Best cameras for surf photography

The Best Cameras For Surf Photography In 2023 (For Every Skill Level)

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Looking for the best cameras for surf photography in 2023? Here’s my top pick, for professional-level photography:

Sony A1 Mirrorless is one of the newest and best mirrorless cameras on the market, and it’s excellent for surf photography.

There are many more fantastic options for the best cameras for surf photography for beginner, intermediate and pro levels. In this article, I’m sharing the top picks for each photography level for DSLR, Mirrorless and Action cameras, with alternatives listed.

Why would you want alternatives and all these options? Once you pick a brand, it’s easiest to stick with that brand because you can buy lenses that work with your camera and use them as you upgrade and add on.

If you switch brands, you’ll most likely have to buy new lenses, or you may be able to purchase an adaptor.

You can get amazing shots like this one with the best cameras for surf photography and a little practice!

A quick note about action cameras: I’m recommending different GoPros for each level, because even though there are other brands out there, GoPro has ruled the game for years.

I used to own a Sony action camera and used it on archaeological digs. One year the dust and sand got to it and I tried to get it fixed, but everyone only had parts for GoPro… so this is why I’m recommending GoPro as an investment for surf photography!

Beyond top picks, pros and cons and alternatives, you’ll find accessories for surf photography, tips and more things you’ll need to protect your camera and up your game!

So, let’s get to it!

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Best Cameras For Surf Photography for Professional-Level

Here are the best professional-level cameras for surf photography: DSLR, Mirrorless and Action Camera:

πŸ“Έ Pro DSLR: Canon 1DX Mark III

For the best DSLR camera for pro surf photography, the Canon 1DX Mark III is the favorite and is considered industry standard.

Pros – Canon 1DX Mark III

βœ”οΈ 20.1 MP Resolution with Megapixel Full-frame CMOS sensor

βœ”οΈ New 191-point AF System can track subject’s head and face with deep learning technology

βœ”οΈ ISO range of 100-102400, expandable 50-819200

βœ”οΈ Fast and accurate Auto Focus with 3869 Manual AF and up to 525 Automatic Positions

βœ”οΈ Continuous shooting speeds of up to 16 FPS

βœ”οΈ Un-cropped 4K 60p Video with audio output and option to shoot 5.5K RAW or 10-bit video

βœ”οΈ Built-in WiFi, a first in this camera series

Cons – Canon 1DX Mark III

βœ”οΈ A bit heavy

βœ”οΈ Sensor is smaller than Sony A9 II

βœ”οΈ No image stabilization

βœ”οΈ No tilting LCD screen

Specs – Canon 1DX Mark III

Weight: 2.76 lbs

Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.9 x 7.8 in

Memory cards: 2 memory card slots

Connectivity: 3.5mm audio, Ethernet, Mini HDMI, USB

πŸ“· Shoot with the Canon 1DX Mark III DSLR

πŸ“Έ Pro Mirrorless: Sony A1

The Sony A1 is the best camera for surf photography overall. It has a high price tag, but the rave reviews prove that to those who want a perfect (or near-perfect) award-winning camera, it’s well worth it.

Pros – Sony A1

βœ”οΈ 50.1 MP Full-frame resolution

βœ”οΈ Up to 30 FPS shooting with world’s first 240 FPS refresh rate and range of selectable continuous shooting speeds (20, 15, 10, or 5 fps) assignable to Hi, Mid, and Lo drive modes

βœ”οΈ World’s first anti-flicker mechanical and electronic shutter with live feed (no blackouts)

βœ”οΈ New color profiles designed for both stills and video with added customization settings

βœ”οΈ New BionZ XR engine, which is 8x faster than Sony’s previous one. This means faster continuous shooting, autofocus and more

βœ”οΈ Improved anti-distortion shutter technology

βœ”οΈ Improved autofocus with real time Eye AF

βœ”οΈ 8K Video Recording

Cons – Sony A1

βœ”οΈ Expensive (see alternatives below)

