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The number one question we get from you guys is what underwater camera gear we use on our excursions, so we finally decided to put together the ultimate list of the best dive cameras out there, as well as the housings, lighting, trays, and accessories we use!

While learning to shoot underwater videos and photos, we have gone through a lot of different cameras, and in this guide, will list all of the best gear for every budget and experience level.

Everything from action cams to full-frame pro systems, this guide will cover them all! For each category, we will list the top few cameras, and then if you want a more comprehensive guide with the full list, just click on the links provided after each category!

If you want to get into underwater photography, or just want to upgrade to the latest and greatest, this guide is all you need!

ALSO READ: Best Scuba Diving Cameras for Beginners and Best Underwater Action Cameras

Best Underwater Cameras for Scuba Diving

If we had to give a quick answer, the best cameras for scuba diving are:

Let’s take a look at each of these options in more detail…

BEST ACTION CAMERAS FOR DIVING

You really don’t have to spend a fortune to be able to take good quality images and videos underwater. If you’re looking for an affordable scuba diving camera that you can easily take traveling with you, these action cameras are your best option.

paralenz vaquita camera

$749.99 | Paralenz 

The Vaquita is the latest version from the first Paralenz camera, with big upgrades. This 4k/60fps camera still has the military-grade aluminum housing that is depth rated to over 800 feet.

The upgrade features include a display screen, and software that tracks your your dive profile along with the current depth and temperature information, and records it to your Paralenz smartphone app, similar to a dive computer.

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gopro 8 dive camera

$299.99 | GoPro Hero8

The GoPro HERO8 Black is the latest and greatest in a long line of amazing action cams, and this one has some sweet upgrades. It should also note that the prices are also starting to get more reasonable.

When it comes to action cameras, GoPro simply cannot be beaten. This legendary brand continues to produce simple-to-use cameras that are capable of capturing high-quality photos and videos, even in the most extreme environments. And the Hero8 is no exception.

This tiny, but tough, waterproof camera is full of intuitive features that make taking epic underwater shots almost effortless. With ‘Super Photo’ optimization, advanced video stabilization, and a variety of intelligent shooting modes, you’ll be seriously impressed at the quality of footage you end up with.

As far as 4k action cams go, this guy does not disappoint. This dude comes with touch screen 4K ultra HD video, 12MP photos 1080p, and live streaming stabilization.

As with all GoPro models, the Hero8 is only waterproof to 33ft (10m). The $299.99 price point does not include the dive housing you’ll need underwater, and there is a huge variety of options for those and other options out there.  It’s a tiny added cost but allows you to take this camera down to a whopping 196ft (60m).

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Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

$499.99 | Garmin Action camera

Garmin has been coming out with a lot of awesome innovations for divers lately, including dive computers, and the action cam called the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is a great example.

This puppy shoots an impressive 4k video at 60fps or 1080 at 120fps, as well as 3-axis image stabilization for ultra-smooth shots. The price point is a little more than the latest GoPro, but it should be noted that the dive housing (rated to 40m) is included in that price.

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DJI Osmo Action

$248.49 | DJI

We all know that DJI makes the best drones out there, but it seems like they now want to go head to head with GoPro even more, and give divers some sweet action cams!

And this thing IS sweet! Not only does the Osmo shoot in 4k, and is waterproof without the housing to 11m, but it also shoots 8x ultra-slow motion! This dual-screen beauty is going to just get more and more popular, and might be our best option!

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If you want to see more options, be sure to check out our full guide to the best underwater action cameras for 2021.

BEST COMPACT DIVE CAMERAS

When it comes to underwater cameras, a little extra budget goes a long way in terms of customizability and the quality of photos. These compact cameras will help take your underwater shots to the next level.

$349.99 | Nikon

The Nikon COOLPIX W300 is one of our favorite underwater cameras for scuba diving.

Why?

Because this incredibly tough little camera is super simple to use and delivers awesome photos and videos even in the most extreme environments. It’s waterproof to 100ft (30m) without underwater housing and it’s very reasonably priced.

While it may lack some of the more advanced features that a professional photographer is looking for, we love we can take this underwater camera with us on all of our adventures, both diving, and non-diving, knowing that it’ll always deliver very high-quality shots and can handle a few knocks.

The powerful camera sensor and 5x optical zoom ensure that you’ll be able to capture everything in perfectly clear detail.

What’s more, Nikon is considered one of the world’s best camera manufacturers. So you can be extra confident that this waterproof camera is a worthy investment.

If you’re looking for a versatile and compact underwater camera then you simply can’t go wrong with the Nikon COOLPIX W300.

