Have you ever wondered what’s one of the best investments you can make to improve your underwater photography? Quality lenses are the answer. But how do you know what’s the best lens for underwater photography?

Your choice in lenses as a UW photographer becomes even more important as each lens requires different ports and housing accessories. Various types of photography, such as wide angle or macro, require different lenses. Just because a lens is ideal for topside photography doesn’t make it ideal for use underwater!

One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to make your life easier when it comes to gear shopping. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose a lens for underwater photography and show you our selection of the best models of the year.

 

THE BEST LENS FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY – QUICK ANSWER

  1. Sony FE 90mm Macro
  2. Canon EF 100mm
  3. Inon UWL-H100
  4. Nauticam CMC-1
  5. Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye
  6. Nikon 16mm Fisheye
  7. Canon 60mm Macro
  8. Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye
  9. Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm
  10. Nauticam WW-1

 

 

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THE BEST LENS FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY –  A COMPARISON

PICTURE
LENS
WIDE ANGLE / MACRO
CAMERA
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
LENS
WIDE ANGLE / MACRO
CAMERA
PRICE
RATING
Sony FE 90mm Macro
Macro
Mirrorless
$$$
5.0
Canon EF 100mm
Macro
dSLR
$$$
4.9
Inon UWL-H100
Wide Angle
Compact
$$
4.5
nauticam
Nauticam CMC-1
Macro
Compact
$
5.0
Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye
Wide Angle
dSLR
$$
4.3
Nikon 16mm Fisheye
Wide Angle
dSLR
$$$
4.8
Canon 60mm Macro
Macro
dSLR
$
4.5
Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye
Wide Angle
dSLR
$$$
4.5
Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm
Wide Angle
Mirrorless
$$$
4.4
na-83201
Nauticam WW-1
Wide Angle
Compact
$$$
4.5

 

 

LENSES FOR UNDERWATER PHOTO 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST LENS FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

 

1. TYPE OF CAMERA

Not all lenses are suitable for all cameras. In this guide, we will be looking at a variety of different lenses for compact cameras, dSLR cameras, and mirrorless camera systems. If you’re still undecided about which camera body is right for you, check out our article about the best diving cameras.

 

COMPACT CAMERA LENSES

Compact camera lenses are built into the camera and thus cannot be changed. Divers who use compact camera systems to take photos underwater will need to use “wet lenses”. These wet lenses are added on top of the camera housing to create either a wide angle or macro capability.

An advantage of wet lenses is that they can be added and removed underwater. This gives compact camera shooters the ability to shoot both wide angle and macro on a single dive!

 

DSLR AND MIRRORLESS LENSES

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are the choices for experienced photographers and professionals. These cameras allow for interchangeable lenses. They cost more and lenses are sold separately.

 

2. TYPE OF UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

To find the best lens for you, you’ll need to think about what type of photography you will be shooting. We recommend you have a quality wide-angle lens and a macro lens in your photography kit.

 

WIDE ANGLE

Wide angle UW photography allows you to capture the ocean in all of its glory! This type of photography normally includes the ocean water itself as a composition element. Wide angle UW photography is used for taking shots of large schools of fish, large marine mammals or magnificent seascapes.

 

MACRO

UW macro photography focuses in on the miniature details of the ocean. Whether it would be a gorgeous nudibranch or a microscopic shrimp, macro photography captures the beauty that most people overlook in the ocean.

 

Wide angle UW photography is easier than UW macro photography, so most people start off buying a wide angle lens. Once you have gained some experience with the dynamics of shooting underwater, it might be time to invest in a macro lens.

 

3. TYPE OF LENS

 

RECTILINEAR

Most lenses are rectilinear. This means that straight features appear straight in the image, instead of being spherical like with a fisheye lens.

 

FISHEYE

Any lens with a focal distance smaller than 35mm is considered wide angle. Underwater, though, we need to go extra wide with our lenses. Going extra wide will allow us to get as close to our subject as possible while still capturing the whole subject and including the background.

Fisheye lenses are a special kind of ultra-wide lens. They give a unique curved perspective. For example, a 16mm fisheye lens will create a wider image than a 16mm rectilinear lens.

An advantage of fisheye lenses is they allow you to get closer to your subjects. This is key for better color and image sharpness.

 

MACRO

Macro lenses are rectilinear lenses specifically designed for up close work. These lenses have a long barrel for close focusing and continuous autofocus system. The best macro lenses are fixed focal length non-zoom lenses.