βœ”οΈ Still can’t do more than 120p in Full HD Video and RAW output is only available in 4K

βœ”οΈ Auto Stabilization still crops – it’s better to stabilize in post

Specs – Sony A1

Weight: 1.60lbs

Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.1 x 5.59 in

Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB, HDMI, NFC

Memory cards: 2 memory card slots

πŸ“· Shoot with the Sony A1 Mirrorless

Alternatives for pro mirrorless include the Sony a9 II, Fujifilm X-T4, Nikon Z7 II

πŸ“Έ Action camera: GoPro HERO 11 Black

The GoPro HERO 11 Black is the newest from GoPro, and the best (clearly) for pro surf photography and video. It’s waterproof down to 10m (33ft) without housing, and you can attach it to anything and film as you surf, or as your subject surfs. You can also attach it to yourself as you walk around or get in the waves to capture surfers and waves from the water or land.

Pros – GoPro HERO 11 Black

βœ”οΈ 5.3K60 Ultra HD Video

βœ”οΈ 27 MP Resolution Photos with 1 billion colors and 8:7 aspect ratio shareable on any social media platform

βœ”οΈ Livestream Webcam

βœ”οΈ Emmy Award- Winning HyperSmooth Image Stabilization

βœ”οΈ New image sensor with the most expansive field of view yet on a HERO camera

βœ”οΈ Water-repelling lens cover 

βœ”οΈ Up to 75 minutes of uninterrupted video recording

Cons – GoPro HERO 11 Black

βœ”οΈ GoPros can overheat in higher heat, so video might not run as long if it’s hotter outside

βœ”οΈ Not as good in lower light conditions

βœ”οΈ Sometimes has noise in hyperview video

Specs – GoPro HERO 11 Black

Weight: 1 lb

Connectivity: USB and WiFi

Dimensions: 2.64 x 1.34 x 1.85 inches

Memory Card: MicroSDHC, Micro SD

πŸ“· Shoot with the GoPro HERO 11 Black

πŸ“· Get Waterproof Housing for GoPro HERO 11 Black

The best cameras for surf photography

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Best Cameras For Surf Photography for Intermediate-Level

Here are the best intermediate-level cameras for surf photography: DSLR, Mirrorless and Action Camera:

πŸ“Έ Intermediate DSLR: Canon 5D Mark IV

The Canon 5D Mark IV is a newer, full-frame camera that will be a bit easier to use for intermediate photographers, and is loved by all levels of photographers. It has great reviews and is used for things like sports photography due to its high shutter speeds and 4K video, outdoor photography because of its ISO range, and more.

Pros – Canon 5D Mark IV

βœ”οΈ 30.4 MP Resolution with full-frame sensor

βœ”οΈ ISO range 100-32000; expandable 50-102400

βœ”οΈ Up to 7.0 FPS continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor

βœ”οΈ 4K 30p or 24p video with in-camera still frame grab of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images. Video options of Full HD up to 60p, and HD up to 120p.

βœ”οΈ EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) turns your camera into a high-quality webcam

βœ”οΈ Dual-pixel AF for more editing control

βœ”οΈ Touch-screen viewfinder

βœ”οΈ Great for travel: Comes with a travel charger and includes GPS so you’ll know where each photo was taken

Cons – Canon 5D Mark IV

βœ”οΈ Subject tracking is lower-quality than similar cameras

βœ”οΈ HDMI-out is limited to 1080p

βœ”οΈ Autofocus settings take time to learn

Specs – Canon 5D Mark IV

Weight: 2.73 lbs

Dimensions: 5.93 x 2.99 x 4.58 inches

Connectivity: WiFi and NFC with GPS

Memory cards: 2 memory card slots

πŸ“· Shoot with the Canon 5D Mark IV

Alternatives for intermediate DSLR: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Canon 6D (Canon 6D is the camera I use)

πŸ“Έ Intermediate Mirrorless: Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R is weather-sealed, great for traveling and taking photos and videos. It has amazing reviews and is great for surf photography with its resolution, FPS, high image quality, controls and more features.

