Top Scuba Diving Cameras: Best underwater cameras in 2021

Introduction

Scuba diving is always a great experience, being able to record or take photos of your encounters with turtles and various coral life… well that’s priceless!

Now you take a look at all the options, underwater cameras, types of housing, accessories, etc. and you may think, ‘Oh my god! Where to start?’

While learning to shoot underwater videos and photos, we have gone through a lot of different cameras, and in this guide, will list all of the best gear for every budget and experience level.

So don’t worry. I’m here to explain to you all the different types of diving cameras and help you find the one that best fits your needs!

  • It has done a great job across several hours of salt water snorkeling
  • Incredible value, easy to use.
4.7/5

With solid waterproof case, this underwater camcorder allows diving up to 30 meters under water. Open the diving mode setting, it can filter the red light under water.  Comes with 2 rechargeable 1050mAh batteries. Each battery can record up to 90 minutes. Along with accessories kit which are compatible with most of cameras even Gopro. Easily open the camera WIFI and connect it with your mobile or tablet by app AKASO DV. It allows you to monitor in real time, review videos/photos on mobile and instantly share on social media.

  • The video quality is amazing
  • Uploading images/videos right off the sim card is also a breeze
4.7/5

With the included waterproof camera, it allows you to dive up to 40M (131ft) in depth. Shooting with 170° ultra wide-angle lens, capture your fantastic moments without losing any detail. Built-in Advanced Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) provides steady and smooth video. Keeping your footage stable and giving an excellent experience in capturing fast-moving objects.

  • The best part is that this camera shoots great high quality footage in 1080p and is so easy to carry around
  • The picture quality was unreal
5/5

AKASO EK7000 offers various shooting modes like loop recording, burst photo and time lapse. You can also mount this action camera wherever you want using included valuable accessories. 170° wide angle lens enables you to capture wider angle view than those of 120° or 90° action cameras. With this viewing angle, it can capture more expansive field view. This underwater camera comes with a waterproof case which allows you to dive up to 98FT/30M.

  • Very pleased with the battery life, the picture quality and the connectivity to my phone
  • The touchscreen works well, without lag and the zoom feature works really well also
5/5

Equipped with the upgraded waterproof case, this underwater camera can deep dive up to 40 meters/ 131ft, ready to capture all details of your adventures. 2 inch responsive touch screen with IPS display makes control of this tiny but powerful action camera super easy. Setting, previewing and shooting is easier than before. With the integrated Electronic Image Stabilization, your AKASO EK7000 Pro action camera can deliver spectacularly smooth and steady videos

  • Video quality was impressive and didn’t even use it on the highest quality
  • The image stabilizer did wonders in playback
5/5

features both electronic stabilization and gyro stabilization which allows for extremely stable shooting. In fact, the two technologies allow to detect and neutralize involuntary movements. In addition, Lens Distortion Correction (LDC) allows you to automatically correct the fisheye effect, keeping your recordings more faithful to reality. It integrates two modes: automatic and professional. For example, record in Continuous Loop, Slow Motion, Time Lapse, etc. 6 professional modes to adapt to different environmental conditions. The excellent sensitivity of the 2-inch touch display allows you to scroll much more easily between the various modes and is perfect for quickly shooting, previewing, and playing footage.

  • Taking pictures and videos while snorkeling were easy 
  • Have enjoyed how user-friendly it is for those who are not tech savvy
5/5

With the waterproof case installed, you can dive underwater up to 98ft. Perfect for swimming, surfing, diving, etc. This underwater case can provide excellent protection for camera from scratches and hit. Comes with 2 rechargeable 1050mAh batteries, each battery can record up to 90 minutes. Along with valuable accessories kit which also compatible with most of cameras even Gopro.

  • Full auto for light settings works well
  • The electronics in this camera are great 
5/5

This exquisite compact 4K sports camera delivers the professional and vivid 4K video and 20MP ultra high resolution photos, helping you to capture every precious moment. AC700 comes with a pretty and solid waterproof case that can not protect the camera from the not only water, but also dust, scratches, and hit from objects. Waterproof of 40m can satisfy most water sports lovers. 170° wide-angle enables the camera to capture more than your eyes can do. It is a great design for shooting and filming.

