The Backscatter staff have spent plenty of time shooting mirrorless cameras in the water around the world in all sorts of conditions, from our home waters of Monterey, CA, to the Caribbean, and the Indo Pacific. We’ve compiled this guide to help you figure out if a mirrorless camera is right for you, and if so, which one is best for your particular interest. Whether it's upgrading from a compact or going full pro, video or photo, we’ll break down these cameras and go over our top pics. Best,Underwater,Mirrorless,Cameras,2021,Housing,Case,Review,Buying,Buyer's,Guide,2020,Sony,Canon,Nikon,Olympus,Panasonic,Fuji,Full Frame,MIL,Micro,Four Thirds,4/3

Best Underwater Cameras of 2024: Mirrorless Cameras

The Backscatter staff have spent plenty of time shooting mirrorless cameras in the water around the world in all sorts of conditions, from our home waters of Monterey, CA, to the Caribbean, and the Indo Pacific. We’ve compiled this guide to help you figure out if a mirrorless camera is right for you, and if so, which one is best for your particular interest. Whether it's upgrading from a compact or going full pro, video or photo, we’ll break down these cameras and go over our top picks. Summary of the Best Underwater Mirrorless Cameras for 2024Best All-Around Full Frame Advanced MirrorlessSony a1 The Sony a1 is hands down the best performing hybrid camera to shoot both video and photo, period. However, this much capability doesn’t come cheap at $6500 for the camera body only. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE a1Best Full-Frame Advanced Mirrorless For PhotoSony a7R V Our top pick in this category, the Sony a7R V, has the best still image quality and resolution we’ve ever seen from ANY full frame camera. At a much more affordable price than the Sony a1 coming in at $3499 for camera body only, it falls a little short in the video department. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE a7R VBest Entry-Level MirrorlessOlympus E-M10 IV Anyone who is looking at a compact camera should seriously consider the Olympus E-M10 IV as a great alternative. It will have much improved image quality over a compact but is not all that different in underwater size, and has a price less than most compacts at $799 for a camera and included lens. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE E-M10 IVBest Mirrorless for VideoSony a7S III If you’re a pro level video shooter, the Sony a7S III is the most pro level mirrorless video rig available. It will come in at a fraction of the price of a cinema system at $3499 body only, but will still deliver high bit rate 4K 120p all day long. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE a7S IIIAdvanced Runner-up #1 Canon EOS R5LEARN MORE ABOUTTHE EOS R5Advanced Runner-up #2 Nikon Z 8LEARN MORE ABOUTTHE Z 8Entry-Level Runner-up #1 OM Systems OM-1LEARN MORE ABOUTTHE OM-1Entry-Level Runner-up #2 Sony a6700LEARN MORE ABOUTTHE a6700Video Runner-up #1 Canon EOS R5CLEARN MORE ABOUTTHE R5CKeep reading for more information about each camera and our testing criteriaABOUT OUR MIRRORLESS REVIEW Our top picks are our best all-around choices taking into consideration serving the needs of the broadest segment of users for both photo and video. Depending on an individual’s shooting style, subject interest, and shooting goals, a runner-up may be a better option than one of our top picks for that particular individual. The staff at Backscatter have extensive experience with every camera in this article and can help guide your decision about which camera for underwater photography is best for your individual needs. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call, we love to geek out and guide you to the best camera for you. JUMP TO A SECTIONWHAT IS A MIRRORLESS CAMERA?BENEFITS OF A MIRRORLESS OVER A COMPACT CAMERAMIRRORLESS MYTHS: MIRRORLESS VS. DSLR DEBUNKEDCATEGORIES & WINNERSWHAT IS A MIRRORLESS CAMERA? A mirrorless camera is basically just a DSLR camera without the optical viewfinder. It still has an interchangeable lens like an SLR, but rather than looking through the optical viewfinder to compose an image, it is either done by looking through an electronic viewfinder, or on the screen on the back of the camera, like a compact. While all mirrorless cameras have a screen on the back, not all have an electronic viewfinder. HUGE RANGE OF OPTIONS FROM ENTRY LEVEL TO FULL PRO Mirrorless cameras are the largest category of cameras for underwater imaging. It also has the biggest price variance and user experience range of entry-level, mid-level, to high-end of any camera category. Prices start from as low as $699 for an entry-level model and go up to $6500 for a top-notch pro-level body. The main difference between a mirrorless and a DSLR is the mirror box, prism, and optical viewfinder have been removed, making it possible to have a smaller camera.BENEFITS OF A MIRRORLESS OVER A COMPACT CAMERA Anyone looking at a compact camera should also seriously look at entry-level mirrorless cameras as an alternative. While compact cameras by themselves can be pocket-sized, once placed in an underwater housing and the addition of strobes, arms, and external lenses, it winds up not being all that much of a difference in size. The benefits from a mirrorless are going to be in a huge jump in image quality and speed of shooting. The image quality jump comes from the sensor size and the quality of the lens optics. The much larger sensor gathers more light and results in better image quality, better dynamic range, and lower noise. The image sharpness increase comes from higher grade optics in the lenses. The shooting speed comes from bigger