Published May 1, 2023 | Nirupam Nigam
What Makes The "Best Underwater Camera?"
Looking for the best underwater camera to capture stunning images and videos of marine life? Look no further than our expertly curated list of top-rated options for beginners, semi-professionals, and professionals alike. After diving with over 40 modern camera systems on hundreds of dives worldwide, our team at Bluewater Photo has identified the best options based on key features such as sensor size, overall size, and whether the camera is photo or video-oriented. Discover your perfect underwater camera today!
Features To Look For When Choosing The Best Underwater Camera
Recent Improvements in Underwater Photography Equipment
- Best Beginner Cameras -
Canon G7X Mark III
Best Value Compact Camera
The Canon G7X III is a tiny camera with a large 1-inch, 20 MP sensor, directly competing with the higher-end Sony RX100 series cameras. It is an excellent, fast-focusing camera with excellent image quality. The camera also boasts 4K video, slow motion video, a bigger image buffer, a new stacked sensor, a better image processor, and quicker burst shooting over the G7X II.
- 20.1 megapixel 1.0” stacked CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 8 image processor
- 4.2x optical zoom lens (24-100m f/1.8-2.8) with optical image stabilization
- 3.0 inch touch panel LCD screen with tilt option of 180 degrees for selfies and vloggers
- Compatible with USB charge/power supply
- Contrast-detection autofocus (no dual pixel autofocus)
- 20 fps burst mode (upgraded from 8fps)
- 70 shot RAW buffer (upgraded from 21 shots)
- Slow motion video (120 fps in 1080p)
Sealife Micro 3.0
Easiest-to-Use Underwater Compact Camera
The SeaLife Micro 3.0 Camera might be the easiest underwater camera to use for both photo & video. We recommend it to any diver looking for a no-frills, ergonomic source of underwater content. These shooters may not be looking to get a professional image but need a simple tool to document their dive and what they see in the beautiful underwater environment. The SeaLife Micro 3.0 is designed to be permanently sealed, making it flood-proof for the camera's lifetime. There is no need for any o-ring maintenance and no need to worry about flooding. The battery life is also excellent - it can be operated for more than three hours which is perfect for a full day of diving.
- 16 Megapixel Sony CMOS image sensor
- Permanently sealed
- 3+ hours battery life
- Built-in 64GB memory card
- Easy operation
- "Easy Setup" feature
- Capable of manual white balance and RAW format for post-processing
- 100° Lens
Sony RX100 VA & Sony RX100 VII
Best High-End Compact Camera
The Sony RX100 VA & Sony RX100 VII cameras are the latest additions to the Sony RX100 series and are packed with many awesome underwater photography features. They are the top of line compact cameras to date. Autofocus is lightning quick in both cameras, which is great for shooting fast animals like sharks and sea lions. All three cameras feature a large 1" sensor with 20 MP resolution. Each camera is equipped with 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, whereas the RX100 VA's key upgrade is 24fps sequential shooting, enhanced image buffer, and a customizable menu system. The RX100 VII has some minor improvements over the VI, including quicker autofocus with a better autofocus tracking system, burst modes without blackout, and faster processing. The RX100 VII comes at a heftier price tag. Still, it's an excellent option for people who want to take advantage of its autofocus tracking system, especially for video, which you can now capture for unlimited time.
- The 1-inch sensor size is larger than most other compact cameras besides the Canon G7X Mark II and III. The larger sensor produces better image quality and improved low-light performance due to the larger pixel size.
- The auto-focus speed is faster than traditional compact cameras.
- The advanced 4K video features available in the RX100 series are top-of-the-line for compact camera video systems.
The RX100 VA is an upgrade from the RX100 V with 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 and VII is that the RX100 VA can 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 setups.
