Most digital cameras are not suited to be given a ‘rough’ treatment. You can’t smash them onto the ground or dip them into water. But if you’re an active person, you’ll probably have run into situations in which you’d wished your camera could take a little beating. Luckily, these rugged and waterproof digital cameras don’t mind being taken into extreme conditions.
You can take these cameras 10 feet underwater, into the freezing cold or even in a sand storm, they still will take beautiful pictures and videos. Read our guide to discover what model is the best waterproof camera suited to your needs.
We’ve made it easy for you. Instead of having to read this entire article, we’ve listed the five best waterproof cameras available in 2016 in the overview above, followed by a quick review of the top 3. Keep on reading after that if you want to know how we compared the cameras to determine this shortlist.
|Model||MegaPix||Opt. Zoom||Lens||Waterproof/ Shockproof||Price Range||Rating|
|Olympus TG-3||16.1 MP||4 x||25-100mm|
|50 Ft / 7 Ft||$$$||
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5||16.1 MP||4.6 x||28-128mm|
|43 Ft / 6.6 Ft||$$$||
|Canon PowerShot D30||12.1 MP||5 x||28-140mm|
|82 Ft / 6.5 Ft||$$||
|Nikon COOLPIX AW120||16 MP||5.8 x||24–140mm|
|59 Ft / 6.6 Ft||$$|
|Fujifilm FinePix XP200||16 MP||5 x||28-140mm|
|50 Ft / 6.6 Ft||$$|
Best Waterproof Camera 2016 / 2017 – A Closer Look at The Top 3
The Olympus Tough TG-3 is Olympus’s flagship waterproof camera. While it’s the most expensive camera in this overview, it’s also the most rugged and sturdy one. The TG3 is waterproof to a depth of 50 ft / 15m, shockproof to 7 ft / 2m and freezeproof to 15°F / -10 °C.
The TG-3 has excellent build quality and boasts extra good waterproof security on it’s opening compartments, such as a double lock on the battery door. It’s rugged design does make it a little larger than it’s main competitors
The Olympus TG-3 also has pretty great image quality. When used in wide-angle mode, the large aperture (up to F2.0) provides sharp images even in low light conditions. It also has a good functioning optical stabilisation. However, the quality of video is not the greatest on this camera.
For outdoor enthusiasts, it also has some nice extra touches, such as a compass, GPS and wifi. Last but not least, the TG-3 has excellent battery life.
UPDATE [FEB 2015]: While the TG-3 is still available for purchase, Olympus seem to have discontinued this model. They are introducing a new waterproof model in a slightly lower price range: the Olympus TG-860. This camera is very similar to the TG-3, but it’s lens is not as fast (f/3.5 vs f/2), making it less suitable for low-light situations. It does boast some extra features like a flip-out screen and an action camera button on the front-side.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 is an excellent and versatile waterproof camera with very good image quality for it’s class. It has a rugged body that is waterproof to 43 ft / 13 m, shockproof from heights of 6.6 ft / 2m and it can withstand temperatures down to 14°F / -10°C. It’s body is made entirely out of metal, so you immediately feel that it can take a beating.
While the integrated Leica lens could be faster (the maximum aperture is F3.3 opposed to F2.0 on the Olympus TG-3), the images taken by Lumix DMC-TS5 are of excellent quality. Pictures are sharp and exposed correctly most of the time. It also features some manual exposure control options for the more advanced user.
The Panasonic Lumix TS5 has some handy extra features such as GPS with compass, manometer, and landmarks, Wifi and NFC. Battery life is above average, provided that you turn down the power consuming GPS and WiFi functions when not in use.
The Canon Powershot D30 is an impressive waterproof camera that functions very well. it can reach the highest (so actually the lowest) maximum depth of 82 ft / 25m. Next to that it is shockproof to 6.5 ft / 2m and temperature resistant down to 14 °F / -10 °C. Being constructed partly out of rubber,the build quality is very good. However, the Olympus TG-3 and Panasonic DMC-TS5 feel slightly more solid in our opinion.
The image quality is especially good underwater, with a matching white balance. On land the image quality is on par, but doesn’t really stand out. It also doesn’t perform particularly well in low light. The Canon PowerShot D30 does have a very good autofocus performance and a longer zoom range than most cameras in this class.
This model is less equipped with extra features. GPS is present, but has limited functionality and it lacks WiFi. It does make up for this in extra battery life.
