Rugged, waterproof, active-lifestyle cameras have evolved into a dependable, highly successful market segment. The reason: they work as high-style, high-performance compacts that are perfect for snow and water sports or any outdoor activity where consumers might think twice about using an unprotected DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Adventure cameras generally feature assertive styling combined with waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof construction. They’ve been around for decades, but recently this expanding segment has seen a remarkable transformation. There are new or updated models from virtually every major camera maker, including Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Ricoh Imaging, Panasonic, Olympus, Leica and Sony.
Most of the models featured here deliver an impressive array of high tech, including Full HD video capability; high-res sensors; big, high-res LCDs; OLED monitors; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity; GPS; and enhanced waterproof ratings to appeal to even scuba divers. At the crossroads of high style, high adventure and cutting-edge technology, they deliver a blend of shooting performance and flexibility that makes them a high-value proposition for consumers who want to go anywhere, in any weather, and bring back memorable images.
While there have been few genuine technological breakthroughs in this highly competitive category in the past six months, many of the models we highlight sport significant upgrades and tweaks to keep them fresh.
Here are our picks for the most fascinating adventure-proof models—all of which are superb choices for dealers and consumers who are looking to preserve their summertime exploits.
Adventure Cameras for Summer 2016
Nikon Coolpix AW130. Fashionable and tough, the AW130 is waterproof to 98 feet, freezeproof to 14º F and withstands a drop of nearly 7 feet. It employs a 16 megapixel, low-light CMOS sensor; a 5x, 28–140mm* f/2.8–4.9 Nikkor lens; and a 3-inch, 910K-dot OLED monitor. Helpful for outdoor shooters are its vibration reduction (VR) image stabilization system; built-in Wi-Fi with Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity; GPS functions; and an electronic compass.
The AW130 can be controlled remotely via a smartphone/tablet and a dedicated app. And a unique action control function lets shooters select settings one-handed by shaking the camera! Also cool is a built-in map displayed on its monitor to track photos and points of interest. The AW130 records Full HD 1,920x1080p video at 60/50/30 and 25 frames per sec and has 20 scene modes, including easy auto and underwater scene. It comes in black, blue or yellow. $299.95. nikonusa.com
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4. This crisply styled adventure camera incorporates a fast, water-repellent f/2 lens (4x, 25–100mm f/2–4.9). The flagship of the iconic Tough line also utilizes a 16MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor, the latest TruePic VII image processor, sensor-shift image stabilization and built-in Wi-Fi. Adventure specs include: it’s waterproof to 50 feet; shockproof to 7 feet; crushproof to 220 lbf (pounds-force); and freezeproof down to 14º F.
It also features: a 3-inch, 460K-dot LCD; art filters; Full HD video capability at 60 fps with multi-motion movie IS; time-lapse movie mode; full-res bursts of 5 fps (60 fps at 3MP); interval shooting; microscope mode; built-in GPS, e.Compass and manometer functions; and four underwater modes, including macro. New to the Tough line is the TG-4’s RAW shooting and AF target selection. Black or red. $379.99. olympusamerica.com
Leica X-U. Leica’s luxury class adventure camera employs a fast, high-performance 10-element, 8-group, 23mm f/1.7 Summilux Asph prime lens with two aspheric elements. It works with a 16.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor—built into a rugged body clad in antislip rubber. It’s waterproof to 49 feet (for 60 minutes), dustproof, shockproof for falls of 4 feet and has a UW glass filter to protect the front lens element.
The X-U provides sensitivity settings up to ISO 12,500, delivers 5-fps, full-res bursts, and records Full HD video at 30 fps. Other features include: a 3-inch, 920K-dot LCD; top-mounted manual aperture and shutter speed dials; a built-in flash above the lens; 11-point AF with spot mode; and film emulation modes such as dynamic, natural, B&W natural and B&W high contrast. The X-U (Type 113) comes with a free download of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Black. $3,295. us.leica-camera.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30. This sleek compact is waterproof to 26 feet, shockproof to handle a 5-foot fall, dustproof and freezeproof to 14º F. It has a 16.1MP, 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and a bright, 2.7-inch, 230K-dot TFT LCD for composition and image review. Its Lumix DC Vario 4x, 25–100mm zoom lens with 5-way Mega OIS (optical image stabilization) captures blur-free images and videos even in low light. A digital intelligent zoom function extends the reach of the lens to 8x. And 23-zone AF plus quick AF combine to deliver fast, precise autofocus for a variety of subjects.
Other features include: intelligent auto mode that automatically selects the optimum scene mode; an 8-fps maximum burst rate; creative control mode that enables time-lapse sequences in standard and panorama formats; an underwater mode that compensates for lost red tones; and 720p HD video capture in the MP4 format. Blue, red or black. $149.99. panasonic.com
Fujifilm FinePix XP90. With a cool, eye-catching design, the latest downsized version of Fujifilm’s go-anywhere camera has an upgraded 1/2.3-inch, 16.4MP BSI CMOS sensor. It’s waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to survive a 5.8-foot drop, freezeproof to 14º F and dustproof. Its specs state it delivers ultrafast start-up, shoots 10-fps full-res bursts, and uses a new 3-inch, 920K-dot antireflective LCD. Its 5x, 28–140mm f/3.9–4.9 Fujinon lens has aspheric elements for enhanced image quality, a hardened glass lens barrier and a water-repellent coating.
