Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Underwater Cameras

Snorkeling is an awesome way to explore the marine life on our amazing planet. Whether you’re in cold water, warm water, on a family vacation, or snorkeling solo, it’s likely you will be having an unreal time.

Snorkeling is a predominantly visual experience, at least when it comes to exploring the marine life. Although the experience itself and the memories that come with it are the most important things, you may find it worth using an underwater camera to document your adventure.

In our experience, the information about underwater cameras found on the web is abundant, but almost too abundant. With technical products like this it can be extremely overwhelming trying to figure out what you need and if different underwater cameras are worth getting.

Therefore, the information below is intended to provide you with a general idea of the what’s out there, the best camera for snorkeling, and highlight some of the different types of underwater cameras in detail. We will show a wide variety of cameras, which will hopefully allow you to narrow down what type of underwater camera is best for your budget.

Product Summary Our Rating Price
Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Waterproof up to 3m. Dual color screens – 2.7” LCD on back, 1.8” TFT on front. 18 MP with 4x digital zoom (11x optical zoom). Decent shutter speed, but poor stabilization. Overall good waterproof camera for the price if you plan to stick to shallow waters.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Wide angle video camera embedded into snorkeling mask. Diving depth up to 40m or 130ft. Video is HD 720p up to 30fps. Photo mode records 12MP images. Main complaint is it’s difficult to tell what mode it is in, but otherwise is a solid camera at a good price for this style.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Waterproof up to 10ft. 12MP, 5MP CMOS sensor, 8x digital zoom. Uses microSD cards up to 16GB (not included). Overall, this is an average waterproof camera that tends to have short battery life (AAA’s), but can work if you need something cheap in a pinch.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Waterproof up to 3.0m, best for shallow waters. 20MP CMOS sensor and two screens (2.7”TFT LCD on back, 1.12”TFT on front). 4x digital zoom. This could be considered an average waterproof digital camera. Does the job if you don’t have really high expectations and plan to stick to shallow waters.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Waterproof up to 30ft, holds up to 117 digital photos. With a 5MP optical sensor resolution and 2.5x optical zoom, this camera doesn’t boast the features you want. We do not recommend this product even though it’s cheap. At some point, it’s just not worth saving the money.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Waterproof up to 10m. Includes rechargeable lithium-ion battery with AC wall charger. 16.4MP resolution and 1080p full HD video recording. 5-25mm zoom lens with 2x digital zoom and 5x optical zoom. Higher end waterproof camera that is easy to use and provides high quality images. Very well reviewed, but a little more pricey.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Very easy to use and waterproof up to 10m or 33ft, comes with a 3x wide-angle NIKKOR glass zoom lens. 13.2 MP CMOS sensor and full HD 1080p videos. 2.7” LCD screen and electronic vibration reduction. Overall, solid quality that at upper end of "picture-taking", but photography experts may need something more advanced.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Cool underwater camera that is often on sale for a good deal. 12MP images and 1080p videos. A waterproof housing case can be attached to allow for water resistance up to 30m. Can be mounted to helmets or different areas of the body. Good image stabilizer. Solid for the price.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Heavy duty construction for usage up to 10m deep. 14MP sensor and 5x optical zoom. 2.7” LCD monitor and HD video recording with 28mm wide-angle coverage. Rechargeable lithium ion battery for good battery life. More expensive, but a high-quality, rugged, simple, and durable waterproof camera.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

The GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition is really expensive, but there’s a ton of video modes for high quality videos that will suit your needs. It’s waterproof up to 60m, which is excellent. Can also capture 12MP photos at a rate of 30 photos per second. GoPro snorkeling masks are available that will fit most GoPro models. Really cool camera, but super expensive.

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Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

This is here simply to show you the type of mask you would need to purchase with your GoPro if you want to have it mounted on the snorkel mask. This is a solid mask with all the features that most good quality snorkel masks have, but also contains the correct mount for a GoPro camera.

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Waterproof up to 3m. Dual color screens – 2.7” LCD on back, 1.8” TFT on front. 18 MP with 4x digital zoom (11x optical zoom). Decent shutter speed, but poor stabilization. Overall good waterproof camera for the price if you plan to stick to shallow waters.