What to look for in a waterproof camera (and what we tested)
When you’re on the hunt for the best waterproof camera, these are some things you should keep an eye on:
Most important of all is the image quality. In the end, having a great quality photo or video is what you purchased the camera for. Important factors to determine the image quality are:
- Sensor type: the type of sensor determines how the light is captured and converted into a digital signal. The two most common sensor types are CMOS and CCD, in this camera range there’s not much difference between these types.
- Sensor size: basic rule of thumb: a larger sensor means that more light can be captured, resulting in a better image quality. The common size for these kinds of cameras is 1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm).
- Resolution (megapixels): The maximum size photos the camera can take. A larger resolution means more detail in your images, resulting in a better image quality. Keep in mind that a larger amount of megapixels also results in a large file size per photo.
- Optical zoom: How much you can enlarge your picture optically by zooming in.
- Digital zoom: Digital zoom can be ignored, if you zoom in digitally, your image quality decreases dramatically.
- Maximum ISO: The ISO setting determines how your camera performs in conditions with low light. A higher ISO number means you can take photos in darker environments. Using a high ISO number will result in grain / noise showing in your picture though, so it is recommended to always have enough light (use the flash).
- Shutter Speed: determines the time the sensor is ‘opened’ and thus how much light is captured into the sensor. A fast shutterspeed means less motion blur, so this is best suited for action shots. A slow shutterspeed lets more light into the sensor, so is suited for low light situations. When you use a slow shutterspeed, keep the camera as stabile as possible. It is recommended to use a tripod for the best results.
The main reason you buy this camera is that you want to take it into extreme conditions. The camera should be able to endure a lot. This is what to look for when deciding upon the ruggedness:
- Waterproof Depth: Determines how far you can take the camera underwater. Do you want to take the camera with you when you go scuba diving? Then make sure it can handle greater depths.
- Coldproof: Can the camera endure freezing cold? Important if you want to take the camera out into the snow.
- Shockproof: How does the camera handle shocks from falling onto the ground?
- Crushproof: How much weight can the camera handle on top of it?
Performance / Ease of use
How well does the camera operate? How easy is it to navigate through all it’s functions? How fast does it respond? If you’re underwater you don’t want your camera to be too difficult to operate. Controlling the best waterproof camera should be fairly straightforward.
- Controls / interface: How straightforward is the navigational structure?
- Button responsiveness: How do the buttons react, are they sturdy?
- Speed / Shutter lag: how much time is there between pressing the shutter button to capturing the image?
- Automatic shooting: All creative and manual shooting modes aside, does the camera offer a decent automatic shooting mode? After all, most people won’t bother to use any other mode when they’re underwater or other extreme conditions.
- Battery life: how much pictures can you take before you have to recharge the battery?
- Storage: What’s the size of the internal memory? What kind of external memory cards are compatible with the camera?
Digital cameras offer a whole range of features nowadays, but not every feature is evenly important. Here are some features that do matter when you’re looking for the best waterproof camera:
- Video functionality: When you’re underwater or in another exciting place, taking a still picture doesn’t always quite capture the feel of the moment. When you have video functionality you can also record movies. Also look at the resolution of the video, HD is preferred. Luckily, most cameras offer very decent quality nowadays. Take a look at some example clips:
- GPS: If you take your camera to cool places, you’ll want to remember where those places are. GPS will ensure that everytime you take a picture, the location of that picture is stored onto the camera.
- Timer: there’s no asking other people to make a picture of you when you’re underwater, so a self timer might be a good feature to have.
- Size / dimensions: Naturally, you don’t want the best waterproof camera to be too big to drag around, but you also don’t want to be fiddling around with a device that’s too small to operate.
- Weight: a waterproof camera shouldn’t be too heavy.
- Screen size: you’ll want a relatively big and bright screen that’s visible in different circumstances.
- Design: how does it look? Not the most important factor, but let’s be honest, we do want our camera to be a cool looking gadget.
- Floatation: A good thing to check: does the camera float? If you lose it underwater, you’ll of course have a better chance finding it on the surface.
Last but not least, we took pricing into account. We’ve compared all the mentioned features and specs of each camera to their average price, and selected the cameras that offer the best value for money.
We hope that this article will help you pick the best waterproof camera. Make sure to also check out the detailed reviews of the 6 best waterproof cameras we did.
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