It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to find the best cheap underwater camera.
With so – many – options (!) for cheap diving cameras; each with numerous specs and features to compare, how the hell do you separate the truth from the hype?!
That’s why we’ve scoured the seven seas for the best budget underwater cameras available; having tried, compared and tested dozens of the things.
(Click green text to jump to section or open a link!).
The best cheap underwater camera currently available is the Apeman A87, a low cost yet high performing action camera.
With it’s included underwater housing, it is waterproof to an impressive 40m / 133 feet.
Able to shoot 4K video at 60 fps, this cheap underwater camera uses high quality video stabilization to counter shaky hands and is durable and compact.
A 20 mp sensor captures high quality photos that are lifelike and full of detail.
The settings and button layout are extremely user friendly, whilst the 2 inch display screen makes framing each shot a breeze.
The second cheapest underwater camera, the Apeman A87 offers superb value for money and is a great choice for beginners.
By installing the “Apeman” app and using the integrated wi fi, one can easily download and share videos and photos on social media.
For us, the Apeman A87’s intuitive user interface, high quality video capabilities and image stabilization, combined with it’s extremely low price, make it the best cheap underwater camera all round.
The Akaso V50 Elite has been the top selling cheap underwater camera for some time now, with thousands of extremely positive reviews.
It is capable of shooting high quality video in full HD 4K at an impressive 60 frames per second and it can also take excellent 20mp photos.
With it’s included underwater housing, it is waterproof to 131ft / 40m and features excellent video stabilization.
This budget dive camera also features an 8X digital zoom as well as three view angles, so you can always get the optimum field of view!
Rugged and durable, the Akaso V50 Elite is more than just a waterproof camera. The voice control feature, remote control, wrist strap and helmet accessories are ideal for use on land.
It also features Wi Fi integration allowing for easy sharing of videos and photos on social media.
An extremely versatile action camera, the Akaso V50 Elite has a huge fan base and will most likely continue to make a big scene in the underwater blogger world this year!
The absolute cheapest underwater camera out there is the Crosstour Action CT 9100. This thing costs less than $60!
Waterproof to 40 m / 133 ft with it’s included underwater housing, it has a 170 degree wide angle lens that let’s you capture much of your surroundings.
The Crosstour Action snaps 20MP photos and 4K video resolution, which are both surprising considering the low price point.
The 2 inch screen allows you to effortlessly view your photos and videos, whilst the simple setup makes it easy to use for beginners, a trait enhanced by the anti-shake technology.
This is a very decent waterproof camera for first time underwater photographers and videographers.
It also features Wi Fi integration as well as multiple mounting accessories plus a remote control and wrist strap!
GoPro are a legendary name amongst action photographers and the latest model: the Hero 9, does not disappoint.
Although the underwater casing, must be purchased separately, it’s very affordable and makes the Hero 9 waterproof to a whopping 60m / 200ft!
Video quality is extremely high – this the only underwater camera that can capture 5K video resolution!! It can also snap superb quality 20mp photos with it’s beastly 23.6 MP sensor!
Other cool features include advanced image stabilization, 8 X slow motion, time lapse mode and digital lens modes that allow for wide, linear or narrow shots.
The Hero 9 costs more than other underwater action cameras (the Apeman, Akaso and Crosstour), but it offers better video quality and can be taken 20m / 66ft deeper!
It is still cheaper than the SeaLife Micro 3.0 and the Tough TG-6.
The Hero 9 features WiFi integration allowing you to easily share your photos and videos on social media.
Without a doubt, the Hero 9 is the highest quality underwater action camera currently available. It blows it’s cheaper cousins out of the water!
(We have a main article on the best action cameras for divers).
The SeaLife Micro 3.0 is the only camera that has been designed exclusively for divers and this is immediately apparent with it’s three underwater shooting modes.
The intuitive, easy setup feature quickly guides users through the correct settings based on the shooting environment, depth and lighting accessories used.
This cheap underwater camera is permanently sealed within a shockproof, special grip rubber casing.
It is operated by three highly accessible piano key buttons that are easy to control even with gloves, making it the easiest camera to operate underwater, by far.
The SeaLife Micro 3.0 is waterproof to an impressive 60m / 200ft; making it suitable for even the deepest recreational dives.
Being able to shoot in HD 4K at 30fps ensures very high video quality, whilst the 16mp sensor snaps crisp, detailed photos.
The SeaLife Micro 3.0 also features video stabilization, slow mo, upside down shooting and a manual white balance adjustment!
For an extra charge you can buy it with a stabilising mount and lighting rig! Additional accessories, such as macro lenses are also available.
Despite being a little more expensive than most other options on this page, the Sealife Micro 3.0 is still much cheaper than the average high-end dive camera.
The Olympus Tough TG-6, is the best cheap underwater camera for any diver who wants to capture macro shots (up close shots of small critters and objects!).
It can focus on subjects as close as 10cm (which is closer than any other cheap underwater camera we’ve reviewed), and also has a built in macro mode, to make it a breeze getting focus.
