best camera for aquarium photography reflex example

So, really… what is the best camera for aquarium photography? I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that question. The truth is, it is difficult to select the “best” camera for shooting fish pictures.

The reason I say that, is because there are so many variables that make it almost impossible for any individual camera to excel in every situation.

Aquarium photography is not as easy as it first appears. In fact, it can be quite tricky. You are dealing with low light conditions and fast moving, unpredictable subjects. 

And to make it even more difficult, you are shooting through glass and water.

You can take a nice overall shot of the entire tank and it looks great! But when you try to get a closeup of your favorite fish, that’s when it gets tricky. Taking quality photographs of an individual fish is not easy.

Blurry images, under-exposed shots, reflections, washed-out colors, and poorly framed shots are more the norm than the exception.

No Flash for Me, Please

no flash in best camera for aquarium photography

Oh, by the way – this article is going to discuss cameras and equipment for taking fish pictures without the use of a flash.

A flash tends to wash out colors. Also, depending on the fish species, it can reflect off their scales. I will write another article about using a flash, but I really don’t like a flash for aquarium photography. I prefer using illumination from light strips and spotlights outside the tank.

The two main objectives in aquarium photography are:

  1. Sufficient light on the subject to allow a fast shutter speed, to freeze motion
  2. Sharp focus on the subject

The Best Camera for Aquarium Photography

I know… I just told you a minute ago that it was impossible to proclaim any one camera as the “best” for our aquarium photographic endeavors. However, I CAN proclaim a type of camera which is best suited for this task.

The best camera for aquarium photography is the one that enables you to adjust settings manually. The Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera is your best choice for fish photography, for that reason.

DSLR Is The Way to Go

The “point-and-shoot” cameras are great, as is your iPhone or Samsung smartphone. You can take some awesome photographs using these cameras, but they do not begin to compare with the versatility of a DSLR camera.

If you want to learn about photography and how to shoot great aquarium photos, then you need to get a real camera with manual setting controls.

Yes, you can still use the auto-focus, or the auto-exposure, or any of the fancy bells and whistles that the new DSLR cameras have – but the point is, you can select any of them to be set manually at your pleasure. That is the real power of the versatile DSLR.

They are more expensive than the point-and-shoot cameras… but then, you’d expect them to be more expensive, right? Look at it as an investment in your hobby. (That works for me, but with my wife, not so much.)

Sensor Size

There are two sensor sizes that most DSLR cameras utilize:

  • 35mm full-frame (36 mm × 24 mm)
  • APS-C (25.1×16.7 mm)

The full-frame is roughly equivalent to a 35mm frame while the APS-C is slightly smaller. The larger the image sensor, the more pixels, and information can be captured. This means you get more detail and a sharper image.


As I mentioned earlier, the ability to change lenses on your camera is a huge advantage, and the reason I think the DSLR camera is the best camera for aquarium photography.

When taking pictures of your fish room or an overall shot of your aquarium, you might use a “nifty fifty”, or 50 mm lens. But when you want a close-up of your prize Discus spawning, you can easily switch to a 100 mm macro lens and get amazing detail.

Quality Lenses Will Make Your Wife Faint

telephoto lens

Quality lenses are expensive. There’s no easy way to say it, so I’ll just spit it out. You can easily spend as much, or more, on a quality prime lens as you spent on the camera body.

But if you shop around, you can find good deals as well. Keep in mind, you can use third-party lenses on your Nikon, or Canon… you don’t HAVE to spend your kid’s college fund to buy that lens you have been dreaming of. The third-party lenses are fully compatible with your camera, just make sure you specify which brand and model camera you have. The savings can be considerable.

For instance, this Rokinon 50mm F1.4 Lens for Canon EF is much less expensive than the comparable Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens

If you are considering a macro lens, you will want one that can capture detail further back in your tank. I prefer the 105 mm, but 90 mm will work as well. These lenses will allow you to shoot fish that are further away from the front of the tank and still zoom in with amazing clarity.


While your smartphone does a great job taking snapshots, it is really not going to give you the professional level quality of aquarium photography that a DSLR camera will.

The same goes for point-and-shoot cameras. They have come a long way and they are getting better every day. But, until they allow you to switch lenses at will and adjust settings manually, a DSLR is definitely the best camera for aquarium photography. By the way, my favorite choice of camera is currently the awesome Canon EOS 6D Mark II – take a look, and you’ll see why.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. It turned out a little long-winded… so if you actually made it to the end, then I am impressed! Take a few minutes and comment below. I’d love to hear what your favorite camera is.

Further Reading

I previously wrote an article about this, kinda…