Aquatic Cameras for the Rest of Us

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We're waist-deep in summer, and that means we’re neck-deep in the water with friends and family. What better way to capture your aquatic summer adventures than with an underwater camera? Each of the major players in the photo industry has fine underwater offerings that make getting memorable shots under the sea, or just within reach of the waves, a cinch.

You don’t have to be Jacques Cousteau to own an underwater camera, or maintain and carry around bulky housings and all the other gear that goes with a high-end rig. There are many water-friendly cameras that anyone can use with ease. These cameras also happen to be capable of producing excellent images.

Olympus

Most waterproof point and shoots today have evolved into what one could call “rugged” or “tough” cameras. These cameras do more than protect themselves from H₂O; many of them also protect against dust, accidental drops, freezing and being crushed. That means your camera can take a licking and keep on clicking.

Take the Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS cam. Its name fits right in with the genre and with this camera’s stellar capabilities. The newest member of Olympus’s Tough line, the 12MP TG-1 iHS is made for anyone who wants to protect their investment, near water or not. Hey, you might just have a very active toddler in your life—that makes the camera’s ability to withstand a fall from up to a 6.6' priceless. The camera is also crushproof and capable of surviving as much as 220 pounds of force.

If you do happen to be an underwater enthusiast, though, this Tough cam can accept all the challenges it encounters in the water as well. Waterproof down to 40.0', the TG-1 iHS is ready for adventure. Even if you’re not in the surf, but simply in a humid environment or out in the rain or snow, the Tough cam has you covered. In addition to its waterproof capabilities, the TG-1 is also freezeproof down to 14.0° Fahrenheit, and it’s dustproof as well.

The camera is more than simply tough, however. It’s also a stellar image-maker. A point and shoot in name only, the TG-1 iHS provides the photographer with everything they’d expect from Olympus, and then some. The high speed, ultra-bright f/2.0 lens not only captures crisp still images, it records high definition 1080p video.

The built-in lens also accepts converter lenses, like the FCON-T01 Fisheye or the TCON-T01 Tele converter lenses.  Additionally, the TG-1 iHS fits into the Olympus PT-053 underwater housing, for those who crave the depths below 40.0' under the waves. Other new Olympus Tough Cams to check out include the TG-320 and the TG-820 iHS. The entire line of Olympus Tough cams that B&H carries can be viewed here.

Fujifilm

Fujifilm also has some very fine offerings of underwater cameras. The FinePix XP150 brings 14.4MP power to the waves, along with a 2.7-inch LCD, 5.0x optical zoom and more. The XP150 provides what Fujifilm calls, “4-way protection.” The 4 methods of protection include the following: waterproof capabilities down to 32.8'; shockproofing, capable of withstanding a 6.6' fall; freezeproofing with the ability to withstand temperatures as cold as 14°F; and a fully sealed, dustproof body.  

The XP150 has the added advantage of a built-in GPS receiver. The adventurous (and those who are easily lost) will appreciate the ability to add geotags to their images. The GPS navigation also helps you keep track of your current location. The camera can act as a compass, too, so you’ll always know in which direction you’re facing and where your photos were taken—a double bonus.

Another highlight is the one-touch movie record button that allows for easy moviemaking, especially when you’re in the water. Capture 1080p HD videos for truly special memories, without fuss, even if you’re wearing gloves.  

Other new members of the XP family include the FinePix XP170, FinePix XP100 and the FinePix XP50. These cameras feature 4-way protection like the XP150; the difference between them is that the XP50 is waterproof to a depth of 16.4' and has the ability to survive a 5' drop. All three cameras boast a 14.0MP sensor and a 2.7" anti-reflective LCD.  Plus, the XP170, XP50 and the XP100 each feature one touch 1080p HD video recording as well.

