Waterproof Camera image quality compared

Canon PowerShot D20 - Image Quality

As you’d expect from a Canon PowerShot compact, the D20 delivers a good level of image quality. Colours are generally true to life, with a pleasing level of vibrancy. The lens also performs well, with very little chromatic aberration noted, even in challenging lighting conditions.

Canon PowerShot D20

The large buttons make using the D20 underwater particularly easy. The fast AF system helped, too, and exposures were good. Colours aren't as faithful underwater than on the very best on test, but the shots still look good.

Canon PowerShot D20 4

Noise control at higher ISO settings is also generally good. The D20 delivers its best results between ISO 100 and 800, although above that point images do begin to soften and vibrancy also suffers.

Fujifilm FinePix XP60 - Image Quality

Although most of the cameras on test coped admirably under water, the XP60 struggled most in this setting.

Fujifilm XP60

Images captured, even when utilising the model’s underwater setting, appeared much darker than the competition.

XP60 outdoors

This may in some part be due to the disappointing performance of the camera at higher ISO settings. As soon as you get past even the second lowest ISO setting of ISO 200, shots begin to suffer from noise reduction loss of detail and sharpness, and muted colours.

Nikon Coolpix AW110 - Image Quality

The AW110 is another camera to benefit from the manufacturer’s above-water compact technology. The combination of Coolpix technologies mean that images are generally evenly exposed in a variety of conditions, while colours also display a natural palette.

Nikon Coolpix AW110

Though our end result was decent, it took more shots to take a decent underwater shot on the AW110 than on rivals. You can't use the continuous shooting mode at the same time as the underwater mode, either, which is a tad limiting. Underwater colours and exposures are very faithful, though, and at 18 metres it goes three metres deeper than the next best.

Nikon Coolpix AW110 3

The AW110’s lens also performs well, with images appearing crisp and clear straight out of the camera. The ISO performance is generally in keeping with the better performers of the group, maintaining detail and sharpness up to ISO 800. Above that, images do begin to suffer from noise reduction although that’s not unique to the AW110.

Olympus Tough TG-2 - Image Quality

Not only does the Olympus TG-2 benefit from good all-round performance, including a rapid AF system, but image quality is equally impressive. It’s a real benefit to have the maximum aperture of f/2 at the wide-angle of the lens when it comes to shooting in low-light conditions, while even exposures are generally the order of the day.

Olmpus Tough TG-2 3

The TG-2's mode dial was stiff and tricky to use underwater, but once set to the right mode the TG-2 is a joy to use underwater. Colours are rich and the exposure excellent.

Nikon Coolpix AW110 3

The lens captures a pleasing level of sharpness. This sharpness does begin to fall off the higher you go through the ISO settings, namely above ISO 800, although this is more due to the high ISO noise reduction than anything to do with the camera’s lens.

Panasonic Lumix FT5 - Image Quality

If you’re looking for a reference point for the FT5’s image quality performance, it’s best that you look towards the Nikon Coolpix AW110 as it’s almost identical. Images straight out of the camera display a pleasing level of brightness, with a level of radiance surpasing any other in the test.

Panasonic Lumix FT5

Underwater, the FT5's shots were comfortably the brightest of those on test, but lacked the richness of the Olympus or Nikon.

Panasonic Lumix FT5 3

Outdoors, however, colours appear vibrant, while exposures are generally even. The FT5 is an admirable performer at higher ISO settings as well, rendering a good level of detail up to ISO 800. Beyond that detail does begin to suffer somewhat, although as mentioned previously that is par for the course with this group.

Pentax WG3 - Image Quality

Although the Pentax WG3 has some excellent design features and handles particularly well, we can’t be as effusive about its photos.

Pentax WG-3 2

Shots are disappointingly murky both above and below the water, pointing towards potential inconsistencies with the camera’s metering system.

Pentax WG-3 1

It’s not all bad news however, as the WG3’s sensor resolves an impressive level of detail, in keeping with the best of the cameras on test. It also manages ISO noise well throughout the scale, although – like the rest of the cameras on test – it begins to fall off at ISO 800


July 5, 2013, 5:54 pm

Confused: Same article, same model, same photos, similar text and same result was published in May at


by Mike Topham.

Now it's published here, two months later by Paul Nuttall.

What's going on?

Emil Nyström

July 6, 2013, 7:27 pm

I dont think its so confusing, petapixel buys finished articles all the time. Like EVERY other media out there.


July 6, 2013, 8:21 pm

What Digital Camera is a sister title of ours at IPC Media. Their article was re-written for our site.


July 6, 2013, 11:57 pm

I'd hope the models are the same if the pictures are the same.

Michael Andrew Broughton

July 7, 2013, 5:44 am

there's no way they had the white balance set properly on the pentax for the underwater shot.

Scott M.

July 8, 2013, 5:37 am

Just got back from Colorado River/Grand Canyon rafting trip. Took D7000 and the waterproof Nikon in the review. I was very happy with the camera. Shot many rapid videos, including Lava Falls, with no problems. Color is very good and the lens is amazing for what it can do. Tiny sensor no match for a "real camera" but while the D7000 was safe in the Pelican case, the Coolpix was getting very wet for 8 days. Too scared to take D800 and I am glad I didn't. Too much fine sand in the air, and everywhere. My DX zoom is now very crunchy. :(


July 8, 2013, 8:41 am

They were all shot using each camera's underwater mode, so the fault more than likely lies with the metering system - as suggested in the review.


August 6, 2013, 6:35 pm

And renames the author?


September 30, 2013, 2:52 pm

You'll find that you do not actually need some special underwater white balance. Your eyes use the Sunlight, the same as your camera, thus wysiwyg. Underwater modes just add some red which you can't see in water anyway, and if you have to use flash or artificial light, the camera will, again.see what you're seeing.
That is, if you want to shoot what you see. If not, you can always make corrections later in PP.

Anyway, we don't really know just for which kind of "underwater" the camera has been programmed, so we can't really use the one same mode for, say, lakes and seas...

Tom C

December 7, 2013, 8:36 pm

One thing completely overlooked is that the Olympus TG-2 has lenses that can be put on UNDERWATER. I use the wide angle fisheye lens and the teleconverter (close-up) lens regularly. When I see an shot that's better for wide angle I just put it on right there.
I can't find any other manufacturer that does that. In fact, I even take over/under photos with my fisheye lens. The fisheye FCon1 is $140USD and the camera is $329USD. Its not possible to take over/under photos for less than $500 with any other manufacturer. See my Flickr account for photocaruso to see actual photos with the TG-2


March 3, 2015, 4:37 pm

why no specs on the lenses? I'd imagine that lower F ratings have better light getting ability?

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