- 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
- 315-point phase detection autofocus system - focuses in 0.05-sec
- 24 fps RAW burst with AF tracking for up to 233 photos
- Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 24-70mm F/1.8-2.8 lens
- Anti Distortion Shutter minimizes rolling shutter effect when recording video
- 1-inch 20.1 MP stacked CMOS sensor
- BIONZ X processor
- Built-in 24-200mm (equivalent) f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens – same as the RX100 VI
- Electronic shutter up to 1/32000s
- 4K video with full pixel readout (no pixel binning)
- S-LOG2, S-Log3, and HLG picture profiles
- Pop-up EVF (2.36 million dots)
- No more built-in ND filter
- Tilting touch screen LCD
- Wifi and Bluetooth capability
Canon EOS R50
Best Beginner Cropped Sensor Mirrorless Camera
We've selected the Canon EOS R50 as the best APS-C mirrorless camera designed for beginner shooters due to it's amazing price point, excellent image quality, and surprisingly professional autofocus system. That said, this camera does one major limitation for underwater photography - it only has one dial for aperture and shutter speed control. This makes it necessary to toggle between your two main exposure settings. Make sure you check out the Canon EOS R10 which is a little more expensive for better ergonomics and better video specs.
The Canon EOS R50's 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor is a standout feature, producing high-quality, high-resolution images with rich details and vibrant colors, even in low-light underwater conditions. The advanced autofocus system is also remarkable, featuring 4,779 manually selectable AF points that allow for precise subject tracking and focus, whether you're shooting underwater stills or video.
Additionally, the autofocus system is highly customizable, enabling you to adjust your focus settings to meet your specific shooting needs. The Canon EOS R50 is not just an excellent camera for stills but also an exceptional option for underwater videography. The camera is capable of shooting 4K video at up to 30 frames per second.
- 24.2 MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
- Burst shooting up to 15 FPS with electronic shutter
- Dual pixel autofocus with subject tracking an low light AF to -4 EV
- ISO range - 100-12,800
- RF and RF-S Lenses
- 1/250 sec flash sync
- UHD 4K /30p video
- UHS-1 SD Card Slot
- Multi-Function Shoe, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth
- 440 shot battery life
- Size: 116.3 x 85.5 x 68.8mm
- Weight: 375 grams
Sample image captured with the Canon EOS R10 which has the same sensor as the Canon EOS R50
Sample image captured with the Canon EOS R10 which has the same sensor as the Canon EOS R50
Sample image captured with the Canon EOS R10 which has the same sensor as the Canon EOS R50
Canon EOS R8
Best Beginner Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera
A Canon EOS R8 full-frame mirrorless camera is an incredible value for just $1500. It is small enough to fit into underwater housings that would normally house APS-C cameras, making it the perfect camera for travel. But more importantly the 24.2 megapixel sensor provides excellent image quality. The R8 has the same incredible autofocus system found in the R7 and R10 - with animal eye and subject autofocus tracking.
This camera is a great beginner camera for video shooters as well. It is capable of shooting 4K/60p videu, uncropped. For those who would like to do a lot of color grading in their post processing, the R8 can film in C-Log3, 10-bit 4:2:2.
The trade off for such a low price point is a lack of the 5-axis in-body image stabilization commonly found in full frame cameras. While this makes it more difficult to shoot at low shutter speeds or to keep your video steady, it does keep the camera small.
Even though we list this camera as a "beginners" full frame camera, it's not missing a whole lot. Most underwater photographers would be happy with the Canon EOS R8 as their primary camera for years and we can't wait to take the camera diving in our upcoming Galapagos underwater photo workshop.
- 24.2 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
- Dual pixel autofocus with animal eye autofocus tracking
- Canon RF Mount
- No 5-Axis Image Stablilization
- HDR PQ and Canon Log 3
- Uncropped 4K/60p video with 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording
- Flexible Connectivity - Wired, Wireless, UVC/UAC, Bkuetooth, WiFi
- Pop-Up Flash
- Max. Approx. 6 FPS with mechanical shutter
- 1/200 flah sync speed
- ISO range - 100-102400
- Articulating 3" Touchscreen LCD
- Weight: 461 grams
Mantis Sub RS 360 Housing
Best Beginner Underwater VR System
The Mantis Sub Housing for Insta360 One RS 1-inch 360 Edition is the only consumer-grade underwater VR system on the maket. The Insta 360 One RS 1-inch edition allows you to capture stunning 360 underwater 6K video and amazing photos with its 21MP sensor. The camera features a 1" sensor with Leica lenses which excellent even in low light condition. The housing is much more affordable than it's older brother - the professional Mantis Sub Housing for the Insta360 Pro2. It is designed with 4" domes that provide a clean zenith and effortless stitching using the Insta360 Studio Application. It also features a M6 bulkhead for offboard power or remote connection via USB-C connection.
