This is the quick and easy 2016 buying guide to the best snorkeling cameras currently available. I share your options from best to good to cheap and inexpensive, in a variety of types of cameras. The cameras below are our top choice snorkeling cameras of the different types, that I describe in much greater detail on their individual category pages. Click below each type to find more cameras in different price ranges.
It should help. Finding info on the best snorkeling cameras these days can be a pain because they keep coming out with new cameras almost every six months. So what people suggest in forums and on the web are often older models that are already gone, or their underwater housings are sold out (housings are now often made in short batches, since the companies don't plan on making the cameras for very long.)
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, reasonable cost, and good picture quality.
Canon G7X - with Canon WP-DC54 Housing
The G7X is what we currently use, and it is a wonderful snorkeling camera. It has a big 1" sensor, which is 3 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-DC54, 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, including the ability to program a button on the back for a one-button-push custom white balance setting.
These cameras are second best. They are made waterproof from the start. These are generally not as durable as compact cameras with a separate housing, but they are good candidates for the best snorkeling cameras.
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4
The version before the TG-4, the TG-3, was so popular that it sold out of production, because these are the best of the waterproof cameras. The TG-4 is identical, with some added features, like a RAW file capture, underwater HDR mode, and new scene modes.
It has a 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. The TG-4 also has a burst shooting mode up to 5 frames per second at full resolution and full 1080p HD video.
It is waterproof down to 50 feet and is crush, drop and freeze resistant. The TG-4 has good high ISO performance with its 16mp sensor, dual image stabilization, GPS, compass, manometer (water depth), and four different underwater white balance modes. Plus it has a 3" LED screen.
Ricoh took over Pentax and they are continuing the Pentax WG line with Ricoh WG-5 camera. It has a 16mp CMOS sensor, is waterproof to 45 feet, has a fast F2.0 25-100mm zoom lens, a 3" screen and 1080p HD video with a dedicated button.
A nice feature of this camera is that it has a button on the back to quickly bring up the white balance settings.
If you think that the best snorkeling cameras are small and lightweight, then you may want to consider a GoPro Hero4 Silver, or the new GoPro Hero5 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 very useful, both for packing in your luggage, and for just having less stuff to deal with in the water.