Are you the adventurous type? Like to be one with the mud? Want to get great underwater snorkle shots? Don't mind getting wet, gritty, dusty, and dirty? These compact waterproof digital cameras are designed for you.
What are the best compact waterproof digital cameras? And why do you need a ruggedized camera, even if you're a landlubber?
The electronics found in most of today's digital cameras are very sensitive: They hate water (even just rain) and dust. They tend to be too fragile to drop, and definitely don't want to be stepped on. But if you like to snorkle, do mountain climbing, skydiving, or other adventurous outdoor activities...or simply want to take your camera with you to the beach or on a camping trip, or get caught in a downpour, the last thing you want to be concerned with is your camera's well-being as it gets dipped, dunked, and jostled.
While there are some pro-end DSLRs that are rugged enough to take a beating, they are also big and heavy. And if you're a serious diver and are willing to make the investment in underwater photography, there are hundreds of underwater camera housings designed to fit nearly any land-lubber camera out there, including DSLRs which would give you the best image quality, but underwater housings can cost hundreds of dollars above the price of the camera. If you are serious about your ourdoor activities but more casual about your picture-taking (or simply need a camera that won't get in the way), you need a smaller, lighter camera.
Fortunately, the list of ruggedized, pocketable cameras that can handle hazardous environments and rough treatment is growing. To make this list, the cameras have to be sealed against water to depths of at least 10 feet; they need to be sealed against dust; they should work at temperatures below freezing; and they should be able to survive being dropped a few feet. Some models are also crushproof and can handle 100 pounds or more of pressure.
While image quality is still typical for compact cameras (that is, not as good as DSLRs), if you stick with the lower ISO settings (under 400) you should be able to bring back good quality images. But if you must boost ISO due to low light, at least you'll have a record that you were there—jumping off the plane, floating near the coral, climbing that cliff, or...well, whatever floats your boat (or camera).
Here's a look at a bunch of cameras, all of which are available at the Adorama Compact Digital Camera Department, that you can bring on your great outdoor adventure without worry. Plan your spring/summer escape now! Prices accurate as of March 18, 2013.
Canon PowerShot D20
Adorama price: $289
Summary: This second generation Canon waterproof digital camera is a “fun and funky” 12.1MP camera that features an internal-zoom 3x (38-114mm equivalent) optically-stabilized lens, as well as Smart Auto Exposure Advanced Face Recognition, a 2.5-inch LCD, and a wild accessory kit containing a customized strap, cool face plates, and a carabineer hook inspired by the heavy-duty outdoor users.
- Waterproof to depth of 33 feet
- Weather resistant: 10-104 degrees F
- Shockproof up to 4 feet
- Sealed against dust? Yes.
Fujifilm FinePix XP60
Adorama price: $199.95
Summary: Fujifilm has improved the responsiveness of its entire lineup of compact cameras so there is virtually no delay from the moment you press the shutter release until the camera takes the picture, and the Fujifilm FinePix XP60 is no exception. The camera has a 16MP sensor, an internal-zooming 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) lens, and is backed by a 2.7-inch, 230k dot resolution viewfinder, ISO range 100-6400, and macro focus to within 3.5 inches. This camera can record 1080p images, and has high-speed movie mode for slow-mo videos at up to 240fps. The Fujifilm FinePix XP60 is available from Adorama in Green, Red, Blue, and Yellow.
- Waterproof to depth of 20 feet
- Shockproof against drops up to 5 feet
- Coldproof down to 14 degrees F
- Dust- and sand-proof
- Water-repellenant lens coating
Nikon AW 110
Adorama price: $346.95
Summary: The Nikon AW 110, Nikon's second generation ruggedized compact camera, gets a lot right. It features a 16MP CMOS sensor, built-in Wi-Fi for instant image sharing online, GPS, a 3-inch, 610k dot monitor and a control layout that lets you operate the camera while wearing gloves. What a smart idea for a camera that can be used at 14 degrees! In addition to shooting stills it can capture full HD in 1080p at 30fps. It has a variety of playback filter effects, an internal periscoping 5x optical zoom lens that starts at 28mm, close focusing down to 1cm, and an ISO range of 125-1600. Available from Adorama in Orange, Black, Blue, Camouflage.
