Updated - Jaunary 2020
This is the quick and easy best snorkeling cameras 2020 buying guide. You can also see our reviews and thoughts on many other similar cameras through links 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.
Note: Our suggestions come from hands-on experience. We hope you find them helpful. You can help us if you purchase from the links below. We may make a small commission, from Amazon or other companies, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-6
One of the best snorkeling cameras is the Olympus TG-6 (also available on Olympus.com here). It is
waterproof without needing a separate housing. Although getting the waterproof housing for it may be a good idea, depending on your budget.
It seems the best fit for the needs of the majority of snorkelers. It's affordable, compact and takes great pictures, and is the king of easy macro shots. Really the only downside to the TG-6 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-6 continues this immensely popular camera series following the TG-5, and
they have improved what was already the best camera of its type in a
number of great ways. The TG-6 is physically identical to the TG-5, but now has a higher resolution LCD screen. The sensor is also the same as the TG-5, at 12MP, with 4K video. It has a new anti-reflective coating
around the sensor. Some TG-5 users reported a light flair in pictures
under certain conditions. Hopefully that new coating solves it. What has changed are a lot of new setting options, including some new underwater white balance quick settings for different depths. If you shoot macro, and you are in Aperture Mode you can now use the quick menu to set to macro focus modes, without turning the dial to microscope mode. And there is a way to control aperture that allows for more depth of field in macro mode. Also you can set the camera to 4K and 1080P with the quick menu, without needing to go to movie mode, even in macro mode. There is a new minimum shutter speed option.
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.
You can solve the risk of the TG-6 flooding with the Olympus PT-059 housing (available on Olympus.com here). Besides making the TG-6 virtually bombproof, it makes this small camera easier to hold and control with bigger buttons. Also, the housing gives you access to more underwater accessories, like a wide angle lens. It includes a lens cap (great feature) and a screen sun shade.
The camera also has a number of cool accessories available for it when not in use with a housing.
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. The price is higher for this type of setup, but the benefits are worth it for the image quality.
True, the G7X II lost the ability to do a one button custom white balance setting that our older cameras have. So if you dive down fairly deep to take pictures a lot doing a custom white balance is more challenging. But we almost never use that function on our cameras any more because the auto underwater white balance works so good, and that is true on the new version as well.
In addition to excellent underwater colors, the Canon G7X II has a big 1" sensor so that you get lots of details even when you crop your image closer. It has a fast F1.8 to F2.8 lens, that zooms from 24mm to 100mm.
There are many underwater housings available for this camera. We use the Canon housing (here on B&H). But for a little more money would probably use the Fantasea housing now (here on B&H). B&H has a good priced kit combining the Canon G7X II camera and Fantasea housing here.
If you shoot mostly video, and don't mind a super wide angle fixed lens (no zoom), then the fully automatic new GoPro Hero7 Black (available direct at GoPro.com here), is a super small camera that is waterproof without a housing. 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.
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.