Pros – Canon EOS R

βœ”οΈ 30.3 MP Resolution with full-frame sensor

βœ”οΈ Dual Pixel Autofocus with manually selectable points, focuses in up to 0.05 seconds for action shots

βœ”οΈ Continuous shooting speeds of up to 12 FPS for fast-moving subjects

βœ”οΈ Flexible priority mode which allows more control over shutter speed and ISO settings

βœ”οΈ Lightweight and durable, made with magnesium alloy chassis with protects from electromagnetic radiation and heat

βœ”οΈ 54mm diameter and decreased distance between rear lens element and sensor for improved image quality

βœ”οΈ Shockproof, Temperature Extremes, Waterproof and X-Ray Proof

Cons – Canon EOS R

βœ”οΈ Mirrorless viewfinder isn’t the same as optical, and takes time to adjust to (but you do get to see what the actual photo looks like instead)

βœ”οΈ Battery life not as long as DSLRs, so you may need an extra battery

βœ”οΈ No in-body image stabilization

βœ”οΈ Crops 4K video and maximum video quality for 120 FPS is only 720

Specs – Canon EOS R

Weight: 1.46 lbs

Dimensions: 3.3 x 5.3 x 3.9 inches

Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI

Memory cards: One memory card slot

πŸ“· Shoot with the Canon EOS R

Alternative intermediate mirrorless: Sony A7 IV

πŸ“Έ Action camera: GoPro HERO 9

The GoPro HERO 9 is a step down from the newer 11, but remains a favorite with surf photographers because it shares many of the latest and greatest features with the 11.

Pros – GoPro HERO 9

βœ”οΈ 23.6 MP Sensor, 20 MP Photos with Superphoto – where GoPro picks the best image processing for you

βœ”οΈ Up to 5K Video Resolution

βœ”οΈ HyperSmooth Image Stabilization

βœ”οΈ TimeWarp 3.0 for time-lapse video

βœ”οΈ 8x Slo-Mo

βœ”οΈ Starts recording 30 seconds before you hit the record button so you don’t miss the shot

Cons – GoPro HERO 9

βœ”οΈ Not the best with low-light conditions

βœ”οΈ Touchscreen can be unresponsive at times

βœ”οΈ Voice controls can have issues

βœ”οΈ No 4K/120p mode

βœ”οΈ Slow HDR processing

Specs – GoPro HERO 9

Weight: 11.2 ounces

Dimensions: 2.83 x 1.32 x 2 inches

Connectivity: Bluetooth

Memory Card: Micro SD

πŸ“· Shoot with the GoPro HERO 9

πŸ“· Get Waterproof Housing for the GoPro HERO 9

Underwater surf photography needs a weather-proofed camera and waterproof camera housing

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Best Cameras For Surf Photography for Beginner-Level

Here are the best beginner-level cameras for surf photography: DSLR, Mirrorless and Action Camera:

πŸ“Έ Beginner DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel T6i

The Canon EOS Rebel T6i is a great starter DSLR for beginners looking for value and a simple foot-in-the-door to photography with this kind of camera. It won’t break the bank and will help you learn the basics. It’s great for surf photography because it still has excellent resolution, ISO, and FPS for its class, and it takes video.

