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Best Underwater Compact Cameras for 2016

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Best Underwater Compact Cameras for 2016


We at Backscatter all fondly remember the excitement (and trepidation) we felt as we purchased our first underwater camera system. This guide is diligently compiled each year to eliminate the hassle and headache often associated with shopping for underwater camera gear. Whether you are just getting started with underwater photography, an intermediate shooter looking to upgrade his/her system or an advanced image-maker looking to assemble a more compact rig for travel to combat those ever-rising baggage fees, this BEST UNDERWATER COMPACT CAMERAS article is for you!

We've searched and tested dozens of compact cameras to find the best match between portability, price and the goals of aspiring and experienced underwater shooters. From our own waters of Monterey, to the Caribbean, to the Coral Triangle, and Micronesia, we've spent hundreds of hours shooting compact cameras underwater. These top performers will enable you to capture stunning images underwater. Here are our picks for 2016.



As the field of compact cameras is changing extremely rapidly, we will update this article on a continuous basis. Last updated in March, 2016.


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Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016


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Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

Today's compact cameras are now able to deliver high quality photos and video that come closer than ever to matching that of higher end SLR systems. All underwater imagery in this article was taken with compact cameras.

In 2016, we've studied a landscape that has changed considerably from previous years. Point and shoot options are fewer and further between, but exciting new low-cost options such as the GoPro and interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras like the Olympus PEN now provide alternate options for the shooter who is not interested in traveling with a bulky SLR system. This year, rather than restricting our review to just the point and shoot class, we looked at a broader range of cameras that include everything from the GoPro, point & shoots, Micro 4/3 cameras, and the Sony A7 series. With this roundup, we've put together options for every budget and every shooter from novice to pro.



Summary of Our Top Picks for 2016

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

Best Entry Level Camera

The GoPro Hero 4 Silver & Black Edition
Camera & Housing starting at $399


In the past few years, the availability of solid point and shoot systems available for less than $500 has diminished, which GoPro was ready to quickly fill and maintains this year as the top pick in this category. You won't need to break the bank to get started with a GoPro system, and it will deliver high quality video unimaginable even just a few years ago, for the price. The FLIP4 Filter System is essential for getting good results with this camera, as it makes a dramatic difference in restoring color and contrast as well as image sharpness.

GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition $499
GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition $399
FLIP4 One Filter Kit with DIVE Filter $49
FLIP4 Three Filter Kit with SHALLOW, DIVE, and DEEP Filters $99


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016






The <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v104140bu000.lasso' class='standard'>Olympus TG-3</a> Tough and  <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v6300620u000.lasso' class='standard'>PT-056</a> Underwater Housing
Best Waterproof Camera

The Olympus Tough TG-4
Camera & Housing starting at $678

The Olympus TG-4 is a fantastic splash-proof pocket camera, one that you can take snorkeling on its own, or take it deeper while diving using the PT-056 Underwater Housing. In addition, the TG-4 Tough lives up to its name, as it is shock-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof and dust-proof. With a fast f2.0 lens, and an impressive depth rating of 50 feet (without a housing), the Olympus TG-4 is a great camera to keep with you on the boat, and take with you while swimming, or in any damp environment without any concern for it getting wet. And it takes incredible macro! In microscope mode, you can get crazy close up macro with no other accessory lenses needed.

Olympus Tough TG-4 camera $379
PT- 056 Underwater Housing $300
The Olympus TG-4, PT- 056 Underwater Housing and GoBe 700 Package $899

Explore <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v104160bu000.lasso' class='standard'>Olympus TG-4</a> Images and read the Full Review






Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Best Point & Shoot Camera

The Panasonic Lumix LX100
Camera & Housing starting at $1550

The LX100 is the best compact camera we have shot so far. Top-notch stills, excellent 4K video, great macro and wide angle lens options make it a great all- around, no compromise camera for both the still and video shooter. I'll still carry around a Sony RX100 topside for its ease of fitting in a pocket, but the LX100 is now our favorite all-around compact camera for underwater.

Panasonic LX100 Camera $800
Ikelite LX100 TTL Housing $750
Nauticam NA-LX100 Housing $1200








Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Best Entry-Level Mirrorless Camera

The Olympus E-M5 MkII
Camera, Lens, Housing & Port starting at $2245

The performance of the E-M5 Mark II matches or exceeds the E-M1 in almost every category. Overall the new E-M5 Mark II is arguably the best mirrorless camera Olympus has put out. With great still features, a vastly improved movie mode and a price of $300 less than the E-M1, makes the E-M5 Mark II one of the top mirrorless out today.

Olympus O-MD E-M5 MkII Camera Body$1100
Olympus PT- EP13 Housing $1000
Ikelite E-M5II TTL Housing $1050
Nauticam NA- EM5II Housing $1450
Sea & Sea MDX- EM5 Mark II Housing $1850

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016






Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

Best Advanced Mirrorless Camera

The Sony a7R Mark II
Camera, Lens, Housing & Port starting at $6473

The Sony a7R II is the most advanced camera we have seen to date. In the past there's always been a trade off between high resolution and low noise. No more. This camera is only a very close second in noise performance to the low light king, the Sony A7S. So much so that we wouldn't even consider the A7S anymore, it's that close in low light performance. In this day and age on board 4K video recording is a must and Sony delivers with great looking footage and a "hidden teleconverter" with the Super 35 crop mode.

Sony a7R Mark II Camera Body$3200
Ikelite a7RII TTL Housing $1500
Sea & Sea MDX- a7II Housing $2500
Nauticam NA- A7II Housing $2750
Subal Alpha 7 II Housing $3669

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016






How We Selected:
Our 2016 Test Criteria

Target Users
1) New underwater photographer wanting an easy point & shoot camera with growth potential.
2) Advanced underwater photographer wanting a compact camera solution.

Camera Feature Requirements
1) Great to excellent image quality.
2) Camera must be compact and lightweight when used topside.
3) Camera must be point & shoot easy, but offer intermediate to advanced controls.
4) Underwater housing must offer wide angle potential.

As in last year's review, more cameras seemed to meet our minimum criteria, and the best cameras quickly bubbled to the top of the list. To help you understand our criteria, please review the following concepts.

Wide Angle Lenses:
We eliminated many cameras because they were incompatible with underwater wide angle lenses. Most of these cameras featured a 5X or greater zoom lens. While this might be attractive for topside photography, long zoom lenses require underwater housings designs with long lens ports. Accessory wide angle lenses must mount to the end of these ports and suffer from severe vignetting (dark corners) when the camera is zoomed wide. You can zoom in the camera lens to clip out the dark corners, but an extreme zoom will negate any benefit. Our point & shot camera finalists in this review offer great wide angle lens solutions by the original manufacturer or a high quality third party solution.

In recent years we have seen more cameras have a 28mm equivalent (to film) lens and some even having a 24mm equivalent lens. As the lenses on the cameras get wider, optically it becomes harder to design an underwater wide angle lens. While 24mm may sound wide to a land based shooter, we generally consider an angle of over 100 degrees to be the starting point for an underwater wide angle setup. This will allow the photographer to get very close to the foreground subject, but still maintain an expansive background. On most 24mm lens cameras, you may need to zoom to 28mm for use with a wide angle lens to avoid vignetting.

Some manufacturers have resorted to an air dome on these wider lens cameras to bring back the above water angle of coverage. If you remember from your basic scuba class, your mask reduces your field of view by about 25 percent. The same thing happens with your camera lens behind a flat lens port. The air dome will restore the angle of coverage to what it is above water. However, the angle for a 28mm is 75 degrees, and a 24mm is 84 degrees, making it harder to photograph very large objects like large reef scenes and shipwrecks.

Finally, the new class of mirrorless cameras offer a whole new dimension of wide-angle photography, similar to what's available in SLRs. These advanced compact cameras offer interchangeable fisheye and wide lenses on the camera which can be matched up to a dome port for some seriously wide coverage up to 180 degrees. While these lenses can't be changed underwater, they offer optically the best solution for wide angle photography.


Best underwater point & shoot cameras - wide angle cavern scene by Jim Decker

To capture the big picture or a unique perspective, compact cameras require an accessory wide angle lens. The image above was taken with an Panasonic GH4 and a Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens, and a Nauticam dome port.


Manual vs. Auto Exposure:
We remain surprised (and aggravated) with the lack of manual exposure control on the many low priced cameras. We applaud automation, but even a new user will benefit from the creative options of manual exposure controls.

Cameras with manual exposure allow the photographer to independently control shutter speed and aperture. This might sound complicated to a new photographer, but with a little guidance most new shooters quickly pick-up the rewarding technique of manual exposure. Cameras without manual controls can still produce good results with (+/-) exposure compensation adjustments. We recommend auto shooters try out (-1) or (-2) exposure compensation settings to get richer color on upward angle shots.


Auto vs. Manual underwater camera exposure

All cameras in this review are point & shoot easy, but a few offer more growth potential. Auto exposure cameras can take great snapshots, but adding a strobe and selecting a camera with manual exposure options will provide more rich and saturated colors.


