Best Waterproof and Rugged Cameras 2017

If you're the type that likes to capture and record all of your outdoor escapades, a new rugged camera is a good accessory. Not only are these cameras built to withstand shocks, drops and extreme temperatures, they don't have any trouble operating when it's wet out either. It’s worth checking what kind of rough treatment they can endure, though: some are fine with a splash of water at the beach, while others can handle shallow snorkel drives, or deep scuba dives into the briny depths.

At this time, the Olympus TG-5 ($450) and Nikon's Coolpix W300 ($385) are your best bets for an all-around adventuring, with the TG-5 providing increased ISO (12,800) and while the Coolpix AW300 adds built-in Bluetooth and a 3.2-inch LCD. Additionally, both models can capture 4K video.

While underwater housings are available for many cameras, there are a number of models that provide protection against the elements all on their own. These self-contained, amphibious cameras are easy to carry and take great photos in gentle environments, as well. But we've also included a small housed camera, with various mounting accessories for shooting POV (point of view) photo and video.

The successor to one of our former top picks (the TG-4), Olympus' new Tough TG-5 features a redesigned 12-MP sensor, f/2.0 lens, Olympus' latest TruPic VIII image processor and a 4X optical zoom. The TG-5 also sports what Olympus calls a Field Sensor System, which tracks your movement, temperature and location, so that you can see your stats later, or embed that info directly into your footage. And because this camera is part of Olympus' Tough line, you get some serious durability that includes water-resistance up to 50 feet, shock-resistance up to 7 feet, and operating temperatures that extend down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Olympus Tough TG-5 Owners Are Saying

Likes: Amazon customers liked the microscope mode, which lets you focus very close to objects. They also liked the sturdy build of the TG-5, yet it's still smaller and lighter than expected. Others were happy with the 4K video and GPS and found it great to take snorkeling. It was also easy to change settings underwater. There were some owners that pointed out that it was better in low light than its predecessor

Dislikes: Like many point-and-shoots, you can hear the sound of the lens while zooming into or out from a subject. Other owner cons included having issues with connecting and disconnecting with computer via a USB cable, and being disappointed with the built-in Wi-Fi.

After more than two years, Nikon has refreshed its waterproof and rugged camera line with the new Coolpix W300. This 16-megapixel camera has the same 100-foot water resistance as the previous model, the AW130, while increasing shock-resistance to withstand falls from heights of up to 7.9 feet.

The W300 can now also capture video at up to 4K at 30 fps, and will even let you shoot and save stills in the middle of recording a video. For active enthusiasts who want to keep tabs on their adventures, the W300 sports built-in a GPS, altimeter, depth gauge and point-of-interest mapping. And like all of Nikon's recent cameras, the W300 features the company's Snapbridge tech so you can connect your phone to your camera using NFC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for super simple photo sharing. The Coolpix W300 is available in yellow, black and orange.

What Nikon Coolpix W300 Owners Are Saying

Likes: Amazon customers were impressed with improvements to image and video stabilization as well as white balance and dynamic-range issues. Also, some noted the flash worked very well.

Dislikes: As with the Olympus Tough TG-5, some noted they were disappointed with the camera's built-in Wi-Fi. Complaints also include that the new Coolpix is a bit heavier and that Nikon eliminated the map feature.

If Olympus' and Nikon's cameras are too pricey for your budget, FujiFilm's FinePix XP120 may be more to your liking. It's waterproof to 65 feet, can withstand drops from about 6 feet, and can withstand temperature ranges from 14 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Its 16MP sensor and a 5X optical zoom lens that goes from 28 - 140mm (35mm equivalent). It can also shoot 1080p video, and a Cinemagraph Mode lets you take still images with moving elements.

What Fujifilm FinePix XP120 Owners Are Saying

Likes: The XP120 has a rating of four stars on Amazon. Several praised its images, with one writing "pictures are good quality, both underwater and above ground."

Dislikes: One owner said that the XP120's manual was tiny and not all that helpful, while others said the battery life was too short.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 has one of the best phone cameras on the market, and its Active counterpart lets you use it on your next hike or swimming trip with confidence. The Active is MIL-810-STD tested and packs a shatterproof display, meaning you can drop it face-first onto just about any surface without a problem. It can also survive being under up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes, complete with a dedicated shutter button for snapping a few underwater shots.

This rugged phone's 12-MP dual-pixel shooter captures rich and vibrant daytime photos, and its f/1.7 lens excels under low light. The S8 Active's fast autofocus is a great fit for action shots, and its 8-MP front camera packs its own flash for epic nighttime selfies. Complementing the phone's camera is Samsung's Activity Zone app, which includes a compass, barometer and flashlight button to make exploring easier.

Action sports and underwater photography haven't been the same since GoPro first introduced its tiny cameras in 2004. While a number of models are available, our favorite is the Hero 5 Black, with a 12-megapixel sensor for still shots and up to 4K video (at 30 fps) for motion capture. It also includes an impressive voice control system, which means you can control the camera by simply telling the camera to "start video recording" or "take a photo".

GoPro and third-party vendors offer a huge number of accessories, including touch-screen backs, external monitors, filters and multiple options for mounting the camera on just about anything you can imagine. Clamps and suction cup mounts are available for surfboards, cars, bicycles and more for recording POV videos, time-lapse videos and still images. It's easy to share images, thanks to the camera's built-in Wi-Fi and free app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone mobile devices.

More Camera Recommendations:
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Best Phone Cameras

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  • scotlepage2000
    I am going to buy an Olympus this time. Had TWO Nikon AW cameras and they BOTH stopped working relatively quickly.
  • oneofmetwo
    Lololol. The Olympus at the top of the page says it's only $15.39 on Amazon!! Amazing! But when you click on it you are brought to the page of a coloring book called "The Day the Crayons Came Home". Sad, very sad. :'-(
  • mariad10
    That is deceiving then.
  • natalymalcon88
    Thank you for the interesting information. I'll try to understand and use. So far, not everything is clear.