Pros – Canon EOS Rebel T6i

βœ”οΈ 24.2 MP Resolution with DIGIC 6 Image Processor

βœ”οΈ ISO 100–12800 expandable to 25600; also has advanced scene analysis to detect and adjust for the best light settings

βœ”οΈ Continuous shooting of up to 5.0 FPS

βœ”οΈ 19-point all cross-type autofocus system

βœ”οΈ Full HD 1080p video in MP4 format

βœ”οΈ WiFi allows for remote shooting with the Camera Connect app

βœ”οΈ Vari-angle Touch Screen

βœ”οΈ EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) can turn your camera into a high-quality webcam

Cons – Canon EOS Rebel T6i

βœ”οΈ Not full-frame

βœ”οΈ Lower image quality than other DSLRs

βœ”οΈ Battery life isn’t as good as other DSLRs

Specs – Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Weight: 1.22 lbs

Dimensions: 5.19 x 3.06 x 3.97 inches

Connectivity: WiFi

Memory cards: One memory card slot

πŸ“· Shoot with the Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Alternative beginner DSLR “bridge camera”: Sony RX10 MK4

πŸ“Έ Beginner Mirrorless: Sony a7 III

The Sony a7 III is a full-frame mirrorless that has also won awards for mirrorless cameras.

Pros – Sony a7 III

βœ”οΈ 24.2 MP Resolution with Full Frame Sensor with 1.8X readout speed

βœ”οΈ Continuous shooting up to 60 FPS

βœ”οΈ 693-Point Hybrid AF System

βœ”οΈ 5-Axis SteadyShot inside image Stabilization

βœ”οΈ ISO 50 to 204,800

βœ”οΈ 693 phase detection with 425 contrast AF points

βœ”οΈ 4K 2160p Video Resolution

βœ”οΈ Weather-sealed

Cons – Sony a7 III

βœ”οΈ Can overheat when shooting video longer than 30 minutes

βœ”οΈ Autofocus can be finnicky

βœ”οΈ Limited touchscreen control

Specs – Sony a7 III

Weight: 1.44 lbs

Dimensions: 5 x 3.88 x 3 in

Connectivity: HDMI, NFC and Bluetooth with Android 5.0 or later and Apple iOS Bluetooth 4.0 or later

Memory cards: 2 memory card slots

πŸ“· Shoot with the Sony a7 III

Alternative beginner mirrorless: Canon EOS M50 Mark II

πŸ“Έ Action camera: Go Pro HERO 8

The Go Pro HERO 8 is older than the previous ones mentioned, but more affordable for beginner-level. Attach it to your board or camera housing to film as you photograph or surf.

Pros – GoPro HERO 8

βœ”οΈ 12 MP Resolution Photos

βœ”οΈ 4K Ultra HD Video with 1080p Live Streaming Webcam

βœ”οΈ 3 Levels of Image Stabilization: On, High and Boost with HyperSmooth

βœ”οΈ TimeWarp 2.0 for time-lapse videos

βœ”οΈ LiveBurst setting to record 1.5 seconds before and after your shot to choose the best frame for photos

Cons – GoPro HERO 8

βœ”οΈ Only the rear touch screen with front status screen

βœ”οΈ Tends to overheat more easily than newer versions, especially in hot conditions

βœ”οΈ Doesn’t work well in low-light conditions

Specs – GoPro HERO 8

Weight: 13.6 ounces

Dimensions: 2.4 x 1.3 x 1.8 inches

Connectivity: USB and WiFi

Memory Card: Micro SD

πŸ“· Shoot with the Go Pro HERO 8

πŸ“· Get Waterproof Housing for GoPro HERO 8

A surfboard at the beach stuck in the sand, waiting for a surfer to take it out

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Important Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Cameras for Surf Photography

βœ”οΈ Price

Look at your budget and find a camera that fits within your price range. If you’re looking for something cheaper, go with used and refurbished cameras, like these DSLRs which are all under $300.

βœ”οΈ Lens

Check to see if lens you already own will fit on your new camera, or if you’ll need an adapter, or if they won’t work at all. Research lens and find one that fits your photography style and budget. Also make sure it’s durable and weather-sealed for surf photography.

βœ”οΈ Features

Check all the features and make sure the camera is to your specifications. Once you buy it, give yourself some time to play around with it to discover all the new features and get used to the way it works – most cameras will have unique settings, buttons and character!

