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The best waterproof cameras in 2021

Best waterproof cameras
(Image credit: Saketh Garuda)

Looking for the best waterproof cameras? You're in luck! We've put together this guide to the best cameras that won't mind a dip in the drink, from tiny action cameras to waterproof compacts with powerful optical zoom lenses.

After all, while many of the best camera phones are seriously capable these days, most will not appreciate spending 40 minutes examining a coral reef, and many lack features like fast burst rates or specialist photography modes. 

Waterproof cameras, also known as tough cameras, tend to be built to take some punishment. This means that as well as peace of mind when you're on the beach, you can also submit these cameras to crushing pressure, hard impacts or freezing temperatures, and as long as you don't exceed what they're built for, they'll still work! You'll be able to take these cameras to places you wouldn't dream of taking an expensive mirrorless camera or DSLR. With rubber seals and lockable ingress points, tough cameras leave nothing to chance.

Waterproof cameras also tend to be nicely childproof, meaning they can be picked up, thrown about and dropped in the mud by little hands and will still work perfectly well, making them a fantastic choice for family holidays.

Below is a selection of 10 of the best waterproof cameras you can buy right now. And, if you're not so worried about the waterproof aspect, see our best camera post.

The best waterproof cameras available now

(Image credit: Olympus)

01. Olympus Tough TG-6

Easy to use, tough enough to take anywhere, it's a winner from Olympus

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: 25-100mm (4x optical)
Screen: 3-inch LCD, 460K dots
Viewfinder: No
Max burst speed: 20fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Waterproofed credentials+Super-fast shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Very small sensor-New-ish and pricier

The Olympus Tough TG-5 was one of the best tough cameras ever made, and its successor the TG-6 doesn't reinvent the wheel, but simply builds on what has gone before to make for an extremely capable underwater imaging machine. Pairing a 25-100mm lens with a 12MP sensor still proves to be a winning combination, and the TG-6 adds in such new features as an LCD screen with better resolution (easier to see even underwater) and new, improved shooting modes.

Want a close shot of a subject for your project? The TG-6 has beefed-up Microscope modes that work both on the surface and under the water, allowing you to get closer to subjects than ever before (minimum focusing distance is just 1cm). It's got all the proofing you'd expect from previous models: it's waterproof to 15m, shockproof from 2.4m, crushproof to 100kgf and freezeproof to -10°C. Wherever you want to go, this camera can follow.

Modes have been added for more advanced image-makers too, such as Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing, and the TG-6 is compatible with a full range of accessories such as flashes and conversion lenses, so your creativity need not be limited by just what you see on the box.

Best waterproof cameras

(Image credit: GoPro)

02. GoPro Hero9 Black

The GoPro flagship boasts top-quality video and a modular design

Specifications
Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20MP
Lens: 16mm f/2.8
Screen: 2.27-inch rear LCD; 1.4-inch front LCD
Viewfinder: None
Max burst speed: 30fps
Max video resolution: 5K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Excellent 5K video+Useful front-facing display
Reasons to avoid
-Bulkier than others-Lens mods cost extra

It's the latest GoPro camera, so yes it costs a little more than others. However, the GoPro Hero 9 Black sports plenty of features that make it one of the best underwater cameras you can buy right now. Not content to rest on its laurels, GoPro has pushed things further for its ninth waterproof Hero camera, adding a useful front-facing screen that makes it ideally suited to vlogging.

And those vlogs will be of seriously high quality. The GoPro Hero9 Black is capable of putting out 5K video at 30fps and a bit rate of 100MBps – we're talking professional grade here, for a camera you can strap to the front of a white-water raft! This is coupled with the legendary HyperSmooth stabilisation system introduced in the GoPro Hero 7 seriously expands the possibilities of video you can shoot with this hardy, capable waterproof camera. When you factor in all that, the asking price doesn't seem too unreasonable!

Another welcome feature for the Hero9 Black is the suite of modular accessories that allow you to customise your experience, a function introduced with the Hero 8. The new front-facing screen has rendered the Display Mod somewhat redundant, but others like the Max Lens Mod, which provides a super-wide field of view and improves the electronic stabilisation, can completely revamp the way you use the camera. Though bear in mind that these mods do knock the cost up!

Panasonic Lumix FT7

03. Panasonic Lumix FT7

4K video shooting is at the forefront of this toughened contender

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20.4 megapixels
Lens: 28-128mm equivalent in 35mm terms (4.6x optical zoom)
Screen: 3-inch LCD, 1,040K dots
Viewfinder: 0.2-inches, 1,170K dots
Max burst speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Toughened 4K video shooter+Waterproofed to 31 metres
Reasons to avoid
-EVF and sensor is tiny-Zoom lens reach is modest

Looking for a camera that can shoot 20 megapixel photos and 4K videos at watery depths of up to 31 metres (102ft) without the need for additional housing? The Panasonic FT7 fits the bill. At its core is a respectable 20.4 megapixel sensor, while at the front there's an internally stacked 4.6x optical zoom protected by built-in image stabilisation, its focal range starting out at a usefully wide angle 28mm. Also helpful is a 10fps maximum shooting capability along with a built-in compass and altimeter for the more adventurous. Naturally, being a toughened camera, it can still function in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees and is shock proofed against drops from two metres in height – fairly standard stuff for its class, admittedly, as is the fact that it comes in a choice of blue, orange or black body colours.

