Best Underwater Video Cameras of 2021

Best Video Cameras 2021

 


 

 
 
 
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Features to Look For in an Underwater Video Camera:

What makes the “Best Underwater Video Camera”? When shooting underwater video, or video in general, there are many factors to consider. To start, being able to record 4K video is now a luxury that is expected out of any respectable video camera and 4K capture is definitely something you should consider when choosing your underwater video camera. The good news is nearly every new DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera features 4K recording capabilities. Where it becomes complicated is the 4K Video Type, which basically is the way in which a camera records 4K video. There are three types of cameras when it comes to 4K recording. The most ideal camera is one that has a full pixel readout from a 35mm sensor (often shooting the initial video in 6K) that will downsample to 4K, adding additional details to the video. Intermediate 4K quality comes from cameras that use pixel binning to process their 4K video. The worst 4K quality comes from cameras that “crop” the video by using only part of the sensor to capture 4K footage. This produces the worst quality because less sensor area is being used to capture light while filming video. The Canon EOS R was a disappointment for videographers for this reason.

The next most immediate specification to consider would be the frame rate that your video camera allows you to record in. Top-of-the-line video cameras record at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (fps), giving your footage that smooth, slow-motion cinema look that everybody loves. This is a highly sought-after capability and only a select few cameras on the market (excluding high-end cinema systems) provide this feature.

Another highly sought-after, and relatively exclusive, feature within the video camera realm is the ability to record in RAW or ProRes. These are uncompressed formats that maximize the information gathered by the sensor and provide you with extended flexibility when it comes to color grading and post-processing. As mentioned, this feature is quite an exclusive one and only available in a select few cameras on the market with good processors (again, excluding high-end cinema systems). Some select cameras can record in ProRes Raw with an Atomos Ninja V external recorder. Nauticam offers a housing for the Ninja V for use with your underwater system.

Other factors to consider when choosing an underwater video camera are in-body image-stabilization (IBIS), autofocus capability, pixel design, color science, bit rate, low light sensitivity, lens options, and, well, of course, the price tag.

Here, we have outlined the best cameras for underwater video in order from best to last-best. Yes -- indeed the last camera mentioned has been classified as ‘last-best’ since if it were not an excellent choice for underwater video, we would not put it on this list! Here we will walk you through some of the key points that make each camera great for underwater video and hopefully make the process of choosing which underwater video camera is best for you, a little bit easier.

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Sony A7S III

Read our Full Review for the Sony A7S III Camera

The Sony A7S III is a spectacular video-oriented full frame mirrorless camera that is shaping up to be 2020's best camera for underwater video. The A7S III is our favorite underwater video camera because of the wide range of options available from frame rates to bit rates and codecs to picture profiles. It can record 4K video up to 120fps for slow motion and stable video, with 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording for the best color science Sony has to offer when paired with a wide variety of Log profiles. It is also an excellent stills camera with 12 megapixels of resolution - enough for social media and most day-to-day useage - but likely not enough for working photographers that shoot macro or print large prints. Sony didn't holdback when it came to autofocus options, equipping the camera with Sony's excellent AF tracking and animal eye AF capability. True to form, the A7S III succeeds the A7S II as a lowlight masterpiece, it's ability bolstered by a lower resolution sensor and close to "dual gain" ISO (more on that below). The A7S III does not have recording time limits and did not overheat in our underwater tests, despite some topside users complaining about overheating in direct sunlight.

Key Features:

  • 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

Underwater Housing Options:

Camera Body & Lenses:

Sample Underwater Video:

 

