Best Underwater Cameras for Christmas 2016Dec 15
Best Cameras for Underwater Photography & Video
12 Ideas For the holidays of 2016
By Scott Gietler, Owner Bluewater Photo
Which underwater camera to get? With so many great cameras, lenses and housings out there, the decision is tough. Here are some models that you can’t go wrong with for all budgets, whether your shooting stills or underwater video- and we’ll mention some runner-ups at the end of the article.
#1 Best deal, $1400 off
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 underwater housing bundle is the deal of the year, selling for $1,699 instead of $3,106. It includes the E-M1 mirrorless camera (which is an awesome high-end camera!), 14-42mm lens, housing, port, & zoom gear for the 14-42/9-18mm lenses. The E-M1 focuses much faster than any compact cameras. The ports are much easier to change than the E-PL5 or E-PL7 housings, making this deal a no-brainer. Additional glass and acrylic ports are available for most mirrorless lenses. We also have a popular E-M1 package with a strobe and video light.
#2 Entry Level, Snorkeling or Diving
The Olympus TG-4 housing + camera package is well priced at $649. The TG-4 shoots in RAW, and can take quite good photos & video for such an inexpensive camera. It will work well with high quality wet lenses such as the UWL-04 fisheye lens, or the Bluewater +7 macro lens. Check out our great Olympus TG-4 packages on sale.
#3 Small housings, serious underwater photos
Sony RX-100 V for wide / video, Canon G7X Mark II for a little of everything
The tiny Sony RX-100 V can take excellent photos, especially when combined with the Dyron Superwide lens for very good wide-angle. There is also a good selection of Sony RX-100 V underwater housings for it, including the inexpensive Fantasea RX100 V housing. People who prefer wide-angle over video can save money by getting a Sony RX100 II camera & housing with the UWL-04 fisheye lens - which is my favorite combo for underwater wide-angle with a compact camera. For macro enthusiasts, the older Canon G16 is still king, with its long zoom range allowing for great prize-winning macro shots with a wet lens. Check out, at $399, the very well-priced Fantasea G16 housing.
The Canon G7x Mark II can take great video, and very good macro & wide-angle, and is an excellent all-around compact camera choice. It has a better zoom range / macro capability that the RX100 III/IV/V, and a brighter lens than the RX100 II, and there are some very well-priced high-quality housing like the Fantasea G7X Mark II housing. See our G7x Mark II housings.
#4 Small housing- professional photos
Olympus E-M5 Mark II, Sony A6300
The Olympus E-M1 & E-M1 Mark II are still the king of mirrorless cameras, with great E-M1 housing choices (read our E-M1 review) and an excellent selection of lenses. The Aquatica E-M1 housing is incredible. To save a decent amount of money, go for the Nauticam Olympus E-M10 Mark II and you’ll get the same image quality. The excellent E-M1 Mark II camera just came out, here is our E-M1 Mark II camera review. We expect underwater housings to arrive very soon, pre-order the Nauticam E-M1 Mark II here.
The Sony A6300 boasts a larger sensor than the Olympus E-M1, resulting in spectacular video quality and dynamic range in wide-angle photos. The A6300 has an electronic viewfinder, takes excellent 4K video, and works well in the Nauticam Sony A6300 housing and the Ikelite A6300 housing ($975).
#5 Small housing- professional stills & videos
Sony A7 II, A7s II, A7r II
The Sony A7r II is considered the ultimate choice by some underwater photographers and videographers. There is a great selection of housings and lenses, and the full frame sensor produces incredible stills and videos. We recommend the A7R II over the A7, as the 42 megapixels will come in handy for both wide-angle and macro, high ISO performance and dynamic range are both great given the smaller pixel size, and the video features are almost as good as the A7S II. The downsides are slower responsiveness in general compared to a DSLR, especially when using the Sony 90mm macro lens, and less than ideal battery life. Check out the housings from Nauticam, Sea & Sea and Aquatica - they support all 3 of the Sony models, or read our Sony A7 II / A7R II review.
#6 Best of the best
Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D500
With 20 megapixels, 4K video, amazing auto-focus, and 10fps shooting speed, the Nikon D500 is a top choice - view our Nikon D500 housings, or our complete D500 review for underwater. For the unbeatable image quality that comes with a 36 megapixel full frame sensor, check out our Nikon D810 housings and read our D810 review for underwater.
The advantage of the Canon 5D Mark IV is a full frame sensor, and much better auto-focus during video than most other dSLRs, view our Canon 5D Mark IV housings and our Canon 5D Mark IV review for underwater.
#7 Gifts for the GoPro Owner
Lighting packages, accessories
#8 Best for Video
Sony RX100 V, Panasonic GH5, Sony A6500, Sony A7R II
The Sony RX100 IV & V both have game-changing slow-motion video capability – see an example here, and great housing options for all budgets. For professional level video, the Panasonic GH4 is unbeatable for its size, price and lens selection – we like the Nauticam GH4 housing. Stills from the GH4 are also excellent – check out these killer hammerhead photos taken with the GH4. However, you may want to wait for the GH5 which is coming out soon.
The full-frame Sony A7R II can take video at an ISO higher than any other camera we mention in this article, and we expect this camera to also be a top choice for pro film makers. The RX100 IV / V, LX100, GH4 and Sony A7R II all take 4K video. Last, but certainly not least, the Canon 5D Mark IV is the best choice for a dSLR that offers good auto-focus during video.
#9 Other options for underwater photography
Sony RX100 IV, LX100, Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, 7D Mark II
There are other excellent cameras out there, like the Sony Rx-100 IV, LX100, Olympus E-M5 Mark II, and the Canon 7D Mark II. All of them are very capable of excellent photos and/or video. The white balance of the LX100 during video is suberb – see our uw video and LX100 review. The E-M5 Mark II is a very close contender to the E-M1 – read our E-M5 Mark II review for underwater. The full-frame sensor of the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5DS R can result in spectacular photos, and Canon has some of the best full-frame wide-angle lenses on the market as options. The autofocus of the Canon 7D Mark II works quite well during video and live-view.
#10 In-depth articles on the best cameras
You can also read our three in-depth articles on the best camera choices for underwater photography for 2016 – best compact cameras for underwater photography, best mirrorless cameras for underwater photography, and best dSLR cameras for underwater photography.
#11 Sale! 20 – 40% off Focus & Video Lights during December
20-40% off a large number of focus & video lights – see all the specials here, including the Sola 800 photo for $239, Sola 2500 video light for $349, and the iTorch Venom 3800 lumen video light for $399.
#12 Ten Unbeatable Dive Travel Specials
Be sure to view our End of Year dive travel specials, all are for travel next year, courtesy of our sister company Bluewater Travel – who specializes in personal & individual dive travel. Already have photo / video gear? Give the gift of dive travel! Locations on special include Fiji, Galapagos, Socorro, Cozumel, Raja Ampat, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Bali & more.
Holiday Sale Items
Check out our sales & specials page for amazing sales and specials throughout December. Up to 50% off strobes, housings, lights, lens and more from Light & Motion, iTorch, Olympus, Sony, Sea & Sea and many others.
Sample underwater photos