If you’re off on some water-based adventures, invest in a camera that can cope with the wet stuff. Most waterproof cameras are also categorised as adventure cameras, meaning that they’re engineered to cope with the rough and tumble of extreme sports, if that’s what you’re doing. Not only do these cameras take snaps when submerged in water, many of them are also kitted out with extra features like being freeze proof, dust proof, crush proof and shock and drop-proof.
As with all cameras, waterproof or not, resolution will play a big factor in determining the quality of your images. If your main priority is photography, settle for no less than 14 megapixels to ensure high-clarity shots. If you’re going to be recording video, a camera with 1080px recording quality is a must-have.
The depth to which the camera is waterproof will determine the type of activity it is suitable for. A camera that can withstand 40m of depth is ideal for deep sea diving, whereas a camera with 10m of underwater depth would be better suited for snorkeling or shallow scuba diving.
We’ve looked at rugged compact, action camera and compact system camera options. Each has undergone some serious scrutiny; tested in and out of water, dropped from heights and trialled in different lighting conditions to see whether or not it makes the cut. Here’s our edit.
Fujifilm Finepix XP80: £129, jessops.com
With an image resolution of 16.4-megapixels, this is a small but mighty compact camera. It’s lightweight but captures pristine images to depths of ten meters. We found this took good images both in and out of water (though it performs best in decent light) and the easy-to-master point and shoot function makes it ideal for beginners. Plus, its small frame and shock and dust-proof features mean that kids can get behind the lens, too. It doesn’t have the photo customisation abilities of more expensive models, but it’s a good all-rounder.
Olympus Tough TG -4: £349.99, shop.olympus.eu
Tough is definitely the right word to describe this one. Ideal for an adventurer, it’s crushproof, shockproof and freeze-proof. But, in interests of taking great photos in water, it’s ergonomic; chunky and easy-to-grip so it shouldn’t slide out of slippery hands. It has an ultra-bright lens and built-in wifi, GPS and a clever ‘e.Compass’ allow you to share your images on the go as well as keep track of your altitude and water-depth (it’s waterproof up to 15m), while you shoot stunning 16-megapixel images.
Nikon 1 AW1: £549, currys.co.uk
Unlike the smaller cameras on the list, this one is a compact system camera with interchangeable lenses. This means it's bulkier than its compact competitors but it’s ideal for those who aren’t willing to compromise on picture quality. The 14.2-megapixel camera can go down to 15m, it has a pop-up flash and advanced adjustment options like the ‘Live Image Control’ function that means you can see how different effects – background softening and motion control, for example– will affect the final image. This is one for those who want to up their photography game.
Ricoh WG-5: £229, amazon.co.uk
In its update of the much-lauded WG-4, Ricoh has created a camera that addresses all the underwater needs you didn’t even know you had. The optional underwater mode eliminates the bluish tone that can wash-out underwater photographs and its unique flash feature takes two consecutive images, one with and one without, allowing you to choose and keep the best one after the moment has been captured. It can go as deep at 14m and resist temperatures down to -10C, and captures images with a crystal-clear 16-megapixel lens. It’s not as grippy as some of the tough cameras we tried but the unusual shape allows for large, well-spaced controls that are easy to operate when submerged.
GoPro HERO4 Silver: £369, Ordnance Survey
If you want to capture your surroundings in near-cinematic definition video, then this one is for you. This teeny gadget packs a lot of punch and is our recommendation for all the thrill-seekers out there – it captures film in 4K resolution (aka “Ultra High Definition”), is waterproof up to a whopping 40m and lets you keep your hands free to get right into the midst of the action with a range of additional accessories like mounts and straps.
Canon PowerShot D30: £199, johnlewis.com
This is an upgrade of Canon’s D20; you can use this one to depths of 25 meters, so it is ideal if you’re off on a diving adventure. With a 12.1 megapixel sensor, the images you get are decent, if not quite the quality of some of the of the higher-resolution machines. It has built-in GPS and HD video recording and is easy-to-use underwater. We’d just like to see an upgrade that includes wifi connectivity.
The Verdict: Waterproof cameras
The GoPro HERO4 is hands-down the best option for capturing outstandingly high-quality video on the go, however if still images are your main format of choice then the Nikon 1 AW1 reigns supreme. Its advanced photography options and interchangeable lenses means it will give you top-notch underwater snaps. If you can't stretch to that, and want something compact, we'd go for Ricoh's good all-rounder.
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