Canon EOS R5

Read our Full Review of the Canon EOS R5

The Canon EOS R5 is the best camera for underwater photo and video. A wide range of new technology introduced in this system makes it optimal for underwater creatives ranging from a 45 megapixel full-frame sensor that captures clean, beautiful images to 8K/30p and 4K/120 internal RAW 10-bit 4:2:2 video recording capability. The in-body image-stabilization system built into the camera is second to none with the ability to recover up to 8 stops of exposure. This means you can shoot at very low shutter speeds and not have any motion blur. In our underwater tests, we took photos at 1/8th of a second with no issues! Moreover, the autofocus system in the R5 is one of the best on the market and is as good as Sony's or better. We were very impressed that the R5 was able to track fish eyes underwater in many situations - especially when shooting macro photos. We are very excited to see where animal eye autofocus technology will go in the future. Finally, the video this camera can capture is truly wonderful. 8K/30p video is useful for underwater video shooters that want to crop in their video footage. It will be very helpful to macro video shooters especially. When you combine 4K/120p video with the R5's IBIS system, there is no other way to get more stable handheld video footage. We had no problem shooting handheld video with a 100mm macro lens! That being said the Sony A7S III is still our top pick for underwater video as it has a wider variety of video-oriented shooting options. But if you are looking for the best underwater photo camera on the market, there isn't another camera as capable as the R5.  

 

 

Key Features:

  • 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

Underwater Housing Options:

Sample Underwater Image:

Spectacular resolution with the Canon EOS R5. Photo of a mosshead warbonnet captured with the Canon EOS R5 in an Ikelite housing, Canon 100 mm macro lens, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes, Kraken +13 diopter, and Ikelite Canon TTL converter. f/16, 1/160, ISO 100

Spectacular resolution with the Canon EOS R5. Photo of a mosshead warbonnet captured with the Canon EOS R5 in an Ikelite housing, Canon 100 mm macro lens, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes, Kraken +13 diopter, and Ikelite Canon TTL converter. f/16, 1/160, ISO 100

 


Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K & 6K Camera

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4KBlackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K are small & compact video cameras that packs a serious punch! Both cameras has a sleek design and have high-end video camera features at an affordablle price. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K utilizes micro four thirds mount while the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k utilizes full frame EF Mount which makes it better for bokeh shots.

 

Pocket Cinema Camera 4K:

  • RAW and ProRes recording at 4K 60fps
  • Micro Four Thirds 18.96 x 10.00 mm sensor
  • Dual Native ISO of 400 and 3200
  • Dynamic Range of 13 stops
  • Ergonomics of the camera is great, it allows you to adjust your settings easily
  • Menu interface is simple, straight forward and effective
  • 5" Multi touch HD screen
  • 3 media options: CFast Cards, SD UHD-II and SSD Drive via USB-C cable

 

Pocket Cinema Camera 6K:

  • Super 35 sensor with 6K (6144 X 3456) resolution (16:9) 
  • True anamorphic 6:5 mode in 3.7K @ 60fps (3728 X 3104)
  • 5” Bright Touchscreen Display
  • Blackmagic RAW and ProRes 422 recording
  • Dual Gain ISO – Native ISOs at 400 and 3200 (maximum ISO of 25,600)
  • Multiple card options – Cfast Cards, SD UHD-II, and SSD Drive via USB-C cable
  • Streamlined menu system
  • No In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) – but Canon lenses have optical stabilization
 

Blackmagic Cameras:

Underwater Housing Options:

Underwater Packages:

 


Canon 1DX Mark III

Read our Full Review of the Canon 1DX Mark III

Underwater video is really where the Canon 1DX Mark III is going to shine.  As Canon's best DSLR camera for video, it's going to be a serious contender for professional videographers who are in the market for high-end video cameras and even cinema cameras. With RAW recording capability combined with 5.5K @ 60 fps resolution, there are few cameras on the market as capable for taking detailed video that can be manipulated freely in post processing. True RAW recording is always going to be better than using Log profiles, like C-Log - which is also available with the camera. The footage can be captured using the full width of the sensor, which means maximum details, no crop, and downsampled 4K video is going to look pretty tasty. Overall, underwater videographers are going to be pleased to finally have a Canon camera that doesn't compromise. There are no crops, all the frame rates you could want are there, and there are very few caveats.

Key Features:

  • 20.1 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC X processor
  • ISO Range - 100-102,400
  • Burst shooting: 16fps viewfinder, 20 fps live view
  • 191 (155 cross-type) AF points
  • JPEG, HEIF, and RAW image formats
  • Dual CFexpress card slots
  • Video: 5.5K @ 60fps with RAW recording, 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @ 120 fps. Capable of 10-bit 4:2:2 recording with Canon Log profiles
  • 3.2" 2.1 million dots LCD
  • 1000+ RAW image buffer

Canon 1DX Mark III Underwater Housing Options:

 

Canon EOS R6

Read our Full Review of the Canon EOS R6 Camera

The Canon EOS R6 is Canon's newest prosumer level full-frame mirrorless camera released alongside the EOS R5. The only real difference from the R5 is a drop in resolution for both photo and video and a drop in retail price of $1400 - which is why we are naming it the "best value" camera this year. In fact, we think it's the perfect camera for anyone thinking about getting into full-frame photography. The R6 features a 20.1 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and is capable of 4K video at 60 fps using 94% of the sensor width. The R6 has been updated with new features like in-body image-stabilization, animal eye autofocus, 100% AF coverage, and 12 fps/20 fps electronic burst shooting. Due to these impressive specs, the R6 is a top camera for underwater photographers and videographers and a top focus for underwater housing manufacturers. It's a great camera with excellent image quality, fast autofocus, and compatability with both RF and EF lenses (when using an EF-R adapter). 

Key Features:

  • 20.1 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
  • ISO 100-102400
  • 100% of the sensor has AF coverage!
  • Animal eye AF detection (for birds, cats, and dogs) - we'll see if it works for fish!
  • 12fps burst shooting with mechanical shutter
  • 20 fps burst shooting with silent (electronic shutter)
  • Dual card slots - 2x SD UHS-II
  • Internal C-Log recording
  • 4K video up to 60 fps, 10-bit 4:2:2 (16:9, 1.07X crop)
  • 3.69 million dot EVF

Underwater Housing Options:

Sample Underwater Image and Video:

underwater anemone photographed with the Canon EOS R6 in an Ikelite housing

This image shows the beautiful image quality and dynamic range that the R6 is capable of capturing. This anemone was photographed with the Canon EOS R6 and Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens in an Ikelite EOS R6 housing. The image was slightly underexposed and adjusted in post processing. This image shows the quality of the details recovered. f/13, 1/60, ISO 320

 

 


Panasonic S1H

Read our Full Review of the Panasonic S1H

Key Features:

  • 24.2 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • Venus Engine
  • 5 Axis Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization
  • Depth-From-Defocus Autofocus
  • 4k & 6K Photo
  • Optimized for Video Applications
  • Dual Native ISO 
  • Simultaneous internal recording and external recording via HDMI
  • Bluetooth & Wifi
  • Weather sealed - splash, dust, and freezeproof 
  • 5.76m-dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.2" 2.33m-dot touchscreen LCD 
  • Dual SD Card Slot

Key Features:

 


Nikon Z7 II

Read our Full Nikon Z6 II, Z7 II Camera Review

Yes, we created a special category for Nikon. The reason for this is because Nikon cameras have been lagging behind Canon and Sony cameras in technological innovation over the past three years. Therefor, it was difficult to place any new cameras from Nikon on this list. However, there are a lot of avid Nikon DSLR shooters out there, and we think it's time for Nikon underwater shooters to make the switch to mirrorless. The recent Nikon Z7II camera release has answered many initial concerns that Nikon DSLR shooters had with dual card slots, longer battery life, and better autofocus. Video shooters will be even more pleased with 4K/60p recording capability for more stable video underwater. As a camera goes, the Nikon Z7II is by any measure a professional camera. And it's important to consider that Nikon lenses are some of the best for underwater photography on the market. But the Z7II just doesn't quite measure up to the Canon EOS R5 or Sony A7R IV, especially when it comes to autofocus.

