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Best Underwater Video Cameras of 2020

Whether you’re just learning to take underwater photographs or have over 100 dives under your (weight) belt, filming your underwater adventures is always rewarding. 

The only frustrating part is buying the right underwater video camera in the first place! 

In today’s tech-obsessed world, it should come as little surprise that there’s a lot of options out there, each of them with different pros, cons and specs to consider

Read on for our list of the best underwater video cameras for filming your ocean adventures.

Or, for a more broad look at diving cameras to suit a range of activites, take a peek at the best underwater cameras.

Being schooled in the best underwater cameras for 2020 (see what I did there).

Quick Answer:

#1 - Cheapest Underwater Video Camera

4.3/5

DJI has finally released its first action camera and it is arguably one of the first action cameras to rival GoPro. While a lot of the specs are almost identical to GoPro, there are some key differences.

The first of these is the price point. Although the DJI is not necessarily a cheap waterproof camera, it is certainly more affordable than a GoPro.

The DJI Osmo Action is perfect for divers who need hassle-free equipment. It is great for novice divers or those who use their footage for their own enjoyment.

One of our favourite specs is that the front lens is removable. This means you can swap out lens filters for different environments. This means more accurate colour and depth perception in your deep ocean footage with the underwater filter.

The DJI Osmo is waterproof to 36ft (11m). It needs an underwater housing case for deeper dives. The dive camera case can be bought as an extra accessory.

The built-in gimbal, called ‘RockSteady’ by DJI, allows for stabilized, smooth footage. The feature allows for bump-free filming while singing ‘just keep swimming’ all the way down to the reef.

PROS:

  • Shoots in 4K/60FPS with stabilization enabled

  • ‘RockSteady’ stabilization

  • 1.4” front-facing colour screen (as well as 2.25” rear color touchscreen display)

CONS:

  • No HDR photo option (although can record videos in HDR)

  • No HEVC (used to compress down videos)

  • You can only use one screen at a time

#2 - TOP PICK Diving Video Camera

4.5/5

Sony is one of the most loved brands for cameras among divers. As part of our best underwater camera list, the A7 II is a firm favourite among divers, despite being released a few years ago. 

The older release date also means that it is affordable. It offers a lot for its price point.

The A7II is able to film in 4K. This has become a set standard for underwater cameras. 4K means you are getting high definition resolution footage. Clarity is what every videographer is after.

The mirrorless spec of the Sony A7 II means that it is far more compact and light compared to traditional DSLR cameras. With underwater housing, the camera has a slight negative buoyancy. Adding floating arms helps alleviate this issue.

For underwater filming, you can play around with the white balance settings.

 Sony has a great auto underwater mode. The automatic white balance setting can be tweaked according to the depth you are diving. This function is great for those who have recently moved up to a more technical camera.

The camera is also able to capture those dreamy sun rays that appear in shallower reefs. It gives users those iconic shots of light streaming down into the water, allowing the reef colors to pop.

PROS:

  • Compact size and weight
  • 5-axis stabilization
  • Smooth and silent autofocus mode in video

CONS:

  • Weak battery life
  • Fast lenses are big and bulky
  • Start-up lag

#3 - More Pricey Option

4.6/5

While the Sony Alpha A7 II is an amazing option and excellent value for money, Sony did make some very cool improvements for their latest model.

The new and improved sensor gives the camera a better ISO sensitivity range. This means that the extended value (102400 for video) makes the camera more capable in low lighting. This is fantastic for shooting in deeper waters, where the sun doesn’t shine as brightly.

The A7 III brings improvements to its video quality. In essence, it captures footage in 6K and then scales it down to 4K. This feature adds sharpness, clarity, and detail. The video is recorded with no sensor crop (unlike the A7 II) in 24/25fps.

The diving video camera comes with a dual SD card slot as well as a USB C port. Dual SD slots are beneficial for a few reasons. One reason is that having 2 SDs means that your footage is automatically backed up.

Another reason is that it gives users more storage space. This is something to consider when you are filming, which takes up large amounts of space.

All in all, this is a fantastic choice for anyone with a bit more money to splash out! 

PROS:

  • Dual SD card slot

  • Amazing BSI (back-illuminated) technology

  • Improved battery life

CONS:

#4 - Top Selling Camera for Underwater Videographers

4.6/5

The Olympus Mark III is definitely a top-selling digital waterproof camera (in housing). It’s been called the godfather of cameras amongst divers. It is an entry-level camera, with great video features and comes at a reasonable price.

The compact size of the camera is perfect for divers who want a hassle-free filming experience. This retro-looking mirrorless camera weighs in at 13.8 ounces.

Like all of the cameras on this list, the Olympus films in 4K. The recordings are crisp and clear, giving high-quality footage to its users.