Wide angle video camera embedded into snorkeling mask. Diving depth up to 40m or 130ft. Video is HD 720p up to 30fps. Photo mode records 12MP images. Main complaint is it’s difficult to tell what mode it is in, but otherwise is a solid camera at a good price for this style.

Waterproof up to 10ft. 12MP, 5MP CMOS sensor, 8x digital zoom. Uses microSD cards up to 16GB (not included). Overall, this is an average waterproof camera that tends to have short battery life (AAA’s), but can work if you need something cheap in a pinch.

Waterproof up to 3.0m, best for shallow waters. 20MP CMOS sensor and two screens (2.7”TFT LCD on back, 1.12”TFT on front). 4x digital zoom. This could be considered an average waterproof digital camera. Does the job if you don’t have really high expectations and plan to stick to shallow waters.

Waterproof up to 30ft, holds up to 117 digital photos. With a 5MP optical sensor resolution and 2.5x optical zoom, this camera doesn’t boast the features you want. We do not recommend this product even though it’s cheap. At some point, it’s just not worth saving the money.

Waterproof up to 10m. Includes rechargeable lithium-ion battery with AC wall charger. 16.4MP resolution and 1080p full HD video recording. 5-25mm zoom lens with 2x digital zoom and 5x optical zoom. Higher end waterproof camera that is easy to use and provides high quality images. Very well reviewed, but a little more pricey.

Very easy to use and waterproof up to 10m or 33ft, comes with a 3x wide-angle NIKKOR glass zoom lens. 13.2 MP CMOS sensor and full HD 1080p videos. 2.7” LCD screen and electronic vibration reduction. Overall, solid quality that at upper end of "picture-taking", but photography experts may need something more advanced.

Cool underwater camera that is often on sale for a good deal. 12MP images and 1080p videos. A waterproof housing case can be attached to allow for water resistance up to 30m. Can be mounted to helmets or different areas of the body. Good image stabilizer. Solid for the price.

Heavy duty construction for usage up to 10m deep. 14MP sensor and 5x optical zoom. 2.7” LCD monitor and HD video recording with 28mm wide-angle coverage. Rechargeable lithium ion battery for good battery life. More expensive, but a high-quality, rugged, simple, and durable waterproof camera.

The GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition is really expensive, but there’s a ton of video modes for high quality videos that will suit your needs. It’s waterproof up to 60m, which is excellent. Can also capture 12MP photos at a rate of 30 photos per second. GoPro snorkeling masks are available that will fit most GoPro models. Really cool camera, but super expensive.

This is here simply to show you the type of mask you would need to purchase with your GoPro if you want to have it mounted on the snorkel mask. This is a solid mask with all the features that most good quality snorkel masks have, but also contains the correct mount for a GoPro camera.

Why do you need an underwater camera?

As we mentioned above, cameras are a great way of documenting your experiences, and snorkeling underwater should be no different! They are awesome to have on a vacation, especially family vacations where you don’t want to risk getting your phone or camera wet, or simply want some cool underwater pictures to share afterwards.

In addition to taking pictures for pure enjoyment, it can also be helpful for future reference. For example, if you are an avid snorkeler it could be worth documenting cool areas to come back to, ones to avoid, any changes over time in the marine life, and even documenting trails or directions on dry land (you don’t need an underwater camera for the latter, but saves you from carrying two separate cameras).

What’s the difference between underwater cameras and waterproof cameras?

This is one of the most important things to look for when buying a camera for snorkeling. Both types of cameras can be used for snorkeling, but there are some key differences. One is not necessarily better than the other, but there’s a good chance you will have some preferences that will influence your decision.

Underwater Cameras

Although it’s a common term, “underwater” cameras can be misleading. Most of the time, these are normal or waterproof cameras that are contained in a separate housing.

It is becoming more and more popular now to see the cameras and housing being packaged together, which leads to the appearance of one single object, and is also convenient at the time of purchase.

However, you can also find the housing for these cameras sold separately. This can be convenient as well, as you may already own a camera that you want to ensure will be protected from the water, but don’t want to get a brand new camera.

If this is a preference for you and you are looking for both the camera and the housing, just double check first that they will in fact come together in the same package.