Highlight Warning and Histograms:
It's disappointing to download photos from a great dive only to learn they are too dark or too bright. Better to be warned of errors while we're still in the water and able to correct our mistakes. Professional SLR cameras offer highlight warning and histogram feedback displays to help pro shooters dial in their exposure on the spot. A few of the point & shoot cameras in this review also feature a simplified version of these essential exposure guides. The Highlight Warning will blink a warning color in areas that are overexposed. The Histogram is simply a bar graph of the tones in the image and provides refined feedback to help you on the ultimate digital exposure goal--to make the exposure as bright as possible without losing too much detail in the highlights.

Best underwater point & shoot cameras - histograms

Highlight warnings alert the photographer of over exposure. Histograms are a bar graph of tones in the image and can guide the photographer to the ultimate goal of a proper exposure.


Slave TTL Strobes:
In recent years strobe manufacturers have developed what is called slave TTL. When set to slave TTL mode, the underwater strobe simply mimics the camera's built-in strobe to produce an automatic strobe exposure. While no automatic system will yield perfect results 100% of the time, this system works reasonably well and can help someone who is just starting out to get some good shots in the can on their first trip. Understanding how TTL systems work, how to judge exposures, and working within a camera system's limitations will be a photographer's best tools for getting the picture you want.


HD Movie Mode
One of the most important trends in recent years is the advent of HD video in virtually all of the serious contenders. All of our favorite cameras saw their video clips receive a much needed bump up to 1080p HD resolution with some of the cameras receiving full 4K Ultra HD resolution addition. While on some cameras the video quality is not that of a dedicated HD camcorder, on others the quality of the footage easily surpasses all but the highest end camcorders for professional use. Many of the cameras in our lineup produce video that is surprisingly good for the cost and what is a secondary feature of a camera. However, great video requires great white balance, something that is not easily achieved on all point and shoot cameras. Also, camera ergonomics and menus are designed for the still shooter, not the videographer, making an HD camcorder still a good choice for the dedicated video shooter. We hope that the addition of HD video to most cameras will inspire more shooters to take a try at video.


Custom White Balance
In order to shoot good looking video, getting an accurate white balance is crucial. A custom white balance is the user telling the camera what area of the picture is white and the camera building the rest of the colors off of that baseline recording. Correct white balance makes the video look more natural, and helps to bring back colors that are filtered out by water when shooting at depth. Even when using a color correction filter such as Magic Filters, a custom white balance setting can yield superior results. Unfortunately, getting an accurate white balance is not a given on a point and shoot camera. On some cameras it is a convoluted process, on others an accurate reading is not even possible underwater. Choosing a camera that makes it easy to get an accurate reading is a must if you're planning to use it for shooting video. We gave additional points to cameras that have an easy to set and accurate white balance. White balance in video is so critical in natural light shooting that it is more important than what video resolution the camera is capable of. The best resolution doesn't matter if the colors look bad.







We looked at five main categories, and picked one top option for each. We looked at these cameras in terms of their ability to deliver good results underwater. What kind of housings can we use? What kind of manual control will we get? Are the underwater ergonomics good? Do we have the right optics to shoot underwater? Are we getting the best bang for the buck considering our budget? These are the questions we asked ourselves as we conducted this review.


GoPro HERO 4 Silver or Black with FLIP4 Filter (starting at $498)
Olympus TG-4 and Olympus PT- 056 Housing ($650)
Panasonic LX100 and Ikelite Housing (starting at $1550)
Olympus O-MD E-M5 MkII ($1100)
Sony a7R II ($3200)




Entry Level Camera In Depth

GoPro HERO 4 Silver & Black Edition Vital Statistics
Model Silver Edition Black Edition
Image Resolution

12 MP

12 MP

Popular Movie Resolutions & Frame Rates

4K/up to 15 fps

2.7K/up to 30 fps

1080p/up to 60 fps

Full 4K/up to 30 fps (3840x2160)

2.7K/up to 50 fps (2704 x 1520)

1080p/up to 120 fps (1920 x 1080)

LCD Size
1.75" Integrated Screen
Not Integrated
2" - (requires purchase of LCD Touch BacPac)
*Only use the Standard BacPac Backdoor. DO NOT use the Touch BacPac Backdoor, or the Skeleton BacPac Backdoor as these are not waterproof.
Raw Format NO NO
Camera + Housing Price $399.99 $499.99


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016


The GoPro Hero​4 Silver & Black Edition
Camera & Housing starting at $400



Now in its fifth generation, the GoPro Hero 4 remains top on our list for an excellent choice to take with you on your dives to capture the perfect underwater video or photo.

The GoPro is a great system for the novice shooter who wants to start taking video and pictures underwater, and doesn't want to fuss with settings or lugging a bulky system around. It's also an awesome option for the still shooter who wants to dabble in video, and can easily attach the GoPro to their housing using an Ultralight ball mount.

GoPro Camera Lineup 2014 GoPro <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/gp-chdhx-401.lasso' class='standard'>Hero4 Black</a> Edition GoPro <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/gp-chdhy-401.lasso' class='standard'>Hero4 Silver</a> Edition
The latest lineup of cameras by GoPro are the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver.

<a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/gp-chdhx-401.lasso' class='standard'>Hero4 Black</a> Specs

HERO 4 Black $499.99

If you need the highest resolution possible in broadcast and film frame rates, the Hero4 Black is the camera for you. The Hero4 Black also comes with increased frame rates on the 2.7K and 1080p modes. For example, in 1080p mode, you'll be able to shoot up to 120fps with the Black edition. The Black edition has gone up another $100 from the Hero3+ version. For underwater use, you will also want to buy the LCD Touch BacPac for accurate framing which will cost another $80.



<a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/gp-chdhy-401.lasso' class='standard'>Hero4 Silver</a> Specs

HERO 4 Silver $399.99

If you don't need/want 4K frame resolutions at 24fps or 30fps, 2.7K resolutions along with the ability to shoot 1080p resolution of 120fps the Hero4 Silver edition might be the better choice. The Hero4 Silver includes a newly integrated LCD touch screen and costs $100 less than the Hero4 Black. When you include the price of the touch screen you're talking about almost $200 in savings. It will shoot 1080p resolution up to 60fps, which is still decent for buttery smooth underwater footage.



The quality of video that GoPro delivers in the right conditions is astonishingly good. However, manual controls are limited, and an LCD Touch BacPac is highly recommended in order to see your framing of the footage for the Hero4 Black.

As hardcore GoPro users, we discovered that capturing the best underwater color requires the use of multiple filters. After hundreds of hours of testing, we've perfected a multi-filter system and integrated it into our world renowned FLIP design. The Backscatter FLIP4 gives you multiple filters at the flip of one finger. There are SHALLOW, DIVE, and DEEP filter options. Additionally, we've developed a GREENWATER filter, a yellow filter for fluorescence night diving, a 55mm threaded adapter for our +10 Close-up lens, the all-new +15 MACROMATE Mini underwater macro lens and other topside filters. The FLIP4 offers the best color and most rugged design of any filter system on the market. In our testing, we've found that turning video lights on anytime you're using the camera can really make colors pop, even when using a filter. Typically, it's been a rule never to use lights and a filter at the same time, but the GoPro has proven to be an exception.

Comparison of frames taken without a filter and using the Backscatter FLIP4 <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ff-dive.lasso' class='standard'>DIVE filter</a>

Above is an excellent example of restoring perfect underwater colors when simply using the DIVE Filter.

Comparison of frames taken without a filter and using the Backscatter FLIP4 <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ff-deep.lasso' class='standard'>DEEP filter</a>

The deeper you go, the more red correction you'll need to get accurate color. Use our DEEP Filter for depths beyond 50+ feet.


Watch the video below to see the examples of the GoPro Camera WITHOUT our color correction filter and WITH our FLIP4 Color Correction System while diving at various depths:


The FLIP +10 Close-Up Lens works great for shooting subjects sized from soccer balls down to golf balls that are roughly 8-12 inches from the camera. However, the +15 MACROMATE Mini brings your focus to about 3 inches allowing you to fill the frame with subjects as small as a golf ball. The video frames below were shot with a GoPro in narrow video mode and illustrate the difference between the lenses. The scorpion fish head was about the size of a softball. The camera was moved closer to the subject to get the +15 MACROMATE Mini image. Our staff favorite macro configuration is a FLIP4 with both a +15 MACROMATE Mini and +10 Close-Up Lens so we're ready for all subjects.

Use FLIP Macro Lenses for Stunning Macro Photography

The sample photos below were taken with a GoPro camera set to medium photo mode. The first image is without lens and the second is with the +15 MACROMATE Mini.


Use FLIP Macro Lenses to Bring Tiny Action to the Big Screen

The video below was shot with a GoPro Hero3 camera set to narrow video mode and a +15 MACROMATE Mini lens. While the +15 MACROMATE Mini works in wide, medium, and narrow video modes, the narrow mode gives you the sharpest edges and the most stunning results. Watch this video to see how the +15 MACROMATE Mini has revolutionized GoPro for underwater.