Surf gear, kind of like surf photography gear - you'll need to bring it!

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Gear You’ll Need for the Best Cameras for Surf Photography

Surf photography equipment you’ll need includes:

βœ… Waterproof Housing

For cameras, you’ll need to find a specific housing for the camera you choose to buy.

Here are some top-rated options for smartphones:

For iPhone (13-14 models): AquaTech AxisGo iPhone Housing is the Industry Standard:

πŸ“· Get AquaTech AxisGo iPhone Housing

For Android and iPhone, this diving waterproof housing is top-rated:

πŸ“· Get Diverbox for iPhone/Samsung Galaxy/Android Phone Case Waterproof Underwater Phone Case for Surfing + More

βœ… Over-Under Water Dome (this one works with GoPro)

This is what you need to capture the perfect half-over, half-under-water surfing photos, plus for photos while deeper underwater – like when surfing, or being in waves – plus snorkeling, diving and more activities!

βœ… Editing software

The best editing software for surf photography (and other kinds of photography) is Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s easy to use and you can edit the colors, lighting and more to make it look more realistic and professional.

βœ… Camera Cleaning Kit

This Altura Photo Professional Camera Cleaning Kit is an excellent choice for a high-quality kit for your camera and lens! It’s really important to have one on hand, and to regularly clean your gear, after being subjected to the elements like saltwater and air, sand and heat all day.

πŸ“· Get the Altura Photo Professional Camera Cleaning Kit

βœ… 4-In-One Travel Tripod

The best tripod for surf photography is one that is versatile, so you can use it with your camera or phone, or even as a monopod or selfie stick. This one is also perfect for traveling and walking around because it folds up smaller than most and is lightweight:

πŸ“· Get this 4-in-1 Tripod

βœ… Camera Insurance

If you’re going to be taking your camera and gear into the water, or doing other sports, you may want to spring for insurance. Companies like Progressive and Nationwide offer insurance for cameras and photography businesses.

πŸ‘‰ For travel insurance, I use Allianz.

βœ… High-Quality SD cards

High-quality cameras are not made for regular SD cards. Especially doing video, I learned this the hard way when I first started out (my first DSLR came with a standard SD card). You need the best card to ensure you’re going to get the video without it stopping, say, every 10 seconds – and same goes for photos, especially with continuous shooting so you don’t end up with your camera stalling in-between shots.

I’ve been using SanDisk Extreme Pro Memory Cards for years.

πŸ“Έ SanDisk Extreme Pro Memory Card for DSLR and Mirrorless

πŸ“· Get the SanDisk Extreme Pro Memory Card

πŸ“ΈSanDisk 128GB Extreme microSDXC UHS-I Memory Card for GoPro

πŸ“· Get the SanDisk Extreme MicroSDXC for GoPro

βœ… External Hard Drive for backups

Always back everything up in 2-3 places! This is usually on the cloud, on your computer and on an external hard drive. Seagate is one of the top brands for external hard drives, and I’ve used them for years.

πŸ“· Get the Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive

βœ… Waterproof Backpack

The Peak Design Everyday V2 20L waterproof hiking backpack will fit your camera and accessories – plus other things you need, of course! Also, it’s top-rated by reviewers and companies alike, so it’s definitely one of the best ones out there.

πŸŽ’πŸ“Έ Learn More About the Peak Design Everyday V2 20L backpack here

βœ… Waterproof Camera Case

I absolutely love this waterproof case for my DSLR and lens. It’s not 100% sealable – it has a velcro cover – but it’s made to fit inside any backpack! I love that I can switch it out between my travel and hiking backpack.

πŸ“· Get the DSLR Waterproof Camera Insert Case

βœ… Camera Strap or Clip

Get a high-quality camera strap or clip – and, if you’re going to be hiking with your camera you may want a clip or even a harness. Check out these amazing options for hiking and backpacking:

πŸ“Έ Best Camera Straps For Backpacking

βœ… Remote Shutter (this one works with Canon cameras)

A remote shutter helps you take long-exposure photos at night and sunrise/sunset with your tripod, and for continuous shooting and any kind of photo remotely for less blurry, clearer shots!