Pros and Cons of Underwater Cameras (cameras with housing)

  • Capable of reaching further depths
  • Maximum immersion time is extremely high
  • Doesn't need to be cleaned as often
  • Lower chance of leakage
  • Cameras inside of the housing usually don't have any other inherent features for added durability. 
  • More bulky and inconvenient
  • If not already combined, need to install camera inside of housing before each use. 

Pros and Cons of Waterproof Cameras

  • Smaller and more convenient
  • Often have other added durability features
  • Don't need to be installed in housing
  • Easy to use both above and below water
  • Greater chance of leakage, particularly at greater depths
  • Most maximum depths are about 10m or 30ft
  • The maximum immersion time is usually lower
  • Need to be cleaned more often

Overall, it really just comes down to convenience versus performance. Many snorkelers find the waterproof cameras to be sufficient, as you don’t usually exceed depths of 10m and the convenience is apparent. However, if you are unsure, or are considering scuba diving in the future, then maybe an underwater camera with housing is the way to go.

Things to look for in an underwater or waterproof camera

The first thing we recommend when figuring out what kind of underwater camera you need is simply thinking about what you are going to use it for, how often you will use it, and how advanced of a photographer you are.

For example, there are lots of underwater DSLR cameras available and they can generate spectacular images, but if you want something to document the trip rather than hone your technical photography skills, then it may be best to consider something more simple, convenient, and cheap, like an underwater compact camera.

Without getting into any super technical details, here are a few things to look out for that can make a big difference in an underwater camera and which one you select.

Underwater Housing versus Waterproof

We went into this in detail above, but again, this will definitely affect your choice. If you want something for deeper diving, no limit on immersion time, and with a lower chance of leaking, then a camera with underwater housing could be good for you. On the other hand, if you want something simple, convenient, and ready to go as is, then you may want to consider a waterproof camera that works underwater in shallow depths without any sort of housing.

Wet Lens Capability

If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to drop more money on a DSLR for better picture quality, or “settle” for a compact camera, wet lenses can actually help bring the two closer together.

Wet lenses are lenses that you can add on to your camera, and more often than not they can be installed and removed underwater or on land. They also help provide a wider angle if you are looking to take wider pictures.

Check out the video below to see an example of a wet lens and the potential capability:


Long Battery Life

This may seem obvious and maybe not that important, but this is definitely something you should consider, especially if you’re on a vacation. I don’t know about you, but I tend to lose sight of how much time I actually have on a trip, and small little tasks like re-charging or buying new batteries can be easily forgotten. There’s no point in buying an underwater camera for snorkeling if you can’t use it!

Shutter Lag

People often talk about shutter speed, but shutter lag can also be very important. This is the delay between when you trigger the shutter and when the picture is actually taken. In general, this is important when trying to pictures of fast-moving objects, and in the case of snorkeling, this also applies to the fast-moving fish!

Although the term shutter lag suggests that only the shutter is involved, it is commonly used as a broad term simply to reflect how long it takes for the picture to be taken after you trigger the shutter, and in digital cameras this can be affected by a variety of its components.

Therefore, better quality cameras tend to have smaller shutter lags, but this isn’t always the case. We generally see shutter lags in the range of 6-1800ms all with varying price ranges, so at the end of the day it’s a matter of finding a balance between your budget and the quality of the underwater camera, the latter of which is definitely affected by the associated shutter lag.

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Now this is a cool camera for snorkeling. It’s a snorkeling mask combined with a completely housed underwater camera. This allows for hands-free video and image capture of your snorkeling adventure, which is nice when you don’t want to be swimming around with something in your hands.

This underwater camera boasts lots of solid features, including a maximum depth of 40m or 130ft, HD 720p video up to 30 fps, and 12 MP interpolated images through a 135 degree lens.

A micro SDHC card is recommended, and you should probably get 4 GB or more. A 4GB card should record about 2 hours of video, and adds about 700 images or 30 minutes of video for every 1 GB of memory that you add. For the batteries, you will need 4 AAA batteries and rechargeable lithium ion batteries are recommended.

The mask itself isn’t really anything special. It has tempered glass lenses and adjustable straps which is nice, but the skirt is lacking considering there’s a camera attached to the snorkel mask. The main complaint that people have is the mask can gradually loosen over time in the water, but not all have complained about this.

