The 7 Best Waterproof Cameras of 2020

Find the best cameras to bring on your underwater adventures

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The Rundown
"A waterproof camera should not only be able to work in the ocean, but should also be able to withstand extreme conditions."
"The extra-large grip makes it easy to hold on to, even in the middle of the action."
"You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a solid all-weather camera."
Best Interchangeable Lens:
Nikon 1 AW1 at Amazon
"This is one sturdy, robust, multi-purpose camera."
"If it’s design you’re after, but don’t want to skimp on specs, the AW130 is your best bet."
"This budget-friendly model is designed to withstand the elements."
Best Action Cam:
GoPro HERO7 Black at Amazon
"GoPro is one of the top brands in adventure photography, and the HERO7 Black delivers."

If you’re heading on a beach vacation, you’ll want a waterproof camera to capture all of the action as you snorkel, swim, or jump into the pool. Or, perhaps you just need a rugged camera that can withstand rain and dirt. Cameras can be expensive investments, with water being a surefire way to ruin one. Instead, look for a waterproof camera that’s submersible, tough, and shock-proof. 

With the right underwater camera, you can take gorgeous, clear photos and videos even from deep depths. If you’re in the market for a new underwater camera before your next trip, there’s plenty to consider—image and video resolution, storage space, waterproof ratings, lens compatibility, and wireless capability for transferring photos. Divers may have different needs as well, as you’ll want to make sure your camera is waterproof to the depth of your dive and can adjust color discolorations found in underwater photography. 

Whether you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful that the kids can use on the beach or you want a more serious camera with adjustable lenses and manual controls, here are the best waterproof cameras from brands such as Nikon, Olympus, and GoPro.

Best Overall: Olympus Tough TG-6

What We Like
  • Extremely durable and rugged

  • Plenty of shooting options, including five underwater and several macro

  • 4K video

  • GPS built-in

What We Don't Like
  • No manual mode

  • Doesn’t have a touch screen

A waterproof camera should not only be able to work in the ocean, but should also be able to withstand extreme conditions. For a fantastic all-rounder, you can’t beat the Olympus Tough TG-6. It’s waterproof to 50 feet, but it’s also dustproof, freezeproof, it can withstand dust, and it’s strong and durable. Photographers have access to a rugged little machine, featuring an F2.0 lens, 8x zoom, 4K Ultra HD, and a back-illuminated CMOS image sensor. While there’s no manual mode, there are plenty of shooting options, especially for underwater photography and macro. White balance mode gives you clear and accurate color when you’re diving or snorkeling, and the four macro modes capture all the details up-close.

The Tough TG-6 also includes GPS or compass tracking, so you can link locations to photos and videos—a useful feature when categorizing and editing your work. It’s also compatible with plenty of Olympus accessories and lenses. If you’re looking for a camera that’s built tough and delivers beautiful images, the Tough TG-6 is a winner. 

You may want to find out everything you need to know about troubleshooting underwater cameras before picking a camera for diving.

“Olympus is known for their user-friendly cameras, and the Tough TG-6 is one that can withstand anything the user can throw at it.”Katie Dundas, Freelance Tech Writer

Best Mid-Range: Nikon Coolpix W300

What We Like
  • Great 16MP lens

  • 4K Ultra HD video

  • Anti-reflected LCD display

What We Don't Like
  • Occasional rattling

For a mid-range digital camera, the Nikon Coolpix W300 performs like a heavyweight, with excellent performance both underwater and on land. Featuring water resistance up to 100 feet below the surface, the dust- and freezeproof W300 can also withstand a fall from heights up to 7.9 feet in the air. The generous waterproofing depth makes it a top choice for scuba divers, who will appreciate the 16MP lens.

It’s also a good choice for anyone looking to film or take photos during extreme sports, like biking, as you can capture all the action in 4K Ultra HD video. You also have a 5x zoom and LCD screen with anti-reflective coating. While it’s a high-performing camera, note that it does struggle a bit in low light. 

From a user perspective, comfortable grips and intuitive button placement make it easy to shoot underwater or on the go. A built-in GPS, eCompass, and altimeter add to this camera's more adventurous features, and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities let you upload photos to another device. The Coolpix range is known for its photo quality and ease of use, and the W300 lives up to this reputation.

