Have you ever pondered the thought of purchasing the best lens for underwater photography?
If you love extreme sports, or if you love to spend your summer vacation near the camera, you probably have.
With technological advancements, today is possible to capture more marine life, more than ever before.
Underwater shots are among the coolest ones you can see on social media, and their popularity will increase to grow as time goes by.
Many photographers like to explore this niche, and they need to have quality gear to do so.
Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t offer many useful solutions in terms of buying guides, which is a shame for all underwater photo enthusiasts.
Luckily, I have decided to create a comprehensive guide to help fellow photographers to lift their spirits, by showing them what optics they should get to become much better at underwater photo sessions.
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 has an optical construction of seven elements in six groups, along with seven rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 180 degrees, with a minimum focus distance of 5,91 inches, a maximum magnification ratio of 0,26x, and a 1:3.8 macro reproduction ratio. It doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but it comes with a wide aperture of an f/2.8 to ensure rock-solid low light performance.
The reason why I decided to put it on the underwater camera lenses list is the spectacular color palette the lens offers, along with a phenomenal, super-wide angle of view that allows one to capture much wider frames. The colors look incredibly good, with the right amount of saturation, and the contrast is deep and black. The distortion is, naturally, present, but I tried using it to my advantage, by creating interesting angle views and I did a fairly decent job in utilizing the lens’ unique setup.
I am also quite impressed:
by the sharpness level and all of the images I have taken look tack-sharp, especially at the center, with slight softness in the edges. The Focus system is extremely well-developed, although it is relatively noisy. During the testing, I didn’t have issues with focus hunt or jamming, and it works quite fast and accurately. The aperture of an f/2.8 is sufficient to tackle unfavorable lighting conditions, even without the OIS. Design-wise, it has a neat and stylish look, although the overall design isn’t the selling point. It does feel good in hands and it is quite compact.
- Wide aperture
- Super-wide angle of view
- Fast focus
- Lack of OIS
Nikon has an optical design of eight elements in five groups, with seven rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 180 degrees, with the closest focus distance of 9,84 inches, and a maximum magnification of 0,1x. The Nikon 16mm f/2.8 lens doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but it does have a wide aperture to compromise it. There are two key reasons why it made the best lenses for underwater photography list.
The first relates to the wide opening, which allows a lot of light to enter the sensors, thus producing high-quality images under low light conditions, as well as a beautiful bokeh effect. The second is the ultra-wide-angle the lens offers since it allows one to frame so much more.
The overall image quality is great, with sharp results from each take. At the center of the image, the sharpness level is exquisite, although it tends to go softer around the corners (but it was expected). Color grading is solid, with nice mid-tones and strong overall contrast. The lens does a fairly good job in controlling the chromatic aberrations, and I didn’t face any issues with flare either.
Distortion is present, but it was expected, and it doesn’t go to a problematic degree, because all issues are easily resolved in post-production. Focusing was responsive and accurate, with no hunting issues. From a design point of view, it feels good in hands, and the built material deserves praise. It is made of metal and plastic, and it feels good in hands. Although some could object to the bigger front element, I didn’t have any issues (note: you will need a special lens cap, and it can be big for standard filters).
- Fast aperture
- Wide angle of view
- Solid focus
- Sturdy design
- Lack of OIS
Canon 8-15mm f/4 offers an optical construction of 14 elements in 11 groups, with seven rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 180° to 175° 30′, with a minimum focus distance of 5,91 feet, and a maximum magnification of 0,34x. It doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but it doesn’t stop it from achieving a solid low-light performance. The main reason why I put it on the best lens for underwater photography is due to its capacity to capture mesmerizing 360° images.
The next important thing:
worth mentioning is the phenomenal overall sharpness the lens can achieve. At the maximum opening, images are razor-sharp, and they get even sharper when stepped down a few notches. If you use a full-frame camera with OIS, you can capture incredible, professional-looking shots under low-light settings. Full-frame also allows photographers to capture circular (or rectangular) images. Once you are ready to explore, the whole array of possibilities opens up with these optics.
The color transmission is incredible, I like the color palette with natural, yet vibrant tones and strong contrast. I am also pleased with the focus system since it is very responsive and accurate, and doesn’t cause missed shots. Additional plus in that regard goes to silent operations. From a design point of view, the “L” signature ensures it is of top-notch quality. The materials the lens is made from are the finest, with a nice finish touch and a phenomenal handheld experience. Moreover, it is quite compact as well.
- Fast aperture
- Good focus
- Excellent design
- Lack of OIS
Sony’s optical solution includes 12 elements in 10 groups, with seven rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 107° to 63°, with a minimum focus distance of 11,02 inches, and a maximum magnification of 0,19x. It is also equipped with optical image stabilization that complements an f/4 aperture in obtaining high-quality images under low light. The main factor that influenced me to put Sony 16-35mm f/4 on the best lens for underwater photography list is the versatility of focal length, and the ability to shoot videos and stills of the same quality, respectively.
I was very pleased:
with the general sharpness this lens produces. At all focal lengths and apertures, pictures are razor-sharp at the center, with barely visible (but present) corner vignetting. At the maximum aperture, images appear great regarding sharpness, and it is good that one doesn’t have to stop a few notches down to get professional results. The color rendering looks magnificent with beautiful tones and strong contrast.
Another crucial point is the OIS because it comes in handy when one wants to capture pictures on the go, especially under low light conditions. It ensures the stability of a few stops and does a rock-solid job under dim light. When it comes to design, the lens is big, although manageable and I didn’t have issues handling it. It is made out of solid materials and has a robust grip on it.
- Fast focus
- Great design
- Limiting aperture
Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 comes with 10 elements in eight groups, with six rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 180° to 100°, with a minimum focus distance of 5,5 inches, and a maximum magnification of 0,39x. Although the lens doesn’t have optical image stabilization, it is equipped with a solid aperture that provides a good low-light performance.
The key reason why Tokina is on the best underwater lenses list is the incredible sharpness it produces. At the maximum opening, images remained tack-sharp across the frame, aside from the vignetting (and it was negligible). I also had a good time exploring various techniques and strange wide-angled close-up shots, especially at slower speeds when I wanted to capture water curvatures.
the color grading is superior, with beautiful tones and strong contrasts. The only flaw regards the presence of fringing, but the amount wasn’t considerable. Another great thing is an excellent focus system. It locks on the subject at a reasonable speed and doesn’t cause any issues with hunting. The construction is also quite good, with smooth focus and zoom rings.
- Fast focus
- Solid design
- Lack of OIS
Purchasing the best lens for underwater photography may come off as a daunting task due to the many specific technicalities that come with these types of optics. As the article outlines, there are numerous details one needs to be aware of to acquire the right gear for themselves.
Luckily, is a sufficient offer of lenses from all manufacturers and brands of your liking. If you pick any of those five from the list above, your underwater photography game will become much better in no time.
The Canon 8-15mm f/4 is a fantastic choice if you still need help deciding which lens is best for you.
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