After extensive research and checking out dozens of products, we’ve picked out the best underwater camera on the market for any budget. Our top pick, the Go Pro Hero 7, is the best action cam out there for most adventure sports and travel uses. It improves on the famous ruggedness of previous Go Pros, while adding 4K 60p video and hands-free voice control.
Since the best underwater cameras are meant to go underwater and in general on adventures, when making this list we looked for each camera’s dive rating and whether they’re claimed to be shock proof and dust proof as well. Some models like the Nikon W300, our # 3 pick, even specify what temperature limits they’ll operate within. We made sure to note what kind of lens and sensor each of these cameras comes with, as well as the maximum resolutions for video and stills.
We checked what accessories were included and available. These typically come with at the very least a battery, USB cable and for the action cams, some kind of mounting hardware. Finally, we checked the listed battery life; most action cams have 900-1350 mAh batteries that translate to about 60-90 minutes of recording. We gave bonus points for being able to film at different frame rates for slow motion, and for good low light performance.
- 1 Top 7 Best Underwater Cameras Compared
- 1.1 #1 Go Pro Hero 7 – Top Pick/Most Trusted
- 1.2 #2 AKASO EK7000 4K Action Cam – Honorable Mention/Includes 2 Batteries
- 1.3 #3 Nikon W300 – Best Still Images/3” LCD Screen
- 1.4 #4 APEMAN A79 – Best Value/Great for YouTubers
- 1.5 #5 CanPark ACT74 – Highest Rez Sensor/2 Batteries Included
- 1.6 #6 CrossTour Action Camera – Best Budget/2 Batteries Included
- 1.7 #7 DragonTouch 4K Action Camera – Budget honorable mention/Best Zoom
- 2 Best Underwater Camera Buying Guide
Top 7 Best Underwater Cameras Compared
#1 Go Pro Hero 7 – Top Pick/Most TrustedWHY WE LIKE IT: Best video quality of any camera in its class, with 4K at up to 60 fps, plus sharp 12 MP stills, along with a rugged housing that’s waterproof to 33 ft. It’s great for travelers, extreme sports athletes and student filmmakers, or anyone who needs a camera that’s not just waterproof but can handle a wipe-out or two.
The Go Pro Hero 7 is a safe pick for action sports and adventure travel aficionados. Offering some of the best durability of any action camera out there – there’s a reason so many skydiving and car racing videos are shot on Go Pros – the Go Pro Hero 7 is also one of the more affordable waterproof cameras out there.
It has a 1220 mAh battery, the largest of any of the action cameras on our list, letting it record video for up to two hours per charge.
It has a waterproof housing rated for diving up to 33 feet. This makes it ideal for surfing, canoeing or snorkeling, as well as grabbing shallow water footage of you and your friends swimming. Like previous Go Pro models and like most action cameras, the Go Pro Hero 7 operates mainly in a set-it and forget it mode. Simply press a button and it records until the card is full. Unlike early versions of the Go Pro and many of its competitors, though, the Hero 7 offers a clear and useful back screen, so you can use it to frame shots and take stills as well. The Go Pro Hero 7 also features voice control and supports live streaming.
#2 AKASO EK7000 4K Action Cam – Honorable Mention/Includes 2 BatteriesWHY WE LIKE IT: This is a very affordable budget action cam with great specs including 4K video and a deeper dive rating than the Go Pro Hero 7. It’s great those wanting to pick up an inexpensive underwater camera for diving, boating, and more.
The budget friendly AKASO benefits from a number of advanced features, like 4k video capture, a burst photo mode, time lapse mode and built-in Wi-Fi for quick and easy sharing. Plus, it’s rated for deeper underwater dives than even our top pick, the Go Pro Hero 7, making the AKASO EK7000 a solid choice for adventurers on a budget. It also makes an ideal second camera for taking on ski, surf or boating trips.
While it doesn’t have the longest battery life–you’ll typically get around an hour or so of recording if using the screen– or the most noise-free low light footage, it does come with a handy wrist-mounted remote control, making it easy to take action shots without pausing the action. A wide angle lens, as on the Go-Pro, gives you a 170-degree field of view. Like the majority of action cams and specialty underwater cameras, the AKASO doesn’t have much in the way of external exposure control, but it does shoot high resolution 4K video at 25 frames per second, and HD 1080p at 60 fps.