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016


While the GoPro can shoot decent stills, if photography is your main goal, we suggest looking at options in the next category as the GoPro has limited capability for stills, especially since there are only minimal semi-manual adjustments. There is also no way to attach a strobe, which is important for taking high quality photographs underwater. So if your primary goal is underwater photography, then it is probably worth stepping up to a more sophisticated point & shoot camera that offers manual control. But for just grabbing some great footage of your dive adventures at an entry-level price, the GoPro can't be beat.

Pros

  • Most inexpensive underwater UHD & HD camera system on the market today
  • Wide angle lens a standard feature
  • Tons of accessories to mount the camera in creative ways
  • Comes ready in the box to dive to 131 feet
  • FLIP4 Filter System restores color and contrast

Cons
  • Minimal manual controls (still no control over shutter speed)
  • No ability to connect a strobe
  • Video quality not as good compared to higher end cameras, especially in low light





Point & Shoot Cameras In Depth

Point and Shoot Vital Statistics

Olympus TG-4 Canon G7 X
Sony RX100 IV
Panasonic LX100
Resolution
16.0 MP
20.1 MP
20.1 MP
12.8 MP
Image Size 3968 x 2976 5472 x 3080 5472 x 3080 4112 x 3088
Sensor Size
1/2.3" (6.17x4.55mm)
1" (13.2x8.8mm)
1" (13.2x8.8mm)
4/3" (17.3x13mm)
Lens (35mm equiv.)
25-100mm
f/2.0-5.9
24-100mm
f/1.8-2.8
24-70mm
f/1.8-2.8
24-175mm
f/1.7-2.8
ISO Range
100-6400
125-12800
80-25600
100-25600
Frame Rate (Stills Burst) 5 fps 6.5 fps 16 fps 11 fps
Movie Resolution
1080p
1080p
4K
4K
Movie Frame Rate in full 1080p HD 30p 60p 120p 60p
LCD Size
3"
460K px
3"
1.04M px
3"
1.23M px
3"
921k px
RAW Format
YES
YES
YES
YES
Closest Macro Focus
.39" / 1 cm (telephoto)
2.0" / 5 cm (wide)
2.0" / 5 cm (wide)
1.8" / 4.5 cm (wide)
Waterproof Without Housing
YES
NO
NO
NO
Camera + Housing Price
Starting at $680
Starting at $1100
Starting at $1450
Starting at $1550



The <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v104160bu000.lasso' class='standard'>Olympus TG-4</a> Tough and  <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v6300620u000.lasso' class='standard'>PT-056</a> Underwater Housing
Best Waterproof Camera:
The Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera
Camera & Housing starting at $679

The Olympus TG-4 is an update to the previous Olympus Tough series line flagship, the TG-3. The TG-4 is a splash-proof pocket camera, one that you can take snorkeling on its own, waterproof to 50 feet, or take it deeper while diving using the PT-056 Underwater Housing, making it waterproof to 150 feet. In addition, the TG-4 Tough lives up to its name, as it is shock-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof and dust-proof.

The only major difference with the TG-4 over the TG-3 is the addition of RAW shooting capability instead of JPEG. This is a major step forward in image quality with RAW being an uncompressed format compared to JPEG. It even fits in the same PT-056 Underwater Housing as the TG-3.

The greatest feature of the TG-4 is its ability to capture macro and super macro images without adding an accessory lens. Microscope mode will allow you to get crazy close to those small subjects, filling the frame with tack sharp images. This camera will focus so close in microscope mode that if you have any lint or debris on the inside of the housing lens, it will focus on that instead of the subject, so make sure your lens port is clean! You can get super close up shots of blennies, so much so that you can see their teeth and their need to floss. All of the photos shown are completely uncropped from the camera.

Amazing Macro Image with sharp focus using an <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v104160bu000.lasso' class='standard'>Olympus TG-4</a> and a video light

In microscope mode, the TG-4 gets crazy close-up super macro. This shrimp image was taken with NO additional macro accessory lens, and continuous light from a Sola 2000. ISO 125, 1/400 sec, f/4.9

Snorkelers will be intrigued by the relatively inexpensive FCON-T01 Fisheye Converter Lens that will mount directly onto the camera for use underwater. But for most diving, you will be better off using the PT-056 housing; in addition to increasing the depth rating to 150 feet, it also allows for the easy attachment of strobes or lights, making this a full-featured rig.


Amazing Wide Image with sharp focus using an <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v104160bu000.lasso' class='standard'>Olympus TG-4</a> and a video light

The TG-4 becomes a great wide angle setup when paired with a lens like the UWL-04 fisheye lens which threads directly on to the housing. No strobes were used in this shot only a single Light & Motion Sola 3000, making for a very compact wide angle shooting rig. ISO 800, 1/100 sec, f/9

The video from the Olympus Tough TG-4 has great looking color due to a custom white balance feature being added to the Tough series. It works best in the shallows. Any deeper than about 40 to 50 feet will benefit from a color correction filter. Unlike some compact cameras, the TG-4 has live focus like a camcorder, and it's super fast. This occasionally led to a small amount of focus hunt from time to time like a camcorder, but was not enough to outweigh the benefits of live focus.

Aperture priority is a big help in shooting wide angle scenes over Program mode. Getting consistent results was much easier with shooting strobes on manual exposure. This also allows for controlling depth of field and makes it easier to get darker backgrounds in macro. Another benefit to stopping the lens down is sharper corners when using wide angle accessory lenses.

For the price, the TG-4 is unbeatable, and we love having a camera that we can bring anywhere without fear. This camera is going to survive your adventures.

Pros

  • Microscope mode has the largest reproduction ratio of ANY camera without a macro lens
  • Super fast focus even in macro mode
  • True "point and shoot" performance when lighting with a video light
  • Now shoots RAW!

Cons

  • No manual exposure mode
  • Focuses so close that you need to make sure the inside of the housing is clean otherwise it will focus on lint on the port
  • Default minimum shutter speed for flash is a slow 1/30 second
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus Tough TG-4 iHS Camera - Black
$379.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus Tough TG-4 iHS Camera - Red
$379.99


SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE OLYMPUS TG-4 CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA-TG4/TG3 Underwater Housing

$800.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea WHOM-TG3/4 Deep Housing

$690.00
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea CWOM-TG3/4 Housing


$450.00
 
 
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite TG4 Housing

$325.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PT- 056 Housing

$299.99
 
 







Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Top Pick for Point & Shoot Camera:
The Panasonic Lumix LX100
Camera & Housing starting at $1550

<a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ps-dmc-lx100k.lasso' class='standard'>Panasonic LX100</a> - Video by Jim Decker
4K video from the LX100 is stunning, with great color rendition in ambient light with a custom white balance or when lit with video lights. 4K footage down sampled to 1080p looks sharper than if it was originally shot in 1080p and is a great reason to shoot 4K now even if you don't have a 4K display yet.


We were super excited to get our hands on the Panasonic LX100. It's a revolutionary camera! Being the first compact camera with the ability to shoot 4K video and also great stills. We wanted to see how it stacked up against other top compact cameras such as the Canon G7X and the Sony RX100 II and III.

4K Video Recording

Of course the #1 big draw to this camera is the 4K recording capability. The LX100 shares the same 4K specs as the GH4, recording 4K 30p at a data rate of 100 mbps. The video looks fantastic. The exposure meter can be set to remain active during shooting, making it easy to monitor exposure in addition to zebra striping to show highlight areas that are starting to get a little hot. Video can be shot completely in manual exposure mode. These features combined, rival or exceed the capabilities of video modes in most other mirrorless or compact cameras. The LX100 makes an excellent primary video capture device especially if one shoots a little bit of stills too.

Excellent Custom White Balance

One of the problems with Panasonic in the past has been poor custom white balance execution. Previously, it had been so bad as to require a red filter or lights, with no chance of a decent white balance without either of those items. We were pleasantly shocked to find the LX100 execute a perfect white balance at 50 feet on our first dive. We even had a great custom white balance executed at 70 feet. Until now, we haven't seen cameras other than Canon execute such a great custom white balance. We hope this is an indication that the next generation of GH4 will also get this great custom white balance color.

The procedure for executing a white balance is simple. Press the white balance button, press up to activate custom white balance, then the center button to execute. There are 4 white balance banks available making it easy to save favorites for different depths or with lights.

Stills

All this talk about 4K video casts a bit of a shadow over the stills features of the camera. It shouldn't though as the performance for stills is top notch. Super-fast autofocus, 11 frames per second in RAW, and a control set that would be at home on a top end mirrorless or SLR. The sensor is the same size as a micro 4/3 found in Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras, giving great low light performance. Although the resolution is only 12MP, the images are sharp and crisp with excellent detail.

