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Best waterproof camera 2020: 5 great cameras for seaside snapping

(Image credit: Olympus)

The best waterproof cameras can survive the kind of watery, rough treatment that would make your smartphone dash for the nearest roll of bubblewrap – and deliver good quality photos and video in the process.    

Whether you’re dive-bombing the hotel pool or searching for tropical shoals as you snorkel around a reef, there are plenty of reasons why you might want a camera that can go with you into the water.

And while most compacts won’t do well after a dunking, these rugged snappers will be only too happy to help you capture subaquatic scenes. Some will let you dive as deep as 30 meters as you fish for the perfect shot, while others promise superb image stabilization – ideal for capturing smooth carves to share on your burgeoning YouTube surf channel. 

What’s more, once you’re out of the drink, many pack features suitable for all kinds of action and adventure. They’re all shock-proof, while some also offer GPS location tagging, Wi-Fi connectivity, special shooting modes such as slow-mo and time-lapse, as well as action-oriented extras such as altimeters. Ready to take the plunge? These are the best waterproof cameras you can buy right now.

Best waterproof cameras 2020 at a glance:

  1. Olympus Tough TG-6
  2. Nikon Coolpix W300
  3. Panasonic Lumix FT7 / TS7
  4. Fujifilm FinePix XP130
  5. 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.

3. 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.

4. Fujifilm FinePix XP130

Cheap and cheerful waterproof compact

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm | Waterproof: 20m | Freezeproof: -10°C | Shockproof: 1.75m | Monitor: 3-inch, 920K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Cheap compared to rivals
Advanced filters
Disappointing image quality
No GPS included

Compared to its ultra-rugged competition, the FinePix XP130 doesn't have quite the same credentials. That means that it might not be quite up to handling extreme adventures, but it's still more than up to the job of a family beach or skiing holiday. There are a host of fun filters included, and Wi-Fi connectivity, but no GPS. Simple to use, this is a great option if you're after a durable point-and-shoot compact camera for family use. It's since been succeeded by the XP140, but this model remains better value.

5. 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.