Compacts are a great choice for working underwater because there are several available models with high imaging quality and bodies that have been built specifically for working underwater or in beach locations.
Canon PowerShot D20
The 12.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot D20 is waterproof to 33 feet with an operating range of 14ºF to 104ºF. It’s also shockproof to 5 feet and equipped with a GPS tracker. Buttons are oversized for use with gloves, and there’s a dedicated movie capture button, as well as an electronic wind filter for reducing distortion and ambient noise. The lens incorporates Canon’s Optical Image Stabilizer for shake reduction and a 5x optical zoom with an equivalent 28-140mm range. The 3-inch PureColor System LCD screen is "ultra-durable." List Price: $349.
Fujifilm FinePix XP200
Fujifilm’s FinePix XP200 offers built-in WiFi for wireless image transfer, which makes it particularly well suited for long days at the beach. (The free Fujifilm Camera Application for iOS or Android devices lets you transfer movies and up to 30 pictures at a time.) The XP200 is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof up to a 6.6-foot drop and freezeproof down to 14ºF. The XP200 has a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor with CMOS Shift Image Stabilization and an ƒ/3.9-4.9 optical 5x zoom lens with a 28-140mm range. It’s a fast camera, too, with 10 fps continuous shooting at full resolution for up to nine frames and ultra-high-speed bursting at up to 60 fps at lower resolutions. List Price: $299.
Nikon Coolpix AW110
Available in orange, black, blue and camouflage, the Nikon Coolpix AW110 is submersible to 59 feet, making it the current deep-dive champ in this class of camera. It’s also shockproof with drops of up to 6.6 feet and operation down to 14ºF. Built-in WiFi allows you to connect with iOS or Android smartphones or tablets for emailing, texting or uploading images. Internal GPS records your location and offers mapping and an electronic compass, as well as "nearby photo ops" when using the Points of Interest feature. The AW110 uses Lens-shift Vibration Reduction for optical shake compensation, Motion Detection for freezing rapidly moving subjects and a Subject Tracking mode that will lock on moving subjects and track them for autofocus. List Price: $349.
Olympus TG-2 iHS
The Olympus TG-2 iHS has a depth rating of 50 feet, and is shockproof to 7 feet and freezeproof down to 14ºF. The TG-2 iHS offers a 25-100mm equivalent 4x zoom with a variable ƒ/2.0-4.9 aperture. There’s a large 3-inch OLED display, and the 12-megapixel BSI CMOS has backside illumination for heightened low-light sensitivity. A Super Macro Mode is available for close-ups, and the camera is capable of a respectable 5 fps when shooting full-resolution files (JPEG only) for up to 25 shots, as well as 60 fps bursting with 3-megapixel images. List Price: $379.