Best Underwater Compact Camera in 2022

Best Underwater Compact Camera

What Makes The Best Compact Underwater Camera?

A compact camera is any camera that does not use interchangeable lenses and is roughly large enough to fit inside your pocket. Of course, when you place one in an underwater housing, the system might not be quite as compact. Underwater compact cameras tend to be easier to use than larger DSLR and mirrorless cameras. They are also smaller and more lightweight which makes them easier to travel with. Despite this, many modern compact cameras have excellent image quality that can often rival their professional cousins.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best underwater compact camera: size, weight, image resolution, underwater housing options, and the list goes on. It's also important to consider what you'll be using it for. Some are more video-oriented, some are waterproof to certain depths without the need for a housing, some are better for macro, and, of course, some are more expensive than others. In this guide, we discuss several different underwater compact cameras and rank them according to size, price, photo capability, video capability, and overall features. We'll also cover action cams and underwater smartphone housings as they are also affordable entries into the world of underwater photography. In fact, we think that smartphones just might be the future of underwater photography. Almost all of us already own a smartphone, so getting an underwater housing for your smartphone is often the easiest way to begin taking underwater photos and videos.

 

Improvements in Underwater Compact Cameras

You would be forgiven for thinking that an underwater compact camera can't get anywhere close to the results of a bigger, mirrorless setup and isn't worth the time of day even to consider one. And that might have been the case a few years back, but thankfully underwater compact camera technology has improved to the point where they're now seriously competing in the underwater camera market. While it's true that you don't get the same level of control as you would with an interchangeable lens camera and housing combination, and you have to put up with limitations in other areas such as sensor size and lens options, for keen enthusiasts compact cameras now provide a viable alternative. Some compact cameras have even been developed to perform particularly one in a specific genre of photography, like macro photography. 

The largest improvements to compact cameras we have seen in recent years includes the universal introduction of 4K video (and even 5.3K video in some circumstances), better ergonomics, improved burst shooting speeds, and quicker autofocus (including the introduction of functional autofocus tracking to some models). Read on to find out which compact underwater camera is right for you...


Jump To:

 

Best underwater compact camera

Easiest-to-Use 

Best Value

Best High-End

Best for Video

Best for Macro

Best underwater action camera

Best Action Camera

Easiest-to-Use

Best underwater smartphone housings


 

Best Underwater Compact Camera

Best Underwater Compact Cameras for Underwater Photography & Video

 

Easiest-to-Use Underwater Compact Camera

1/2.3” CMOS Sensor, 16 MP

Price: $599.00

 

Read the SeaLife Micro 3.0 Review

SeaLife Micro 3.0 features

If you want a run-and-gun setup that doesn't take any work to set up before you can use it, then the SeaLife Micro 3.0 Camera is for you. It's a simple, permanently sealed underwater compact camera that couldn't be easier to use. The kind of people this camera will appeal to are the everyday divers who want to capture their next underwater adventure but aren't necessarily interested in professional results. As it's permanently sealed, there is no need for any o-ring maintenance, and you don't have to worry about flooding. You can get more than three hours of use from the SeaLife Micro 3.0, making it excellent for a full day of diving!

The camera only has three wide 'piano key' style buttons on it, making it easy to use even when wearing thick gloves. The camera will even guide you when using it, helping you choose the correct settings depending on the depth you're at, lighting conditions and other environmental factors. If you're looking for an underwater compact camera that you won't have to spend too much time figuring out how to use, the SeaLife Micro 3.0 is your camera!
Key Features
  • 16 Megapixel Sony CMOS image sensor
  • Permanently sealed
  • 3+ hours battery life
  • Built-in 64GB memory card - there's no need to carry around an SD card!
  • Easy operation
  • "Easy Setup" feature
  • Capable of manual white balance and RAW format for post-processing
  • 100° Lens
SeaLife Micro 3.0 Packages

Check out other SeaLife Products & Accessories

 

Sample Image
School of Ta’ape Lanai,HI. SeaLife taken with SeaLife Micro 3.0
 
School of Ta’ape Lanai,HI. SeaLife taken with SeaLife Micro 3.0

 


 

Best Value Underwater Compact Camera

Canon G7X III

1” CMOS Sensor, 20 MP

Manual Control Available (unlike TG-6)

Price: $749.00

Read the Canon G7X Mark III Review

Canon G7XIII features

The Canon G7X III packs a secret gem in its compact body - a large 1-inch 20 MP sensor. The G7X III competes with the market-leading underwater compact cameras but retails for considerably less than its competitors. This camera's image quality is excellent; it has a dedicated macro mode, 4K video, slow motion video, quick bust mode, a larger buffer, and an upgraded processor to help it perform at the highest level. It even lets you shoot in full manual mode so you can control your triangle of exposure - ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. 