  • This is a Beautiful camera and it take a Great picture up 24 MG pix really very nice!
  • This camera is compact and easy to hold while navigating underwater 
5/5

This underwater camera is equipped with the waterproof designed for underwater world, you can dive up to 10 feet.  This waterproof digital camera features multiple functions including 6 continuous shooting, self-timer, exposure and white balance, humanized operation interface with convenient parameter setting with multiple languages. These features enriched this waterproof camera the ability to meet a wide range of applications. Turning on the flash light in low light places helps you take sharper and brighter photos.

  • The camera records in 4K and the quality of video is great
  • Impressed with the quality and workmanship of the camera and accessories
5/5

Victure AC920 has a durable waterproof case which allows you to dive to 40 meters underwater, open the Diving Mode, you will be fascinated by the beauty under the sea. action camera adopts the advanced 6-axis gyroscope technology to build a stable image even when the camera tilts, moves, shakes, or bumps which means the true 4K action camera can be your reliable partner for any recording. This is really a trustable hyper smooth image stabilization.

  • The image quality is super good and it came with a bunch of attachments
  • The camera itself is small and compact while being very easy to setup and use.
5/5

AC700 comes with a pretty and solid waterproof case that can not protect the camera from the not only water, but also dust, scratches, and hit from objects. Waterproof of 40m. Equipped with 2.4G Remote Control, it can shoot conveniently when mounted on wrist, selfie stick, handlebar and helmet. The control range is up to 10 meters. EIS function delivers smooth videos and pictures, ensuring a great experience for fast-moving objects. You can set various shooting modes such as time-lapse, loop recording, etc.

A Buyers Guide

Generally speaking, you can turn just about any camera into a dive camera so long as you have the proper housing for it. Good news is that the majority of digital cameras have their own special waterproof shells thanks to third-party manufacturers. This means that you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing the type of dive camera best for you.

Action cameras make great underwater cameras because they are designed to survive in various conditions and to take great videos. They are very affordable as well, which makes them some of the best dive cameras for beginners. Action cameras are on their own waterproof but usually only to a minor degree – you’ll need to use an additional housing if you’re going diving. Action cams are often very poor at still photography.

Compacts make some of the best dive cameras because they usually offer a good mix of size, image quality, and affordability. They’re also very easy to use thanks to their lamens design. Compact cameras sacrifice a lot of functionality for ease of use. Many lack the advanced features that are necessary for higher-grade photography. Most also have smaller sensors, which struggle in low light. You’ll have to buy a good compact camera to regain these features.

Some point-and-shoots are built to be waterproof and shockproof, thus making them rugged compacts. This means, depending on how deep you’re going, you may not have to buy expensive dive housing.

Mirrorless cameras are a step-up from compacts and are one step closer to DSLRs. They offer excellent image quality, portability, and usability thanks to a plethora of features and technology.

Unfortunately, mirrorless cameras usually suffer from short battery life. They can also be big investments as you’ll definitely need an underwater housing and multiple lens ports. Granted, most mirrorless cameras are still not as big or pricey as DSLRs.

DSLRs are often considered to be among the best dive cameras for professionals. They are very powerful, have great battery lives, and huge libraries of lenses to choose from. DSLR cameras are also the biggest, heaviest, and most expensive cameras for underwater photography. Adequate dive housings cost at least $1,500 and can be a whole lot more. This plus the learning curve that DSLrs usually demand make them inappropriate for first time underwater photographers.

The video capabilities of compact cameras have evolved from a novelty to the level of those that can rival primary video cameras. Many of the cameras in our lineup produce video that is surprisingly good for the cost of the camera. Some of these cameras can now be a preferred choice for a video shooter over a dedicated video system like a ‘Handycam’ or ‘camcorder’ style camera. Now that most compact cameras offer advanced video features – like focus peaking and zebra striping – that are normally only found in pro-level video systems, an underwater shooter can truly use one compact system without significant compromise to capture both video and photo. All but one of the cameras in this review are capable of shooting 4K video.

