Best dSLR Choices | Bluewater Photo & Video

Best dSLR Choices

Read About the Best Mirrorless Cameras for Underwater Photography


Jump to:


For image quality, lens selection, and focusing speed, nothing can match having a full-fledged dSLR for underwater photography. Sure, it will be larger and more expensive than a compact set-up, but the results speak for themselves. The Nikon D850, Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D500 are very hot right now.

Cropped sensor cameras make both macro and wide-angle easy to shoot underwater. Full-frame sensors really shine for ambient light shots and professional images, with their superior auto-focus, low light capabilities and dynamic range.

Please feel free to call if you have trouble choosing between the models listed below, or want to talk about the best mirrorless cameras versus a dSLR.  Our professional and knowledgeable staff can be reached directly at 310-633-5052, or email BWP's owner Scott at


Nikon D850

Read our Nikon D850 Review for Underwater Photography

The Nikon D850 camera is possibly the best all around DSLR ever. It has combined both speed and high resolution which photographers have always been looking for.  The camera is packed with lots of quality features including the ability to shoot full frame 4K video.

  • The D850 expands the resolution on the new backlit CMOS sensor from 36.3 to 45.7 megapixels, while improving the high ISO performance, and maintaining the class leading dynamic range. Base ISO of 64 on the D850 is absolute gold.
  • New autofocus system - The D850 borrows the AF system from the flagship D5 and is dramatically faster than its predecessor, the Nikon D810. It is also tops at locking onto subjects even in dark, low light environments, the center AF point being sensitive down to -4EV
  • Capable of full frame 4K Video
  • Increased shooting speed and buffer size

Nikon D850 Underwater Housing Options:


The Oil Rigs off California can be quite dark at depth, so shooting verticals with the crossbeams of the rigs and the bright surface produces a vast range of tones that the D850 has no problem handling.


Amazing detail in these spanish shawl rhinophores! 


Hard to beat ISO 64 on the D850! Shadows and highlights in high contrast scenes contain huge amounts of detail and are able to be pulled back without degrading image quality. 


Canon 5D Mark IV

Read our Canon 5D Mark IV Review for Underwater Photography

canon 7d housing


Many people think that the D850 has the edge over the 5D Mark IV. But Canon shooters might think otherwise. One thing is for sure - the 5D Mark IV is likely the best DSLR that Canon has ever released and will not limit your underwater photography in any way.

  • Choose the 5D Mark IV for the best underwater dSLR video out there
  • The Canon 8-15mm fisheye len is sharp and quite versatile for unique wide-angle images
  • The Canon 11-14mm WA lens is the widest non-fisheye lens on the market, and gives amazing sharp images in a large dome port
  • Takes great hi-def video! The video bit rate on the 5D Mark IV is much higher than on Nikon dSLR cameras. Dual Pixel autofocus is also a new, practical feature that videographers will find extremely useful
  • Canon 5D Mark IV is a full-frame dSLR, offering stunning images with a full spectrum of colors and the best dynamic range of any Canon DSLR. The 5DIV produces very good high ISO results and ISO can be "boosted" to an incredible ISO 102,400 (we advise not ever using this though). It also has vastly improved auto-focus over the previouis 5D Mark models.
  • Excellent ergonomics and build-quality in the Sea & Sea, Nauticam and Aquatica housings

5D Mark IV Underwater Housing Options:


Shot with Canon 5D Mark 3 and Canon 100mm Macro Lens in Anilao, Philippines.  Photo: Brent Durand


Shot with Canon 5D Mark 3 and Tokina 10-17mm Lens in Anilao, Philippines.  Photo: Brent Durand


Nikon D500

Read our Nikon D500 Review for Underwater Photography

Best dSLR underwater cameras 2016

The Nikon D500 slots in below the D5 and D850 as Nikon's professional level APSC camera. It has become one of the most popular cameras period for underwater shooting and for good reason. It shares the same autofocus system as the D5 and 850 for a much more wallet friendly cost and provides 4k video, 10fps shooting speed, and the best low light/high ISO performance of just about any APSC camera. We have used the camera extensively, and it is amazing. Housings are available from Nauticam, Ikelte, Aquatica and Sea&Sea. Email scott at for his thoughts, as he has used the Aquatica, Sea & Sea and Nauticam housings.