The Canon G7X III is our pick for the best value underwater compact camera thanks to the advanced features it packs and its reasonable price point. You can even shoot wide-angle and macro photography on the same dive thanks to its built-in functionality, something you can only typically do with wet lenses with other cameras. However, we still recommend dedicated wide angle and macro wet lenses for the best results with this camera.
 
If you are a wide angle photographer, you can get amazing wide-angle shots with the Canon G7X Mark III using the UWL-09F super-wide lens, the Kraken KRL-01Kraken KRL-12, or the Nauticam WWL-C wet wide-angle lens
 
This camera's macro capability is enhanced by the Bluewater +7 diopter that screws into the front of the housing; if you are just getting the hang of macro and super macro photography, it's a great starting point. If you want to take things a bit further, the Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) are really great macro options, but they can be a little more challenging to use. It might be easier to start with the Bluewater +7 for beginner macro shooters. But, if you're more experienced, consider the CMCs. 
Key Features
  • 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)
Canon G7X III Underwater Housing Options
Canon G7X III Packages

Sample Images
 
 
A nudibranch photographed with the Canon G7X Mark III in the Ikelite G7X III housing with dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes. f/11, 1/160, ISO 400
 
 
A close focus wide angle shot of a diver and zoanthid anemones with the Canon G7X Mark III in the Ikelite G7X III housing, Kraken KRL-01 wet lens, and dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes. f/7.1, 1/100, ISO 400

 


 

Best High-End Compact Camera

Sony RX100 VA and Sony RX100 VII

1” CMOS Sensor, 20 MP

Price: $998.00 & $1,299.99

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

The Sony RX100 VA is more versatile as it can do both wide angle and macro on the same dive. The Sony RX100 VII needs separate ports for wide angle and macro, but it excels in macro photography.

Best Underwater Camera

Sony RX100 Features

Sony RX100 VII Features

Sony RX100 VA Features

Sony RX100 VA Features

The Sony RX100 VA & Sony RX100 VII are excellent underwater compact cameras with a bunch of great features. RX100 series cameras are the market-leading compact cameras for a good reason. Thanks to their fast autofocus speeds, shooting fast-moving animals is a breeze with these two cameras. Both the Sony RX100 VA & Sony RX100 VII have full manual control, fast autofocus and excellent image quality. Where the RX100 VII excels is in its enhanced zoom lens - it features a 24-200 mm f/2.8 – 4.5 lens which is an incredible tool for macro and supermacro photography. The RX100 VA is a better camera for those photographers looking to shoot both wide angle and macro in the same dive. This is because the RX100 VII requires a separate wide angle and macro port due to its longer lens. Neither camera is cheap; they are among the most expensive underwater compact cameras on the market and the RX100 VII is the most expensive on this list. But, if it's within your budget, it's an excellent option with its fast autofocus tracking system, especially for video - which you can now record for an unlimited amount of time.

If wide-angle photography is your thing, you can get amazing wide-angle shots with the RX100 VA and VI using the UWL-09 super-wide lens, the Kraken KRL-01, Kraken KRL-12, or the Nauticam WWL-C wet wide-angle lens
 
But, it doesn't stop there!
 
You can also use both of these cameras for macro work using the Bluewater +7 that screws onto the front of your housing; if you are just getting the hang of macro and super macro photography, it's a great starting point. If you want to take things a bit further, the Nauticam Compact Macro Converters (CMC-1 & CMC-2) are really great macro options, but they can be a little more challenging to use. The impressive zoom capability of the Sony RX100 VI and VII means it might be easier to start with the Bluewater +7 for beginner macro shooters. But, if you're more experienced, consider the CMCs. 
 
We're including the Sony RX100 VA and the Sony RX100 VII as one entry as they are very similar cameras; which one you'll choose will really come down to whether you want to shoot more macro or wide-angle photography. 
 