Wide and Macro Accessory Lenses

With a lens as large as on the LX100 it presents a few challenges for shooting wide angle on a dive. While the stock port has no problem accepting a flip attachment for a macro lens, wide angle is another story. The stock port puts a wide angle lens too far away from the camera's lens to be effective. The stock port can be removed and a shorter front port attached to bring a wide angle lens to the right distance. In testing we found the Inon UWL-H100 lens to have the best results with sharp corners. A dome unit can be added to the lens to expand the angle of coverage past 150 degrees. The camera lens needs to be zoomed to about 28 or 29mm to avoid vignetting of the shade. The camera has a menu option for "Zoom Resume" which will set it back to the last zoom setting used making it easy to always be set at the right focal length.

Control Set

The control set is a bit unconventional, but is very comprehensive. There's no mode dial. The shutter speed and aperture dials both have an auto setting that determines what mode you are in. Put both on "A" and you're in Program Auto. Pick your own shutter speed and aperture and you're in Manual mode. This makes it easy to do quick changes without having to access a mode dial.

There's plenty of direct access to controls such as exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO. In fact, ISO is on a control wheel, so you can dial in ISO, shutter speed, and aperture all instantly with dedicated dials on the housing. This is especially crucial in video situations where quick ISO and aperture changes are mandatory to keep up with the action.

Unlike other compact cameras, focus can be separated from the shutter on the LX100 and reassigned to the rear AF-ON button. This is the preferred focusing technique used with mirrorless and SLR cameras for both macro and wide-angle underwater photography.

A downside is the size of the camera. It is not really "pocketable" but still much smaller than a mirrorless camera. It is very similar in size to a Canon G series camera. The trade off is a control set that is much more like a top end mirrorless or SLR than a compact.

Shot Information about the Wreck Image
The LX100 does an excellent ambient light white balance execution to bring back true colors when strobes wouldn't be practical for large subjects like a shipwreck.

Shot Information about the Crack Image
The LX100 does a great job with smooth gradients in blue backgrounds that go from very bright to dark.

Conclusion

The LX100 is the best compact camera we have shot so far. Top-notch stills, excellent 4K video, great macro and wide angle lens options make it a great all- around, no compromise camera for both the still and video shooter. I'll still carry around a Sony RX100 topside for its ease of fitting in a pocket, but the LX100 is now our favorite all-around compact camera for underwater.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Panasonic LUMIX LX100 Camera - Black
$799.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Panasonic LUMIX LX100 Camera - Silver
$799.99


SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE PANASONIC LUMIX LX100 COMPACT CAMERA

Nauticam NA-LX100 Underwater Housing for LX100
Nauticam NA-LX100 Underwater Housing

$1,200.00

Ikelite Underwater Housing for LX100
Ikelite LX100 TTL Underwater Housing

$749.59
 
 







Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Runners Up:
The Sony DSC-RX100 IV
Camera & Housing starting at $1450

Sony's incredibly popular RX100 series had an upgrade this year to the Sony RX100 IV, keeping all of the great features found in its predecessors, with notable improvements for underwater shooters, adding improved low light performance and a wider, faster 24-70mm lens. Movies on the RX100 Mk IV now have the ability to shoot in 4K Video.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Sony RX100 IV Compact Camera

$948.00




SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE SONY RX100 IV COMPACT CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA-RX100IV Housing

$995.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea WHS- RX100IV Housing

$920.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite RX100 IV Housing

$550.00
   
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea CWS-RX100IV Housing

$530.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Fantasea FRX100 IV Housing

$499.95
 
 







Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The Canon Powershot G7 X
Camera & Housing starting at $1100

The Canon G7X is Canon's first 1 inch sensor compact camera. However there's a lot more to it than just taking a G series Powershot camera and slapping in a larger sensor. Take a look below to see the new features and how it performs with underwater sample footage from the G7X camera.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Video from the Canon G7X is top notch with 1080 60p and a relatively high bit rate of 35 mbps. Along with the macro mode of the camera, adding on an accessory macro lens allows flexible macro shots all the way down to super macro. Shot with a Nauticam G7X housing, Nauticam CMC compact macro lens, and Fisheye FIX NEO 2000 DX SWR Underwater Video lights.

1" Sensor-The First Competition To The Sony RX 100 Series

The large 1 inch sensor concept has proven to be a hit as we have seen with the Sony RX 100 series. The sensor is reported to be the same as Sony's sensor in the Sony RX 100 Mark II, and has a top ISO performance of 12,800. A larger 1" sensor allows for better low light performance and image quality over smaller sensors, but is still small enough to make the camera fit in your pocket when out on the town. It also keeps the housing size small so you can get a fully outfitted camera system into a carry on backpack.

New 24-100mm Lens-With Macro Mode

The G7X has a 24-100mm equivalent lens, compared to a 28-100 for the Sony RX 100 Mark II and a 24-70mm for the Sony RX100 MKIII. While this extended range topside may be good, it does create some issues underwater. On the wide side, the longer lens requires a shorter port to be used with accessory wide angle lenses. The camera also needs to be zoomed to about 28mm to work properly with most lenses to avoid vignetting at 24mm.


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The Canon G7X macro mode works pretty well by itself, but by adding on an accessory macro lens like the Nauticam CMC, the camera can easily get into the super macro range for extreme close up shots. The image on the left is the G7X in macro mode, and the image on the right is in macro mode with the Nauticam Compact Macro Lens (CMC).

The Sony RX series does not have a macro mode, but the G7X does. This allows the lens to focus closer and get better macro performance. While the macro mode of the G7X will allow you to get pretty tight, it still falls short of the macro performance of smaller sensor compacts like the Canon S120. Strong accessory macro lenses like those you would use with a mirrorless or SLR camera are necessary to get pro level macro performance.

TTL in Manual Exposure Mode-Finally!

The biggest pet peeve of the Powershot G or S series line has been a lack of TTL strobe exposure in manual exposure mode. If you wanted to shoot TTL you had to do it in aperture priority mode. No more! We can rejoice that the camera gods at Canon have listened to our unrelenting prayers and have finally made it an option to do TTL or manual strobe exposure in manual exposure mode.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The G7X is the first Powershot camera to allow TTL strobe exposure in Manual exposure mode. Previously TTL was only available in Av, Tv, and P modes.

Much Improved Movie Mode with 60p Recording

Also for the first time in a Powershot camera, manual exposure mode is available in movie mode. The bit rate is 35 mbps with 1080 60p recording in a H264 .mov file format. The bit rate is higher than you would get with an AVCHD format and also easier to edit than AVCHD as the .mov file can be edited directly in an editing program without the need to transcode or rewrap the files as you need to do with AVCHD.

A True One Touch White Balance with Excellent Results

Canon has always had the best custom white balance results without the need for a filter underwater at depths much greater that other camera brands. With the G7X you get this excellent white balance, but you are also able to reassign the RING FUNC. button to be a true 1 touch white balance. Simply press the button, and it takes the white balance. With the exception of professional broadcast quality camcorders, we have not seen a true 1 touch white balance in either a photo or video camera with manual exposure controls for almost 10 years, and never with a camera that didn't require a red filter to pull off good color.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The G7X has dedicated buttons and dials for all the essential buttons and controls to make quick changes when the action gets fast. Once set up, a single press of the ring function button will execute a custom white balance with great color, even at depths of 60 feet or more without a color filter.

Dedicated Buttons and Dials

The Canon G7X has dedicated dials for shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation. The RING FUNC. button can be reassigned to a number of functions, but our favorite is 1 touch white balance. With direct access controls to just about everything you need while shooting, you'll be able to quickly make changes when the action gets fast.

Canon G7 X vs. Sony RX 100 Mark II/III

Since both the Sony and Canon cameras share the same sensor one might ask why get one over the other. Taking features that are the same or similar in performance out of the discussion, below are the pros and cons on the differences between the 2 cameras.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
G7X side by side with Sony RX 100 Mk III. The G7X is similar in size to the Sony RX 100 series and easily fits in a pocket for on the go shooting.


Canon G7 X Pros Canon G7 X Cons
  • Longer lens and macro mode allows for better macro shots.
  • Unbeatable underwater custom white balance.
  • True 1 touch white balance.
  • Movie mode bit rate at 35 mbps is higher than Sony RX 100 Mark II at 28 mbps.

 
  • Most wide angle accessory lenses, especially those with over 100 degrees of coverage require a shorter front port to produce acceptable corner sharpness.
  • Movie mode bit rate at 35 mbps is lower than Sony RX100 MKIII at 50 mbps.
  • Shooting speed on continuous shooting is slow at 1.2 FPS in RAW. Not a big deal underwater when dealing with flash recycle, but might be an issue for fast shooting topside.

