No matter how still the water may look from above, avid snorkelers, scuba- and free divers can tell you that many secrets lie below. Are you an enthusiast looking to take pictures of the rich and exciting marine life, or perhaps hidden treasure? To master underwater photo and cinematography, you need the best gear for your purpose.

If you have a passion for the oceans, I want to help you find the best underwater camera for your needs. In this article I will go through:

- What to look for in an underwater camera

- Best compact camera for underwater shots

- Best waterproof action cameras

- Best DSLRs for your underwater adventures

- Best underwater mirrorless cameras

- Disposable underwater cameras

- Summary and closing thoughts

After reading this article, you’ll gain a better understanding of which camera is perfect for your next underwater adventure.

What to look for in an underwater camera

First and foremost, you’ll need a camera that can withstand being underwater! You can choose a waterproof compact or action cam that’s designed with underwater use in mind, or purchase housings to protect your mirrorless or DSLR. There are two kinds of waterproof housings available: thick, sealed plastic bags that protect up to 10-20m underwater, or bespoke housings for specific camera models. This latter option provides much better protection and allows you to take your camera to the depths of even 60m. Ikelite, Nauticam, Fantasea, or Olympus housings are great, reliable choices, so check them out for camera compatibility!

Besides making sure your camera can withstand the water you will need:

- Great image quality

- Excellent autofocus

- Manual controls

- Lightweight body

- Zoom capabilities

- Shooting in RAW format

If you’ve already headed down below with a camera, you probably know you can’t compromise on image quality when taking pictures underwater. Great autofocus capabilities are also a must to catch the fast-moving sea life in action. You’ll want a wide range of manual controls to compensate for the lighting conditions, and a small, lightweight camera body to minimize drag.

A good zoom or even a macro lens is necessary if you want to get up close and personal with small fish or a coral reef. And if you’re looking to take professional underwater pictures, shooting in RAW might be necessary. Underwater light has a blue quality that can best be corrected in this format.

Another crucially important thing is your price range. Are you on a budget or looking to get started? Or are you ready to make a big investment for the best gear on the market? To cater to every case, I’ve put our picks for best underwater camera in categories based on different camera types.

Best compact camera for underwater shots

Compact cameras evolved greatly in the past few years, and they take better quality images than ever while offering a wide range of accessories. They provide manual controls and better AF speeds while keeping size and cost down. If you’re looking for a lightweight champion, here are the best compact cameras for underwater shooting in 2021:

Wedio top picks
Best underwater compact cameras in 2021
Olympus Tough TG-6
  • 25-100mm equivalent lens – for 4x zoom
  • Waterproof to 15 m – crushproof to 100 kgf
  • Supports RAW format – for full creative control
Sony RX100 VII
  • Mindblowing AF – to keep up with any subject
  • 24-200mm lens – for versatile use
  • Great wide-angle image quality – for a fantastic look
Canon Powershot G7 X Mark III
  • Super portable design – for minimal drag
  • 20.1MP sensor – for superb image quality
  • Slow-motion video – 120 fps in 1080p
Nikon Coolpix W300
  • Great for kids – easy to use
  • Waterproof – up to 30 meters
  • Equipped with barometer – for altitude and depth
SeaLife DC2000
  • 20.1 MP sensor – for crystal clear imaging
  • Waterproof – up to almost 20 meters
  • Explore the depths – down to 60 meters with protective housing

Best waterproof action cameras

Waterproof cameras dominated the underwater gear market for a while. GoPros and other action cameras are a terrific choice if you need an option suited for every adventure - not just your underwater ones. Action cams are extremely user-friendly and offer built-in waterproofing, so you don’t have to worry about housing. If you’re looking for an extremely lightweight and easy to use option, here’s my selection of the best waterproof action cameras:

Wedio top picks
Best underwater action cameras in 2021
GoPro HERO 9 Black
  • Packs a punch – 5K video resolution for serious detail
  • Waterproof – up to 10 meters for no limits
  • HyperSmooth 3.0 Stabilization – in-camera horizon leveling
SEE OFFERS FROM
£12
per day
£38
per month
EXPLORE
DJI Osmo Action
  • Great image quality – 4K video
  • Freezeproof – withstands -10° celsius
  • Great image stabilization – to eliminate camera shake
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£12
per day
£45
per week
EXPLORE
Insta 360 ONE R
  • 1" sensor – for clear images
  • 360 degree video – for the ultimate creative freedom
  • Underwater color correction – easily through an app
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£35
per day
£151
per week
EXPLORE

Best DSLRs for your underwater adventures

For the best image quality with the most mature technology, DSLRs are the solution. They’re versatile, offering a wide range of interchangeable lenses and extremely fast focusing speeds – but you’ll likely need to purchase waterproof housing to take this gear underwater with you. If you’re willing to invest to get your money’s worth, here are the best DSLR cameras:

Wedio top picks
Best underwater DLSR cameras in 2021
Canon 5D Mark IV
  • Complete allround-camera – to handle all situations
  • Advanced focus – that capture the moments
  • Great white balance – for beautiful color
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£45
per day
£133
per month
EXPLORE
Canon 6D Mark II
  • 26MP CMOS sensor – for great image quality
  • ISO range of 100-40000 – for any light condition
  • full HD video – in 60p
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£22
per day
£66
per week
EXPLORE
Canon Rebel SL3
  • Small and light DSLR – only 449 grams
  • Dual pixel AF – to keep up with subjects
  • Versatile looks – compatible with EF lenses
Nikon D7500
  • 4K video – perfect for underwater adventures
  • Extended battery life – up to 950 shots with one charge
  • Stunning light sensitivity – with an ISO range of 100-51200
Nikon D850
  • 45 MP BSI sensor – for high sensitivity
  • Great AF system – with 153 focus points
  • Shoot in RAW format – for full control
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£50
per day
£150
per week
EXPLORE

Best underwater mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless cameras are taking over DSLRs in popularity. They have a less complicated internal structure, which leaves room for excellent in-body image stabilization and autofocus system, while still staying less bulky than a DSLR. They’ll still need underwater housing, but they’re the best option if you want cutting-edge technology in a compact form. These are the best mirrorless cameras for underwater use in 2021:

Wedio top picks
Best underwater mirrorless cameras in 2021
Nikon DX Z50
  • 4K video – for great resolution
  • Tilting touchscreen monitor – also great for selfies and vlogging
  • OLED electronic viewfinder – with 1,02x magnification
Sony Alpha a6400
  • ISO range from 100-32000 – to film in any light condition
  • Phase detection AF – with Real-Time Tracking
  • Slow-motion 1080p capture – for a cinematic look
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£30
per day
£125
per week
EXPLORE
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
  • Light and small body – that's solid and ergonomic
  • 5 axis image stabilization – up to 7 stops
  • 20MP sensor – for great image quality
Sony A7S III
  • Low light expert – with and ISO range of 80 to 102,400
  • Improved image processor – for great stills and videos
  • Great white balance control – for underwater ambient light
SEE OFFERS FROM
£45
per day
£215
per month
EXPLORE
Sony A7R IV
  • 61 MP full-frame sensor – for high sensitivity
  • Low light sensitivity – up to -3EV
  • Improved user interface buttons – more haptic feedback
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£50
per day
£150
per week
EXPLORE

Disposable underwater cameras

Disposable cameras are the perfect choice if you’re on the budget, or perhaps the clumsy type – and they’re perfectly suited for children as well. They’re usually quite tough, as they are shock or impact-resistant, but they do compromise on the image quality, especially underwater. If you’re willing to wait for your vacation pictures to develop, you should try the Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine or the Kodak Sport Underwater. They both provide decent quality pictures without breaking your bank.

Summary

Ready to dive in? The best underwater camera for you is out there. Consider your budget, preferences, and experience level to find it.

Do you want to avoid the up-front investment, or perhaps only have gear for your vacation? Consider hiring a camera, or subscribing to one.