 

Key Features:

  • 45.7 megapixel full-frame BSI CMOS sensor (no lowpass filter)
  • ISO 64 - 25,600
  • 5 axis in-body image-stabilization (IBIS)
  • dual Expeed 6 processors
  • 3.6 million dot EVF
  • 1/200s flash sync speed
  • Dual XQD and UHS-II (SD) card slots
  • 10 fps burst shooting
  • 77 image buffer @ 12-bit lossless RAW files
  • 493 point phase detect hybrid autofocus system
  • -3 EV low light AF sensitivity
  • 4K video recording up to 60 fps
  • 10 bit 4:2:2 recording with N-Log over HDMI output
  • 360 shot battery life
  • Weight: 615 grams
  • Size: 5.3 X 4 X 2.8 inches

Underwater Housing Options:

Sample Underwater Image:

 

whale shark photographed with Nikon Z7II

Whale shark photographed with the Nikon Z7II and the Nikon 8-15mm wide angle lens. 1/125, f/13, ISO 640

 


Sony A6600 & A6400

The Sony A6600 and A6400 are Sony’s top-of-the-line cropped sensor mirrorless cameras. They feature a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and records UHD 4K up to 30fps. The Sony A6600 offers many of the same pro-level features characteristic of Sony’s a7 series cameras, such as 5-axis image stabilization and S-Log picture profiles. The Sony A6400 offers the capability of shooting with hybrid log gamma, and an improved color science from its predecessors

Despite having a cropped sensor the A6600 and A6400 boat a highly reliable focusing system made up of 425 phase detection points. Not only that but they are two of the lightest and most compact cameras on the list despite having a fairly competitive sensor pixel count. If you are an aspiring or professional video shooter, the Sony A6500 and A6400 prove to be a great option for underwater video.

The 4K video details with both cameras are amazing because they have a full pixel readout, meaning they capture video in 6K and downsample to 4K, adding additional details.

For video, the biggest differences between the Sony A6400 and Sony A6600 are that the A6500 has in-body image-stabilization (IBIS). This is essential for getting nice, stable video, but the A6400 has had improvements has well including hybrid log gamma and an improved color science.

Key Features:

 

Sony A6600 Camera:

  • 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • 0.02 second autofocus acquisition – contrast-phase detect hybrid AF system
  • 425 phase detection AF points and 425 contrast detect AF points
  • Real-time autofocus tracking, including Real-time AF 
  • Animal Eye AF
  • Native ISO range of 100-32000
  • 1/160 sec sync speed with flash
  • 810 shot battery life with the new NP-FZ100 battery
  • 1.0 cm electronic viewfinder (limited underwater application)
  • 4K @30fps video, 1080p @ 60fps
  • HDR picture profiles for video
  • 5 axis in-body image-stabilization
  • Supports E-Mount lenses

Sony A6400 Camera:

  • 24.2 Megapixel APS-C type Exmore CMOS sensor for outstanding light sensitivity.
  • 425-Point Phase-detection Fast Autofocus with Real-Time Tracking AF A.I. Technology
  • 4 Focus modes with 6 focal area settings
  • 4-speed Sequential Shooting.  Hi+ – 11fps; Hi – 8 fps Mid 6 fps; Lo: 3fps.
  • 4K Cinema Video at 30/25/24 fps
  • 1/160th Shutter Sync for flash
  • Lightweight and Weatherproof Body
  • Lens mount: Sony E-mount
  • 3" 180-degree flip touchscreen / 921,000 dots
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth Connectivity

 

 

Sony A6400 Underwater Housings & Packages:

Sony A6600 Underwater Housings & Packages:

 


Panasonic GH5S

Panasonic released the GH5s in early 2018 as an upgraded, video-centric version of the GH5. For the Lumix GH5s, Panasonic opted to ditch the 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds sensor that the Lumix GH5 uses, replacing it with a 10.2MP multi-aspect sensor. This makes it possible to shoot in 4K DCI (17:9), UltraHD (16:9), and Anamorphic 4:3 aspect ratios.

While the GH5 was the first mirrorless camera to record 4K 60p, the GH5s takes it one step further and can record 4k 60p in Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) -- a version of 4K recording that maximized resolution. The GH5s is also capable of internal 4:2:2 10-bit recording, which delivers even stronger than the color reproduction. It can also shoot HD at 240fps, and you can use a Vlog-L color profile for great dynamic range.

