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Best waterproof camera 2020: 6 great cameras for underwater photography

Best cameras for kids
(Image credit: Future)

Looking for the best waterproof camera you can buy? Whether you’re snorkeling in tropical seas or diving into the local lido, the top underwater cameras are capable of capturing high quality photos and footage beneath the waves.

Some smartphones might now ship with a degree of waterproofing, but for worry-free photography underwater or family trips to the beach, you need a truly rugged camera. The list below features the latest and greatest waterproof cameras for your aquatic adventures: from tough compacts to dedicated action cameras, each one is good for a dunking.

When it comes to choosing the best waterproof camera, there are a several things to consider. A key factor is how deep you’ll be swimming: most underwater cameras can go down to at least five meters, but some can go as far as 30m. It’s also worth considering image stabilization if you’ll be braving wavy waters, as well as low-light performance – unless you’ll be sticking to sunny seas.

Watersports enthusiasts might also want a camera with a super slow-mo mode for capturing the gnarliest carves – and a shockproof model might be a good idea, too. After all, even seasoned surfers wipeout every once in a while.

Back on dry land, smartphone connectivity will be desirable if you want to quickly share clips and shots from your waterproof camera to social media, while features such as time-lapse modes will be appealing if you fancy capturing seaside sunsets. 

Ready to take the plunge? We’ve tested all of the best waterproof cameras on the market to find the models that really make a splash. Whatever your budget or requirements, you’ll find your ideal waterproof camera in the buying guide below.

What about Black Friday 2020?
If you’ve got your eye on a waterproof camera, you might be able to find one for a discounted price during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. These officially start on November 27, but we're expecting to see deals appear in the run-up to that date. All of the major retailers tend to get on board with these events and they’re usually a smart moment to shop for camera bargains. That’s especially true if you’re happy with a bundled deal or don’t mind ordering a slightly older model: last year’s event saw 15% knocked off the GoPro Hero 7 White, for example.

Best waterproof cameras 2020 at a glance:

  1. Olympus Tough TG-6
  2. Nikon Coolpix W300
  3. Fujifilm XP140
  4. GoPro Hero 8 Black
  5. Panasonic Lumix FT7 / TS7
  6. Ricoh WG-60

Best waterproof cameras in 2020:

(Image credit: Olympus)

1. Olympus Tough TG-6

Not just tough but with a spec sheet that goes beyond the waterproof norm

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm f/2.0-4.9 | Waterproof: 15m | Freezeproof: -10ºC; | Shockproof: 2.1m | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,040K dots | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Raw shooting is a bonus
4K rather than Full HD video
Small sensor
No electronic viewfinder

Olympus's Tough line of waterproof cameras has arguably the strongest reputation here, and the company has kitted its most recent TG-6 model with features decidedly towards the premium end of the scale. Raw shooting? Check. 4K video? Yep, that too. GPS? Hell yes. Even the same processing engine as the OM-D E-M1 X mirrorless model features here. Together with a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2 at the wide end and a raft of close-focusing goodies on top of that, the camera is certainly ready for all manner of land-based and underwater captures. We do wish Olympus had moved things along a little further from what we saw in the previous TG-5, however, which was our previous top pick and not that dissimilar to what we have here. We're just finishing our full review and while we can see it being a stronger model, the TG-5 would still be a fine choice if you're on a tighter budget.

2. Nikon Coolpix W300

The ideal choice if you want to go deep underwater

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm | Waterproof: 30m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 2.1m | Monitor: 3-inch, 921K dots | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner

Waterproof down to 30m
Wide zoom range
Fiddly controls
Exposure inconsistencies

The Coolpix W300 comes fully-loaded with a host of features - there's 4K video for starters, a terrific GPS system, interactive world map and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus an altimeter and underwater depth gauge to boot. The W300 also offers a high resolution, 921k dot OLED monitor, but perhaps most impressive of all is that the W300 can function down to a depth of 30 metres - as far as an Advanced Open Water diving certificate will get you.

Fujifilm XP140

(Image credit: Future)

3. Fujifilm XP140

A versatile yet affordable waterproof compact

Sensor: 1/2.3in, 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm f/3.9-4.9 | Waterproof: 25m | Freezeproof: -10°C | Shockproof: 1.8m | Monitor: 3-inch touchscreen, 920K dots | Movies: 4K/15p | User level: Beginner

Practically indestructible
Generous 5x optical zoom
Disappointing 4K video
Screen could be brighter

Almost identical to the Fujifilm XP130 before it, Fujifilm’s latest tough camera retains many of its specs: there’s the same 16.4MP sensor, the same 5x optical zoom and the same 3-inch touchscreen.

Though you wouldn’t know it from looking, the XP140 is marginally more rugged than its predecessor, making it close to indestructible. Dustproof, shockproof to 1.8m and freeze proof to -10ºC, it’s also waterproof down to 25m, so it should survive even the deepest of snorkeling expeditions.

The biggest changes are found inside the camera. It can now capture 100fps slow-mo in 720p, as well as true 4K footage – though a disappointing 4K frame rate of 15fps means it’s much more capable as a Full HD 1080p shooter. Maximum ISO has also been doubled to 12,800 for enhanced low-light performance, while new subject and scene detection skills are backed up by a wider range of in-camera filters.

