How deep can waterproof cameras go?

The best outdoor camera

Waterproof and robust outdoor cameras with their very small, internal lens and their small image sensor do not come close to the quality of good compact cameras. Please calculate roughly with the image quality that you get from a current smartphone (maybe even a little lower).

The strengths of these cameras lie elsewhere. With an outdoor camera, you can take photos and videos under adverse conditions where normal cameras (and smartphones) would have long since given up the ghost. This often results in recordings that would not have been made with other devices. And that is still what makes this class of cameras so attractive and lively.

Brief overview: Our recommendations

Test winner

Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7

The only outdoor camera with a viewfinder can dive to a depth of 31 meters. Unfortunately, your lens is not fast.

For us, the best outdoor camera is the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7. It is the only outdoor camera that has a viewfinder (in this case an electronic video viewfinder). A viewfinder offers in very bright surroundings, e.g. B. on the beach or in the snow, clear advantages. The Panasonic also sets the current record for deep diving without an additional protective housing: You can go a full 31 meters deep with the Lumix FT7. Your zoom lens doesn't offer a lot of wide angle, but a 4.6x zoom factor and can therefore bring a lot closer. Equipment and service are good. However, it lacks GPS and a Bluetooth interface, which is very unusual for a current camera.

But the FT7 isn't even more expensive. It has a recommended retail price of 429 euros, but is now often available for less than 300 euros. This is a really attractive price for the features on offer. A clear test victory, almost two years after its market launch!

Universal

Olympus Tough TG-6

Outdoor camera with many optional accessories and, in the latest version, an even higher resolution monitor.

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is the direct successor of our previous test winner, the Tough TG-5. Their zoom lens is nice and wide-angled and, compared to those of other outdoor cameras, relatively bright, i. H. it still lets a relatively large amount of light through to the image sensor. This, in turn, has a lower resolution of 12 megapixels than other outdoor cameras, which was a wise decision by Olympus. Both together ultimately ensure better image quality. Thanks to the wide range of accessories, the Tough TG-6 can also be made fit for other applications.

For the test victory, we also rate the equipment and the price-performance ratio. And here the Tough TG-6 is left behind, mainly due to its rather high price. It is at least a third more expensive than our test winner and doesn't even have a viewfinder. Nevertheless, it is a great camera that you should take a closer look at if the viewfinder is not so important to you, if the slightly better image quality is worth the extra charge for you or if you can use the accessories to master shooting situations that would otherwise not be possible.

Equipment giant

Nikon Coolpix W300

Largest zoom range, waterproof up to 30 meters, best connectivity - only the image quality is a tad worse than that of the test winner.

The Nikon Coolpix W300 can dive almost as deep as the Lumix FT7, namely 30 meters without an extra submersible housing. In terms of quality, this camera comes close to our test winner. It has large buttons on the side of the case for quick functions, which means that it can be operated quite easily even when wearing gloves. The Nikon already enables the connection via Bluetooth to the smartphone that is common today.

However, it does not have a viewfinder and does not provide any better image quality than our test winner. It is also more expensive. Therefore 3rd place.

For our fourth recommendation, there is still a decent step down in quality, but also in price. If you just want a cheap, waterproof camera or are looking for a robust camera for your (small) children, we can recommend the Nikon Coolpix W150. Operation is child's play, and they are also available in two colorful designs, but also really chic and simple in all white. The W150 is 10 meters waterproof and shockproof, similar to the more expensive competitors. Unusual in this price range: even the connectivity is state-of-the-art with WLAN and Bluetooth.

In terms of image quality, however, you have to make significant compromises with this camera concept, because the image sensor of the W150 is even smaller and its lens is even less bright than that of the more expensive models.

