Waterproof or rugged cameras are designed for heavy outdoor use. In addition to being dust and water resistant, the best waterproof cameras are shockproof, drop-proof, compactly sized, and affordably priced. In this post, we’ve identified the 5 best waterproof cameras under $500 as of November 2021.
Olympus Tough TG-6
The TG-6 is the sixth generation of Olympus’ Tough series of rugged cameras, and its evolution is evident in its durability. The camera is dust and waterproof up to 50 feet, shockproof up to 7 feet, crushproof up to 220 pounds, and freezeproof down to 14°F. In other words, it’s more durable than you are.
For extra protection, the TG-6 has sealed, dual-pane glass protecting its F2.0 wide-angle lens. The space between the glass elements is filled with nitrogen – a feature that helps prevent fog when the temperature changes.
The camera is equipped with a 12MP BSI CMOS sensor and supports RAW capture, 20fps continuous shooting, and Ultra HD 4K video recording. The combination of these specs and the camera’s durability means you could shoot in a snowstorm or while scuba-diving and still get remarkably crisp, clear imagery. We also really like the TG-6’s Pro Capture mode. This feature saves a photo before and after you hit the shutter, ensuring you snap the image you want.
Among the camera’s other specialized features is a choice of underwater white balance modes. Before you dive, you can choose between shallow, mid-range, or deep, depending on your situation. Those settings automatically adjust to account for how light passes through water at different depths.
Additional features include multiple microscope modes and focus stacking. Currently priced $449.99 and available in black and red, the TG-6 is easily one of the best waterproof cameras currently available.
GoPro’s flagship camera is a perfect 10. Featuring a new GP2 processor, the HERO10 can shoot 23MP stills and 5.3K video at twice the frame rate of its predecessor, the HERO9, another rugged camera that’s also worthy of consideration.
The HERO10 is waterproof up to 33 feet and features a wide array of cool features. These include HyperSmooth 4.0 image stabilization, TimeWarp 3.0 time-lapse capabilities, 8x slow-motion at 2.7K resolution, Scheduled Capture, and Hindsight, which captures up to 30 seconds before you hit record.
Despite its many features, the HERO10 is also remarkably compact. Measuring 2.8 x 2.2 x 1.3 inches and weighing 5.4 oz, it’s easy to take anywhere. Meanwhile folding fingers on the base make it easy to mount to your ski pole, bike, or vehicle. The camera’s size is even more impressive when you consider it also features an LCD screen on the front and the back.
The GoPro HERO10 currently has a $499.99 price tag, making it one of the more expensive models on our list. However, given its impressive features and capabilities, the versatile waterproof camera is well worth it.
Nikon Coolpix W300
Dust and waterproof up to 100 feet, shockproof up to 7.9 feet, and freezeproof to 14°F, the Nikon Coolpix W300 is easily one of the best waterproof cameras of 2021.
The extremely durable camera features a 16MP low-light CMOS sensor and a fast f/2.8 NIKKOR zoom lens. In addition to its ISO range reaching up to 6400, this makes the W300 great for use in low-light. The camera can also record 4K Ultra HD and 1080p Full HD video clips with sound, and supports time-lapse capabilities, target finding and subject tracking autofocus, and VR image stabilization, among other features.
Physically, the camera is well designed. The camera measures 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.2 inches, weighs 8.2 oz, and has an ergonomic grip and user-friendly button layout. There’s also a 3-inch, 921k-dot TFT LCD screen with anti-reflective coating, and a dedicated Tool button for easy access to handy features such as the built-in GPS and altimeter. The camera also has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Nikon Coolpix W300 is available in three colors, black, orange, and yellow, for $399.95. A great price for an incredibly durable yet capable camera.
The Ricoh WG-70 is arguably the best waterproof camera under $300 currently available. Waterproof up to 45.9 feet (14 meters) for two hours, shockproof from up to 5.25 feet, freezeproof to 14°F, and crushproof up to 220lbs, the rugged camera is just as durable as some of the more expensive models in this list.
The WG-70 has a 16MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and a 5-25mm 5x optical zoom lens. The 35mm equivalent focal length is 28-140mm, and the lens’ variable aperture range is F3.5-5.5. The camera shoots stills and Full HD video, and features six built-in LED lamps around the lens for lighting close-up and macro photography. The wide aperture and ISO range of 125 – 6400 also helps with low-light recording.
The camera additionally boasts 24 scene modes including Underwater, Surf & Snow, Night, Fireworks, and Food, with Face Detection autofocus supported on all modes. Drive modes such as Self-Timer, Burst Shooting, and Remote Control are also included.
With a battery life of approximately 300 shots, and a compact build weighing 6.1 oz and measuring 4.8 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches, the Ricoh WG-70 is a fantastic waterproof camera that’s easy to take with you anywhere.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS30
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS30 is a powerful and affordably priced rugged camera. Waterproof up to 26 feet, shockproof from up to 5 feet, and freezeproof to 14°F, it’s well and truly equipped to handle extreme outdoor use.
The camera is very portable, weighing 4.4 oz and measuring 4.1 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches. That’s great considering the camera has a 16.1MP 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and a 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) 4x optical zoom lens. Additionally, the DMC-TS30 has a built-in Mega O.I.S. (optical image stabilizer). This feature uses a sampling frequency of 4,000 times per second to compensate for shake and produce clear, sharp imagery.
The DMC-TS30 captures stills and 720p HD video, and offers a wide range of special features. These include Creative Panorama, Time Lapse, and Torch Light. Torch Light allows you to use the built-in flash as a constant source of light, even when not recording.
Currently priced $177.99, the LUMIX DMC-TS30 is our pick for the best waterproof camera under $200.
That concludes our list of the 5 best waterproof cameras under $500 for 2021. Whether you’re going swimming, skiing, hiking, or diving, any one of the cameras listed above will help you capture your next outdoor adventure in exquisite detail.