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While many cell phone cameras feature high megapixel counts, standalone cameras offer better picture quality. Even a small zoom greatly degrades image quality in a cell phone camera. Although DSLR cameras deliver maximum quality and support multiple lenses, certain scenarios are better suited to point and shoot cameras. Despite the availability of weatherized DLSR cameras, indestructible cameras offer increased protection.
Whether it’s for an extreme climate or general use with lots of abuse, a go-anywhere rugged camera can be a great investment. Check out the best rugged and waterproof cameras of 2017.
1. Fuji FinePix XP90
At just over $100, the Fuji FinePix XP90 is one of the most affordable rugged and waterproof cameras available. This indestructible digital camera packs in 16 MP. For its ISO settings, you’ll find 100 to 6400 settings. There’s built-in Wi-Fi. To achieve high image quality, the XP90 rocks image stabilization, 10 frames per second (FPS) continuous shooting, and face detection. In addition to pictures, the FinePix XP90 sports video with a maximum resolution of 1080p.
But there’s no built-in viewfinder. The FinePix XP90 also lacks raw shooting. While you do benefit from Wi-Fi, don’t expect many premium features like a touchscreen or Bluetooth. There’s no manual focus or manual exposure either. Moreover, EphotoZine comments that battery life is subpar. For small point-and-shoot cameras, it’s decidedly below standard. Nevertheless, at slightly over the $100 price point, the FinePix XP90 is a fantastic rugged and waterproof digital camera. Fast shooting, great build quality, and 1080p video make the XP90 an exceptional camera for the money.
- Fast continuous shooting
- Wi-Fi standard
- 16 MP
- Good color reproduction
- Excellent value
- Waterproof to 15 meters
- Low battery life
- No viewfinder
The Panasonic DMC-TS30R is simply a dependable, portable, digital camera. This indestructible digital camera is IPX8 rated. Therefore it’s suitable for underwater submersion for up to 60 minutes at eight meters. In its testing, PC World found that 90 minutes under 20cm of water allowed a bit of water into the SD card compartment.
However, the camera remained functional and unharmed. Further, PC World discovered lens placement awkward and conducive to accidental finger pictures. Quality isn’t fantastic with low clarity and uneven brightness. Yet at a reasonable price and with excellent construction, the Lumix DMC-TS30R is a great choice as an inexpensive, durable camera.
- IPX8 rated
- Awkward lens placement
- Average quality
When it comes to cameras, Nikon remains at the forefront along with the likes of Canon and Pentax. Nikon Coolpix AW130 shock and waterproof camera boasts a slew of premium features. You’ll find that it’s shockproof, freezeproof, and waterproof. There are NFC and Wi-Fi built in. Along with its 16 MP camera, the Coolpix AW130 shoots full 1080p HD video. Among its best features, the AW130 sports five-axis hybrid vibration reduction.
In their review, Tom’s Guide praised the Coolpix for its great image quality, GPS, Wi-Fi, and microUSB port for both data and charging. However, Tom’s Guide admitted that the user interface for menu navigation is cumbersome. Moreover, its door latch is a turn dial. Although this adds security for underwater shooting, it’s rather unwieldy to remove. Attractive pricing and stellar quality even in low light make the AW130 an awesome choice for a rugged camera.
- 16 MP
- Secure door latch
- Door latch a bit difficult to remove and put on
- No Raw support
- Clunky menu navigation
Since this article was published, Nikon has released a new version of the camera, the Nikon Coolpix W300.
4. Olympus TG-4
The Olympus TG-4 16 MP digital camera ranks as one of the best rugged and waterproof digital cameras available. As outfitted, the TG-4 is waterproof to 50 feet. Its outer shell protects against drops, crushing, dust, and freezing temperatures. For photo performance, the Olympus TG-4 benefits from a wide aperture f/2 lens. There a speedy five FPS burst mode and raw shooting support. Plus, you’ll find standard features like Wi-Fi and GPS built-in. You’ll also find accessories like an LED light guide.
