Best underwater camera for snorkeling in 2020

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Underwater amateur photographer taking pictures

If you’re heading off on a beach vacation, you’ll probably be looking for the best underwater camera for snorkeling. This is a great way to capture memories that wouldn’t normally be possible without waterproof cameras. The best underwater cameras are generally shockproof and dustproof and can be used in extremes of temperature, therefore providing a lot of versatility to be used in situations where other cameras cannot be used.

There are a few different types of under water cameras we will be looking at below. Waterproof compacts perform just like regular point and shoot cameras, with an optical zoom lens for getting closer to your subjects. They’re also usually brightly colored so they can easily be found if they are dropped underwater.

The other main type of waterproof cameras we’ll look at today are action cameras. These tend to offer very high 4K video quality, so if you are looking for video quality over image quality, this might be a good route to go down. Action cams are also lighter than compacts, and can easily be mounted to a helmet.

Another option is the waterproof disposable camera. If you are only planning to take underwater photos once or twice, this is a great, budget-friendly option (cheap camera review). Alternatively, underwater housing can be bought for an existing camera, if you already have one.

Considerations Choosing Digital Cameras for snorkeling

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing between the different cameras for underwater usage. Here are some of the main features to look out for.

Type

We’ve looked at the different types of underwater cameras above, so think about which is best suited to your needs, and your budget. If you will mainly be looking to shoot high-quality video, an action cam might be best. For excellent image quality and the ability to zoom in on your subject, a waterproof compact is a better choice.

Depth

For snorkeling, you won’t need a camera that is waterproof to a very high level. If you’d like to take the camera under deeper water, make sure it is rated to do so.

Image Quality

A camera with a higher number of megapixels and a larger sensor size will give better image quality. You might also like to consider how far the camera can zoom whilst maintaining good quality, or how fast the maximum burst rate is for capturing fast-moving fish.

Video Quality

If you’re looking for the best underwater video camera for snorkeling, you’ll probably want to choose one which can record 4K videos. Some of these waterproof video cameras also offer slow-motion recording at 120 frames per second, which is a nice feature to have if you are interested in recording videos.

Zoom Range

Check the optical zoom range if you want to be able to get closer to subjects that are further away. Some cameras offer quite an impressive zoom, whilst others have a fixed focal length.

Best Snorkeling Waterproof Camera

Let’s now take a look at some of the best cameras for snorkeling and underwater photography. We’ve chosen a range of different types so there is sure to be something here to suit your needs.

1. Nikon Coolpix W300

This is an image of a Nikon W300 Waterproof Underwater Digital Camera with 5x optical zoom NIKKOR lens and 3" MP sensor in Orange color

Our first pick of the best underwater camera for snorkeling is the W300 from Nikon. This compact camera can handle anything you can throw at it – it’s waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof, and shockproof! So, it’s ideal for use on any kind of outdoor adventure. It is waterproof to a depth of 100 feet, so it can be used for Scuba diving as well as snorkeling. In the water, it works to temperatures of 32F, whilst on land, it can be used in temperatures as low as 14F.

The W300 features a 5x optical zoom lens with image stabilization to help reduce blurring when shooting at higher levels of zoom. The camera can be used to create high-resolution photographs, but also 4K Ultra HD videos. It’s also possible to make time-lapse videos, super lapse videos, and add music to your footage. The W300 comes in a choice of three colors – black, yellow, and orange. The yellow and orange are ideal for underwater use, as they could be spotted more easily if they are dropped in the water.

  • Type: Compact
  • Sensor: 16MP 1/2.3″
  • Lens: 24-120mm f/2.8-4.9
  • LCD: 3″, 921k dots
  • Waterproof: 100 feet
  • Shockproof: 8 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: 4K video
  • Color Options: Black, yellow, orange

 

2. Ricoh WG-60

This is an image of a red and black Ricoh WG-60 Waterproof Camera with 16MP sensor and 6-LED Ring Light for macro photography

Our next favorite camera for underwater photography features a 16MP sensor which produces excellent image quality with a high dynamic range. This is great for capturing underwater shots where there might be some darker areas. The Ricoh waterproof digital camera is waterproof to 45 feet and can be used continuously for two hours underwater. In fact, it is one of the best underwater cameras because it features a special underwater white balance mode which enhances the red colors, as these tend to appear washed out underwater.

There are 25 different shooting modes to choose from, so you can easily capture any kind of subject. To make things even easier, there’s an automatic mode that will choose the right mode based on the subject. If you’re looking to take macro shots, this is one of the best waterproof cameras to choose. There is a digital microscope mode that can be used to capture a very high level of detail in your image, more than what can be seen with the naked eye. There’s also a 6 LED ring light so you can shoot with a higher shutter speed hence avoiding blurred shots.