Comparison table

Test winnerUniversalEquipment giant(Also) for children
Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 Olympus Tough TG-6 Nikon Coolpix W300 Nikon Coolpix W150 Ricoh WG-6 Ricoh WG-60
Per
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • High resolution monitor
  • 4K videos
  • Waterproof to 31 meters
  • Best image quality in the test
  • 4K videos
  • High resolution monitor
  • GPS, compass and barometer
  • Extensive range of accessories
  • Good battery life
  • Large zoom range
  • 4K videos
  • Waterproof up to 30 meters
  • GPS, compass and barometer
  • Cheapest branded outdoor camera
  • Easy handling
  • Large zoom range
  • 6 LEDs as macro light
  • High resolution monitor
  • High definition videos
  • GPS and compass
  • Large zoom range
  • 6 LEDs as macro light
Contra
  • Relatively large and heavy
  • Faint lens
  • Sharpen the image too much
  • Relative expensive
  • Microphones pick up zoom and autofocus noises during video
  • Very small sensor
  • Faint lens
  • Image quality worse than the other outdoor cameras
  • WLAN only via FlashAir memory cards
  • WLAN only via FlashAir memory cards
  • No image stabilizer
  • Slow series pictures
Best price
 Show product details
resolution20 megapixels12 megapixels16 megapixels13 megapixels20 megapixels16 megapixels
sensor1 / 2.3 "(6.2 x 4.6 mm)1 / 2.3 "(6.2 x 4.6 mm)1 / 2.3 "(6.2 x 4.6 mm)1/3 "(4.8 x 3.6 mm)1 / 2.3 "(6.2 x 4.6 mm)1 / 2.3 "(6.2 x 4.6 mm)
lensF3.3 to F5.9
28-128 mm
F2.0 to F4.9
25 to 100 mm
F2.8 to F4.9
24-120 mm
F3.3 to F5.9
30 to 90 mm
F3.5 to F5.5
28 to 140 mm
F3.5 to F5.5
28 to 140 mm
zoom4.6 times optical4-way optical5-fold optical3-fold optical5-fold optical5-fold optical
Video4K / UHD4K / UHD4K / UHDFullHD4K / UHDFullHD
Battery range300 images380 images280 images220 images380 images300 images
Dimensions11.7 x 7.6 x 3.7 cm11.3 x 6.6 x 3.2 cm11.2 x 6.6 x 2.9 cm11 x 6.7 x 3.8 cm11.8 x 6.5 x 3.3 mm12.3 x 6.2 x 3.0 cm
Weight319 g253 g231 g177 g246 g193 g
robustnessWaterproof up to 31 m
Shockproof up to 2 m
Waterproof up to 15 m
Shockproof up to 2.1 m
Waterproof up to 30 m
Shockproof up to 2.4 m
Waterproof up to 10 m
Shockproof up to 1.8 m
Waterproof up to 20 m
Shockproof up to 2 m
Waterproof up to 14 m
Shockproof up to 1.6 m
miscellaneouselectronic viewfinder,
high resolution monitor,
optical image stabilizer,
WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS
optical image stabilizer,
GPS, altimeter, compass
WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS
optical image stabilizer,
GPS, altimeter, compass,
WLAN, bluetooth
WLAN, Bluetooth,
Charging via USB
optical image stabilizer,
high resolution monitor,
GPS, compass

Who needs an outdoor camera?

Would you like to take photos in wind and weather? Do you want your camera to work on the ski slopes in freezing temperatures? And be waterproof so that you can take it with you for a summer swim in the quarry pond or on your next snorkeling holiday? Then the first thing that might come to your mind now is an action cam.

Action cams are extremely robust and withstand the rigors of strenuous leisure activities without complaint. But action cams are primarily intended for filming. Taking photos with these devices is quite tedious. The tiny cameras are built to be mounted somewhere when shooting, not to be hand held when taking photos. They also have an extremely wide-angle lens - so you have to get very, very close to the action. This may work for certain applications or occasional photos.

But there are still the outdoor cameras, which are primarily built for photography, but of course can also film. They are waterproof and can take a lot of other things. They use themselves as one would expect from a "real" camera. For example, they have a two-stage shutter release, which is typical for photo cameras - pressing halfway to focus, pressing it all the way down triggers - action cams don't have that. And they have a zoom lens to bring in subjects a little further away, and a reasonably large monitor that is easy to work with.

Extra tip

Unlike other digital cameras that are common today, outdoor cameras are available in many bright colors. Of course, this has partly fashionable aspects: it should make the cameras look funky and young. A noticeable color can also be very useful, especially when the camera is underwater, whether intended or unintentional.

