There has never been a better time in history for underwater photography. The technology is the best it has ever been and getting better every year. Underwater cameras, which used to run tens of thousands of dollars, can be purchased for quite cheap now. Also, the equipment is getting smaller and smaller with each new model.
You also have more options than ever before for sharing your photography. Platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter have made it easier than ever to get your photography out there. So, if you have a bit of experience as a scuba diver, it’s time to get with the program.
We’re going to examine what you should look for in an underwater camera. Afterward, we’ll go over some of the best underwater cameras on the market today.
Best Underwater Cameras
Should You Get An Underwater Camera?
We’re going to throw out a disclaimer before we get into this. If you are about to do your open water certification, or if you are just getting into diving, leave the camera at home. There are far too many more important things you should be focusing on than getting the right picture.
One of the biggest problems new divers have is that everyone goes and buys a new GoPro with a dive housing trying to photograph every part of their dives. Meanwhile, they bump into other divers and getting in the way of experienced underwater photographers. Or, worse yet, knocking into reefs due to poor buoyancy control and breaking coral.
Many coral varieties grow at a rate of around 0.3cm to 2cm per year. This damage done to coral can take decades all the way to thousands of years to fully repair. It isn’t worth the few extra likes you are going to get on social media. If you are a new diver, leave the camera at home and bring it out again when you
If you’ve got ten or so dives under your belt though, and you have good buoyancy control, it’s time to get the camera. Underwater photography is an amazing skill to have and can increase your enjoyment of scuba diving overall.
When you begin to get into underwater photography, it gives you a chance to learn more about the ocean in general. You start to learn about what you are taking photos of which can increase your enjoyment when you dive. Also, you begin to plan better for future dives as you learn what aquatic life and coral life there is on each dive. It gives you increased purpose when diving beyond seeing a bunch of pretty fish and coral.
As we stated above, we recommend at least ten to fifteen dives before you bring out the camera. This is generally enough for most divers to improve their buoyancy control. By this time, you will also have developed situational awareness of other divers. This is important when you get into underwater photography because the last thing you want is to cut in front of other divers taking photos.
Now you have a good idea of when you should begin with underwater photography. So, let’s take a look at what equipment you will need to get started.
What Equipment Do You Need To Get Started In Underwater Photography?
Let’s get this out of the way. Underwater photography is expensive when done correctly. Yes, as we said above, it is cheaper than it has ever been in the history of scuba diving. But, this doesn’t make it cheap.
There is a lot of equipment that you need to have to take good photographs. Some of this includes:
- Underwater Camera
- Dive Housing
- Lighting and Mounts
This is just the basics. You can certainly get more if you feel you need it. The sky really is the limit. Even if you want to go the cheap route and get a GoPro or other similarly priced “action camera”, you will still need much of the above equipment.
Though we are only looking at cameras for this article, let’s take a look at each piece of equipment to better understand how they relate to each other.
You obviously can’t take pictures without an underwater camera. That they take pictures is where the similarities between each camera end, though. There are a few options when it comes to the best underwater camera. You can choose from:
- Regular DSLR camera (using a dive housing)
- Action Camera (GoPro, Sony RX0, etc.)
- Specialty underwater cameras
Which one is best for you will ultimately depend on a few factors. First, you need to look at your budget. The sky’s the limit when it comes to underwater photography. It isn’t a cheap hobby and the old adage that you get what you pay for holds true when it comes to cameras. You should plan a minimum of between $200 and $600 for a basic action camera with all of the necessary equipment. Better quality is going to cost you more. Plan on between $1,500 and $3,500 as a good budget to work with. If you are looking to get professional and commercial quality photos, you can expect to spend between $5,000 to $10,000 and even more.
If you don’t have a large budget or if you don’t care as much about quality, an action camera will be your best bet. But, if you are looking to take high-quality photos and videos underwater and have some money to spend, you should opt for a DSLR with dive housing.