 
RX100 VII Key Features
  • 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
RX100 VA Key Features
  • 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
 
 
Sony RX100 Mark VA and VII Underwater Housing Options

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

Nauticam Housings

Isotta Housings

Ikelite Housings

Fantasea Housings

Sea & Sea Housings

Sony RX100 V/VA Underwater Packages
Sony RX100 VII Underwater Packages
Best RX100 Series Wet Lenses

 

Sample Image
octopus photo taken with underwater camera
 
Day Octopus Sony RX100 VII f/6.3 1/250 ISO 10

 


 

Best Underwater Compact Camera for Video

Panasonic LX10

1” CMOS Sensor, 20 MP

Price: $699.99

underwater camera - compact - best video quality

Panasonic LX10 Features

The Panasonic LX10 is our top choice for a video-oriented underwater compact camera. It features 4K video recording that offers you stunning levels of detail.

Similar to the Canon G7X III, the Panasonic LX10 has a one-inch, 20 MP sensor that helps it achieve such great image quality. It uses a 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 lens fast enough to produce pleasing bokeh and makes it one of the best underwater compact cameras to use in low-light situations. It also has 5-axis image stabilization, can shoot a continuous burst of seven frames per second and has a focus stacking mode. 
Key Features
  • 20.1MP 1" CMOS Sensor
  • 5-Axis HYBRID Optical Stabilization 
  • 24-72mm Lens Equivalent
  • 4K Photo Mode
  • 4K Video @ 30p
  • Post Focus and Photo Stacking Modes
Panasonic LX10 Underwater Housing Options
Panasonic LX10 Packages

 


 

Best Underwater Compact Camera for Macro Underwater Photography

Olympus TG-5 or Olympus TG-6

1/2.3” CMOS Sensor, 12 MP

No Manual Mode

Price: $299.99 & $449.99

Olympus TG-6 Review

Best Beginner Underwater Cameras

Olympus TG5 and TG6 Features 

The Olympus TG-6 is equipped with a 12 MP sensor, capable of recording 4K video and RAW photos. You can also transfer photos via its built-in WiFi directly to your phone, so you can share them on social media before your hair is fully dry! Most importantly, this camera is waterproof without a housing down to 50 ft (15m), which makes it a good option for snorkelers. The biggest drawback of the Olympus TG-6 is that it doesn't allow you to shoot in full manual mode, although this shouldn't be a big problem for more casual photographers who don't want to have to worry about that. The Ikelite Olympus TG-6 underwater housing works well with this camera if you're going to take it deeper than 15 meters. Combined with the Ikelite TG-6 fluoro kit, it's brilliant for fluorescent photography. You can also combine it with an FCON-T02 fisheye lens and port for wide-angle fisheye shots. 

Pros - Compact size, excellent macro capability for still subjects using microscope mode, and support for beautiful wide-angle images when used with the FCON-T02Kraken KRL-02, KRL-11, or UWL-04 fisheye lens.
 
Cons - Lacks a full manual mode, so aperture priority mode will have to do.
Key Features
  • 12MP Hi-Speed image sensor for improved low-light performance and noise reduction
  • Dual Quad Core TruePic™ VIII image processor
  • 4K video
  • Field sensor system w/ GPS, manometer, compass & temperature sensor
  • Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, crushproof 
Olympus TG-6 Underwater Housing Options
Aluminum Housings
Olympus TG-6 Packages
Best TG-6 Wet Lens

 


 
Wolf Eel photographed with the TG-6

 


Best Action Camera

Best Action Camera

GoPro Hero 10

1/2” CMOS Sensor, 23 MP, 5.3K/30p

Price: $449.99

GoPro Hero 10

GoPro Hero 10 Features

We couldn't talk about compact cameras without mentioning GoPro. While the GoPro Hero10 Black is not technically classed as an underwater compact camera, many people use them as an affordable, easy way to capture underwater footage. In fact, many professional TV and movie studios have used them too! The GoPro HERO 10 is the latest model in the lineup and is everything we love about GoPros and more. It has improved image stabilization that is quite honestly the best out of any action camera currently on the market. A super-fast processor helps it shoot 5.3K video at 60p and 4K at 120p, which is impressive for such a small camera. Travelers who value weight and space savings will love the GoPro HERO 10. 

Key Features
  • GP2 processor 
  • 5.3K 60p + 4K 120p video resolution
  • 23-megapixel photos
  • HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization
  • Automatically upload footage to the cloud when charging
  • Waterproof to 33ft
Underwater Housing Options

 

Easiest-to-Use Action Camera

SeaLife RM-4K

CMOS Sensor, 14 MP, 4K/30p

Price: $349.00

SeaLife RM 4K Action Camera

Read the SeaLife RM 4K Review

 

Everything with the SeaLife RM-4K is quick and easy. In fact, it's probably the simplest underwater camera we've ever used. If you're looking for an action camera that's designed for underwater environments with a couple of different color correction modes and easy ergonomics, the RM-4K fits the bill. The ergonomics and large buttons make using the camera easy and intuitive even when wearing thick gloves. 

Key Features
  • 14 megapixel Panasonic CMOS image sensor
  • Captures 4K video @ 30fps
  • 1080p @ 60fps
  • Built-in color correction
  • Whopping 140° field of view with fisheye lens
  • Unique pressure lock thumb screw seal system
  • Integrated with Moisture Muncher
  • 4 button control system
  • Wifi
  • 2" LCD screen
  • JPG image capture (no RAW files)
SeaLife RM 4K Packages

Check out other SeaLife Products & Accessories

 

Sample Image
SeaLife RM-4K Sample Image
 
Beautiful Dynamic Range and Details in this Coldwater Reefscene captured with the RM-4K

 


Best underwater smartphone housings

Best Smartphone Housings For Underwater Photography

If you're looking for an underwater compact camera, you probably want something that's going to let you capture underwater photos and videos easily and without breaking the bank. You probably don't need professional-grade equiptment, which is why we've chosen to include underwater smartphone housings in the guide. There are some great options on the market today to suit all kinds of photography from surf and snorkel to scuba diving. 

 

Best Underwater Smartphone Housing

SeaLife SportDiver Smartphone Housing

Price: $349.00
 
SeaLife SportDiver
 
 
SeaLife Smartphone Housing Features
The SeaLife SportDiver Housing is one of the most versatile smartphone housings. It can be used with iPhone 7s and up and most Android models. The build quality is second to none, thanks to the polycarbonate, aluminum, stainless steel and high-quality optical-grade glass construction. To connect your phone, you'll need to use SeaLife's native app, which has been designed by the team at SeaLife to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible. The SeaLife Sport diver is perfect for traveling underwater photographers or people who want a reliable backup to their main rig.
SeaLife SportDiver Packages

 

Reefscene Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S20 in a SeaLife SportDiver Housing

 

 

Kraken Sports KRH06 Universal SmartPhone Housing

Price: $299.00
Kraken Sports KRH06 Universal Smartphone Housing
Kraken Smartphone Housing Features
Kraken is well-known for creating amazing products for the underwater photography market, and the Kraken Sports KRH06 Universal Smartphone Housing lives up to the name. It has a bunch of useful built-in features such as a vacuum pump and moisture sensor so that you know your phone is fully protected, and if the worst should happen and you spring a leak, you'll know about it instantly. You can also use wet lenses with the Kraken Sports KRH06, a big plus for people who want to be able to shoot wide-angle and macro on the same dive. 
 
 
Nautismart Sample Image
 
Wreck reefscape in Sri Lanka. Shot with iPhone 6s Plus in Kraken Smartphone housing and dual Kraken Hydra 5000 lights. Photo: Brent Durand

 


 

Best Smartphone Housing for Surf & Snorkel

 

AquaTech AxisGo 13 Smartphone Housing

Price: $219.00
AquaTech AxisGo13 Smartphone Housing
Aquatech AxisGo Smartphone Housing Features
The AquaTech AxisGo 13 is our top choice of smartphone housing for people who are into surf or snorkel photography. Depth rated to 10 meters, it's not suitable for deep diving, but its price point and its lightweight and compact design make it perfect for use at the surface or just below. The AxisGo 13 also makes a great addition to the kit bags of other water sports lovers such as windsurfers, kayakers, paddle boarders and more. AquaTech makes various versions of the AxisGo for the different iPhone models, which you can see below. 
Other AquaTech AxisGo Housing Options
AxisGo 13 Packages

 


 

Which underwater compact camera do you think is right for you?

We've covered the best underwater compact camera according to different categories in the guide, so hopefully you've found one that suits your needs. You don't need to spend a fortune to get into underwater photography, and this is a great place to get started. 
 
Understanding the differences between systems can be difficult when you first start out, so we're here to help. If you have any questions about underwater compact cameras, housings, lights, or anything else, please don't hesitate to reach out to our team of expert sales staff. We're all underwater photographers, and we are always happy to help. 

You can either get in touch via email at sales@bluewaterphotostore.com or call 310-633-5052 for a personalized 5-star service.