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How to Choose the Best Underwater Snorkeling Camera

Updated on December 26, 2013

With so many waterproof cameras to choose from, which one is right for you?

Photography has come a long way since the world's first underwater camera, the Calypso, was invented in the 1960s. Today there are dozens of underwater snorkeling cameras and scuba cameras on the market, and they come in a range of prices for every budget, and with enough features and options to please both amateur snorkelers and professional divers. Here are some of the top digital underwater snorkeling cameras and some considerations to keep in mind before choosing one.

(Photo by Lisa Howard)

underwater snorkeling camera
underwater snorkeling camera

Questions to Consider When Buying an Underwater Snorkeling Camera

Decide on features before you buy

There are plenty of digital underwater cameras available these days. They range from inexpensive disposable film cameras to high-resolution digital cameras. Some are only for use in shallow water, like when you're snorkeling or swimming in a pool, and some can be taken over 100 feet deep by certified scuba divers.

The best camera for you is the one that has all the features you want without any you don't need or can't afford. If you don't plan on diving 100 feet, you may not want to spend the extra money on a camera that will go that deep. So think about these questions before you start shopping and then take a look at some available waterproof cameras below.

How much do you want to spend?

You can get waterproof cameras for less than $50 or you can spend more than $500. Set a budget and then look for cameras in your range.

What quality of image resolution do you want?

More expensive cameras offer higher resolution, while cheaper cameras offer lower resolution. But if you don't plan on enlarging your photos, a photos from a 5 MP camera will look fine on your computer or when printed up to 4x6.

How deep will you be taking the camera?

If you're only going to be using it while snorkeling, you can save money by choosing a camera that isn't rated for deeper water. Many cheaper models will do fine in depths of 10 feet or less, which is perfect for snorkeling.

Do you need special features like built-in GPS or panoramic images?

If your waterproof camera is also going to be your primary "everyday" camera, you may want to splurge for a model with features such as GPS, WI-Fi, special effects or panorama feature. But if you've already got a camera with those features or if you're only going to use your rugged camera when you go snorkeling on vacation, you may not need these extras.

Will you be taking video? If so, what type of quality do you need?

Most of today's waterproof cameras can shoot HD video, either 720p or 1020p. For most people, 720p HD video is a good choice. It takes up less space on your memory card, doesn't take as long to upload to your computer and offers excellent quality. But if you want the best quality, look for a camera with 1020p HD.

Do you need a camera that's shockproof or freezeproof?

Even the cheapest underwater cameras will work for snorkeling, but they're not designed to survive falls or freezing temperatures. If you're planning to take your camera on other rugged adventures, you might want to consider one of the better models that offers these additional protections.

A Popular Underwater Snorkeling Camera - Nikon Coolpix AW110

Nikon currently has the bestselling underwater camera on Amazon, and there's a reason why people flock to Nikon's rugged models - they take great photos. The Coolpix AW110 is perfect for snorkeling and other water sports because it's compact, and lightweight, but is also waterproof to 59 feet, as well as being shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof. It also shoots HD video with one-touch ease, so you can capture all your snorkeling adventures, and with built-in Wi-Fi, you can upload your photos immediately directly from the camera.

Nikon COOLPIX AW100 16 MP CMOS Waterproof Digital Camera with GPS and Full HD 1080p Video (Orange) (OLD MODEL)
Nikon COOLPIX AW100 16 MP CMOS Waterproof Digital Camera with GPS and Full HD 1080p Video (Orange) (OLD MODEL)

Features:

- Water-proof, Shock-proof, Freeze-proof: ruggedly built for reliable and comfortable outdoor operation. Water-proof to a depth of 33 feet.

- 16 effective megapixel CMOS sensor ideal for low light shooting and fast operation

- Full HD (1080p) movie with stereo sound and movie-record button that enables one-touch recording (HDMI mini connector equipped)

- GPS and e-Compass functions

- Points of Interest (locations, landmarks, etc.) and location information (latitude and longitude) can be added to your photos

- Shockproof if dropped from 5 ft, operating temperature down to 14 degrees F

 

An Affordable Underwater Snorkeling Camera - Fujifilm FinePix XP100

The Fujifilm FinePix XP100 is a good choice for anyone looking for a good quality camera at an affordable price. The XP100 offers a 14MP sensors, 1080p HD video and waterproof protection to 33 feet and is available for just over $100.

Fujifilm FinePix XP100 Digital Camera (Orange)
Fujifilm FinePix XP100 Digital Camera (Orange)

Features:

- Certified waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freeze-proof

- 3.0 Touch screen for easy focus selection and photo viewing

- Full HD 1080/60i with dual record of stills and movies

- 16.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor for stunning low-light performance

- 3D still image and 3D Sweep Panorama

 

A Hands-Free Underwater Snorkeling Camera - A camera you can wear in the water

If you don't want to worry about hanging on to a camera while you snorkel, Liquid Image makes snorkeling and scuba masks that have a camera and camcorder built right into the mask. You can record 8 MP still images or VGA video with the mask below without ever worrying about fumbling and dropping your camera underwater. It's great for anyone who wants hands-free simplicity. The model shown here is waterproof to 15 feet, which is perfect for snorkeling, but they also make black scuba masks that are rated for deep water, if you want to adventure deeper.

Liquid Image 304 XSC Explorer Series 8.0 MP Underwater Video Camera - Yellow
Liquid Image 304 XSC Explorer Series 8.0 MP Underwater Video Camera - Yellow

Product description: Image Explorer Series 8.0 Megapixel Camera Mask, Medium is the world's only swim mask that has an integrated waterproof digital / video camera, eliminating the need to carry an underwater camera, keeping your hands free as you swim. The 8.0MP camera can operate to a depth of 15ft / 5m, making it ideal for use when snorkeling or in swimming pools. The goggle lenses are made of tempered glass and have integrated crosshairs that help you to line up shots. Turn the camera on and choose a mode (video or picture) with the upper button. Simply press the shutter button to record pictures or videos. An LED inside the mask tells you if you are in still image or video mode.The built-in 16 MB memory can store up to 27 high resolution pictures or up to 52 seconds of video. A microSD card slot allows you to expand memory up to 32GB for additional pictures or videos.

 

  1. Get a floating strap. Underwater cameras are waterproof, but they don't float. Don't risk the chance of losing your camera on the ocean floor.
  2. Practice using your camera in a pool first. If you're going on vacation, you don't want to be struggling to figure out the camera controls while wearing a mask and snorkel. Read the manual and test it out at home first.
  3. Rinse your camera in fresh water after every use. Whether you're using your camera in the salty sea or a chlorinated pool, make sure you rinse it with fresh water after using it to prevent possible problems.

    (Photo by Lisa Howard)

More Underwater Snorkeling Cameras Below

Underwater Snorkeling Cameras on eBay - Find great deals on new, used or refurbished models

If you're only planning on using this camera for a special snorkeling vacation and want the best quality without spending a lot of money, try looking for a used or refurbished camera on eBay. Read the description carefully to be sure it's in perfect working order, and only buy from a seller who has plenty of positive feedback. You might even want to ask if they'd be interested in buying it back from you and selling it on eBay again. You can also check Craigslist to see if anyone nearby is selling a used camera. You might find some great deals!

Many Underwater Cameras Shoot Video, Too - See footage taken with the Nikon AW-100

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Please Share Your Comments - Have you used any of these waterproof camera models?

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    • TheJVilleKid profile image

      TheJVilleKid 5 years ago

      What a nice variety of cameras for snorkeling! Very nice lens!