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Macro Wet Lenses for Underwater Photography (Compact Cameras)
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, April 20, 2016 @ 06:00 AM (EST)


With higher-quality optics and larger, lower-noise sensors, the latest generation of compact cameras can often produce images that compete well with those of their DSLR cousins. But users are ultimately limited by the capabilities of their compact’s in-built zoom lens, which typically means a less-than-ideal macro performance underwater.


Getting Closer with a Macro Wet Lens

By adding a special lens between the subject and your camera’s lens, the minimum lens-to-subject distance can be decreased, allowing you to increase magnification. Such accessories go by various names—macro converter, close-up lens, diopter, magnifier—but they all perform the same function: increasing the possible size of the focused subject in the frame. A macro converter is also a “wet” lens, because it is placed in front of the port of your housing, making it possible to easily add or remove as needed.


Optical Power and Magnification

The available close-up wet lenses for compact cameras are generally distinguished by price, mount type, and magnifying power, which is given in diopters, a unit of measurement of the optical power. The number of diopters for a given lens is useful for the purposes of comparison, but the actual achievable magnification depends on your camera lens and housing port configuration. For example, according to Nauticam, pairing the Compact Macro Converter (CMC-1) below with the Panasonic DMC-LX7 achieves a maximum magnification of 1.9x, while with Sony RX100 Mark IV, it’s up to 2.3x, and with the Canon PowerShot G7 X, as much as 3x magnification—significant differences. (Read about the optical considerations behind close-up lenses in Part 2B of DPG’s “Super Macro Underwater Photography – The Definitive Guide.”)


Mounting Options

Wet lenses attach to your compact camera housing either via a bayonet or thread mount; the former makes it easier to add and remove the attachment, while the latter method is generally felt to be more secure. Although many housings have the standard 67mm thread, some have smaller threads, so you may need an adapter. Before deciding on a lens accessory, make sure it can be accommodated by your particular housing.


The following provides a roundup of the most commonly used close-up wet lenses for compact cameras.

 

Make/Model
Mount
Optical Power
Weight (Air)
Price
ReefNet SubSee 67mm thread +5 diopters
(+10 option)
8.5oz/240g $195
($225)
Inon UCL-165AD Bayonet
(67mm option)
+6 diopters 2.5oz/70g $165
Nauticam CMC-1 67mm thread +15 diopters
(estimated)
9.2oz/260g $320
Fantasea SharpEye M67 67mm thread +4 diopters
(+8 option)
5oz/140g $180
($180)
Dyron Double M67 67mm thread +7 diopters 5.6oz/160g $140
(€125)
Aquatica +5 67mm thread +5 diopters
(+10 option)
8.8oz/250g $205
($230)


Close-up wet lenses compared

 

ReefNet SubSee Magnifier

Working with both full-frame and compact cameras, ReefNet’s SubSee Magnifier +5 has a 52mm diameter lens and a wide field of view. The standard 67mm mounting thread allows the lens to be screwed directly onto various housing ports. Alternatively, ReefNet supplies optional flip-type adapters to provide compatibility with all the major housings. The SubSee comes in two-element +5 and four-element +10 diopter versions.

$195 | www.reefnet.ca | www.backscatter.com

 

Inon UCL-165AD Macro Lens

The UCL-165AD is a dual-element lens with an optical power of +6 diopters. Multiple lenses can be stacked to achieve even greater magnifications. The attachment uses Inon’s AD bayonet mount, so it works on housings with a 35mm “AD” mount or 28mm “28AD” mount (via an optional Inon AD Mount Converter). There is also a version of the close-up lens with a 67mm threaded mount, the UCL-165M67. For other housings not compatible with these mounts, Inon makes various “mount bases” which can be used with the UCL-165AD.

$165 | www.inon.jp | www.backscatter.com

 

Nauticam CMC-1 Compact Macro Converter

The CMC-1 is a powerful close-up lens accessory for compacts inspired by Nauticam’s Super Macro Converter (SMC-1), which is a favorite of DSLR users. Nauticam doesn’t specify the dioptric power, but compares the magnifying power of the CMC-1 with that of a +15 diopter lens. The lens comes with the common 67mm threaded lens mount, making the CMC-1 compatible with a variety of housings in addition to Nauticam’s own. Nauticam recommends using a “flip lens holder” (with appropriate 67mm thread), which places the lens close to the camera lens port and allows you to flip the CMC-1 into position when desired and out of the way again when not needed.

$320 | www.nautica.com | www.backscatter.com

 

Fantasea SharpEye M67 Macro Lens

 

The Fantasea SharpEye is a dual-element +4 diopter wet lens with a standard 67mm thread, providing compatibiliy with Fantasea’s range of F-series, G-series and S-series housings. A +8 diopter version of the SharpEye is also available. Fantasea also sells adapters that enable the lens to be used on camera housings featuring a 55mm or a 46mm threaded lens port.

$180 | www.fantasea.com | www.backscatter.com

 

Dyron Double M67 Macro Lens

Dyron’s Double Macro +7 diopter lens features two elements and 67mm male rear threading and 67mm female front threading, which allows you to stack lenses or screw on additional filters. Dyron sells adapters for use with selected Canon and Recsea housings.

$140 (€125) | www.dyronstore.com

 

Aquatica +5 Macro Lens

Aquatica offers their dual-element close-up wet lens in both +5 and +10 diopter versions and they can be used with both full-frame and compact housings, via a standard 67mm thread. Aquatica offers additional single- and double-hinged versions of its flip holders for use with their own housings, as well as a lens caddy which mounts on their housing grip and provides a convenient way of storing close-up lenses when not in use.

$205 | www.aquatica.ca | www.backscatter.com
 



When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.

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