πŸ‘‰ Remote shutter (2-pack) for smartphones:

βœ… Other accessories for the best cameras for surf photography

Here are more things you’ll need for your camera, and to keep it clean and dry:

  • Lens for DSLR and Mirrorless cameras – this is up to you, and you. can have multiple ones. I recommend getting a good zoom lens since you’ll need to have a good range of focus with surfing.
  • UV Protection Lens Filters – these can help protect your lens and camera from the sun, like sunscreen!
  • Circular Polarizer – These help you get better photos, especially of water reflections and the bottom of clear water. Just make sure to get the right size to fit your lens!
  • Backup battery and Backup Battery charger – you’ll need these for those times when you forget something or when you run out of battery charge.
  • Backup lens cover – if you drop yours in the water or sand, you’ll want a backup for sure!
  • Bag of rice – this is great to have on hand for surf photography in addition to your cleaning kit in case you actually drop your camera or phone in the water, or if it gets hit by a big wave (it’s happened to me with my phone)!

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ What Your Camera Needs For Surf Photography

When it comes to surf photography, there is land-based and water-based surf photography. You may do one or both and the cameras listed can be used for both – you’ll just need to prioritize water-sealing and water resistance, plus get the best water-housing for your camera for water-based photography.

Land-based surf photography can also benefit greatly from water protection because of the sea air and sand.

Best cameras for surf photography

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Environmental and Element Protection

Your camera needs waterproof protection plus protection from the salt air, heat, moisture and sand. You’ll need:

βœ… Weather-sealing. Most cameras (and lenses) will say if they’re water resistant and/or water-sealed.

βœ… Waterproof housing. Especially for water-based photography, but also if you’re going to get close to the water and waves, you’ll need waterproof housing, which you can buy separately. You can also bring a rain sleeve for added protection when you’re not using waterproof housing.

πŸ“· Get this DSLR Mirrorless Camera Rain Cover Sleeve

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Right Lighting Features

Lighting is extra important with surf photography because weather conditions vary, which means constant lighting changes. You’ll need control over things like ISO, as well as a camera that can capture the most realistic lighting and colors, even the most cloudy or sunny of days.

βœ… Full Frame Sensors are better than cropped because:

  • Full frame sensors allow more light to enter, which lets you capture a more complete range of color and mood.
  • If you’re using a wide angle lens, it also helps your photos have more realistic (less warped) angles.
  • Your camera sensor determines the type of lens you can buy, so if you get a full-frame camera, you’ll usually only be able to fit full-frame lenses. This is a good thing, because even if you’re not a pro, your camera is an investment.

βœ… F-stop and Aperture

The Aperture is a hole in the lens that has an opening for light. It determines how much light comes into the sensor. The aperture’s blades (or diaphragm) opens and closes when you take the photo. If they aperture is low, the opening is smaller, and if it’s high, the opening is wider. This makes your photos lighter or darker, and also determines the depth of field, which is how much of your photo appears in focus versus blurry.

If you can control the aperture, you can control your photos more.

The F-stop (or F-number) is the ratio of the lens focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil, or basically the number you see when you adjust the aperture size. This is basically the aperture written out as a fraction. For example, f/2 is larger than f/16, which is smaller.

People will pay much more for cameras that allow for a larger maximum aperture, particularly for low-light photography and for allowing for more depth of field. The minimum f-stop isn’t as important.

βœ… ISO

You can use ISO to brighten photos (by increasing it) when the weather conditions aren’t light enough, like on cloudy days or even at night. Cameras with a range of around 400-200 are needed for surf photography. You will only need ISO when the aperture and shutter speed don’t do enough for your photos.

