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Many modern smartphones offer some water resistance, but we don’t recommend taking them for a swim, especially when there are solid, cheap underwater cameras on the market. High-end underwater photography rigs can cost thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to have James Cameron money to get great aquatic shots. The best cheap underwater cameras are great for a day at the pool, beach vacations, or even more serious scuba adventures well below the surface.

How we chose the best cheap underwater cameras

The writers and editors at PopSci have decades of photographic experience, as well as the cumulative knowledge of our sister publication, Popular Photography. For this buying guide, we relied on a mixture of hands-on experience, user feedback, editorial reviews, and spec comparisons to find the most reliable, low-cost models. We sought to find a balance of features and budget that would fit the needs of most people. 

The best cheap underwater cameras: Reviews & Recommendations

Before you bring your gear out for a swim, ensure you’re prepared with equipment that meets the needs of what you are trying to capture. Sure, you could put your iPhone 14 Pro Max in a dedicated scuba case, but that can get bulky—and what if there’s a leak? A waterproof camera is a better choice, but not all waterproof cameras are created equal—especially the inexpensive ones. 

Best overall: RICOH WG-6




  • Resolution: 20 megapixels
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch
  • Memory card Slot: Single SD 
  • Waterproof: Down to 65 feet


  • 4K video capabilities
  • Built-in ring light
  • Digital microscope mode 
  • Rugged build


  • Small sensor isn’t the best in dim light

This waterproof camera isn’t the least expensive choice on our list, but it’s packed with advanced features that make it worth spending a little bit more. It has a rugged build, and in addition to being waterproof down to 65 feet, it is also shockproof, crushproof, and can operate in temps down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It has built-in GPS and a built-in LED ring light for illuminating underwater scenes. If you’ve ever tried to film underwater only to come out with murky results, you know how important that is. This built-in ring light is particularly helpful if you are shooting closeups in one of the camera’s macro modes.

As for video, it can capture 4K/30p footage and 120 fps when shooting at 1280×720. Although it lacks WiFi, image stabilization, and RAW image support, this isn’t surprising given the affordable price point. Ultimately, it is the combination of features, impressive depth capabilities, and relatively affordable cost that make the Ricoh WG-6 our pick for best overall. This cheap waterproof digital camera should be able to handle whatever adventures you throw it into. 

Best for video: GoPro HERO9

Stan Horaczek



  • Resolution: 20 megapixels
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch 
  • Memory card Slot: Micro SD
  • Waterproof: Down to 33 feet


  • Can shoot 5K/30p video
  • Hypersmooth image stabilization
  • Compact design
  • Front-facing live-screen


  • Confusing menus 
  • Limited battery life 

Buying gear that’s a few generations behind can be a great way to save money when shopping for new equipment. Although the GoPro HERO9 was released over three years, it’s still an incredibly capable camera for shooting underwater. The HERO9 has a front-facing display, can capture 5K/30p footage, and can produce 20-megapixel stills. It’s waterproof down to 33 feet without a case, and it has a number of accessories that make it functional for a wide variety of outdoor water activities.

Hypersmooth 3.0 makes it easy to shoot super smooth videos, even when the waves get rough. In addition to being waterproof, it also happens to be dustproof and freezeproof, and since it’s not quite the newest GoPro, it’s a budget-friendly version if you are looking for a waterproof camera that excels at video. 

Best for kids: YTETCN Waterproof Underwater Camera




  • Resolution: 12 megapixels
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch 
  • Memory card Slot: Single SD 
  • Waterproof: Down to 100 feet with case


  • Inexpensive
  • Kid-friendly design
  • Built-in custom frames and stickers


  • Limited image resolution 

This inexpensive, easy-to-use camera is a great choice for parents looking for something to keep the kids entertained on vacation without breaking the bank. Housed inside a plastic case, this kid-friendly cam is waterproof down to 100 feet, has large buttons, a number of built-in frames and stickers, and even some built-in games. It can shoot 1080p video and has a battery life of 2-3 hours. Just ensure your little ones keep this particular camera in its plastic housing—it’s the one thing keeping the camera safe from the elements. 

Don’t expect image quality beyond what you’d get out of an older smartphone camera, but that’s not really the point of a mode like this. It’s built for fun, and it accomplishes that task.