Nikon

The Nikon COOLPIX AW100 dives down to 33', unharmed; survives drops of up to 5'; and functions in temperatures as low as 14°F. The AW100 boasts an extreme low-light 16.0MP CMOS sensor and a Zoom-NIKKOR ED glass lens. Together, the sensor and NIKKOR lens capture HD 1080p movies with stereo sound and high-res still images, both of which can be viewed in stunning clarity on the camera’s 3.0" LCD. The AW100 also offers an “Action Control” feature that allows for an easy change of settings, even if you’re wearing gloves.

The COOLPIX S30 from Nikon produces great shots on land or at sea, while remaining a great value, especially for families. Its rugged qualities include underwater capabilities to a depth of 9.8 feet and the ability to withstand drops of 2.6 feet. In contrast to the AW100, the S30 has a 2.7" LCD, the ability to capture 720p HD videos, and a 10.1MP CCD sensor. Numerous creative options, in-camera slideshows and various scene modes all enhance the S30’s appeal.

Canon

Canon’s PowerShot D20 is a 12.1MP camera that’s waterproof down to 33'; temperature resistant from 14 to 104°F; and shockproof from up to a 5' drop. Whether you plan to photograph Nemo, or your kid simply likes sprinklers, the D20 will make beautiful summer memories every time. In addition to shooting stills, much like all the digital cameras worth their pixels these days, the D20 also captures HD video. Additional features include GPS, Intelligent image stabilization and the ability to add on optional accessories, including the Canon WP-DC 45 underwater housing for those times you need to dive deeper than 33'.

Sony

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V is a respectable camera that leans toward the high end of the underwater point-and-shoot market. It boasts an 18.2MP sensor, along with what we’re all really curious about, waterproof capabilities down to 16'. The TX200V also happens to be dustproof. The camera can capture 1080p HD video and boasts numerous modes, all aimed at helping you get the shots you want with ease, whether you’re on land or under the sea.

A generous 3.3" OLED touch screen makes for quick selection of modes and settings, even in the pounding surf. Another highlight is the camera’s polished glass design. Nothing protrudes from the TX200V’s body—no lens or control buttons—making it one of the thinnest and most stylish rugged cameras on the market today. In addition to looking great, the TX200V is also smart with features like GPS and a compass, so you can track where you shot your photos, know your exact location when out shooting and find your way back, too.

Panasonic

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS4 boasts waterproof capabilities down to 40'. In addition, the camera is also shockproof (withstanding falls of 6.6'), freezeproof (down to 14°F), and dustproof. With these impressive safety features, it’s no wonder that Panasonic also gave the camera functions such as GPS, an altimeter, barometer and compass. You can take this camera out to play, pretty much wherever you feel like it, without worry.

The DMC-TS4 also features a Leica DC lens for capturing 12.1MP stills and  1920 x 1080i AVCHD/MP4 video. Other features include 9.3x Intelligent Zoom, and Mega and Power Optical Image Stabilization for clean, blur-free shots. 

The LUMIX DMC-TS20 is a budget-friendly, 16.1MP camera with a tough design and 3D Photo Mode. The TS20 is waterproof down to 16.0'; shockproof from falls up to 5'; has an IPX8/IPX6 dustproof rating; and it’s freezeproof—with the ability to function in a frigid 14°F. Like the Olympus Tough cameras, this Panasonic is more than an underwater camera, it’s a life-proof cam.

Additional features include scene modes, a 2.7" LCD, and of course the ability to capture both stills and 1280 x 720 HD video. Mega Optical Image Stabilization also comes in handy for clear, blur-free memories. There’s also an LED light that’s especially helpful when shooting underwater.

Pentax

Pentax’s line of tough cameras goes back well over a decade, proving that when a company is onto something, they stick with it. The Optio WG-1 is an excellent example of a rugged camera that gets the shot, no matter what. The WG-1 exhibits waterproof capabilities down to 33', crushproof capabilities (withstands weights up to 220 lb), shock proofing that protects against drops of up to 5', cold proofing for operation down to 14°F, and the ability to withstand dust. The WG-1 also features a rugged look and even a strap and a carabiner that hook into any active lifestyle.