The focus of this camera is an easy photography experience. The in-camera stabilization allows for smooth filming underwater. And while the tilting touch LCD screen isn’t a huge help below the surface, it is beneficial when checking images and film above the water.

Olympus doesn’t make underwater housing for the Mark III. While this is not a train smash (or perhaps, in our case, a boat smash), it does mean that the buying experience is not a one-stop-shop. However, there are several great underwater housing options on the market.

PROS:

  • The price point is very reasonable for the quality you get. 

     

  • Built- flash

     

  • Wi-fi

CONS:

  • Olympus doesn’t make underwater housing

  • Tracking slows speed to 4fps

  • Minor update from the Mark II

#5 - Best Underwater Camera for Beginners

4.3/5

GoPro burst onto the scene in 2009 and has dominated the action camera market since. GoPro fans tend to be fanatically loyal, and it’s very easy to see why. 

This small and compact camera has a lengthy list of features that make filming in action-packed scenarios hassle-free. Users are able to switch between settings to combine features. For example, video quality (e.g 4K/60) with slow-mo or the time warp 2.0 feature, and screen size (super view, wide, etc).

The waterproof digital camera has a protective housing (at an extra cost) that allows the camera to go to depths of 196 feet (60 meters). The cover also makes the camera more durable for those of us who are accident-prone.

GoPro’s new and improved stabilization, HyperSmooth 2.0, works across all resolution and frame rates. This ensures smooth filming and comes as a big thumbs up (or “I’m OK” sign) for GoPro lovers with previous models.

PROS:

  • Attached fold in mount

  • HyperSmooth 2.0 Boost

  • Create custom presets

CONS:

  • No longer a removable lens cover

  • Switching between menus is slow and laggy

  • Cramped memory card slot

#6 - Serious Underwater Videographers' Best Pick

4.4/5

The big-daddy of digital waterproof cameras for those of you who are looking to take your underwater cinematography to the next level. This is an over-the-top pick but definitley a worthwhile mention.

The waterproof SLR camera is a professional underwater video camera with an extensive lens range. It has all the bells and whistles you could imagine for such a camera.

The 1DX II beats most mirrorless and DSLR cameras on the market when it comes to video recording capabilities. The 4K resolution at 30 or 60fps allows users to edit slow-mo footage.

The camera has excellent low-light abilities. As divers know, the lack of sunlight below the surface and reef shadows can make capturing wildlife and corals difficult. The EOS 1DX makes capturing the darkened magic effortless.

The macro lens is a fantastic addition to this camera. It gives those crystal clear zoomed-in shots that Blue Planet has made famous.

Watch your footage back and I’m positive you’ll immediately start imagining David Attenborough’s smooth and calming voice narrating your shots.

PROS:

  • Dual Pixel AF and video autofocus

  • 20 MP full-frame image sensor

  • In-body GPS

CONS:

  • 4K video is cropped

  • No quick menu for video mode

  • No in-body flash

Underwater Camera - Qualities to look out for:

Professional camera equipment makes an already badass diver look even more cool.

Underwater Camera Qualities:

#1 - 4K Film Resolution

4K film resolution is a feature in all of the top diving video waterproof cameras. This means that footage is sharp and has a very high clarity.

4K also helps in editing and post-production. It allows you to slow your footage down, or speed it up, without losing the quality.

#2 - Stabilization

Movement underwater is inevitable. We like to imagine ourselves moving as gracefully as Ariel through the water. However, footage very rarely will come out that way.

Stabilization gives footage a smooth appearance. It helps frames look cinematic as opposed to bumpy and shaky. No motion sickness for your viewers.

#3 - Auto Focus

Autofocus is important for videoing underwater. You are constantly moving while diving and the camera needs to be able to shift focus easily as you do so.

When you video underwater you are hoping to catch things that often happen in a few seconds. Your camera needs to be able to keep up so that you are not left disappointed.

5 Quick Tips For Using An Underwater Video Camera

Taking down extra equipment can be overwhelming for beginner divers. However, once you have become comfortable in your dives, it is a worthwhile leap to make. You can use this guide to underwater photography and the list below to master capturing life under the sea.

  1. Ensure all your settings are correct before your descent.

  2. Pay special attention to your white balance setting.

  3. Hold the video camera as close to your body as possible for stable footage.

  4. Use a tripod if you need extra stability.

  5. Try and get a variety of shots to make your videos interesting.

Diving Squad Debriefing

Social media has molded an age of documenting and sharing all of our experiences with the world, including that sandwich you ate for lunch. However, far more exciting content can be found and created.

Author Tom Robbins said, “Reality whistles a different tune underwater”. We couldn’t agree more. Discovering life underwater is exhilarating.

Cameras should be chosen with your aim and price point in mind. Our underwater video camera reviews are up to date to give you the most enjoyable filming experience.

The tips and tricks will ensure your footage shows the beauty and mystery of life underwater as seen through your eyes.

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