The abundance of high quality underwater cameras in the market these days are a blessing for us divers! Never has it been so easy and affordable to travel with UW photo gear and get amazing results without breaking the bank or carrying 2 huge Pelican cases.
But with so many great cameras out there, how on earth do you choose the right one??
Pssst, I’ll let you in on a little secret: They’re all great!! You can and will get stunning results with any of the high-end compacts in the market, whether made by Sony, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic or others.
However, there are clearly some differences, and it’s quite easy to pinpoint the right camera for you, by listing the subtle differences between the various options.
We’ll start with a brief comparison of the camera’s specifications:
|Feature||Sony RX100 Mark V||Canon G7X Mark II||Olympus Tough TG-5|
|Sensor Type||20MP – 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor||20MP – 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor||12MP – 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS Sensor|
|Lens||24-70 mm F1.8-2.8||24-100mm F1.8-2.8||25-100 mm F2.0-4.9|
|Maximum Video Quality||4K (3840 x 2160)||1080p (1920 x 1080)||4K (3840 x 2160)|
(Highest Frame Rate)
|960 fps (Full HD)||60 fps (Full HD)||120 fps (Full HD) / 480 fps (SD)|
|Continuous Shooting||24 fps||8 fps||20 fps|
|Maximum ISO||125 – 12800 (expands to 80-25600)||125 – 12800 (expands to 25600)||100 – 12800|
|Waterproof (no housing)||No||No||Yes – 50ft / 15m|
|Connectivity||WiFi / NFC||WiFi / NFC||WiFi / GPS|
|Underwater Review||RX100 V Review||G7X II Review||Coming soon!|
As you can see, there are several differences that clearly stand out.
Video Comparison – 4K or not 4K
The Canon G7X Mark II lacks 4K. This does not mean it has bad video. It actually produces excellent video! It simply means you cannot shoot 4K with it. 4K is slowly but surely becoming the new standard among TV’s and Monitors, but for the next few years, 1080p (AKA full HD) is still perfectly ok and looks great on nearly every monitor.
Another advantage of 4K is that you can “zoom in” a bit more, by cropping your video after shooting down to 1080p. This allows you to double your zoom without quality loss compared to shooting 1080p in the first place.
Another feature you can notice, is the ability to shoot crazy slow motion on the RX100 V, and even on the TG-5, though it will be in lower resolution. Slow motion turns out beautiful in an underwater environment and fun to experiment with it.
Bottom line, if video is your thing, RX100 V is the way to go.
Note on 4K Video: Not every 4K is better than every 1080p. A video shot at 1080p with an excellent camera such as a DSLR or mirrorless, will likely look better than a 4K video shot with a GoPro or a lesser camera. It’s merely the number of pixels which comprise the frames in the videos.
Note on overheating: The RX100 V is notorious for overheating. When shooting 4K for several minutes, you may experience overheating and the camera will have to shut down for a few minutes to rest and cool down. Whether or not you’re willing to live with that is up to you. For most people, it’s well within their shooting habits and won’t limit them as much as they think.
Many macro shooters are disappointed with the Sony RX100’s shorter focal length. This is because the longer the focal length, the more magnification you can achieve with a diopter (close-up lens). The RX100 V maxes out at 70mm, while the other two reach 100mm.
True, that does mean you won’t reach the same amount of magnification with the RX100 as the other two, however, it compensates for that with exceptional sharpness and image quality, so that when cropped down, you can still get the same end result with comparable details. Read my blog post about shooting macro with the RX100 here.
Image quality is something that’s hard to determine from dry specs. It’s a combination of optics, sensor, dynamic range and image processor. From my personal tests, I can say that the RX100 V is a winner here, with the G7X II right behind it and the TG-5 is the underdog. The TG-5 does produce excellent photos, but the smaller sensor is no match for the 1″ sensor on its rivals.
Underwater photos taken with the Olympus TG-5*:
* Disclosure: I used the RX100 V and G7XII in a couple of amazing dive destinations such as Cuba, Cozumel, Bonaire and the Philippines, whereas I only got a chance to test out the TG-5 on a couple of quick dives on the house reef, without wet lenses, so keep that in mind when viewing the photos…
Underwater photos taken with the Sony RX100 V:
Underwater photos taken with the Canon G7X II:
Ok, that’s not fair. There’s clearly no match for the TG-5 here. It’s a TOUGH camera. As such, it is built to survive any abuse you inflict upon it. Olympus describes it as “Lifeproof” – waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof, and dustproof. Basically, do whatever you want with it, just don’t stick it in the microwave!
The other two are built well, quite sturdy, but you have to be a bit more gentle with them, or at least stick them in a housing near water.
This is a major issue and one of the downsides of the TG-5. It lacks manual (M) mode. While this is ok for some, who prefer to use the excellent underwater auto modes built in the TG-5, most photographers would be limited by this at some point. To gain full control over your camera, especially when using strobes, manual mode crucial.
That being said, if you’re comfortable using the automatic modes and don’t see yourself messing around with settings too much, then you can definitely do without M mode.
Housings for Sony RX100 V
There are plenty of housings to choose from for this camera.
Best value – Fantasea FRX100V Housing
High-end aluminum – Nauticam NA-RX100V
Aluminum work horse – Sea & Sea RX100V
Affordable and reliable – Ikelite Action Housing for RX100 V
Housings for Canon G7X Mark II
The Canon G7X II is also widely supported:
Best value – Fantasea FG7XII Housing
High-end aluminum – Nauticam NA-G7XII
Affordable and reliable – Ikelite Action Housing for G7X Mark II
Housings for Olympus TG-5
Native housing, best value option – Olympus PT-058
Affordable and reliable – Ikelite housing for TG-5
Still can’t decide? Need more info on any of the cameras above? Contact us via the online chat! We’d love to help!