Updated September - 2018
This is the quick and easy best snorkeling cameras 2018 buying guide. It is organized by both price range and camera type. You can also see our reviews and thoughts on many other cameras in each type category at the link below each camera on this page.
We chose these cameras based on what is currently available in the marketplace, our experience using some of them on many snorkeling trips, and opinions and sample pictures from the large snorkeling community who follows this website. You really can't go wrong with any of these options for the best snorkeling cameras.
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5
One of the best snorkeling cameras is the Olympus TG-5, which is waterproof without needing a separate housing. It is the best choice for the majority of snorkelers. It's affordable, compact and takes great pictures. Really the only downside to the TG-5 is that it is less durable (more likely to flood), than a more expensive compact camera with a separate housing, and the image quality is slightly lower.
The Olympus TG-5 (directly from Olympus or on Amazon) continues this immensely popular camera series following the TG-4, and they have improved what was already the best camera of its type in a number of great ways. The TG-5 now has a new 12mp sensor, capable of high ISO of 12,800, and a new image processor borrowed from the Olympus professional OM-D cameras. It also adds 4K video, 20 frames per second, a new control dial on top, a larger zoom lever, dual-pane cover glass to help avoid fogging, better GPS, and many other improvements.
It retains the fast F2.0 lens, 25-100mm, a great range for snorkeling. It also has fast focusing speeds. Both make it easier to stop fish motion and get sharper pictures. And it still has dual image stabilization, a compass, manometer (water depth), and four different underwater white balance modes.
This camera is also unique because of all the accessory lenses, cases and flashes available for it.
From our experience, compact cameras with housings are the best snorkeling cameras. They are what we use, and give you an ideal blend of small size, excellent picture quality, and manual controls. But the price is nearly double for this type of camera, and we mostly recommend them for people very interested in snorkeling photography.
Canon G7X II - with Canon WP-DC55 Housing
The G7X II is the newer, better version of what we currently use, and it is a wonderful snorkeling camera. It has a big 1" sensor, which is three times the size of most compact camera sensors, which lets you crop into a picture and still retain details. The Canon housing for this camera is the WP-DC55, and we have found it to be a good match, although there are many other options by other companies.
This camera has a fast F1.8-2.8 lens, with a zoom range of 24-100mm, and image stabilization. It shoots 1080p/60fps HD video. The camera has full manual controls and front and rear control rings. And it has RAW picture formatting.
It focuses fast, has little to no shutter delay, and has a variety of options for adjusting white balance color. We love it.
You already own a great camera on your iPhone. With a ProShot case you can safely take your iPhone snorkeling, at a bargain price. ProShot is a true waterproof housing that is suitable for snorkeling. They include a software app to make the most use of your iPhone underwater.
If you shoot mostly video, and don't mind a super wide angle fixed lens (no zoom), then the fully automatic new GoPro Hero6 is a super small camera that is waterproof without a housing (although we still recommend you get a housing for it). Having a very small camera when snorkeling can be useful, both for packing in your luggage, and for just having less stuff to deal with in the water.