D500 Auto-focus & High ISO Tests:

Read Scott's Nikon D500 Auto-Focus & ISO Test Article to find out how the D500 performs in high-speed shooting scenarios, shooting with high ISOs, demanding auto-focus scenarios, and more.

D500 Underwater Housing Options:

D500 vs. D7200

Don't be fooled by the small difference in megapixel count, the new Nikon D500 is definitely a superior camera to the Nikon D7200, and in our opinion is the clear choice for a cropped sensor dSLR. The image quality from the D7200 is fantastic, but the D500 surpasses it. The D500 also allows the making of images to be far easier thanks to the aforementioned autofocus system and other pro level features.

Best dSLR cameras for underwater photography
BWP Owner Scott Gietler's son Ryan, taken with the NIkon D500, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens
Best DSLR camera for underwater photography 2018
Great White Shark photographed with the Nikon D500 in a Nauticam housing with the Nikonos 13mm lens at Guadalupe, Mexico


Best DSLR camera for underwater photography Nikon D500
Pygmy Seahorse, photographed in Anilao with the Nikon D500, Nikon 105mm VR macro lens + Nauticam SMC


Canon 7D Mark II  

Read our Canon 7D Mark II Review for Underwater Photography

best underwate dSLR cameras 2016

One of the great features of the Canon 7D Mark II is its auto-focus system.  The ability for a dSLR to focus while taking video with live view, the Canon 7D Mark II takes underwater photography / video to new levels.

  • Best overall cropped sensor dSLR for video currently on the market, best Canon brand cropped sensor dSLR for stills
  • 20MP sensor with dual pixel Autofocus
  • Only the Canon 70D and 7D Mark II can auto-focus well during video, and offer an excellent lens selection

The Canon 7D Mark II is the best choice for people who want to use Canon lenses, but don't feel the need for a full-frame camera. With a cropped sensor camera, you get full zoom use of the Tokina 10-17mm wide-angle lens which is quite nice!

The Canon 7D Mark II offers a vastly superior auto-focus system over the Canon 70D and the Canon T5i.

These cameras also offers the best auto-focus capability during video for a dSLR, using its new "dual-pixel" auto-focus system. Housings from Aquatica, Sea & Sea, and Nauticam are recommended for the best ergonomics.

Nauticam and Aquatica housings have built-in vacuum pump circuitry.

The Sea & Sea 7D Mark II housings offers a unique internal optical TTL converter, that allows the shooter to get accurate TTL and rapid shooting with YS-D1 strobes using fiber optics and the camera's hot shoe instead of the pop-up flash. Ikelite also offers a great internal TTL converter system.

Canon 7D Mark II Underwater Housing Options:


best underwater cameras for 2015
Spanish shawl nudibranch taken with the Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100mm macro lens.


best underwater camera 2015
Canon 7d Mark II, Canon 10-22mm lens, 8-inch dome port taken in French Polynesia


best underwater cameras for 2016
Atlantic spotted dolphins shot with Canon 7D MkII and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens + 8" dome port.


best underwater cameras for 2016
Atlantic spotted dolphins shot with Canon 7D MkII and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens + 8" dome port.


Ikelite Housings for Nikon D7500, D810 or Canon 5D Mark III

  • Ikelite housing is an unbelievable value, and includes full TTL functionality, tray, handles, and zoom rings
  • True TTL via an electronic sync cord allows you to fire your camera at its fastest possible speeds
  • Takes great hi-def video!
  • Get the best possible wide-angle optics with the Precision line of 5-inch acrylic dome ports, or Zen glass dome ports, custom made for your wide-angle lens
  • Our top picks are the Nikon D7500, D810 or Canon 5D Mark III for the best value for the money
  • Using the new DryLock Port System

Underwater Housing Options:



Canon T5i

Canon 7D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark IV
Nikon D7500 Nikon D500

Nikon D850

Crop factor



1.5 1.5


Sensor area



368mm2 368mm2





20.9 20.9


# control dials



2 2


Sync speed



1/250th 1/320th


High ISO capability

Very Good

Very Good

Excellent +
Excellent Excellent


Weight with battery in grams



730g 860g


Auto-focus points



51 153


Mem cards





Video capability

1080p30, 720p60


4K, 1080p60, 720p120
1080p60 4K, 1080p60


Internal flash



yes no


Prices as of March 2018

$549 with kit lens


$1,247 $1,897



Don't forget to check out our Best Mirrorless Cameras of 2018 for a smaller, lighter option for underwater photography that will still take great images.