Here’s why you need a waterproof camera in 2016 — to capture your best adventures in rugged, wild, and watery places. You do this with waterproof cameras, plain and simple. With today’s rugged camera options, there’s no need to agonize over the tech specs, either: All of these point-and-shoot digital underwater cameras are shockproof, dust-proof, and ready for whatever adventure you can dish out — they are fantastic marvels of engineering. We spent multiple weekends and dozens of hours, shooting video of kids, fish, dogs, and deer to help us cut through the chaff to review the best rugged waterproof cameras available in 2016.
Of course, you should know these cameras will not take photos as well as a full-size DSLR, and they aren’t as versatile as your smartphone. But they will give you the confidence to lean over the side of your boat and snap the photos of your life. With one of these cameras, you can chase your kids around the water park all day long, take video of fish, or wipeout in wet snow and not worry about your gear.
You’ll have a chance to capture the face of sheer adrenaline.
The best waterproof cameras help you amp up the quality of your adventure both during and after you return home. You don’t have to worry about a freezeproof camera doing its job in the toughest outdoor conditions. Here’s a review of the best waterproof cameras for 2016 — pick the camera that fits your budget or has that key feature you just can’t live without. Of course, if eight options are simply too many to choose from, check out our 3 Best Waterproof Cameras shortlist.
Best Waterproof Cameras 2016:
The 16 megapixel Olympus TG-4 Tough is waterproof down to 50 feet and may be the most versatile rugged camera available in 2016. It offers built-in WiFi connectivity with iOS and Android mobile devices, which lets you control the camera remotely, even going so far as to let you control the zoom, select shooting modes, self-timer, and trip the shutter (handy for loners and group shots in the backcountry). The TG-4 also includes GPS and an electronic compass. In addition, it is the only rugged and waterproof point-and-shoot camera that has the ability to shoot RAW photos.
Another claim to fame in the TG-4 is its relatively fast F2.0 aperture lens (F4.9 for telephoto). Up close and personal, the TG-4 features a set of new microscope modes that will let you take astoundingly close photos of very small objects, like snowflakes, insects, or flowers.
The TG-4 has yet another nifty feature up its sleeve — add-on lenses. You can screw on an Olympus Telephoto Tough Lens to bring your zoom out to 7x or you can choose a Fisheye Tough lens that bends more of the outside world into your photos. Both lenses are add-on accessories that cost around $100 each. There’s more, though. For macro photography, the Olympus LED Macro Light Guide channels the TG-4’s flash into a circle of light around the lens to deliver even lighting that’s great for macro photography of tiny subjects.
Panasonic LUMIX TS6
The 16.1 megapixel Panasonic LUMIX TS6 is waterproof to 43 feet, shockproof from 6.5 feet, freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure resistant to 220 lbs. It has a 4.6x optical zoom with a 28mm wide-angle lens, which is also available to use while shooting video, which the TS6 can record at Full HD at 1920 x 1080. The unit compensates for wind noise and suppresses the noise of the zoom lens . . . all the while capturing audio with a stereo microphone. For low-light video conditions, even underwater, a torch light will illuminate the scene. As expected, the TS6 includes a optical image stabilizer to help fight handshake when snapping photos.
The built-in GPS in the TS6 does more than just place your photos on the map: It also shows the name of the Country/Region, State/Prov/County, County/Township, City/Town/Village and Landmark to give you real-time information on your location when taking photos. Plus, it will log GPS points and altimeter activity, which you can use with Google Earth.
The Panasonic Lumix TS6 also sports an Advanced Underwater Mode, which compensates for the color red, which is easily lost in underwater photos and video. In addition to modes for sports, snow, beach and snorkeling, the TS5 lets you manually control aperture for depth of field or shutter speed. An Intelligent HDR mode shoots several still pictures at different exposure levels, which are then overlaid to give you a composite photo. Why is this cool? If you take a photo of a landscape with part of a forest that is in shadow — along with a brighter sky — the sky keeps its detail (not washed out) while the forest keeps its detail (not too dark to see). With a tripod for stabilization, the TS6 sports a similar Intelligent Night Shot setting.
If your smartphone supports NFC, you can touch your camera to your smartphone and use your phone as a remote control for the LUMIX TS6.
Shop LUMIX TS6 at Amazon.
