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Why Underwater Disposable Cameras Aren't the Cheapest Option

Updated on July 10, 2014

Think disposable waterproof cameras are the best option for beach photos? Think again

Film cameras haven't quite joined 8-track tape decks in the pile of obsolete consumer products, but most people have abandoned film in favor of more advanced digital cameras. Except when it comes to waterproof cameras. Many people still think an underwater disposable camera is the only - and cheapest - way to take photos on their beach vacation or when they go to a local water park.

You might be surprised to know that a few disposable cameras and processing can actually be more expensive then other (better!) options. If you've been spending money on waterproof one-time use cameras, here's what you need to know.

(Image of Fujifilm Quick Snap Waterproof 35mm Single Use Camera provided by amazon)

So you want to get great vacation photos at the beach, lake or water park? Then consider these alternatives to disposable waterproof cameras.

Unless you're planning to limit yourself to a single one-time-use camera with 27 frames of film, the cost of several disposable models plus processing will equal or exceed the cost of these alternatives.

  1. Buy a waterproof case.

    They're reliable and start at less than $20!

  2. Rent a waterproof camera.

    An easy-to-use rugged Canon PowerShot starts at $35 for a week.

  3. Buy a cheap digital camera.

    You can get underwater digital cameras for about $50.

    (Image of Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera by Lisa Howard)

What most people like about disposable cameras is that they're cheap. You can get a one-time-use waterproof camera for about $10.

And that's great if you don't mind being limited to 27 photos, paying extra for developing and printing, and waiting to see the results. Those of us who grew up with film cameras might not be bothered by these limitations at all. But if you want to take more than 27 photos, the limitations and expenses of disposable cameras quickly become apparent.

For about the same price as you'd pay for a couple of disposable cameras, you can purchase a reliable waterproof case that will let you use your own digital camera in the water. And, yes, it really works!

The waterproof case shown below is for small compact cameras with a zoom lens, but you can also buy DicaPac cases for other point-and-shoot cameras or DSLRs. (Read my article and see sample photos from my underwater camera bag.)

Prices range from less than $15 to more than $50, depending on which case you buy, but these products are a much better value than an underwater disposable camera. You can take as many photos and videos as you like and use all your camera's regular features. There's no extra charge for film processing and no waiting.

But do they work? Yes! Almost 300 Amazon customers have given the DicaPac model shown below an average of 4.3 stars out of 5, which is a pretty impressive feat and shows that these cases really work underwater.

(Image provided by amazon. See link below)

See the DicaPac in Action - Sample underwater videos shot from a Dicapac waterproof case

Want to see how it works? Here are three sample videos shot with a compact camera, DSLR and an iPhone inside a DicaPac case.

rent underwater camera
rent underwater camera

2. Rent an Underwater Camera

A good option if you don't already own a camera

If you don't already own a digital camera or smartphone that you can protect with a waterproof case, the next best option is to rent a rugged camera. rents the easy-to-use waterproof Canon PowerShot D20 (shown here) for $35 a week plus shipping (check website for any price changes). And renting is easy. Think of as a Netflix for cameras and gear. You tell them what you want, they send it to you, you use it, and you send it back in a prepaid mailer. Easy!

The Powershot D20 is also easy to use. The nice thing about this camera is that it doesn't require any extra housing to make it waterproof. The manufacturer has simply designed a rugged housing that is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof. So you don't need to struggle to operate the controls through an extra layer of protection.

The PowerShot D20 comes with a host of features - 12.1 MP resolution, 5x optical zoom, HD video, built-in GPS - but its waterproof design doesn't make it harder to use than any other compact camera.

If you're planning to buy three or more disposable cameras for your vacation, the cost of the cameras and film processing (especially if you were planning to get a CD with the digital files) would be similar to the price you'd pay to rent this camera. But which would you rather have?

3. Buy a Cheap Waterproof Camera - Still a better option than multiple disposable cameras

There are now quite a few rugged cameras on the market, and the best models will cost you quite a bit more than a few disposable cameras. However, you can get inexpensive (about $50) underwater cameras that will give you at least as good (if not better) quality photos than you'll get from a one-time-use model, will allow you to enjoy the benefits of digital cameras such as an LCD screen and the ability to take hundreds of photos, and will also let you shoot video underwater.

If you were planning to buy four or more underwater disposable cameras for your trip, purchasing a cheap waterproof camera might be a better option. The example shown below, for instance, is currently about $50 (check amazon for the latest price) and offers 18 MP resolution and the ability to shoot video.

SVP 18MP Pink WP6800 2.4" LCD Digital Waterproof Camera
SVP 18MP Pink WP6800 2.4" LCD Digital Waterproof Camera

Product features:

- 18 Megapixels with 4x digital zoom

- 2.4" LCD TFT Color Display

- Waterproof digital camera with video

- Compatible with Micro SD card ONLY ; supports up to 32GB external memory card


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Do You Still Think Underwater Disposable Cameras Are the Best Option? - Please share your thoughts

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    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Your lens changed my mind for a lot of things about underwater cameras. Due to a bad experience in the past I stopped using it and I turned to others. Now I shall review the matter... Thanks for sharing:=)

    • profile image

      ChristyZ 4 years ago

      My daughter has a good underwater camera. I never thought about renting a camera, what a good idea, but like you said it's best to just buy a cheap underwater camera. Terrific information! :)

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      I can't imagine that I'm ever going to need an underwater camera, but I know who to come to for camera advice now!