image processors and the ability to use a hot shoe and a flash trigger for rapid-fire shooting, or the ability to have manual flash output. There’s only a handful of compact cameras with manual flash capability to increase the speed of shooting. The Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100 VII compact cameras are small in size, but the flash recycle time can stretch to 5-10 seconds after a few shots in a row, which can be extremely frustrating in the heat of the action and speed of shooting is paramount. While a mirrorless camera system CAN be configured to be significantly more expensive than a compact system, several entry-level mirrorless systems can outperform high-end compacts and come in LESS expensive. When configured for underwater shooting, an entry-level mirrorless system isn’t all that much different in size or weight. This Olympus E-M10 IV system is about the same size but comes in at a lower price with much greater performance and image quality compared to a Sony RX100 VII system. Price as shown: Olympus E-M10 IV $2,447.58, Sony RX100 VII $4,090.68.MIRRORLESS MYTHS: MIRRORLESS VS. DSLR DEBUNKED Over the years we’ve come across quite a few misconceptions people have had regarding mirrorless cameras, especially when compared to DSLRs. Here a few of the more popular misconceptions to be debunked. Myth: Mirrorless cameras make for a smaller underwater camera system. Truth: By eliminating the optical viewfinder, a mirrorless camera can be made smaller than a traditional DSLR camera, sometimes much smaller. The size of the camera will depend on the size of the sensor. Mirrorless cameras range from full-frame (same size as 35mm film) to half that size. The smaller sensor mirrorless cameras like the Olympus E-PL10 can rival the size of a compact camera and the entire underwater camera system can fit in a backpack for easy carry on while traveling. A full-frame mirrorless camera has full-frame size optics which just can’t be made smaller than their DSLR brethren due to the physics of light. A full-frame size mirrorless camera in a housing with a port, strobes, arms, and everything else comes out to about the same size as a similar fully kitted DSLR rig. Myth: The image quality from a mirrorless camera is nowhere near what a DSLR can do; or the image quality from a DSLR is no match for what can be had from a mirrorless. Truth: We see people attacking this topic from both sides. The image quality from a mirrorless camera and the overall performance compared to a DLSR has nothing to do with whether the camera is a mirrorless or a DSLR. It comes down to the differences between individual cameras themselves. As mentioned previously the mirrorless camera range is really wide from beginner to full level pro. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison if one tries to take an entry-level mirrorless and compare it to a DSLR or vice versa. As it stands right now the Sony a7R V has the best image quality out of any full-frame camera, but that is because of the sensor, not because it’s mirrorless. Myth: A DSLR camera can focus faster and more accurately than a mirrorless camera. Truth: This used to be a thing, but not anymore. DSLR cameras have a focusing screen in the mirror box that is used for autofocus. This technology has been around for decades and every last bit of development has been squeezed out of it, making it extremely accurate and fast. Since a mirrorless camera does not have a focusing screen, it has to focus off of the sensor. At the beginning of mirrorless, this resulted in very slow performance that could not even be close to keeping up with a DLSR. As the years have gone by much more development has advanced for mirrorless autofocus and I can say from personal experience that top-end mirrorless cameras from Sony can directly compete with my favorite fast focusing DSLR of all time, the Nikon D850. Myth: Optical Viewfinders are better than electronic viewfinders; or electronic viewfinders are the future and optical viewfinders are dead. Truth: This is often the most common topic that will start a bar fight among DLSR or mirrorless cult members. The truth is there are advantages and disadvantages to both depending on the type of shooting one is doing, and one’s personal preferences, so let’s break it down. Optical Viewfinder Advantages An optical viewfinder is a direct light path through the camera lens. Your eye is looking directly through the lens and as such you can see with the same dynamic range of bright to dark as the human eye. You can also see critical focus directly through the lens. In a mirrorless camera, an electronic viewfinder is a hi resolution screen with the image taken from the sensor of the camera. As such it does not have anywhere near the dynamic range of the human eye. This makes it difficult with wide angle backlit scenes to actually see details of subjects when framing shots. If one is trying to shoot a sunball for example, the sunball and everything around it will be completely blown out and you just can’t see where the sunball is positioned in the frame. In this situation foreground subjects are completely shadowed, also making it difficult to frame the foreground. If you’ve ever used a compact camera before to shoot underwater wide angle, it is a similar experience. Another minor advantage to an optical viewfinder is that electronic viewfinders when shooting macro have a horrible cyan-ish color cast that makes it difficult to see contrast and the subject that one is shooting, but this is easily remedied by using a focus light. It’s impossible to see what you’re shooting in a heavily backlit scene like