The best waterproof cameras in 2018

Taking pictures in environments we wouldn’t dare risk our premium compact or best smartphone – chiefly those where ingress from dirt and moisture is a constant risk – is the job of the ‘toughened’ digital compact. Yes, these tank-like (yet still pocket friendly) devices are claimed to be waterproof – even down to depths of 40 metres without additional housing – thanks to additional rubber seals and lockable media card and battery port covers – but, handily for the ham-fisted, they are usually freeze proof, crushproof and drop proof with it.

For ‘waterproof camera’ also read ‘child-proof’; for, yes, these cameras can be accidentally dropped or dunked in the mud and rinsed clean afterwards. The larger, ridged buttons not only make them easier to operate with wet fingers but those with small hands too.

So with the above in mind let’s explore a selection of 10 of the best waterproof cameras you can buy in 2018. And if you find one you like, remember to keep your eye out for any early Black Friday deals

Olympus Tough TG-5

Easy to use take anywhere, shoot anywhere camera

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm (4x optical) | Screen: 3-inch LCD, 460K dots | Viewfinder: As above | Max burst speed: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Tank-like build
Waterproofed credentials
Very small sensor
Modest maximum resolution

Robustly fashioned ‘Tough’ camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor providing a 12 megapixel effective resolution. Interestingly, Olympus has actually decreased the resolution from the 16MP of the previous TG-4, aiming to improving image quality by reducing visible noise. The zoom lens in use here sports a 35mm equivalent range of a modest 25-100mm, with an impressive f/2 maximum aperture at the wide end.

Two glass panel layers prevent the camera from fogging up, while it also comes with built-in GPS, thermometer, barometer, plus compass; the same combo as found in Olympus’s TG Tracker model. Such data can be displayed with photos and videos using Olympus’ Image Track app.

Waterproof credentials include being able to withstand depths down to 15 metres, drops from heights of 2.1 metres,  and temperatures of -10°C, while it can also withstand crushing weights up to 100Kg. It’s also a capable travel camera too, with the ability to shoot Raw files alongside JPEGs. Additional housings, conversion lenses and adapters – including those for underwater use – ensure that this is an expandable ‘system’ in itself.

Olympus TG-Tracker

Diminutive matchbox-sized snapshot with grown-up data gathering features

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS | Megapixels: 7.2MP | Lens: 13.9mm f/2, 204° angle of view | Screen: 1.5-inch LCD, 115,200 dots | Viewfinder: As above | Max burst speed: 30fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Pocket sized
Rugged build
Tiny LCD screen
Small-ish imaging sensor

It’s tricky to tell from publicity shots, but this GoPro-killer of a camera is matchbox-sized tiny, while still managing to pack in 4K video capture. The Olympus TG-Tracker camera's toughened credentials include the fact that it is shock-proofed to withstand a drop from a height of 2.1 metres, crushproof, in that it is theoretically able to survive 100kg bearing down on it, dustproof, freeze-proof down to -10°C, plus impressively waterproof to depths of 30 metres. In other words it’s perfect for the English Riviera.

While the camera dimensions are modest, so is the stills specification, with its 1/2.3-inch sensor offering just 7.2 megapixels. Living up to its Tracker moniker however, users can review altitude or depth, air or water temperature, geo-location and direction, plus speed of movement, via on-screen illustrations. With five-axis image stabilisation helping prevent blurred stills or video when camera and operator are in motion, the camera even registers changes in G-force.

With images saved to microSD card, its wide-angle lens offers 204° point of view – meaning ends of fingers can stray into shot. Its LCD is of the flip out variety and is likewise tiny at just 1.5-inches in size. It cannot be rotated either, which means it can be tricky to accurately compose and review shots in bright sun. Mark this one down as a bit of fun however and we’re not disappointed.

Panasonic Lumix FT7

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

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

Toughened 4K video shooter
Waterproofed to 31 metres
EVF is tiny as is its sensor
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 up at the front we have 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, in 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 utilizes 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.

Nikon Coolpix W300

Underwater readings capture, 4K video, decent 5x optical zoom… this hard-as-nails Nikon would seem to have it all…

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

Waterproofed to 30m
Broad for its class
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.

Ricoh WG-50

Good value offering further distinguished via a built in ring light for macro shots

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

Inexpensive 
Advanced filters
Image quality could be better
No on-board GPS 

Six macro lights encircling the lens are a distinguishing feature of this sporty looking and rugged 16 effective megapixel compact, matching rivals with its 5x optical zoom. Otherwise the Ricoh WG-50's Full HD video at 30fps, waterproofing to a depth of relatively modest 14 metres, shock-proofed and freeze-proofed credentials are pretty standard issue. The design, which is the visual equivalent of an energy drink, is arguably ‘Marmite’ too – albeit one that provides plenty of ridges for slippery fingers to get a firm hold on.

Further credentials of this Ricoh is that it is shock-proofed against a fall of up to 1.6 metres and can withstand a force of up to 100kg bearing down on it. Add dust proofing and being able to keep shooting in temperatures as low as minus 10°C and the basic boxes for this class of camera are ticked. So might grumble that there’s no 4K video capture here But what we admire most about it are those six bright LED lights ranged around the lens for illuminating close ups subjects – whether on land or in the briny.

Sony RX0

Ultra compact if expensive underwater option requiring additional housing to get best out of it

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

4K video footage with ‘clean’ HDMI output
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
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 15.3 effective MP ultra-compact shockproof, crushproof (to 200Kgf) and waterproof option (to depths up to 10 metres, or 100 metres with MPK-HSR1 housing), which impresses with its larger than average one-inch sensor married to a 24mm Zeiss lens with f/4 aperture.

