Best Underwater Cameras in 2019 - Compact

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What makes the "Best Underwater Camera?"

Features To Look For In A Compact Camera:

What is the best camera for underwater photography? 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. We need to look at not only the camera features, but the quality of available underwater housings.

Fortunately, we are now blessed with several cameras and great underwater housings that meet these criteria for the "best underwater camera". Whether you are looking for the best underwater camera for scuba diving or snorkeling, we are sure you will find it here. I'd also like to point out, that we define a compact camera as a camera with a fixed lens.

 

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. Sony and Canon have both given their compact cameras one inch sensors, and greatly improved focus speeds over the cameras of a few years ago. Olympus continued to add features to their cameras while keeping both price and size down.

Take a look at our top picks for best underwater camera in 2019 below.

 

best compact camera 2019

Sony RX100 VA or VI

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

Best Underwater Camera

Read our complete Sony RX100 VI Review

Read the Sony RX100 VA Review

The Sony RX100 VA and VI cameras 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 upgrade 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. 

There are three things that make the RX100 series one of the best underwater camera. First, their 1-inch sensor size is larger than most other compact cameras besids the G7X II, giving better image quality and better low-light performance due to a larger pixel size. Second, the auto-focus speed is faster than traditional compact cameras. Last, but not least, is its advanced video features, including 4K video.

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 super macro 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 beaten by other compact underwater setups. 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 available. Well designed, simple to use, full camera controls accessible in the aluminum housing, readily accepts a variety of wet lenses.

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

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

Sony RX100 VI Underwater Packages:

shrimp photo taken with underwater camera

 

 

Panasonic LX10

Excellent Image & Video Quality

underwater camera - compact - best video quality

For shooting underwater video, we recommend the Panasonic LX10 as the best underwater 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.

The F1.4-F2.8 lens is the brightest lens out of all the cameras that we considered for the best underwater camera for video in the compact category. giving it an edge in low-light situations when setting its aperture to F1.4.

Panasonic LX10 Underwater Housing Options:

Panasonic LX10 Packages:

 

 

Sony RX100 VI

The Sony RX100 VI is our choice for best underwater camera for macro. This camera boasts a 24-200mm lens that can produce incredible magnifcation for even the tiniest subjects. 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 super macro 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 a dedicated macro focus. The camera also boasts improved auto-focus capability and battery life over the G7X, a new time-lapse mode, and significantly 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.

Canon G7X II Packages:

 

 

 

Olympus TG-5 or TG-6

Olympus TG-5 Review

Olympus TG-6 Review on UWPG

The Olympus TG-6 is coming out soon - it is the same size as the TG-5 and has minor improvements which you can read about in the link above. The TG-6 will work in the TG-5 housing. This section applies equally to both the TG-5 and the TG-6. Either of these cameras can also be considered the best waterproof camera.

For an excellent camera, both in and out of the housing, the Olympus TG-5 cannot be beaten. Although we are calling this a budget option, don't get us wrong - the TG-5 and TG-6 are excellent underwater cameras.They are also the best underwater cameras for snorkeling.

Without a housing, the camera is quite rugged, and is waterproof to 50 feet (15 meters), making it an excellent option for the casual shooter who wants a camera that can go anywhere. In fact, it is the only camera mentioned in this guide that is waterproof.

Pair it with the Olympus PT-058 TG-5 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:

The 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 a fisheye lens

 

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

 

Click Here to View the Compact Camera Comparison

 

We hope you enjoyed this underwater camera guide, and your search for the best camera for underwater photography. Don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or comments.

Best Underwater Camera - further reading