The Best Sony Wide Angle Lens for Underwater Photography & Video

Finding a good wide angle system for Sony mirrorless cameras has been difficult until now.....
By Kyle Wagener + UWPG

It's no secret that Sony makes incredible camera bodies with industry leading technology. The Sony A1, as Sony's flagship camera, was the first camera ever able to capture 50 MP photos at 30 frames per second. The Sony A7S III and Sony FX3 is able to capture clean, useable 4k/120p video at ISOs way beyond 12,800. The Sony A7R IV is the highest resolution full-frame camera on the market, clocking in at 61 megapixels. And the list goes on....

 

But what Sony has always been lacking is a good choice of wide angle lens options for underwater photography and video - especially close-focus wide-angle. Don't get us wrong, Sony makes excellent, high-quality, professional-grade glass. We stand by the quality of Sony lenses. And indeed, the Sony 16-35mm f/4 is an incredible topside wide angle lens. But once you put a rectilinear wide angle lens behind a dome port, your corners start to get a little soft. Rectilinear lenses also don't focus quite as close as fisheye lenses. Underwater it can be essential to focus close to your subjects for the best possible color and detail. Nikon and Canon have always led the pack in underwater wide angle lenses due to their excellent fisheye options. While Sony has a fisheye conversion lens, it does not perform as well as the Canon 8-15mm fisheye or the Nikon 8-15mm fisheye. Thus the lack of a dedicated close focus wide angle lens had left us scratching our head as to the ideal wide angle option to recommend for Sony cameras.

A crocodile captured with the Sony 28-60mm kit lens and Nauticam WWL-1 wet wide lens by Kyle Wagener. Notice the corners have a nice bokeh but aren't fuzzy - even at f/11. f/11, 1/200, ISO 250

That is until we recently tested an exciting new combination - the recent Sony 28-60mm f/4-5.6 kit lens paired with the Nauticam WWL-1 Wet Wide Angle Lens is the best underwater wide angle system for Sony cameras. This wide angle pairing can also be used with a macro wet lens like the Nauticam CMC-2 Compact Macro Converter for the ultimate macro to wide angle set up without needing to change lenses topside. In a single dive you can shoot everything from a 130 degree ultra-wide field of view to 1:1 macro photos at 0.9x magnification (and anything in between). And because you only need one port and one (relatively inexpensive) lens, this system ends up being the most affordable option for Nauticam shooters that want to shoot both wide and macro. And ultimately, we think the image quality from the system is unparalleled whether you are shooting video or photos. In fact, the image quality in our wide angle images has been sharper than the image quality of the popular Sony 16-35mm because the WWL-1 produces sharper corners. So don't be fooled. The kit lens may be plasticy and inexpensive, but it packs a very powerful punch with Nauticam's water-contact optics to guide it underwater.

 

Understanding the WWL-1

The Nauticam WWL-1B is an ultrasharp wide angle wet lens that screws onto the front of a port underwater to convert a 28mm full frame lens to a 130 degree field of view. The reason this lens is so sharp is that it has been designed to work underwater so that your lens focuses on the actual subject in the water and not on the virtual image of the dome. The WWL-1 also allows your lens to focus ultra close to a subject, and has full zoom through capability - which means you can zoom anytime during the dive for a versatile field of view. And to top it off, we've found in our tests that a relatively "cheap" kit lens like the 28-60mm often performs better than fast, prime lenses. Although we are not yet sure why this is, there is anecdotal evidence of this happening with other photographers as well.

This stand of sponges is sharp from the top to the bottom of the photo by Kyle Wagener. f/11, 1/160, ISO 200

Why the Sony 28-60mm Pairs Great with the Nauticam WWL-1 for Wide Angle

We caught up with photographer, traveler, engineer, and Bluewater Photo customer Kyle Wagener, to hear his thoughts on the Sony 28-60mm w/ the Nauticam WWL-1 as the ultimate Sony wide angle system.  All the photos you see in this article are Kyle's when he joined us for some adventures with Crocs and Cenotes on our underwater photoworkshop - photographed with the Sony A7R IV. Here are Kyle's 20 pros & cons after shooting the Sony 28-60mm kit lens and the Nauticam WWL-1:

 

A nurse shark in the sand photographed by Kyle Wagener with the Sony 28-60mm kit lens and the Nauticam WWL-1. Kyle took advantage of the zoom through capability of the WWL-1 in this shot.  35mm, f/11, 1/160, ISO 320