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canon g7x 3 underwater

$619.99 | Canon

Canon is one of the most trusted and well-established camera brands on the market. So it’s no surprise that the Canon G7X delivers top-quality results.

We’ve tried out all of the compact dive cameras on this guide, and in the end, the G7X mark 1, 2 and 3, have become our favorite. It feels like they were really made for underwater, with great white balance presets you can set at depth, great video focus and more.

With a powerful 20.2 megapixels CMOS camera sensor, the G7X captures exceptionally vivid images and video even in low lighting, which is essential for underwater photography.

The Canon G7X also boasts incredible zoom capabilities and a variety of intelligent shooting modes. So even if you’re not confident with the manual settings, this camera’s point and shoot capabilities are seriously impressive.

To be able to take this camera scuba diving, you’ll also need to invest in underwater housing. But the quality of shots it’ll allow you to achieve for under $1000 make it a worthy investment.

We recommend the rugged and ergonomic Fantasea FG7X casing, which allows you to take this camera safely down to 200ft (60m).

The Canon G7X is an exceptional camera for a very reasonable price that you can use both above and below the water.

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Sony RX100 VA

$998.99 | Sony

It was really a close race when I compared the RX100 and the G7X underwater, and although I lean towards the Canon, the verdict is really split evenly between divers. On paper, the Sony has much better stats, but on testing, I got better videos with the Canon, but very slightly.

In the end, they are so similar, that the real factor is that the Sony is hundreds of dollars more expensive. So if you are a hard-core Sony fan, then this is the best compact for you! Of course, both cameras do have plenty of options for their housings and accessories, so that’s no issue.

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Olympus Tough TG-6

$329.99 | Olympus

We’ve been seeing more and more amazing footage coming out, from the TG-6, specifically the macro shots. This is because of it’s awesome “microscope mode”, that gets closer than any compact camera above, without wet lenses!

Thanks to its robust build, high image quality, and impressive underwater settings, the Olympus TG-6 Tough Waterproof is arguably the best dive camera for beginners.

With 4x optical zoom, 5 different underwater shooting modes and, 3 different underwater white balance options, the Olympus TG-6 makes it incredibly easy for everyone to be able to take great scuba diving shots.

What’s more, this rugged camera is also freezeproof, shockproof, and crushproof, making it the perfect companion for all of your adventures.

The only downside to this camera for scuba diving is that it’s only waterproof up to 50ft (15m). So you’ll need to invest in the Olympus underwater housing if you want to go deeper. Get the housing and lights, and you have a great setup.

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BEST DSLR CAMERAS FOR DIVING

If you’re serious about scuba diving photography, then you’ll need an underwater camera that matches your ambitions. These high-end DSLR and the mirrorless cameras below will help you achieve those National Geographic worthy shots (but only if you learn how to use them properly!)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

$1,349.95 | Canon

When it comes to underwater photography, there is only so much you can achieve with a compact. So if you’re looking to take professional-level scuba diving shots then it’s time to invest in a ‘real’ camera.

Another favorite among regular photographers, the 7d is also an awesome rig underwater. Get some good macro lenses, and a good wide angle, and you have a very high quality set up. Add in some strobes for photos, or video lights if you are filming, and you can’t really go wrong.

Even in near darkness, this camera captures insanely clear images. The autofocus is super fast and consistently accurate, which pays off underwater where lighting and contrast are not often great.

Combined with its near-perfect metering for exposure and white balance, even underwater, this camera consistently delivers in a way that will impress even the fussiest of professional dive photographers.

As with any professional camera for scuba diving, you’ll also need to invest in the underwater housing. But if you’re serious about underwater photography, then the Canon EOS 6D digital SLR camera setup is well worth the investment.

It’s a truly outstanding camera that delivers excellent results no matter what, how, or where you’re shooting.

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Canon 5D IV

$1,425.00 | Canon

In many diver’s opinions, this is the best full-frame rig you can get for underwater cameras. If you have the budget for the huge price tag for a 5d series setup, this is the go-to camera for many pros.

Some of the best content I have ever seen, both video and photo, has been produced by a Canon 5d Mark 3 or mark 4, and it is seriously impressive.

*Prices above don’t include lenses, housing or dome ports. It’s the body only, then you will need to put together your perfect setup. 

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BEST MIRRORLESS DIVE CAMERAS

Panasonic GH5

$1399.99 | Panasonic

If you have the money, and want to step into the pro world of underwater videography or cinematography, then this might be the one to get.

Even the Great Johnathan Bird from Blue world uses the GH5, when he doesn’t want to lug around his Red Cameras.

