Waterproof compact digital cameras, also known as tough cameras are point and shoot digital cameras that have been designed to withstand being immersed in water, dropped to the ground and exposed to ice, snow and dust. This is not to say that the cameras can be exposed to any adverse conditions but within limits defined by international standards.
Waterproof cameras are becoming more popular each year and all the major camera manufacturers are producing cameras in this ‘niche’ as demand grows.
All the cameras classed as waterproof or tough on this website are waterproof in a range between 16 feet to 40 feet and can withstand being dropped onto a hard surface from up to 6.6 feet.
As with all other products these cameras vary in price depending on their ruggedness and quality of components. All the cameras reviewed on this website are under $400 as that seems to be the ceiling price that the manufacturers aim at.
The cameras are mainly aimed at active outdoor users, people who like boating, skiing, snorkeling, trekking, mountain biking and similar pursuits where the camera will not be affected by water, mud, sand and knocks and drops. There is nothing worse than carrying a camera and having it wrapped in a plastic bag for protection, what you need is a camera hanging round your neck and ready for instant use so as not to miss that special shot.
Most waterproof cameras come with video onboard. Some higher end cameras have GPS built in that will record your location each time you take a photo or shoot some video. Afterwards you will be able to follow your photographic route by using applications such as Google Earth and Picasa after you down load your images to a computer.
Tough cameras are also ideal for families with small children who want to take photos but are just as likely to drop the camera at anytime onto the ground or into the water. You do not need a camera that is waterproof down to 40 feet for a young child to use around a paddling pool, such cameras are available for this situation without costing anywhere near $400.
The main waterproof camera manufacturers.
Olympus have been producing tough cameras for a few year now and regularly bring out new models each year. Their latest camera, the Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS is acknowledged as the best waterproof camera to date with its high speed, ultra bright f2.0 lens. However they have a range of cameras to suit every pocket.
Canon are now on their second waterproof camera and both cameras are a little unusual in appearance but are good tough cameras. My first waterproof camera was the Canon Powershot D10 and it never let me down in all the situations that I used it.
Panasonic introduced two new cameras in 2012, the Lumix DMC-TS4 being a software upgraded version of the previous TS3 and the Lumix DMC-TS20 which can be described as a ‘lite’ tough camera and more suitable for days on the beach with young children rather than a go anywhere camera.
Pentax introduced their 13th generation Optio WG-2 tough camera in 2012 so it shows that they have a lot of experience producing cameras in this niche, Their cameras always have a ‘sporty’ appearance and improve year on year.
Nikon were late seeing the benefits of producing a tough camera and only introduced the AW100 model in late summer 2011. Their interpretation of waterproof and tough is ‘all weather’ but the camera is as tough as any of its peers.
Sony produced a waterproof camera in 2011, the Cyber-shot TX10 which is a very stylish camera for a tough camera. They also produce another stylish camera, the TX200V, which cope with using under water but is not really a tough camera.
Fujifilm have produced a series of tough cameras with varying specifications including the XP150 with GPS and the XP170 that offers wireless image transfer to a smart phone for uploading but no GPS. The cameras can be compared here.
GoPro. If you are really into shooting and videoing your outdoor adventures then GoPro cameras are ideal. These tough camera can be mounted on almost anything by using supplied mounts. These cameras are feature in lots of TV documentaries on the Discovery channel amongst others.