this with a mirrorless camera. When looking in the EVF, the sun was completely blown out and all of the surrounding water was blown out too, making it impossible to see where the actual sunball was in the frame until taking the picture and reviewing it in playback.Sony a7R V | Sony 28-70mm | Nauticam WACP-C | 1/125 | ISO 200 | ƒ11Electronic Viewfinder Advantages While the optical viewfinder easily takes the cake for underwater wide angle photography, macro is where there are more options for the electronic viewfinder shooter. An electronic viewfinder offers focus peaking which will show areas of the image that are in focus by outlining the in-focus edges in a color of your choice. Focus peaking allows you to see areas that are in focus WITHOUT the need to see critical focus. This is great for subjects that are in constant motion where it’s hard to see focus because it never stops moving, or for shooters whose eyes might not be able to see perfect focus. Another advantage of macro is being able to see playback in the viewfinder to review an image. Firstly, it is a nice dark environment compared to a rear screen to make it easy to evaluate an image, especially in bright ambient light conditions where it is difficult to see the screen. Secondly, one does not have to move their head and ruin the camera position to see the back of a screen for image review. One could simply tap the playback button, see the image in the finder, then continue shooting in a much quicker manner without having to move position and potentially lose the subject and have to require. Electronic viewfinders are also a good substitute for a video monitor when shooting macro video, especially when paired with a 45 degree expanded finder. Trying to compose a macro video shot off of a screen on the back of the camera is almost impossible due to the screen being so close to the bottom and not being able to get your head low enough to see the screen. The long and short of it is that optical viewfinders are much better for wide angle photography, while an electronic one has more options to make macro easier. While not related directly to a viewing experience, with the elimination of the mirror box, a mirrorless camera can have in-body image stabilization where a DSLR cannot. This is a great feature for video shooters to get more steady video shots. The Panasonic GH5 focus peaking feature is critical for macro video work to see critical focus. For shooters who have problems seeing critical focus through an optical viewfinder, focus peaking eliminates the need for seeing the actual critical focus and outlines in focus areas in the color of your choice, in this case, red.CATEGORIES & WINNERS With such a huge range of camera capabilities and prices, we broke out the mirrorless offerings into 4 categories. JUMP TO A SECTIONBest All-Around Full Frame Advanced MirrorlessBest Full-Frame Advanced Mirrorless For PhotoBest Entry Level Mirrorless Best Mirrorless For VideoBACK TO TOPBEST ALL-AROUND FULL-FRAME ADVANCED MIRRORLESSSONY α1 The Sony a1 was just released this year and immediately rocketed to the top of the list. It is a Swiss Army Knife of a camera that can do all things and do them well. It’s not only the best all-around mirrorless camera, it is in our opinion the best all-around camera period. That’s not to say that there aren’t some things that other cameras can do better, but that list is really short and the differences not so great. Others can't come close to the breadth of what the Sony a1 can do. Hi-Res, Fast Shooting, Great Image Quality Usually, these three things do not go together, they are in tension with each other. A high megapixel sensor camera used to be slow due to the amount of data to be processed. Even only a few years ago a 40+ MP camera doing over 5 frames per second was considered fast. A lower resolution camera at about 18-20MP doing 10-12 frames per second was considered fast for a “sports” camera. The Sony a1 is 50MP and shoots at 30 frames per second which is mind-boggling to think about. Sony has also in the last few years massively improved the image quality of their high-resolution sensors. While the noise and dynamic range of the Sony a1 will fall just shy of what the leading Sony a7R IV can do, that small cost comes with the blazing-fast speed the Sony a1 possesses. Sony a1 | Sony 16-35mm | 1/250 | ISO 640 | ƒ14Top Level Tracking AF Performance Anyone familiar with Nikon’s 3D tracking or Sony’s AF Tracking in continuous AF will never use another way to autofocus ever again. The hit rate on autofocus accuracy is near perfect. The autofocus tracking has improved over the Sony a7R IV with quicker, more accurate tracking and 1 stop improvement in low light conditions. 8K 30p, 4K 120p Movie Mode—No Overheating When the Canon EOS R5 was announced the 8K movie mode was the most head-turning spec to come out. However, in practical reality, there is some limitation to its use due to overheating, which also occurs in shooting 4Kk 120p. The Sony a1 also shoots 8K, but without any practical limitation on overheating for an underwater shooter. While 8K 30p may be the eye-popping headline, 4K 120p is the more practical and sought-after spec. Being able to shoot 120p and slow down to half speed and still have 60p footage will allow for some very life-like crispness to the image while still getting a dramatic slo-mo effect. Custom White Balance Performance Custom white balance at depth underwater has always been the Achille’s heel of any Sony camera, however, Sony has made incremental improvements over the last few models. Starting with the Sony a7S III (our top pick for Best Mirrorless Video Camera) the white balance has been massively improved and will now white balance at depths over 50 feet without the water turning magenta. This makes it a truly viable hybrid camera for the still/video shooter. 