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Guide: Recommended Lenses for Underwater Photography


Buying the best lenses and ports to use them in, can be a long-term value investment. Lenses and ports can be used over and over as you buy new cameras. Buying high-quality lens solutions as you can afford them is the best plan. However, planning what lenses to buy and what format to invest in is a very important decision.

Most cameras come bundled with an inexpensive “kit” lens. These vary in value underwater, but generally aren’t wide enough, focus close enough, or offer the best sharpness to be used well underwater. Their build quality (mount and glass) isn't usually the best either. The extra expense of extensions, gears and ports can make these “inexpensive” lenses poor investments in the long run. Many new underwater photographers end up selling them after a short while as they are disappointed with the results, then are stuck with extensions and ports they can't use.

Underwater we generally want three general focal length ranges of lenses; all with the idea of getting as close to the subject as we can. Water absorbs light, color and clarity; eliminating as much of it as we can gives us the best results.

Those ranges are ultra-wide, mid-range zoom, and macro. Ultra-wide fisheye lenses yield the best corner sharpness. With the ability to focus within a few inches of the lens, fisheyes are the go-to option for close focus wide angle photography (CFWA). Wide-angle rectilinear lenses generally don’t focus as close and require much larger dome ports to get the same corner sharpness. They are most suitable for shy pelagics, when having a narrower field of view provides extra reach. 

If you’re on a budget, or not sure what you might like, consider renting some of these specialty lenses from companies like Lens Rentals.com. It’s very easy and fees are reasonable.

Below is a list of Optical Ocean Sales recommendations. This is not a finite list, if you have others you want to use, check to make sure there are port solutions for them. Older models of popular brands are generally supported and work fine. But these are supported by housing manufacturers and are known to give excellent results.

Full Frame DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras:

Nikon F Mount Lenses

  • Nikkor AF Fisheye 16mm f/2.8D
  • AF-S Fisheye NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED
  • Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Fisheye
  • Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4 VR Zoom
  • Nikkor AF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR f/2.8 Macro

Nikon Z Mount Lenses

  • Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S
  • Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S
  • F Mount Lenses with Nikon FTZ Mount Adapter

Canon EF Mount Lenses

  • Canon 8-15 f/4 Fisheye USM
  • Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Fisheye
  • Canon 11-24mm f/4 Lens
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon EF 17-40mm f2.8L USM
  • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
  • Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM

Canon RF Mount Lenses

  • Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM
  • Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM
  • EF Mount Lenses with Canon Mount Adapter

Sony E Mount Lenses

  • Canon 8-15 f/4 Fisheye USM w/ Metabones Adapter
  • Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Fisheye w/ Sigma MC-11 Adapter
  • Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM
  • Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
  • Zeiss FE 24-70mm f/4
  • Sony FE 24-70 mm F2.8 GM
  • Sony FE 28-70mm with +5 or stronger diopter for Macro
  • Sony FE 28 mm F2 with Nauticam WWL Wet Lens
  • ZEISS Batis 2.8/18
  • Sony FE 50 mm F2.8 Macro
  • Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Panasonic L-Mount Lenses

  • Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art
  • Panasonic Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4
  • Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH
  • Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens
  • Canon EF Mount Lenses w/ Sigma MC-21 Adapter

APS-C Cropped Sensor DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras:
(Note: Most full-frame macro and mid-range zoom lenses work fine)

Nikon F Mount Lenses

  • Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 FE
  • Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 FE - used with Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300
  • Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro OS HSM
  • Nikkor AF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR f/2.8 Macro

Canon EF Mount Lenses

  • Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 FE
  • Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 FE - used with Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300**
  • Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro OS HSM
  • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Sony E mount Mirrorless:

  • Sony SEL16F28 16mm f/2.8
  • Sony SEL16F28 16mm f/2.8 with ultra-wide converter VCL-ECU1
  • Sony SEL16F28 16mm f/2.8 with fisheye converter VCL-ECF1
  • Sony SEL16-50mm f/3.5-5.6
  • Sony SEL10-18mm E f/4
  • Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8M Macro
  • Sony FE 50 mm F2.8 Macro
  • Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Micro 4/3rds Cropped Sensor Mirrorless Cameras:

 Panasonic & Olympus Lenses

Updated October 2020

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