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sony a7s 2 housing

$1799.99 | Sony

I’m listing this as my top choice, even over the Canon 5D, for a few reasons. I just got done filming with a Sony A7S II, and am convinced that this is the ultimate underwater camera for video you can get.

I was blown away. Sony lovers also know that the A7S II, A7r2, A7 etc, are also amazing for photos, and underwater is no exception.

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*Prices above don’t include lenses, housing or dome ports. It’s the body only, then you will need to put together your perfect setup.

What to look for when choosing an underwater camera for scuba diving

Budget

The very first thing you need to consider when buying an underwater camera is how much you actually want to spend.

Otherwise, you’ll waste a ton of time researching options that are over your budget.

Or, worse, you’ll end up overspending and run out of money for those critical accessories, such as waterproof housing!

OUR PICK
Nikon W300 Waterproof Underwater Digital Camera with TFT LCD, 3", Orange (26524)
$386.95

Simple to use, compact and tough, this affordable little camera delivers excellent quality underwater photos and videos.

Buy Now

Ease of use

If you’re relatively new to photography in general, the best underwater camera for you is going to be one that is simple to use. There’s no point in investing in a camera that you find incredibly difficult to use.

manta rayUsing a camera underwater is very similar to using one on land. However, when you’re scuba diving there’s a lot of other things you need to think about, such as your dive buddy, your buoyancy, air consumption, and equalizing, which can make using a camera more difficult.

So it’s important that the camera’s controls and understandable and accessible. The last thing you want to do is miss that manta ray circling overhead because you couldn’t figure out how to switch off the macro setting!

The best camera for scuba diving will offer a balance between usability and customizability. If you’re serious about underwater photography you want to choose one with a good range of manual controls such as a mirrorless or DSLR.

But if you don’t want to have to mess around with any settings when you’re underwater, the best camera for you will be an action camera or a simple point-and-shoot.

Size & Wieght

Don’t forget you’ll need to carry your underwater camera, both during the dive and to/from the dive spot.

Girl with camera for scuba divingIf you often travel aboard to dive and are worried about excess luggage fees, then make sure you choose a compact and lightweight underwater camera. And remember the housing and any accessories will also add extra weight.

Most underwater camera housings are made to be neutrally buoyant, so even the biggest setups won’t have much effect on your buoyancy. However, the size of an underwater camera will affect your maneuverability and trim underwater.

So if you prefer to keep your hands free during the dive and stay as streamlined as possible then a smaller camera that could fit in your BCD pocket is a better choice.

Image & Video Quality

If you just want to snap a few nice shots while you’re diving then you don’t need to worry too much about the image and video quality. Besides, all of the cameras we’ve reviewed above, even the more budget options, produce surprisingly good results.

However, if you want to take the best possible underwater photos then there are a few important things to consider when choosing a camera for scuba diving, which are sensors, lenses, and lighting.

Sensors: Although the number of megapixels does contribute to the quality of your photos, it’s actually a camera’s sensors that are more important when it comes to low light settings, i.e underwater. When picking a camera for scuba diving, always choose a better sensor over higher megapixels.

Lenses: This is where choosing an underwater camera can get very technical. So we’ll try to keep it as simple as possible.

A wide-angle lens is best for expansive reef scenes, schools of fish, and big pelagics. But if you’re mad about the small critters, then you should consider a dedicated macro lens. Or at least make sure the camera has a dedicated macro setting.

It’s also helpful to choose an underwater camera with a good zoom so you can get those close up shots without disturbing the marine life or getting too close to the reef.

If you want to learn more then check out this guide to choosing a lens for underwater photography. 

Lighting: If you want to truly capture the vibrancy of the underwater world, you’ll need additional lighting equipment. Or at the very least a good flash.

Lastly, if making underwater movies is your thing then make sure you choose a camera with image stabilization.

Underwater Housing

If you plan to invest in a high-quality camera for scuba diving, then it’s essential that you find the right underwater housing. After all, underwater housing is what will actually allow you to take the camera scuba diving!

Unfortunately, not all underwater housing is created equal. So you want to take your time to find the best possible option. Make sure you take into account the maximum depth, build materials, accessory ports, and internal components of the underwater housing.

Versatility

And lastly, are you looking solely for an underwater camera or do you want one that you can also use outside of diving?

marine iguana galapagosIf you also want to be able to take high-quality shots on land then it’s worth looking at one of the more sophisticated cameras and investing in the underwater housing for it.

But if you’re looking for a camera just for scuba diving then pick a compact waterproof camera that doesn’t require super expensive housing.