1/400 Flash Sync Speed—A First for a Full Frame Camera Wow! That’s all I can say for this spec. Folks, we haven’t seen this before. Now we can shoot high ambient light shots (think sunballs) and use a higher shutter speed (which won’t affect strobe light) to pull in the exposure of the ambient light rather than being stuck with adjusting ISO or aperture (which affects BOTH ambient light and strobe light). This effectively means in these shooting situations one can shoot a higher shutter speed instead of a higher ISO or aperture and preserve 1 full stop of strobe light over what a Nikon Z7 II or Canon EOS R5 that only have a flash sync speed of 1/200. ProsThe holy grail of megapixels, speed, and quality8K 30p and 4K 120p movies with no overheating in practical usageAwesome tracking AF means you’ll never miss a shot1/400 flash sync speed is amazing and is 1 full stop faster than either the Canon EOS R5 or Nikon Z7 IIIt white balances at depth for great-looking ambient light videoConsStill has a limited lens selection for underwater photographers, but Canon lenses easily work with an adapterIt’s pricey but worth itThe Camera:Sony a1 Camera $6,499.99ORDER NOWThe Housings:Aquatica Sony a1 HousingORDER NOWIkelite Sony a1 and a7S III HousingORDER NOWIsotta Sony a1 HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-a1 HosuingORDER NOW Sea & SeaMDX-aU HousingORDER NOWSeacam Sony a1 HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPBEST FULL-FRAME ADVANCED MIRRORLESS FOR PHOTOSONY α7R V61 MEGAPIXELS OF DETAIL The Sony a7R V is our pick for the ultimate photo camera at the moment. We favor it in terms of image quality over any other current full-frame mirrorless or DSLR camera. The 61mp sensor isn’t changed from the previous model, but that is totally fine with us. It’s sort of an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” type of situation. In our review, we called the previous model Sony a7R IV the best image quality of all time and that title hasn’t changed with the latest generation. The level of detail captured by the Sony a7R V is insanely sharp.Sony a7R V | Sony 90mm Lens | 1/250 | ISO 100 | ƒ16 The resolution is outstandingly sharp, allowing for insane amounts of detail when zoomed into 1:1 size during review. The dynamic range is great and maintains sharp resolution and detail in the brightest highlight and darkest shadow areas of the image. Color reproduction is great as well, with a very natural look that often requires minimal correction for ideal results. It’s not uncommon for ultra-high resolution sensors to suffer a bit in low-light performance. They can often create higher noise levels at lower ISO levels than other cameras. This is not the case with the Sony a7R V; it performs great in lower light environments thanks to the backside illuminated sensor. Test shots at ISO 1000 look more like ISO 400 film grain than distracting noise - we actually kind of liked the look, in fact! Even in large-scale prints this noise is barely noticeable and not at all distracting from the image quality in our opinion. Test shots at ISO 1000 look more like ISO 400 film grain than distracting noise.Sony a7R V | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/250 | ISO 1000 | ƒ11FAST SHOOTING FOR FAT FILES The Sony a7R V will shoot 10 frames per second in a compressed lossless RAW format which is pretty quick for how huge of a file size the 61mp sensor creates. If switching over to uncompressed RAW it drops to 7 frames per second, which is fine if shooting with strobes as most strobes won’t be able to keep up any faster than that anyway. Strobeless shooters might feel that this shooting speed is a little limiting for fast-action shots, but if that is the priority, then it’s worth seriously considering a bump up to the Sony a1 for its impressive 20 to 30 frames per second performance. Shooting lossless RAW quality at 7 frames per second is more than fast enough when shooting with strobes, and the images process quickly too.Sony a7R V | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/60 | ISO 800 | ƒ11CONCLUSION We recently reviewed the Sony a7 IV, the base model in the α7 lineup, and called it one of the best hybrid cameras (meaning for both photo and video) of the moment. Now the Sony a7R V may just give it a little competition. Both cameras have the same 4K 60p video spec and excellent natural light white balance color, so they are squarely matched for video. However the Sony a7R V pulls ahead by quite a bit in the photo comparison, and while a price increase of $1,000 is a lot of money, what you get for that value in terms of image quality and shooting power is completely worth it (even if it means only eating cheap ramen and spaghetti for dinner for a while!). When considering the overall cost of an underwater system we feel that the relative price difference justifies choosing the Sony a7R V when ultimate photo performance and image quality are major priorities. If budget is not as much of a concern, it may also be worth looking at the Sony a1 purely for comparing the Sony a7R V against the absolute best that money can currently buy. With a price tag that’s about $3,000 higher, the Sony a1 is a big jump up but it also brings significantly faster shooting speeds (20-30fps) and much higher video specs (up to 8K 30p and 4K 120p). Those seeking the ultimate hybrid camera should also take a look at the Canon EOS R5 C. This cinema-version of