Furthermore, the Tough TG-6 is the only budget underwater camera to feature a 4X optical zoom lens! Optical zoom is far superior to digital zoom, because unlike digital, it actually gives more detail.
The only annoyance of the Olympus Tough is that it’s waterproof casing must be purchased separately and costs around as much as the camera itself….however, the combined price of the Tough TG-6 and it’s casing is still pretty cheap.
With the waterproof housing, it is waterproof to 45m / 147 ft, but without it’s only waterproof to 15m / 50ft.
Capable of shooting 4k at 30fps (frame rate of 30 per second) and with a 12 mp sensor for snapping crisp photos, it also features image stabilization and RAW support.
Not having full manual control makes the Tough TG-6 a little easier to use for beginners, which is further enhanced by the auto mode and shortcut menu. This is a truly excellent buy for macro lovers!
This cheap underwater digital camera is from the Bear Grylls Technology Range, both inspired and overseen by the legendary adventurer himself!
You can use it to shoot HD 1080p video at 60 frames per second, ensuring that not a single moment of your dive is lost.
However, all other cameras reviewed on this page, can go to at least 4K, meaning the Bear Grylls Action Camera does have the lowest video shooting capabilities.
All the same, it still does allow for some fairly decent video recording.
Being waterproof up to 30m / 99 feet, the maximum depth for recreational diving; it should last you on all your scuba adventures.
Again though, all the other cameras we’ve reviewed here go at least 10 meters deeper!
The truth is, the Grylls action cam was once a pretty decent camera but it’s now being outdone by many newer cameras with better specs.
Unless you’re a Grylls fanatic, we’d recommend you pick something else like the Apeman A87 or the Aksao V50 Elite – both of which are cheaper and higher performing!
First up, we want to make one thing clear: none of the underwater cameras we’ve reviewed on this page are of professional quality.
They might capture superb photos and videos, but these still won’t be professional quality – i.e. not like what you see in National Geographic.
If you want a pro level diving camera you’ll have to fork out a hell of a lot more than the price of anything on this page.
If that does sound like something you’re interested in, check out our article Best Diving Cameras.
However, the cheap underwater cameras reviewed here are fully capable of shooting excellent videos and snapping beautiful photos with which to remember your travels, share on social media and update your blog.
Technology is constantly improving and nowadays even the cheapest camera can do things that ten years ago would only be achieved by something that cost thousands of dollars. You will likely be surprised and impressed by just how capable your cheap underwater camera is!
Now we’ve got that off our chest, let’s take a look at some terminology jargon:
When it comes to shooting great underwater photos and avoiding the common downfalls that result in less great ones, there’s a few strategies you’ll want to remember. To find out more take a look at our article: “Underwater Photography Tips for Beginners”.
When we refer to underwater housing we’re talking about the protective outer casing that cameras must be placed in to make them waterproof.
Most “underwater cameras” are action cameras that include underwater housing, which usually makes them waterproof to 133ft. Outside of their casing they are either not waterproof at all or only waterproof to about 33ft.
A compact and generally low cost camera that’s packed with a range of accessories such as a wrist strap, remote control and accessories to let you attach the camera to helmets, handlebars etc and of course underwater housing, so it can be taken underwater.
Action cameras universally feature image stabilisation. As well as being used for diving, their also prized for recording other fast movement activities such as skating, biking and paragliding.
Generally speaking, action cameras primary source of control is via a touchscreen, however when encased in it’s waterproof housing, the action cam’s touchscreen cannot be used and so instead, it must be operated via one to two buttons through the waterproof housing.
Whereas some cameras are described as having a digital zoom, this isn’t something to get overly excited about. Digital zoom is just a glorified crop, you simply blow up an image but don’t get any extra detail!
Optical zoom, on the other hand is the real deal – this is where the physical properties of the lens actually magnify objects and therefore do provide extra detail! The only cheap dive camera with an optical zoom is the Olympus TG-6!
Nowadays, being able to shoot in 4K video is very much the benchmark for what is considered good video capability. 4K refers to the approximately 4000 worth of pixel width within the image.
If a camera can’t even shoot 4K, don’t bother with it – it’ll be terribly outdated compared to newer models!
A megapixel (mp) is a million pixels – the term not only used for the number of pixels in an image but also for the number of image sensor elements.
The more megapixels a camera has in it’s mp sensor, the more detail it can capture in an image. So a 16 mp sensor can capture a more detailed image than a 12 mp sensor.
However, whilst a high mp sensor does mean better photo quality, it can actually detract from video recording quality due to making footage more noisy.
Therefore, an underwater camera that is good for both photos and videos, should have a decent number of – but not too many megapixels. A 16 to 20 mp sensor will be ideal.
And that’s it. We’re done. The articles over. We truly hope you’ve found this to be a useful and eye opening read and that you’re feeling ready to get out there and purchase your dream cheap underwater camera.
The take home message: It doesn’t matter if you’re low on cash – in today’s society, technology has and still is accelerating so much, that you can now buy the best budget underwater camera to immortalise your scuba adventures for less than $100. How awesome is that?!
Diving Squad Out.
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