Because the sensor is stabilized and back-illuminated, the XP140 can deliver great results underwater, while the sizable display makes framing easy even with goggles on. When you’re back on dry land, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity make it a cinch to offload images via the Fujifilm app – or an Instax Share printer for instant prints.

GoPro Hero 8 Black

(Image credit: Future)

4. GoPro Hero 8 Black

GoPro's former flagship is still a winner in the water

Sensor: 1/2.3in, 12MP | Lens: N/A | Waterproof: 10m | Monitor: 2-inch touchscreen | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner

Superb image stabilization
Intuitive interface
Could be better in low light
Average stills performance

The GoPro Hero 8 Black has technically been superseded by the new Hero 9 Black. Yet while it might lack the front-facing screen and higher resolution sensor of its successor, the Hero 8 Black captures seamless 4K/60p footage that’s just as impressive – and its HyperSmooth stabilization smarts keep things pretty much as steady beneath the waves.

With prices lower than ever, the Hero 8 Black arguably hits the action cam sweet spot. It’s certainly worth considering as an underwater camera: waterproof to 10m without a housing, it also serves up decent HDR for scenes with broad contrast ranges. And though low-light performance could be better, the optional Light Mod means you can easily illuminate the murky depths.

Its combination of two buttons and a touchscreen make the Hero 8 Black a cinch to control, while Custom Presets and four digital lenses put versatility at your fingertips. Add smartphone connectivity into the mix for easy uploading and there’s every reason to keep the Hero 8 Black on your underwater wish list.

5. Panasonic Lumix FT7 / TS7

Features a built-in viewfinder

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.4MP | Lens: 28-128mm | Waterproof: 31m | Freezeproof: -10°C | Shockproof: 2m | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Built-in viewfinder
Waterproof down to 31m
Image smoothing at high ISOs
No raw capture

Panasonic's new Lumix TS7 (called the Lumix FT7 outside the US) is the latest waterproof camera here. As opposed to Olympus, which reduced the resolution of its TG-5, Panasonic has gone the other direction, increasing the pixel count from 16.1MP in the TS5 / FT5 to 20.4MP in the Lumix TS7 / FT7. Lens coverage remains the same as its predecessor, with a 4.6x zoom range that covers 28-128mm, but interestingly, the lens loses its Leica branding. The Lumix TS7 / FT7 does have something unique for a waterproof camera: a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). The 1,170k-dot, 0.2-inch display might not be the largest out there, but it does offer a useful alternative to shooting with the rear display, especially in bright light, which can make composition tricky. There's lots to like about the Lumix TS7 / FT7, including its excellent tough credentials, but is let down by a sensor that crams too many pixels onto a relatively small area.

6. Ricoh WG-60

A rugged waterproof compact with built-in LED lights

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 28-140mm | Waterproof: 14m | Freezeproof: -10°C | Shockproof: 1.6m | Monitor: 2.7-inch, 230K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner

LED macro lights
Good zoom range
Small and low-res screen
JPEG only

The WG-60 from Ricoh has some pretty strong tough credentials – it's waterproof to a depth of 14m/45.9ft and shockproof from a fall of up to 1.6m/5.2ft, while it should withstand a force of up to 100kg/220lbs. It's also dust-proof, and can operate in temperatures down to -10°C/14°F. The 5x optical zoom has a pretty broad focal zoom range, from 28-140mm, while there are six LED macro lights dotted round the front of the lens barrel to deliver bright and uniformed lighting round your subject – ideal when shooting underwater subjects. The macro lights also provide other useful functions, such as the LED Lighting mode, that uses the lights for adding light to portraits in poor light – it should deliver a more flattering look than the WG-60’s dedicated flash. 

Also consider...

GoPro Hero 8 Black

(Image credit: Future)

GoPro Hero 8 Black

The best all-round action camera is a winner in the water

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12MP | Lens: N/A | Waterproof: 10m | Monitor: 2-inch touchscreen | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner

Superb image stabilization
New Media Mods add versatility
Could be better in low light
Stills quality trumped by smartphones

On specs alone, the GoPro Hero 8 Black offers only a modest update on the Hero 7 Black, which is still a stellar waterproof camera in its own right. Delve deeper, though, and you’ll find the Hero 8 Black is more streamlined than its forebear, twice as shockproof and equipped with a new wind-resistant microphone. Low-light image processing is better than before – good news for those who frequent the murky depths – while HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization is sublime and four digital zoom lengths should make subject switching a cinch at sea. What really sets the Hero 8 Black apart from its predecessor is the advent of Mods, a range of add-on enhancements. Of the three announced so far, the waterproof Light Mod, capable of projecting 200 lumens onto anything within 1m, should have divers reaching for their waterproof wallets.

Looking for a holiday camera with a longer zoom range? Take a look at our pick of the best travel zoom compacts. Alternatively, video might be your main priority, which in that case, take a look at our guide to the best action cameras and best GoPro cameras.