  • Type: Compact
  • Sensor: 16MP, 1/2.3″
  • Lens: 28-140mm f/3.5-5.5
  • LCD: 3″, 230k dots
  • Waterproof: 45 feet
  • Shockproof: 5.2 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: Full HD
  • Color Options: Red and black

 

3. Fujifilm FinePix XP80

This is an image of a yellow Fujifilm FinePix XP80 Waterproof Digital Camera with 2.7-Inch LCD and 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor

The FinePix XP80 is perhaps one of the best underwater cameras for snorkeling as it features a 5x optical zoom lens and is waterproof to an impressive 50 feet. It’s also freezeproof to 14F, shockproof to 5.8 feet, and is dustproof too. Even in deeper water, you can shoot well-exposed images thanks to the 16.2MP backlit sensor, which performs very well in low light. This camera is also well-suited to fast-moving subjects, as it can capture 10 frames per second at full resolution, for a maximum of 10 images in a burst.

As well as shooting an underwater image, this camera also features Full HD video recording capabilities. There’s a one-touch button, so it’s very easy to record video. The camera can also be connected to a smartphone for instant image transfer over Wi-Fi, or to use the phone as a remote shutter release. Distant subjects are no problem for this camera – it combines 5x optical zoom with 10x digital zoom, so you can get close-up shots easily. There is also excellent image processing to ensure the quality stays high, unlike what typically happens when shooting with digital zoom.

  • Type: Compact
  • Sensor: 16.4MP 1/2.3″ CMOS
  • Lens: 28-140mm f/3.9-4.9
  • LCD: 2/7″, 460k dots
  • Waterproof: 50 feet
  • Shockproof: 5.8 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: Full HD 60 fps
  • Color Options: Black, yellow, blue

 

4. Canon PowerShot D30

This is an image of a blue Canon PowerShot D30 Waterproof Digital Camera with 12MP CMOS sensor and 28-140mm lens

This Canon underwater camera has some excellent features which help justify it’s higher price tag. It’s one of the best underwater cameras because it can be used up to 82 feet underwater, so it’s ideal for Scuba diving as well as for snorkeling. It has a 5x optical zoom lens with image stabilization to help reduce blurring caused by camera shake when shooting. The ISO can be set from 100 – 3200, so it performs quite well in darker environments, as is often the case underwater.

The waterproof camera has a large, 3″ LCD with 461k dots, so you can clearly see what you are shooting under the water when snorkeling. There is also a sunlight mode which means the LCD reduces glare so it can be viewed well in bright sunlight. It is capable of recording 1080p HD video as well as super-slow-motion in a lower resolution of 640×480. The digital camera comes with a wrist strap to keep it safe underwater as well as a battery pack and a charger.

  • Type: Compact
  • Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″ CMOS
  • Lens: 28-140mm f/3.9-4.8
  • LCD: 3″, 461k dots
  • Waterproof: 82 feet
  • Shockproof: 6.5 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: 1080p
  • Color Options: Blue

 

5. GoPro Hero 8

This is an image of a black GoPro HERO8 Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen LCD and 12MP sensor

GoPro is known for making some of the best waterproof cameras for video recording. So, it will come as no surprise that the GoPro Hero 8 is capable of recording 4K video at 60fps, and it can also live stream in 1080p – perfect for sharing the action live as it happens! It features three levels of stabilization and these work in all resolutions and frame rates. This ensures you get the smoothest ever footage from an action cam, even in extreme conditions!

The GoPro is very small and compact, so it can easily be taken anywhere. It can be easily mounted in different ways depending on where you are using the camera, and there are options to add a second screen and external lighting and audio devices. The Hero 8 offers stereo sound and burst shooting, and can also take super-slow-motion video footage if you want to create a different effect with your underwater camera.

Whilst the camera is waterproof to 33 feet on its own, it’s also possible to add additional waterproof housing should you wish to take it deeper underwater, for example for diving rather than snorkeling. This is one of the best waterproof cameras if you are looking for high video quality.

  • Type: Action cam
  • Sensor: 12MP
  • Lens: SuperView, Wide, Linear, Narrow
  • LCD: Touchscreen
  • Waterproof: 33 feet
  • Shockproof: 5 feet
  • Freezeproof: 40F
  • Video: 4K 60 fps
  • Color Options: Black

 

6. DJI Osmo Action

This is an image of a black DJI Osmo Action with 12MP sensor and 2.2" Front and rear-facing lcd

The next best underwater camera we have picked out is another action camera. This one features a dual-screen – one on each side of the camera. This makes it ideal for use when snorkeling – you can capture the fish below or turn it around and take a selfie! The camera has a very wide field of view, allowing you to capture more of the scene around you. You can even use it to take HDR 4K video footage to capture your memories better. Slow-motion shooting is also possible – capture 8x slow-mo footage at 1080p and 240 frames per second.

