Waterproof camera question

Can the LCD screens of today’s waterproof cameras be seen in direct sunlight?

At present I’m using my cell phone by taking it out of its waterproof bag, aiming in the direction I want to shoot, and pressing an area marked with blue tape along the edge of the phone because I can’t see anything but reflection on a black screen. The tape marks the area of the photo button. Most of the time that works.

I’m considering buying a small waterproof camera as I know Murphy’s Law is bound to catch up and my phone will be at the bottom of the lake. The other option is to buy an inexpensive TracFone and use it only as a camera. I can get such a phone with a 5MP camera for $10.

I’d like to be able to see the display on the camera. I do have an older digital camera, but it’s not waterproof - and I can’t see its display screen in direct or bright sunlight.


Pick up a Kyocera Brigadier or Duraforce. There should be some older ones around by now. Its completely waterproof, screen reasonably visible in sunlight, and screen works better than average when wet and with gloves. It also has a dedicated hardware shutter button on the side.

Note that it is not the highest resolution, and struggles to provide good pictures in low light. Bright outdoor pictures are acceptable.

I had an older Pentax optio WG-2 waterproof camera and really liked it for kayaking – the thing is like the HumVee of cameras, very rugged and completely fine with full immersion. The controls are easy to operate even with gloves and the screen is pretty easy to see even in bright light. It took pretty good videos and excellent photos. I got it used for under $200 and used it for a couple of years. It was great to not have to worry about my camera at all while paddling. The camera has a sturdy webbing strap and carabiner and I kept it clipped to my PFD or deck rigging – since I use a Greenland paddle it was always wet but even when I capsized at one point and had to swim the inverted boat to the near shore and the camera was hanging in the water for more than 10 minutes, it had no affect on the operation. I honestly think you could use these cameras as hockey pucks and they would not be fazed at all.

Unfortunately. that great camera went missing last summer when I got back from a trip in late August – I keep hoping it will turn up in some piece of gear that I forgot to check, but in the meantime I ordered a newer version, a Ricoh WG-50. I am not as happy with that – still the basic same chassis, jut as rugged, easy to use while paddling and doesn’t care if it is submerged and beat up. But this one doesn’t take as good photos unfortunately.

I see you can still get the Pentax Optio WG-2 – if you choose to go with this style, take the older one rather than the newer Ricoh version.

I have to agree that the old Pentax Optio is a very practical camera for paddling. I use it for pictures and video, but have to say that the picture and video quality is lacking compared to newer/not waterproof cameras. Your iPhone will take much better pictures, but obviously it is not waterproof.

In terms of seeing the screen, the waterproof cameras are no better than your cell phone, or any other camera. I don’t even bother trying to compose the picture on the screen. Things happen too fast even if you could see the screen. I set the zoom, point the camera in the right direction , and hope for the best. Some come out, some don’t. You can fix a lot of things like cropping and exposure after with a photo editing program. It’s been discontinued, but I use Aperture on my Mac.

I use Gopro, but you can now get very cheap and workable knock offs all over the place. The last thing you want to worry about is water or shock damage. The mounting options are limited only by your imagination. And they do take great photos, just be aware that they are super wide angle. If you need a zoom or telephoto, then you have to go with a real still camera or cell phone substitute. FWIW, I would NEVER take my cell phone out of its waterproof bag while on the water, because it’s simply not waterproof, certainly can be more damaged by the saltwater spray, and dropping it would be heartbreaking!

Thanks all for your comments. Looks like shooting blind is the standard whether using a phone or a camera, but at least with a camera you can set the zoom. As I can’t see my phone’s screen, I’ve no idea how it’s set.

I forgot about using a GoPro as a camera. I have the basic model which I use as a technique reality check. Never thought about using it for stills because of the angle distortion. Will try that this weekend (after reading the manual). Thanks, bartc.

I don’t take a lot of photos, but sometimes there’s a scene which is so incredibly beautiful that I’d like more of a record than just memory.

I have had various Pentax and Olympus waterproof cameras. The screens aren’t all that much better than what you see with your phone. Often I aim at an area and shoot and hope I got it. Use the highest resolution possible so you can then crop the photo to feature what you wanted to take a pcture of.

But a big benefit is that they have dedicated shutter buttons, so you don’t need to try to find that on the screen, as you do with a phone. Olympus actually has separate buttons for camera and video, so you can start either with a press of the button (no changing between modes in settings, as you have yo do on most other cameras). These cameras also have attachment points so you an leash them to your PFD and remove the worry of loss due to dropping.