the Canon EOS R5 will capture 45mp photos and can shoot up to 8K 60p or 4K 120p video. It can run with an external battery pack for all-day shooting and it packs an internal fan to avoid overheating while recording. It also has a truly one-touch white balance which is always the most convenient way to capture new white balances. ProsBest photo quality produced by any current cameraAutofocus is light years ahead of previous models, hyper-intelligent tracking and eye detectionBetter video specs and color than ever before on an A7R cameraElectronic viewfinder produces great dynamic range detailSeparate settings for video and photoCons1.24x crop in video cuts down field of viewRolling shutter effect in fast-action video scenesREAD THE FULL REVIEWWatch our Full Review Video for the Sony a7R V camera.Sony a7R V Camera $3,899.99ORDER NOWAquatica A7rV HousingORDER NOWIkelite Sony a7 IV & a7R V HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-A7RV HousingORDER NOW Sea & Sea MDX-a7RV U HousingORDER NOWSeacam Sony a7RV HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPBEST FULL-FRAME ADVANCED MIRRORLESS: RUNNERS UPCANON EOS R5 Don’t get us wrong here. The Canon EOS R5 is a great camera. The image quality is the best to date from Canon and it is easy to use existing Canon EF lenses with an adapter. The video and ambient light white balance look fantastic, but that’s where the rub comes. The much talked about overheating when shooting 8K or 4K 120p is too much for the camera to handle, even with the typical short clips underwater video shooters tend to do. The heat builds up over time, is cumulative, and only dissipates to a certain extent during a typical 90-minute surface interval on the boat. This isn’t to say you can’t shoot 8K or 4K 120p, we clearly did in our video sample clips below. But the heat has to be managed by turning the camera off between clips to allow the camera to cool (or more accurately, not continue to build heat). At the end of the day with monitoring air, deco limits, and where the $#@! is the boat, it’s just another thing to have to manage on a dive which is why we can only recommend this camera for stills shooters who only have a passing interest in video. If you’re a Canon shooter who does primarily stills, this is the best image quality Canon has ever put out and you won’t be disappointed. Canon EOS R5 | Nauticam WACP | 1/200 | ISO 640 | ƒ18This wide angle demo reel was shot on location in the Maldives by Backscatter Video Pro Joel Penner with a pair of Backscatter Macro Wide 4300 Video Lights and the Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera.The Camera:Canon EOS R5 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera $3,899.00ORDER NOWThe Housings:Aquatica AR5 HousingORDER NOWIkelite Canon R5 HousingORDER NOWIsotta Canon R5 HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-R5 HousingORDER NOWSea and Sea MDX-R5 HousingORDER NOWSeacam Canon R5 HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPNIKON Z8 One burning question we had was where the Nikon Z8 fits in the Nikon lineup. Is it a mirrorless version of the Nikon D850 or a mini Nikon Z9? Well, it turns out that it's a bit of both. While the Nikon Z9 is a larger camera, the Nikon Z8 shares many similarities in terms of performance, autofocus, shooting speed, and image quality. The main difference lies in the battery life and the physical size. Underwater photographers will need to decide whether they’ll prioritize a bigger battery or a smaller camera body. Comparing the Nikon Z8 to the Nikon D850, the most noticeable difference is the viewfinder. The Nikon Z8 features an electronic viewfinder, while the Nikon D850 has an optical one. However, the Nikon Z8 offers a significant upgrade with its 20 frames per second burst shooting and improved autofocus speed and tracking. We were particularly impressed with the 3D autofocus tracking, which worked flawlessly and exceeded our expectations. Nikon Z8 | Nikon 8-15mm | 1/125 | ISO 200 | ƒ11Nikon Z8 | Nikon 8-15mm | 1/100 | ISO 200 | ƒ13The same image quality that we’ve come to love from Nikon flagship cameras is present on the Nikon Z8 - vibrant colors, wide dynamic range, and super sharp detail. In terms of other Nikon full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Nikon Z8 surpasses the Z7 series by a wide margin. We found the Nikon Z7 II to be a significant downgrade compared to the Nikon D850, because of the slower focus speed, slower subject acquisition, and lack of 3D autofocus tracking, but the Nikon Z8 represents a definite upgrade. It offers the same beloved 3D autofocus tracking, outstanding image quality, and superb dynamic range detail, making it a worthy successor to the Nikon D850. When it comes to image quality, the Nikon Z8 doesn't disappoint. It shares the same sensor as the Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z9, so you can expect the same outstanding image quality. The camera produces sharp, detailed, and vibrant images, making it a reliable choice for underwater photographers who prioritize top-tier photo quality. READ THE FULL Z8 REVIEWWatch our comprehensive video review for the Nikon Z8 camera.The Camera:Nikon Z8 Camera $3,999.95ORDER NOWThe Housings:Aquatica AZ8 HousingORDER NOWIkelite Nikon Z8 HousingORDER NOWIsotta Nikon Z8 HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-Z8 HousingORDER NOWSeacam Nikon Z8 HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPOTHER FULL FRAME MIRRORLESS CAMERAS Here’s a list of other full-frame mirrorless cameras. Contact one of our underwater imaging experts if you have any questions. Sony a9 II Sony a7 IV Sony a7CR Sony a7C II