Using an underwater camera to shoot videos of your scuba diving adventures; thereby immortalising them forever, is one of the most rewarding experiences known to scuba diver.
However, in today’s tech-obsessed world, there are literally dozens of different makes of underwater video camera available; frankly they vary a lot in terms of quality, value for money and capabilities.
You could buy one of the best underwater video cameras out there – but at a ridiculous price. Or you could think you are making a real steal by purchasing an extremely cheap option, only to find it shoots poor quality footage or breaks within days!
At the end of the day, making the right purchase is a personal matter – it comes down to your budget, whether your shooting video for professional reasons or as a hobby and other factors to such as how much packing space you have!
Never fear. We’ve searched as high as the tallest mountains and as low as the deepest ocean trenches to bring you seven brutally honest reviews of the absolute best diving video cameras.
We’ve highlighted the pros, exposed the cons and given each option a special reward for what we think it’s most suited to. Let’s dive in!
Review: Panasonic have a formidable reputation as one of the greatest manufacturers of high quality electronics of all time. Lumix – Panasonic’s brand of digital cameras, have gained notoriety as some of the best underwater cameras out there. And one Panasonic Lumix model in particular – the GH5, is widely considered by many underwater to be the hands down best diving video camera there is, in terms of performance, specs and value for money .
Now, before we take a look at what makes the Panasonic Lumix GH5 a truly epic dive camera for shooting underwater videos with; let’s keep this review brutal and expose it’s con’s first:
Not only is the camera itself expensive; the underwater housing has to be bought separately and this is expensive as well! In fact, underwater casing for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 can be almost as expensive as the actual camera.
There’s several underwater housing options for the GH5; their price increases with the amount of depth protection that they offer. (Descriptions of housing options included at bottom of this review).
In total, the combined price of this camera and one of it’s underwater housing options is going be around a couple of thousand dollars, which will definitely put off some would be buyers.
If that’s you, we recommend checking out some of the cheaper options reviewed here such as the Apeman A87; the cheapest underwater video camera that still made it to these reviews – or the Olympus Tough TG-6 another budget diving video camera that’s also great for beginners. However – if you do have cash to splash, scroll down below to keep reading…
In all other areas besides price, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 lives up to it’s stellar reputation; being a high quality, reliable and well equipped underwater camera – especially for shooting videos with. One of the reasons it performs so well underwater is because it is equipped with a wide arsenal of performance enhancing features including white balance metering, autofocusing and image stabilisation.
The 5 axis dual image stabilisation corrects all lenses, to eliminate blur and body and lens shake; allowing for smooth and seamless video footage without any sacrifice of quality.
Another reason this camera shoots excellent video footage is because of its full sensor width 4k which can shoot up to a whopping 60fps (!) video with internal 4:2 2 10 bit 4K video recording and subsequently captures some truly flawless slow motion videos as well. Videos shot by the GH5 are extremely sharp and don’t suffer from pixel dumping at all.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 also produces incredibly sharp images with a high dynamic range thanks to the 20.3 mp sensor, which is a smaller micro four thirds sized sensor – this means that the camera will show some noise and less colour retention at higher ISOs.
This is a sturdy camera, being constructed from highly resistant magnesium alloy, which is also great for resisting cold and moisture.
Unlike many diving cameras, the Lumix GH5 does not come with underwater housing – this has to be bought separately. Several manufacturers create underwater housing for the Lumix GH series and these vary significantly in price and capabilities. The two main options are:
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!
Review: The Olympus Tough TG-6 makes a fantastic dive camera for beginners: stelar image quality, useful features, exceptional compactness, high durability and a fairly simple user interface are all rolled into an exceptionally affordable underwater camera for less than $500.
Shockproof and freeze proof, the rugged Olympus Tough TG-6 is also fully waterproof without any additional casing to 45ft (15m) and can go to 147 ft (47m) deep with the addition of separately purchased waterproof housing.
It has a 1/2.3” sensor that takes good videos and photos in the right conditions. However, it’s worth pointing out that the TG-6 will not handle dimly lit environments very well and images can degrade quickly as ISO increases.
That said, this shouldn’t be too much of a hinderance for first time underwater videographers, as new and intermediate level recreational scuba divers, rarely go much deeper than 60ft (18m); a depth at which light levels aren’t too dim for the Olympus Tough to get good video and photo quality, during daylight hours.
