Pros / This is the best and most user-friendly waterproof camera we tested.
Cons / It is one of the most expensive options.
Verdict / The Nikon COOLPIX W300 is our pick for the best overall underwater camera because it strikes a rare balance of durability and picture quality.
The Nikon COOLPIX W300 is rugged and takes great pictures both above and below water, which is exactly what you’d expect from such a big optics company. The W300 takes ultra high-definition 4K video, has Snapbridge wireless upload technology and automatically geotags your photos. When you add up all of its features and its unbeatable performance abilities, it becomes apparent that this is the best waterproof camera in our comparison.
Nikon rates this camera for underwater use down as far as 100 feet, which is more than any other camera we tested. This is good enough for use in pools, puddles, rivers, rainstorms and even coastal ocean dives. The camera is also rated to be freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, which is standard for these types of devices. It can also survive being dropped from 7.9 feet – the highest of any camera we tested – and it has an IP6X dustproof rating.
Typically, rugged cameras don’t take great pictures and cameras with great image quality can’t handle much of the outdoors. This Nikon waterproof camera is a great mix of both worlds. We performed image quality testing both above and below water. In a controlled environment, each camera captured images of our test scene under the same lighting and positioning. We examined the photos for sharpness, color saturation and accuracy. The Nikon W300 is simply the best dry-land camera in our comparison. The images it produced have accurate color representation. It captured all of the black, white, light and dark gray boxes accurately in our test scene. The vibrantly colored checkered boxes were also true to life.
We then tested the camera in a large fish tank to control lighting variables. The images didn’t reveal any color deterioration and showed consistently sharp details. We also like that the COOLPIX doesn’t require any waterproof casing, as that makes it easier to grip and use. The camera is easy to use in every other sense as well. It doesn’t bombard you with confusing menus that are difficult to navigate. It’s easy to change image parameters.
The Nikon has adjustable shutter speeds, ranging from one second down to 1/4000 of a second on continuous shooting mode. This mode allows you to take still pictures of fast-moving objects such as a bird. You can also adjust the ISO manually between 125-1600, or access 3200 or 6400 when using auto mode. If you want a camera with an ISO that can go as low as 100, consider the Fujifilm FinePix XP130.
The COOLPIX W300 has an array of features built in. For starters, there are a handful of in-camera editing options. Some of these include red eye reduction, cropping, data imprinting and retouching. There are also 20 scene modes to choose from, including Underwater, Sports, Night Landscape and Easy Panorama. When you switch between these scenes, the camera adjusts certain image parameters to maximize the quality of the shot for that particular scenario. The scenes are handy for amateur photographers who don’t know how to manually set the ISO, shutter speed or aperture themselves.
Nikon labels image stabilization as VR, or vibration reduction. Turning this feature on helps eliminate shaky footage during filming. Vibration reduction, coupled with the face detection feature and focus lock, ensures that you’ll take steady, clear pictures.
The W300 features GPS, Wi-Fi and SnapBridge. The GPS feature automatically sets a geotag to each photo’s metadata, so you’ll know exactly where every photo was taken. The camera’s Wi-Fi capability only works with compatible iOS devices and smart devices running Android and uses Nikon’s SnapBridge. This uses low-energy Bluetooth to send 2-megapixel versions of each photo you take to your phone so that you can review your pictures immediately or upload them to social media to share with family and friends.
The COOLPIX W300 comes with a rechargeable battery. At a full charge, Nikon estimates you can take 280 shots before need to recharge. The camera has a 3-inch display, which is the largest possible for these types of cameras. Unfortunately, the screen is not touch-enabled, so you’ll have to use the buttons to navigate the menus. Also note that this camera doesn’t float.
- Display Size