Specification, including ‘RX’ camera image quality, pricing and High Frame Rate shooting a little shy of 1000fps mark for those wanting slow motion footage mark this out as a pro’s tool and one to dislodge the likes of 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.

One may argue 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 beings 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 then you’ll probably be looking elsewhere.

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Fujifilm XP120

Simple to use, good value rugged camera suited to a variety of conditions and uses

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: Full HD 1920x1080 | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Reasonably priced
Easy to use
No 4K video
Lacking firm hand grip

Waterproof to depths of 20 metres, the Fujifilm XP120 may not have the broad specification of several of its rugged pocket-sized competitors, but family and younger users are hardly going to care as long as it is simple to use (it is) and does the job (it does). There is a range of fun filters included to keep the family happy and Wi-Fi connectivity for the transfer of images too. Attendant features include shock-proofing against drops of 1.75 metres in height, dust proofing and freeze proofing down to a standard temperature of minus 10°C.

However we don’t get some of the more ‘grown up’ features to be found on competitors’ models, such as on-board GPS. Then again this 16 megapixel Fuji does feature built-in image stabilisation, back-illuminated sensor for improved image quality in low light scenes and is more reasonably priced than most. Incidentally those considering this model may also consider the more recently announced Fuji XP130. However a newer (yet very similarly specified) update has brought the price of the XP120 down further still and made it even better bang for your minimal buck.

Fujifilm XP130

Update of Fuji’s cheap and cheerful ruggedized compact, currently one of the most affordable around for its spec

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS | Megapixels: 16.4 megapixels | Lens: 28-140mm equivalent in 35mm terms | Screen: 3-inch LCD, 920K dots | Viewfinder: As above | Max burst speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: Full HD 1920x1080 | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Bluetooth included
Lightweight and easy to use
Average photos
Short battery life

Fujifilm has updated its toughened point-and-shoot camera offering with the launch of the Bluetooth-enabled XP130, meaning that images from it can be sent directly to Fuji’s Instax Share smartphone printer, for example. Key specification of the 16-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor-incorporating compact, meanwhile, includes the fact that it is dustproof, waterproof once again to depths of 20 metres, shock-proofed against drops from 1.75m in height, plus freeze-proof into the bargain.

We also get a 5x optical zoom lens, starting from a wide-angle 28mm equivalent setting, a 3-inch LCD on the backplate boasting a 920-dot resolution, plus a new electronic level function to ensure straight horizons. With a burst mode of 10fps, video capture resolution is Full HD at up to 60fps, rather than 4K, and its JPEGS rather than Raw files, but for the price it seems churlish to grumble.

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GoPro Hero6

Think rugged cameras, think GoPro. This waterproofed model impresses with 4K video too

Type: Compact action camera | Sensor: Not specified | Megapixels: 12 MP | Lens: Not specified | Screen: 2-inch, touch screen LCD | Viewfinder: Via screen as above | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 4K at 60fps | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Shoots 4K at 10m
Voice control operation on land
Small rear touch screen 

This tightly compact and robust (waterproof up to 10 metres, or to 60metres with an optional housing) GoPro Hero6 in black can capture super slow motion video at a high resolution, output a stabilised image in 4K and transfer everything to a smartphone at swift speed, albeit with said phone having to cope with huge files.

For those wanting to shoot video underwater, it can offer 4K video at a smooth 60fps, though the effectiveness of its on-board image stabilisation is capped at 30fps. There’s also the ability to capture stills at a resolution of 12 megapixels, in either single, burst or time lapse modes, along with a built-in HDR mode for delivering high contrast imagery. So, though it doesn’t go as deep as some underwater compact options, it packs plenty of sophistication on board.

While it is small, there is room for a 2-inch touch screen on the back for reviewing videos and photos and making setting tweaks with what feels like possibly the world’s smallest touch-sensitive interface, adjustments made via simple swipes and taps. The Hero6 has another trick up its sleeve however: voice control. This isn’t a default setting but can be easily activated via the camera’s menus. The above adds up to pretty much the best action camera you can buy at the time of writing for this specification.

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Fujifilm QuickSnap Marine

Dunk it and chuck it – once you’ve had its pre-loaded film developed, naturally

Type: Disposable underwater camera | Film: Fujicolor Superia X-TRA800 | Lens: 32mm f/10 | Shutter speed: 1/125 sec | Exposure conditions: Sunny or overcast | Subject-to-lens distance: Between 1 to 3 metres underwater | Water resistance: To a depth of 10 metres

Depth of 10m
Affordable and straightforward
Unsophisticated 
Pictures developed afterwards

A disposable waterproof camera in this digital age sounds like madness, right? Well, if you don’t mind shooting on (and developing) film, surprisingly there are several choices to be had from the likes of former film stalwarts Fujifilm and Kodak on Amazon and the like. From these we’ve selected the sporty-looking, child friendly QuickSnap Marine, which costing just over a tenner, squares up to its flashier digital counterparts in being usable for water proofed snapping down to 10 metres in depth (or 17ft).

Described as an all-purpose outdoor camera, Fujifilm’s disposable QuickSnap Marine underwater camera arrives pre-loaded with 800-speed film (Fujicolor Superia X-TRA800) for sunny or overcast exposures, providing a nostalgic 27 exposures. The lens here is a fixed focus 32mm f/10 optic, while the camera itself will slip into a trouser, jacket or even swimming trunks’ pocket, at a weight of just 170g and dimensions of 73x133x42mm. With an underwater subject-to-lens distance of up to three metres, this camera is point and shoot all the way, which sometimes is truly all you want.

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