PC Mag praised the Olympus TG-4 for its speedy shooting and range of underwater and on land uses. As PC Mag states, there’s a major onus on the speed of starting, focusing, and shooting. But as the ISO increases so does the noise. With the TG-4, significant quality degradation occurred as a mere ISO 800. Still, shooting in Raw eschews noise reduction. There’s no external battery charger, so to charge, you’ll need to use the AC adapter. Moreover, a proprietary connector means no microUSB support. Still, with its balance of rugged capabilities, image quality, and incredible speed, the Olympus TG-4 is a fantastic rugged camera. As an alternative, you may consider the 16 MP Pentax WG-3. Like the TG-4 it includes GPS, a wide aperture, and a fast lens.
- Speedy shooting and focusing
- Raw support
- Waterproof to 50 feet
- Noisy on higher ISO
- No external battery charger
Since this article was published, Olympus has released a new version of the camera, the Olympus TG-5.
The SeaLife Micro 2.0 ranks as the most unique looking rugged and waterproof cameras. It reminds me of those disposable underwater cameras so prevalent in the 90s with their aquamarine housing. The SasLife opts or a black with red accents colorway and form factor that evokes a nautical vibe. It’s waterproof to 200 feet and includes Wi-Fi. In addition to its photos, the SeaLife 2.0 captures 1080p video at 60 frames per second.
Unfortunately, there’s substantial shutter lag as PC Mag discovered. Additionally, it’s a fixed lens. Plus, the lens is a fisheye which is definitely polarizing. Oddly considering its position as a primarily diving camera, the SeaLife 2.0 lacks a flash. If you plan to use it diving, you’ll certainly want an external light. Shutter lag also plagues the Micro with about a 4.1-second cold boot. But its environmental sealing, fantastic waterproofing, and sturdy build quality make the SeaLife is arguably the best diving camera available.
- Completely sealed
- 32 GB
- 16 MP
- 1080p at 60 FPS
- Waterproof to 200 feet
- No flash
- Fisheye only
6. Nikon 1 AW1
The Nikon 1 AW1 differs from most rugged and waterproof cameras in one big way: it’s not a point-and-shoot camera. Instead, the AW1 is an interchangeable lens camera (or a mirrorless) that’s waterproof to 49 feet. With its enhanced lenses, you’ll find great ISO performance, even with high ISO shooting. There are fast shooting and focus. In addition, its video comes with 1080i 60 FPS support. Arguably the best feature its compatibility with all Nikon 1 lenses.
But the AW1 is limited to 14 MP. Sure, the lenses lend high quality, but for the price, you can get a great DSLR. Controls as PC Mag notes aren’t for seasoned photographers. The electronic shutter does slow down the shutter sync speed. And while the AW1 is Wi-Fi compatible, it still necessitates an adapter. If you don’t necessarily need a rugged camera, consider the Pentax K-70. The K-70 is weather sealed and withstands mild to extreme conditions. However, unlike the AW1, it’s not for underwater use. The AW1 is a great camera and one of the best on this list. But for the price, you can snag an entry-level to mid-range DSLR and a decent rugged point and shoot.
- Waterproof to 49 feet
- Good high ISO shooting
- Fast burst shooting
- Quick focus
- Interchangeable lenses
- Not suited to advanced photographers
- Shutter limit precludes sync speed
- No built-in Wi-Fi
- Only two lenses are waterproof
The Best Rugged and Waterproof Cameras in 2017
There are loads of rugged and waterproof cameras to pick from. Even most mid-range indestructible cameras clock in at reasonable price points. While you may have a fantastic phone camera or DSLR, a rugged camera alleviates water damage to a pricier device like a Galaxy S8 or high-end DSLR. Of course, if you want to limit your devices, you could always snag a rugged phone like the CAT B15 Ultra or Blackview BV7000.
Specific use however ultimately determines which rugged and waterproof camera is best. If you value interchangeable lenses, the Nikon 1 AW1 is your best bet. Divers may appreciate the SeaLife 2.0 though its fisheye lens isn’t for everyone. The TG-4 is the best balanced with its mix of rugged capabilities and exceptional quality. I’ll also plug the Pentax WG-3 as a runner-up. While images are a bit noisy and it’s not the fastest shooter, Pentax is an underappreciated camera manufacturer offering fantastic price-to-performance ratios. If you’re looking for a rugged video camera, learn whether GoPro or Action Camera is better.
Which rugged and waterproof digital cameras do you recommend and where are you using them?