Best film camera: Kodak Weekend Underwater Disposable Camera




  • Film format: 35mm
  • Resolution: N/A 
  • Memory card Slot: N/A  
  • Waterproof: Down to 50 feet 


  • Easy to use
  • No need to focus 
  • Fun lo-fi film aesthetic 


  • Expensive to get film processed 

A waterproof point-and-shoot disposable was a mainstay of pool parties and beach days in the pre-digital era—and we love that they’re still available for underwater shooting. It’s easy to use, shoots 35mm film, and there are sure to be some very cool lo-fi effects that you can get without running your photos through a digital filter. Although it’s certainly more expensive to get film developed these days—we’re extremely glad that the OG underwater camera hasn’t gone out of style. 

Best budget camera: Minolta 48 MP Dual Screen Waterproof Digital Camera




  • Resolution: 48 megapixels
  • Sensor size: Full-frame
  • Memory card Slot: Micro SD
  • Waterproof: Down to 10 feet 


  • Made by trusted brand
  • Full-frame sensor
  • Face detection
  • Inexpensive


  • Limited depth operation

This waterproof Minolta digital camera isn’t rated quite as deep as some of the others in this buying guide, but it does offer a budget-friendly choice from a trusted and established camera brand. It features a full-frame sensor capable of capturing 48-megapixel stills, has a dual-screen design, and features like face and smile detection make it a great tool for underwater selfies at the pool. It can shoot 2.7K/30p video, has a 16x digital zoom, and built-in image stabilization. It’s waterproof down to 10 feet and under $100, making it a steal for capturing high-quality images in the water. 

What to consider when shopping for the best cheap underwater camera

While we always make specific picks, we also like to offer up explanations of common terms and variables you’ll encounter out on the marketplace. Here are some things to consider.


Cheap is all relative, and the price of a piece of camera gear has a lot to do with the features that a piece of gear might have. The cameras in this buying guide cost anywhere between about $30 to a few hundred dollars, but within that range, you will find cameras that include a lot of different specs. If you are looking for a higher-end underwater digital camera, buying a model that is a few generations old can be a great way to save. Many of these cameras can be found as refurbished models or on the resell market. More budget-friendly underwater cameras can be just fine if you are looking for something that doesn’t need the highest resolution or the longest battery life. Ultimately, when looking for a cheap underwater camera, you should have some idea of what “cheap” means to you. 

Digital vs. Film

Although digital film cameras are probably what come to mind when thinking about underwater cameras, a disposable underwater film camera can provide an extremely fun and budget-friendly way to capture a family vacation or a day out at the beach. Underwater film photos won’t have the same high-resolution quality, and the cameras certainly won’t include image stabilization or macro modes. Still, if you are interested in a retro aesthetic with an affordable price point, an underwater film camera can be a great choice. 

Depth Rating

The most important thing to consider when shopping for an underwater film camera is its depth rating. This rating refers to how deep into the water you can take the camera, and it will still be protected from the elements. If you are planning to take your camera really deep, it’s important to get one that has a rugged build—the deeper you travel into a body of water, the more potential harm you might be doing to that camera, so you will want to make sure your gear is up to the task. Consider the activity that you are hoping to capture underwater and plan accordingly. 


Q: What’s a good underwater camera for snorkeling?

Suppose you are using your underwater camera for snorkeling. In that case, you are going to want something that has the ability to capture high-resolution images and can handle being underwater for a long time. We’d recommend the RICOH WG-6 if you plan to shoot stills or the GoPro HERO9 if you plan to do underwater video shooting while snorkeling. Both of these cameras are compact and have a decent depth rating.

Q: How do you choose an underwater camera? 

Choosing the right underwater camera for you has a lot to do with evaluating your needs as a photographer. Different underwater cameras are designed to do really different things, so comparing specs may not be the most reasonable way to evaluate what camera will be the best fit for your particular needs. Identifying how you plan to use the underwater camera will be the more efficient way to figure out what underwater camera might be best for you. 

Q: Do underwater cameras need housing?

Always check the notes from your particular underwater camera before you take it out for a swim. Many higher-end underwater cameras are rated up to a certain depth before you need to put them in a protective casing. Putting these cameras inside of additional housing typically means that you can take them deeper and continue to use them underwater for longer periods of time. 

Final thoughts on the best cheap underwater cameras

To find the best cheap underwater camera for you, it’s important to consider what your plans entail. If your underwater adventures include plans of scuba diving or snorkeling, selecting a camera that can operate at greater depths for longer periods of time is probably the way to go—but it will likely be on the more expensive side. If you are looking for something to bring to a day at the beach or the pool, a more inexpensive option will probably do the job. With so many awesome products on the market, there is no such thing as a “best product”–—but there is probably a product designed to fit your specific needs perfectly. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.