Sony ZV-E1 Canon EOS R3 Canon EOS R8 Canon EOS R6 II Canon EOS R Nikon Z9 Nikon Z7 II Nikon Z6 II Nikon Z50 Panasonic S1H Panasonic S5 IIX Panasonic S5 IIBACK TO TOPBEST ENTRY LEVEL MIRRORLESSOLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 IVThe Best Bang For Your Buck: Olympus E-M10 IV and ||Backscatter E-M10 IV Octo Housing.Key Info on the E-M10 IV:Our pick for Best Advanced Compact Camera, given its overall shooting versatility, controls, and lens options Features an advanced SLR-like control set on a compact camera body Built-in automatic TTL flash power with RC Mode compatible strobesNew control layout with dedicated dials and buttons for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and more. Excellent image quality, more affordable than similar rigs, and compact enough for travelers and novice shooters - is this the new Best Bang For Your Buck in underwater photography? That’s a 10-4, good buddy! Watch our complete video review of the Olympus E-M10 IV and Backscatter E-M10 IV Octo Housing.An Even Better Bang For Your Buck The last few years have seen a major rise in the popularity of compact mirrorless cameras for underwater photography. The Olympus E-PL10 was our pick for the Best Bang For Your Buck when paired with the limited edition Backscatter E-PL10 Octo Housing because of how well it balanced performance, ease of use, and value. That camera has now been officially discontinued, so it’s time for something even better to come along: enter the Olympus E-M10 IV and Octo Housing Package. Say hello to our new overall favorite compact mirrorless camera system for underwater photography: The Olympus E-M10 IV and Backscatter E-M10 IV Octo Housing.What’s upgraded with the E-M10 IV?Image quality improved from 16 to 20 megapixelsDedicated exposure controls: ISO, shutter speed, & apertureMore ergonomic shutter activationAutomatic TTL flash power with Backscatter Mini Flash 2 via LED flash trigger The Olympus E-M10 IV can still be used like a point-and-shoot camera with external ‘wet’ conversion lenses or used like an SLR with dedicated wide angle and macro lenses and ports. Keep it simple and versatile, or go for the best image quality possible – the choice is up to you. The camera and housing system includes everything you need to start shooting straight out of the box. The interchangeable ports and lenses make it easy to upgrade and configure your rig for any type of shot - from ultra wide angle down to super tight macro. The integrated LED flash trigger features automatic TTL flash power and High Speed Sync when used with Backscatter Mini Flash 2 making good lighting results easier to pull off and better looking than ever. At $799.99 for the camera with lens and $699.00 for the housing, it’s easily the best bang for your buck in underwater photography - not to mention one of the coolest looking rigs around thanks to the custom ‘Octo’ tentacle print (a Backscatter limited edition). Resolution Boosted to 20 Megapixels, Excellent Image Quality The Olympus E-M10 IV gets a healthy resolution boost over the Olympus E-PL10 from 16 to 20 megapixels, producing an image that has satisfyingly sharp image detail. High-key highlights don’t look blown out, and dark shadows aren’t noisy or grainy. Color saturation is vibrant and packs plenty of pop. Whether shooting backlit sunballs or black-background macro, the results across the board were excellent and comparable to current-gen Micro Four Thirds sensor cameras, including the flagship OM System OM-1. When compared to the Olympus TG-6, the larger sensor of the Olympus E-M10 IV creates much sharper image detail, better dynamic range, and lower noise in low-light situations. Given the relatively minor size increase of the Olympus E-M10 IV body, the user gets all the benefits of a larger sensor, and higher-end camera without significantly adding to the weight or size of the underwater rig. Wide angle image results have great dynamic range detail and vibrant colors.Olympus E-M10 IV | Olympus 8mm Lens | 1/60 | ISO 200 | ƒ11Macro results maintain dark backgrounds and sharp details on tiny subjects.Olympus E-M10 IV | Olympus 60mm Lens | 1/250 | ISO 200 | ƒ11CONCLUSION The Olympus E-M10 IV and Backscatter E-M10 IV Octo Housing are the latest “best bang for your buck” in underwater photography. Together they can be operated as easily as a compact camera by utilizing wet-mount conversion lenses. Alternatively, the system can be set with dedicated lenses and ports for either wide or macro just like an SLR, but at a mere fraction of the overall SLR system price, Starting at $799.99 for the camera and lens, and $699.00 housing and included accessories you need to start diving with it right away. The image quality produced by the camera looks at least as good as any other current Micro Four Thirds sensor camera, with sharp detail, vibrant colors, and great dynamic range detail. Olympus E-M10 IV | Olympus 8mm Lens | 1/200 | ISO 400 | ƒ13 This rig is both an ideal fit for new underwater shooters seeking their first rig, or as an upgrade for someone who desires the next step up on the performance scale from an Olympus TG-6 or similar non-interchangeable lens camera. The custom tentacled graphics of the Limited Edition Backscatter E-M10 IV Octo Housing are sure to turn heads and get some cool points, as well as serve as an easy way to pick your rig out of a crowded camera table. This is our favorite, most recommended system for striking an ideal balance between affordability, high-end performance, and simple ease of operation. ProsSignificantly upgraded 20 megapixel image quality over E-PL10, excellent photo resultsBuilt-in