 
Sony RX 100 Mark II/III Pros Sony RX 100 Mark II/III Cons
  • Can use wide angle or macro lenses without the need to use a shorter front port.
  • Super fast 10 FPS shooting in RAW.
  • Zebra striping for evaluating exposure
  • Pro level 50 mbps video codec on the Sony RX100 MKIII
  • No macro mode
  • Custom white balance looks bad past 20 feet deep. Requires a red filter
  • Custom white balance difficult to execute, must go deep into the menu system and also cannot execute in movie mode, only photo mode
  • Sony RX 100 Mark II records in AVCHD format at 28 mbps

Conclusion

Either the Canon G7X or Sony RX 100 Mark II/III cameras will take great pictures and are at the very top of the compact camera category for performance and image quality. If you have a serious interest in wide angle movies, the Canon G7X is hands down the best way to go with its accurate white balance without a filter and 1 touch capability. This is a huge advantage for switching between still shots with strobes, videos with video lights, or ambient light movies on the same dive. The white balance performance of the Sony RX series is not up to par without a filter and requires a dedicated setup for a dive that can't be switched out underwater with either video lights or a filter, leaving less options for how to light subjects. Although the Sony RX100 MKIII has the higher bit rate for video, 50 mbps of sub par ambient light color and limited flexibility on a dive make the G7X the better pick for video shooters. The macro mode of the G7X gives it an advantage for macro shooting, but the Sony can perform reasonably well if very strong macro lenses are attached. If changing lenses underwater between wide angle and macro is important, the Sony wins in this area as the G7X in most cases needs a shorter port to do wide angle.

For still shooters not interested in movie mode: The Sony RX series will be a better pick for wide angle without the need for a different port, and more compatible lenses to get ultra wide shots.

For macro shooters: While the Sony can do macro with really strong external macro lenses, the Canon G7X will outperform with its macro mode capability by allowing the lens to focus closer.

For shooters interested in photo and video, especially wide angle video: The G7X is hands down the better pick for this despite the shortcomings of having to use a shorter port for ultra wide angle lenses. The importance of the underwater white balance capabilities of the G7X cannot be understated, and trumps any advantage in lens flexibility or bit rate.

 

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Canon PowerShot G7 X Compact Camera

$699.99




SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE CANON POWERSHOT G7 X COMPACT CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea WHC-G7X Housing

$1,100.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA-G7X Housing

$1,100.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea CWC-G7X Housing

$550.00



   
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite G7X Housing

$549.95

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Fantasea FG7X Housing

$399.95

 
 







Mirrorless Cameras In Depth

Mirrorless Camera Vital Statistics
Olympus PEN E- PL7 Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII Olympus OM-D E- M1 Panasonic GH4 Sony a7R II Sony a7S II
Resolution
16.1 MP
16.1 MP
16.1 MP
16.1 MP
42.4 MP
12.2 MP
Image Size 4608 x 3456 4608 x 3456 4608 x 3456 4608 x 3456 7952 x 5304 4240 x 2832
Sensor Size
4/3" (17.3x13mm)
4/3" (17.3x13mm)
4/3" (17.3x13mm)
4/3" (17.3x13mm)
Full Frame (35.9x24mm)
Full Frame (35.9x24mm)
ISO Range
200-25,600
200-25,600
200-25,600
200-25,600
100-25,600
100-102,400 
Frame Rate (Stills Burst) 8 fps 10 fps 9 fps 12 fps 5 fps 5 fps
Movie Resolution
1080p
1080p
1080p
4K
4K
4K
Movie Frame Rate in full 1080p HD 30p 60p 30p 60p 60p 120p
LCD Size
3"
1.04M px
3"
1.04M px
3"
1.04M px
3"
1.04M px
3"
1.23M px
3"
1.23M px
Sync Speed
1/250
1/250
1/320
1/250
1/250
1/250
RAW Format
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
Camera + Housing Price
Starting at $1450
Starting at $2245
Starting at $2905
Starting at $3350
Starting at $6473
Starting at $6273


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

Best Entry-Level Mirrorless:
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII Camera
Camera & Housing starting at $2245

Olympus was kind enough to send us an E-M5 Mark II camera and PT-EP13 Underwater Housing to check out. Watch the video and get a rundown of the new key features and a first look at this camera and housing in this review.



Awesome Control Set

This is one of the largest differences compared to the original E-M5. The control set very closely resembles that of the EM-1, which we thought was one of the best control sets of any camera, period. The beloved 2x2 switch is carried over from the E-M1 along with up to 6 customizable buttons. The control set between these two cameras is almost identical, making the E-M5 Mark II one of the best controls sets in photography.

Olympus OMD EM5 MARK II top down
Olympus OMD EM5 MARK II Back Although the E-M5 Mark II and the E-M1 have different body shapes,
the 2 cameras share almost identical control sets.


Improved Sensor, AF Performance, and 5 Axis Image Stabilization

The sensor is all new with a faster readout to support faster live view refresh and 1080 60p video. This also helps the E-M5 Mark II have a slight increase in AF performance over the E-M1. Shooting speed is 10 frames per second in RAW, the same performance as E-M1. It also gets a bump in performance from the already crazy good 5 axis image stabilization of the E-M1.

Improved Screen Display

The new screen is 5 times brighter and has a much greater dynamic range over previous models. This makes seeing extremely backlit scenes like we have in underwater wide angle photography have much more detail, making wide angle compositions much easier to see.

Pro Level Movie Mode

The all new movie mode allows you to select up to a 60p frame rate for 1080 and options for higher bit rate video. An included option is to record a less compressed ALL-I format at 77 mbps bit rate. At the highest bit rate in 1080 60p we observed a 51 mbps rate, which is on par with professional level broadcast quality systems, and exceeds most other mirrorless cameras on the market. On previous PEN and OMD models the highest bit rate possible was 24 mbps. Focus peaking is available for the first time during recording in movie mode. Combined with the 5 axis stabilization, novice movie shooters will be able to get good quality, stable footage with a minimal amount of image shake.

40 Megapixel Image - With a 16 MP Sensor

You have the ability to shoot super hi res images with the "Pixel Shifting" technology of the EM-5 II. It works by shifting the sensor to capture multiple frames and build a composite image. It's a bit like how HDR works by taking multiple shots-you'll need to be perfectly still (on a tripod) and the subjects in the frame need to be perfectly still. While this will be fine for topside landscape photography, due to the moving environment underwater, it's not a viable option for most shooting situations underwater.

PT- EP13 Housing

The PT-EP13 housing is a departure from previous housings in the OMD series. The housing includes an attached standard port, where before the flat port was always sold separately. The flat port accommodates the 14-42mm, 9-18mm, 12-50mm, and 60mm lenses. The port is removable allowing third party port options from Zen and AOI to be added to expand the range of lenses that can be used.

Olympus OMD EM5 MARK II Housing - PTEP13
The PT-EP13 housing for the E-M5 Mark II has large dials for shutter speed, aperture, and zoom, along with ergonomically placed buttons making it easy to quickly make changes underwater.

The housing has large dials for shutter speed, aperture, mode, and zoom/focus. The shutter release has a good feel. Extenders on buttons place the controls in easy to access ergonomic positions. The flash can now be operated in the down position without the need to use or dedicate a custom function button to underwater shooting mode. A pickup view finder is standard and allows viewing the EVF through the back of the housing.

Port Options From AOI

AOI makes multiple dome and flat ports to accommodate a wide range of lenses. Fisheye, wide angle zoom, and macro lenses are all supported making the PT-EP13 housing the centerpiece of a complete and affordable mirrorless camera system. Click here to see the range of port options for the Olympus PEN and OMD series housings. Please note this system uses the PEN series ports.

Port options for the PTEP13 - Olympus OMD EM5 MARK II
AOI has a range of ports available to greatly expand the number of lenses that can be used underwater.

Conclusion

The performance of the E-M5 Mark II matches or exceeds the E-M1 in almost every category. One area where it does not exceed is the flash sync speed. The E-M5 Mark II is 1/250 versus the E-M1 at 1/320. Overall the new E-M5 Mark II is arguably the best mirrorless camera Olympus has put out. With great still features, a vastly improved movie mode and a price of $300 less than the E-M1, makes the E-M5 Mark II one of the top mirrorless out today. Stay tuned as we take this system for a test dive and provide some real world samples from this camera.



Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Camera - Black
$1,099.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Camera - Silver
$1,099.99



SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Mark II CAMERA


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Sea&Sea MDX-EM5 Mark II Housing

$1,849.95
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA- EM5II Housing

$1,450.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite E-M5 II TTL Housing

$1,050.00
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PT- EP13 Housing

$999.99







Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Best Advanced Mirrorless Camera:
The Sony a7R II
Camera, Housing and Port starting at $6473

Hi Res Photos, Low Light Performance, Superb 4K Video


The Sony a7R Mark II is a full frame mirrorless camera that shoots 42 MP stills, 4K video, and has low light capability that is second only to the best low light camera ever, the Sony A7S. Can the new Sony a7R II perform on all fronts as promised? Read on to see photos and 4K video from this revolutionary camera.



This video was shot in Lembeh, Indonesia by Jim Decker using the new Sony 90mm macro lens.



This video was shot in Grand Cayman by Russ Sanoian with both the Sony 16-35mm lens and Sony 28mm lens with fisheye converter. All clips were shot with ambient light, a color correction filter, and a manual white balance. No video lights were used in this video.

