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2019 Top Compact Cameras and Housings for Underwater Photography and Video
By DPG Editorial Staff, January 12, 2019 @ 03:00 AM (EST)


If your journey as an underwater shooter has just begun, you’ll likely want a camera that gets you taking high-quality pictures as quickly and easily as possible but that has an extensive feature set which will keep up as you grow into a more-advanced photographer—or videographer.

A compact is the obvious way to go, and if you choose your camera wisely, you’ll get image quality, features and versatility that rival a good interchangeable-lens camera—and in some cases even do things that DSLRs or mirrorless cameras can’t easily do. (Think switching between macro and wide-angle shooting, or squeezing into really tight spaces.) And let’s not forget the smaller dent a compact rig will have on your precious baggage allowance. Even the inherent limitations of a built-in lens are no cause for concern: There are lots of great macro or wide-angle wet lenses out there that will allow you to shoot everything from big animals to the tiniest crustaceans.

So how do you navigate the bewildering landscape of compact cameras to arrive at the best ones for underwater shooters? No worries: We’ve done all the hard work for you. We’ve put the top compacts through their paces, and below, we tell you everything you need to know to make an informed choice, depending on your budget, shooting requirements, and subject preferences.

Please help support DivePhotoGuide by choosing to purchase your gear through our knowledgeable retail partners at Backscatter.

 

Sony RX100 V

Top ↑

BEST IMAGE QUALITY

Key Features

Price $1000
Sensor 20.1MP 1-inch sensor
Max image size 5,472 x 3,638 pixels
Lens 24–70mm (35mm equiv.) f/1.8–2.8 
ISO range 80–25,600
Continuous shooting 24fps
RAW format Yes
Max video resolution (rate) 4K: 3840x2160 (30p)
Full HD: 1920x1080 (120p/60p)
LCD 3-inch 1.23M dot
Closest macro focus 2 inches (5cm)
Waterproof No

 

Sony’s highly regarded RX100 series is now in its sixth incarnation, but it’s the Mark V that is the most awesome compact for underwater shooters. The reason: After following a tried-and-tested formula for three generations—and virtually no external changes—the Mark VI introduced a new 24–200mm f/2.8–4.5 lens that provided no added benefit to underwater shooters compared to the 24–70mm f/1.8–2.8 lens on the Mark V. Rather than remove the RX100 V from the product line, Sony replaced it with an upgraded version (officially called the RX100 VA) that features a faster processor and new firmware, improving the menu system, subject tracking, metering and white balance options. It will blow a $1000 hole in your pocket, but your money buys you a very powerful picture-taking and video-capturing tool ready to take on almost any underwater subject. DPG Test www.sony.com | www.backscatter.com
 

What We Like:   What We Don’t Like
  • 20MP resolution
  • Superb high-ISO performance
  • 4K video and Full HD video at 120p for smooth slow-mo playback
  • Mind-boggling 24fps maximum continuous shooting
 
  • No dedicated macro mode
  • Doesn’t focus quite as close as some competing compacts
  • The eye-watering price


Top Housing Options

Nauticam NA-RX100V Fantasea FRX100 V

 

  • Nauticam NA-RX100V: Nauticam always goes the extra mile to reroute controls to the most ideal locations under your fingertips, and its supremely ergonomic housing for the RX100 V is no exception. Hewn from a solid block of aluminum, the housing features a built-in vacuum check and leak detection system, fiber-optic bulkheads, and a 67mm threaded port mount for wide-angle and macro wet lenses. $995 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com
  • Fantasea FRX100 V: Made from robust injection-molded polycarbonate, Fantasea’s housing offers you a raft of great features without breaking the bank. Your modest outlay gets you a built-in leak detector, double O-ring seal, dual fiber-optic cable connection, and a 55mm threaded port (plus 67mm adapter). Using Fantasea-AOI’s excellent UWL-400F wide-angle wet lens, DPG Editor Joe Tepper captured Dominica’s sperm whales with ease. DPG Test $400 | www.sonydive.com | www.backscatter.com
  • If you wish to opt for the RX100 VI, there are dedicated housings available, including those from Nauticam (NA-RX100VI) and Fantasea (FRX100 VI).

