If you plan to bring a camera with you when you go rock climbing, skiing, or snorkeling, it makes the most sense to get a waterproof tough camera that can withstand modest falls and can work while completely submerged underwater. After putting in 15 hours of research and testing, and subjecting our three test cameras to rough handling and a swim in a saltwater pool, we think the Olympus Tough TG-6 is the best choice. It’s tough, it captures 4K high-definition video, and it takes good-looking photos without any futzing.
Olympus Tough TG-6
The Tough TG-6 offered the best image quality in our tests plus excellent 4K video, and it’s simple to use.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $380.
Olympus’s Tough TG-6 captured the best-looking images of the cameras we tested, and its 4x zoom lens provides a wider view than the iPhone 11’s camera but zooms in far enough and has a wide enough aperture to capture portraits that make your subject stand out from the background. It works underwater as deep as 50 feet below the surface, it can tolerate falls as far as 7 feet, and it can withstand cold down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re an advanced photographer, you might appreciate that it can capture raw images for more versatility when you’re editing photos. Videographers will appreciate the smooth, 120-frames-per-second 4K video capture.
Nikon Coolpix W300
Capable of going down to 100 feet underwater, Nikon’s tough camera is a little tougher than the rest and still captures nice-looking (if not class-leading) shots.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $387.
The Nikon Coolpix W300 captures great-looking photos, though they’re not quite as great as those from our top pick. Its 5x zoom lens offers slightly more zoom than the Olympus TG-6’s lens but doesn’t let through as much light, so it’s less optimized for underwater photography. That said, its still images had realistic colors and lots of detail when we used it to shoot in full-auto mode, and the camera is capable of capturing 4K video. The camera can survive dives down to 100 feet underwater (twice as deep as the Olympus can go) and is shockproof in drops as long as 8 feet (in contrast to the TG-6’s 7 feet), and like our top pick it is freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although the WG-70’s images showed less detail and at times slightly off colors compared with our other two picks, it’s plenty rugged, and it performs well.
The Ricoh WG-70 produces colors that can be off sometimes in challenging lighting situations, but its colors are typically okay in natural light, and its images are still good enough for people who aren’t super picky about that. The WG-70 can take falls as long as 5 feet and can work in freezing-cold weather (14 degrees Fahrenheit) or down to nearly 50 feet underwater. It can’t capture video in 4K and lacks Wi-Fi to transfer images to your smartphone, but at around $100 less than the Olympus TG-6, it’s a fine choice if you don’t want to spend the extra money and don’t think you’ll miss the TG-6’s extra features. We think the WG-70 could make a good first camera for a child or teen to play around with, as well.