Thursday January 23 2020
April 6, 2018

Underwater Camera or Action Cam?

Scuba divers only had underwater cameras with housings and o-rings back in 90’s.

The only discussion was about the brand; we were asking our friends which underwater camera to purchase…

It was already hard to choose eventhough there weren’t hundreds of options we had at those times.

Now, our decision making process is even more complicated.

At the beginning of 2000’s, we met with GoPro and this changed everything. 

Before brands, now we have to decide which one should we buy: an underwater camera or an action cam?

If you are reading this post, I assume you are one of the fellows who are not sure which one to pick.

Should I buy an underwater camera or an action cam?

Don’t worry. Just follow the steps below: 

  1. Grab a coffee and relax.
  2. Read the whole article (don’t just skim it).
  3. Use the comment section below if you still have questions in mind or something to add.

Identify Your Need

The first thing is to identify what you really need.

Let me help you at this point.

From now on, I’ll be using two phrases;

Action guy” describes an action cam user,

Underwater photographer” describes an underwater camera user.

Thus, your first assignment is to understand which one you want to be. 

Action Guys

Action guys are guys who love to see and share their memories. They are not after a masterpiece.

They want it quick, they want it compact, they want it light. 

No giant lights, strobes, extra lenses and no focus-on-only-visor-on-camera.

Action guys want to BE in the middle of the action and capture it as well.

If you want to record one of your wreck dives while you are enjoying it at the same time, you are okay with what the camera that is attached to you is shooting (you resign to fate), if you don’t really care about the light or you are not checking your film as soon as you surface to see if colors are perfect, on the other hand you are happy to immortalize this moment and want to share it when you turn back to your hotel in Sharm El Sheikh,

if you want to take photos like this;

Underwater Camera or Action Cam?

Congratz! You are an Action Guy!

Underwater Photographers

Is art for art’s sake?

Underwater-photographer-types don’t only want a memory.

They want colors, they want light, they want composition.

Their eyes are always on the visor of their camera. 

Underwater photographers are NOT directly in the action, they are the ones who film the action.

If you think what is more important is the images you take rather than how you enjoyed your dive, if you cannot stand your dive buddy insisting you to take a photo of him / her near the wreck (this is not for memory damn it), if you think you’d check the weather for sun before jumping into the water (for a better light underwater), if you don’t care about carrying flashes and strobes with you underwater, if you think your dive would mean nothing without recording the fish you saw, corals and/or wreck itself,

if you want to take photos like this;

Underwater Camera or Action Cam

Congratz! You are an Underwater Photographer!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Underwater Cameras and Action Cams

  • Underwater cameras are much bigger and heavier than action cams.
  • Resolutions may both be good, nothing to do with being an underwater camera or an action cam.
  • Action cams struggle to work with flashes / strobes, underwater cameras are especially designed to be used with these accessories.
  • Customization is much more complicated with underwater cameras, ISO, f-stop and shutter speed (some action cams have these features but they are limited)
  • Actions cams can fall in your dives easily, because scuba divers generally attach their action-cams to themselves and doesn’t realize they lost it.  At least you can buy a floating grip for your action cam.

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About Seaman


Hi, my name is Murat Demirağ. I have been diving since 1996 and teaching scuba since 2005. I wanted to share my knowledge through

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