Best Underwater Cameras 2019, Compact Camera | Bluewater Photo & Video

Best Underwater Cameras 2019, Compact Camera

 


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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 and macro wet lenses. 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 2019 below.

 

Sony RX100 VA or VI

Both are excellent for image quality, autofocus speed, & shooting video

Read our complete Sony RX100 VI Review

Read the Sony RX100 VA Review

The Sony RX100 VA and VI are the latest additions to the Sony RX100 series and are packed with lots of awesome features for underwater photography. They are the top of line compact cameras to date. Autofocus is lightning quick in both cameras, which is very beneficial for underwater application. Both 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 VI's key upgade is its enhanced zoom using a 24-200 mm f/2.8 – 4.5 lens. The RX100 VA's key upgrade is 24fps sequential shooting, enhanced image buffer, and a customizable menu system. 

You can get great wide-angle photos with the RX100 VA/VI and the UWL-09 super-wide lens,the Kraken KRL-01, or the Nauticam WWL wet wide-angle lens.  For macro with the RX100 VA/VI cameras, we recommend using the Bluewater +7 if you are just getting the hang of macro and supermacro photography. The Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) are top of the line wet lenses with amazing lens sharpness but have a lot of magnification and can be a little more difficult to use.

 

Why Choose the RX100 VA or VI?

The RX100 VA introduced an increased image buffer, burst shooting up to 24fps, and customizable menus. This is excellent for photographers seeking to capture quick pelagic animals that need good burst speed and more processing power. The RX100 VA still carries all of the advantages of the RX100 V including the 315 point phase detection autofocus system and the 20 MP/1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor. The main advantage of the RX100 VA over the VI is that the RX100 VA is able to shoot with both macro and wide angle wet lenses on the same dive. This is because the lens is shorter and has less zoom capability than the RX100 VI. You also don't need to purchase additional ports/adapters for dedicated wide angle and macro set ups.

The highlight of the RX100 VI over the RX100 VA is its unprecedented macro capability. The zoom on the 24-200 mm f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens cannot be beat by other compact underwater set ups. Details captured with this lens are remarkable. When combined with a wet macro lens (diopter), the realm of super macro photography is attainable. The tiniest details of the smallest subjects can be captured with this set up (once you get a little practice in of course).

 

Sony RX100 Mark VA/VI Underwater Housing Options:

There are a lot of underwater housing options for the Sony RX100 VA and VI in the market, check out the list below:

Nauticam Housing - high quality aluminum, great ergonomics, vacuum electronics included, and it uses a unique port system allowing you to swap the front port for a more wide angle or macro dedicated shooting set up.

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, readily accepts a varitey of wet lenses.

Ikelite Housing - Affordable housing with remarkable ergonomics and uses high quality polycarbonate material.

Fantasea Housing -  high quality polycarbonate with leak detector, double o-ring seal and full camera controls.

Sony RX100 VI Underwater Packages:

 

 

Panasonic LX10

Excellent Image & Video Quality

For shooting video, we recommend the Panasonic LX10 compact camera. Its 4K video delivers a high quality video experience with a four times larger resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) than Full HD, resulting in a much higher level of detail. Moreover, the camera also features 4K photo modes.

As with many of its competitors the Panasonic LX10 also features a 20 MP/1" sensor resulting in excellent image quality. The LX 10 is equipped with a 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 with the potential to yield beautiful bokeh, 5-axis image stabilization, 7 fps continuous shooting, and focus stacking modes.

Panasonic LX10 Underwater Housing Options:

Sony RX100 Mark III Packages:

 

 

Sony RX100 VI

The Sony RX100 VI is our choice for best in macro with the enhanced optical zoom from its 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens. The zoom and optical quality of this new lens has the capability of producing stunning, detailed macro, and super-macro images – especially when paired with a wet lens. The quick autofocus is also a key feature of the camera. 

When combined with a wet macro lens (diopter), super macro photography is within reach. The tiniest details of the smallest subjects can be captured with this set up (once you get a little practice in of course). With the RX100 VI we recommend using the Bluewater +7 if you are just getting the hang of macro and supermacro photography. The Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) are top of the line wet lenses with amazing lens sharpness but have a lot of magnification and can be a little more difficult to use.

Sony RX100 Mark VI Underwater Housing Options:

There are a lot of underwater housing options for the Sony RX100 VI in the market, check out the list below:

Sony RX100 VI Underwater Packages:

 

 

 

 

Canon G7X II

Read the Canon G7X Mark II Review

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

With all of these features at an affordable price, we have chosen the Canon G7X II as the Best Value Camera.

Canon G7X II Underwater Housing Options:

We recommend the Recsea or Nauticam Housings for best controls.

Caon G7X II Packages:

 

 

 

Olympus TG-5

Read the Olympus TG-5 Review

For an excellent camera, both in and out of the housing, the Olympus TG-5 cannot be beat. Without a housing, the camera is waterproof to 50 feet (15 meters), 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 and you get 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, RAW photos, and includes built in WIFI, making transferring photos on the go a breeze.

Pros - compact size, great macro capability for still subjects using microscope mode, and support for beautiful wide-angle images when used with the Kraken KRL-02 or UWL-04 fisheye lens.

Cons -  lacks a full manual mode - aperture priority mode will have to do.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Housing Options:

Best budget choice when partnered with Olympus PT-058 Housing

Best Option for Tech and Wreck Divers:

The Recsea Olympus TG-5 Housing is very small, aluminum, and rated to 100 meters depth. We highly recommend this housing for more serious use at depth.

Olympus TG-5 Packages:

 


TG-5 underwater photo with fisheye lens

 

Photo of the skin of a sea cucumber with the Olympus TG-5 in microscope mode. 1/40, f/8, ISO-200

 

Compact Camera Comparison Chart


 
Sony RX100 VA

Sony RX-100 VI

Olympus TG-5

Panasonic LX10
Canon G7X II

Auto-focus speed (normal)1
Very Good Very Good

Average

Good
Very Good

Auto-focus speed (macro)2
Very Good

Very Good

Average

Good
Very Good

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

20MP, 24-200mm, F2.8-4.5

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

20MP, 24-72mm F1.8-2.8
20MP, 24-100mm, F1.8-2.8

Max magnification

with macro lens3
< 1 inch

< 1 inch

< 1 inch

< 1 inch
1.25 inches

Wide-angle capability
KRL-01, UWL-09, Nauticam WWL

KRL-01, UWL-09, Nauticam WWL

Takes UWL-04 fisheye lens, wet mount

KRL-01, UWL-09, Nauticam WWL
Dyron super-wide

Battery

  Life
2-3 dives

3 dives

2 dives

3 dives
2 - 3 dives

Control

  dials
1 dial

1 dial

1 dial

2 dials
2 dials

 Size
small, 299 grams

Small, 301 grams

Small, 247 grams

Small, 310 grams
Small, 304 grams

  Hot

 shoe
No

No

No

No
No

Video mode
1080p @ 60fps, 4K video @ 30fps,
slow-mo

1080p @ 60fps, 4K video @ 30fps,

slow-mo

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

4K @ 30 fps or 24 fps, 1080p  @ 120 fps for slow-motion
1080p @ 60fps, .mp4, zoom allowed

Price as of February 2019 in USD
$998.00

$1,199.99

$499.99
$699.99 $679

Notes:
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.