Waterproof Cameras

We received the below email from Rod, who was happy for us to share it with the CHOICE Community. Read the CHOICE digital camera guide, or if you have any experiences you would like to share, post them below and we’ll pass them on to Rod.

I’m a long time choice subscriber, and I’ve now had 2 different ‘waterproof’ compact cameras fail on me on holidays involving snorkeling, and talking with friends and acquaintances I think this is happening so frequently with these cameras sold as ‘waterproof to 10 meters’ or similar that someone needs to look in to it.

In both instances, I have been pedantic about checking the seals are clean and the locking mechanism engaged. The first camera was a Panasonic DMC FT5GN, the second one was a Nikon Coolpix S33 - brought because it was cheap if it was going to fail too!

Talking with friends I learnt of 2 other instances of the Panasonic model failing.

In Panasonic’s case - replaced under warranty, but now I’m not game to snorkel with it - Nikon dried out over a week in rice and is working OK again.

I would hope someone could find out how often these ‘waterproof’ cameras are leaking when used according to instructions - replacement under warranty or return to function after a week of drying doesn’t solve the ‘can’t take photos on special trip’ problem.

I suspect they are not nearly well enough waterproofed and should not be judged ‘fit for purpose’ - I’d be happy if some agitation saw re-design with more robust seals that really worked.

Keen to hear if this is something you can find out more about.

Rod W

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I’ve always used Olympus for tough/underwater cameras and I’ve never had any problems with them.

Currently have an Olympus Tough TG-3 (which has been superseeded by the TG-4). It’s outstanding and the microscope feature is pretty cool

  • Very wide zoom lens
  • Very bight lens (underwater is much darker generally)
  • Double locking waterproof doors
  • Great photos
  • Ready to shoot almost instantly from powering it on

I always make sure to rinse the (locked!) camera under fresh water after it is used in the ocean. I’ll also take a few shots and turn it on/off. Not a huge underwater photographer, but I like to have the flexibility and I like a tougher camera that I don’t have to be so delicate with.


I prefer my feet to be on dry land, so this isn’t one I know much about - but I saw that @boblorel is a photographer! Bob, do you have any experience with underwater cameras?

Afraid not … and I should put “Amateur” in front of photographer in my case! 8*)
I haven’t done any underwater work, nor for that matter am I likely to given the rare times I venture in. Sorry about that.

I’d be interested to read people’s GoPro experiences as well if anyone on here has one. I’ve thought about buying one for a while now but not sure whether it is worth it (over a waterproof digi camera).

I already have a DSLR but want something a bit smaller for when I can’t be bothered to take out a full kit or the weather is terrible and it isn’t worth it.

No need to apologise! Whether your professional or a hobbyist - I saw you were passionate about photography, so I thought I’d venture to ask! :slight_smile:

I also don’t venture near water often, so I completely understand! :slight_smile:

A friend recently bought a Nikon AW1 and he is very happy with it. And my daughter has a GoPro. Now that she got used to it she has a lot of fun with videoing in and out of water but not so much for stills photography.
I bought a quality housing for my Sony mirrorless but it was stressful worrying about leakage (though didn’t leak) and I had trouble focusing. So wouldn’t recommend that.

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I too have had 2 panasonic fail on me , the last one becoming damaged the first time it went in the water (my travel insurance paid for it).
Now have Olympus tough stylus 4, which i am actually scared to take in the water!

I also have an Olympus Tough TG-3 and have never had any problems with it. It’s been snorkelling, into the surf and used in chlorinated pools and it’s never had a leak. It’s only used to take happy snaps and I’d say it’s never been taken deeper than 3 or 4 metres. And we certainly haven’t taken nearly as good care of it as @southerton - at best it gets a quick dry off with a towel before thrown in the beach bag :smile:

I’ve used three ‘waterproof’ submersible cameras over the years - a Minolta, a Kodak (remember them !), and a Sanyo. The first two never suffered from leakage, but the Sanyo has issues with its microphone even when you shake all of the water out of it.

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