The WG-1’s 14.0MP sensor captures high-res stills and 720p HD video, while features like 5.0x optical zoom, Digital Shake Reduction, and even a Digital Microscope Mode offer flexibility, no matter what setting you happen to be in.

The Pentax Optio WG-2 is a step up from the WG-1 with a 16.0MP backlit sensor, 1080p HD video capture, and more. The WG-2 can go down to depths of 40' underwater, while providing the same shock-, crush-, dust- and cold- protection features of the WG-1. A 3.0" LCD, HDMI port, Shake Reduction, and the option to use an infrared remote are also integral features of the WG-2.

If you’re looking to take your adventures a bit further, then the Optio WG-2 GPS Digital Camera is for you. Offering up all the same features at the WG-2, the WG-2 GPS provides you with the option to geo-tag your images, as well as position logging and flexible time sync when traveling.

Ricoh

The Ricoh G700SE is a high-end underwater point and shoot with a number of things going for it. In addition to being waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and coldproof, the G700SE also features Bluetooth and wireless LAN capabilities, along with support for optional GPS or bar code reader units.

When it comes to taking great pictures, the G700SE has you covered there as well. The camera has a 12.1MP CCD sensor and a built-in flash, which can reach up to 32'. An accessory shoe allows for adding an optional accessory flash. A mode dial provides easy selection of modes even while you’re shooting. The G700SE also boasts a 3.0" LCD, an electronic level to keep those horizons straight and numerous functions like a camera lock, SD WORM card support, camera memos functions and more.

The budget-friendly Ricoh PX is a stylish little camera that’s waterproof down to 9.8' (for up to 60 minutes). In addition to being waterproof, the PX is also shockproof from falls of up to 4.9', and dustproof. The camera boasts a 16.0MP CCD sensor and other features like 5.0x optical zoom and numerous scene modes.

SeaLife

The SeaLife DC1400 was designed with the underwater enthusiast in mind. Easy to use, yet tough, the DC1400 goes beyond its impressive underwater rating of 200' with numerous features and functions specifically designed for getting the shot while beneath the surface. Six underwater modes include Dive mode, Snorkel mode, External Flash Auto mode, External Flash + Light mode, External Light mode and External Flash Manual mode. These functions allow for light and color correction underwater. The underwater white balance modes also come in handy. Additionally, the DC1400 features 27 land modes.

The DC1400 features “Piano Key” controls—5 large buttons—for easy operation, even while wearing gloves. For ease of use, the camera also has a big shutter and a zooming lever. The camera comes encased in rubber armor and boasts hassle-free o-ring maintenance.

In addition to its underwater capabilities, the DC1400 is a decent terrestrial point and shoot. It has a 14.0MP CCD sensor, wide-angle lens and 5.0x optical zoom. Optical image stabilization also proves its handiness on land and in the water. Along with acquiring great high-res stills, the DC1400 also captures 720p HD video.

One or two SL980 Underwater Photo/Video Lights or SL961 Underwater Digital Pro Strobes can be used with the DC1400 to enhance your images. Desiccants and spare batteries are highly recommended for the DC1400.

The SeaLife Mini II is a budget-friendly option, yet it boasts a number of impressive features. Waterproof to a depth of 130', the Mini II is also shockproof (withstands up to a 6' drop on land) and can operate in temperatures down to 33°F. Three large wide-spread buttons make for easy control, while a 1-2-3 graphic on-screen guide makes adjusting the camera’s settings simple.

Rubber armored, just like the DC1400, the Mini II can stand up to abuse underwater as well as on land. The same lights that the 1400 uses can be used with the Mini II for capturing great stills with the 9.0MP sensor. VGA video (640 x 480) can be taken with the camera, too.

As you can see, there are a number of underwater point-and-shoot options out there. Whether you’re looking for a simple budget-friendly snapshot taker or a hard-core diving camera that’s a point and shoot only in name, you’ll find it at B&H.