Remember when you are drawing up a budget that the camera is only one of the expenses. You are going to need accessories such as a dive housing, lights, dive filters, etc. These all add up and can even run just as much as the camera. Which brings us to our next point.
If you opt for a DSLR camera or an action camera, you are going to need a dive housing. This is a special shell made to protect the camera from water exposure as well as the water pressure from diving.
Dive housings are usually made from clear plastic with buttons sealed by O-rings. This helps to further protect the camera from exposure to water. They are not a one size fits all product so you will need to find buy a dive housing specific to your camera.
One word of advice is that you should budget for a dive housing when thinking about your camera. In many cases, dive housings can be almost as expensive as the camera. Especially, if the dive housing has been discontinued, you can expect it to be quite pricey.
For simple action cams like the GoPro, the dive housing won’t run you too much. But, for other more expensive cameras, you can expect that goes with it to also be expensive. You should also make sure you don’t go too cheap. The last thing you want is to get 20m (65ft) under just for your $1,200 camera to flood because you bought a cheap dive housing.
An example of how much dive housings can run is our Olympus Pen. A few years ago, we purchased the Olympus Pen for general travel photography. It was relatively cheap, lightweight, and took great photos for the price. When looking at dive housings for the camera, we found the cheapest housing was $800. The price of the dive housing ended up costing us just as much as the camera. We still had to purchase dive lights and were already almost to $2,000 because of the dive housing.
So, remember that this is going to cost you. Do yourself a favor and budget for it when you buy your camera. Don’t buy your camera and then go for a cheap housing. Plan everything together so you can get a realistic idea of what quality equipment is going to cost you. You will pay more upfront but less in the long term when you are able to use your camera for many years, instead of a few dives because it’s flooded.
Lighting and Mounts
Now that you’ve spent a few thousand dollars on a camera and a dive housing, you probably think you are ready to go.
You need to get the lighting right. Exactly like when you take photos above water. We are guessing you don’t want to spend a few thousand dollars just to take some mediocre photos. Even if you opt for an action camera and only spend a few hundred dollars, you want quality pictures.
One of the most important parts of taking quality underwater photos is proper lighting. A lack of proper lighting can lead to poor photos that lack color and can cause you to miss many of the details due to a lack of contrast.
There are dozens of different underwater light brands. Between all of these different brands, there are hundreds of options. Just like the cameras, you plan on using these lights with, the sky’s the limit when it comes to cost. So, you should easily be able to find lights that fit your budget. Just make sure to do your research so you can buy the right lights for your needs. If you plan on doing macro photography you will have different needs than if you are doing wide-angle shots of sharks and rays.
Also remember that after you have your lights, you need a way to attach them to the dive housing. There are a few different ways to do this and you will need to find the right setup for your housing and the lights you choose. But, this is going to be the least expensive part of getting your camera setup.
Read : Night Diving Tips
If you remember from your dive training, the deeper you go, the less color you can see. This is because the light is absorbed by the different particles in the water and can only penetrate to a certain depth. After, about 91m (300ft) there is no light.
This is one of the reasons having lights is so important. It will help you to reintroduce white light to the area and help you to get more natural-looking photos. But, this sometimes isn’t enough. You may still need to add color back in. This can be accomplished through the use of dive filters.
Different colors disappear at different levels.
- Red = Past 5m (16ft)
- Orange = Past 10m (32ft)
- Yellow = Past 20m (65ft)
- Green = Past 30m (98ft)
- Blue = Past 60m (196ft)
At each level, you will need a corresponding dive filter for your camera. These dive filters help to reintroduce the color which is lost. They attach to the front of the camera over the lens and often are made for specific dive housings. You can usually find dive filters for under a hundred dollars.
It is also possible to reintroduce color in post-editing. To do this, you will need experience working with photo and video editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. There are a few guides out there that can help you such as this video.
What Are The Best Cameras For Divers?