The housing is very easy to use and very versatile. It's perfect for exploration diving, ROV operation, underwater asset inspection or even leisure shooting.
- Built from high grade durable anodized aluminium body
- Specially designed domes for clean zenith and nadir
- Integrated vacuum leak detection system
- Underwater power button and start/stop to conserve disk space and battery.
- (2) M14 and (2) M16 Bulkhead
- Easy setup with included App
- Wifi for control, setup (surface), web interface to controller for remote control and log files
- Integrated 3x 18650 batteries to extend recording time
BUY THE HOUSING NOW
Olympus TG-6 & Olympus TG-5
Best Compact Camera for Macro Underwater Photography
We grouped the Olympus TG-6 and TG-5 together as there are very minor differences between the two cameras. The TG-6 will work in TG-5 housings. So if you're really on a budget, take a look at the TG-5 camera. This section applies equally to both the TG-5 and the TG-6.
- 12MP Hi-Speed Image Sensor for Improved Low Light Performance and Noise Reduction
- Dual Quad Core TruePic™ VIII Image Processor
- F2.0 High Speed Lens
- 4K and High Speed Video
- Field Sensor System w/ GPS, Manometer, Compass & Temperature Sensor
- Waterproof, Shockproof, Freezeproof, Crushproof
- Best Semi-Pro Underwater Cameras -
Canon EOS R6 Mark II
Best Semi-Pro Underwater Camera for Hybrid Shooters
We chose the Canon EOS R6 Mark II as the best hybrid camera for prosumers because it has been upgraded with a higher resolution 24.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and better video features than the original R6.
One of the most noteworthy features of the EOS R6 Mark II is its fast and accurate autofocus system, which utilizes Dual Pixel CMOS AF II technology to quickly lock onto subjects and track their movements. The camera also offers up to 8 stops of image stabilization, which makes it easier to capture sharp, blur-free photos and videos even in low light or when using slower shutter speeds.
Additionally, the EOS R6 Mark II boasts a range of advanced features and customization options, including a vari-angle touchscreen LCD, 4K video recording, and dual SD card slots. The video features on the R6 Mark II have been revamped to include 4K/60p recording and C-Log3 recording. This makes it a great camera for dedicated underwater videographers as well as underwater photo shooters. Overall, this camera is an excellent choice for professional photographers and videographers who demand the best in terms of image quality, performance, and versatility.
Price Point: $2,499
- 24.2 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
- RF mount lens system (EF mount lenses work with an EF-EOS R Adapter)
- DIGIC X processor
- 1/200 shutter sync speed (with strobes)
- Dual-pixel CMOS autofocus, covering 100% of sensor
- Subject tracking AF (humans, dogs, cats, birds, horses, racing cars, motorbikes, aircraft, and trains)
- Autofocus in lowlight down to -6.5 EV
- ISO 100-102400 (50 - 204,801 expandable)
- 4k/60p recording (no crop), C-Log3 available
Sony A7 IV
Best Full Frame Mirrorless Camera for Enthusiasts
- 33MP Back-Illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor
- BIONZ XR Processor
- Up to 10 fps shooting
- In-body stabilization rated up to 5.5EV
- Full-width oversampled 4K from 7K, up to 30p
- 4K/60p oversampled from 4.6K with Super35 / APS-C mode
- 10-bit video or HEIF stills capture
- H.265 video, S-Cinetone color mode
- 3.69M dot OLED viewfinder
- Twin card slots (1x CFe A/UHS-II, 1x UHS-II SD)
- Full-time Bluetooth LE connection
Canon EOS R7
Best Professional Cropped Sensor Mirrorless Camera
The Canon EOS R7 is Canon's newest and highest performing APS-C mirrorless camera. It is an excellent option for those looking for an incredible value in an underwater camera - both for photo and video. At $1499 for the camera body, the R7 is capable of capturing 32 MP photos with 5-axis in-body image stabilization and 4K/60p video. It is also equipped with a top of the line dual-pixel autofocus system brought over from the popular Canon EOS R5 - capable of tracking animal eyes. In fact, this autofocus system has even been reorganized and improved upon.
The R7 was announced alongside the Canon EOS R10, its "little brother" with less features, but an even lower price point of $980 for the camera body. Though the two cameras are similar, they represent slightly different tools for different markets. Ultimately, the Canon EOS R7 is the highest-end APS-C camera available on the market for an excellent price point.