#3 Nikon W300 – Best Still Images/3” LCD ScreenWHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged dust-proof and freeze-proof real camera with a flash and autofocus that lets you get higher quality stills than an action camera like the Go Pro or AKASO can provide, without the fish-eye distortion and in extreme environments, too. It’s great for those looking to take memorable, quality photos and videos of their adventures while using a more traditional camera form factor that works great in and out of the water.
The Nikon W300 delivers 16 MP stills or 4K ultra HD video and is rugged enough for uses ranging from mountain biking to skiing to scuba diving. While it lacks the helmet-mount set-it and forget it sort of convenience you get with action cams like the Go Pro Hero 7 (our top pick) this Nikon underwater camera has its own advantages as more of a “real” camera. Unlike action cams it includes a built-in flash and LED light so it’s not completely useless in low light conditions. It also benefits from a Nikon lens with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture, letting it gather more light for its 16-megapixel stills. The W300 battery is rated for 280 shots per charge.
While set up is more time consuming than with the Go Pro or the AKASO (our #2 pick) the Nikon W300 has more features to play with. In addition to built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it comes with GPS, an altimeter and depth meter for diving, plus it even has a built-in barometer so it can read atmospheric pressure and water pressure, making it great for hikers and mountaineers as well as scuba divers and snorkellers looking for clear, crisp underwater photographs and video footage.
#4 APEMAN A79 – Best Value/Great for YouTubersWHY WE LIKE IT: A budget-friendly underwater camera that’s good for 40m underwater, the deepest of any underwater camera on our list, it also has 4K video and the ability to mount an external mic. It’s great for YouTubers who want an easy to use action cam for cool underwater footage with better audio quality than a Go Pro provides.
This affordable action camera is an excellent choice for capturing 4k video of swimming, scuba diving, surfing and more. For the money it includes a surprising amount of features (WiFi, 20MP sensor, remote control, built-in screen) and its 40m dive rating is deeper than the much more expensive Nikon W300 underwater camera. Its battery lasts 90 minutes when recording video, which is about average for the action cameras on our list of the best underwater cameras.
The APEMAN A79 stands out also for including an external microphone so you can record clearer audio (although the mic isn’t rated for diving as is the camera.) It also comes with a helmet and bicycle mounting kit. Just charge it up, put in an ultra micro SD card, assemble the included underwater housing, screw in the optional mount of your choice and you’re ready for action.
#5 CanPark ACT74 – Highest Rez Sensor/2 Batteries IncludedWHY WE LIKE IT: An ultra affordable action cam that features a 16 MP Sony sensor, 4k recording and a dive rating (30m) that matches the more costly models on our list. It’s great for snorkelers, travelers and scuba divers who want a budget go-anywhere camera that still has good image quality thanks to its Sony sensor.
Thanks to its low price, this CanPark action cam is an underwater camera you can take along on adventures where you might think twice about bringing a more expensive piece of hardware. That said, it still gives great results thanks to a quality 16 MP Sony sensor and the ability to capture 4K ultra HD video at up to 30 fps.
It’s also easy to use and set up. It includes mounting hardware for a helmet mount or bicycle mount, a waterproof case that lets you dive down to a rated 30 meters or about 98 feet, and it even comes with two batteries. Battery life is comparable to the more expensive action cams, too, with a claimed 90 minutes of recording time.
#6 CrossTour Action Camera – Best Budget/2 Batteries IncludedWHY WE LIKE IT: The least expensive underwater camera on our list yet performs with a 30m dive rating and smartphone remote capabilities. It’s great for travelers looking for an affordable backup underwater camera and it’s also great for kids.
This budget action camera from CrossTour is the least expensive model on our list, going for less than some SD cards sell and batteries sell for on their own. Yet it’s a fully usable underwater camera with a 30-meter dive rating that’s even deeper than you get with the Go Pro Hero 7. It also includes a handy 2” rear LCD screen and comes with accessories like a bike mount and helmet mount. Battery life ranges from about an hour up to 90 minutes.
While it may not offer 4K like the leading underwater cameras on our list, or have a zoom function like the DragonTouch 4K (our # 7 pick) it shoots crisp 1080p video which works great for sharing and posting online.