Holiday Deal

Best Budget: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30

What We Like
  • Excellent price point

  • Freeze, dust, and shock proof

  • Advanced Underwater Mode creates more natural image reproduction

What We Don't Like
  • Only 720p video

  • Don’t expect photo quality you’d find from more expensive cameras

A rugged waterproof camera doesn’t need to cost the earth. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 is affordable, making it a great camera for your beach vacation or to let the kids use. It’s only waterproof up to 26 feet, but that’s more than enough for most swimmers and snorkelers. This small, compact travel is easy to travel with and is also waterproof down to 26 feet, freeze-proof down to 14°F, and shockproof up to 4.9 feet. 

While you shouldn’t expect the same photo resolution as you’d find in a more premium product, you do still have an impressive 16MP sensor, along with image stabilization, panorama mode, time-lapse shooting, and a 220MB built-in memory for in case your SD card fills up. We also like the Advanced Underwater Mode, which automatically compensates for red tones that tend to get lost when shooting underwater, creating more natural underwater photos. The DMC-TS30 also includes fun filters in Creative Control mode, letting you alter the color and look of your photos. For any entry-level camera or anyone wanting to take decent underwater photos on a budget, there’s plenty to like about the DMC-TS30, available in black, red, or blue. 

For more options on the lower end of the price spectrum, check out our picks for the best cameras for under $250.

Best Interchangeable Lens: Nikon 1 AW1

What We Like
  • Great swappable lens options

  • Tough, rugged design is waterproof up to 49 feet

  • Fast continuous shooting at 15fps

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly pricey

  • Rear controls can take some time to learn

Traditionally, you could only take your DSLR or mirrorless underwater with an expensive and bulky underwater housing case. However, the Nikon 1 AW1 has changed the game, claiming to be the first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera. It’s an impressive mirrorless camera that’s waterproof to 49 feet, freeze-proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and shockproof up to 6.6 feet. The AW1 is compatible with all Nikon 1 lenses, although only two in the line are waterproof and shockproof (an 11-27.5mm lens is included in your kit). The camera also includes a 1-inch 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-speed continuous shooting at 15fps, and full 1080p HD video recording.

The AW1 provides seriously impressive images, even in low light. If you’re after action shots, such as surfers or dolphins, you’ll appreciate the fast shooting rates—60 fps on fixed focus or 15 fps on full autofocus mode. While Nikon’s waterproof entry has plenty to offer, especially for pros or those looking to improve their craft, note that it’s not cheap. Make sure you’ll make plenty of use out of a camera with interchangeable lenses before investing.

Best Design: Nikon Coolpix AW130

What We Like
  • Looks great

  • Rubber grip with NFC tag

  • Onboard GPS

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly noisy

The Nikon Coolpix AW130 is a colorful, compact underwater camera, giving you all the design features you’d want when shooting in the water. The bright red exterior makes it easy to find if dropped on the bottom of the pool and comfortable rubber grips on each side make drops less likely. It’s rugged too— the AW130 is freezeproof up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, shockproof for drops up to seven feet, and waterproof up to an impressive 100 feet, more than most of its competitors. 

The interior has a lot to offer as well, including a 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor behind a 5x zoom 4.3-21.5mm (24-120mm full-frame equivalent) f/2.8-4.9 lens. Like most underwater cameras, it performs best in bright light. The smaller sensor means more noise than most interchangeable lens cameras will produce, but most adventure-seekers won’t find it to be a deal-breaker. We also like that GPS is included in the AW130, which lets you track the location where each photo was taken. After you’re doing shooting, connect via the device's Wi-Fi to upload your favorites to your smartphone or another device. 

If design is a big factor to you in a camera, check out our roundup of the best ultra-thin cameras.

Best Budget All-Weather: Fujifilm FinePix XP140

What We Like
  • Bright, fun camera with plenty of shooting modes

  • 16.4MP CMOS Sensor and 4K video

  • Great value

What We Don't Like
  • Images tend to lose focus in low light

  • Poor microphone quality

Looking for an affordable camera that can perform even in water or snow? If so, there’s plenty to like about the Fujifilm FinePix XP140. This budget-friendly model is designed to withstand the elements—it’s waterproof up to a generous 82 feet, plus its shock, dust, and free-proof. You’ve also got an ergonomically-friendly design, making it easier to hold on while you’re in the water.

Images of clear, especially in bright light, thanks to an ISO range of 100-12800. A 5x optical zoom lets you capture all the detail, plus ‘Smile Shutter’ mode lets you take pictures automatically. Plus, the addition of Bluetooth lets you instantly transfer images to your phone and it also attaches both the time and your location. The XP140 is probably best for photos, rather than videos since users report the microphone quality isn’t the best. However, for the price point, this shouldn’t be a deterrent. 

Still haven't found what you need? Take a peek at our pickings for the best five-star cameras this year.

Best Action Cam: GoPro HERO7 Black

What We Like
  • Amazing image quality and 4K video

  • Voice controls let you shoot hands-free

  • Hypersmooth mode provides great stabilization

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Touchscreen occasionally freezes

If your idea of fun is scuba diving through shipwrecks, parasailing off cliffs, or ziplining down a mountain, then you need the GoPro HERO7 Black. GoPro is one of the top brands in adventure photography, and the HERO7 Black delivers, thanks to incredible image quality, 4K video, and voice control, which lets you record and film hands-free.

It’s a small, compact camera, offering 12MP photos, that will fit just about anywhere, and can be paired with plenty of accessories and housing, depending on your needs. The camera is waterproof to waterproof to 33 feet and rugged enough to withstand drops. Users also have plenty of creative choices, with the GoPro offering time-lapse video, slo-mo, live streaming, and the SuperPhoto feature, which gives you automatic enhancement on your images. You also have built-in HyperSmooth video stabilization, which works well to keep your video smooth, even if you don’t have a gimbal.

However, if you’re planning on using it all day, you’ll want to purchase multiple batteries, as the HERO7 chews through them quickly. Otherwise, it’s a great companion for travel, underwater use, or extreme sports.

“The HERO7 makes it easy to create amazing travel videos and vlogs, especially when you edit through GoPro’s free Quik editing software.” Katie Dundas, Freelance Tech Writer

Final Verdict

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is ideal not only for underwater shooting but for any outdoor photography, thanks to its dust and freeze-proof casing. With underwater and macro shooting modes, plus 4K video, you have all the tools you need to capture the action. If you’re after a slightly more affordable camera, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 is budget-friendly but still takes beautiful underwater shots. With the help of its Advanced Underwater Mode, your photos will be an accurate representation of what you saw.

How We Tested

While we haven't had a chance to perform any first-hand tests on our top picks for waterproof cameras, our experts are looking forward to putting them through their paces. Besides checking for things like resolution and color accuracy, they'll also be checking for durability. In addition to checking if the camera can handle its share of bumps and bruises, they'll also be testing the advertised depth and duration of water resistance to make sure it doesn't go belly up when it gets a little wet.  

About Our Trusted Experts

Katie Dundas is a freelance tech and travel writer with years of photography experience. She personally uses the GoPro HERO7 Black when shooting underwater.

Gabe Carey is an experienced tech journalist with more than seven years of experience covering the industry. He's an expert in cameras, photography gear, and accessories, and has written for a number of top tech sites.

What to Look for in a Waterproof Camera

Depth limit - Are you planning on taking some deep dives with this camera? Do you want a model specifically for underwater photography? If so, you’ll want to keep those things in mind when picking a camera — some of these models can work at greater depths than others.

Interchangeable lenses - Most cameras that have switchable lenses aren’t waterproof. But if photography is a serious hobby, you might want to look into one. After all, you often get better-quality photographs when you’re using a separate lens (instead of one built into the camera).

Durability - If you’re looking into a waterproof camera, chances are that your lifestyle is pretty active. That means that you’ll want to consider a camera’s cold and heat resistance as well as its shock resistance. If a camera is waterproof but can’t handle a drop or two, it might not suit your lifestyle.