Surfer riding waves - the best cameras for surf photography capture the best shots

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Right Camera Features for Fast Surfing

Surf photography is a type of sports photography. Waves and surfers move extremely fast, and if your camera can’t capture the action, you’ll miss the moment when “the shot” happens. Here are the features to look for in a camera to capture the action for surf photography:

βœ… 12 or higher Frames Per Second (FPS)

Look at this to see how many photos you can take per second continuously. This is absolutely important for action photos… 12 or higher is the best. Don’t go lower than 5.

βœ… Shutter Speed for Fast Burst Shooting

This is about the light that your camera takes in. If it’s too low, your photos will turn out blurry, especially with motion as in surfing. In contrast, you want slow shutter speed for night photography, but everything has to be still because of the long exposure. Fast shutter speed means shorter exposure time.

βœ… Autofocus

Autofocus is always important, and even more for beginner and intermediate photographers. It’s normal for photographers to be snobby about not using auto-anything, but don’t listen. No one is going to know if your amazing shot was made with autofocus… and you’ll get more amazing shots with it on!

I always like to experiment with both to make sure I get non-blurry shots (if I happen to not see the image clearly enough on the viewfinder).

βœ… FPS

FPS is the frame rate, or number of frames recorded, per second when capturing video. The higher your frame rate, the smoother your videos will be, which is especially important for fast-moving waves and sports like surfing.

βœ… Continuous Drive (Burst) Mode

Continuous Drive, or Burst Drive Mode is when you hold down the shutter button and your camera continues to take photos. It’s great for surfing photography, so you can ensure that you’ll get the shot, or even to capture a series. The higher the burst mode, the more shots you’ll be able to capture!

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Durability for The Best Cameras For Surf Photography

Durability will depend somewhat on the type of camera you buy, and a lot on how well you care for it (see how to make your camera last longer at the end of this post).

Higher-level cameras are built to be more durable, which is part of the reason for the high price tag.

βœ… Weather-sealing

I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s an aspect of durability to ensure you’ll get a camera that can withstand the weather conditions for surf photography.

βœ… Construction materials

The most durable and high-quality cameras are crafted with a single piece of metal. Many lower-priced cameras are made with plastic, and can still be quite durable.

βœ… Shutter actuations (DSLR)

This varies by model and there are estimations for how many each model is expected to have. Usually, you’ll be wanting to upgrade by the time the camera wears out, if you care for it well!

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Additional Needs for Best Cameras For Surf Photography

Here are a few more things to consider when choosing the right surf photography camera for you:

βœ… Video capability

Unless you’re never going to want to capture video, this is important. A high FPS, as mentioned earlier, is a factor to consider, and how long the camera can capture video (usually not more than 30 minutes at a time). With social media, it’s definitely a plus to have high quality video capability!

βœ… WiFi capability

Having WiFi lets you automatically send photos from your camera to your phone or laptop, as well as taking photos from your phone with an app (selfie, anyone?). This is helpful for getting backups to ensure you get each photo safely to your computer, or for being able to send photos to others or yourself on-the-go without messing with the memory card download process.

βœ… RAW image format

Shooting in RAW is very important because it captures more data so you can edit, print large photos and more, all of which will give you the highest-quality, professional photos to share!

A photographer waiting for the perfect surfing shot with camera

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ The Best Cameras for Surf Photography: Brands and Types

If you’re considering which brand to go with for your camera, here’s some things to consider:

  • Canon: Considered industry standard and overall best brand for photography and video.
  • Nikon: Another great brand, but more expensive and less options. Also not as great for video.
  • Sony: More affordable and easy to use, great for video and really improving especially in the mirrorless arena.
  • GoPro: A GoPro is an action camera, and much like a drone or 360-degree camera, it’s in its own category. This makes an excellent addition to a good camera to get action shots, and it’s best for video.
  • Phones: If you get an upgraded phone with a higher quality camera, you can get great photos. However, you’ll want to be careful when zooming in – usually the megapixels can’t match a high quality camera. You also may not be able to print out large photo prints of phone pictures.
Surf photography in black and white