Nikon COOLPIX AW130
The new 16 megapixel Nikon COOLPIX AW130 is waterproof to 100 feet, shockproof from 6.5 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees. It boasts built-in GPS, along with an altimeter and depth gauge and WiFi. It shoots Full HD 1920 x 1080 video. The optical zoom is 5x and the maximum aperture is F2.8, which is relatively fast for rugged cameras and helps it take decent photos in dimly lit situations. The lens is a 24mm zoom NIKKOR wide-angle lens.
The AW130 boasts 5-axis vibration reduction, which suppresses camera shake during video shooting.
For GPS lovers, the AW130 supports points of interest that adds names of locations where photos are taken to your images, plus it includes other cool features like the ability to graph altitude and depth changes, as well as let you scroll over maps by tilting the camera.
The movie recording abilities include a feature that lets you pause recording then continue recording, all to a single file — or save a portion of a video as a separate file. Face Priority automatically recognizes faces and focuses accordingly.
With Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Utility app, you can use your smartphone to take pictures remotely, zoom in and out, and enable the self-timer.
As it turns out, the AW130 is barely an upgrade to the the AW120. The differences? The AW130 dives deeper (100 feet vs. the AW120’s 59 feet) and the AW130 has a slightly improved grip.
Related Option: The new Nikon S33 (13.2 megapixel, 1080p video) has basic controls and features that are easy enough for kids to use — but also manage to deliver decent results at an attractive price point.
Olympus Tough TG-870
The 16 megapixel Olympus Stylus Tough TG-870 is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof from 7 feet, freezeproof to the standard 14 degrees, and crushproof to 220 lbs (for back-pocket toughness). It has a 5x optical zoom, image stabilization, offers continuous shooting modes, and takes Full HD video at 1080p at 60 frames per second. While these features are expected for a rugged camera in 2016, the TG-870 has two standout features. The first is a flip-up rear LCD screen. Why? It makes taking selfies a breeze, helping you ensure that your outdoor vistas are properly framed behind your face. And the second interesting feature? A super-wide 21mm (equivalent) lens that Olympus claims is the widest lens found in any rugged camera. It captures 25% more than the typical 28mm equivalent lenses in most other waterproof cameras.
When you add this wide-angle lens to the Sportcam Mode — along with the cool optional Sport Holder — you can attach the TG-870 to a backpack or belt for hands-free use to capture your sporting exploits.
Of course, the TG-870 includes several filters, time-lapse options, more than two dozen shooting modes, including four for underwater shooting, as well as a fireworks mode. In case you’re wondering, the previous generation TG-860 is nearly as good, offering the same form factor — only difference is that the TG-870 has a very slightly brighter rear LCD screen with more pixels, which shows you a sharper image on the screen . . . but does not affect actual photo quality.
Fujifilm FinePix XP90 & XP80
The 16.4 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to 5.8 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees. It has a 5x optical zoom with a 28mm wide-angle setting and optical image stabilization. It can capture up to 10 frames per second at full resolution with a handy dedicated continuous shooting button on the back of the camera. It also lets you shoot Full HD movies at 1920 x 1080, along with a wind filter setting to reduce wind noise.
The FinePix XP90 includes Action Camera Mode, which fixes the camera’s lens to 18mm and turns off the rear LCD so you can mount the camera to your body and shoot longer while saving battery life.
For filter fans, the camera offers 10 built-in filters, including miniature, which produces the fun surreal shots that look like the world was created out of intensely lifelike little toys.
With the free Fujifilm Camera App, you can wirelessly transfer your photos to your smartphone or tablet — as well as save photos to a computer via WiFi.
Related Option: The previous generation — FinePix XP80 — includes the exact same shooting specs as the XP90. The key difference is that the newer XP90 has a very slightly sharper rear LCD screen. (If the savings is good, we recommend the XP80 over the XP90.)
Canon PowerShot D30
The 12.1 megapixel Canon PowerShot D30 is waterproof down to a whopping 82 feet, shockproof from 6.5 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees — and heat resistant to 104 degrees. It has a 5x optical zoom. Quick question: Is the 12.1 megapixel rating substandard compared to 16 megapixels in similar cameras? Not necessarily because the sensors in cameras aren’t always able to collect and record light for each and every pixel, which often leaves you with “noisy” photos when shooting in tough conditions.