automatic TTL flash power with RC Mode compatible strobesHigh Speed Sync compatible with Mini Flash 2 for unlimited exposure rangeVacuum and leak detection built-in for peace of mind before, during, and after diveNew control layout with dedicated dials and buttons for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and more.ConsNew Custom White Balance can only be captured in photo modeNo dedicated viewfinder support, though LCD screen viewfinder accessories are availableRead the full E-M10 IV ReviewOlympus E-M10 IV Camera Body $699.99ORDER NOWOlympus E-M10 IV Camera and 14-42mm EZ Lens $799.99ORDER NOWBackscatter E-M10 IV Octo Underwater Housing $699.00ORDER NOWBACK TO TOPBEST MIRRORLESS FOR UPGRADING FROM A COMPACT CAMERA: RUNNERS UPOM SYSTEM OM-1 The OM System OM-1 camera is the latest top-of-the-line flagship Micro 4/3 camera from OM System, formerly Olympus. We took the new OM System OM-1 mirrorless camera underwater to the Digital Shootout in Bonaire for a complete review and performance test. With crazy specs of shooting 50 frames per second in RAW, a new autofocus system, and 4K60p video, can this camera deliver or even outgun the full-frame big boy cameras? In short, it’s a surprisingly mixed answer. OM System OM-1 Underwater Camera ReviewRead the full OM-1 ReviewThe Camera:OM System OM-1 Camera $2,199.99ORDER NOWThe Housings:AOI UH-OM1 HousingORDER NOWIkelite OM-1 HousingORDER NOWIsotta OM-1 HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-OM1 HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPSONY α6700 The Sony a6700 is the flagship model of the 6000 series of mirrorless cameras from Sony. The 6000 series has a larger sensor than the Micro 4/3 size from Olympus and Panasonic but still smaller than full-frame. This makes image quality top-notch, on par with that of a Nikon D500 cropped sensor DSLR. However, there are some limitations with this camera, with two of the biggest being related to flash. The internal flash is TTL only, with no manual option. This results in some really slow shooting waiting for the camera’s internal flash to recycle when using it to trigger an underwater strobe. This can be overcome with some compatible housing models by either using a flash trigger or a hardwired electrical sync cord circuit. The second flash issue is the relatively slow flash sync speed of the shutter at 1/160. That means one cannot use a shutter speed faster than 1/160 if using a flash which is quite limiting in high ambient light conditions such as sunballs or shallow reefs with bright sun. All other cameras in this review have a flash sync speed of at least 1/250. READ THE FULL REVIEWThe Camera & Housing:Sony a6700Camera $1,399.99ORDER NOWIkelite Sony a6700 HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-A6700 HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPOTHER OPTIONSOther Mirrorless for Upgrading From a Compact Camera Here’s a list of other entry-level mirrorless cameras. Contact one of our underwater imaging experts if you have any questions. OM System OM-5 Sony a6600 Sony a6400 Nikon Z 50 Canon EOS R7 Canon EOS R10 Canon EOS R50 Canon EOS R100BACK TO TOPBEST MIRRORLESS FOR VIDEOSONY α7S IIIA Mirrorless Camera Tailor-Made for Video The Sony a7S III camera looks and feels similar to other cameras in the a7 series, but under the hood, it is dramatically different. This camera was made for video shooters. The camera allows for shooting up to 4K 120p at 280mbps with 10-bit color in a 4:2:2 color space with no practical limitations for an underwater shooter as far as time limits or heat concerns. The lower resolution 12MP sensor won’t turn heads for photo shooters, though a 12MP image is great for social media and online use, and can scale up to a moderate size for printing. The excellent low light performance and video specs are what sets this camera apart. This macro demo reel was shot on location at Lembeh Resort by Backscatter Photo Pro James Emery with the Backscatter Macro Wide 4300, Backscatter Optical Snoot OS-1, Backscatter Color Filter System, and Sony a7S III Mirrorless Camera.White Balance Massively Improved—Finally On Par With Canon In the past, the weakest link in the Sony a7S series of cameras was the underwater white balance performance. Every other spec and feature of the camera was fantastic. However, none of that matters if the color isn't right, but this time Sony got the color right. Taking a manual white balance underwater in wide angle ambient light only conditions is the true test of any camera’s worth for use underwater. We tested underwater manual white balance in various conditions and depths and are very pleased to report that even in excess of 70 feet, the color still looks great. We see none of the magenta water that would creep in at about 45-50 feet with the Sony a7R IV. With 4 white balance banks and an easy to execute procedure, this camera is one of the top picks for all-around video use. We’re very pleased with the ambient light wide angle manual white balancing of the Sony a7S III. Even at depths exceeding 70 feet, the colors look fantastic. Although the clip at 95 feet doesn’t show a lot of color, the main thing to look at these extreme ambient light depths is that the water stays true to color. Previous Sony cameras and other poor performing custom white balance cameras typically render the water a magenta color, which is near impossible to fix in post. This is a major upgrade and makes the Sony a7S III a truly viable underwater video camera.Best Choice for a Mirrorless Video Camera Sony clearly chose to make an all-out video camera with the Sony a7S III. The video specs of shooting up to 4K 120p