Custom White Balance

In order to shoot a good-looking underwater video, getting an accurate custom white balance is crucial. A custom white balance is a user telling the camera what area of the picture is white and the camera building the rest of the colors off of that baseline input. Correct white balance makes the video look more natural, and helps to bring back colors that are filtered out by water when shooting at depth. Even when using a color correction filter such as a Magic Filter, a custom white balance setting can yield superior results. Unfortunately, getting an accurate white balance is not a given on a compact camera. On some cameras it is a convoluted process, on others, an accurate reading is not even possible underwater. Choosing a camera that makes it easy to get an accurate reading is essential if you’re planning to use it for shooting video. We gave additional points to cameras that have an easy to set an accurate white balance. White balance in video is so critical in natural light shooting that it is more important than what video resolution or frame rate the camera is capable of. The best resolution doesn’t matter if the colors look bad.

Underwater Housing:

Finding the best underwater camera housing is equally as important as choosing the best camera for underwater photography. The housing provides crucial protection against water, trauma as well as pressure. 

Not all underwater housings are created equal and divers should be very particular about the quality of a potential housing. All sorts of features should be taken into consideration like maximum depth, building materials, accessory ports, and internal components.

Each dive housing will be rated to go up to a maximum depth before compromisation becomes a risk. Depths range from 150 to 300+ feet. Take note of how deep you usually dive and which rating is best for you. If you should spring a leak, some housings come with a leakage alarm, which is pretty useful.

The internal components of an underwater camera housing can be physical or electronic. Electronic components may be faster and more responsive but can fail more easily. Physical components can sometimes be tedious to use but work for the most part at least. You must also consider if a housing can accommodate additional accessories, including lights, floats, and lens ports.

Build-wise, underwater housings are usually made of either high-grade plastic (polycarbonate) or aluminum. Polycarbonate is lighter and cheaper but is more prone to breaking as well as internal fogging. Aluminum is the strongest, most reliable material and can last for years but costs an arm and a leg. Aluminum housings generally offer smoother operation as well thanks to higher-quality design work.

If you want something supremely hardy, that can go deeper and take more of a beating, then we suggest going with Nauticam brand dive housings. Made from strong aluminum housing materials, Nauticam housings are among the best underwater camera housings currently available. They are (no surprise) extremely expensive.

Buoyancy and maneuverability are somewhat influenced by the size and weight of a camera system though not by much. Most camera housings are already designed to be neutral in water so whether you like them to be more or less buoyant is really up to you. How hands-free you like to be or how easily you like to move around is a little more relevant.

Do you mind swimming around with a kit that’s the size of a large steering wheel? Then a DSLR with a housing is possible for you. Do you want both of your hands-free and feel less encumbered? Then a rugged compact, which can fit in a pocket, is probably for you.

You’re going to need a good dive camera that can keep up with you while diving. Depending on what kind of shooter and how demanding you are will determine which dive camera is best for your needs.

Many of the features that are most important to terrestrial photography, like autofocus, burst rate, and battery life, are just as crucial if not more so in underwater photography. Each camera does one of these better or worse and offers its own unique set of performance-related benefits. The best dive cameras will have very good autofocusing systems. Visibility and contrast will be limited in water, especially when it’s cold and murky, so you’ll need all the help you can get.

Camera speed can be crucial when shooting very fast moving subjects. To capture those elusive sea critters, you’ll need a camera with high burst rates and buffering speeds, just like on dry land.

Battery life is also very important to consider when looking for the best dive camera. If your camera battery dies, you’ll have to take it out of the housing and insert a new one, which can be a tedious process especially if you’re mid-dive and have to resurface.

Your strobes will also need their own batteries, which usually come in the form of AA or AAAs. Depending on how long you’re submerged this may not be a problem but for a full days’ diving expect to change batteries at least once.

Aquatic videographers who need the best underwater camera for video may also find 4k shooting indispensable. As the current industry standard for professional video, 4k is an absolute must for many. Thankfully, many recent cameras come equipped with this tech; it’s just a matter of which ones use it best.