Pros

  • The system is very compact for wide angle and macro. It's great for traveling. All you need is one port, one camera lens, and two wet lenses - the Nauticam WWL-1 and the macro diopter
  • The colors rendered from the WWL-1 are incredible! It's such a clear wet lens.
  • You can mount the WWL-1 & diopter on a strobe arm mount to get them out of the way and shoot mid range photos with the Sony 28-60mm
  • With the zoom through capability on the WWL-1, it's much more fun shooting underwater with the kit lens than a single field of view with a prime lens like the Sony 28mm f/2
  • It's easier to get better composition because you can zoom with the lens instead of cropping pictures in post processing
  • The WWL-1 has a buoyancy float collar built in with the WWL-1B. This makes it easy to balance your rig and keep it compact
  • The field of view on the WWL-1 is wide! It's great for big marine life and wrecks
  • You can capture close focus wide angle "macro" photos
  • You can focus on subjects so close that they could almost touch the WWL-1
  • The diopter gives you the option to shoot macro - but be warned, it's tricky and your subjects should be still. 
  • It's fun to use the Sony 28-60mm kit lens with the flat portto capture interesting compositions like fish portraits.
  • The kit lens is very compact; especially because it zooms in and out of itself
  • The kit lens with the flat port produces sharper images than I would have expected. 
  • The bayonet mount system makes it easy to switch between the WWL-1 and the diopter underwater
  • Because the dome of the WWL-1 is small, it makes it easy to get close to subjects in hard to reach places
  • It's easier to light subjects photographed with the WWL-1 than trying to get light around an 8" dome. 
  • All you need is this set up on your dive vacation - would won't feel like bringing other underwater gear or lenses!

Cons

  • The Sony 28-60mm is a cheap lens, and it feels cheap. But that doesn't matter because it is protected by the housing and port.
  • It's easy to retract the lens back into itself while playing with the zoom gear. If it retracts too far you can lose time and miss shots when you try to move it back

 

 

Sony 28mm f/2 Prime vs the Sony 28-60mm Kit Lens

We've noticed that overall, there is little difference between the image quality in the popular Sony 28mm f/2 prime lens with the Nauticam WWL-1 vs the Sony 28-60mm kit lens. This is particularly true because it is rare for underwater wide angle photographers to capture photos with a very wide aperture. So the only real difference between the lenses underwater is that you have zoom through capability with the kit lens. Although it might seem counterintuitive, we think it makes the most sense to go with the kit lens option vs the prime lens option and the WWL-1 if you're looking to capture the best scuba diving sites in all their glory. 

This photo was captured by Kyle Wagener and the Sony 28mm f/2 prime with the WWL-1. It's a great combination, but the Sony 28-60mm kit lens makes more sense for most shooters for the zoom through capability. f/11, 1/160, ISO 320

 

Why the Sony 28-60mm Pairs Great with the Nauticam CMC for Macro

nauticam cmc

The Sony 28-60mm kit lens works great with both the CMC-1 and CMC-2 wet macro lenses. The CMC-1 tends to have a little more magnification than the CMC-2 and can be slightly more difficult to use underwater. Therefore, we usually recommend starting with the CMC-2. All you need to do underwater is zoom into 60mm with the kit lens and screw on the CMC-2, get close to your subject and start taking excellent macro photos. 

 

 

The Nauticam Bayonet System - Mounting Made Easy

Reef scene photographed by Kyle Wagener with the Sony A7R IV, Sony 28-60mm kit lens, and Nauticam WWL-1.  f/11, 1/160, ISO 320

The ultimate goal of these Nauticam systems is to easily switch between macro and wide angle underwater. This is possible with the Natuicam bayonet mounting system. The bayonet mount allows you to attach a lens with a simple quarter turn, rather than screwing it on. The other lens can be mounted onto your strobe arm for easy access and storage. 

 


Get Your Ultimate Sony System Today

These ultimate underwater packages have everything you need for wide angle and macro photos - including the camera, lenses, housing, ports, and even memory cards...

Add one to your cart and start shooting!

 

$17,370.20

 

The Sony A1 is Sony's flagship camera - the best they have to offer. The A1 can take 50 megapixel photos up to 30 frames per second, 8K/30p & 4K/120p video, and has incredible low light performance for a camera of its resolution.

Read our full Sony A1 Camera Review

 

Sony A7R IV

$13,830.20

The Sony A7R IV is the world's highest resolution full-frame camera capable of shooting 61 megapixel photos photos - perfect for macro photographers who want to crop to their heart's desire.

Read our full Sony A7R IV Camera Review

 
         
 

Sony FX3

$15,270.30

 

The Sony FX3 ties for the top video camera this year as it is a Sony A7S III repackaged into a cinema camera body - complete with an internal fan to stop the camera from overheating.

Read our Sony FX3 Camera Review

 

Sony A7S III

$14,213.30

 

The Sony A7S III is our favorite underwater video camera this year, capable of shooting 4K/120p video with clean footage at extremely high ISOs! This package is perfect for those that want to shoot both wide angle and macro video in the same dive.

Read our full Sony A7S III Camera Review

 

 

 


A crocodile captured with the Sony 28-60mm kit lens and Nauticam WWL-1 wet wide lens by Kyle Wagener. f/9, 1/250, ISO 250

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Wagener is an engineer, artist, and merchant mariner. His photography focuses on candid street moments, seafaring sagas, revealing portraits, landscapes of unique places. You can check out more of his work at https://www.kylewagener.com/.

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