with a lower resolution, faster readout, low noise, high dynamic range sensor on paper make this a great choice for a video camera. But in real-world performance, Sony has always fallen short, sometimes really short in earlier models, of being able to execute the most important task of a manual white balance underwater for wide angle ambient light scenes. As we have said many times before, a camera can have all the best specs in the world, but if the color is crap, nothing else matters. And now that problem is solved. Being able to capture 4K 120p at 280mbps with 10-bit color and a 4:2:2 color space in such a small package, and on top of that to an internal card, makes this a great run and gun camera for shooters who want top pro-level image quality, but want a relatively small package. In the past specs like this required a large external recorder or a much larger cinema camera. While it’s not necessary to have an external recorder some folks will still like to have an external monitor. Even without an external monitor, the camera's screen and super hi resolution EVF are all that’s needed to get in the water and start shooting. The quality of the footage in 4K will rival that coming from other 4K 60p full-frame capable cameras. While the Sony a7S III lacks being able to shoot 5.5K like the Canon 1DX III, 6K like the Panasonic S1H, or even the 8K of the Canon EOS R5, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What everyone wants is a 4K 60p timeline with the ability to shoot 4K 120p and slow it down. There’s no overheating issues like the nearest competitor to this camera, the Canon EOS R5 has in 8K or 4K 120p. If you already own Canon glass, the Sigma MC-11 mount converter allows you to use Canon lenses on the Sony body if one was so inclined. The next time we need to shoot some video, the Sony a7S III is at the top of our list for its small size, killer video specs, and excellent ambient light white balance underwater. ProsFinally, an underwater white balance Sony can be proud ofTop level 4K 120p 4:2:2 10 bit color, no external recorder neededExcellent low noise performanceGreat dynamic rangeSame great Autofocus for stills as the Sony a7R IVNothing holding this camera back from being someone’s top choice for an underwater video rigCons12MP resolution is a great sensor for video, but not enough pixels to be a true photo cameraBetter off to lock focus in movie mode due to constant AF updatesREAD THE FULL REVIEWThe Camera:Sony a7S III Camera $3,499.99ORDER NOWThe Housings:Aquatica Sony a7S III HousingORDER NOWIkelite Sony a1 and a7S III HousingORDER NOWIsotta Sony a7S III HousingORDER NOWNauticam NA-a1 HosuingORDER NOWNauticam NA-A7SIII HosuingORDER NOWSeacam Sony a7S III HousingORDER NOWBACK TO TOPBEST MIRRORLESS FOR VIDEO: RUNNER UPCANON EOS R5 C Canon offers underwater photographers a choice between two outstanding full-frame mirrorless cameras: the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R5 C. Although these cameras share a similar name and appearance, their underwater shooting experiences differ significantly. The Canon EOS R5 excels in photography but disappointed advanced video shooters due to overheating issues. The Canon EOS R5 C addresses this problem by incorporating vents and a cooling fan, ensuring extended recording without limitations from overheating. This camera boasts Waveform and Vectorscope monitors, dual base ISO, and extends 8k RAW to support 50 or 60p frame rates (60p requiring an external power supply). Nauticam has anticipated this need and designed the housing to accommodate a USB power bank. However, it's important to note that the Canon EOS R5 C is still a modified version of the R5 and lacks features in dedicated cinema cameras, such as a built-in ND filter, full-size HDMI port, and various mounting options. Additionally, it does not have the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) present in the Canon EOS R5. Despite feeling more like a standard EOS body optimized for video, the Canon EOS R5 C provides exceptional video capabilities at a relatively affordable price in the professional video market, making it significantly cheaper than the Sony a1. If you were drawn to the Canon EOS R5 for its video quality but struggled with its limitations, the Canon EOS R5 C is the ideal camera for your needs. READ THE FULL REVIEWCanon EOS R5 C Underwater Sample Footage by Joel Penner | Bonaire Canon EOS R5 C Camera $4,799.00ORDER NOWNauticam NA-R5C HousingORDER NOWCONCLUSION We hope you have enjoyed this in-depth survey of the underwater mirrorless 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. WHY BUY FROM BACKSCATTER?Free lifetime tech support with every purchase. We will beat any advertised price. 20+ years of in-house warranty service and repair. Free shipping to USA and Canada and low-cost international shipping.Learn more!BACK TO TOPRelated PostsOM System TG-7 Underwater Camera Review Get ready to embark on new underwater adventures with the next generation of the world's most beloved camera for underwater photography. Read More Ikelite DS230 & DS232 Underwater Strobe Review The Ikelite DS230 and Ikelite DS232 strobes stand as Ikelite’s latest flagship offerings. Both models boast identical flash features and characteristics, with the only discernible difference being a b... 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This optical grade glass wide conversion lens will dramatically increase the sharpnes... Read More ARTICLE KEYWORDS: Best,Underwater,Mirrorless,Cameras,2021,Housing,Case,Review,Buying,Buyer's,Guide,2020,Sony,Canon,Nikon,Olympus,Panasonic,Fuji,Full Frame,MIL,Micro,Four Thirds,4/3