OUR PICK
Nikon W300 Waterproof Underwater Digital Camera with TFT LCD, 3", Orange (26524)
$386.95

Simple to use, compact and tough, this affordable little camera delivers excellent quality underwater photos and videos.

Buy Now

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best Underwater Camera for Scuba Diving?

Manta Rays Scuba Diving SocorroAs with any piece of scuba diving gear, the best underwater camera is the one that meets your needs and budget.

When it comes to ease of use, affordability, and durability, the GoPro Hero 7 is the best camera for scuba diving.  It’s super simple to use and the quality of the photos is surprisingly good. You’ve also got the option to record 4k video as well.

Plus, there’s a surplus of attachments available, including lights and filters, to uplevel your shots.

But if you’re a little more experienced and want to develop your underwater photography skills, then the best camera for scuba diving will be one that has more advanced settings.

If your budget allows, we highly recommend the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II. With plenty of extra features, impressive hand stabilization, and excellent macro mode, it’s the best scuba diving camera for any budding underwater photographer.

Do I need a Red Filter for my Scuba Diving Camera?

This really depends on how deep you’re diving, and the quality of shots you are going for. But if you’re a perfectionist like us, you’ll want your underwater photos to look as good as possible.

For underwater action cameras, such as the GoPro, we highly recommend using a red filter when you deeper than 15 ft or 5m. A red filter or lens enables the camera to better capture the natural colors that you’re seeing.

Without one, all your shots will end up looking very green and blue. And even if you edit them it’s tricky to get the colors looking realistic.

For the very best results, it’s worth investing in a few different filters with varying degrees of red so you can cover a wider range of depths. For the GoPro Hero7, try out this red light trio filter set.

And if you still need convincing, here’s a photo without a red filter…

gopro no red filter

And here’s one with the mentioned red filter.

gopro with red filter

As you can see, having a red filter makes a world of a difference to your underwater photos.

Are these Underwater Cameras Difficult to Use?

Most of these cameras are extremely easy to use, especially the more budget options. Plus they all come with detailed manuals and you’ll find plenty of tutorials online.

You can get pretty far on just the basic knowledge. Even on auto, you’ll be able to capture some surprisingly epic shots with these underwater cameras.

Once you start playing around with more advanced settings, such as depth of field, it does get more complicated. But it’s the experimenting that makes underwater photography so much fun!

Should I purchase a bag for my dive camera?

sea-lion-swimmingYes, yes, and yes!!! This is an extremely important thing to do as it can often just take one mistake to ruin a precious dive camera.

We’ve seen someone drop their camera right after a dive, losing ALL photos and videos from the dive we had just done.

Of course, if your camera is fully waterproof or still secured in its housing it should be ok.

But if there are any parts exposed (such as the lens), there could be some serious damage. Plus there are all the other accessories to consider such as spare batteries, the charger, additional lenses, and memory cards.

Investing in a good waterproof backpack is a great way to keep all of your electronics safe and secure.

Where Should I Store My Underwater Camera?

Although it’s tempting to leave it all neatly packed after your dive trip, it’s important to unpack, inspect, and properly store your gear after each trip. This will drastically extend the life of your underwater camera.

When storing your dive camera, it’s imperative to avoid humid areas. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with the dreaded green goo, i.e. a build-up of bacteria or fungus.

Not only will this make your equipment disgusting to work with, but it can also cause the camera to malfunction. There are also sprays and solutions you can bathe your other dive camera in to prevent this.

Do underwater cameras work out of the water?

Of course! In fact, there is no such thing as an underwater camera. All underwater cameras are just ordinary cameras in a watertight casing.

The great thing about investing in a good underwater camera is that you can also use it out of the water as well.

OUR PICK
Nikon W300 Waterproof Underwater Digital Camera with TFT LCD, 3", Orange (26524)
$386.95

Simple to use, compact and tough, this affordable little camera delivers excellent quality underwater photos and videos.

Buy Now

Conclusion

We understand that choosing an underwater camera for scuba diving can feel intimidating. There are a lot of scarily expensive options out there and it’s hard to know which of these waterproof cameras are actually worth it.

But you can feel confident that if you pick any of the options we’ve listed above that you’re buying one of the best scuba diving cameras available.

Have you tried any of these cameras for scuba diving?

We’d love to hear about your dive camera set ups!

Alexa Worswick Administrator

Alexa Worswick is a PADI and SSI scuba diving Instructor, recreational freediver and freelance copywriter. She first learnt to scuba dive in the UK aged 15 and has since travelled and dived in multiple locations across 3 different continents. After quitting her marketing job in London in 2016, Alexa is now based in Indonesia where she can pursue her passion for the ocean fulltime. 

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