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Tips for Choosing The Best Cameras For Surf Photography

Here are a few extra tips to consider when making a choice for what camera to get for surf photography:

  • Don’t purchase used gear from other surf photographers. Other used cameras are okay, but the ones from photographers who have been out in the ocean air and around the sand and heat will have damage that has built up over time from the elements.
  • Use a GoPro mounted on your camera water housing to capture video while shooting photos! This will help you get lots of easy extra footage, and you can take stills from the GoPro video.
  • Don’t use a point-and-shoot. If you’re serious at all about photography (even as a hobby), trust me – you’ll never be truly satisfied with a point-and-shoot. Plus, even starting from a beginner DSLR or Mirrorless camera will help you learn the settings. Once you’re used to it, it gets easier!
Surfers standing on the beach at sunset

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Making your camera last longer for surf photography

βœ… Don’t leave batteries or memory cards in for long periods of time

βœ… Don’t charge your battery or camera on the wrong kind of charger (you could ruin it)

βœ… Keep your camera out of extreme heat or cold, or high moisture for long periods of time. Also don’t take your camera from one extreme temperature into another right away. You can use a bag to prevent damage for this kind of circumstance.

βœ… Use a high-quality camera strap or clip and avoid letting your camera bump or bounce around too much

βœ… Use a protective bag specific for cameras when traveling

βœ… Know how to use your tripod and always make sure everything is secured and leveled correctly.

βœ… Always turn the power off immediately when you’re not using the camera

βœ… Bring a soft cloth, bag of rice and cleaning kit to make sure it’s dry at all times

βœ… Keep your lenses clean

βœ… Let the professionals take care of anything else

Surfers line up to wait for waves in the water early in the morning

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ FAQs for The Best Cameras For Surf Photography

πŸ‘‰ What is the best camera for surfing?

The Sony A1 is the best Mirrorless camera for surf photography, the Canon 1DX Mark III is the best DSLR for surf photography, and the GoPro HERO 11 Black is the best action camera for surf photography and video.

πŸ‘‰ Is 300mm enough for surf photography?

For lens, you’ll want a really good zoom especially if you’re photographing surfers from land, so you can get close-ups as well as photos with some scenery. 300mm telephoto lenses are enough, but you may want stronger eventually.

πŸ‘‰ How do you take a good surf picture?

For surfing, a few tips are important for taking good surf pictures: Practice leveling the horizon in the photo; experiment with lighting so your subject gets good light; make use of continuous shooting and get a good camera for surf photography.

πŸ‘‰ How do you photograph surfers in water?

Get comfortable in the water, and use both a GoPro for consistency and a good camera like the ones listed in this article. Make sure it’s not too heavy for you and that you have waterproof housing for it. Then, it’s all about practice!

πŸ‘‰ What’s the best waterproof camera for surf photography?

GoPros are the best waterproof action cameras for surf photography, but you’ll need waterproof housing for anything deeper than 10m (33ft). The best cameras for surf photography in general are DSLRs and Mirrorless, and they’re listed in this article. You’ll need waterproof housing for all of them.

πŸ‘‰ What’s the best surfing camera that follows you?

GoPros are the best surfing cameras that follow you because you can attach them to a surfboard, helmet, or literally anything else and just press record. Later, you can pull video and photos from the footage. GoPro has Emmy award-winning stabilization, too.

A black and white photo of a surfer silhouette riding a wave

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ All In All: The Best Camera For Surf Photography In 2023

I hope this guide helps you in your quest for the best cameras for surf photography! Happy photo-taking, surfing, and traveling!

Tel Aviv Yafo port beach Israel with surfboards and beach-goers in the summer

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Where to Travel for Surf Photography

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πŸ“Έ This post includes Beaches in Haifa, Israel for Surf Photography

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ More Photography and Gear Guides

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