Water, sand, and grit can wreak havoc with ordinary cameras, so unless you have a waterproof case for your camera (more about that later), your best bet is to get a rugged, waterproof camera for underwater and the beach. This is especially true if you are around salt water.
The Top Waterproof Digital Camera
Far and away, the best current choice for a waterproof digital point and shoot camera is the Olympus Tough TG-6. For several years running the Olympus TG series has been the top rated, rugged, underwater and rough conditions camera. If you read the TG reviews below, you will see why. Year after year, in one review after another, the Olympus TG series is picked as the best, rugged waterproof camera. In the December 2019 issue of Outdoor Photographer the editors picked the TG-6 as the “Best New Compact Camera”.
It is waterproof to 50 feet, crushproof to 220 pounds, and shockproof (i.e. drop proof) to 7 feet, making it a very rugged camera.
It is also a camera system. In addition to a built in 4.5-18mm lens (25-100mm 35mm equivalent), by using adapters you can add a fish-eye lens, a tele-converter, and a 10X double element macro lens. There are two ring lite options that diffuse the light from the camera’s LED. The LG-1 Ring Lite is the preferred choice by many photographers but you might want to look at the FD-1 and read the reviews at Amazon (links below).
When it came out, DPReview gave the TG-4 a Gold Award (their highest). You can read the comprehensive TG-4 review here. I will add links to several TG-6 reviews below so you can read about the updated version. You can find the Olympus TG-6 camera and accessories at Amazon.com via links in the Underwater Cameras section of my photography store.
The 2nd Place Underwater Digital Camera
The SeaLife DC2000 is waterproof to 60 feet and has a 31mm equivalent single focal length lens. The image quality is very good and much better than the cameras in the next list. The primary disadvantage is the single focal length lens. It is also much more expensive than the TG-6.
Other Waterproof Cameras Worth Considering
The Nikon Coolpix W300 is waterproof to 100 feet and has a 24-120 equivalent zoom lens. Image quality is not as sharp as the Olympus and SeaLife cameras above.
The Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is waterproof to 82 feet with a 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens. Image quality is not as sharp as the Olympus and SeaLife cameras above.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-TS7 (FT7) is waterproof to 102 feet with a 28-128mm equivalent zoom lens. Image quality is not as sharp as the Olympus and SeaLife cameras above.
The Ricoh WG-6 is waterproof to 66 feet with a 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens. It is more rugged than the WG-60 below. Image quality is not as sharp as the Olympus and SeaLife cameras above.
The Ricoh WG-60 is waterproof to 46 feet with a 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens. Image quality is not as sharp as the Olympus and SeaLife cameras above.
Do not buy any of the above cameras before reading the reviews in this article at DPReview.
For more underwater camera options check out the Best Waterproof Camera Articles below.
GoPRO HERO Cameras
For a different kind of underwater option, look at GoPro HERO cameras. They are a favorite when it comes to a very small, underwater option and they are widely used by National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, and many other networks when they don’t want to haul, big heavy commercial video gear underwater. Unlike the other cameras above, GoPros come with a super wide angle lens. For more information read GoPro: Amazing, Small, Inexpensive, HD Video Cameras.
Camera Housings for Non-Waterproof Cameras
Ewa-Marine has been a top choice for reasonably priced, flexible camera housings for years. They come in all kinds of sizes for all kinds of cameras from small point and shoot cameras to large DSLRs, with or without a hot shoe mounted flash. Depending on the size of the camera, Ewa-Marine housings usually fall in the $150 – $450 range. You can buy some Ewa-Marine housings at Amazon but you should go to the Ewa-Marine site first to make sure you get the right model for your size camera.
The most expensive option for taking your non-waterproof camera underwater is a custom, camera model specific, hard shell housing. Prepare for sticker shock. For point and shoot cameras these run in the $500 – $1000 range and for DSLRs they run in the $1000 – $4000 range. Here are some point and shoot options and here are some DSLR options.
Olympus Tough Reviews
“Best New Compact Camera: Olympus Tough TG-6” – Outdoor Photographer, December 2019, print issue (not online as of the date of this article)
Olympus Tough TG-6 Overview – DPReview, “Best waterproof camera of 2019”
Olympus Tough TG-6 Review – Digital Camera World
Review: Olympus Tough TG-6 – Wired
Olympus Tough TG-6 – PC Mag
Olympus Tough TG-4 comprehensive review at DPReview.
Olympus TG-5 Review at Imaging Resource
Olympus TG-5 Review at Camera Labs
Olympus TG-5 Review at Digital Trends
Olympus TG-5 Review at PC Magazine
Best Waterproof Camera Articles
Best Waterproof Cameras of 2019 – DP Review
Best Waterproof Cameras for 2019 – PC Mag
Best Waterproof Camera 2019 – techradar
Best Waterproof Camera in 2019 – Digital Camera World
Top 10 Best Waterproof Tough Cameras 2017 – ePhotoZine
The Best Waterproof Digital Cameras of 2017 – PC Magazine
The 5 best waterproof cameras in 2017 – techradar
Best Waterproof and Rugged Cameras 2017 – Tom’s Guide
The 6 Best Waterproof Cameras to Buy in 2017 – Lifewire
Best Waterproof Cameras for 2017 – Gadget Review
The best waterproof camera you can buy – Digital Trends
Best waterproof camera – CameraLabs
Blue Water Photo for custom camera housings
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.