Putting it a cut above the rest, however, is the less standard feature of a 0.2-inch eye level electronic viewfinder, with 1,170K dot resolution. This is in addition to a larger three inch 1,040K dot resolution LCD monitor on the backplate of course, which utilises toughened glass. With an average price tag for this class of camera, the FT7 has got to be high up your list of waterproofed camera choices for 2018.

Best waterproof cameras

(Image credit: DJI)

04. DJI Osmo Action

A highly capable and well-priced GoPro alternative, with killer stabilisation

Specifications
Type: Compact action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: 145-degree field of view, f/2.8
Screen: 2.2-inch rear LCD; 1.4-inch front LCD
Viewfinder: No
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K at 60fps
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Superb stabilisation options+Excellent 11m waterproofing
Reasons to avoid
-Unimpressive burst speeds-A few years old

Many rivals have come up to compete with GoPro for the action camera crown, and one of the most successful has been the DJI Osmo Action. Beating GoPro to the punch with a front-facing screen (something GoPro hastily corrected with later models), the Osmo Action blends an all-action body with highly capable video features, able to dive down to depths of 11m and produce great looking 4K at 60p.

The Osmo Action was competitively priced when it was launched in 2019, and it's only got cheaper since then. Its RockSteady stabilisation system keeps videos and images smooth and mostly free from the blur and jerkiness that comes from handheld footage – the first time you see it in action, you'll be truly impressed.

We really rate the Osmo Action – so much so that we're a little disappointed that DJI hasn't come up with the successor yet. GoPro has released two new iterations of its GoPro Hero since 2019, but there's no sign yet of an Osmo Action 2 to correct little annoyances like the limited 7-shot burst mode. Come on, DJI – let's see that crown reclaimed!

Nikon Coolpix W300

05. Nikon Coolpix W300

This hard-as-nails Nikon seems to have it all

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 16 megapixels
Lens: 24-120mm equivalent in 35mm terms (5x optical zoom)
Screen: 3-inch LCD, 921K dots
Viewfinder: As above
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Waterproofed to 30m+Broad for its class
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly controls  -Inconsistent exposures

Bringing to mind rugged Tonka toys of the 1970s, this all-weather Nikon Coolpix W300 compact shoots 16 megapixel photos and 4K or 1080p video down to 30 metres underwater or at minus 10°C. It also features a slightly better than average 5x optical zoom with f/2.8 maximum lens aperture. A Tool button automatically displays GPS, number of steps taken, altitude/depth plus air pressure/water pressure readings.

Also impressing us are a high-ish 921K-dot resolution OLED monitor plus the fact that the aforementioned zoom starts out at an ultra wide equivalent of 24mm for shoehorning even more into shot. Extending to an equivalent of 120mm at the telephoto end of the zoom, this toughened Nikon is something of a jack-of-all-trades, and, although we found the output a little inconsistent when it comes to getting the exposure spot on, we preferred its output to that of, say, the Olympus TG-5 or Ricoh WG-50.

Best waterproof cameras

(Image credit: Ricoh)

06. Ricoh WG-70

Good value camera with a built-in ring light for macro shots

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 16 megapixels
Lens: 24-140mm equivalent in 35mm terms
Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots
Viewfinder: As above
Max burst speed: 8fps
Max video resolution: Full HD 1920x1080
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive +Useful macro ring light
Reasons to avoid
-Pedestrian image/video quality-Older models might be cheaper

The latest in a fairly long line of sporty underwater compacts from Ricoh, the WG-70's distinctive shape and macro ring light help to distinguish it in a pretty competitive field. Having a built-in light on the lens is a genuinely unique touch for a waterproof compact, which helps because a lot of the rest of the camera is pretty standard fare. The video quality maxes out at Full HD 1080p, and the 16MP images are good without being exceptional.

The price of Ricoh's WG cameras has always been reasonable, and even though the WG-70 is quite a recent camera, it's still relatively cheaper than others on this list. That being said, it's basically identical to previous models like the WG-50 and WG-60, save for a few more manual shooting modes, so if you can pick up one of those even cheaper, it could well be worth it. 