The Panasonic Lumix GH5s has been the go-to mirrorless camera for video use over the last two years and even with the advent of newer full frame mirrorless cameras (as listed above) the GH5s still holds its own as a professional video system. There are various underwater housings available for the GH5s and with Nauticam’s newest version of the NA-GH5 you have the option of including an M28 bulkhead for use with HDMI 2.0 and the Atomos Ninja V recorder.

The GH5s is popular for underwater video because the camera is at a great price point, the body is relatively small, there is a multitude of micro-four thirds lenses available for any lens requirements, the video bitrate is quite high, and camera supports many video features that other micro-four thirds cameras do not support. It crushes all other micro-four thirds cameras at high ISOs with respect to noise.

The downside to the GH5s? Besides being only 10 megapixesl for stills, it does not have image stabilization as the GH5 does.

Key Features:

  • 20MP Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filter
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization system with Dual IS 2 support
  • 225-area Advanced Depth-From-Defocus AF system
  • 4K and 6K Photo
  • 9 fps shooting with continuous autofocus
  • 4K footage taken using full width of the sensor

Underwater Housings Options:

 

 


Panasonic Lumix LX10

The Panasonic Lumix LX10 is arguably the best compact, point and shoot camera for underwater video on the market. It uses a whopping 20MP sensor and shoots beautiful 4K video that you could expect from a high-end mirrorless camera. The footage is sharp and detailed due to the high megapixel count for such a compact camera. The f-stop ranges offered by the built in 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) lens allow for beautiful bokeh as well.

Panasonic is well established brand in the video realm and their reputation definitely precedes this product. They included a fast working DFD feature that calculated the focus distance to help prevent your video from being blurry or out of focus. If you want a simple, compact camera that will render high-quality underwater video, the Panasonic Lumix LX10 is a great camera for you.

Key Features:

  • 10.2MP high-sensitivity MOS sensor with multi-aspect
  • Dual native ISO with a range from 160 – 51,200 and extendable to 80 – 204,800.
  • 4K DCI or UHD video recording, up to 60p
  • V-Log L Gamma and HDR Hybrid Log Gamma
  • Impressive low-light performance 
  • High speed focusing and 14-bit RAW Burst
  • Slow Motion Video - C4K/4K (60-fps maximum 2.5x slower*) or Full HD (240-fps maximum 10x slower)
  • 225-area Advanced Depth-From-Defocus AF system
  • 12 fps with single-shot autofocus or up to 8 fps with continuous autofocus
  • Advanced DFD autofocus
  • Dual UHS II card slots (V60 ready)
  • 3.2" RGBW free-angle touchscreen LCD 
  • 3,680k-dot, OLED viewfinder
  • Splash, dust, freeze proof design
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth

Underwater Housings Options:

 


Canon EOS C300 Mark III

Key Features:

  • 9.6 Megapixel Super 35 Dual Gain Output (DGO) Sensor, DIGIC DV 7 Processor
  • 4K 120fps, 2K 180fps
  • Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus
  • 16 Stops of Dynamic Range
  • Internal  Canon RAW Light (12-bit or 10-bit) and XF-AVC (10-bit) Recording
  • Canon Log 2 and Log 3 Gamma
  • 2x CFexpress Type B Card Slots
  • 5-axis Electronic Image Stabilization
  • 1x BNC (12G-SDI) Output

Underwater Housing Options:

 


GoPro Hero9 Black

GoPro Hero9 Black

 

Key Features:

  • Ergonomic - Easy to operate
  • Front & Back Touchscreen Display
  • Expandable Mods System
  • 5k video at 30 FPS - great for slow motion playback
  • Hypersmooth 3.0 Stabilization
  • Horizon Leveling
  • Removable battery - 1720mAH lithium-ion
  • WiFi capabilities
  • Low price point for camera and housing - $450
  • Water resistant to 30 feet without housing; with housing (only $50) - rated to 196 feet

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Google Pixel 5

 

Underwater Housing Options: