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Top Picks

How we choose: The best cameras highlighted here were selected based on 17 reviews of 16 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

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Sony RX0 II

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

This is a rare example of a super-rugged camera with excellent stills image quality. Unlike most waterproof cameras, which usually fall short of “real” cameras in terms of photos quality, the Sony RX0II is a completely different story, as it’s entirely capable of taking great photos, being nearly indestructible at the same time.

Reasons to Buy

  • Super compact and lightweight for “real” camera (which it is, with some caveats)
  • Waterproof (10m) and shockproof (2m) metal body, user-replaceable lens protector glass
  • Great dynamic range, colors and noise in good light conditions
  • Great sharpness, good resolution for such a camera
  • 24 mm equivalent lens delivers photographic-looking landscapes
  • Shoots RAW and even RAW+JPEG at ~3 FPS
  • Tilt-flip screen
  • Great video quality (technically), almost no rolling shutter, great audio quality
  • Familiar Sony Alpha user interface for already established users (though I could benefit from more customizable buttons)
  • Lots of photographic features; microphone and HDMI ports

Reasons to Avoid

  • Very slow lens (F12 equivalent aperture — fixed)
  • No phase detection auto-focus (PDAF) and AF tracking, which may affect your video shooting experience
  • No optical stabilizer (OSS), although electronic stabilization is available for videos
  • Low light photos look quite miserably — a smartphone camera will be no worse
  • The battery lasts for some 40 minutes of video shooting
  • No touch screen
  • The menus borrowed from “big” Sony cameras may be extremely cumbersome for newcomers
  • No lens cap or case bundled with camera
  • Rather expensive for such a specialist camera

Background Packrafting with Sony RX0 II on the paddle shaft I’m an avid photo enthusiast, and it’s not unusual for me to carry some 3 kg (6 lbs) of camera gear on a wilderness cycling trip. After I became interested in packrafting, I realized that my current photo gear is not as relevant as in cycling and hiking trips. Unlike hiking and cycling, on the river I cannot stop and keep my boat immobile to shoot something! Also it’s impossible to [safely] store a “big” camera conveniently on hand and access it instantly in case of need.

Read more: Sony RX0 II review (1)

Nikon AW100

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Rock hard, waterproof camera that is packable and loaded with features.

Reasons to Buy

  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof
  • Freezeproof
  • GPS tagging! w/ compass
  • 1080p vid
  • Shaker menu
  • Loaded feature menu

Reasons to Avoid

  • Picture quality
  • Battery life

Hello fellow trail enthusiast, If you are like me, you love to get the pics from the highest points, the best dynamic grab, to the wettest river. I love being able to post and show off all the adventure pics of me and my family. I was used to carrying around a large, delicate Nikon SLR, with multi lenses for those "gotta get" pics. I decided to trade up, or over for this case. I decided I needed something light, waterproof, and still could get the pic. I have worked as a photographer and fell in love with Nikon years ago.

Read more: Nikon AW100 reviews (2)

Olympus TG-2 iHS

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Awesome little camera. Decent size, sharp 2.0/f lens, waterproof, full HD video.

Reasons to Buy

  • Waterproof
  • Great in low light
  • HD movies
  • Rugged

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavy

I bought this camera for a canoe/hiking trip in the Boundary Waters, and was not disappointed. It held up to a good beating, took great photos in the rain and underwater! And the battery (along with a backup) lasted a full week in the wilderness. I am a photography hobbyist and own some nice full body cameras. So I know my stuff well enough. But I couldn't take one of those cameras into the wilderness. So I bought this guy. I purchased it based on the great lens, 2.0/f stop (great in low light), and because it was touted as being tough.

Read more: Olympus TG-2 iHS review (1)

Pentax Optio WG-2

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

I have gone through several cameras on my hiking and backpacking trips totally destroying them by getting them wet, dropping them, and having something dropped on them. Well, this camera was the exception! I read a review of this one and its twin brother that has GPS tagging and their successors in a magazine and thought I bet I can break that thing! One story of a gear tester claimed he drop his camera off a 100 foot ice cliff and found it again after the spring thaw at the base of the cliff. And even though it was banged up after charging the battery it still worked.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lots of good shooting features
  • Able to take abuse

Reasons to Avoid

  • You have to charge the battery external to the camera

I have had this camera for a year now and it still not only works like new, but still looks new as well. The box contains the camera, four inch carabiner strap, software CD, USB cable, battery charger, Macro Stand, a manual, a Lithium-ion battery, The camera is marketed as a tough “waterproof, dustproof and shockproof” outdoor camera that can take the elements and it lives up to those claims. I have dropped it on everything short of concrete; it has been immersed in water (it can be used under about thirty feet of water).

Read more: Pentax Optio WG-2 review (1)

Sony HDR-AS200VR

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Sony makes some great little action cameras that are perfect for taking along on all your outdoor adventures. They are small in size, yet big on performance, and they easily fit in the pocket of a PFD or your hiking vest.

Reasons to Buy

  • Splashproof
  • Live-View Remote
  • Amazing high-bitrate HD video
  • Good stereo sound
  • Microphone input jack
  • Image stabilization
  • Small size
  • Light weight

Reasons to Avoid

  • Higher priced than some of the competition

When it comes to high-performance action cameras, GoPro is not the only game in town. Over the last year and a half I've been using a Sony AS200V action camera on all my canoe/kayak and backpacking adventures. This tiny camera records amazingly detailed HD video at a very high data rate, and it has a microphone input jack allowing you to capture great sound. It also comes with a versatile remote with built-in view screen allowing you to easily compose all your shots. I finally got around to putting together a video review of this great little camera, but perhaps I'm too late.

Read more: Sony HDR-AS200VR review (1)

Sony a5000

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Great camera for backpacking! Not much heavier than my point-and-shoot, but takes pictures like an SLR.

Reasons to Buy

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Dependable
  • Veratile

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not waterproof
  • Extra lenses add weight

First, let me say I am not a camera-geek so if you have technical questions, you will need to look them up on the Sony website. I just love backpacking and was looking to upgrade my pictures. I got the Sony a5000 on Black Friday sale last year, as an upgrade to my point-and-shoot Nikon. I wanted the ability to do more with my pictures than I was able to with my simple camera, without hauling around a DSLR. The mirrorless a5000 is perfect for that! It weighs in at just about 10 ounces with the lightweight cover I got for it which I can strap to the belt of my pack, and the size is small enough that I sometimes have to put my hand on it to make sure it is still there! The 16-50mm lens it comes with is very versatile, and the only one I take backpacking.

Read more: Sony a5000 review (1)

Canon EOS Rebel T3

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Canon DSLR T3 digital camera is one of the best cameras on the market today. It has one of the lowest full sized digital camera prices. Photography is in my opinion one of the best mediums to project the world we live in and is easily done by almost anyone. With dozens of interchangeable lenses, filters and other optional accessories anyone can take great pictures with little or no experience.

Reasons to Buy

  • This camera will take images of just about anything with all the different assessories available

Reasons to Avoid

  • At this time I cannot think of any cons on this item

With this camera you can take pictures that will outlast you and show the world what you saw on your hiking trip to the places you visited. I shoot landscapes and close-up photography and with a simple 18-55 mm lens I can do both with ease. With the built-in lab the camera on its automatic setting will choose the correct aperture and film speed. Shooting in any light from almost total dark to bright sun light.  Use of a specialized filter such as a circular polarizer will make you pictures better in tone and image quality.

Read more: Canon EOS Rebel T3 review (1)

GoPro Hero3 Black Edition

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The GoPro is pretty nice because you can use your iPhone app to view the camera wirelessly through Bluetooth, which is a great feature for trying to get the angle and shot that you're trying to line up as it's mounted to your head or arm or leg, maybe on your surfboard. You do not need a view finder anymore with this technology. I was not as impressed with the sound quality at concerts. All in all it is a very cool item to my collection, very excited to get it out on the mountain and capture all the moments that we forget in everyday life, very user-friendly, easy to work. One downside is the battery life—it doesn't take long to run out of power. But other than that great product.

Reasons to Buy

  • You can hook it up to your iPhone
  • Superclean quality video
  • Waterproof and durable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Sound quality so-so
  • Battery power needs to be longer

The GoPro Hero Three is a great item to my collection of cameras. This is fun to use as I use my iPhone to view what I am filming. I can also hit record on my iPhone through the GoPro app. This makes life so much easier to see what you are filming before you hit record. I was very impressed with the app. It has a few glitches, but all in all works very well. The quality of video that the GoPro puts out is phenomenally awesome, very wide angle and captures just about everything in view of site when mounting to my helmet.

Read more: GoPro Hero3 Black Edition review (1)

Fuji FinePix XP30

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

After traveling abroad and hiking in Zion National Park, I still love this compact camera. Last week I was on a couple of exciting slot canyon hikes where the Fuji perfomed very well. I learned that the extra battery has to be in a waterproof bag. 10 months old.

Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend: Fujifilm FinePix XP30 14.2 MP Digital Camera - Orange. This camera is very compact and simple to use. About the size of a deck of cards. I am outdoors all of the time, so all of the features this camera has are important to me: waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, freezeproof. I also like the removable, rechargeable battery. I was looking for compact, easy to use, waterproof, and the GPS is a nice bonus. The camera will record where you were when you took each photo or video with the name of location or at least the coordinates for future referance. Fujii software doesn't work yet, but it might be my computer. I am new with digital camera. Just bought this new one month ago.

Read more: Fuji FinePix XP30 review (1)

Contour ROAM

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Totally recommend this cam! Easy to use, lightweight and has many different ways to mount it. Just push the switch and it's on and shooting, no focus to mess with, just point and shoot.

Reasons to Buy

  • easy to use
  • fast start
  • light weight
  • can be mounted to you or pack or ??

Reasons to Avoid

  • no zoom
  • mid price

Never miss anything again! From animals to crazy fun on the trail or in camp. This very quick, easy to use, one button mini cam is perfect. Lightweight at about 5oz holds 32g sd mini card that can record up to 8 hours of fun, scenic views and fast animals capture things a camera just can't do. Prices vary by model but what a great memory keeper!! Strap it to your pack, your hat or wherever. The quick start is the best, capture things you'd normally miss waiting for your camera to start up. And when you're done just plug it in and you can use your own editing programs or the Storyteller software from Contour for free. It's 1080 HD and there are tons of videos on YouTube to check out the quality before you buy it.

Read more: Contour ROAM review (1)

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