Price Point: $1,499
- 32.5 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS Sensor and Digic X processor
- Canon's In-Body 5 Axis Image-Stabilization (IBIS)
- Improved Dual Pixel Phase Detect Autofocus
- ISO 100-51,200
- 15fps burst shooting with mechanical shutter
- 30 fps burst shooting with silent (electronic shutter)
- Dual card slots
- Internal C-Log recording
- 4K video up to 60 fps
- 3.69 million dot EVF
- Dimensions: 132 mm X 90 mm X 92 mm
- Weight: 612grams (including battery & memory card)
Olympus (OM System) OM-1
Best Micro Four Thirds Camera for Underwater Photography
The OM System OM-1 is the first camera to be released by OM Digital Solutions which purchased Olympus in 2021. As a micro-four thirds mirrorless camera, it shows similarities to previous OM-D cameras made by Olympus. While it is currently the best option for an upgrade for micro four thirds shooters, if you are not invested in micro four thirds lenses, we don't recommend the OM System OM-1. This is because there are many other full-frame and APS-C cameras on the market that offer better image quality and better features for a lower price point.
- 20MP Stacked Sensor
- TruePic X Dual Quad Core Processor
- Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
- 5-Axis Image Stabilization
- AF Phase Detection: 1052 points
- ISO 80-102,400
- 10 fps burst shooting
- Bluetooth, WiFi 2.4/5 GHz
- Memory Card: SD, SDHC (UHS-I/II), SDXC (UHS-I/II)
- 4K/60 video recording
- BLX-1 Battery
Best Micro Four Thirds Camera For Video
The Panasonic GH6 is a micro four thirds camera that offers exceptional video quality and features. It's a reliable workhorse that many professional photographers, both topside and underwater, have come to depend on. With a range of codecs available for recording and the ability to capture 5.7K/60p video, the GH6 is a highly capable camera that showcases Panasonic's reputation for producing top-notch micro four thirds video cameras. The camera's 25.2-megapixel sensor enables photographers to shoot high-resolution photos and video, making the GH6 an excellent choice for those seeking a versatile camera that excels in both areas.
Price Point: $2,197.99
- 25.2MP high-sensitivity MOS sensor
- Micro four thirds sensor (x2 crop)
- 5.7K/60p, 4K/120p video recording
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization
- CFexpress & SD card slots
- Built-in cooling fan
- ProRes 422 HQ, V-Log and DR Boost
- 14 fps mechanical shutter and 75 fps electronic shutter
- HDMI output
- Tilting LCD touchscreen
- 3,680,000 dot electronic OLED viewfinder
- Magnesium alloy construction
- 100MP handheld high-resolution mode
- Best Professional Underwater Cameras -
Canon EOS R5
The Best Value Professional Underwater Camera
- New 45 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS Sensor and Digic X processor
- Canon's first 5 axis In-Body Image-Stabilization (IBIS) which works in conjunction with optical IS RF and EF lenses. Up to 8 stops of correction
- Improved Dual Pixel II Autofocus
- 5,940 AF points
- 100% of the sensor has AF coverage!
- ISO 100 - 51,200
- Animal eye AF detection (for birds, cats, and dogs) - it works on macro fish 20-40% of the time!
- 12fps burst shooting with mechanical shutter
- 20 fps burst shooting with silent (electronic shutter)
- 180 shot RAW image buffer
- Dual card slots - 1x CFexpress and 1x SD UHS-II
- 8K video @ 30p, 10- bit 4:2:2 - using the full width of the sensor!
- Internal RAW and C-Log recording
- 4K oversampled video up to 120p, 10-bit 4:2:2
Best Hybrid Photo & Video Camera
The Sony A1 is Sony's flagship full-frame mirrorless camera and is considered the best full-frame mirrorless camera in the world in its own right. A monstrous 50-megapixel sensor captures stunning 4K/120p and 8K/30p video and super detailed stills. Having such a high-resolution sensor also means underwater photographers can crop in on their videos and photos if they couldn't get as close to their subjects as they would have liked. The Sony A1 also has a 1/400s strobe sync speed which means photographers can recover an additional stop of exposure which is great for shooting sun balls and freezing action. We also successfully fired Ikelite strobes with Ikelite TTL and the electronic shutter, a first for underwater photography.