The PowerShot D30 captures Full HD video at 1080p, plus you can shoot video in the Apple iFrame format, which is a computer-friendly standard that speeds up importing and editing of videos. You can choose from two dozen shooting modes.
The camera includes a built-in GPS tracker that remembers where and when photos were taken so images can be captured along with the date, time, and location of each moment. With included software, you can track the locations of your photos on Google Maps. The D30 also boasts Canon’s Smart AUTO setting, which intelligently selects the proper camera settings based on 32 predefined shooting situations. Smart AUTO is coupled with Intelligent IS, which also automatically chooses from six different modes to help image stabilization for whichever shooting condition your working in.
Unfortunately, the D30 doesn’t have WiFi or wireless control options that similarly priced competitors include.
Sony Cyber-shot TX30
The 18.2 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot TX30 is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof from 4.9 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees. It has a 5x optical zoom includes image stabilization and a 10-frame burst mode. It records video at 1920 x 1080/60i and below with a stereo microphone and can record still photos while recording video. At just 5/8-inch in depth, the TX30 is the thinnest of the rugged adventure cameras.
While thin, the TX30 doesn’t include GPS or WiFi connectivity. It does feature a Magnifying Glass Plus mode for macro photography, as well as a built-in macro LED light system. Plus, it includes several common photo effects and filters.
While supremely pocketable, the TX30 refined design has smallish buttons, which could make it more difficult to use with gloves or large fingers. The front lens and face is protected by a sliding panel, which seems cool at first . . . but we know a little bit about sand, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it jam up under extensive sand and dirt use. If you want a high-quality but discrete camera you can drop in a mud puddle — or a bubble bath — the TX30 is for you.
Ricoh WG-5 GPS
The 16 megapixel Ricoh WG-5 GPS is waterproof to 45 feet, shockproof from 6.6 feet, freezeproof to 14 degrees. It has a 4x optical zoom with a fast F2.0 aperture at its widest angle of 25mm (the Olympus TG-4 also features an F2.0 aperture). It also includes image stabilization.
The Ricoh WG-5 GPS shoots Full HD 1920 x 1080 video at 30fps. It does not sport WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones or computers, but it does include a micro-HDMI terminal for no-fuss hookups to your HDTV. The GPS version records position data and travel log data on captured images, plus the digital compass shows you direction, altitude, pressure, and water depth on the front of the unit.
If you’re into shooting tiny details up close, the Ricoh WG-5 features a Digital Microscope mode and includes a built-in ring of LED Macro Lights to illuminate your subject. Ricoh offers some handy mount accessories — an adhesive mount, handle bar mount, and suction cup mount that all use a modular ball and socket joint that will let you snap out the WG-5 and move it from one mount to the next. The camera attaches via the tripod mount, so Ricoh’s handy accessories could likely be used to good effect with other cameras, too.
Final Recommendations: Best Waterproof Camera 2016
All-in-all, each of these waterproof cameras represents a strong leap forward over the rugged options available just a few years ago. While none of these boast picture quality that comes close to a full-size DSLR, that’s not their mission: Their job is to get you close to the action, wet and wild, and capture the shots and footage most people never get. If price isn’t a factor, we like the Olympus TG-4 Tough with its telephoto zoom lens add-on accessory. If price is a factor, you can get a rugged bargain with the previous generation Fujifilm FinePix XP80 — so snap one up while the price is right. If you’re on the fence, the Olympus TG-870 just keeps growing on us. Why? We like the flip up screen, especially because it makes taking cool low-angle shots a breeze. Plus, it shoots 1080p video at 60fps, which makes splashing water seem just a bit more liquid. If photos are your priority, the TG-4 gets the nod, but if video is your priority, go with the TG-870.
One more thing: What about the popular GoPro HERO4 Black Edition and other adventure video cameras? We’re fans of the GoPro — read our The Last GoPro Review You’ll Ever Need review — but action sports cameras are usually better suited for guys whose primary mission is to clamp the camera on their helmets, bikes, kayaks, or chests with the goal of capturing live action. What you gain with a wide-angle fixed lens and robust video you lose in overall versatility for a wider range of people and situations. Hence, a more traditional waterproof camera — which you can increasingly mount with third-party accessories — will work best for more people, more often.