Smartphone cameras may be taking over the market, but until they can survive a dunk in the ocean, you’re going to need a waterproof alternative for your under-the-sea excursions. Here are our favorite cameras to take diving, rafting, kayaking, and surfing — as well as just to the beach:
What You Get: The Tough certainly lives up to its moniker, and it takes some of the highest-quality photos of any waterproof camera.
Coolest Feature: The 12 megapixels and 4x zoom are far from overwhelming, but the combination of an f2.0 lens — which lets in more light than a typical lens — and a high-speed, high-sensitivity sensor helps if you’re shooting underwater.
Waterproof To: 50 feet
What You Get: The TS5 comes with a new 16-megapixel sensor for shooting in low light, but its biggest draw is an extensive list of features. Time Lapse Shot takes a string of images over time and condenses them together to create a stop-action effect — perfect for capturing views of the coast from your balcony — and Underwater Mode eliminates the dull grays common in underwater pictures.
Coolest Feature: Use the Wi-Fi connectivity to automatically upload images, and share photos instantly with friends by simply tapping your camera to their smartphone or tablet.
Waterproof To: 43 feet
What You Get: The AW110 is a great entry-level model for the casual scuba diver or beachgoer. Built-in Wi-Fi enables instant sharing, and a GPS receiver lets you geo-tag photos. The camera has a 16-megapixel sensor, but the slower lens means it functions best on land or in shallow water with light.
Coolest Feature: The handy Action Control capability lets you change settings by either tapping the side of the camera or shaking it, a welcome alternative to menus.
Waterproof To: 59 feet
What You Get: The rugged GoPro was designed for surfers, climbers, and divers to film hands-free. These cameras range from 5 to 12 megapixels, but the main draw is their video functionality. Unfortunately, they lack an LCD screen, so you can’t see your videos until you upload them to another device.
Coolest Feature: The high-end Black model is capable of taking 4K digital video (think four times as sharp as current high-definition (HD) pictures), as well as standard 1080p HD.
Waterproof To: 131 feet
Price: Black ($400), Silver ($300), White ($200)
What You Get: If you need the durability of a GoPro but want to focus more on shooting stills, the WG-3 is your best choice. The bright lens and sensor-shift shake reduction perform in low light, and a built-in HDMI output lets you plug into your TV.
Coolest Feature: Want to see what’s going on in a piece of coral? Turning on Digital Microscope mode will illuminate the subject with six LED macro lights so it can focus less than half an inch away.
Waterproof To: 46 feet
What You Get: If you don’t need anything but quick YouTube™-quality video, the HMX-W300 delivers with a lower price tag. It takes photographs as well, but the 5-megapixel sensor means the quality is about what you would get with a smartphone.
Coolest Feature: It’s capable of recording HD video at 1080p, and even has an Auto Aqua mode for color correction that can be turned on with a single push of a button.
Waterproof To: 16 feet
YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc.