Spring is already here, and summer is right around the corner. It’s a time of vacations, travel, and outdoor adventure. Lakes, rivers, and beaches will be busy with swimmers and kayakers. And if you plan to join them, you’re probably wondering how you can share your awesome aquatic adventure with family and friends.
In recent years, we have seen a rash of high-quality waterproof action cams durable enough to withstand the journey. These modern camcorders are smaller in size, higher in resolution and provide a host of features – including a water tight build. Here are a few of the best underwater cameras.
Top-Rated Underwater Cameras
Best Waterproof Underwater Cameras
Resolution, features, and price: three reasons we love the Akaso EK7000. At 4K, it records in the industry’s current highest resolution standards with a rate of 25fps. Or, you can achieve 30fps at 2.7K, which is still pretty impressive for such a small device.
On top of that, it also captures vibrant 12MP photos. And it’s all captured with an impressive 170-degree wide angle view.
Even better, the Akaso offers more than enough features to review, reminisce, and share. Akaso’s iSmart DV mobile allows you to view the contents of your camcorder right from your smartphone or tablet!
It only requires WiFi, which the EK7000 also includes. In addition to the app, you can also connect it directly to a TV or laptop using an HDMI cable. And with TWO 1050mAh batteries, you’ll be recording 1.5 hours worth of HD action.
- Photo burst mode
- Time lapse mode
- Remote control
- Both batteries included
- A slew of accessories included
Unlike most of our other selections, Fujifilm’s FinePix waterproof camcorder is shaped more like a traditional camera than the action cams of recent years. And like most of its competitors, it features a built-in color LCD screen.
The controls are intuitive and reflect the layout that we’ve come to expect from digital cameras. And in addition to improving its looks, the FinePix’s vibrant design also makes it easier to see underwater should it try to venture on its own.
Have you ever watched the rapid passage of time in a video and wanted to capture a similar effect? Not only does the FinePix make that possible, but you can do it right from the camera. It’s called interval shooting, and it creates a transition effect with photos or videos taken at different times from the same spot.
In other words, your camera doesn’t actually have to be on and recording for this feature to work. The FinePix also offers additional filters and options to edit your photos right from the camera’s interface!
- Image stabilization
- Burst mode
- 360-degree panoramic setting
- WiFi compatible
- 16M BSI-CMOS Sensor
- Controlled remotely through smartphone app
The CoolPix cameras have become one of Nikon’s most iconic lineups. This one offers many of the same features as its predecessor, but with the bonus of an adventure-proof build. The CoolPix AW100 is submersible up to a depth of 33 feet.
It is also shockproof and can withstand 5 foot falls of 5 feet. Even better, it’s designed to operate in extreme temperatures, proven to continue normal functionality in 14-degree weather.
It also features an impressive 16MP camera for taking those incredibly detailed underwater shots.
- 1080p video resolution
- GPS enabled
- Built-in compass
- Photo editing on the camera
- Glove friendly controls
- Motion Detector for Smoother Shots
The Sony DSC’s sleek design makes it an unlikely candidate for an action cam. It’s hardly larger than a credit card and features an LCD screen that nearly takes up its entire backside. A seamless sleeve protects its lens, flash, and sense of style. And at only 0.3 lbs., it’s small and light enough for any adventure.
Despite its trendy appeal, the DSC is also built tough. It is designed to resist dust and water. It can handle frigid temperatures and 5-foot drops.
Through it all, it captures 1080i video and impressive 18.2 MP photos. Better yet, it has been specially designed for effective micro-photography.
- 5x optical and digital zoom
- CMOS sensor
- Touchscreen functionality
- BIONZ processor for crisper images
- LED lights eliminate the camera’s shadow
- Capture photos and video simultaneously
Lightdow offers an excellent HD action camera for modest budgets. It’s difficult to find a 1080p water-resistant camcorder under $50, but the LD4000 does it quite well.
Its 170-degree recording angle and durable construction allow the LD4000 to capture every intense moment of your adventures with vivid clarity. It also takes 12MP photos.
And unlike most comparable action cams, its screen is actually on the back of the camera. How intuitive! A variety of mounts and accessories are included, allowing you to get started right away.
- Date stamp
- Micro HDMI port
- Supports up to 8 hours of video
- Waterproof up to 98 feet
- Holds up to 32GB SD cards
- Capable of functioning as a dash cam
After spending the past few years building a name among high-end camera manufacturers, Olympus is now extending its reach even further with its waterproof TG-3 action cam.