 

4. FOCAL LENGTHS

The focal length of a lens is the number expressed in millimeters. Smaller focal lengths are for wide angle lenses – think 10mm or 20mm. Macro lenses have larger focal lengths – think 60mm or even 100mm.

WIDE ANGLE FOCAL LENGTHS – Large schools of fish, divers, reefs, dolphins, whale sharks and wrecks.

MID-RANGE FOCAL LENGTHS – Marine life portraits and large fish.

MACRO FOCAL LENGTHS – Nudibranchs, micro shrimps, gobies, coral details, intimate portraits.

 

5. BUDGET

It’s important to find the best lens for your desired type of photography within your budget. Sony, Canon and Nikon lenses are on the most expensive options. There are cheaper brands that offer the same kind of lens (Tokina and Sigma), but their quality doesn’t match that of the Sony, Canon and Nikon lenses. You will need to think about whether dropping an extra $500 – $1000 is worth it.

 

The Adventure Xperience

 

 

 

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES REVIEWS

THE TOP 10 LENSES FOR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

 

1. SONY FE 90mm MACRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Macro Photography

LENS TYPE: Full frame Sony E-mount lens for mirrorless cameras

APERTURE RANGE: f/2.8-22

PROS: 1:1 magnification and excellent image stabilization

CONS: Heavy, large and expensive lens

 

 

2. CANON EF 100mm MACRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Macro photography

LENS TYPE: Full frame dSLR macro lens

APERTURE RANGE: f/2.8-32

PROS: Life size 1:1 macro magnification

CONS: Autofocus can sometimes travel a bit when trying to find a focus point

 

 

 

3. INON UWL-H100

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Interchangeable wet lens for compact cameras

APERTURE RANGE: N/A

PROS: Sharp corners and excellent image quality.

CONS: Heavy and loss of corner sharpness when using a red filter

 

 

4. NAUTICAM CMC-1

nauticam

Check out the latest price on:
Backscatter

BEST FOR: Macro photography

LENS TYPE: Interchangeable wet lens for compact cameras

APERTURE RANGE: N/A

PROS: Lightweight and high magnification whilst still retaining excellent image quality and sharpness

CONS: Image corners can show up black sometimes if camera lens is not zoomed in

 

 

 

5. TOKINA 10-17mm FISHEYE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Cropped sensor dSLR lens

APERTURE RANGE: f/3.5-4.5

PROS: Comes with either a Canon or Nikon mount and sharp 180° field of view with close focusing ability

CONS: Auto focus capability lags in low light environments

 

 

 

 

6. NIKON 16MM FISHEYE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Full frame dSLR fisheye lens

APERTURE RANGE: f/2.8-22

PROS: Close-Range Correction (CRC) system provides excellent performance at both far and near focusing distances

CONS: Corner sharpness poor at f/4 and f/5.6

 

 

 

7. CANON 60MM MACRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Macro Photography

LENS TYPE: Cropped sensor dSLR lens

APERTURE RANGE: f/2.8-32

PROS: Very versatile lens and it’s even possible to get a 1:1 magnification ratio if you move in close enough

CONS: Slow autofocus due to large range of focus

 

 

 

8. CANON EF 8-15MM FISHEYE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Full frame and cropped sensor dSLR fisheye lens

APERTURE RANGE: f/4 – 22

PROS: Full circular fisheye effect at the 8mm end

CONS: Expensive lens if using a cropped sensor camera. The Tokina 10-17mm will give you almost the same results at half the price if using a cropped sensor camera

 

 

 

9. SONY VARIO-TESSER T* FE 16-35MM

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Rectilinear full frame Sony E-mount lens for mirrorless cameras

APERTURE RANGE: f/4-f22

PROS: Wide angle and short minimum focus distance make this lens ideal for underwater

CONS: Heavy and expensive lens

 

 

 

10. NAUTICAM WW-1

na-83201

Check out the latest price on:
Backscatter

BEST FOR: Wide angle photography

LENS TYPE: Interchangeable wet lens for compact cameras

APERTURE RANGE: N/A

PROS: Excellent image quality, full zoom capability and great angle of view

CONS: Large and heavy for a compact set up

 

Top 10 Best Lenses For Underwater Photography – Underwater  Photography Tips - Scuba Diving Gear and Equipment Posts – Dive Products and Accessories
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