Summer (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) has just arrived, and while the sun, the sand, and the sea can be glorious for our bodies and minds they can be murder on delicate cameras. You’ll need a camera that can handle the waves, the heat, and the slippery grip of sunscreen-soaked fingers.
But don’t worry – from point-and-shoots to fully manual cameras with interchangeable lenses, instant cameras to digital dive cameras, there are plenty of ways to snap the perfect shot at the beach, the pool, or anywhere else your summer may take you. Here are just a few!
Konica Genba Kantoku 28/35
Let’s get things started with an odd duck. The Konica Genba Kantoku (roughly translated from Japanese to English as Site Supervisor or Foreman) is a 35mm film point-and-shoot camera made for rough usage in harsh environments. It’s shockproof, dust-proof, and sand-proof, and while not a submersible underwater camera, it is water-resistant to JIS-4 (Japanese Industrial Standard 4). That means it’ll take splashing water from any direction without any harmful effect.
Added bonus – this thing actually takes decent photos. With coated lenses and the standard suite of flash and shooting modes typical to point-and-shoots of the time, it’s a surprisingly potent and easy-to-use photographic tool. Just load it with Portra, then point and shoot.
There were a number of different generations of this machine built over the years, but they’re all fairly similar. Choose your favored focal length (these come with either a 28mm or 35mm lens), hit the beach, and get shooting.
Canon Sure Shot A1
The Sure Shot WP-1 (also called the Sure Shot A-1, Prima AS-1, and Autoboy D5 depending on its sales market) is Canon’s entry in the splash-proof point-and-shoot field. Similar in many ways to the other point-and-shoots on this list, it’s a great choice for those looking to burn film on a summer day.
If it wins when measured against its competitors, it does so because of its massive and bright viewfinder (which is easier to use while wearing sunglasses or goggles), painfully obvious controls, and its refreshingly light weight. It further differentiates itself through its impressive six element in six group lens (32mm f/3.5), and capable autofocus system.
People on the internet will tell you that the WP-1 is an underwater camera, but wait a moment before plunging the thing underwater. According to page six of the owner’s manual, the WP-1 is not made for submersion, only to resist splashes.
The Sure Shot A1 manual, however, says that the camera is submersible to 15 feet below the surface! And these cameras look identical! Did Canon change their literature due to warranty issues? Is the WP-1 really a submersible camera? Whether or not it can survive underwater is up for debate. What’s not debatable is that it’s a pretty amazing beach camera.
If you’re a diver, to be on the safe side buy an A1. Here’s my review.
Minolta Weathermatic 35DL
The point-and-shoot film cameras we’ve spotlighted so far have been splash-proof. That makes them great in a sudden summer thunderstorm or around the pool. But if you want a point-and-shoot that won’t hold you back from diving in, you need Minolta’s Weathermatic 35DL.
This camera is actually submersible to five meters, features an underwater macro mode, autofocus (plus zone focusing for underwater use), and two lenses of different focal lengths that are switchable via a single button press. It’s also bright yellow.
Of all the point-and-shoot film cameras on the list, this is the most capable for those of us who want to get in the water, put on a snorkel, and shoot some fish.
NIkon Nikonos V
Looking for the ultimate beach and summer film camera? Then look no further than Nikon’s storied series of dive cameras called Nikonos (see our retrospective here). Of these, the camera that blends the best of style and capability is the Nikonos V, and if I could only own one Nikon camera this would be it. It’s a legend in the photography world. Flip open the pages of any National Geographic printed from the 1960s to the late 1990s and you’ll probably see a photo made with a Nikonos.
It’s robust, simple, effective, and gorgeous. Shoot it in the rain, shoot it in the sand, shoot it underwater for hours at a time. Drop it and it’ll land with a thunk and keep on shooting. With or without batteries it’ll fire away, and when powered by batteries it offers a convenient TTL auto-exposure mode that turns the camera into, essentially, an undersea point-and-shoot.
Couple this camera to the W 35mm F/2.5. This amphibious lens can operate equally well under and above the water, unlike some of Nikon’s UW lenses, which are for underwater use only. This makes it the ideal choice for any adventure, land and sea.
We also made these great Nikonos shirts!
Olympus Tough TG6
When I first published this list in 2018, the Olympus TG5 was the best waterproof camera on the market. Now there’s a newer model, and it’s the one I recommend for digital underwater photography. The Olympus Tough TG6 is a pretty interesting digital camera. Crush-proof, freeze-proof to 14º F, shock-proof, water-proof to 50 feet, and dust-proof, it’s got to be one of the most robust digital cameras ever made.
The fast apertured 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) lens (f/2) makes it adept at shooting action and low-light shots, the twelve mega-pixel CMOS sensor captures images in RAW format, and it’s capable of shooting 4K UHD video. Not bad for a camera about the size of a pack of cards.
If you need a digital camera for your summer adventures, you can’t do much better than this little gem from Olympus. DPReview even called it “the best waterproof camera on the market.”
Honorable Mention – Polaroid One Step 2
The instant camera from Polaroid just got a refresh. Easier to use than ever, as seen when we reviewed it recently, the Polaroid Now is the epitome of carefree shooting. It’s on the list because, frankly, there’s nothing that screams summer fun more than instant photography. Gather your friends or family, pile them in the Jeep (or even better, a vintage Volkswagen Cabriolet) and throw the Polaroid Now into the mix. Everyone will be smiling in no time.
Pick up a few Polaroid film packs and fire away. Instant souvenirs.
Get your Polaroid Now from B&H Photo here
Got a summer camera you think should be on the list? Let us hear about it in the comments.
You can find many more cameras at our own shop, F Stop Cameras
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Nikonos is of course the king in this category! 🙂 I used an Canon Sureshot WP1 quiet often when i lived in the southern pacific, and even if not really waterproof, it holds well for some snorkeling activities where you just swim and have the camera less than 1 meter underwater (be sure the seals inside the camera are lubricated and in good condition).
Another great cam to add to this list is the Fuji HD-M, waterproof (5m), shock resistant and fearing no extreme situations… that’s why it’s called “Heavy Duty”, the M is for motor as it’s fully automatic (but manual zone focusing). The lens is a Fujinon 38/2.8 that delivers excellent results.
To tell you an example how resistant the camera is, a little anecdote: I was on a canyoning trip a few years ago with the camera, making some jumps from 3-5 meter high cliffs, and I was holding the camer strong to my chest. The last jump I made was from a slightly highr cliff, and the reception in the water was kind of stringer than the others… the camera fell out of my hands, hit my chin and fell into the water… the camera had absolutely no scratch at all from this little shock… but my chin had been cut open by the contact with the camera and I needed 4 stitches… Don’t worry, my chin is ok now and the camera still works perfectl! 🙂