Best waterproof and tough cameras

About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Sometimes, your regular camera just isn't going to cut it. For the adventurous Cousteau-types, there's a camera to suit you.

Surf or snow?


(Credit: Panasonic)

Are you a water baby or a ski bunny? Most cameras on this list cover all the bases, from waterproofing through to freeze-proofing, but you should double-check before you buy. Also make sure to clarify the maximum depth that you can reach with the camera underwater before heading out to scuba or snorkel.

Another thing to keep in mind is how big the camera controls are. When wearing ski gloves you'll need a camera with sturdy and responsive buttons. There is also a "button-free" feature called action control (on the Nikon Coolpix AW100) or tap control (on some Olympus cameras) that lets you change shooting options without needing to remove your fingers from ski gloves. For slippery situations, a wrist strap is a must.

Read the manual

Wash 'n' cleeeean

(Credit: Olympus)

This is probably the most important advice that we can give you — read the manual! Often, if your camera runs into a spot of bother and you try to get it serviced, if you haven't followed the stringent guidelines to maintaining and cleaning your camera, you'll be out of luck. These models need to be treated with a lot more TLC (rather ironic, we know) than your average compact. After coming into contact with salt water, you need to wash the camera clean, removing all foreign objects like sand and dirt. Often, the manual will say that to maintain the camera's waterproof credentials, seals need to be replaced once a year. Some cameras may also only be rated at their maximum waterproof depth for a certain period of time, such as one hour.


Rugged cameras, by their nature, are slow beasts, so don't expect SLR-like speeds from them. You will need a bit of patience, particularly if you need to take lots of shots in quick succession using continuous shooting modes. The quickest at taking successive images on this list is the Sony Cyber-shot TX20.


If the prospect of forking out extra cash for yet another camera strikes fear into your heart, consider investing in a housing for your particular camera model. Manufacturers like Canon and Panasonic make plastic housings for some of the popular models, and there are plenty of after-market alternatives.

On this list, we have also included a couple of rugged camcorders that will suit action adventurers. If you need a little bit of inspiration to get you shooting with your new camera, why not take a look at our list of the best uses for extreme cameras.

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JairoC posted a comment   

I recently bought my waterproof camera and it was a complete disaster . I share my sad story because I don't wish this to happen to anyone.

I bought in Singapore a 10m underwater proof, dust proof, shockproof, etc.,Pentax Optio WG-1. It has been one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. After been ripped off by the dealer in Sim Lim Square, I found out that the “international warranty” they handed me was valid only in Singapore. And I learned that in Australia after trying the camera for the first time underwater and it broke down! BTW this was during my holidays in South East Asia so it also ruined the rest of my trip, I had to take pictures with my iphone.

I am very upset with the dealer because they scammed me since they knew I wasn't buying the camera if it didn't had an international warranty. This has completely disappointed me, adding on top of that the frustration of not been able to claim the warranty here in Australia.

Seems like the company's faulty products and the dealer's treacherous selling practices made the purchase my nightmare (by the way the dealer ripped me off with $900 in the camera and all its accessories ).

Note: If you ever buy a Pentax underwater camera, please be sure it’s the cheapest option, put it into water in front of the dealer before buying just to make sure it won’t brake immediately, and make sure that your warranty is international, believe me you’ll need it.


DavidH14 posted a comment   

How does the GPS function on these cameras work?


Lexy Savvides posted a reply   

It depends on each model, but generally the cameras with GPS included will append geotagged information to the photo in its EXIF data. This can then be extracted by most photo-viewing software, such as Picasa, to plot the location of the image on a map.


markol posted a comment   

Can't go past the GoPro for good images, great video in a rugged package that lets me take it 30m underwater one weekend and skiing the next.


ImreC posted a reply   

Yeh only thing with these cameras is that you can not preview what you are shooting,


Dunners posted a comment   

Thanks for the updated review :)


Big_Car_Killa posted a comment   

What about Pana's FT3?


Lexy Savvides posted a reply   

Read the disclaimer above - not fully reviewed yet :)


JakeM1 posted a reply   

i have the FT3, it is a good camera, i have had it for a month now and it is great quality with waterproof and shockproof while also taking great HD pictures and movies. I would suggest this camera to anyone
The Good:
HD pictures and HD videos
good zoom
great overall camera for people who love taking photos for parties or taking photos at the beach or underwater shots. and is also good at any other situation. there are alot of different modes to choose from which helps decide the picture settings while the intelligent auto does that for you and was great
The Bad:
the night photos havent come out the best though like the photos that i got at VIVID Sydney.
the camera may take a while to get into all the features, while im still figuig out the features myself.
i would rate it as my user rating a 9.6-9.8


ImreC posted a reply   

Versus the Sony DSC TX20 ..... i just hear that the TX20 you need to press a bit hardish on the touch screen, it worries me, I used to have a cell phone Sony Ericsson Satio and it was a resistive touch screen also, but it was the first ever for sony of that type, 12.1 megapxel and symbian os. they really stuffed it up with Symbian and also such a rubbish cpu of only 633 mhz . A phone for a super camera at that cpu power and a Symbian and also stupid sim card errors now and then, really?
Anyways back to the camera, not sure if Nikon AW100 or SOny DSC TX10/20 or even Sony DSC TX300v is the best to go ?

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