Whether you’re snorkeling in the sea or wading in the kiddie pool, water can wreak havoc on electronics. When it comes to documenting your wetter adventures, a good waterproof camera means the difference between passing your memories on to future generations or losing all evidence that you ever left the house.
Waterproof, rugged cameras are designed to tolerate the elements, making them ideal for all sorts of travel, even if you don’t plan to actually submerge yourself. They can hold up to rain, dust, sand, and even freezing temperatures. Rugged cameras aren’t new, but the latest models have much stronger performance and pack more features than earlier generations.
At a glance
|Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5||Best waterproof camera overall|
|Fujifilm Finepix XP120||Best budget waterproof camera|
|GoPro Fusion||Best waterproof 360-degree camera|
|GoPro Hero7 Black||Best waterproof action camera|
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5
Why should you buy this: Good image quality and features; built-in GPS.
Who’s it for: Serious outdoor adventurers.
How much will it cost: $399
Why we picked the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5:
When you need a camera that can handle being dropped down a small cliff into a stream — and live to tell about it — the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5 is for you. With adventurers in mind, the TG-5 is waterproof to a depth of 50 feet, drop-proof from a height of 7 feet, and features a built-in GPS with geotagging and location logging abilities that can create a map of your adventure viewable in the Olympus Image Track app.
The resolution has actually dropped from the TG-4 to 12MP, but this improves low-light performance, which pairs nicely with the 25-100mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2.0-4.9 lens. It also offers RAW files for maximum quality, a 20 frames-per-second burst mode, and even 4K video. Plus, it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, like an excellent macro mode and an effortless Live Composite mode that makes light-painting a breeze.
With its focus on image quality and features, the TG-5 is a great option for both beginners and experienced photographers who want an outdoor-ready camera. It won’t match the performance of an advanced point-and-shoot like the Sony RX100 series, but it gets you as close as you can get in a waterproof compact.
Our full Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5 review
Fujifilm Finepix XP120
The best budget waterproof camera
Why should you buy this: It’s small, affordable, and easy to use.
Who’s it for: Vacationers looking for an inexpensive rugged camera.
How much will it cost: $120
Why we picked the XP120:
Fujifilm has mostly killed off its point-and-shoot lineup except for the rugged XP series. Why? Because it’s a category that still sells well. Although similar to the Olympus Tough TG-5, the XP120 has an affordable price tag — we’ve seen it as low as $103 online — and is as lightweight as possible. But don’t let its simple design fool you: The XP120 is waterproof to 65 feet, shockproof from 5.8 feet, freezeproof to 14-degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof.
Inside the XP120 is a 16.4-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. The camera handles continuous shooting at 10 frames per second, and Full HD video is captured at 60p. Its 5x optical zoom lens is optically stabilized to help you get steady pictures, even if you’re teetering on a log in a lake. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you upload vacation pics while you’re still on vacation, or print to one of Fujifilm’s Instax Share printers for pocketable instant prints.
If you don’t need the GPS or RAW support of the TG-5, save yourself some cash with the XP120.
The best waterproof 360 camera
Why should you buy this: Great build quality, easy to use.
Who’s it for: 360 video aficionados
How much will it cost: $599
Why we picked the GoPro Fusion:
Strictly speaking, 360-degree cameras don’t exactly work underwater; the water itself distorts the camera’s view, thus making it impossible for both sides of the video from the dual lenses to stitch together properly. However, if you like the idea of immersive video and you want a camera that is at least capable of surviving some wet weather or a splash in a lake, look no further than the GoPro Fusion.
Aside from being waterproof, the Fusion has the best feature set of any dual-lens 360 cam we have ever tested. It also is relatively easy to use thanks to GoPro’s well-designed mobile app. The Fusion is also capable of delivering very good image quality with a nearly invisible stitching line — but you’ll need to edit in GoPro’s Fusion Studio desktop app for that, a process which is much more laborious.
360 video isn’t for everyone, and $600 may be a tough ask if you’re just looking to experiment with the format, but the Fusion offers the most potential of any compact 360 cam we’ve seen.
Our full GoPro Fusion review
GoPro Hero7 Black
The best waterproof action camera
Why should you buy this: Super smooth electronic image stabilization, great user experience
Who’s it for: Extreme athletes, travel vloggers, and professional filmmakers
How much will it cost: $500
Why we picked the Hero7 Black:
Each year, GoPro finds small new ways to improve on the best, but the Hero7 Black has made a giant leap in electronic image stabilization. Sure, this feature has been around for several generations now, but its implementation in the Hero7 Black is a significant improvement, to the point where GoPro has even coined a new name for it: HyperSmooth. It even allowed us to capture perfectly stable footage of a downhill mountain bike ride.
GoPro’s new flagship action cam also now features native live-streaming, so you can show off your stunts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, and more. The sound recording capabilities have also been improved, promising less vibrational noise and better dynamic range (the range from quiet to loud sounds the microphone can capture without distorting).
And of course, the Hero7 Black includes all the standard features we’ve come to expect from GoPro, like waterproofing without the need for a case, a nice touch screen and interface, and the ubiquitous GoPro mount that lets you attach the camera to virtually anything with the right accessory.