If you’re off on holiday, chances are you’re going to come across some water, whether that’s a glistening pool or the deep blue of the sea, yet the vast majority of cameras won’t thank you for taking them anywhere near water.
However, this bunch of waterproof wonders are right at home capturing subaquatic scenes, and will let you dive as deep as 30 metres to fish out the perfect shot. They’re all shock and freezeproof too, and some wont mind if you give them a crushing either.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as you’ll also find many rugged cameras come packed with features such as GPS location tagging, Wi-Fi connectivity and even action-orientated extras like a compass or altimeter.
Pick the right camera, and image quality will also give a typical land-loving compact a run for its money. The only compromise you’ll need to make for the ability to shoot during some rough and tumble is a below-average zoom range. If you want a camera for holiday with a longer zoom range, take a look at our pick of travel zoom compacts.
So don’t let your camera hold you back, as any of these strengthened snappers will relish life off the beaten track.
1. Olympus Tough! TG-4
As the name suggests, this is one tough camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 25-100mm | Waterproof: 15m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 2.1m | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Raw format support
Range of accessories
Image smoothing at high ISOs
Zoom control is fiddly
Few rugged cameras can match the TG-4’s exceptional build quality and confidence-inspiring rugged feel. Certainly from our time using it, the TG-4 is built to survive pretty much anything you could throw at it, literally. A chunky, ergonomic design and well-designed controls make the TG-4 a pleasure to use in any weather. It’s also packed with useful features for when you’re off the beaten track, such as an easy to use GPS system, electronic compass, depth and pressure gauges.
2. Panasonic FT5/TS5
Despite its age, the FT5 is still one of the best rugged compacts around
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16.1MP | Lens: 28-128mm | Waterproof: 13m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 2m | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Fast AF performance
Image smoothing at high ISOs
Panasonic’s FT5 may be getting a bit long in the tooth now, but it can still cut it against the best of today’s waterproof compacts. A 4.6x optical zoom lens provides a focal range of 28-128mm and is optically stabilised to smooth out camera shake. However, a 5cm minimum focusing distance does fall short of the 1cm macro modes offered by many competitors. An impressively bright LCD monitor makes it easy to compose your shots, while the swift and reliable autofocus system and accurate exposure metering ensure images turn out how you’d planned, whether you’re above or below water. Factor in extras like GPS, Wi-Fi with remote camera control and NFC pairing for easy image sharing, and the FT5 shapes up as a great all-rounder.
3. Nikon Coolpix AW130
The ideal choice if you want to go deep underwater
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm | Waterproof: 30m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 2.1m | Monitor: 3-inch, 921K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Waterproof down to 30m
Wide zoom range
The AW130 comes fully-loaded with a host of features – there’s a terrific GPS system for starters, interactive world map and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus an altimeter and underwater depth gauge to boot. The AW130 also offers a high resolution, 921k dot OLED monitor, but perhaps most impressive of all is that the AW130 can function down to a depth of 30 metres – as far as an Advanced Open Water diving certificate will get you.
4. Canon PowerShot D30
Looking a little dated now, but still a well designed compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12.1MP | Lens: 28-140mm | Waterproof: 25m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 2m | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Good ergonomic design
White balance performance
Poor GPS functionality
No built-in Wi-Fi
The D30’s design features oversized controls that makes the camera exceptionally easy to operate, even when underwater as we found or while wearing gloves. The D30 is certainly a pleasure to use, but it’s let down by underwhelming image quality. Its 12.1MP sensor and DIGIC 4 processor are starting to show their age, and are prone to generating noticeable levels of noise at ISO 400 and above. At least detail levels are relatively high and there’s little evidence of smearing. The D30 features GPS location tagging, but doesn’t record altitude or depth data, while their is no Wi-Fi connectivity either. There’s no doubt that the PowerShot D30 is a waterproof wonder, going down to 25 metres, but aside from this and it ergonomic benefits, its been surpassed by the competition.
5. Fuji FinePix XP90
Simple to use, perfect for the beach or on the slopes
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm | Waterproof: 15m | Freezeproof: -10° | Shockproof: 1.75m | Monitor: 3-inch, 920K dots | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Cheap compared to rivals
Disappointing image quality
No GPS included
Compared to ultra-rugged competition, the XP90 doesn’t have quite the same credentials. That means that it might not be quite up to some of the more active users, but still more than up to the job of a family beach or skiing holiday. There are a host of fun filters included, and Wi-Fi connectivity, but no GPS. Simple to use, this is a great option if you’re after a durable point-and-shoot compact camera for family use.
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