Hi Res Sensor with Low light Performance


The Sony a7R II is the first full frame sensor camera to feature a back illuminated sensor. By moving electronics off the sensor, the sensor can gather more light, leading to better low light and high ISO performance. A full discussion of this technology is beyond the scope of this article, but in viewing images shot from 100-1600 ISO, we can't tell any difference in noise. So we would say, yes they did accomplish low noise, high ISO, and hi res in the same camera. The seemingly impossible has become possible!

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

This mototi octopus was shot at ISO 1600, and shows no signs of noise.



Same Body as A7II--And the Same Housing!


The camera bodies of the A7II and Sony a7R II are the same with the exception of the mode dial having a lock button and the screen being slightly thicker. A simple upgrade part should solve the mode dial issue, and while we doubt there are any issues of the screen causing fitting issues, please contact one of our camera experts at Backscatter for further information if you need help putting a Sony a7R II camera system together. All this being said, this is a super small full frame body that is a fraction of the size of an SLR. If you shoot pro events like weddings, real estate, or high end studio work, you'll want to get the battery grip not only to extend battery life, you'll need it to make it look like you're not shooting something your uncle would pull out of his pocket at a wedding. Its size doesn't make it look pro, but it definitely is.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

Due to not having an optical viewfinder, the Sony a7R II is much smaller than rival full frame SLR cameras.



Great Control Set for Underwater Shooters


The control set of the camera is very well laid out and ergonomic, making quick changes on the fly super easy. There are dedicated dials for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. There's a number of custom function buttons and most other buttons can have their functions reassigned. There's the ability to reassign focus to the AF ON button on the back of the camera which can be accessed by your right thumb, just like an SLR.

On the housing we used to test the camera, the Nauticam NA-A7II, there was no access to the rear dial pad which controlled ISO. There is a workaround by pressing the right button of the rear control pad, then move up and down to select ISO, then press enter. However, most housings out for the A7II don't have access to the rear dial pad.

Overall the ergonomics and control set are excellent and one of the best we have seen on any camera.



Autofocus with Canon Lenses--Use Your Current Canon Glass


While the big news reported on most photo review sites has been how fast the Sony a7R II can focus with Canon lenses with a Metabones adapter, we've had mixed results with our own testing. Some Canon lenses actually focus super zippy quick with either a Metabones or Photodiox adapter, but we've had some disappointing results as well. The Canon 8-15mm, Canon 16-35mm II, Canon 17-40mm, 24-70 all worked really well and focused super quick. But we had issues with both 100mm macro lenses, neither achieving focus at all within macro distances, and only finding focus at all at about 20 feet away on occasion. We tried the Tokina 10-17mm and had no focus at all, and the Sigma 15 aperture blades freaked out when trying to activate focus. We could not come up with a pattern, i.e., old versus newer lenses, or type L vs. non L lenses. We'll dig into this more and see if we can get more information, and also would like to see if others are having the same results.

For this reason we recommend using Sony glass as a first choice, but we have no hesitation on using a Canon wide lens like a Canon 16-35mm II or Canon 17-40mm, and will definitely be using the Canon 8-15mm as a regular choice since Sony doesn't a have a fisheye zoom lens like that in their arsenal.


Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

The Canon 8-15mm focuses super quick with 3rd party lens adapters. This setup will probably yield the most versatile wide angle video setup. In full frame mode the Canon 8-15mm will yield a full circular fisheye to a full frame fisheye, and when in Super 35 mode the angle of coverage is approximately that of the Tokina 10-17mm lens when in the 10-15mm range.



Best Sony Lens Choices for Underwater


When the first A7 camera came out a few years ago, the major criticism was no native glass. Sony has aggressively developed and released many lenses since then designed specifically for the A7 series of full frame cameras. Specifically for underwater, our favorite lenses are the Sony 28mm with fisheye converter, Sony 16-35mm, and Sony 90mm macro. This will cover just about everything you want to do underwater. Don't shortchange the Sony 28mm with fisheye converter because it's not a true dedicated fisheye lens. I've shot it previously on other A7 models and can definitely say it is very sharp.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

The Sony 28mm with fisheye converter, Sony 16-35mm, and Sony 90mm macro will cover just about everything you would want to photograph underwater.


The Sony 90mm macro lens is the longest macro lens released for any mirrorless camera to date. This is a huge deal as it gives a big advantage with a longer working distance for shooting with skittish macro critters. When adding on a diopter for shooting super macro, you'll still have a longer working distance than other shorter focal length macro lenses, even without a diopter.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

The Sony 90mm lens has a greater working distance than other shorter focal length macro lenses. This allows more working distance when dealing with skittish subjects that might otherwise take off if you got too close.


The Sony 90mm macro lens and the way the camera system handles focus might be a little foreign to someone coming from a DSLR. First, you are either in AF mode or MF mode, even if you have reassigned focus away from the shutter to the AF ON button. In AF mode the focus ring has no effect. This is in contrast to Nikon and Canon whose lenses can be manually focused whether in AF or MF mode. It's really simple to toggle between AF and MF modes. Simply assign the center button to AF/MF toggle. This can be an annoyance for anyone coming from either a Nikon or Canon system used to working this way, but it's easy to get used to the way the Sony works and it has some advantages.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

This frogfish was cropped to a vertical from a horizontal shot. With 42mp of resolution, a crop like this still yields almost 19mp of resolution. This is great for super tiny critters where additional optical magnification would result in near impossible to pull of depth of field.



Focus Peaking--See Super Macro Critical Focus Even If Your Vision Isn't Perfect


When in MF mode you can also have focus peaking active. This will show you areas in focus highlighted in your choice of color. The color isn't too overbearing and is a massive help in determining critical focus. For those who can see critical focus on a screen or optical viewfinder very well, this is a must for macro shooting. Just look for when the critical area you want in focus is highlighted in the color of your choice, and fire.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

A huge advantage for super macro shooters is to jump over to manual focus and have focus peaking active to see areas of critical focus without having to squint through a viewfinder. When in manual focus mode you also see the distance scale of the lens so you know what distance the lens is focused and which way you're turning the focus dial.


Focus peaking also works with depth of field (DOF) preview. The gain on the screen compensates for any loss of light from stopping the lens down, but it is still important to use a focus light to help see subjects clear and help with AF performance in low light. This is an advantage over SLRs as most cameras either don't have access to the DOF preview button, and when you do, the viewfinder is too overly dark to actually see anything when the lens is stopped down, plus there is no peaking in the viewfinder.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

For something like this that is smaller than a grain of rice and moving really fast, we couldn't tell if it was in focus just by looking at the screen. It would have been impossible to see critical focus without focus peaking. Shot with Sony 90mm lens and Nauticam SMC, so the reproduction ratio is a little bit greater than 2:1.



Easy to Capture and Edit 4K Video


This is the first time we're seeing 4K 30p video in a full frame camera recorded to an on board card. The video recording format is Sony's XAVC 4K file structure. Unlike the dreaded HD format AVCHD, the files in Sony's XAVC 4K format are standard .mp4 files that can be opened up natively in any pro level video editor like Final Cut or Premier and don't require any transcoding. You don't even need to maintain their proprietary file structure, just go directly to the "CLIP" folder and start working. The bit rate is 100 mbps, so the files won't take up much more room that an HD file from the Canon 5D Mark III which records at 92 mbps.

For most of the macro video we shot in manual mode with Auto ISO and used the exposure compensation dial to dial it down -.3 to -.7. We used this method for the macro shots since we were dealing with a constant light source from our video lights and our lighting conditions weren't changing during the shot. For wide angle where lighting conditions can change during a shot we would not use this method, but shoot a fixed exposure to avoid having the camera do weird exposure changes during a shot.

The wide-angle video shot by one of our Product Manager, Rusty Sanoian, shows off more of the performance of the Sony a7R II. The blue water transitions are super smooth, the dynamic range is what was really makes this camera shine in wide-angle video. If you take a look at the school of jacks sequence that starts at about 0:30, you'll see the surface really holds surface detail well. The ship wreck sequence that starts around 2:24 and really shows a lot of detail in the really dark areas down at the bottom at the keel, while also maintaining nice highlight detail near the surface.



Stop the Wobbles With 5-Axis Image Stabilization


Stop the wobbly footage! The 5-axis image stabilization in the body of the Sony a7R II eliminates everything but the jerkiest camera movements. It will smooth out the wobbles and make you think you're better than you are until you turn off the image stabilization and see how forgiving the camera can be with it on.



Full Movie Recording Functionality in Photo Mode--No Need to Switch Modes to Execute a White Balance!


Rejoice! You no longer need to switch to photo mode from video mode to do a custom white balance. Just need to hit the record button and go. Surely we thought this was too good to be true when we tried it, so we called up our inside guys at Sony to confirm there was no detriment to recording this way. And there isn't. Our inside guy said they had requested the record button to honor the current settings in the current exposure mode being used on the Sony a7R II and on all new models going forward. Let's hope this trend continues as it is much more convenient for the shooter who wants to quickly switch from photo to video. It does beg the question of why there is a movie mode on the mode dial at all.

The bottom line it's much easier and faster to do white balance execution and quicker switching from stills to video and back again than ever before with a Sony camera.



