The Underwater Camera To Bring on Your Next Beach Vacay
The modern traveler is used to taking most, if not all, his vacation photos on his iPhone. But if there's one situation in which a smartphone just won't do, it's underwater photography. To get crystal-clear shots of marine life, shipwrecks, or to capture your most impressive surf tricks, you'll need to invest in a waterproof camera. Fortunately for you, we've tested a number of options to see which ones survive submersion, drops, and even frigid temperatures, and STILL get you that perfect sunset shot. Read the full list of winners below.
The Cinematographer: Gopro HERO5 Black
If you want top of the line, professional-grade video in your pocket, GoPro’s newest flagship is the way to go. Recording in 4k at 30 frames per second for stunning video, 1080p at 120fps for great slow-motion, the Hero5 Black will capture a whole range of underwater experiences. And the new features are plentiful: one-button on/record switch, waterproof (to 30 feet) without a case, a bright touchscreen monitor — heck, this one even has voice control. The Hero5 Black doesn’t come cheap, but it’s safe to say you get your money’s worth.
The Scuba Diver: Intova DUB
While most of these cameras can handle submersion, this is the only that that you can take down to 200 feet. DUB still offers 1080p video at 30fps, 8 megapixel stills, and a 1.5-inch LCD screen for viewfinding and playback, AND you can find it for a fraction of what the Hero5 Black will cost you. Even better? The waterproof case (included) floats, so if you won’t have to make a desperate dive for your DUB if you accidentally kick it off your paddleboard.
The Compact Camera: Sony Cybershot
Don’t mistake its slim profile as a sign of fragility: we literally (accidentally) drop-kicked the DSC-TX20 camera down a steep, muddy trail on a rainy day, and it survived without a scratch. The crystal clear 16 megapixel images and high-def 1080p video look great, but they’re almost standard features at this point; we were more impressed by the slider cover, which keeps the lens scratch-free while bouncing around in your backpack, and also acts as an on/off switch, so you can snap it open when opportunity knocks.
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The All-Arounder: Panasonic DMC-TS6D Lumix
For the most part, a point-and-shoot camera is going to provide better still images than video. Not in the case of the Lumix, which measures up in both departments. Videos shot at 1080p and 60 frames per second gave us super-smooth footage, and the colors in our photographs were super vibrant, too. Red reduction provides natural lighting for underwater shots, and the resilient body survived some rigorous drop tests. Bonus: The camera connects to your phone, allowing you use it as a remote to adjust zoom, tweak the focus, and shoot.
For the Technophobe: Canon Powershot D30
It’s the best camera for the person who just wants to point and shoot without having to crack open the user manual. Its AUTO setting is the smartest that we’ve experienced, recognizing a predesigned shooting situations and picking the best setting for your shot, so you can truly point and shoot and trust you’re going to get a good shot. The 12-megapixel sensor captures great images, and it’s also one of the more depth-resistant cameras on this list with the ability to go down to 82 feet.
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The Social Media Whiz: Nikon Coolpix AW130
Our favorite feature on the AW130? The seamless instant upload via Wi-Fi that let us share our photos moments after taking them. Underneath that nerdy feature hides a jock-like toughness: the camera can go as deep as 90 feet, and the durable body survived rigorous testing, including falling off the back of a moving truck. A 16 megapixel sensor captures great images, and the optical image stabilization keeps blurring to a minimum, even at full zoom. Bonus: Snag the Nikon chest harness so you can strap the Coolpix to your chest and get some first-person footage.
The Bruiser: Olympus TG-4
If you hear the phrase “This is why we don’t have nice things” on a regular basis, the Olympus TG-4 is your best bet. Crushproof to 220lb and drop-proof to 7 feet, this tough-as-nails option also has a double-locking door that keeps your battery and memory card from flying out when (not if) you drop it down the stairs. The 16mp sensor partners with adventure-friendly features like multiple underwater and action shooting modes, multiple lens add-ons (for higher zoom and fisheye lenses), and a compass (a compass!) to make sure you get that shot when you’re out in the wild.
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