Digital camera waterproof: The Best Waterproof Tough Camera for 2023

The Best Waterproof Tough Camera for 2023

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Photo: Rozette Rago


We have added the Ricoh WG-80 to the What to look forward to section and hope to test it soon.

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.

Our pick

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.

Olympus’s Tough TG-6 captured the best-looking images of the cameras we tested, and its 4x zoom lens provides a wide view 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.


Budget pick

Ricoh WG-70

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.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

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.

Budget pick

Ricoh WG-70

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 research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked
  • Our pick: Olympus Tough TG-6
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Budget pick: Ricoh WG-70
  • What to look forward to
  • The competition

Why you should trust us

I’ve been Wirecutter’s camera editor for three years, and prior to that I covered cameras and other photo-related products over the course of 13 years for CNET and Popular Photography. For the last nine years of my tenure there, I was the tech editor and then senior tech editor for Popular Photography, where I was responsible for maintaining and refining the lab testing for cameras and lenses.

Who this is for

Action cameras like the GoPro Hero series have been eating tough cameras’ lunch for the past several years due to their ease of use, myriad mounting options, and diminutive size. But their super-wide-angle lenses—although immersive for shooting videos—produce noticeably distorted still images. If your main goal is to shoot still photos, a tough camera offers true optical zoom and superior optics that an action camera can’t match, and it has a bigger screen for previewing your results in the field.

A camera like this is meant for people who want to shoot images in extreme conditions, whether they’re enduring freezing-cold temperatures, rock climbing, or going underwater—in a swimming pool or in the ocean. Although these cameras won’t do for serious scuba work (they’re generally rated for 50 or 100 feet, depending on the model), they are more than enough for snorkelers and free divers. (Scuba divers who want to shoot deeper should either pair one of these cameras with a special housing or look into more specialized equipment.)

Rugged/waterproof cameras aren’t just for swimmers—they’re also made to withstand falls, typically from somewhere between 5 and 8 feet, which is, conveniently, close to the height you’re likely to drop them from if the camera slips from your grip while you’re in the middle of taking a shot. Plus, the waterproofing also makes the camera dustproof, so you can bring it out on dusty hiking trails or in sandy spots like the beach. Cameras with interchangeable lenses can be damaged if sand or dust enters them when you’re changing lenses, but if you drop one of these rugged cameras into the dirt, it’s not a big deal.

Skiers or other fans of cold-weather and snow-frolicking activities will appreciate that these cameras can operate in freezing-cold situations—you won’t need to worry too much if the camera falls out of your pocket while you’re carving a turn on your way down the mountain. It’s better to keep your pocket zippered, though, because if the camera falls deep into the snow, it may become difficult to find. Likewise, it’s a good idea to pair any of these cameras with a buoyant strap since the camera won’t float on its own if you drop it in the water.

The larger controls are easy to operate in action, but if you’re out skiing or doing some other cold-weather activity and wearing thick gloves, you’ll probably still have to remove a glove when operating the camera. We suggest including a glove liner in your outfit so you can keep that on while operating the camera and retain a little warmth before stowing the camera away again.

A happy side effect of the resilient nature of these cameras is that they are less likely to be broken by children. If you want to be able to hand your camera off to a child, choosing a rugged camera is probably a good idea, though one of these models may be a bit expensive to buy just for that purpose.

That said, note that all rugged cameras trade image quality for toughness, so if you’re looking for an everyday camera, you’ll be better served by a non-rugged compact camera or mirrorless camera.

How we picked

We looked at all the rugged cameras currently available and narrowed the field down based on specs that we knew would be helpful in the challenging shooting conditions you’re likely to encounter.

  • Large-aperture lens: Since light falls off dramatically the farther you dive below the surface of the water (they don’t call them the murky depths for nothing), it helps to have a lens that lets in as much light as possible. For any camera nerds who are wondering, we set a cutoff of f/3.5 or larger as the maximum aperture. This narrowed down the field a lot.
  • Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof: Since ruggedness is the very reason these cameras exist, we took into account the manufacturer’s stated limits. Snorkeling is unlikely to take you below 10 feet, but your camera’s depth limit should give you room to spare in case you drop the camera accidentally underwater. We considered a depth rating of 40-plus feet to be the minimum (50-plus was preferable). Similarly, you’ll need at least 5 feet—chest height for many people—of drop resistance. And pretty much all modern tough cameras work at subfreezing temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Macro and close-up modes: Because light doesn’t travel very well through water, a lot of underwater photography happens very close to the subject of the photo. That means macro capabilities are important. All of these cameras can focus as close as 0.4 inch from the front of the lens.

We also looked at tests and hands-on reports for the cameras, if they were available, to get a sense of what other camera reviewers had to say about them and to look at sample images the cameras shot.

Our pick: Olympus Tough TG-6

Photo: Rozette Rago

Our pick

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.

Offering toughness near the top of the class and image quality slightly better than that of the competition, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is an excellent choice marred only by flaws common to this entire genre of cameras. It has a lens that lets in more light than the one in the Ricoh WG-70, which helps it achieve slightly better image quality than that model can offer. Its 4x zoom lens covers a full-frame focal length equivalent of 25–100mm, and that is enough for the majority of situations.

Images we shot with the TG-6’s full auto mode looked great, and capturing them was as easy as turning the camera on, holding it up, and pressing the shutter button. They were neither too dark nor too bright, with vibrant colors and lots of detail. The colors were a little more saturated than accurate, but in a good way that most people tend to like.

The Olympus TG-6 does a really good job of getting plenty of details in both the brightest and darkest parts of the shot. Photo: Phil Ryan Compared with the Ricoh WG-70, the Olympus TG-6 sacrificed some of the detail in the clouds to preserve a more vibrant look in the trees. Photo: Phil Ryan

When shooting flowers, even with harsh direct sunlight bearing down on them, the TG-6 maintained detail in especially bright flower petals while also keeping plenty of detail in the shadows. Part of its ability to capture a comparatively wide range of bright and dark tones can be attributed to the fact that its sensor has fewer pixels packed into the same-size area as in the Ricoh camera we tested: The TG-6’s 1/2.3-inch sensor has 12 megapixels, versus the 16 megapixels found in our other pick.

Avid photographers will appreciate some of the TG-6’s fancy shooting modes, such as automatic focus stacking and raw-image capture; the latter is of interest to anyone who wants to adjust their images after they shoot. Such photographers might also like the array of available accessories, such as fisheye and telephoto lens adapters, a waterproof housing to extend its dive limit from 50 feet to nearly 150 feet, and even an underwater strobe.

Shooting underwater in a swimming pool with the TG-6 was easy, and we never felt as if the camera would slip out of our hands. Keep in mind that these cameras don’t float, so if you don’t use some sort of strap, you’ll have to swim down to the bottom of the pool if you drop yours. Our images from the pool had a slight blue cast, but we were impressed with this Olympus camera’s ability to present a pleasing look to the colors that outdid what we saw from the Ricoh model.

The Olympus TG-6 did a superb job of capturing the silver and red of the Diet Coke can while also getting great skin tones on the hand. Photo: Ben Frumin The underwater macro mode let us get a closer view of the Diet Coke can. Photo: Ben Frumin

The TG-6 has a comfortable grip that protrudes slightly from the front of the camera, as well as a small spot on the back for your thumb. You control the zoom with a forefinger-operated lever that surrounds the shutter-release button. Hikers and rock climbers are likely to appreciate that the TG-6 weighs 8.9 ounces, so it shouldn’t be a problem to bring with you just about anywhere.

The TG-6 has a small slider that lets you lock the battery securely into place. Video: Rozette Rago

You can operate the camera remotely or send images to your smartphone through the Olympus Image Share app (Android, iOS). Don’t get too excited if you want to use that feature underwater; Wi-Fi doesn’t travel well through water. You’ll have to press the shutter if you’re below the surface and then wait until you’re out of the water to transfer images to your phone.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The problems we had with the Olympus Tough TG-6 tended to be category-wide problems and not specific to this model. For example, all the cameras in this guide use a relatively small 1/2.3-inch sensor, as many other compact cameras do. That’s bigger than the 1/3-inch sensors you can find in high-end smartphones but much smaller than the 1-inch sensor you can find in non-tough point-and-shoots in the same price range. This is important because with all other factors being equal, smaller sensors can lead to noisier pictures, especially in dim light.

We also noticed that, as in other cameras, the TG-6’s auto mode tends toward wider apertures (lower f-stops) in order to let more light into the sensor, but this approach leads to a relatively shallow depth of field (that is, a blurred background) in a lot of situations where such blurring might not be desirable. That makes it difficult to get a shot of a person or object near the camera without blurring the scenery behind them. However, we saw the same thing happen in the other cameras we tested for the latest update to this guide, so it’s difficult to hold this quirk against the Olympus.

Budget pick: Ricoh WG-70

Photo: Rozette Rago

Budget pick

Ricoh WG-70

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.

Compared with our top pick in this guide, the Ricoh WG-70 struggled with image color and sharpness in our tests, but it’s typically around $100 cheaper than the Olympus TG-6, and its 5x zoom lens has more reach (though not by much, and it doesn’t get quite as wide). This camera is also not as tough as our top pick, waterproof only to around 46 feet (versus 50 feet for the Olympus), and drop-proof at 5 feet (in contrast to 7 feet).

You lock the WG-70’s battery compartment into place with a small slider button. Video: Rozette Rago

Fully zoomed out, it matches the field of view you can get from your smartphone, and the extra reach of the 5x lens might help make a bird perched on a tree branch fill up more of the frame. The lens also lets in less light than that of our top pick, however, so getting a shutter speed fast enough to make sure that bird doesn’t look blurry as it fidgets on the branch will be a bit harder. Six small LED lights are built into a ring around the lens to help illuminate very close-up (aka macro) shots. The WG-70 is more than an ounce lighter than our pick.

In ample sunlight, the WG70 did a great job of capturing the rich purple petals of these flowers. Photo: Phil Ryan The billowy clouds and bridge look good in this image from the WG-70, but the trees are much more muted than in the similar photo we shot with the Olympus TG-6. Photo: Phil Ryan

In sunlight, the WG-70 can capture images with lots of detail and realistic color in many situations, but it’s not as reliable as our other picks. In certain circumstances, it tends to sacrifice some detail in darker portions of the scene, such as areas in shadow, by underexposing them. White balance can get thrown off as well, resulting in inaccurate colors. For example, when we shot in ugly fluorescent light, the WG-70 didn’t accurately account for that light and produced a sepia hue whereas it should have produced an off-white. This is a very particular lighting situation that we’ve noticed can confuse some compact cameras, but the other cameras in this test group handled it much more capably.

The brightest portions of the images we took with the Ricoh camera also appeared harsher than corresponding areas in the photos from our top pick. This result is likely due to some image processing happening in that camera that might not be happening here. But given that most people using these cameras don’t want to adjust their images much, that extra processing can be a good thing.

Underwater, the Ricoh WG-70 did a good job of keeping color shifts at bay but couldn’t match the colors that the Olympus Tough TG-6 captured.

This image has the kind of blue color that most compact waterproof cameras produce, but the Ricoh WG-70 didn’t quite make the colors of the can as vibrant as the Olympus TG-6 did. Photo: Ben Frumin

We found the look of the WG-70 interesting and fun. At first, we were concerned that its angular design might make it awkward to hold, but it was comfortable to use. It’s not as tall as the other two picks, and the angular design of the body makes it feel secure even though it doesn’t have the same kind of obvious grip the other models have.

Unlike with our other pick, you can’t record 4K video with the WG-70, but you can record Full HD at 30 fps. The WG-70’s video footage exhibited image quality similar to that of its stills.

The Ricoh WG-70 doesn’t include Wi-Fi connectivity. If you’re hoping to shoot with it and transfer the images to your phone to share on social media, you’re out of luck. Instead, you’ll have to move the images from the SD card to your computer before you can make use of them.

What to look forward to

Ricoh has introduced a new version of its waterproof camera called the WG-80. It is very similar to our current budget pick, with the same sensor resolution, zoom range, screen size and an extremely similar body design. Ricoh says that the built-in ring light on the WG-80 can get brighter than the one in the WG-70. We look forward to testing one soon.

The competition

The world of waterproof cameras has shrunk some in recent years, and some of the models that are available have stagnated. For example, Canon’s PowerShot D30 hasn’t been replaced and has been the company’s only waterproof compact camera for over two years. We previously dismissed that Canon model due to lackluster low-light performance and images that weren’t as sharp as those from our picks.

Panasonic finally updated its higher-end waterproof model in 2018 with the Lumix DC-TS7, but we didn’t include that model in this round of testing because we don’t see the point of having an electronic viewfinder in this type of camera.

The lenses in Fujifilm’s FinePix XP120, XP130, and XP140 don’t take in enough light to meet our criteria.

Meet your guide

Phil Ryan

Phil Ryan is Wirecutter’s senior staff writer for camera coverage. Previously, over 13 years he covered cameras and other photo-related items for CNET and Popular Photography. As the latter’s tech editor and then senior tech editor, he was responsible for maintaining and refining the lab testing for cameras, and as the main camera tester,  he used and wrote reviews of many of the cameras released in that timeframe.

Further reading

  • What Camera Should I Buy?

    by Amadou Diallo

    Need a camera, but not sure which one will best suit your needs? Our retooled What Camera Should I Buy guide will help answer your specific questions.

  • The Best Action Camera

    by Geoffrey Morrison

    If you want to take photos and videos in any situation, even extreme weather, we think the GoPro Hero10 Black is the best option for most people.

  • The Best Point-and-Shoot Camera

    by Ben Keough and Phil Ryan

    The Panasonic LX10 remains the best choice for people who want a compact camera that produces significantly better photos and video than their smartphone.

  • The Best Drones for Photos and Video

    by Signe Brewster and James Austin

    DJI’s Air 2S is the best drone, the Mavic 3 suits advanced pilots, the Mini 2 is a budget option, and the Autel Robotics Evo Lite+ is the best DJI alternative.

Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).

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20 Best Waterproof Cameras in 2023

Before heading to the shop in order to buy a high-quality waterproof camera, first, you need to make sure you’re knowledgeable enough to distinguish a high-quality camera from an ordinary one. And in order to get this kind of knowledge, you need to be aware of a few crucial steps that will impact your buying decision positively.

And in the following section, you’ll find out what matters and what doesn’t…

Budget for a Waterproof Camera

First and foremost, you need to determine your budget. Skipping this step will result in over-spending. And this is something you perhaps want to avoid. Once you’ve taken care of this step, you can proceed to determine the features your camera needs to encompass…

Waterproof Camera’s Variable Aperture

In other words, this leaves a considerable impact on your pictures’ quality. Typically, a variable aperture lens is printed on the camera’s body or adjacent to the lens. And it’s represented like this “f/2.0 – f/3.0.” In this example, you can see the minimum and the maximum range of the variable aperture lenses. The wider the lens of a waterproof camera, the better the photo quality you’re going to experience.

Waterproof Depth

It’s crucial to know the purpose of the waterproof camera. If you’re planning to scuba dive, then you need to ensure the camera you’re about to buy comes with quite an extended depth range. For example, the high-quality cameras are extended up to 30 meters below the water surface. Some exceptions can go even further, up to 40 meters underwater. Whereas, if you’re merely planning to surf with the camera attached to your board, you don’t need to strive for extensive water depth.

Zoom on a Waterproof Camera

When zooming is brought to the discussion, you need to look at the type of zoom each camera is designed with. Our suggestion is to go with optical zoom since it provides you with more features and improved qualities compared to the digital zoom. Next, you need to determine the capability of the zoom camera. If you would like to capture long-distance photos with a clear expression of the details, then make sure you go with at least a 10x zoom on your waterproof camera.


The best waterproof cameras have a high count of megapixels. This critical feature is widely known to the audience. However, also widely neglected. Megapixels are one of the significant parts of a high-quality image. The more megapixels your waterproof camera features, the brighter and lively your photos will be. Don’t neglect this factor.

Video Resolution

When it comes down to video resolution, you need to know the higher it is, the better. Today, 4k resolution cameras bring the best video images and quality on the market. It will undoubtedly leave you highly impressed. And in fact, most of the cameras that feature such kind of video resolution, aren’t so frightening expensive. Yet, they aren’t the cheapest.

If you don’t have the budget for a 4k resolution, there’s nothing wrong with 1080p cameras. It still provides an outstanding pixel and quality, and it’s sure to leave you impressed for the budget you’re spending.

PowerShot & IXUS Digital Underwater Cameras

PowerShot & IXUS Digital Waterproof & Underwater Cameras

If you want to take amazing pictures while doing extreme sports, you need the ultimate waterproof camera, the rugged PowerShot D30. In addition, you can use the Waterproof Case with any compatible Canon camera to shoot underwater and protect you from sand, beach water and snow.

Special rugged cameras and waterproof cases

The PowerShot D30 is ideal for anyone looking for a rugged outdoor camera. Rugged enough for the most extreme sports, waterproof to 25m, shockproof and freezeproof, it’s the perfect choice for any adventure from snowboarding and rock climbing to deep sea diving. In addition, she is not afraid of children and is able to endure careless treatment from their side on a family vacation.

Use the waterproof case with easy access to all controls for any compatible Canon camera to shoot underwater at depths of up to 40 meters – more than adequate for snorkeling or scuba diving. It’s also a great way to protect your camera from water, sand and snow, perfect for beaches and pools and winter sports.

Why choose Canon underwater cameras?

The PowerShot D30 is waterproof to 25 meters, shockproof to 2.0 meters¹, and capable of operating in temperatures as low as -10°C—perfect for the most extreme outdoor activities. Our underwater cases are water-resistant to a depth of 40 meters and highly durable thanks to the polycarbonate body and stainless steel spring and hinge mechanisms—once a memory card was safely removed from a compact PowerShot camera protected by an underwater case and left in the ocean for six years².

Full control

Our waterproof cases give you access to all controls, allowing you to capture the amazing colors of the underwater world. Instant access to features such as custom white balance or underwater mode lets you quickly adjust colors for different levels of underwater lighting to get the perfect shot.

Without underwater mode

With underwater mode

Superb low-light performance

Capture beautiful underwater shots with Canon’s innovative HS System, an exclusive combination of a highly sensitive image sensor and a powerful DIGIC processor. The HS System delivers exceptional results in low light conditions – typical of the underwater world – so you can easily capture the natural atmosphere of the underwater world handheld in the highest quality and with reduced noise.

Without HS³ system

With HS system

¹ Impact testing methods are unique to this product and do not guarantee that the product will not be damaged or malfunction.

² http://www.

³ Simulated image for illustration purposes.

Please note that not all features may be available in some products.


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