Featuring a traditional digital camera build, the TG-3 boasts a stylish shell capable of withstanding the shock of a 7-foot drop and 14-degree weather.
It’s also submersible to depths reaching up to 50 feet. And all the while, it records crystal-clear 1080p HD video at 30fps.
WiFi connectivity allows users to share their photos and control their phones easily. Take a selfie beyond the reach of a selfie stick or leave the camera in that perfect spot. This is especially useful for wildlife shots.
- Works in low light conditions
- GPS Enabled
- 4x Zoom
- Interval video recording
- Macro settings
- Designed to withstand 200lbs of pressure
Quick Cheat: Video Screenshots
Although our selections here do take pictures, you may not want to stop recording long enough to capture one. Or, perhaps there’s a moment in one of your videos that you’ve just go to frame. How do you capture a picture from an image? Simple: by taking a screenshot. It’s actually very easy to do in Windows (though the higher the resolution, the better it works).
1. Play the video in full-screen mode.
2. Pause it at the point you want to capture.
3. Press the “print screen” (sometimes listed as PrtSc) button on your keyboard.
4. Open MS Paint.
5. Right click to “paste” your screenshot.
6. Save it, and you’re done! You may need to click “crop” if it doesn’t fit in the white field.
That’s it! Use these six simple steps to get great photos out of your best action scenes.
Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom
Some of the cameras here feature variations of zoom capabilities. At first glance, they may appear pretty similar. However, there are actually significant differences between the two types.
Optical zoom is true, physical zooming. You are actually shifting the camera’s lenses to better focus on distant objects. This is the method that professional photographers since it yields better results.
Of course, the optical zoom varies wildly, from several feet to a few miles, with each camera. You’ll find that even the best underwater cameras feature low optical zoom since their purpose is to capture action as it’s happening.
Digital zoom is more of an illusion. It gives the impression of zooming by cutting off the image’s edges, making the focused object appear closer (though it’s actually enlarged). The reduction in quality isn’t always initially apparent initially since modern cameras utilize so many megapixels, but the more you zoom, the higher the quality reduction.
Digital zoom essentially just makes the focused object larger, which comes at the expense of larger pixels, which result in lower quality. Some cameras implement corrective measures that attempt to add pixels, but their simple onboard computers can only go so far.
And since it isn’t true zoom, the limitations are far greater.
Resolution just refers to how many “pixels” or “dots” are used to compose the image. Although the size of each pixel will vary with screen size, more of them tend to mean that each one is smaller, and smaller pixel sizes correlate to crisper images.
Of course, this is only one aspect of a video’s clarity. To have a great looking video, it’s also important to consider the following.
Frames Per Second (FPS)
Resolution refers to how clear a video’s picture looks. But what about the smoothness of its transitions? Its frame rate is the metric used to measures this.
You can view this as the number of pictures that move across the screen each second (which is, essentially, how video actually works).
So, 30 frames per second (a common metric in the cameras above) means that 30 still shots are flying across the screen per second. Obviously, higher FPS rates result in better video.
However, they also take up more storage space and require more processing power (though the latter is hardly a concern for today’s devices).
On the digital photography side of our cameras, you’ll often see measurements in “MP”, or one million pixels. MP stands for megapixels, a term similar to a video’s resolution. Higher megapixels, all other things equal, correlate to better pictures.
When describing pixels, we did mention “all other things equal”. That’s because there are other factors that contribute to an image’s clarity. One of them is the camera’s sensor. In simple terms, it is this chip that actually captures the light used to form images.
In fact, it is here that virtually every other feature to enhance the camera’s clarity comes into play. For example, the lens’ job is actually to focus the desired image for the sensor.
Sensors typically come in two configurations: CCD and CMOS. As camera technologies advance, some confusion has arisen regarding which type offers the best results.
Traditionally, it was CCD (the oldest of the two). CMOS primarily came about as a low power alternative. However, it has evolved enough over time to make it a legitimate competitor to CCD. Most action cam manufacturers seek to enhance battery charge as much as possible, so CMOS is more common in their products.
Some cameras feature a vibrant display that actually shows what it’s recording (just like smartphone and traditional digital cameras). Others have a pixel-based LCD screen.
Bigger isn’t always better, and the best waterproof camera won’t always be one with the big fancy screen. In fact, it can actually serve as a distraction during intense action scenes. Consider your personal needs carefully and choose based on them.
Rule of Thirds
Did you know there’s a small psychological hack for taking great pictures?
