The Best SCUBA Diving Camera for Beginners 2020

Are you as addicted to SCUBA diving as we are, and want to get into photography or video? Maybe you just want to immortalize your next epic SCUBA adventure, but don’t know where to start. Well look no further, because in this guide we will be breaking down the best SCUBA diving camera for beginners in 2020!

Our expert underwater photographers and videographers have put together their years of experiences under the waves, to list their very favorite beginner underwater cameras, and to tell you why they are so great, when you are just starting out.

Sexy (Squat) Shrimp
A Sexy Shrimp (Canon G7XII)

One thing that all pros agree on, is that you shouldn’t go out and spend $10k on a new rig when you’re just starting out. It’s better to get a budget dive camera, learn everything you can, and when you are proficient on that you can upgrade.

However, some people are happy with their underwater vacation shots, and never need to upgrade! So in this guide we will not only give you a few budget friendly beginner dive cameras, we will give some tips on how to get the best shots possible!

Of course there are other things you need to take into account, since you are photographing underwater..Things like the housing to fit your camera, maybe a steady tray, lighting and more. So we will show you our favorite complete setups at the very end of the guide. (Read until the end to see my favorite setup )

So lets get started!

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Quick Answers: Best Scuba Diving Camera For Beginners 2020:

But why do we think these are the top 5 best underwater cameras for beginners? What makes each of them great for learning the craft, and which one is our go-to rig? If you want to know the details, lets get into the technicals. Otherwise, you can always click the links above and shop now! (Or, once again, read to the end for my favorite set-up)

GoPro Hero 8

We tend to have a love hate relationship with GoPro. There are so many pros and cons with this camera, but in the end, we decided life is better with at least one hanging around. Even now that we rely on big, expensive DSLR rigs, we still carry a GoPro attached on top for more footage.

Yes, I said footage. The new Hero 8 does great photos, but in our minds its real strength is it’s video abilities. With it’s 4k at 60fps, and even more importantly, it’s great in-camera stabilization, it really does produce some great footage.

So is it good for beginners?

Pros

  • Tiny and easy to travel with
  • Great stabilization for video
  • Relatively cheap, and getting cheaper
  • Can attach to anything as an action cam
  • Lots of after market accessories available 
  • True “point and shoot”. Only skill needed is good buoyancy for steady shots
  • Super popular, and easy to find parts or replacements in foreign countries last minute
  • Doubles as a good out-of-water action cam

Cons

  • Even with internal stabilization, small cameras are hard to keep steady for beginners. (Need good buoyancy)
  • Not many manual controls (white balance etc)
  • Fixed super wide angle, although improved 
  • Cheaper than Hero 7 was, but still needs red filter and housing
  • Claims to be water proof without housing, but don’t try past 1 meter

Conclusion:

All-in-all, a GoPro is a great first underwater camera, if all you really want to do is snap good shots or clips without too much fuss. No, you wont learn a lot of new underwater camera skills, but you will get the content without much hassle. 

The only real issue a beginner can have, is getting steady shots. The camera is so small, and normally held on a pole, and it takes a lot of concentration to get truly smooth video. It can be a big annoyance when you think you got a great clip of that turtle, then you get home and find that it is real shaky and unusable. So you’ll need good buoyancy and a steady hand to get good. 

That being said, the internal stabilization in the Hero 8 is a huge improvement from recent models, and will help you out a ton. 

Ok, so what will you need to buy with a GoPro Hero 8 for diving?

Don’t be fooled when GoPro claims that it is waterproof up to 30 feet. When I tried it, the water pressure compresses all the buttons and touch-screen, and eventually ruins it. 

So for diving there are 2 things you absolutely need to have: A housing, and a red filter. Without the red filter, you will have no color past 2 meters deep.

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best scuba camera for beginners

SeaLife Micro 2.0 Pro

For a point-and-shoot underwater camera, the SeaLife Micro is relatively user friendly and easy to use, is small enough for easy carry-on travel, and is priced about right for what it is. Ironically, although this camera isn’t going to give you the highest quality video of the other cameras on this list, it is however the only one here that is made for SCUBA diving. 

