Waterproof cameras have come a long way. You no longer have to lug around clunky gear that you can’t fit in your pocket. Today’s waterproof cameras enable you to capture all the action out on the water or at your favorite swimming hole and do so with ease!
They can take some of the most stunning pictures under water, many times better than any other standard camera. But did you know that there are various types of waterproof cameras that can be used in different situations? Hence choosing the right waterproof camera is not easy, so follow these tips to find the best option.
What are Waterproof Cameras?
Waterproof cameras are designed to withstand water pressures of up to 100 feet (30 meters) underwater without any adverse effects on the camera. While this means that you can take pictures underwater, it does not mean that you can expose it to extreme pressure. If you put your waterproof camera in a pressure cooker and seal it, it will explode.
Waterproof cameras are also not meant to be used in very cold conditions — they are not designed for temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). However, some models come with special features that allow them to operate at lower temperatures.
Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
The first thing to consider is whether you want a waterproof or water-resistant camera. If your main goal is to take photos and videos while swimming or snorkeling, then you’ll need a waterproof model that can withstand immersion in water. However, if you just want the convenience of being able to rinse off your camera after use, then a water-resistant model may suffice. For more info on snorkeling items and accessories, you can read our Guide to Getting Outfitted with Snorkeling Gear.
Types of Waterproof Camera
These are small, lightweight cameras designed to be mounted on helmets or other objects, such as surfboards or skateboards. Action cameras are available in weatherproof housing, allowing them to be used in extreme conditions such as snowboarding or kayaking.
These cameras are ideal for divers and snorkelers. The design allows them to film while keeping their hands free to maneuver the water. They store their captures directly on an SD card, which can later be uploaded to their PC or laptop.
Action cameras are primarily used for capturing video, but they can also take high-quality still images. Their larger CMOS sensors enable time-lapse, slow-motion, and burst modes.
Action cameras are built with water resistance, or waterproofing, in mind—an extra layer of protection that enables them to be used without a housing. Although this provides some level of protection, an optional waterproof housing can extend the device’s depth rating.
A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera has interchangeable lenses and features a large sensor that enables it to produce high-quality images under any lighting conditions. It can also be converted into a waterproof camera by using a waterproof housing that fits over the camera’s body and protects the internals from water damage.
Professional photographers who use DSLRs have further advantages over those shooting with simple point-and-shoot cameras, such as the ability to shoot in RAW format and manually adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
DSLR cameras are not waterproof and must be housed in waterproof cases for underwater photography. The price of housing generally scales to match the price of the camera module, but entry-level housings start at $1,000, while professional-grade housing can sell for as much as $4,000.
A point-and-shoot (P&S) camera is an easy-to-use compact camera that’s lightweight and small enough to fit in your pocket or purse.
These cameras are great for entry-level photographers or hobbyists. They use automatic systems to set focus, aperture, ISO, and white balance, making it easy to get good shots with minimal effort.
Some higher-end compact cameras offer manual settings and better image sensors, but their main selling point is their affordability and ease of use.
Compact cameras have one lens and less versatility for different focal lengths. Professional photographers benefit from specialty lenses for specific purposes, but most hobbyists find that these add unnecessary bulk and complexity to the process.
While some compact cameras offer waterproofing, most do not. For standard models, an underwater housing must be used in order to protect the camera from water damage.
Compact camera housings sell for roughly five times less than their DSLR counterparts, making the price point much more approachable.
Mirrorless cameras are the newest kid on the block in terms of digital cameras. They represent a new technology developed to improve the size and weight of traditional film cameras.
This new generation of digital cameras is called mirrorless because they do not rely on a mirror system to view the image through the lens. Instead, all the electronic components necessary to record an image are located behind the lens and viewfinder (which is located in front of the lens).
Mirrorless cameras are typically around half the size and weight of DSLRs, making them much easier to carry around – especially if you’re a professional who needs to carry your equipment for long periods of time. To know more about mirrorless cameras, as well as other types of digital cameras, take a look at our Guide to Selecting a Digital Camera.
Following are some tips to help you select the best waterproof camera:
1. Look for Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
OIS helps prevent shaky shots by compensating for movement when the camera is moving or when your hands are shaking while trying to take photos. This feature is beneficial if you plan on using your waterproof camera underwater since it’s much harder to hold a camera steady when it’s wet than when it’s dry.
2. Size Matters
Waterproof cameras come in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to consider what you’ll be using the camera for before purchasing one. If you’re going to be taking photos of nature and landscapes, then a large camera will work well for this purpose. Otherwise, a small camera will work best if you want to take underwater shots.
3. Look at the Lens
The lens should be able to take clear pictures at different distances and in different lighting conditions. A good lens is always scratch resistant, and should also be able to adjust automatically when necessary, so you don’t have to manually adjust it yourself every time you change environments.
4. Look for Ratings
Waterproof cameras come with different ratings. Look for those with the highest rating possible so you can use them in deeper water without worrying about damaging them.
5. Read Reviews
If you are looking for a particular waterproof camera, read reviews of the product on leading technology websites and general interest magazines. Similarly, if you do not have any specific model in mind, search for the best waterproof cameras online; this will lead you to ideas about what type of camera might be right for your needs.
After identifying the camera you want, read reviews and talk to other photographers about its features before deciding whether it is the right one for you.
Another thing that comes into play here is portability. If you plan on taking your camera everywhere with you, it should be as compact as possible, so it doesn’t get in the way of your adventures!
Some waterproof models are more compact than others and have smaller lenses as well as smaller bodies overall compared to their non-waterproof counterparts.
7. Housing Availability
Even if you can find waterproof housing for your camera, be sure to check what features it has. Are all the controls accessible? What types of connections does it have for external strobes? Are external add-on lenses available to allow you to shoot wider angles or closer macro?
For instance, point-and-shoot cameras usually have a single housing option; however, more advanced point-and-shoot and DSLR models typically have multiple housing options.
8. Shutter Lag
In compact cameras, there is a momentary delay between when the shutter button is pressed and when the camera captures an image. This lag varies by model; high-end models have reduced lag times.
When shooting fast-moving objects such as fish and wildlife, you may miss your shot if there is too much lag time between pressing the shutter and capturing the image.
9. Don’t Fall for the Megapixels Hype
Doubling the megapixels of a camera’s sensor offers only a 40% increase in resolution. Sensor size is a better predictor of image quality because each individual pixel on a larger sensor records more information.
In 2009, several camera manufacturers released models with fewer megapixels than their predecessors but with better sensors, resulting in improved image quality. For example, Canon released the G11, a flagship point-and-shoot camera with fewer megapixels than the G10 but a better sensor.
10. And Lastly, Don’t Forget the Strobe(s)
We recommend that you consider adding a strobe to your gear budget. A strobe will increase the quality of your images more than upgrading to a “better camera” will. A mid-range strobe that can be used in multiple camera setups and upgraded as needed is always highly recommended.
As you can see, waterproof cameras come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are more rugged and durable than others. That’s why it’s important to make sure you choose one that you feel comfortable diving with. By doing your research and following these tips, you can easily pick the best waterproof camera for your needs, and that too, without breaking the bank.