The Best Dive Cameras of 2019
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 camera housings, lighting, trays and more.
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. If you want to get into underwater photography, or just want to upgrade to the latest and greatest, this guide is all you need!
The Quick Answer:
There are so many options listed below, that a lot of people get overwhelmed. If you want a quick answer on what underwater dive camera you should use, and what I can personally recommend, here it is:
Midrange: (FAVORITE) G7X 2 – See our guide to the perfect G7X2 setup
Best underwater cameras for beginners:
Here are my recommendations for the best underwater cameras for new divers or on a budget. You can’t really go wrong with any of these dive camera setups, and none of them are too complicated to learn on a dive. In other words, they are perfect for most recreational divers!
Be sure to to get red lenses and other wet lenses, to easily make your photos and videos much higher quality. Especially with the IPhone and GoPro housings, where a red filter will completely transform the colors of your shots.
Every underwater photographer should have a GoPro, I even have one attached to the hotshoe of my DSLR housing to film even more. Gopro 7s make incredible photos and videos underwater, and you wont break the bank. You do need the GoPro housing and red filter, not just the camera, as it can only go a meter underwater or less.
For beginner underwater photographers or the occasional diver that doesn’t want to spend a fortune on camera gear, IPhones are an excellent option, and there are great housings for them that can go 40m+ deep.
I guess its no surprise the quality you can get with Iphones, since the phone cameras have gotten so good. The link above is for Iphones 6+, 7+ and 8+, so look around for their other sizes if you have other models.
The Tg-5 or Tg-4 is a seriously great starter or backup camera for everyday divers. The camera itself can go up to 15 meters with out a housing, which is cool.
One thing I love about it is that it has a “telescope” mode, which gives you some seriously close up macro shots of critters, without a wet lens. Add a housing, some macro or wide angle wet lenses, and you have a seriously good dive camera that wont cost a ton.
I can’t say enough about the G7X or G7X2, I seriously think Canon built it for diving. Although I do have an expensive DSLR rig, I still prefer my G7X. It takes some incredible macro shots, and when I added wet lenses, the results are insane.
The best aspect is the manual white balance settings I can set underwater, so no need for red filters. This camera along with all the accessories you can get for it, is my ultimate choice, both for beginners and advanced.
I can’t say enough here about this set-up, so I put together an entire breakdown of my G7X setup and accessories I use. So check out that article if you want to know exactly what housing and lenses to get with the G7X, as well as tray, lights and more.
The Rx100 and RX100 2, are Sony’s answer to the Canon G series, so for Sony lovers, this is the compact for you. Although I definitely prefer the G7X, for its higher quality macro shots and ability to focus faster, if you must have a Sony, the RX100 is great for lots of reasons.
A great housing you need for the Rx100 IV is THIS ONE.
The Best Advanced Underwater Cameras:
If you are a experienced diver, and want to try out some of the best underwater cameras in the world, and have the budget to do so, this is the list for you. These are the cameras that pros use, to produce some of the best underwater photo and videos there is.
Most of these cameras are actually well known to regular photographers, or even everyday people, but it is the underwater housings, ports for different size lenses, trays and arms, wet lenses, video lights and strobes and more, that is required with these rigs to make such high quality content. Jump to the section explaining the difference between ports and wet lenses HERE.
Here is my recommendations for the best DSLR and mirrorless camera underwater setups, as well as the best gear you should get with each, to take your underwater content to the next level.
Cropped sensor camera setups
In my opinion, this is the best entry level DSLR you can get, which for me, as a unexperienced DSLR user, was important. The T4i or 600d, I found very easy to learn and use underwater, and have created great shots with it.
There are tons of housings for it, and this is now the DSLR I use, not only for its ease, but also because it is super cheap compared to most others. I found that using a cheap body like the 600d, with a high quality lens such as a Tokina makes good shots.
You will need THIS housing for a 600d
Here is the crop sensor answer for Nikon lovers. I wanted to mention the D90, because it is a favorite “land” camera for many, so if you already have one, it would be cheap to just get a housing for it. Plenty of companies make good housings for the D90, such as Ikelite, Nauticam, Aquatica and more, so you have plenty of options.
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. The auto focus, which is always a problem underwater for video, is very impressive with the 7d. Many underwater photographers recommend this camera highly.
Full frame, top of the line dive cameras
This is an excellent camera, but unless you are a Nikon fanatic, I prefer to go with Canon or other cameras that offer much more underwater accessories. For instance there is no full frame equivalent for the Tokina 10-17mm lens, and some divers are having problems with the 14-24mm Nikon lens in a dome port. But still, if you are a Nikon fan, this is an excellent camera.
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.
Pair it with the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens, or a long macro lens (with correct ports) and you will have one awesome setup. Scroll down below to see a frogfish video shot with a 5d mark3, and you’ll see what I mean.
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, and am convinced that this is the ultimate underwater camera for video you can get. I was blown away. And Sony lovers know that the A7, A7r, A7r2 etc, are also amazing for photos, and underwater is no exception.
The low-light function on the mirrorless A7s was impressive, and we even filmed at night in Philippines with no light. Another thing I LOVE is that, although this rig has a high price tag like the 5D, it is a MUCH smaller/compact camera, which also means a much smaller housing etc, making it much easier to travel and dive with.
Things to consider before buying a dive camera
For me, filming or shooting photos underwater has not only turned into an amazing hobby, which later evolved into a career, but also a way of life. From the first time I took a camera underwater to show people what I was seeing under the waves, I was hooked.
But the quality of my photos and videos were horrible at the beginning, and I quickly figured out that it takes a lot of practice before I could call myself a photographer. I couldnt blame the camera, I had a lot of work to do.
My point is, if you have never tried underwater photography, and especially if you are a relatively new diver, I highly recommend starting with a smaller, cheaper camera, before going all out with professional gear. Because without practice, it wont matter how expensive your gear is.
So start small, with competent, yet cheaper camera gear, and put as many practice dives in with that as possible, perfecting your buoyancy with a heavy object, and holding very still. Once you see your skills and photos improve, then you can upgrade.
Start with simple dive cameras.
What dive camera setups do I use?
I have gone through or tried a ton of different cameras, including nearly all of the ones listed above, and I think I have come up with the perfect combination and setup for my situation. If your situation is similar, I think you would also be happy with my setups.
What I needed was something that took high quality photos and videos, of both macro and wide shots, but also something relatively compact, as I do a lot of traveling for SCUBA.
MY DSLR and housing, as well as the tray etc, was a huge paid to travel with, and I got just as good of shots with my Canon G7X, and it was less than half the weight and size. Believe me, you’ll thank me when you check in your next flight.
The G7X2 also has a lot of accessories and gear made for it, so I can get a lot of epic content. I decided to make a completely separate guide, to show you exactly what my setup is, because I believe it is truly the perfect one for me, and probably you too! Check out – My Ultimate Underwater Camera Setup.
Underwater video created by Mike Corey in Mexico, with Sony A7S, Nauticam housing and dome port