The rest of the cameras on the list have after-market housing and accessories so that we can take them underwater, but SeaLife specializes in cameras made just for divers. 

Unlike their bigger DC2000, the micro has a sealed, permanent underwater housing, is more compact, and still has great photo and video abilities. SeaLife also offers their own line of flex trays and lights for both photo or video…basically everything you need to learn underwater photography. 

In fact, for around $1000, most people just buy the whole package; the camera, tray and light all in one. Heck, SeaLife even produces their own wetlenses for both macro and wide angle shots. 

So is it good for beginners?

Pros

  • Small and easy to travel with
  • Sealife offers all the accessories you need
  • Relatively cheap at $750 for whole system
  • True “point and shoot”, entry level dive camera
  • Doubles as a good out-of-water action cam
  • No housing needed, good to 60 meters

Cons

  • Good quality shots/clips, but not pro level
  • No manual settings for advanced shooters
  • No RAW photo options

Conclusion:

This camera seems to us like the perfect entry level dive camera, with so much ease of use, little to no maintenance since it has a sealed case and no O-rings, and an easy setup for settings. 

SeaLife really makes it all too. With their Sea Dragon 1500 and 2500 video lights, you can actually get pretty decent video color quality. But you don’t have to use theirs if you don’t want, ,you can combine it with any tray and light combo. 

Ok, so what will you need to buy with a SeaLife Micro 2.0  for diving?

Honestly, you can get away with just buying the camera alone, and still get decent shots and videos. It’s also a little smaller to travel with without the tray, handles and lights. 

But if you want to greatly improve your shots and continue to get better at your craft, you can still get more and more cool add-ons. From strobes to video lighting to macro and wide angle wetlenses and more, they got a lot. 

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sealife camera

Olympus Tough TG-6

Divers who use the TG-6 swear by it, and for good reason. In fact, it has grown a pretty decent fan base. The camera has lots of great options, at slightly less cost than the next cameras on the list, but it has one feature that really impresses me, and everyone in all the underwater photography groups I follow:

The Microscope mode. 

banded tozeuma shrimp
A Banded Tozeuma Shrimp (Olympus TG-6)

Just look at that macro shot of the shrimp above…And thats without a macro wetlense, which you can also use to increase that magnification. For a point and shoot compact camera, it’s incredible!

It really feels like this camera is made for the ocean in mind. Without a housing the camera is waterproof up to 5 meters, but the housing will get divers down to 60. 

This is an awesome camera for new underwater photographers and videographers, with still having easy setup and use, and good quality. 

Pros

  • Super rugged camera that survives drops
  • Epic microscope mode in video or photo
  • Cheaper than other compacts at around $700 with housing
  • Has 67mm thread for all toys, like a macro wetlens

Cons

  • Not as many manual settings as Canon or Sony ( but improving )

Conclusion:

It’s actually hard to find any cons for this camera. Its rugged, small, takes great shots and clips, has an impressive macro mode, and tons of companies make housings and accessories for it. So whats not to love? 

It shoots in 4k, has white balance settings, and seems to be made for underwater. It might be the best entry level underwater camera on this list, with not a lot to learn, but good output. I highly recommend this one! 

The camera itself costs around $400, and an Olympus housing, about $300. So thats not a bad price for what it is. 

Ok, so what will you need to buy with a Olympus Tg-6  for diving?

Honestly, you can get away with just buying the camera alone, and still get decent shots and videos. It’s also a little smaller to travel with without the tray, handles and lights. 

But if you want to greatly improve your shots and continue to get better at your craft, you can still get more and more cool add-ons. From strobes to video lighting to macro and wide angle wetlenses and more, they got a lot. 

