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The Best Cameras for Surf Photography in 2024

Capturing the essence of surfing demands more than just skill — it requires the right gear.

As a seasoned surf photographer, I've learned through countless sessions the critical importance of selecting the perfect camera.

Understanding key features like fast autofocus and durability is crucial, because I've experienced firsthand the consequences of overlooking these factors.

Reliable gear can mean the difference between capturing the perfect shot and missing the moment entirely.

When evaluating the best camera for surf photography options, I like to shed light on performance in real-world scenarios.

Whether it's the versatility of a GoPro HERO capturing every barrel or the rugged reliability of a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in traditional surf settings, I'll help you choose the right camera for you.

With the right equipment in hand, you can get the surf shot of your dreams.

The 10 Best Cameras for Surf Photography 

Option 1: GoPro HERO10 Black 

The GoPro HERO10 Black is a powerhouse in action photography, offering 5.3K video resolution and 23MP photos with improved low-light performance. 

I've personally relied on the GoPro HERO series for years, and the HERO10 Black takes action photography to new heights. 

Its compact size and waterproof design make it perfect for capturing surf sessions without worry. 

The HyperSmooth stabilization ensures buttery-smooth footage, even in choppy conditions. 

Unique Features: HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilization, TimeWarp 4.0 for dynamic time-lapse videos. 

Advantages: Compact size, waterproof up to 33ft (10m), advanced stabilization. 

Disadvantages: Limited manual control compared to DSLRs. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 2: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV 

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a versatile DSLR favored by many professional photographers for its reliability and image quality. 

Personal Review: Having used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV extensively in my surf photography endeavors, I can attest to its exceptional performance. 

Its weather-sealed body provides peace of mind when shooting in challenging conditions, and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF ensures sharp focus on fast-moving subjects like surfers. 

I still use this camera as my daily driver and I’ve had it for nearly five years. 

Unique Features: 30.4MP sensor, Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth autofocus during video recording. 

Advantages: Weather-sealed body, intuitive controls, extensive lens ecosystem. ● 

Disadvantages: Pricey compared to entry-level DSLRs, limited video features. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 3: Nikon D850 

Description: The Nikon D850 is a full-frame DSLR renowned for its high-resolution sensor and fast autofocus system. 

Although I've never personally used the Nikon D850, I've heard great reviews from fellow photographers about its performance. 

Its high-resolution sensor and fast autofocus system make it ideal for capturing fast-moving subjects like surfers with remarkable detail and clarity. 

It’s essentially the Canon 5D Mark IV, but a Nikon. 

Unique Features: 45.7MP sensor, 7fps continuous shooting speed. 

Advantages: Excellent image quality, robust build, wide range of compatible lenses.  

Disadvantages: Not waterproof without additional housing, bulky for travel. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 4: Sony Alpha a7R IV 

The Sony Alpha a7R IV is a mirrorless camera known for its impressive resolution and advanced autofocus capabilities. 

While I haven't had the chance to use the Sony Alpha a7R IV personally, its reputation precedes it. 

The combination of high resolution and advanced autofocus makes it an appealing choice for surf photography, where capturing intricate details and fast movements is crucial. 

Unique Features: 61MP full-frame sensor, Real-time Eye AF for accurate subject tracking. 

Advantages: Compact size for a full-frame camera, excellent low-light performance. ● 

Disadvantages: Limited battery life, expensive lenses. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 5: Fujifilm X-T4 

The Fujifilm X-T4 is a mirrorless camera known for its retro design and impressive video capabilities. 

While I haven't personally tested the Fujifilm X-T4, its reputation for delivering outstanding image quality and innovative features precedes it. 

The combination of retro design and advanced technology makes it an intriguing option for surf photographers seeking portability without compromising performance. 

Unique Features: 26.1MP sensor, in-body image stabilization (IBIS) for steady shots.


Advantages: Compact and lightweight, film simulation modes for creative effects. 

Disadvantages: Smaller APS-C sensor compared to full-frame cameras, fewer native lens options. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 6: Olympus Tough TG-6 

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a rugged compact camera built for adventure, including surf photography in harsh conditions. 

The Olympus Tough TG-6’s reputation for durability and underwater capabilities makes it an intriguing option for surf photographers. 

The ability to capture high-quality images in challenging conditions without worrying about damaging the camera is undoubtedly appealing. 

Unique Features: Waterproof up to 50ft (15m), crushproof and shockproof design. 

Advantages: Pocket-sized portability, underwater shooting modes, affordable price point. 

Disadvantages: Limited manual controls, smaller sensor size. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 7: Sony RX100 VII 

The Sony RX100 VII is a premium compact camera renowned for its impressive image quality and advanced features. 

The Sony RX100 VII is known for delivering DSLR-like performance in a compact body.

The combination of a high-quality sensor and advanced autofocus system ensures that even fleeting moments on the waves can be captured with stunning detail and clarity. 

Unique Features: 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, 357-point phase-detection autofocus. 

Advantages: Compact and pocketable, high-speed continuous shooting up to 20fps.  

Disadvantages: Limited zoom range, shorter battery life. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 8: DJI Osmo Action 

The DJI Osmo Action is a rugged action camera designed for capturing high-quality footage in extreme conditions. 

Unique Features: RockSteady stabilization, 4K HDR video recording. 

Advantages: Front and rear color screens, waterproof up to 36ft (11m), affordable price point. 

Disadvantages: Limited manual controls, fixed lens. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 9: Panasonic Lumix GH5 

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a mirrorless camera favored by videographers for its impressive video features and durability. 

Unique Features: 20.3MP sensor, 4K video recording at 60fps. 

Advantages: Dual image stabilization, extensive video recording options. 

Disadvantages: Bulky compared to other mirrorless cameras, complex menu system, highly video oriented. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography.

Option 10: Ricoh WG-70 

The Ricoh WG-70 is a compact and rugged waterproof camera suitable for surf photography in challenging environments. 

Unique Features: Waterproof up to 46ft (14m), built-in macro lights for close-up photography.

Advantages: Affordable price point, shockproof and crushproof design. 

Disadvantages: Limited zoom range, smaller sensor size, designed strictly for in-water shooting. 

Learn more about this camera for surf photography

What to Consider When Buying a Camera for Surfing

When searching for the ideal camera for surf photography, several factors come into play. Here's a breakdown of what you should consider, based on my own experiences: 


Surfing environments can be harsh, with exposure to saltwater, sand, and intense sunlight.

A durable camera built to withstand these conditions is vital. I've learned this the hard way after a few mishaps with less robust cameras. 


Given the high likelihood of getting splashed or submerged in water (unless using a water housing), opting for a camera with adequate waterproofing is crucial to protect your investment. 

I've had moments where a rogue wave caught me off guard, but my weather resistant camera saved the day. 

Speed and Autofocus

Surfing moves fast, and capturing those split-second moments requires a camera with fast autofocus and burst shooting capabilities. 

Trust me; you don't want to miss that perfect shot because your camera couldn't keep up. 

Lens Compatibility

Having the option to use different lenses can greatly enhance your creativity and versatility in capturing various perspectives of the action.

I've found that having a range of lenses allows me to adapt to different shooting conditions and styles.

Image Quality

Sharpness, clarity, and dynamic range are essential for producing stunning surf photographs that truly capture the essence of the sport. Investing in a camera with excellent image quality ensures your shots stand out among the rest. 

The Bottom Line: Best Cameras for Surf Photography 

As I reflect on my experiences with these top camera options, one thing becomes clear: each offers its own unique advantages for capturing the magic of surfing.

Whether you prioritize compactness, image quality, or versatility, there's a camera on this list that's perfect for you.

If you're looking to take photos from in the water, check out our guide to the best water housings.


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