The Olympus TG-6 Tough has a built-in 25-100 mm-equivalent f/2-4.9 lens that is fog resistant. For those who prefer wide-angle photography, it’s possible to mount a separate wet lens on it.
Another big plus of this camera, which is particularly useful to beginners, is is that it already has an effective macro mode built-in. The Olympus TG-6 will have no problem getting those super up-close shots and it will easily get the focus just right for the user.
Plus, it has Raw support; not something one would usually expect to find on a cheap diving camera! Whilst the small sensor doesn’t have the dynamic range of enthusiast cameras, you can still brighten shadows with decent results, fine tune white balance and get more detail than JPEGs provide.
With 4k recording at 30 fps and 120 fps at 1080p, the Olympus Tough TG-6 can capture some pretty awesome videos. However, more experienced photographers will note that it does have a limited ability to adjust the exposure and ultimately the image quality, whilst good, will be outdone by most modern smartphones (but then you can’t take a smartphone underwater and it doesn’t have special diving settings like the TG-6!)
The TG-6 is not fully manual, which makes things more suitable for newbie photographers but can be very frustrating to advanced photographers. The auto mode and shortcut menu make this camera straight-forward to use, although this is offset a little by a slightly clustered main menu – however this is fairly easy to get used to and then going through the settings of the TG-6 becomes a breeze.
By purchasing the Olympus TG-6 Deluxe Accessory Bundle, users also get additional lenses, a floating wrist strap, a starter cleaning kit, high speed memory card reader, waterproof carrying case and more; most of which are generally useful, besides the extra lenses which aren’t anything special.
Review: Underwater video camera’s don’t get much cheaper than this – at less than $80, the Apeman A87; is the newest model in the highly popular Apeman Action Camera series and despite it’s absurdly low cost, it packs a serious punch.
The extremely compact Apeman A87’s underwater housing is included and this provides depth protection up to 131ft / 40m; the greatest depth within most recreational diving limits.
Capable of shooting video in 4K / 60 FPS, the A87 makes video footage appear less blurred whilst at the same time giving more options for slow motion editing. The 8xZoom lense freely brings you closer to capture the item you like, allowing greater filming freedom.
It also features both electronic stabilisation and gyro stabilisation which together detect and neutralise involuntary movements, allowing for extremely stable shooting. Plus, lens distortion correction automatically corrects the fisheye effect, keeping recordings more faithul to reality.
Included with the Apeman A87 is an entire arsenal of action camera accessories including a wrist mounted strap, remote control and much more.
For it’s exceedingly low price (with no extra extra cost for the underwater housing), the Apeman A87 is an excellent underwater camera for anyone looking to shoot good quality videos as a hobby.
This is a compact (it’s tiny!) and durable camera, with an easy to use two button interface when sealed in it’s underwater casing and a touch screen that can be used outside of the casing. Plus it features integrated WiFi allowing you to easily control the camera from your smartphone, once you’ve installed the app.
Make no mistake: the Apeman A87 is considerably lacking in overall quality and number and effectiveness of performance enhancing features, seen on more expensive cameras.
It’s picture quality is not only noticeably poorer than that of expensive cameras like the Lumix GH5 – it’s also less obviously of poor quality then even lower mid-range options such as the Olympus Tough TG-6 or the GoPro. The video and photo quality also rapidly decreases in dimmer lighting conditions.
When shooting video for longer than 15 minutes, footage quality rapidly deteriorates towards the end. The audio quality is also especially poor, which can be especially frustrating considering that there is no option to record video without sound.
Another somewhat annoying trait of the Apeman A87 is that the date gets reset when you change out the battery, meaning videos that are still on the camera will be re-allocated an incorrect date (so make sure you download videos off the camera before changing it’s battery!).
In conclusion, it’s no surprise the Apeman A87 does have several shortcomings; mostly relating to it’s picture quality being a far cry from professional level, considering the insanely low price of this underwater action camera. However it is an excellent cheap diving camera option for beginners and hobbyists. There are many cool features that make it both easy to use and capable of producing decent quality video footage and photos; even if not used in a very skilful way!
You can also check out our main page on Cheap Underwater Cameras here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.