The best waterproof camera
As you may have discovered the hard way, electronics and water typically don't mix. This goes for smartphones, radios, digital cameras, and other items.
Fortunately, some manufacturers have created versions of electronic products that are waterproof. Should you accidentally drop one of them in a lake or a puddle, they continue working.
If you're shooting photos around the water, a waterproof camera is a smart choice. Even better, these cameras work nicely for underwater photography. Most waterproof cameras work in 25 feet or more of water.
Considerations when choosing waterproof cameras
When shopping for a waterproof camera, think about how you plan to use it, then find a model that matches your needs.
Water depth: All waterproof cameras have a water depth rating. The manufacturer uses this rating to give photographers a guide as to how long they can use the camera at a certain water depth. Exceeding this rating could cause the camera to fail, so select a camera that matches your diving needs.
Zoom lens: The majority of waterproof cameras have a minimal zoom lens or no zoom lens. This is because the quality of underwater photos is better when shot at a wide angle lens setting than at a zoom telephoto lens setting.
Display screen: With a waterproof camera, you don't have a viewfinder to use to frame photos. Instead, you use the LCD screen to frame every shot. You want a screen that's large (ideally, at least three inches diagonally) and bright to see underneath the water.
Additionally, you can use an underwater housing case to turn a regular camera into one that can be used underwater. Housings are made to fit specific camera models, so only a limited number of cameras have underwater housings available.
Not all cameras can be used underwater. To qualify as a waterproof camera, the hardware needs some specific features.
If the camera has a compartment where you can remove the memory card or attach a USB cable, the area needs to be secure. Should this compartment leak while you're underwater, it causes the camera to break down. Compartments on an underwater camera have a secure locking switch.
Inside the edges of the doors of these compartments are rubber rings. These rings ensure the watertight seal in the compartment. As the camera ages, the rings could become brittle. They need to be replaced when this happens.
A lightweight underwater camera is preferred. When you're diving, you have to hold onto the camera the entire time, so a lighter camera prevents arm fatigue. If you're using the camera as an action camera mounted to a skateboard, you want a lightweight model, too.
Waterproof camera prices
Price points for waterproof cameras are widely varying. The least expensive cameras with waterproof capabilities cost $50 to $100. These cameras have limited image quality and display screen sizes.
Average waterproof cameras cost $100 to $300. These models work nicely for the majority of hobbyist photographers to create fun snapshots while diving or as rugged action cameras.
Professionals have extensive setups that can run anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars. They use DSLR cameras with waterproof housings as well as extra lights mounted to the housings to help with underwater photo quality.
Q. Can I use a waterproof camera on dry land?
A. Sure. Some waterproof cameras are also designed as action cameras that you can attach to a mountain bike. Others look like regular point-and-shoot cameras, and they function equally successfully inside and outside the water.
Q. Is it easy to record video with waterproof cameras?
A. You can record both still images and video with these cameras. With the majority of waterproof cameras, just press one button to begin recording video.
Waterproof cameras we recommend
Best of the best: GoPro HERO6 Black
Our take: Trustworthy underwater camera that can handle any harsh environment successfully.
What we like: Outstanding 4K video quality available in this camera. Includes multiple wireless connectivity and operation capabilities.
What we dislike: Limited to 12MP of resolution with still image photos.
Best bang for your buck: AKASO 4K Sports Action Camera
Our take: Low price works nicely for those seeking an entry-level model as an introduction to action and underwater photography.
What we like: Excellent battery life for a long day of recording. Can be used in water depth up to 100 feet.
What we dislike: LCD screen is too small. Not a highly rugged model.
Choice 3: Fujifilm FinePix XP120
Our take: Not really made as an action camera, but it performs nicely when used underwater.
What we like: Good choice for those who shoot photos underwater and outside the water. Includes 5X optical zoom lens.
What we dislike: Not made for especially rough treatment. Image quality could be better.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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