Snorkelers & Divers! Inexpensive Camera Options Underwater Shooting

South Pacific Reef

A friend of the magazine just asked us for the short answer the best camera for a casual-diver’s trip the Great Barrier Reef. The budget is around $300. So we passed the question on to an expert photographer and diver for the bottom-line. With winter coming you might be contemplating plans for a warm-weather getaway so we thought you might find this helpful for your own forays into snorkeling or recreational scuba diving.


Olympus Tough TG-1. Ok to 40-feet and doesn’t need a housing. F/2 lens.


  • All the buttons are accessible and visible without being inside a housing.
  • The simplest, least expensive solution for casual dives above 30 feet and snorkeling.
  • Less bulky than a camera in a housing

Here’s a link to the camera to the camera on the Backscatter website:

If you want to get a land-based camera and a housing, I’ve found my Canon P&S camera/housings to be bulletproof and a good price/performance ratio. This is the current version of the one I use.


  • A somewhat more versatile camera for the land portion of your trip and everyday back home.
  • If you’re a bit more serious about diving, you get greater depth capability (60 feet or more)
  • The housing doubles as a tough hard-case for throwing your camera into travel luggage and using anywhere you might have environmental issues (sand, mud, etc)

Here’s a link to the Canon S90 and the Canon housing at Backscatter:

A GoPro setup is also a cool option. This is a link to Backscatter’s Hero/Hero2 starter setup: The Hero3 starter setup should be available soon. More money but a cool choice for easy underwater video.


  • If you want to take the plunge into more video than stills
  • Real HD output and the new Hero3 is capable of 4K

The DEMA show is in Las Vegas in November and there will likely be some other new announcements there.

You didn’t ask, but for anyone going to the GBR for a short time, intro dives (also called Discover Scuba dives) are a great way to go. You learn some skills and you do scuba real dives under tight supervision at shallow depths. There are a LOT of great shallow dives to be done on the GBR. If you’re going to be there for more time, you can do a full scuba certification course to become an Open Water diver.