The specs of this camera are quite impressive, and it can be used in just about any condition. It works in low temperatures down to 14F and is waterproof to a depth of 36 feet. It also comes with different mounts so it can be used for a variety of sports and activities, not just for snorkeling. Both LCD screens are bright, vivid, and responsive, so you can be sure that framing a shot is easy with this camera. Finally, the Osmo features RockSteady technology, which is an advanced image stabilization system to ensure your footage is always sharp.

  • Type: Action cam
  • Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″
  • Lens: 145-degree FOV, f/2.8
  • LCD: Front-facing and 2.2″ rear-facing
  • Waterproof: 36 feet
  • Shockproof: 5 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: 4K
  • Color Options: Black

 

7. Kodak Weekend Underwater Disposable Camera

This is an image of a blue Kodak Weekend Underwater Disposable Camera

If you’re not going to use your camera underwater very often, a disposable one might be a better choice. This Kodak waterproof camera comes at a very reasonable price. It features a wrist strap to keep it safe and within reach when snorkeling, and can take 27 shots before the film should be taken for developing. The photos come out very sharp and clear, despite the low price tag of this camera.

The Koadk underwater camera has a fixed ISO of 800, so it should be used in reasonably well-lit locations – it doesn’t perform as well indoors. It is a nice, compact size and is very easy to use, even for complete beginners. Simply frame your shot (bearing in mind there’s no zoom on this camera), shoot, and don’t forget to wind on the film before capturing the next shot. This is a great solution for those who wish to capture underwater images of a trip, but don’t wish to pay a high price for a camera they can use over and over again.

  • Type: Single-use
  • Film format: 35mm color, ISO800
  • LCD: N/A
  • Waterproof: 50 feet
  • Video: N/A
  • Color Options: Blue and yellow

 

8. Olympus Tough TG-6

This is an image of a red Olympus Tough TG-6 digital camera with 12MP sensor and 25-100mm lens

Our final waterproof digital camera is the Olympus Tough TG. This waterproof digital cam offers stunning 4K video recording and can also take a high-quality still image. It has a higher price tag than some of the other cameras in our guide, but its price is justified thanks to its excellent specs. The camera is waterproof to a depth of 50 feet, shockproof to 7 feet, and even crushproof to a maximum of 100kgf. It’s also anti-fog and freezeproof to a minimum temperature of 14F.

The Olympus tough camera features five different underwater shooting modes as well as three underwater white balance modes, so you can see it is very well-suited for use as a snorkeling camera. The battery life is very good on this camera – you can capture around 340 still images with image stabilization activated before the battery will go flat. For continuous video recording, you can expect the battery to last around half an hour. This camera is well-suited to macro shooting, as there are four different macro modes to choose from. This enables you to shoot subjects just 1/2″ from the lens and they will be nicely magnified. The 8x zoom is impressive, allowing you to capture distant subjects with ease.

  • Type: Compact
  • Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″
  • Lens: 25-100mm, f/2-4.9
  • LCD: 3″ 1040k dots
  • Waterproof: 50 feet
  • Shockproof: 7 feet
  • Freezeproof: 14F
  • Video: 4K
  • Color Options: Red or black

 

Best Buy

After considering eight different options, we have decided the best waterproof camera overall is the Nikon W300. It features a 5x optical zoom and offers excellent image quality as well as the ability to take 4K videos. The W300 is one of the best underwater cameras for snorkeling as it can be used in waters as cold as 32F and to an impressive depth of up to 100 feet. There are a range of other useful features too, such as the image stabilization, GPS, Wi-Fi, depth gauge, and much more. This camera is easy to use yet takes stunning underwater images, and is a must-have for any snorkeller looking to capture shots of their adventures.

This is an image of a Nikon W300 Waterproof Underwater Digital Camera with 5x optical zoom NIKKOR lens and 3" MP sensor in Orange color

 

What is the Best Cheap Underwater Camera?

If you’re looking for the best waterproof camera but don’t want to spend a small fortune on one, the Fujifilm FinePix XP80 is a great choice. It has a high-quality sensor which produces excellent images, even in low light, and can also take Full HD quality video footage. It is waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof, and shockproof to high levels, meaning it is excellent for snorkeling or any other outdoor activities, in or out of the water. The bright colors are ideal for using in the water, and we also love the fast continuous shooting rate of 10 frames per second.

This is an image of a yellow Fujifilm FinePix XP80 Waterproof Digital Camera with 2.7-Inch LCD and 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor

 

Is GoPro the Best Underwater Camera?

GoPro is perhaps one of the first brands you will consider when looking for the best waterproof camera, but is it really the best out there? GoPro cameras offer a range of impressive video features, but aren’t necessarily the best suited to underwater photography. There are other cameras which can go deeper under water and have the ability to zoom in on the subject. If you are looking more for underwater video, a GoPro might be the best option. But, for stills, there are better options out there.

This is an image of a black GoPro HERO8 Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen LCD and 12MP sensor