- New Full-Frame 50MP Exmor RS Stacked CMOS Sensor
- 15 stops of dynamic range with improved colors, tones, and gradation
- New BIONZ XR Processor
- Continuous shooting up to 30fps w/ electronic shutter and 10fps w/mechanical shutter at full resolution - AE and AF operable throughout
- Updated Carbon-Fiber Mechanical Shutter for a more quiet and vibration-free performance
- Records video up to 8K/30p (oversampled from 8.6K), 4K/120p (oversampled)
- Improved electronic shutter - greatly reduced rolling shutter and flicker under artificial light
- THE ELECTRONIC SHUTTER WORKS WITH EXTERNAL FLASHES (and strobes, with a TTL converter)
- FLASH SYNC SPEEDS: up to 1/400sec (mechanical shutter; 1/500 in APS-C mode), 1/200 (electronic)
- Lightning-quick AF with its 759 phase-detection points with 425 contrast-detection areas - covering 92% of the sensor
- AF system recalculates 120 times per second - 30% more accurate than A9II
- Better animal eye AF that can track birds - does not track fish
- 5 axis IBIS with 5.5 stops of recovery
- 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording with 16-bit RAW external recording
- Full range of Log recording options - Cine, HLG, and S-Log
- Viewfinder: Electronic (OLED) - 9.44 million dots
- Dual CFexpress Type A / UHS-II SD Card
- Dimensions: 5.07 x 3.81 x 2.74 in (128.9 x 96.9 x 69.7 mm)
- Weight: 1.6 lb (737g)
Sony A7R V
Best High Resolution Camera
The Sony A7R V is a new addition to Sony's imaging lineup and represents the latest generation of technology. With a 61 MP full-frame sensor, it takes over from the popular Sony A7R IV as the company's top high-resolution camera. In fact, the Sony A7R V boasts the highest resolution full-frame sensor in the world. One of its major improvements is in autofocus, thanks to a new AI processor that's specifically designed for machine learning and autofocus operations. Moreover, there are significant enhancements to its video features, enabling it to shoot at 8K/24p and 4K/60p. Additionally, the A7R V's in-body image stabilization system now offers up to 8 stops of stabilization thanks to its 5-axis stabilization feature. Considering all these impressive features, the Sony A7R V has become this year's most popular underwater camera. We think the images and video speak for themselves.
- 61 MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
- Dual Bionz XR processors
- AI based real-time tracking AF system with a dedicated AI processor
- 8K/24p and 4K/60p video (10-bit)
- 4K 16-bit RAW video
- S-LOG3 and S-Cinetone picture profiles
- 10 fps burst shooting
- 8 stops of 5-axis in-body image-stabilization
- 3.2" 4-axis multi-angle touchscreen
- 9.44 million dot EVF with 120 fps refresh rate
- Dual CFexpress Type A/SD card slots
Sony A7S III
Best Professional Camera for Underwater Video
The Sony A7S III is one of the best video-focused cameras both above and below the waves. We consider it the best underwater camera for video in the professional level category. Being able to shoot 4K video up to 120fps for slow-motion and stable video, with 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording, makes it ideal for capturing smooth cinematic video footage from your underwater adventures. There is also a wide range of frame rate options available, as well as various codecs and picture profiles.
- 12 MP BSI CMOS Full Frame Sensor
- Bioz XR Image Processor
- ISO 80-102,400
- "Low Base" and "High Base" (effectively dual gain) ISO capability for better low light shooting
- 4K video up to 120 fps
- No recording time limits. Could be limited by heat (4K @ 60p for at least an hour)
- 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording
- S-LOG, HLG, Cine logarithmic picture profiles available
- 4K @ 60p, 16-bit RAW recording with an external recorder
- 5 axis in-body image-stabilization (IBIS)
- Dual card slots (either SD or CFexpress Type A)
- 9.44 M dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) - the best resolution on the market!
- Movie File Formats: XAVC S (Long GOP, H.264 MP4); XAVC HS (Long GOP, H.265 HEVC); XAVC S-1 (All-Intra, H.264 MP4)
- AF tracking with human and animal eye AF capability
- 759 point hybrid AF system with 425 contrast detection points