If you're looking for a camera that isn't only splash proof and waterproof, but also fully submergible as an underwater camera, you have many products from which to choose. As with their non-submergible counterparts, underwater cameras also come in varying levels of quality, functionality, and price.
While some people may think that waterproof and underwater cameras have to be expensive, that is not necessarily the case. There are many point-and-shoots that come with some level of underwater protection, many of which are easy enough to use even for beginners. The following cameras sell for less than $300.
- Fujifilm Quick Snap: By far the least expensive way to get a waterproof camera is to choose a disposable film camera like the Fujifilm Quick Snap. It is not digital, so the 27-exposure film will need to be processed and printed, but this single use camera is waterproof to a depth of 17 feet and typically retails for less than $10. An Amazon review notes that unlike some other cameras, this one is able to withstand the pressure even at greater depths, ensuring that it is always possible to wind the film. It's a "great little camera."
- Olympus Tough TG-820: One of the more affordable cameras from the Tough line at Olympus, the TG-820 thrives in less than ideal conditions. It is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, crush proof to 220 pounds and freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The 10MP camera also comes with 10x Super-Resolution Zoom, enhanced Intelligent Auto mode, and a powerful DSLR-quality image processor. Selling for around $250, the TG-820 is listed by ePHOTOzine as the overall best waterproof tough camera of 2013. They call it an "ideal camera for those who like to take pictures in extreme conditions."
More Expensive Underwater Cameras
With a bigger budget, many more waterproof and underwater cameras become available.
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5D: The DMC-TS5D typically retails around $300. This tough camera features a bold rugged design, 16.1MP sensor, 9.3x intelligent zoom, power optical image stabilization, 3-inch LCD, 720p HD video, NFC and Wi-Fi support, and several sensors including GPS, compass, altimeter and barometer. It is waterproof to 43 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and crush proof to 100kg of force. Taking "the best photos and video in the widest range of conditions with the least amount of work," the Lumix TS5 earned the distinction of being called the "best all-around waterproof camera" by The Wirecutter.
- Olympus Stylus TG-2: Featuring an ultra-bright f/2.0 lens that is great for low light conditions, the 12MP Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS digital camera is also a part of the "Tough" series from Olympus. It features many sensors, like GPS and a manometer (pressure gauge), and is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to 6.9 feet, crush proof to 220 pounds, freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dust proof. The lens is water-repellant as well, allowing for better pictures under wet conditions. Retailing for around $360, the TG-2 earned an editors' choice award from PCMag with an overall score of 4.5/5. It offers great high ISO performance and a macro LED light.
- Nikon 1 AW1: Featuring an interchangeable lens system, the Nikon 1 AW1 is compatible with all the lenses from the Nikon 1 series and sells for around $800 with a single kit lens. This provides a great deal of flexibility and control compared to compacts and fixed-lens systems. If the accompanying lens is also waterproof, then the 14-megapixel AW1 can be submerged up to 49 feet without the need for a bulky protective housing. It is also shockproof to 6.6 feet and freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. With great image quality and general performance, as well as the versatility of an interchangeable lens system, the Nikon 1 AW1 is rated as one of the best waterproof cameras by DP Review.
Varying Levels of Waterproof Protection
It is important to note that while digital SLRs may be weather-sealed and resistant to the elements, they are typically not waterproof and should not be submerged underwater. However, it is possible to buy dive housing for DSLRs as an alternative to a fully submersible camera. Always make sure that your camera and any accessories you use with it are completely submersible before taking them into the water at any depth.