When choosing which camera to purchase as an amateur underwater photographer, there are many options. Digital cameras have become the status quo in underwater photography just as they have on land. They have the advantage of being able to hold many more shots than standard photographic film, which typically does not exceed 36 frames per roll and cannot be changed underwater. Digital cameras also have a greater depth of field, image clarity and faster shutter speed than film cameras, making digital the obvious choice for underwater photography.

A major decision for many amateur photographers is choosing between a compact camera and a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera. The preference between each camera type usually comes down to a decision between the flexibility and potential for higher image quality of dSLR cameras versus the lower cost, portability and simplicity of the compact camera, or 'point and shoot'. The dSLR cameras are typically able to equip different lenses underwater for greater versatility.

Some cameras are created specifically for use underwater. For greater versatility many photographers prefer 'dry' cameras that can double as underwater cameras with the addition of a housing, or waterproofed camera case. Most housings are made specifically for a certain brand or body type of camera, and can be created from plastic, silicone or slightly higher-priced aluminum materials. Housings also enable the photographer to utilize any lens in their possession for greater image quality and diversity, as opposed to many exclusively amphibious cameras.

Regardless of the material they are made of, housings use waterproof silicone rings and joints to enable access to the camera and its functions. These housings may also have connectors to attach external flash or strobe lighting. Some basic housings allow the use of the flash on the camera, but the built in flash may not be powerful enough or properly placed for use underwater. It is recommended to have at least one, if not two, external strobe lights that are situated away from the main body of the camera. These strobes would be connected with fiber optic cables to the main camera flash, which can then be disabled or adjusted accordingly.

Underwater photographers typically prefer wide angle or macro lenses, both of which allow close focus. Since this removes the need for long underwater distance between camera and subject, use of these lenses will increase color and image sharpness. A wide angle lens increases the peripheral view, allowing for photos of large subjects such as a coral reef section or shipwreck. A macro lens allows the photographer to take a photo very close to the subject with an emphasis on detail and clarity. Both are considered vital for underwater photography.

There are some problems with using cameras inside a watertight housing. Because of refraction, the image coming through the lens port will be distorted, especially when using wide-angle lenses. To correct this, photographers use a dome-shaped or fish-eye port, which corrects the imbalance. Most manufacturers make these dome ports for their housings, often designing them to be used with specific lenses to increase their effectiveness. With macro lenses the distortion caused by refraction is not a problem, so a simple flat glass port may be used. In fact, refraction increases the magnifying power of the macro lens, so this is considered a benefit to photographers who are trying to capture very small subjects. Or one could simply purchase a camera made for underwater photography and simplify the experience.