Important functions of an underwater Camera?

Raw

If you want to take high-quality pictures and then retouch them in Photoshop or Lightroom, your camera must have the option to take photos in RAW mode. This way, you get the image in raw, which means you can modify it, raise or lower lights, contrast, etc. You’ll get better results than if you made these adjustments on the photo in JPEG format.

Good autofocus

All cameras on the list have an autofocus option, which usually works well on the mainland. However, focusing underwater can be a bit tricky. This is because the visibility is worse; the same amount of light isn’t available down there, you might encounter suspended particles in the water and some fish move very fast. Therefore, it’s important that the camera has a good autofocus system, including several autofocus modes and multiple focus points to achieve the highest accuracy.

Wide angle

It’s crucial that the camera lens offers a wide angle to properly capture an open image of the underwater world. When it comes to cameras with interchangeable lenses, your selection will depend on the type of photography you will be doing. For open photos, a “fish-eye” lens works well. In the case of built-in lenses, some cameras, such as the GoPro and the Sea Life, feature this type of fish-eye lens (an angle of about 140°). Other cameras offer 24mm lenses, which are equivalent to about 100º of amplitude.

Video mode

Video quality in today’s cameras is one of the features that have advanced the most over the last few years. Even economical models have decent video. Most cameras on this list feature 1080p Full HD video quality, which is quite acceptable. The GoPro has an excellent video for its price and size.

A last tip on durability is to check where the gear is coming from. If it’s coming from China, you can bet that isn’t going to last you as long as gear from Europe or America.

Type of Camera:

Generally speaking, you can turn just about any camera into a dive camera so long as you have the proper housing for it. Good news is that the majority of digital cameras have their own special waterproof shells thanks to third-party manufacturers. This means that you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing the type of dive camera best for you.

Action Cameras:

(GoPro, Garmin, TomTom Bandit…) – Action cameras make great underwater cameras because they are designed to survive in various conditions and to take great videos. They are very affordable as well, which makes them some of the best dive cameras for beginners. Action cameras are on their own waterproof but usually only to a minor degree – you’ll need to use an additional housing if you’re going diving. Action cams are often very poor at still photography.

Compact Cameras/Point-and-Shoot:

(Canon GX7, Sony RX100, Olympus Tough TG 6…) – Compacts make some of the best dive cameras because they usually offer a good mix of size, image quality, and affordability. They’re also very easy to use thanks to their lamens design.

Compact cameras sacrifice a lot of functionality for ease of use. Many lack the advanced features that are necessary for higher-grade photography. Most also have smaller sensors, which struggle in low light. You’ll have to buy a good compact camera to regain these features.

Some point-and-shoots are built to be waterproof and shockproof, thus making them rugged compacts. This means, depending on how deep you’re going, you may not have to buy expensive dive housing.

Mirrorless Cameras:

(Sony a6000, Panasonic GH5…) – Mirrorless cameras are a step-up from compacts and are one step closer to DSLRs. They offer excellent image quality, portability, and usability thanks to a plethora of features and technology.

Unfortunately, mirrorless cameras usually suffer from short battery life. They can also be big investments as you’ll definitely need an underwater housing and multiple lens ports. Granted, most mirrorless cameras are still not as big or pricey as DSLRs.

DSLR Cameras:

(Canon 5D, Nikon D7200…) – DSLRs are often considered to be among the best dive cameras for professionals. They are very powerful, have great battery lives, and huge libraries of lenses to choose from.

DSLR cameras are also the biggest, heaviest, and most expensive cameras for underwater photography. Adequate dive housings cost at least $1,500 and can be a whole lot more. This plus the learning curve that DSLrs usually demand make them inappropriate for first time underwater photographers.

Conclusion

Lots to consider when choosing a scuba diving camera. But we hope that all the information we have provided along with our review of the ten best scuba cameras will help you in your decision.

We would love to hear your thoughts & feedback on masks you have purchased.

Goggles and snorkel

With so many different shapes, sizes, and designs available, buying a mask for snorkeling can be a little overwhelming. Read our review of the best goggles and snorkels
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