It’s called the Rule of Thirds.
This rule uses three horizontal and three vertical lines to divide the image into nine different quadrants. If your camera includes a screen option for this overlay (be sure to check the owner’s manual), we highly recommend turning it on.
Follow the lines to ensure seamless transitions (like between the sky, mountain tops, and tree line) between different elements. This effect has been proven to enhance aesthetic appeal, even if only subconsciously.
Some photographers actually train themselves to mark these elements by eye so they won’t be at a disadvantage when using cameras that don’t have the overlay feature.
If you’re serious about improving your photography (as this obviously wouldn’t be feasible for action footage) we encourage you to research the rule of thirds further.
Have you ever tried watching a video of an interesting event, only to get a headache because the camera shook so much? When things get intense, it can be hard to keep the camera still. Fortunately, many camcorders feature image stabilization to help resolve this nuisance.
Some use optical image stabilization; others, digital. Just as with zoom, optical yields the best results.
There are many ways to use an action cam and more than enough accessories to accommodate them all. However, you’ll need thumb screws to connect each of your accessories with the camera.
We’ve also found it useful to keep a few extra on hand, as they tend to disappear pretty easily. But don’t worry about that; your camera and most of its accessories will include a few thumb screws.
SD cards are the small storage units that actually hold the video. They can be removed and replaced quite easily. Most modern laptops and tablets also have SD Card ports, allowing you to transfer photos and videos from one device to another easily.
Some cameras come with one; others don’t. Either way, SD Cards with higher capacities are usually necessary for camcorders. High definition videos, especially 4K, tend to take up significant storage space.
Sometimes, you’ll want to give others the same view you had. That’s where head straps come in. Although different brands offer different names, the basic idea is the same; connect your camera, strap it on, and allow others to see the world from your point of view.
This is a particularly excellent choice for kayakers who don’t want their constant paddling to interrupt the video.
Again, same concept, different names among brands. As the name implies, this contraption fits over your torso and mounts the camera in front of your chest.
It keeps the camera relatively stable as opposed to having the view shift each time you move your head. Extensions are usually available that allow you to control the recording angle better.
Stands and Mounts
Sometimes it’s better to attach the camera to your equipment rather than wear it. Many of the cameras we’ve highlighted include (or are compatible with) a variety of stands and mounts that do just that.
Using a thumb screw, you can attach the camera to a mount, then attach the mount to your kayak, raft, or sometimes even a paddleboard. The camera won’t be subjected to subtle movements and you’ll be able to control its angle better.
All action cams (at least, the many we’ve worked with) include a connection for a USB cable. Using this to transfer your photos and videos can be more convenient than removing and reinserting the SD Card.
It’s also necessary to charge the camera’s batteries. Most cameras include a USB cable, but it never hurts to have a spare.
An increasing number of the best underwater cameras now include a mini HDMI port, allowing you to easily connect it to an HDTV. This way, you can review your awesome footage without a computer.
Of course, if you’d still rather watch it on your laptop or tablet, an increasing number of them now also include HDMI connectivity.
An increasing number of action cams are being controlled by phone applications. This isn't an essential feature, but it's convenient and a lot of fun to have.
By downloading the app and connecting over WiFi, you can easily control your camera, review its footage and even do a little video editing. Just ensure that the manufacturer’s app is compatible with your camera’s specific model.
To be clear, we’re referring to the plastic box that encloses the camera, not a case to carry it and your accessories in (though that’s a good idea, too). Most waterproof cameras aren’t actually waterproof; rather, they are contained within a watertight enclosure.
If your camera uses one of these, you’ll need to remove the camera itself from the case in order to charge it, connect it to your computer (or TV), or remove the SD Card.
While regularly opening the case is essential, it also presents a problem. When the case is open, dust can fall along the thin rubber seal that keeps it watertight. If enough dust collects, water may leak into the camera, causing damage.
Most warranties won't cover this type of damage, and you’ll lose all footage and photos captured since the camera’s last sync.
Fortunately, there’s a straightforward solution to this. Just before you close the case, wipe off the seal with a damp napkin or cloth. Wipe it once more to dry, and you’re done! Even if you don’t see any dust particles along the seal, it’s a good idea to wipe it anyways.
It only takes a few seconds and could save your camera.
In recent years, we’ve seen the popularity of video explode on the Internet and especially across social media. Friends, family, and followers don’t want to just read about your story; they also want to see it.
The small size, light weight, and versatile accessory options of action cams make this a feasible endeavor for all budgets.