Best Action Cameras for Divers
- HyperSmooth Video Stabilization - Get gimbal-like stabilization—without the gimbal. HERO7 Black...
- Time Warp Video - Capture super stabilized time lapse videos while you move about a scene. Increase...
- Conveniently charges two HERO6 Black or HERO5 Black camera batteries simultaneously
- Charges via any USB port; for faster charging, use with GoPro Supercharger (International Dual- Port...
- Up to 160MB/s* read speeds to save time transferring high-res images and 4K UHD videos(2). Requires...
The GoPro Hero 7 is the newest in the GoPro family. It was released in late 2018 and is their most powerful camera to date. You can expect good quality photos and videos without having to shell out tons of money.
There are three models, the Hero 7 which are black, white, and gray. At the bottom in terms of features is the white, which we do not recommend. The top-level is the Hero 7 Black.
If you are going to spend the money on a Hero 7 then we recommend you get the black. Some features important for diving include advanced image stabilization and an interchangeable battery.
- Rugged, durable, and waterproof to 330 feet; HD video resolution to 1080P at 30fps and photo...
- 2.4G 2-way remote control lets users snap photos and start and stop video recording remotely
- LCD screen acts as both a viewfinder and playback monitor; rechargeable Li-ion battery with 3-hour...
- 140-degree, point-of-view wide-angle lens; 4x digital zoom
- Includes lithium-ion battery, charger, 2.4G remote, micro USB cable, TV out cable, wrist strap, lens...
Intova is an action camera manufacturer that has been in business since 1995. They may be less known than GoPro, but their products are just as good. The Nova Underwater Camera is one of the best that we’ve used when it comes to diving. It is specifically made for scuba divers, unlike the GoPro which is a general use action camera. Because it has a specific user in mind, many of the downsides of the GoPro have been eliminated on this camera.
- Dual Screens: Osmo Action’s dual screens allow you to capture it all with the touch of a button. A...
- The RockSteady technology combines EIS with complex algorithms, delivering stable, shake-free...
- Action camera with 1/2.3" CMOS Sensor, 12MP, wide-angle 145° that allows you to shoot 4K HDR...
- 8x Slow Motion: Capture every epic move with jaw-dropping clarity and detail when you use 8x slow...
- 11m Waterproof, -10℃ Temperature Resistant Sporting a watertight seal and a hydrophobic coating on...
DJI is a relatively new company when it comes to action cameras. They are the largest manufacturer of drone technology in the world with an almost 70% market share. The Osmo action camera is their first foray into the action camera market. It is a direct competitor to GoPro both in terms of features and price and is giving them a run for their money. It’s a great all-around camera that comes in at a great price point.
Best DSLR Cameras for Divers
Canon’s 80 years of history producing cameras and equipment has positioned it as one of the leading manufacturers in the industry. The Rebel is one of their better introductory lines for their DSLR cameras. They are great for beginners and advanced divers alike. What makes the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 a great option is that you can easily use it both for diving and for general travel photos. Wherever you are using it, you can get high-quality photos and videos. You can expect the Rebel to be reliable for many years as long as you are taking care of it.
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award...
- Large 3.2” 922k dot, tilting Lcd screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °c to 40 °c (32...
- 51 point AF system with 15 cross type sensors and group area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous...
- 4k ultra hd and 1080p full hd video with stereo sound, power aperture control, auto ISO, 4k UHD time...
- Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for easy connectivity through the Nikon snap bridge app
Nikon is another brand long associated with high-quality cameras and camera equipment. They’ve been in business for about 20 years longer than Canon and have a great reputation among camera enthusiasts around the world. If you are a new diver looking for a great brand then look no further than Nikon
The D7500 is Nikons answer to the Canon Rebel SL3. It is the perfect introductory camera for divers looking for something more powerful than an action camera. What makes it a good choice is that it is simple to use. Everything is laid out in a user friendly way and the D7500 has all of the necessary features without being too advanced.