 

Combining the RX100 V with Fantasea’s housing and wide-angle wet lens creates a lean, mean wide-angle machine

 

Panasonic Lumix LX10

Top ↑

BEST VALUE

Key Features

Price $550
Sensor 20.1MP 1-inch sensor
Max image size 5,472 x 3,648 pixels
Lens 24–72mm (35mm equiv.) f/1.4–2.8 
ISO range 80–25,600
Continuous shooting 7fps
RAW format Yes
Max video resolution (rate) 4K: 3840x2160 (30p)
Full HD: 1920x1080 (120p/60p)
LCD 3-inch M dot
Closest macro focus 1.2 inches (3cm)
Waterproof No

 

Panasonic may not have gotten around to releasing the Mark II yet, but they’ve knocked $150 off the original price of the LX10, making this tiny camera an incredible bargain. For just over half the price of the rival RX100 V, you get nearly all of that camera’s impressive features, including a 20MP 1-inch sensor, fantastic low-light performance, and 4K video capabilities. Most importantly, image quality is top-notch and the slightly faster lens is arguably better than that on the Sony. Maximum continuous shooting of 7fps with autofocus doesn’t compete with the RX100 V on paper, but in real-world shooting scenarios—like when we tested it at Cayman’s famous “Stingray City”—it was more than sufficient. DPG Test www.panasonic.com | www.backscatter.com
 

What We Like:   What We Don’t Like
  • Lightning-fast autofocus and fine low-light performance
  • 7fps burst with AF in RAW format
  • Excellent manual white balancing
  • Cool Post Focus mode
 
  • Crop factor when shooting 4K video limits wide-angle shooting
  • Lack of Auto ISO when shooting video in manual mode
  • Slightly bewildering menu system


Top Housing Options

Ikelite Housing for Panasonic LX10 Nauticam NA-LX10

 

  • Ikelite Housing for Panasonic LX10: Ikelite’s USA-made housing for the LX10 features the company’s white ABS-PC blend construction with a transparent back for a clear view of the camera inside. Control symbols are laser engraved, so they can’t rub off, and buttons are designed to resist salt buildup. The camera’s built-in flash can trigger external strobes connected via two fiber-optic ports. The housing works with Ikelite’s WD-3 Wide Angle Dome for awesome wide-angle results, and the port also accepts wet lenses and various filters. $550 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com
  • Nauticam NA-LX10: Machined from aluminum and hard anodized, Nauticam’s housing incorporates the company’s usual ergonomic refinements, with key controls just where you need them. A leak alarm and vacuum monitoring system are fitted as standard, and a dual fiber-optic bulkhead takes care of strobe triggering. DPG Editor Joe Tepper praised the housing thus: “The NA-LX10 handles like a DSLR housing, with the size and maneuverability of a compact camera.” DPG Test $995 | www.nauticam.com | www.backscatter.com

 

Despite using a smaller dome, this perfectly composed over-under at “Stingray City” was made possible by making use of the LX10’s rapid burst shooting mode

 

SeaLife DC2000

Top ↑

BEST FOR BEGINNERS

Key Features

Price $700
Sensor 20MP 1-inch sensor
Max image size 5,472 x 3,648 pixels
Lens 31mm (35mm equiv.) f/1.8
ISO range 125–25,600
Continuous shooting 10fps
RAW format Yes
Max video resolution (rate) Full HD: 1920x1080 (60p)
LCD 3-inch 920K
Closest focus 3.5 inches (9cm)
Waterproof Yes

 

With the DC2000, SeaLife took the concept of a camera-and-housing-in-one to new heights, and even two years on since its launch, it still goes head to head with the best. A quick check of the spec sheet tells you why: 20MP 1-inch sensor (Sony-made, no less), 10fps continuous shooting, and 1080/60p video. Equipped with a fixed fast 31mm equivalent lens, it’s also optically “primed” for a wide range of subjects. Only when your subject is very big or very small will you need some help in the form of a wide-angle or macro wet attachment. We’re calling the DC2000 the best camera for beginners because it still follows SeaLife’s design ethos of being very easy to set up and use, but make no mistake, there are sophisticated features on offer here that will keep more advanced shooters happy for years. DPG Test www.sealife-cameras.com
 

What We Like:   What We Don’t Like
  • Outputs sharp high-res images and video right out of the box
  • Pairs well with SeaLife’s impressive range of lenses and lights, but also works with third-party accessories
  • Easy setup and intuitive controls
 
  • No 4K video
  • Lower-resolution LCD than competing compacts
  • Usable sensitivity maxes out at ISO 800

 

Whether you want to point and shoot or desire full manual control, the SeaLife DC2000 is a breeze to use and ready to take on a range of subjects in different environments

 

Canon PowerShot G7 X II

Top ↑

GREAT ALL-ROUNDER

Key Features

Price $650
Sensor 20MP 1-inch sensor
Max image size 5,472 x 3,648 pixels
Lens 24–100mm (35mm equiv.) f/1.8–2.8
ISO range 125–25,600
Continuous shooting 8fps
RAW format Yes
Max video resolution (rate) Full HD: 1920x1080 (60p)
LCD 3-inch 1.04M dot
Closest focus 2 inches (5cm)
Waterproof No

 

Just a little more expensive that the Panasonic LX10, but still well south of the Sony RX100 V’s hefty asking price, Canon’s PowerShot G7 X II is also a solid member of the 1-inch club—and the great low-light performance that comes with it. By employing the services of a new processor, the Mark II addresses the one serious shortcoming of the first version: Continuous RAW shooting rises from a very pedestrian 1fps to a sprint-like 8fps. We also love that there’s a proper macro mode that allows you to focus closer, and the one-touch white balance gives you spot-on colors without needing filters. DPG Test www.canon.com | www.backscatter.com
 

What We Like:   What We Don’t Like
  • Crisp details even at higher ISOs
  • Macro mode makes critter portraits feasible out of the box
  • Superb white balance control
 
  • Lacking 4K video
  • 1080/120p video capture would have been nice


Top Housing Options

Fantasea FG7X II Ikelite Housing for Canon PowerShot G7 X II

 

  • Fantasea FG7X II: As for the RX100 V, Fantasea has created a very affordable companion housing for the G7 X II. Depth-rated to 200 feet (60 meters), the housing offers full access to essential camera controls and functions, a double O-ring seal, and twin fiber-optic cable connections for strobes. There’s a moisture detector and alarm thrown in, too, and the 67mm threaded port is ready to get acquainted with your favorite wet lenses. DPG Test $400 | www.canondive.com | www.backscatter.com
  • Ikelite Housing for Canon PowerShot G7 X II: Ikelite offers two kinds of housing for the G7 X II: an “action housing,” with simple controls, designed mainly for water sports, surfing, and freediving; and this fully equipped underwater housing for scuba, which offers full control over the camera’s functions. Ikelite’s signature see-through back allows you to check everything is perfect sealed, and a 1/2-inch accessory port allows you to hook up a vacuum kit for extra peace of mind. $550 | www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com

 

With the G7 X II, macro mode, manual focus and focus peaking combine to help you to achieve creatively composed close-ups

 

Olympus Tough TG-5

Top ↑

BEST FOR MACRO

Key Features

Price $450
Sensor 12MP 1/2.3-inch sensor
Max image size 4,000 x 3,000 pixels
Lens 25–100mm (35mm equiv.) f/2–4.9
ISO range 100–12,800
Continuous shooting 20fps
RAW format Yes
Max video resolution (rate) 4K: 3840x2160 (30p)
Full HD: 1920x1080 (60p)
LCD 3-inch 460K dot
Closest macro focus 0.4 inches (1cm)
Waterproof Yes

 

With the latest iteration of their Tough compact series, Olympus made the interesting decision to lower the resolution of the sensor, from the TG-4’s 16MP to the TG-5’s 12MP. It may seem like an odd call to make, but the result is undoubtedly the best Tough model to date—and a serious contender for best compact for underwater shooters, period. The lower pixel count made the TG-5’s new 4K mode possible and also noticeably improved performance at high ISOs, which we noted let down the previous model. We could just as easily label the TG-5 “Best Value” or “Great All-Rounder” but it’s the mind-blowing Microscope mode that really sets this camera apart. With focus achievable at just half an inch from the lens, say “hello” to crazy super-macro shooting. DPG Test www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com
 

What We Like:   What We Don’t Like
  • Microscope mode for jaw-dropping close-ups
  • RAW shooting
  • No housing needed if you stay above 50 feet
 
  • Full manual control lacking
  • Images at higher ISOs still noisier than those from rivals with 1-inch sensors
  • 12MP isn’t enough for poster-size prints


Top Housing Options

Isotta Housing for Olympus Tough TG-5 Olympus PT-058

 

  • Isotta Housing for Olympus Tough TG-5: If you’re planning to venture beyond 50 feet, Isotta’s precision-engineered aluminum housing will get you there in style. The company’s signature one-handed opening/closing is too easy, and the dual 67mm and 52mm threads are a clever way of ensuring maximum compatibility with optical accessories. For a compact lauded for its extreme macro abilities, the TG-5 produced amazing wide-angle shots of blue sharks when we tested it in Isotta’s housing with the awesome Backscatter M52 Wide-Angle Wet Lens. DPG Test $720 | www.isotecnic.it | www.backscatter.com
  • Olympus PT-058: If you like a housing with the same brand name on the front as the camera’s, look no further than the PT-058, which is typical of the lightweight, rugged and affordable housings Olympus makes for its cameras. For your 300 notes, you get full access to essential camera controls, a depth rating extended down to 150 feet (45 meters), and a dual fibre-optic bulkhead for connecting strobes—including Olympus’ own UFL-3 underwater flash, if you like. $300 | www.olympus.com | www.backscatter.com

 

Who says the TG-5 is only for macro? Strap on an attachment like Backscatter’s M52 Wide Angle Lens and you can get up close with these beauties and still fit them in the frame
 



When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.

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Kimberley Briatte
Feb 5, 2019 3:12 AM
Kimberley Briatte wrote:
Intéressant !
Leon Wexler
Jan 22, 2019 6:42 AM
Leon Wexler wrote:
http://www.divephotoguide.com/user/statuseasy/
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