Lenses play an extremely important role in underwater photography. It is through the lens that the image with the desired characteristics falls upon a camera’s imaging sensor. The two most important lenses in underwater photography are wide angle lenses and macro lenses.
In this article, we will take a look at the 5 best lenses that’ll be faithful companions in your journey through the fascinating world of underwater photography. The choice of lenses is a very personal one and needs a number of considerations, though, by and large, these 5 lenses are the top scorers preferred by most photographers.
There are several criteria based on which we arrive at the list of the top 5 lenses. These are:
- The features of the lens relative to its price
- Amazon rating of the lens, which reflects user reviews and feedback
- The number of complaints registered on consumerreports.org
- The warranty duration of the lens
- Extra bonuses offered with the lens
So, based on the parameters listed above, here, we give you, dear reader, the best 5 lenses for underwater photography:
The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye lens is a circular fisheye, which delivers an exceptionally sharp picture underwater. The lens has significantly reduced chromatic aberration over its competitors and delivers striking contrast and sharpness.
The lens can be used on both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras, though the focal length range would be modified on the latter owing to their smaller sensors. The lens delivers such spectacular image quality on a full-frame sensor, it is unrivalled in its performance underwater. You will be able to get a full circular fisheye at the 8mm focal length range on a full frame camera.
The lens has an aperture range of f/4 to f/22. The lens will cost you about $1249, which is $720 more than the #2 position holder, Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye lens, which can be a more viable alternative if you plan to use this lens on a cropped sensor camera.
The Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye lens has a 4.5/5 Amazon rating and is a favourite amongst underwater photographers. If there is one lens that is unquestionable in its underwater performance, it has to be this one.
The Tokina lens is the first choice amongst both Nikon and Canon underwater photographers. The lens has a 180º field of view and has a small minimum focusing distance, allowing you to closely approach your subject, a feature so crucial to underwater photography.
The lens features a 3-year warranty, so you could freely use it in your creative pursuits with peace of mind. The lens is quite reasonably priced at $529 (Canon mount) or $480 (Nikon mount) and is a great alternative to the #1 ranking Canon 8-15mm if you plan to use the latter on a cropped sensor camera, the Tokina lens being considerably cheaper with a great overall image quality.
The lens provides an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/4.5 and is quite lightweight. The lens can also be used on full-frame camera bodies, giving great results. The Tokina has a rating of 4.1/5 (Canon mount) and 3.2/5 (Nikon mount) and is the recommended go-to lens for those with cropped sensor cameras.
The Canon 100mm macro is a favourite amongst underwater macro photographers. Priced at $799 with a rating of 4.9/5, this is an extremely popular underwater photography macro lens that is a must have for any underwater image maker!
The lens features an ultrasonic motor and excellent image stabilisation. The lens has exceptional low-light performance and can provide a life-size 1:1 magnification so sought after by macro photographers. It is ideal when you wish to compose tight close-ups of your subjects underwater, giving you incredibly detailed close-up shots that are hard to match in their character.
The Canon lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/32 and is most sought after by full frame photographers. Cropped sensor camera owners can also take a look at the Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens instead, which is priced $400 cheaper at $399 and has a rating of 4.7/5 on Amazon. The 100mm is more suited to the full-frame bodies since the 60mm offers a wider composition on these.
If you’re a Nikon shooter, consider getting the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR lens, which is priced at $897 and delivers great results.
The Sony 90mm Macro lens is the most sought after lens by those underwater photographers who’ve gone the mirrorless camera route. The lens features excellent image stabilisation and is built to minimise reflections and flare with its nano coating.
The lens has an incredibly low minimum focusing distance, about 0.92 feet, which allows you to closely approach your subjects for stunning close-up shots. The Direct Drive SSM motor allows the lens to focus silently without much noise.
The lens delivers life-size 1:1 magnification and focusses internally without changing the lens’ overall length. The Sony 90mm macro has a 4.6/5 rating on Amazon and comes with a 1-year parts and 1-year labour coverage under warranty.
The Sigma 15mm fisheye lens is one of the most commonly found lenses in underwater photographers’ kits. The lens comes with a 1-year limited warranty and a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
The Sigma 15mm offers a fisheye 180º field of view and focusses extremely closely. The lens is quite affordably priced at $609 for both Canon and Nikon mounts and has an Amazon rating of 4.6/5 for the Canon mount model and 5/5 for the Nikon mount model.
The lens offers a magnification ratio of 1:3.8 and can focus as close as 5.9 inches. A gelatine filter holder is provided at the lens rear to hold gelatine filters. The lens can be used on both cropped sensor and full frame Nikon and Canon cameras.
The best lens, according to our research, is the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM, which forms incredibly sharp and detailed images with a nice contrast and with the power of the fisheye, of course. If, however, you aren’t willing to shell out $1249 for this amazing lens, you could instead choose the #2 ranking Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye lens instead, particularly if you own a cropped sensor camera. The latter is $720 cheaper than the Canon and also features a 3-year warranty.
The Sony 90mm Macro is a great choice for mirrorless cameras and features excellent image stabilisation, making it ideal for use underwater.
Click Here To Check Out The Canon EF 8-15m On Amazon.com
What about the Cheaper Options?
What if you own a non-interchangeable lens camera, a compact? There are several ‘wet lenses’ available that offer superior quality and are ideal for use underwater. Another added advantage is the fact that unlike DSLR lenses, the wet lenses can also be changed underwater on compacts, so you could enjoy shooting with both wide angle and macro lenses in a single dive!
We recommend the Inon UWL-H100, which is a great wide conversion wet lens for compact cameras. Costing about $360, this lens converts your camera’s built in lens into an ultra wide angle lens with an almost 100-180º field of view! This lens is also known for delivering sharp images underwater with an excellent overall image quality.
The Nauticam CMC-1 is another alternative. This is an interchangeable wet lens for compact cameras and is ideal for taking macro shots underwater.
DSLR owners might also want to try the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 wide angle lens, which is an essential part of many underwater photographers’ lens kits. The lens is quite affordably priced at about $399 and is available with Canon, Sony, and Nikon mounts. This is an ultra-wide angle zoom lens with a great overall optical performance at its price.
Putting it all together
The choice of lenses is a difficult one and depends on the size of your camera sensor as well: do you own a compact camera, a DSLR with a full-frame sensor, a cropped sensor DSLR or a mirrorless? The best lens choices would vary widely, depending on these camera categories. The cost of the lenses varies with the manufacturer with those made by Canon, Nikon, and Sony being the most expensive.
Their counterparts by Sigma and Tokina are considerably cheaper though they often fail to compete with the Nikons, Canons, and Sonys as far as the image quality is concerned.
Remember, the lens is the most crucial element in the entire underwater photography chain. Make the best use of the lens you have with you and practice regularly to hone your underwater photography skills.