#7 DragonTouch 4K Action Camera – Budget honorable mention/Best ZoomWHY WE LIKE IT: An inexpensive 4K-capable underwater camera that comes with a generous amount of accessories, including a wrist remote. It’s great for vacationers or anyone just starting out with using an action camera.
Though it comes in at a budget price, the DragonTouch Vision 3 underwater camera comes well-equipped with such features as built-in Wi-Fi, a 2” rear screen, slow motion mode and 4x zoom. Like most similarly designed action cameras it features a wide angle lens with a 170-degree field of view, making it great for panoramas of coral reefs, as well as making sure you don’t miss the action for sports filming.
The Vision 3 even offers some manual exposure control like the GoPro Hero 7 and Nikon W300 do, which is rare at this price point. With the included housing it’s rated for 30m underwater. It also includes a wide range of accessories including a nifty wrist-mounted remote control, great for sports. Of note, however, the remote isn’t waterproof like the camera.
Best Underwater Camera Buying Guide
Features to Consider
- Dive Depth
In choosing the best underwater camera for a range of budgets and uses, we selected models with an official rating of least 10m dive depth. This is what separates a true purpose-built “underwater” camera from a camera that is merely “waterproof” or “weather-sealed.” Most high end DSLRs, for example, can be used without a problem in the rain, but for diving, they require an external housing.
- Built-in Wi-Fi
With action sports, diving and boating in mind, we picked underwater cameras that were easy to use and that feature built-in Wi-Fi for quick sharing and editing. Some underwater cameras let you use their built-in wi-fi as a remote, as well. The APEMAN A79, our #4 pick, includes this feature.
- Video Resolution and Frame Rate
The best underwater cameras offer at least 1080p video. Many of today’s underwater cameras now offer 4K recording too, though the quality of the footage varies. Some, such as the Go Pro Hero 7, our Top Pick, offer very reasonable pro-level image quality that can even be used in student film projects or be edited into broadcasts. Most of the cameras on our list record 4K at 24 frames per second and 1080p at 60 frames per second. The Go Pro Hero 7, our top pick, stands out here with 4K at 60 fps, so you can shoot 4k resolution slow-motion footage if you like.
- Rugged, Durable construction
We looked for durability, making sure each camera on our list was at least “shock proof” and dust resistant as well as being waterproof. One of the keys to longevity for these outdoor adventure cameras is effective seals around USB ports, battery compartments and lenses. Most action cameras accomplish this by covering all such ports within an included, transparent plastic watertight housing, while the Nikon W300 is all one piece.
- Battery Life
When looking for the best underwater cameras and action cameras, at least an hour of battery life while shooting video is a must, since the whole point of an underwater camera or action camera is to go on adventures, typically someplace outlets may be harder to come by.
- Still Image Quality
Image quality is more than just megapixels. As with all digital cameras, the photo quality of these underwater cameras depends on the lens and sensor performance. The latter includes noise reduction for low light usability as well as dynamic range– the ability to show highlights and shadows– and color reproduction. The best underwater cameras on the market can approach DSLR-levels here, with 13 stops or more of dynamic range and useful footage even in twilight. Even budget minded models like the APEMAN 79 do better than most smartphones when it comes to these measures of image quality. Plus, it’s a lot easier to take a sub- $100 camera, say, whitewater rafting than to trust your several-hundred dollar phone to an external housing which may cost more than some of these underwater cameras.
- What’s the difference between an underwater camera and an action camera?
An underwater camera refers to any camera designed to work fully submerged in water. This means no separately purchased housing is needed. Some require a little assembly whereas others, like the Nikon W300 (our #3 pick) come in one piece, ready to go for a swim. An action camera is a specialized underwater friendly camera in the mold of the Go Pro. They’re typically designed to be mounted somewhere and record a very wide field of view, rather than have you aim and compose each shot.
- Are these cameras good for skiing and snowboarding too?
Some underwater cameras, like our top rated Go Pro Hero 7, are ideal for capturing skiing and snowboarding videos. For stills, you might want to check out the Nikon W300, our #3 pick, since it packs a real flash, autofocus capabilities and is rated to work normally down to 14-degrees F.