GoPro and the wide angle lens makes everything look far away.

I shoot blind with the Lumix… Just keep firing and every once it a while I get something pleasing

I use a Nikon aw110. I have yet to see decent pictures from a phone./ I have seen iphone 7 pics from sunset (dark) and look good on the phone itself but when looking at full size on PC they look like crap; Same for other phones. Typically the shutter speeds are to low. Get a dedicated camera. Olympus, nikon or any other will be better than any phone will. Mine is several years old now and has been under water many times. Even shooting under water video in a pool. For action video like surfing use a go-pro or amazon knock off (50 buck) for action stuff.

Good points about buttons and image quality. Guess I’ll start camera shopping. for something small and waterproof.

@Paatit that’s a fabulous photo of beautifully dynamic water!

I have had a few point and shoot water proof cameras.
Cream of the crop right now is Olympus TG 5.
It’s the only one able to shoot in RAW format. Important if you want to do editing in PhotoShop. The new phones take great shots too just not sure how water proof they really are. I just don’t want to risk losing my phone.

We use a Cannon Power Shot D30 and Fugi (sp) Film XP120s. They are best attached to a lanyard to the pfd so you can drop it and get to paddling if necessary. I routinely use them for under water shots. Both have fast boot up speeds. Pull it out of the pocket , turn on and they are fast to be ready to shoot. The best part is they were purchased with bank card rebate credits………….“free”.

I have an Olympus TG-4. It’s been in fresh and salt water, underwater, and in the rain. The camera will WiFi connect to your phone so you can transfer photos or use your phone as a remote control or trigger with the camera on a tripod. I haven’t dropped it but it is rated for a 2 meter drop onto concrete. You can buy a hi-vis float that attaches to it which is what I use when paddling and, yes, I have “ops checked” the setup by throwing it into shallow water. The camera fits nicely in a vest pocket or under a bungee and no worries if it gets wet.

@Paatit said:
I shoot blind with the Lumix… Just keep firing and every once it a while I get something pleasing

Nice photo.

The Olympus TG 5 has amazing features and fabulous ratings. Looks like a superb camera for adventurers on land, water or underwater. My needs are much simpler, so am considering the Fujifilm XP120 for it’s fast startup and dedicated buttons. While its image quality has been rated as “average,” can’t be any worse than my cell phone.

The current Fuji XP series takes pretty good quality photos. I’ve been using a XP70 for a few years now, and the only reason I will update it is because I think I’ve dropped it too many times and the stabilization feature is going wonky. I swim with it once in a while, and haven’t seen any sign of leakage.

I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that you can increase the brightness of the screen in the setup functions. I have no trouble seeing my screen in daylight - except when I have my polarizing sunglasses on. Even so, I don’t have the screen brightness turned all the way up. That will reduce battery life, of course.

Thanks, Steve, for that positive information, especially as I ordered the camera and barring delivery delays (and small craft warnings), hope to test it this weekend. It should easily fit in my underdeck bag.

I second the Fuji XP series. I’ve used an XP 90 for a few years. Besides having a bright screen, Fuji mentions an anti-reflective coating in their ads and it really works. In fact, I think it’s the matte screen more than anything that makes it readable. My other go-to is a GoPro Hero 5. It takes good enough pics and has been waterproof. My friend even took it diving. I keep the Fuji in my PFD pocket or in a deck bag with a floatation lanyard attached: https://www.amazon.com/Chums-4003017-Waterproof-Camera-Float/dp/B003CK10DG.

I wound up with the Fuji XP 90. Very happy the large display is easily seen in direct bright sunlight. Still studying the 115-page instruction manual, but the basic instructions are pretty simple. Haven’t dropped it in the water (yet) but it has gotten quite wet. Photos: part of the mosquito control squad; a friend of @Peter-CA; and the beginning of a gathering for the blessing of the boats (and paddlers).

Nice shots! Especially like the color and exposure balance on the twilight beach scene.

I’ve been thinking about replacing my disappointing second Ricoh/Pentax WG with one of those Fujis (a local friend got one last year and I have been impressed at her photos taken with it too). I did notice in doing research on the model that there was a recall earlier this year on the charging units that came with some of their cameras, including some XP90’s. So be sure to check that the one you get doesn’t have one of the duds (shock hazard on the charger). You can get a free replacement if it does.