DPReview Recommends: Best Waterproof Cameras
Most cameras are delicate objects, and the last thing you want to do is drop them or subject them to wet or freezing conditions. But there are cameras which are specifically designed to handle rough treatment. In this list, we've chosen our top five recommendations for tough cameras. Every model in this list can be dropped, soaked, frozen and, in some cases, crushed. Our recommendations cover the entire class, from stylish compacts that can handle the occasional accident to high-end rugged cameras capable of serious image quality.
Prices given are representative of street pricing, and our recommendations are arranged from most to least expensive.
Recommendations are subject to change and are current as of November 2013
Nikon 1 AW1 (w/11-27.5mm kit zoom)
$800 / £650 | 14MP | Submersible to 15m (50ft) | 3" 921k-dot LCD | 1080/60i video
Although the control logic of the Nikon 1 AW1 is firmly geared towards point-and-shoot photography, it's a cut above the relatively numerous tough compacts which occupy the lower rungs of the rugged camera ladder. The AW1 has an interchangeable lens mount and can be used with any 1-series lens, but with one of its companion waterproof lenses attached the camera can be dropped, frozen, muddied and completely immersed in water safely.
As such, if you're looking for something to take on an adventure holiday, or just a knockabout camera that can withstand occasional rough treatment, the AW1's image quality and general performance (especially autofocus) make it worthy of serious consideration.
$330 / £250 | 12MP | Submersible to 15m (50ft) | 25-100mm zoom | 3" 610k-dot OLED
The Olympus Stylus TG-2 impressed us in our recent roundup of the rugged class, and offers an unusually versatile 25-100mm lens which is quite fast (F2.0 at the wide end), plus a 3" OLED rear display and built-in GPS and manometer (pressure gauge). It also has limited manual controls and support for conversion lenses (both uncommon features for this class), as well as 1080/30p video recording.
The TG-2 offers good image quality but while relatively pricey for its basic specification, you're mostly paying for its ability to withstand punishment. The TG-2 is shockproof, can be taken underwater to a depth of 50 feet, and is rated to keep on shooting down to minus 10 degrees C. (14F).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 (FT5 in Europe)
$300 / £300 | 16MP | Submersible to 13m (43ft) | 28-128mm zoom | 3" 460k-dot LCD
The Panasonic Lumix TS5 is rugged - waterproof to 43 feet, shockproof from 6.5 feet, freezeproof from 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure resistant to 220 lbs. It also has a Leica 28-128mm f/3.3-5.9 lens, 1080/60p HD video, and plenty of creative and automatic modes. Image quality is decent, on a par with most of its peers, but is relatively slow lens and weak flash will force to you to use high ISO sensitivities in deep or murky water more than you might like.
Built-in Wi-Fi is good to see, but we had some issues with setup. On the whole though the TS5 offers a solid feature set for a decent price, and makes a pleasant companion for photography in tough conditions.
Sony Cyber-shot TX30
$240 / £220 | 18MP | Submersible to 10m (32ft) | 26-130mm | 3.3" 1.2M-dot OLED
The Sony Cyber-shot TX30 is somewhat unusual in the class of rugged cameras, in that it doesn't look like it's designed to take much punishment. Despite its slim, stylish looks however it's a pretty tough little compact, submersible down to 10 meters, and shockproof from heights of up to 1.5m. As such, the TX30 makes a great 'accident proof' camera.
There are tougher models out there, but the TX30 is small, very stylish and perfectly capable of good results for everyday social and snapshot photography. The camera is quite capable in the video department as well, with the ability to shoot at 1080/60p. It's major appeal is that if you take a tumble, spill a drink or drop it into a puddle, the chances are that the TX30 still work afterwards.
Pentax Optio WG-3
$215 / £180 | 16MP | Submersible to 14m (45ft) | 25-100mm lens | 3" 460k-dot LCD
The Pentax WG-3 is the less expensive version of the WG-3 GPS, and while it omits the wireless charging and GPS (obviously) features of its costlier cousin it still offers a strong feature set for an affordable price. Features include a stabilized 16MP CMOS sensor, and a relatively fast F2.0-4.9 lens with 25-100mm equivalent zoom. It is waterproof down to 45 feet, drop-resistant from heights of 6.6 feet, dust-resistant, and can handle temperatures down to 14F. It's also back-pocket-safe, meaning you can sit on it and it's still likely to work (the WG-3 can handle up to 220 pounds of pressure).
As far as performance is concerned the WG-3 isn't the fastest camera in the world but it delivers reliably good image quality and decent video, making it attractive as a 'knockabout' camera or a tough compact for travelling and everyday use.