For example, the author had the mishap that while climbing the bathing ladder of a small sailing yacht, the outdoor camera hanging around his neck got caught somewhere and the camera strap tore. The camera got to the bottom. Fortunately, the orange housing was easy to see in the slightly cloudy water on the bottom between the aquatic plants. The camera was quickly lifted undamaged from a depth of three meters.

A black or camouflage-patterned camera, on the other hand, would have been practically invisible on the overgrown seabed and probably lost, because the low water temperature did not allow long searches. Even if black is chic - an outdoor camera can, for once, be in a conspicuous color!

Test winner: Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7

The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 is quite large and heavy compared to other outdoor cameras. The main reason for the high weight is the robust housing, which, in addition to being shock-proof, is also waterproof to a depth of 31 meters. And of course the viewfinder also takes up some space, especially since it also has to be waterproof. The Lumix FT7 is the only outdoor camera ever that has an electronic viewfinder.

Test winner

Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7

The only outdoor camera with a viewfinder can dive to a depth of 31 meters. Unfortunately, your lens is not fast.

It's small and not exactly high-resolution, actually not a good EVF (electronic viewfinder), but better a viewfinder than none at all. In very bright surroundings, e.g. B. on the beach or in the snow in the mountains - both of which are definitely environments in which such waterproof, robust and freezing temperatures are typically found - one is often grateful not to be dependent on the monitor alone. The viewfinder has a diopter compensation and right next to it there is the button for switching between viewfinder and monitor, because unfortunately there is no proximity sensor for an automatic switchover.

Despite or maybe because of its size, the Lumix FT7 lies surprisingly well in the hand. This is due to the successful combination of a handy handle on the front and clearly protruding strap eyelet on the back, which also serves as a storage area for the thumb. Even when wearing thin gloves, the grip is sufficient if the photographer is wearing thick gloves, but probably not. Incidentally, the built-in flash is located quite close to the handle and can easily be unintentionally covered. The small flash is not very powerful, but is in the usual range of cameras of this type.

No operation with gloves

With the exception of the shutter release button, all the other controls are of normal size (that is, as with »non-outdoor cameras«) and cannot really be operated with gloves on. If you are looking for a camera that you can use especially with thick gloves (but then often only to a limited extent), you will generally not be happy with the outdoor cameras tested here. One solution could then be to buy a camera with an underwater housing. These housings then have (a few) buttons, which can then also be operated with gloves.

Apart from the glove operability, the operation of the FT7 is quite successful. The pressure point of the keys is a bit harder, which is common for this type of camera due to the seals. The tight trigger is no exception. The really small zoom buttons are the only ones that feel spongy, even when they work perfectly. Since the camera does not have a rotary knob for the operating mode, the designers of the FT7 simply missed two menus. One can be called up by pressing the confirmation button on the control pad. The menus of the FT7 are well designed and easy to understand. Despite the lack of a touchscreen function, the menus can be conveniently navigated using the control pad. Like the shutter release, the control pad is quite tight, so you have to press the direction buttons really hard.

The 7.5 centimeter monitor takes up most of the back. The resolution is 1,040,000 pixels and the maximum brightness is only around 423 cd / m². For a camera that is supposed to be used when skiing in the mountains in the glaring sunlight reflected from the white snow, that's very little. But there is still the already mentioned viewfinder.

Small sensor with high resolution

The image sensor of the Lumix DC-FT7 has a full 20 megapixels, but is very small - like the sensors in smartphones. Panasonic is leading the race for megapixels in waterproof cameras. A high sensor resolution is not automatically an advantage with these cameras, because the small zoom lenses are often not able to project the image adequately and with high resolution really sharply onto the tiny sensor. With a focal length range of 28-128 millimeters converted to 35mm film format, the FT7 offers a moderate amount of wide angle, but a very good telephoto range.

The lens is completely inside the camera so that the lens does not have to slide out of the camera and everything remains beautifully waterproof. The lens construction resembles a periscope. The incident light is guided through a first optic and then deflected 90 degrees vertically towards the bottom of the camera, where the sensor is located. Another optical unit is located between the deflection prism and the sensor, which houses the zoom and the optical image stabilizer as well as the focus.