Overall, we recommend this underwater snorkeling camera if you you’re willing to take the risk to try something new. It’s not very cheap, but for the price, there is some solid quality.

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

To be clear, we recognize this isn’t one of the best cameras for snorkeling. However, we wanted to review this under water camera in order to provide a wider spectrum of what’s available, and a little bit of what to avoid.

The description of this underwater camera is a little misleading. It has some good claims, like waterproof up to 30 feet, can hold up to 117 digital photos, and comes with some “snap n’ share” software, all at an extremely low price point.

Right off the bat this sounds like a deal. However, keep in mind that image quality does make a difference. Maybe you don’t need super advanced features for professional photography, but if you take a picture you want to be able to recognize what is in it.

This is where this camera fails. The image quality is garbage, people often complain about the software not working, and the plastic housing that allows it to be waterproof has a good chance at leaking.

Overall, we do not recommend this underwater camera. It’s a shame because the price is so good, but simply put, it’s a piece of junk. We recommend investing a little more for something that will at least work and generate decent images.

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

Now this is a nice underwater camera for snorkeling. It’s fairly expensive for this class of cameras, but it’s definitely one of those situations where you get what you pay for.

Fujifilm has been around for a long time and has developed a good reputation. With this camera, they constructed it so that it’s waterproof up to 10m or 33ft, which is sufficient for snorkeling. It includes a rechargeable lithium ion battery with an AC wall charger plug and a USB cable. This doesn’t sound that important, but when you’re on vacation the last thing you want to do is continuously run around looking for the correct size batteries for a camera.

As for the technical features, 16.4MP resolution is great for this type of camera and the video records at a full HD 1080p. Equipped with a 5-25mm zoom lens and 5x optical zoom and 2x digital zoom, the magnification isn’t crazy but definitely sufficient for snorkeling.

Overall, Fujifilm loaded this camera with all the features that you will need, while still prioritizing convenience and durability. Furthermore, it has have lots of extra features that are fun to play around with, like one touch wireless image transfer to another device like your phone. We highly recommend this underwater camera if you have room in the budget.

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

This Nikon waterproof camera is also more on the expensive side, but not as expensive as the Fujifilm camera reviewed above, so it’s actually a pretty nice balance. It’s waterproof up to about 10m or 33ft, shockproof up to 5ft, and freeze-proof down to 14 degrees F.

With a 3x wide-angle NIKKOR glass zoom lens and a 13.2 MP CMOS sensor, the image quality should be decent for snorkeling. The video is actually a little better, with full HD 1080p and stereo sound, although people typically don’t care about the sound underwater too much.

This camera is also convenient with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC charger adaptor and USB cable, a cleaning brush, and a small compact size that won’t take up any room.

The most underrated features of this camera are the simple design, ease of use, and over-sized buttons. In a lot of situations, especially on land, this wouldn’t really matter, but when you’re underwater exploring the marine life, the last thing you want is to be fiddling with your camera to get it to work.

Overall we highly recommend this camera. It might not be the best overall in terms of technical specs, but it’s still really good and with the convenience, simplicity, and ease of use, it’s a great camera for snorkeling.

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

This GoPro camera is really expensive, as most are, but it’s also pretty awesome. It has lots of different settings for different styles of video capture, including ultra-wide 1440p 48fps video.

This isn’t really a point-and-shoot camera, but instead you simply attach it to a mount, stick, or attach it to a part of your body and record the video. Stills can be pulled from the video in extremely high quality. Moreover, with a really high frame rate, you can have lots of pictures to choose from!

We don’t necessarily recommend this GoPro camera over others, but simply chose this because it’s slightly higher end and is a somewhat recent version. If you’re intending to use one for snorkeling, just make sure it will have the plastic housing and you have something to mount it to.

For example, this GoPro snorkel mask shown here is one that comes with a built in mount to hold any GoPro model. It’s an additional cost, but it’s a fancy product that will allow for an extra degree of convenience. Overall it’s a solid mask with most of the features you would expect, but nothing special other than the GoPro mount.

Overall, we only recommend a GoPro for snorkeling if you will have other uses for it as well. It’s not really something worth getting for a single family trip, but if you do other activities that you want to record or document, then it’s definitely something worth looking into.


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