Best Value Underwater Photography Kits

Looking for a great underwater (diving) camera? Let’s review the options!

Some general advice when shopping for a scuba diving camera:

  • Don’t go crazy buying cameras until you’re very comfortable underwater.
  • The deeper you go, the darker it gets (fast). This is why pros recommend adding external lighting to your setup ASAP.
  • For massive savings, look for complete kits on the used market. Check eBay, local classifieds, Wetpixel forums, etc.

Here are some recommended setups for beginners:

Phone Setup

  • SeaLife Smartphone Case: compatible with most modern smartphones. Quick setup, and features alarms to detect leaks. By far the easiest way to get up and running with underwater photo and video. Waterproof to 130 ft. / 40 m. $350 new.
  • Tip: download the Dive+ app if you’re an iPhone shooter.

Kit #1 (Basic Video)

  • GoPro Hero10 Black ($400)
  • GoPro Protective Housing: rated to 196 ft. / 60 m. depth ($45)
  • PolarPro – DiveMaster filter set, including a Red filter. ($50)
  • Spare batteries and memory cards ($100).
  • Extending pole

For just $600, you’re all set for great underwater 4K video (up to 120 fps!)

Alternatively, you can go for a used GoPro Hero8 Black ($180) or the newer GoPro Hero11 Black. Avoid any GoPro that’s not the “Black” version, and just to be safe avoid the Hero9 entirely (known issues).

Kit #2 (Basic Macro)

  • Olympus Tough TG-6: 12 megapixel 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS sensor, 25-100mm equivalent F2.0-4.9 lens, 1 cm minimum shooting distance. Great for beginner underwater macro photography. Waterproof to 45 ft. / 15 m. without housing. $500 new or $350 used.
  • Olympus PT-059 housing for the TG-6: $275 new. Will waterproof the TG-6 down to 147 ft. / 45 m. Cheaper options exist (e.g. SeaFrogs housing for $170 new).
  • Video light and/or strobe(s): highly recommended to improve shutter speeds and overall results. You could start with just one video light mounted on the housing’s shoe (enough light for macro shots), or invest in a tray and set up a strobe to the side. Even a single Inon S-2000 or Sea & Sea YS-01 would make a world of difference.
  • Check the the Backscatter TG-6 Guide for more information.

Total: $520 and up.

Kit #3 (Basic Do-it-All)

  • Sony RX100 Mark V: 20 megapixel 1-inch sensor, great 24-70mm equivalent F1.8-2.8 lens, shoots 4K 30 fps video, with phase detect autofocus. $500¬†used.
  • Fantasea FRX100 VA M16 Underwater Housing for Sony RX100 III/IV/V/VA: $430 new.
  • 2 x Inon Z330 strobes: high quality and reliable, and will stay with you even if you upgrade your camera setup down the line. Guide Number 33. $700 each, and add another $200 for accessories (mounts, batteries, spare O-rings, etc.) $1600 new. Plenty of used deals on these if you look around.
  • Tray and arms to mount the housing and strobes: popular brands include Ikelite, Ultralight, AOI, Backscatter, Nauticam, etc. Around $300 with all the required accessories.

Total: around $3,000. With some practice and post-processing, great results possible. Look out for used deals on complete rigs!

Learn more about underwater photography:

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