Sony RX0

07. Sony RX0

Ultra compact, if expensive, underwater option

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 15.6 megapixels
Lens: 24mm f/4 Zeiss Tessar lens
Screen: 1.5-inch LCD, 230k dots
Viewfinder: As above
Max burst speed: 16fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+4K video footage with ‘clean’ HDMI output+Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Depths of 100 metres require extra MPK-HSR1 housing-Low-ish 230K-dot screen resolution

It’s not cheap by any means so you’ll have to blow the budget on this Sony RX0. The 15.3 effective MP ultra-compact is shockproof, crushproof (to 200Kgf) and waterproof (to depths up to 10 metres, or 100 metres with MPK-HSR1 housing), and impresses with its larger than average one-inch sensor married to a 24mm Zeiss lens with f/4 aperture. While Sony has released an updated RX0 II, this model still wins out for being widely available at a much friendlier price.

Specification – including ‘RX’ camera image quality – pricing, and High Frame Rate shooting a little shy of the 1000fps mark this out as a pro’s tool and one to dislodge the likes of the GoPro from its perch. Weighing just 110g and measuring 59x40.5x29.8mm, the RX0 is a lesson in how small and light a camera can reasonably be.

You may find, however, that a wide angle of 24mm is not quite enough for the fully immersive experience, and that a screen resolution of 230K dots could be improved. It can also be a tad tricky finding your way around menu settings – for which both a larger screen and a touch screen at that may have aided usability. All being said though, this is a specialist tool that will find an equally specialist audience. If you want a general ‘one size fits all’ image capture device, you’ll probably be looking elsewhere.

Best waterproof cameras

(Image credit: Fujifilm )

08. Fujifilm XP140

Simple to use, good value rugged camera for a variety of conditions

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 16.4 megapixels
Lens: 28-140mm equivalent in 35mm terms
Screen: 3-inch, 920K dots
Viewfinder: As above
Max burst speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Reasonably priced+Impressive 25m depth rating
Reasons to avoid
-4K looks ropey-Lacking firm hand grip

While it may be one of the most affordable cameras on this list, the Fujifilm XP140 doesn't skimp on functionality. Rated down to depths of 25m, it's one of the most capable diving cameras here without needing a case, and having a 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens is hugely welcome. Brightly coloured and unmistakeable, it's a difficult camera to lose, even at the bottom of a lake, and the all-around tough build should give you peace of mind. 

With a high ISO setting of 12,800, the XP140 is pretty capable in low light, making the most of its small 1/2.3-inch sensor. It does even offer 4K capture, but don't get too excited; the 15p frame rate is pretty poor, and for most purposes you're probably best off sticking with Full HD. Still, this is a well-priced camera that offers a lot of attractive underwater features.

Best waterproof cameras

(Image credit: Akaso)

09. Akaso Brave 7 LE

This cheap-as-chips GoPro-lite is a good choice for budget users

Specifications
Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20 megapixels
Lens: Not specified
Screen: 2-inch rear LCD; small front screen
Viewfinder: No
Max burst speed: Not specified
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Good waterproofing+6-axis stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Video quality is so-so-Tiny front screen

With GoPros being as popular as they are, it was inevitable that competitors would spring up to offer a similar shooting experience at a lower price point. As well as the DJI Osmo Action mentioned above, we want to give a shout-out to the Akaso Brave 7 LE, which is one of the best of the ultra-cheap crop (an area that can be fraught with products that over-promise and under-deliver).

For its price, the Akaso Brave 7 LE ticks a heck of a lot of boxes. It even offers something many other action cameras don't: six-axis image stabilisation that keeps things smoother than smooth. It's got an IPX7 waterproofing rating without a case, meaning it can be submerged in about 1m of water for about 30 minutes. Useful for a quick dip, but for more prolonged expeditions, you can house it in the sturdy (albeit bulky) waterproof case and descend down to 40m. The slightly bland-looking video doesn't hold up to GoPro quality, but for the price, this is a great option.

Fujifilm QuickSnap Marine

10. GoPro Hero 8 Black

The previous-generation GoPro is still a great buy, and now a little cheaper

Specifications
Type: Action camera
Sensor:
Megapixels: 12
Lens: 16mm f/2.8
Screen: 2-inch rear LCD
Viewfinder: No
Reasons to buy
+Stabilisation still great+Cheaper than Hero 9
Reasons to avoid
-Front-facing screen costs extra-Poor in low light

It always makes sense to look at older models if you're on the hunt for a bargain. Case in point, the GoPro Hero 8 Black, which doesn't have the cutting-edge 5K video of the Hero 9, nor the front-facing screen, but is still one of the best waterproof cameras you can get right now. 

For a start, there's the Hypersmooth stabilisation, which is still some of the best around, producing footage that's smoother than smooth. The 4K 60p video looks fantastic, and this was also where GoPro started to take accessories a little more seriously, resulting in the integrated accessory mod that allows the user to add components like the Display Mod for a front-facing screen, or the Media Mod for improved audio recording capabilities. 

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Gavin is a freelance journalist and writer, and editor at BPI News.