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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best Underwater / Beach Cameras

By: Wendy Sheehan Donnell

Don't fear the water. These tough, waterproof digital cameras are built to capture your summer adventures.

Technology and water don't mix. Delicate circuitry doesn't like to get wet, but it's summer and photo ops abound. If you want to capture photos or video of your outdoor adventures, a rugged, waterproof digital camera could be for you.

A fairly new product category, many point-and-shoot camera manufacturers are only on their first or second waterproof, ruggedized model. While they continue to get better with each iteration, you'll often have to pay more and make some sacrifices for a camera you can swim with. Our Editors Choice, the practically bulletproof Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2, for example, is a leaps-and-bounds improvement over its predecessor, last year's DMC-TS1, which had image-quality issues and problems with its waterproof casing. This year's model captures top-notch still images and HD video, but it'll cost you $400.

Rugged, waterproof cameras can also be bulky. Canon's first entrant in this category, the $300 PowerShot D10, takes beautiful pictures, but it's almost twice as thick as most of its competitors. The $230 Casio Exilim G EX-G1, on the other hand, is the slimmest waterproof camera we've seen, but it suffers in the image-quality department.

All of the models here can capture still images and video in up to 10 feet of water. Some of them, like the PowerShot D10 and the Lumix TS2 can go as deep as 33 feet below, so you can even scuba dive with them. And they're rugged. The $400 Olympus Stylus Tough-8010, for one, can survive drops of up to 6.6 feet and withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, innovative controls let you operate the camera by tapping on its sides while you're wearing gloves, so the Tough-8010 is a good choice if you want to shoot winter outdoor sports too.

Finally, If you're more focused on video than still images, the $150 Kodak Playsport Video Camera records up to full 1080p HD video in up to 10 feet of water. You can then easily upload your footage right to YouTube or Facebook without having to convert it. The pocket-size Playsport also grabs 5-megapixel stills.

If you're ready to take the plunge with your camera, check out our reviews (linked below) or compare these models side by side.

Cameras and Camcorders Featured in this Roundup:

Canon PowerShot D10

$299.99 current list
Canon's cute and curvy PowerShot D10 is waterproof, freeze-proof, and shock-proof, and it pumps out great-looking images, but if you're looking for a slim camera, this isn't it.

Casio Exilim G EX-G1

$229.99 list
The Casio Exilim G EX-G1 offers a ruggedized build in a surprisingly slim, compact body, but image quality isn't this shooter's strong suit.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

$179.95 list
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP may be the least-expensive underwater still camera you can find, but with poor image quality and a lackluster interface, you get what you pay for.

Kodak Playsport Video Camera

$149.95 direct
The $150 Kodak Playsport Video Camera fits in your pocket, captures 1080p footage and 5-megapixel still images—and you can take it in the pool.

Olympus Stylus Tough-8010

$399.99 list
With its tap-enabled interface, the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 is a good fit for those who want a top-of-the-line rugged build, HD video capture, and a camera that's easy to operate while using gloves.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

$399.99 list
With top-notch image quality and an unrivaled HD video capture experience, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 is one of the best ruggedized cameras you can buy.

Pentax Optio W80

$249.95 current list
The rugged and waterproof Pentax Optio W80 can shoot great pictures in bright conditions, but images captured at ISO 200 and above are noisier than average.