Underwater White Balance Performance


As mentioned previously, you no longer need to switch from video to photo mode to execute a custom white balance. This greatly speeds the process in executing a custom white balance. White balance access can be assigned to a custom function button for quick access, but unfortunately there is no way to program direct access to the custom white balance execution. Hopefully the engineers from Sony will read this and develop a super quick white balance execution. There are 3 custom white balance banks to store your favorite white balances. All this being said, the process is quicker to execute than either a Nikon or Canon SLR.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

White balance can be easily accessed by assigning it to the C1 button next to the shutter release.


The downside to the custom white balance is the color limitations. Sony cannot execute a custom white without the help of a red color correction filter much deeper than 15 feet. The color temperature maxes out around 9900 kelvin, and for underwater white balance we need a limit somewhere in the upper reaches of 50,000 kelvin plus. Canon has been the sole reigning king of underwater white balance at all depths without a filter for years now, but Panasonic just joined the club with their new 4K compact camera, the LX100. Being able to white balance without a color correction filter is a huge advantage allowing one to do photo and video on the same dive, or do video lights and ambient light on the same dive. You'll get great color with the Sony a7R II, but you'll need to go in the water dedicated with either a color filter, or lights.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

The Sony 28mm lens with fisheye converter doesn't have a filter holder in the back of the lens. We were able to custom cut our own color filters with a punch we purchased online and place it between the fisheye converter and the Sony 28mm lens. An alternative would be to use a Canon 8-15mm that does have a filter holder in the back of the lens.



Record Uncompressed 4K to an External Recorder--Pro Level Broadcast Performance


Like the Sony A7S, the Sony a7R II also has a clean 4K output that can record uncompressed or Apple Pro Res to the Atomos Shogun. If you're a pro shooting for broadcast or cinema productions, or a serious high end hobbyist, the Sony a7R II will record super high quality 4K footage to the Shogun in a 4:2:2 color space ready for the demands of color grading in post production.



Super 35 Mode in 4K--Shoot Tighter Shots Without Changing Your Lens


The Sony a7R II has a feature called APS-C/Super 35 Mode. This mode uses a smaller area of the sensor to record 4K video. One of the benefits Sony claims to using the Super 35 mode is reduced moiré by oversampling the image by about 1.8 times and down converting to 4K. The "hidden" benefit is being able to shoot a scene in both full frame AND cropped modes, both in 4K resolution. In macro this has the effect of getting even tighter shots with no loss of quality or depth of field. This was a big help in pulling off super tight macro video. We did this quite a bit with our macro shots when getting closer with an SMC when the camera was on a tripod and was not practical to move the camera.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016

You can get tighter shots in Super 35 mode without needing to move your tripod or adjust focus with the same depth of field.


For wide angle shooting with a fisheye lens, it is similar to using a teleconverter on a SLR with a fisheye lens. Except that you can change it underwater in an instant. Rusty did this in his video quite a bit as well and worked great for when you need a tighter crop on pelagic animals, like his shots of the spotted eagle rays. For the ultimate in versatility, use a Canon 8-15mm and you can get full circular fisheye, and with the Super 35 mode it's almost equivalent to the Tokina 10-17mm on a crop sensor camera.



Conclusion


The Sony a7R II is the most advanced camera we have seen to date. In the past there's always been a trade off between high resolution and low noise. No more. This camera is only a very close second in noise performance to the low light king, the Sony A7S. So much so that we wouldn't even consider the A7S anymore, it's that close in low light performance. In this day and age on board 4K video recording is a must and Sony delivers with great looking footage and a "hidden teleconverter" with the Super 35 crop mode.

The Sony a7R II has better features and performance for less than 1/2 the price of some of its full frame competitors. It really does represent a new world order in cameras in a super small full frame package.


Pros

  • 42MP AND low noise performance
  • Full frame 4K 30p video
  • 5-axis stabilization
  • Super 35 mode
  • Cheaper than any mid level SLR with more features and performance


Cons

  • Needs a color filter for custom white balance help
  • Need to change the camera battery every dive if shooting a lot of 4K footage on dives
  • Although the camera is smaller, full frame lenses are still the same size as full frame lenses from SLRs

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Sony a7R II Camera
$3,299.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Sony a7S II Camera
$2,999.99



SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE SONY a7R II CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Subal Alpha 7 II Housing

$3,668.50

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA- A7II Housing

$2,850.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Aquatica A7r II Housing

$2,499.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Sea & Sea MDX- a7II Housing

$2,499.95

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite a7 II TTL Housing

$1,500.00
 







Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Runners Up:
The Olympus PEN Series
Camera & Housing starting at $1550

Olympus changed the underwater compact camera world forever with their launch of the PEN series of cameras with underwater housings which we first reviewed in 2010. Now in its fifth generation, the PEN is better than ever with the new E-PL7. The 16MP sensor of the E-PL7 comes from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, which performs excellent in low light and higher ISO's. We love the PEN cameras for their quick autofocus, snappy performance, and great image quality. Continuous shooting speed has been improved to an amazing 8 frames per second. Raw files delivered by both the E-PL7 are rich and detailed. Startup time is quick, and shutter lag is non-existent. Shooting with a PEN feels like using an advanced camera. With the Olympus housing at $750, this is the most affordable interchangeable lens underwater camera system in our lineup.

Jellyfish Lake in Palau photographed by Jim Decker with an Olympus <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v205041bu000.lasso' class='standard'>E-PL5</a>

While shooting splits with a small dome is challenging, having 8 frames per second made getting the shot a lot easier. We were also impressed with the high ISO performance. Taken with the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. ISO 1600, 1/160 sec, f/18

In addition to wet lenses, a wide variety of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system make the PEN series a platform that you can build on for the future. This is one of the major advantages of choosing an interchangeable lens camera over other compacts. The PEN cameras support a large selection of lenses from both Olympus and Panasonic, covering a variety of focal lengths. Custom ports for micro 4/3 lenses are available from AOI & Zen Underwater that work with the Olympus branded housings, including versions for the Olympus 9-18, Panasonic 7-14, Panasonic 8mm, and Olympus 60mm Macro. These are our four favorite lenses to shoot underwater, so it's great to have them all covered.


Shark at Blue Corner in Palau photographed by Jim Decker with an Olympus <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v205041bu000.lasso' class='standard'>E-PL5</a>

The Olympus 9-18 lens wide angle zoom lens is a great lens for shooting pelagics by allowing you to shoot a tighter shot when you can't get super close. Olympus 9-18mm lens, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, f/8

One of our favorite features of the Olympus PEN cameras is the ability to customize them. On all of our cameras, from compact to SLR, we like to separate the shutter function from focus. This way, we can acquire focus, recompose the image, and the camera is not going to "hunt" to re-acquire focus at the moment we choose to trip the shutter. Fortunately, the PEN cameras are equipped with customizable function buttons which can be programmed to be the equivalent of an "AF-On" button found on many SLRs.

Two custom white balance settings are available. Unfortunately it can only be captured in photo mode, but can be set in both video and photo modes. We preferred to change the record button function to Custom WB. While pressing and holding the record button, and the pressing the shutter, we were able to quickly capture custom white balance and then have the option of assigning it to one of the two presets. After capturing in manual photo mode it is easy to bump the mode dial over 1 notch to the video mode setting, and is an easier process than setting white balance in some of the larger SLRs.

The E-PL7 is definitely capable of shooting some great video, and supports full 1080p HD resolution. Full manual exposure is available and is our preferred way to shoot video. While we've found natural light video works best in the shallows (about 30 feet), the E-PL7 was able to white balance significantly deeper. At about 50 feet it would still consistently take a manual white balance, although the colors looked a little unsaturated and flat. With a little saturation in post, the color perked right up and looked great. Many cameras have problems executing a proper white balance below 30-40 feet without a color correction filter, so being able to do one with no filter at 50 feet, is a big bonus. If you know in advance you'll be dedicated to shooting natural light video for your dive, we recommend using a color correction filter with a manual white balance which will allow for more color saturation at deeper depths.

The PEN is lightweight and easy to travel with, so much so that we often see customers "crossgrade" into a mirrorless system just to avoid traveling with the weight of heavier SLR housings. And the price is difficult to beat - for any class of camera. With such great low light performance, 8 frames per second, super fast focus, and no shutter lag, we feel this camera and housing combination is the best "bang for your buck" in underwater photography.

