Best Underwater Cameras 2017, compact options | Bluewater Photo & Video

Best Underwater Cameras 2017, compact options

 Best Underwater Compact Cameras for 2017

Also check out Best Mirrorless Underwater Cameras of 2017

and Best dSLR Underwater Cameras of 2017


Features to look for in a compact camera

As you may know from reading the Underwater Photography Guide, it is important to select a compact camera that offers full manual controls, the ability to shoot in RAW, HD video, and the ability to accept wide-angle lenses like a fisheye lens. Fortunately we are now blessed with several cameras and great housings that meet these criteria. 

Compact Camera Improvements

There have been many improvements in the compact camera lines over the past few years. Larger sensors, faster focusing and more controls have all led to a selection of cameras that work smoothly, keep size tiny and are functional with a variety of lenses and accessories to round out your underwater photography experience.

Take a look at our top picks for 2017 below.

Sony RX100 V or IV - best overall

Excellent for video shooting & ambient light shooting.

The bright F1.8 lens of the Sony RX-100 IV & V cameras make both of them an exception choice for video and ambient light shots. You can also get great wide-angle photos with the RX-100 IV/V with the UWL-09 super-wide lens or the Nauticam WWL wet wide-angle lens. Both cameras feature a large 1" sensor with 20 MP resolution which provides excellent image quality, fast autofocus, useful video modes (like slow motion) and full manual controls.

The RX100 V offers an improved autofocus system, a 24 fps burst mode (of 16 fps on RX100 IV), and additional recording settings for video, however it does have a slighly lower battery life than the IV.

If the amazing slow-motion video, fast shooting and fast shutter speeds of the RX100 IV / V are not important to you, the RX100 III is a good choice.

Read our complete Sony RX100 IV review.

RX100 V & IV Underwater Housings

Many of the housings from the RX100 IV will work with the RX100 V, however the manufacturers also released new housings with slight improvments. Some of these housings are backwards compatible with the RX100 IV as well. Check out the list below:

Nauticam Housings - high quality aluminum, great ergonomics, vacuum electronics included, and a variety of Nauticam accessories to round out your system.

Recsea Housings - both high quality aluminum and budget friendly polycarbonate options availble. Well designed, simple to use, full camera controls accessible in the aluminum housing, ready to accept a varitey of wet lenses.

Other great housing options!

  • Aqcuapazza RX100 IV & V Housing, $799 - Best value for a high quality aluminum housing. Different color options, well designed with full camera control.
  • Fantasea RX100 III, IV & V Housing, $399 - high quality polycarbonate with leak detector, double o-ring seal and full camera controls. Housing is compatible with three RX100 versions, III, IV & V.
  • Ikelite RX100 III, IV & V Housing, $550 - New stronger polycarbonate blend, with spring loaded zoom control, improved over previous Ikelite housings.

Nauticam RX100 IV underwater photo
Sony RX100 IV underwater photo, Nauticam housing

Sony RX-100 IV & V Packages


Recsea Sony RX100 III - Great alternative to the RX100 IV & V, Save $$

Excellent Image & Video quality without the high price tag


The RX-100 III changed the lens from a 28-100mm lens, to a brighter 24-70mm lens. Although better for video, fish, and indoor photography, this change is not as good for macro shooters, but great results can still be gained when using high quality diopters such as the Bluewater +7, Nauticam CMC or Subsee +10.

Choose the RX100 III over the IV or V if you don't need all the fancy shooting and video modes, such as slow motion or high burst shooting. The camera is a few years older, but still produces excellent images and will save you some money overall compared to the newer Sony options.

Great Package Options are available as well! Click here to see all RX100 III Packages.


Canon G7X Mark II - Best Choice for Macro

We recommend the Recsea or Nauticam Housings for best controls.

The Canon G7X II is a tiny camera with a large 1-inch sensor, a direct competitor to the Sony RX100 series cameras. It is an excellent fast-focusing camera with great image quality, and has better macro capability than the Sony RX-100 III / IV / V thanks to Canon's dedicated macro focus mode. Macro magnification is almost as good as the Canon G16.

The Canon G7X Mark II boasts improved auto-focus capability and battery life over the G7X, a new time lapse mode, and also signicantly improved high-speed continuous shooting speeds.

Read the Canon G7X Mark II Review

Canon G7X Mark II Underwater Housings

Canon G7X Mark II Underwater Packages

Save with the Canon G7X - Still great quality!

The original G7X still offers great quality images with the large 1" sensor, and dedicated macro mode, but is available for a lower cost. Check out these housing options for the Canon G7X.

There are a variety of Canon G7X Housing Packages available too, click here for more.

Olympus TG-5 + Olympus Housing: Best Budget Choice

Save Money with the TG-4, limited quantities remaining!

For an excellent camera option both in and out of the housing, the Olympus TG-5 cannot be beat. The camera is waterproof to 30' by itself, making it an excellent option for the casual shooter who wants a camera that can go anywhere.

Pair it with the Olympus PT-058 housing for a compact powerhouse at an insanely low price. The TG-5 has a high speed 12 MP sensor designed for excellent low light performance and noise reduction. It shoots 4k video and RAW photos and includes built in WIFI, making transferring photos on the go a breeze.

Pros - great macro capability for still subjects, support for beautiful wide-angle images when used with the UWL-04 fisheye lens.

Cons -  lacks a full manual mode - aperture priority mode will have to do. Because of these limitations, if you can afford the next step up - e.g. Fantasea G7X II - you should do it.

Camera & Housing Sets


TG-4 underwater photo with fisheye lens

Compact Camera Comparison Chart


Sony RX-100 IV / V

Olympus TG-5

Canon G16
Canon G7X MarkII

Sony RX-100 / RX-100 II

Auto-focus speed (normal)1
Very Good



Very Good

Very Good

Auto-focus speed (macro)2

Very Good


Very Good

Very Good


20MP, 24-70mm, F1.8-2.8

12MP, 25-100mm, F2.0-F4.9

12MP, 28-140mm, F1.8-F2.8
20MP, 24-100mm, F1.8-2.8

20MP, 28-100mm, F1.8-4.9

Max magnification

with macro lens3

1.8 inches

< 1 inch

< 1 inch
1.25 inches

1.4 inches

Wide-angle capability

Accepts Dyron super-wide, UWL-09, Nauticam WWL

Takes UWL-04 fisheye lens, wet mount

Accepts regular fisheye lens, dry mount
Dyron super-wide

Takes fisheye lens, wet mount, no vignetting



3 dives

2 dives

3 dives
2 - 3 dives

3 dives



2 dials

1 dial

2 dials
2 dials

2 dials


Smallish, 298 grams

Smallish, 247 grams

Smallish, 350 grams
Small, 304 grams

Small, 240 grams






No / Yes

Video mode

1080/60p, 720/120p,

4K video,

960fps slow-mo

4K, 1080p 120fps; 720p 240fps for slow-motion; 

1080p, 24fps, optical zoom allowed, G16 does 60fps
1080p 60fps, .mp4, zoom allowed

1080p, 60fps, optical zoom allowed, full manual controls during video

Price as of June 2017 in USD

$848 / $948

TG-5 $449
Discontinued $680

$448 / $598

1) All cameras tested in similar low-light conditions, focusing 2-10ft away
2) All cameras tested together in similar low-light conditions, focusing 2-12 inches away
3) Results are the approximate width of the smallest photo possible, taken with a Bluewater+7 macro lens. Widths will be similar with a Subsee +10, and larger (less magnification) with a Subsee +5.


Also check out Best Mirrorless Underwater Cameras of 2017

and Best dSLR Underwater Cameras of 2017