- Waterproof to depth of 59 feet
- Shock-proof against drops of up to 6.7 feet
- Freeze-proof down to 14 degrees farenheight
If nearly $350 is more than you were planning to spend, Nikon has a simpler underwater camera, the Nikon Coolpix S31 (right), which is waterproof down to 16.5 feet and shockproof to drops of 3.5 feet. While it doesn't have as extensive a feature set as the AW110, the Nikon Coolpix S31, at the budget-busting Adorama price of $116.95, is a great deal and might be best suited for the rough handling of a younger photographer wannabe. It's available in kid friendly colors: Blue, White, Pink, Brown and Yellow.
Olympus Tough TG-2
Adorama price: $379
Summary: The Olympus Tough TG2-iHS is unique among underwater cameras: It is a system camera! Its fast 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-4.9 lens can be augmented via an adapter (Adorama price: $20) with a 2x tele extender, which increases its equivalent focal length to 200mm (Adorama price: $99), and a 12mm equivalent fisheye lens (Adorama price: $99). Since fisheye and ultrawide lenses are the optics of choice for many underwater photographers, this makes a lot of sense. Other features include a 12MP CMOS sensor whose lower pixel density holds the promise of better image quality; built-in GPS, a 3-inch, 610k dot resolution LCD monitor, contrast-detection autofocus, quick start-up, 3-way image stabilization, 1080p HD video capture at 30 fps, ISO range of 100-6400, HDR and backlight HDR, a "Microscopic Macro Mode", improved image stabilization,and an amazing 30fps burst rate at full resolution. Available in Red and Black.
- Waterproof to 50 feet
- Shockproof to 6.8 feet
- Freezeproof to 14 degrees
- Crushproof to 220 pounds
Adorama price: $399.99
Summary: Featuring a Leica 4.6x zoom lens that starts at 28mm (35mm equivalent, the 16MP Panasonic DMC TS5 is a ruggedized camera designed for active outdoor and underwater use and is the first ruggedized Panasonic camera to offer Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity so you can upload and share your shots directly from the camera. In addition to GPS, it has a compass, altimeter and barometer to record altitude, barometric pressure and orientation (the barometer also indicates how deep you're diving). Other fatures include 1080p HD video in AVCHD format, an LED light for low-light video recording, macro focusing down to about 3 inches, ISO range 100-6400, and a3-inch, 460k dot resolution LCD monitor. Available in blue, black, orange, silver.
- Waterproof to 43 feet
- Shockproof to drops of approximately 6.6 feet
- Dustproof to IPX8 and IP6X standards
- Freezeproof operates to 14 degrees F
- Resists up to 220 pounds of pressure
Pentax Optio WG-3
Adorama price: $296.95-346.95
Summary: Pentax has been making rugged cameras longer than any other camera maker, and their experience building the Pentax underwater camera line has been poured into the WG-2, its 14th generation rugged camera. In addition to being waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and coldproof, the camera offers a new 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-4.9 optical zoom lens surrounded by an array of six LED lights designed to illuminate close subjects. That's great for both underwater and on-land macro photography, and the camera lets you get to within half an inch of your subject in macro mode. The 16MP sensor offers high an ISO of 6400, and three-way camera shake reduction. Almost all of its rugged features have been upgraded over its predecessor There's a 3-inch LCD montor, 1080p HD video capture, built-in GPS, a digital compass, and in the Green and Purple versions, pressure/altitude/water depth gauges (hence the differential in pricing). Available in Green, Purple, Orange, and Black.
- Waterproof to depth of 45 feet
- Shockproof from drops up to 6.55 feet
- Crushproof (220 LbF pound-force)
- Coldproof to -10 degrees C (14 degrees F)
- Sealed against dust
Sony Cyber-shot DSCTX200V
Adorama price: $399.95
Summary: The Sony DSC-TX200V does not look like the kind of camera you can take into a pool or snorkeling. The latest entry in the Sony underwater camera lineup's polished, minimalist glass exterior is fashionable, but misleading: This 18MP camera is waterproof down to 16 feet and dustproof. The back is dominated by a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, its internal periscoping optical zoom lens has a 28-140mm 35mm equivalent zoom range. It focuses as close as about an inch away, has 16 scene modes, an amazingly fast 10fps burst rate at full resolution, 3D sweep panorama and regular sweep panorama, a variety of picture effects, an ISO range of 64-12800 (although given the small sensor size we recommend sticking to the lower speeds) and the ability to record full 1080p HD videos at 60p. Available in Silver, Red, or Violet.
- Waterproof to 16 feet