They are rugged all-terrain cameras designed for all conditions. You do need to carefully check the specifications before purchasing though.
Why not just use a plastic waterproof camera case?
That is a simple question to answer: chalk and cheese my friend. There is simply no comparison. An underwater camera which has been designed specifically for the task will provide you with the highest quality memories for years to come, whatever they may be.
A digital camera in a plastic camera case is not built to be immersed in water of any depth at all. These cases will cope with rain and splashes and a quick drop into the swimming pool, but not 15ft underwater. And what’s more they’d probably float anyway!
The more expensive cases (and they are very expensive - $2K is not an uncommon price tag) are really marketed to professional photographers.
Underwater cameras are available at a fraction of that cost and they do the job very well.
Do I need to clean my underwater camera?
An underwater camera may be waterproof, shockproof, and all in all indestructible but it is still an electronic device and it comes into contact with different corrosives. It does need to be rinsed out and dried after each use to protect it from degradation.
Is underwater photography different to other photography?
There are some differences between photography underwater and on land, mainly due to the light. Water not only diffuses the light but it also distorts the images.
The key to good photography underwater is getting closer to your subjects than you would on dry land. Close proximity will help to reduce the effect of a flash on particles in the water, there’ll be less distortion of the image, less light from reflective waves and less floating particles in the water.
Shooting from below your subject is also a good technique to practice because it creates a glow around the subject and distracts the viewer from any stray light or particles.
I still remember my first camera, it was a hunky of junk that would stop working if even the slightest drop of rain touched it. Now we've got camera's that can work underwater in rivers and even the ocean.
Today we've shown you a small number of the best underwater camera's available to purchase here in Australia. There's definitely a lot more out there, so be sure to do your own research before purchasing.
Check the features each offer as well as the reviews and ultimately make sure the camera is truely waterproof down to certain depths, not just splash proof - there's a big difference!
James is a thrill seeker who loves to take part in adventure sports. Currently he’s studying his PHD while working as a software engineer. In his spare time he loves to write.