SHOP NOW!
olympus underwater

Sony Rx100 M7

Now we are getting into the high-end spectrum of compact cameras that are good for learning underwater photography. When I say “high-end”, I mean in both quality, and in prices. Although Sony has a few other options for cheaper action cameras, which could maybe be al alternative to a GoPro, the RX100 series is definitely their flagship premier compact, with pro-level abilities. 

So the next camera on this list, is the competitor to the RX100, the Canon G7X, ad they are so similar in size, quality and prestige, that its a toss up on who is better. Usually its people who are either in the Sony or the Canon lovers club that will tell you either way. 

For me, I say my G7X II is the ultimate compact underwater camera, but it could go either way. However, they are so similar in quality, that the nearly double price tag of the new Sony over the Canon, makes my choice justified.

Pros

  • Amazing quality video
  • Fully manual settings, or auto white balance 
  • 4k video capable
  • External mic jack if using above water
  • Good internal stabilization
  • Every after market company has accessories for it
  • Sony high quality build and reliability

Cons

  • Same price as a pro DSLR (about $1200)
  • Compared to G7XII, Not as impressed with auto focus in macro mode or with macro diopter
  • Need a new (expensive) housing with every new model

Conclusion:

It’s an awesome camera, and good for beginners, although it will obviously take more learning that a GoPro or similar. The underwater photo groups on Facebook are full of pics taken with RX100s, and people love this guy. 

So for me it just comes down to the price point. If you are a hardcore Sony fan, than go for it. But if you want the equivalent for way less money, go for the newest Canon. Either way, you are in for some awesome content. 

Ok, so what will you need to buy with a Sony RX100 VII  for diving?

You will definitely need a housing for this camera, and since it’s so expensive for a compact, you should probably get a high-end brand. The best housing manufacturer is Nauticam, but nearly all housing brands have a RX100 option.

Of course, there is no end to accessories for this camera and it’s 67mm lens thread. 

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sony rx100 vii nauticam housing

Canon G7X II

I’ve gone through a lot of different underwater setups, even supposed upgrades, yet the G7X remains my favorite. It is just the right balance of everything I want: Compact enough for easy/light travel, very high quality videos and photos, easy to learn and use, and relatively cheap for the quality. 

I’ve ditched my old DSLR setup, to get back to my trusty little G7xII, and I love it. Notice I didn’t say the G7X III though? The reason is, that if I upgrade from mark 2 to the 3, I will also have to buy a new expensive housing, and I don’t think the new version is that big of an improvement. 

If you want to know more about why this is my favorite dive set-up, read here

The documentary below was shot completely with my G7X II:

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Pros

  • Amazing quality video
  • Fully manual settings, or auto white balance 
  • Great auto focus even with super macro lens
  • Good internal stabilization
  • Every after market company has accessories for it
  • Canon high quality build and reliability
  • Cheaper than Rx100 ( about $550)

Cons

  • I had an occassional overheat with cheap aftermarket batteries
  • Only the mark 3 has 4k video (Which I don’t need)
  • Only mark 3 has an external mic jack for dry land use
  • Need a new (expensive) housing with every new model

Conclusion:

Along with the RX100, this is the most professional quality compact camera, that is still beginner friendly. I learned everything from this camera, from setting white balance presets to getting steady videos. Its good for newbies, yet capable of great content. 

Ok, so what will you need to buy with a Canon G7x II  for diving?

You will definitely need a housing for this camera, and since it’s so expensive for a compact, you should probably get a high-end brand. The best housing manufacturer is Nauticam, but nearly all housing brands have a G7X II option.

Of course, there is no end to accessories for this camera and it’s 67mm lens thread. 

SHOP NOW!

My favorite Underwater Camera setup

g7x underwater

The Canon G7X II, with housing, wide angle and macro wetlenses, tray, arms and video lights. Can’t beat it. If you want to read more about my setup, or get details on each piece, read: The Ultimate Underwater Compact Setup.

MORE CAMERA REVIEWS:

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best diving cameras for beginners

best scuba diving cameras for beginners