What’s great about Nikon is that they have a reputation for packing a lot of quality into their cameras without taking on the price. The D7500 is at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to Nikon cameras. If you have never used a DSLR before, or if you are just getting back into using one after a long absence, this is a great option for you.
- New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range...
- 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K...
- Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD...
- Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6 plus...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a...
As we’ve stated above, Canon is a top-quality camera manufacturer. You can probably guess by the fact they hold two of the four spots on our list for top DSLR cameras that we are quite fond of them. The truth is, not only do we personally use Canon cameras for diving and travel, we also know many divers who use them.
We feel confident in their durability and ability to deliver top quality photos, even underwater. The other thing that we like is Canon offers top quality cameras for a wide range of budgets. Even their cheaper cameras are full of excellent features and don’t force you to sacrifice quality for the price. The Mark IV though is on the opposite end of the price spectrum.
The Mark IV is one of the highest level DSLR cameras on the market. The price reflects this. This is absolutely not a camera for beginners or budget shoppers. You need the experience and understanding to properly use the Mark IV or you won’t be able to use this camera to its full potential. Also, if you don’t have the experience, you will most likely find yourself confused when setting up and using all of the cameras features.
- Nikon designed back side illuminated (BSI) full frame image sensor with no optical low pass filter
- 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of...
- Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance
- 8k6 and 4k time lapse movies with new levels of sharpness and detail; file system : DCF 2.0, exif...
- Tilting touchscreen, focus shift shooting mode, outstanding battery performance and much more; total...
This is the most expensive DSLR camera on this list. It is going to set you back a few thousand dollars just for the camera. This is before we even factor in the cost of the equipment. It also has a pretty steep learning curve when compared to the D7500 or the Rebel SL3. So, if you are a beginner, we recommend you look at one of those. You can buy the most expensive camera in the world but if you don’t understand how to optimize the settings your pictures won’t look good. It is important to understand how to optimize the settings for each dive you go on.
The price of the D850 is expensive for a reason. This is one of the best cameras on the market overall for photos and videos. There are certainly more expensive DSLR cameras out there. In fact, you can spend well over $20,000 for the most expensive of DSLR cameras. But, you aren’t going to get pictures and videos that much better than you can get on this D850.
What Underwater Dive Camera We Recommend?
For action cameras, we like the GoPro Hero 7 Black. We’ve used this camera since it first came out and have well over 20 dives captured on it. It’s been a great camera for recording high-quality video and the image stabilization has been a major plus. For the price, this can’t be beat. If you are new to diving and looking for something easy to get started with before venturing into DSLR cameras, this is the best option.
For DSLR cameras, we stand by our trusted Canon Rebel SL3. You can’t get much better than this for the price. This is a good all-around option for both beginners and advanced divers not looking for commercial grade photographs. It is simple enough to operate without too much of a learning curve. At the same time, it has all of the necessary features to produce high-quality photos and videos.
If you are a professional venturing into underwater photography, we recommend the Nikon 850. As we mentioned in the review, this is one of the best cameras money can buy currently on the market. Yes, it’s true that there are more expensive cameras out there. In fact, you can find DSLR cameras for over $40,000. But, pound for pound, the D850 can hold its own against any camera currently on the market. It is great for a variety of divers including macro and wide-angle photographers and technical divers shooting in low light. It’s a solid buy if you need this much power and have the money to spend on the camera and all the necessities.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed?
Underwater photography can be a confusing topic. Not only do you need to learn all of the principles of photography, but there is the added aspect of shooting underwater in various situations. It can be a lot to take in. But, it is certainly a rewarding activity once you get the hang of it.
Do you have anything you’d like to add to this list? Maybe you have experience using one of these cameras? Or, do you have any tips for new underwater photographers? Let us know in the comments section. Your opinion matters and you never know how your tips and info could help your fellow divers.
This page was last updated on 2022-08-29. Affiliate links and Product Images are from Amazon PAAPI