Taking a scuba diving camera with you on your next trip to the beach means you can record the amazing underwater scenery that makes underwater expeditions so exciting. You might have looked for a cheap underwater camera before and been daunted by the prices, but we have good news: as technology has improved at a rapid-fire pace, the prices on underwater cams have gone down. If you want to take a camera designed for filming underwater on your next vacation or beach bum day, it's possible to find budget-friendly but well-made underwater cameras.
You may have heard of the Olympus TG-4, one of the best-selling waterproof cameras. It has a lot of great features and it's built to last, but it's also a little pricey. We knew there had to be an underwater camera for cheap that wouldn't fall apart after a few uses, so we tried out a range of snorkeling and scuba diving cameras available at low prices. The Nikon Coolpix S33 stood up to the Olympus, and we think it's one of the best cheap underwater camera models on the market. Although our alternative is still a "brand," we didn't find a reliable, high-quality off brand underwater camera that we felt deserved our recommendation. The Nikon Coolpix S33 is a great underwater cam and is very affordable as well.
The Olympus TG-4 camera is a great little powerhouse of an underwater camera, producing 16MP photos in RAW or JPEG format and HD video at depths of up to 50 feet. Part of the reason for its high price is its built-in WiFi, GPS, and an "e. Compass" that measures barometric pressure, altitude, and water depth. While these features may be useful for some users, especially advanced underwater videographers and adventure photographers, but may be a little excessive for others. If you just want a camera to take with you on casual snorkeling and scuba diving expeditions, the TG-4's extra features may not really be useful. For beginner and intermediate users, we recommend the Nikon Coolpix S33.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 camera takes 13.2MP JPEG photos and HD video at depths of up to 33 feet, making it useful for snorkelers and scuba divers, and just taking photos around water without worrying about an accidental drop. It is designed to be more of a point-and-shoot automatic camera, taking the worry of fiddling with the wrong setting out of your hands. Whether you want to give a kid interested in photography a camera that can resist tumbles and spills or want to film your own underwater adventures, the Coolpix S33 can do it all. It's available at a low price, too, and has a one-year warranty (the same warranty length as the Olympus TG-4). This camera is built solid and easy to use no matter your age or technological understanding.
The Olympus TG-4 can be taken to depths of up to 50 feet. Your average pickup truck is 17 feet long, so to visualize this, imagine three pickup trucks lined up end to end. Although this isn't the deepest of all underwater cameras, it can go about 30% deeper than the Nikon alternative, so if you like to scuba dive to that level, you may prefer the TG-4.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 can be taken to depths of up to 33 feet, which is about the length of two pickup trucks end to end. The S33 works well for snorkeling and diving as well as shallow scuba diving expeditions. If you want a camera that can go down to 100 feet or more, you'll have to upgrade to the Nikon Coolpix AW130 or the Canon Powershot D30.
The Olympus TG-4 is freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, or -10 degrees Celsius. That means you can safely take your snorkeling camera out on chilly and even freezing days without worrying about damage to the internal components.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 is also freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit/-10 degrees Celsius. This extra versatility means you can take this camera just about anywhere, from cold ocean waters to mountaintops and sunny beaches.
The Olympus camera is shockproof up to a seven-foot drop. If the average person held the camera over their head and let it go, the landing wouldn't damage the components. If you're worried about accidental drops, you may prefer the TG-4's extra two feet of shock proof-ness.
The Nikon S33 camera is shockproof up to a five-foot drop, which is enough to save it from being fumbled out in most situations, whether it's being held at your side or gets knocked out of your hand as you're trying to take a picture. However, it's easy to invest in a neck strap for extra security.
Waterproof camera casings tend to limit zoom capabilities. The Olympus TG-4 has 4x optical and digital zoom, although you can purchase waterproof lens accessories to extend it (up to 7x with the TCON-T01 teleconverter).
The Nikon Coolpix S33 has up to 3x optical zoom and an enhanced digital dynamic fine zoom up to 6x. There aren't any additional lens attachments available for the S33 yet, but the available zoom works for most situations.
The Olympus TG-4 has a 3-inch LCD, which is a good size, but means that the control buttons are a little squished.
The Nikon Coolpix S33's LCD measures 2.7 inches, just 10% smaller than the TG-4's. We barely noticed the difference.
The Olympus TG-4 has a 16MP CMOS sensor that works quickly to provide you with high-definition photos. In this case, the TG-4 can take slightly larger photos than the Coolpix S33. The 6.2mm x 4.6mm sensor is 43% larger than the S33's, helping it perform a little better in low light situations and produce more detail.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 has a 13.2MP CMOS sensor that measures 4.7mm x 3.5mm. Megapixels translates to the overall length and width of the image captured, while the sensor size is important for determining the level of detail in the image. The Coolpix S33 can produce large, detailed still frames in a variety of situations.
The Olympus TG-4 can film in Full HD 1080p with or without audio, which provides tons of detail and more visual surface area coverage than standard definition.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 can also film in Full HD 1080p and has a built-in mic. This is one of the highest resolutions besides 4K and is a great way to capture underwater life.
The Olympus TG-4 comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery with 4.6-watt hours, able to take about 380 photos on one charge.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 also comes with a rechargeable Lithium battery. With 2.6 watt hours, it can take about 220 shots on one charge.
The TG-4 allows you to shoot still photos in the RAW file format as well as the more typical JPEG format. RAW files are ideal for photographers who like to correct photos in post-production programs like Photoshop.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 shoots in JPEG only. This format still produces amazing photos and doesn't require the fiddling later on that RAW files often do. For the casual photographer, JPEG works just fine, and RAW is unnecessary.
The Olympus TG-4 allows you to adjust the ISO from 100 to 6,400. Higher ISO settings help your camera better capture photos in low-light environments.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 has a fully automatic ISO ranging from 125-1,600. If you don't want to fiddle with manual settings, this camera takes care of it for you.
The Olympus TG-4 has built-in WiFi that allows you to share photos and videos with connected smart devices and the OI.share app, and control your camera with your device as well. Keep in mind that using this setting can reduce battery life, especially if it's cold out.
The Coolpix S33 lacks WiFi, but due to the large file sizes of HD videos, a wired connection can be a faster way to transfer these types of files. If you're worried about running out of space on your memory card, it's worth it to buy an extra one to take with you.
The Olympus TG-4 measures 4.4 by 2.6 by 1.1 inches.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 measures 4.4 by 2.7 by 1.5 inches.
The Olympus TG-4 weighs 8.7 ounces, or about half a pound.
The Nikon Coolpix S33 is slightly lighter than the TG-4 at 6.3 ounces.