Pros
  • Sensor provides extremely good low light and high ISO performance
  • 8 frames per second continuous shooting mode
  • Extremely snappy autofocus performance compared to any camera, compact or SLR
Cons
  • Ports on Olympus polycarbonate housings require some elbow grease to remove initially
  • Custom white balance deeper than about 40 feet should be done with a color filter
  • Slightly more expensive than the previous generation model, but still a smashing deal

Turtle eating coral in Palau photographed by Jim Decker with an Olympus <a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ol-v205041bu000.lasso' class='standard'>E-PL5</a>

Quick focus and no shutter lag allow capturing the moment easier to do. Without any shutter lag, we were able to time the shot just as the turtle took a bite. Olympus 9-18mm lens, ISO 200, 1/250 sec, f/9

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PEN E- PL7 Camera - Black
$499.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PEN E- PL7 Camera - Silver
$499.99



SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE OLYMPUS PEN E- PL7 CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite E- PL7 TTL Housing

$950.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PT-EP12 Housing

$749.99








Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The Olympus E​-M1
Camera, Housing and Port starting at $2905

The new E-M1 improves upon the E-M5 by adding a more sophisticated autofocus system and greater customization of all available camera buttons. Although Olympus is still keeping the E-M5 in their OMD lineup, these new features alone make the E-M1 our pick for underwater use. The E-M1 is now the top camera in Olympus' mirrorless lineup.


Images from the E-M1 are exceptionally sharp. Shot with the Olympus 60mm macro and a Subsee +10, focus was easy to see on the screen and throughout the viewfinder. ISO 200, 1/320 sec, f/8

Some of the more notable features carried over from the E-M5 is the 5 axis image stabilization, but there have been some significant updates to the E-M1. The biggest change is a max flash sync speed of 1/320. Other mirrorless cameras have max speeds of 1/160. Even most SLRs top out at 1/250. This is a huge advantage for dialing in the exposure on your background. For wide shots, you can get darker blue water backgrounds and pull in the exposure on sunball shots easier. For macro photography, a high sync speed allows one to more easily knock out any ambient light and just have light from the strobes on the subject, and also accomplish black backgrounds in the daytime.

Other improvements are 10 frames per second with a 41 image RAW buffer, and improved AF function and speed (if it could actually get any better than E-M5). The viewfinder is now as large as a full frame DSLR viewfinder and the resolution is 2.36 million pixels, making it one of the highest resolution EVFs on the market. Those who have vision issues will have no problem dialing in and seeing this viewfinder for critical viewing.

The 2x2 switch is an underwater photographer's dream in fast action. In 1st position, the dials operate shutter speed and aperture. In 2nd position, the dials operate white balance and ISO. No need to hit multiple buttons to make those adjustments, just flip a switch, turn the dial, shoot. And like the E-M5, when changing the ISO it shows you an EV meter so you can tell if you've got the ISO in the range you need without having to pop out of the ISO settings screen to where you are at on the meter.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The small size of the E-M1 and the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lets you get in tight spots inches from your subject, so even in horrible vis you can pull off backscatter-free wide angle shots. ISO 200, 1/125, f/8


The customization of controls on this camera are insane. Almost any button can be reassigned to another function. One of the major disadvantages to the Olympus PT-EP08 housing for the E-M5 was that you needed to sacrifice one of the 2 assignable function buttons to the fish mode as this is the only way the flash can fire in the down position inside the housing. Now with the E-M1 you can assign fish mode to one of the 2 custom buttons on the front of the camera, without sacrificing any of the importantly placed custom function buttons on the PT-EP11 housing for the E-M1. For the PT-EP11 housing, we prefer to move the AF-ON activation to the Fn1 button, which is more ergonomically located than the AF on button.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
The Olympus 60mm macro lens is a versatile macro lens, being able to capture fish portraits like this grouper, down to super macro critters. The sync flash sync speed allows ISO 200, 1/320 sec, f/8

The camera has 4 custom white balance presets. With all the customization options, you can now assign custom white balance to one of the function buttons and have a true 1 touch white balance. After executing the white balance, you can then assign it to one of the 4 presets. The ease of process is unmatched in any of the Canon or Nikon SLR cameras. Having 4 presets at your disposal is more than any SLR except for the top end flagship models costing over $6000. We can only hope other camera manufacturers take note and include more presets in the future. One downside to executing a custom white balance is that it can't be done in video mode. You can pick one of the presets to use in code mode, but you cannot execute. For that you need to move over to photo mode.

Macro shooting with mirror less cameras is still a bit more of a challenge than shooting with an SLR. The longest macro lens available is the Olympus 60mm. While this lens is super sharp, the relatively short focal length equates to not much working distance, especially when using a wet diopter like a Subsee +10 lens. SLR's have almost twice the working distance, which is better for more skittish critters.

ISO 200, 1/100 sec, f/8




Images shot with prime lenses look exceptionally sharp. Olympus removed the low pass filter on the sensor and added a new image processor in the E-M1, and the results are sharpness that meets or exceeds that from SLRs.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
ISO 400, 1/160 sec, f/8

Movie mode is unchanged from the E-M5. You still have the ability to shoot full manual video. We're a little disappointed that the video frame rate wasn't increased to 60p, but you can still get some great footage from this camera.

Overall, this is the best mirrorless camera we have seen to date.

Pros

  • Performance, sharpness, and image quality on par with or exceeds SLRs.
  • Best control set of any camera in this review, beats out most other higher end cameras.
  • 1/320 flash sync speed


Cons
  • Larger body design leads to larger housings.
  • Custom white balance can't be executed in video mode.
  • Still waiting for longer focal length macro lenses for more working distance.
Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus OM-D E- M1 Camera - Black
$1,099.99



SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE OLYMPUS OM-D E- M1 CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Subal EM1 Housing

$2,587.50

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA-EM1 Housing

$1,850.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Aquatica AE- M1 Housing

$1,699.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Recsea RDH-OMEM1 Housing

$1,499.99

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Olympus PT- EP11 Housing

$1,259.99








Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Cinematic 4K Video in a Compact Camera:
Panasonic GH4 Camera
Camera and Housing starting at $3550


The Panasonic GH4 can record video in Ultra HD at a resolution of 3840x2160 30p/24p or 4096x2160 24p. Standard HD resolution is only 1920x1080 making 4K four times the resolution of HD. This is why you might also hear 4K referred to as "quad HD". The GH4 is a very exciting camera as it goes head to head with the Canon EOS-1D C as a professional grade photo and 4K video system, but at a fraction of the cost. Both cameras offer the convenience of 4K recording direct to in-camera memory cards avoiding the bulky external recording units required on other cameras. The GH4 costs $10,000 less than a Canon EOS-1D C and is the only mirrorless camera that offers internal 4K recording. We feel the GH4 is a top pick for photo and 4K video enthusiasts on a budget or travelers that prefer a compact system. Read the Panasonic​ GH4 Underwater Review.


This Panasonic GH4 video was shot by Rusty Sanoian in Monterey Bay using the Nauticam NA-GH4 housing, 8mm Panasonic Fisheye lens and Olympus 60mm Lens with Nauticam SMC.

Panasonic GH​4 Underwater Review - Housing Options
There are multiple housings available for the Panasonic GH4. The Nauticam NA-GH4, the Aquatica AGH4, and the Ikelite GH4 Housing.


<a href='http://www.backscatter.com/sku/ps-dmc-gh4kbody.lasso' class='standard'>Panasonic GH4</a> -sunbursts and excellent detail

A faster sync speed of 1/250 allows the GH4 to capture sunbursts
and bright backgrounds and hold excellent detail.


Panasonic GH​4 Underwater Review - Little Cayman Grouper
The small size of the Panasonic GH4 and Panasonic 8mm lens lets a shooter get in super tight where other larger systems may not fit. Panasonic 8mm Lens, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, f/8



For serious underwater videographers who don't want the bulk or the expense of a hefty ultra high definition rig, the Panasonic GH4 offers cinematic quality shooting in a travel friendly size that's easy on the wallet too. Capable of using both Panasonic and Olympus lenses, the GH4 is versatile in both wide angle and macro capturing. Our lens of choice for reef scenes and wide scenes is the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens. For the ever-popular fish portraits, the Olympus 60mm lens will capture your macro swimmingly.

A note about macro shooting with compact and mirrorless cameras

For now, if you're a serious macro shooter who prefers photographing the tiniest of creatures, or likes using our MacroMate, then an SLR is probably going to be your best option. The longer working distance of SLR macro lenses allows you to be further away from skittish creatures, allowing you to get shots that unfortunately can't be made with compacts. The mirrorless cameras offer more hope and we know that Olympus has some longer macro lenses in the works. Currently, there really is no better route than to go with an SLR if you're really serious about macro. There are reasons why the compact class hasn't taken over the entire underwater photography industry, after all. But the strides that have been made in recent years are very impressive indeed, and the gap is now the closest it has ever been.

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4K Camera
$1,499.99



SHOP HOUSINGS FOR THE PANASONIG GH4 CAMERA

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Subal SGH4 Housing


$2,288.50

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Nauticam NA-GH4 Housing

$2,250.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Aquatica AGH4 Housing


$1,995.00

Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2016
Ikelite GH4 TTL Housing

$1,600.00




CONCLUSION

We hope you have enjoyed this in-depth survey of the underwater compact camera market. At Backscatter, our team is staffed with active divers who get out and shoot with all of the equipment that we sell. Our sales staff have direct experience with the gear you purchase with us, and are just a phone call away if you ever need help. It's that level of expertise that we put into this annual roundup of compact cameras so that we can share with you what we've learned, and why we recommend certain cameras over others. Please support the development of more content like this by purchasing your gear from us.











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