An action camera mode lets users record HD video while participating in activities. Other features include: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps and 320 fps for slow motion output; advanced sensor-shift IS; 11 built-in filters; AF tracking; underwater macro mode; interval timer functions; and built-in Wi-Fi. Yellow, blue, green or orange. $229.95. fujifilmusa.com
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-870. A more economical, slimmer alternative to the TG-4, it boasts live composition and self-portrait modes, 7-fps, full-res bursts, a programmable front button and AF lock. Waterproof to 50 feet and crushproof to 220 lbf, it can withstand a 7-foot drop and will operate down to 14º F. The TG-870 incorporates the same 16MP 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor as the TG-4.
The sensor is coupled to a 5x optical zoom, 21–105mm f/3.5–5.7 lens and a TruePic VII processor. It also has an upgraded 3-inch, 920K-dot LCD monitor that flips out 180º and sportscam action modes. It captures Full HD video at 60 fps and provides ISO settings of 125–6,400. Other features include: Wi-Fi; GPS; a front-face button that makes it easier to snap selfies; interval settings; intelligent auto and numerous scene modes, including handheld starlight mode; panorama mode; and an AF illuminator. Black, green or white. $229.99. olympusamerica.com
Ricoh WG-30W. An upgraded, rebadged version of the Pentax Optio WG-3, this latest iteration in the uniquely styled WG line continues the tradition of ruggedized construction. It’s waterproof to 40 feet, shockproof to 4.9 feet, dustproof and temperature resistant from 14º F to 104º F. The classic adventure camera has a 16MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor; a 5x, 28–140mm lens; a newly designed processor to enable low-light sensitivity to ISO 6,400; and triple anti-shake protection.
New to the WG series is built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing wireless transfer and remote control of camera functions via smart devices. Other features include: a 2.7-inch, 230K-dot antireflective LCD; Full HD video capture in MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 formats; slow-motion video capability; and digital microscope mode that uses macro lights positioned around the lens barrel to help capture tiny details. The macro lights also enhance the magnified view on the LCD. Orange or black. $279.95. ricohimaging.com
Canon PowerShot D30. Canon’s ergonomically contoured, 12.1MP entry into the adventure camera sweepstakes is waterproof to an impressive 82 feet, shockproof to withstand a drop of 6.5 feet, and temperature resistant from 14º F to 104º F. The D30 features a 28–140mm f/3.9–4.8, 5x optical zoom lens; a 3-inch, 461K-dot Pure Color LCD with a delta dot pattern for enhanced performance; an intelligent image stabilization system to combat camera shake; and built-in GPS functions.
It boasts low-light performance utilizing its Canon HS (high sensitivity) system. The D30 can record Full HD 1080p video at a cinematic 24 fps, and it has a wind filter feature and offers optical zoom while recording video for maximum movie flexibility. It can also shoot up to 280 shots or play back five hours of video per battery charge. Blue. $329.99. usa.canon.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30. Fashionably svelte and slim with a thickness of only 0.6 inch and weighing in at a mere 4.4 ounces sans battery, Sony’s pocket-size gem sports a protective sliding lens cover. The TX30 is waterproof to 33 feet, dustproof, shockproof to handle drops of 5 feet and freezeproof to 14º F.
It provides an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor; a 5x, 26–130mm Carl Zeiss Vario-R Tessar lens; and a large 3.3-inch, 1,229K-dot OLED touch-screen monitor. It records Full HD AVCHD-format video and captures full-res bursts at up to 10 fps. Other features include: face, blink and smile detection; SteadyShot sensor-shift image stabilization; Clear Image Zoom technology for the “lossless” doubling of focal length; and 360º sweep panorama mode. Helpful in capturing intricate detail on subjects less than an inch away are a magnifying glass function and LED lights. Blue, black, orange or pink. $229.99. sony.com
SeaLife DC1400. This true amphibian of a camera works both on land and beneath the waves to a depth of 200 feet! It’s enclosed inside a rubber, over-molded polycarbonate waterproof housing, from which it can be removed for land use. Rubber armored and shock resistant for tough environments, the DC1400 features six underwater color modes for sharp, colorful photos and video. Plus four integrated digital color correction filters help restore colors that tend to get lost in underwater photography.
The camera utilizes a 14MP CCD sensor with optical IS, a 5x optical zoom, 26mm wide-angle lens and a 3-inch LCD screen. Other features include: super macro AF from 1 inch to infinity; 720p HD video recording at 30 fps; five widespread “piano key” style controls that are easily accessible underwater with or without gloves; and a large shutter button. Black. $349. sealife-cameras.com
* All lens specs are 35mm-format equivalents.