reviews of lens for underwater photography

Sigma 15mm and Tokina fisheye on full-frame cameras

Scott Gietler
Comparing sharpness underwater of the Sigma 15mm and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens on a Nikon D800

Sigma 15mm & Tokina 10-17mm fisheye for full-frame

Comparing sharpness, deciding which is better for your full-frame camera

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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The Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens is by far the most popular lens choice for underwater photographers who own a cropped-sensor dSLR and want to do wide-angle underwater photography.

For full-frame shootings using a camera like a Nikon D800 or a Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III, the Sigma 15mm fisheye is often chosen over the Nikon 16mm or the Canon 15mm fisheye lenses, because of its great close-focusing ability.

However, many full-frame users are unaware that the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens is a very viable option for a full-frame camera, and may be preferable to the Sigma 15mm fisheye lens.

sigma 15mm fisheye lens review
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, pool photo, 180 degree diagonal angle of view

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens on a full-frame dSLR camera
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 15mm, on a full-frame Nikon D800 camera. 180 degree angle of view, same as the Sigma 15mm, and no vignetting.

 

Sigma & Tokina Fisheye lens on a full-frame camera

As you can see, the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye and Sigma 15mm fisheye lens produce identical images on a full-frame camera like the Nikon D800, when the Tokina is set to 15mm. There is no vignetting, and you do not need to go into a special "DX" mode.

So does this mean that the Tokina 10-17mm lens is a full-frame lens at 15mm? I would say so, even though it is marketed as a DX lens. The Tokina does vignette from 10mm - 13mm, but it does not at 14mm to 17mm. So in some respects, you have more flexibility with the Tokina that with the Sigma, although the field of view from 14mm to 17mm does not change dramatically.

 

Image Tests

A wine bottle in the pool made a great test subject. We took images at different apertures with the wine bottle at the center of the image, and at the corner of the images, in a 6-inch dome. You can view the images below, or skip to the bottom of this article for our conclusions.

 

Corner image sharpness

Sigma 15mm fisheye lens tests

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F4

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F5.6

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F8

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F11

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F14

 

Corner image sharpness, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens

 

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mmm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F4

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F5.6

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F8

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F11

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F14

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F4

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F5.6

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F8

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F11

 

Sigma 15mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, corner sharpness, 100% crop at F14

 

 

Center image sharpness, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens

 

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mmm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F4

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye corner lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F5.6

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F8

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F11

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye center lens sharpness underwater photo
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, center sharpness, 100% crop at F14

 

Sigma and Tokina fisheye lens on a full-frame camera - conclusions

  • Center sharpness for both lenses was very good at F4 and F5.6, excellent at F8 and higher. 
  • Corner sharpness for both lenses was poor at F4 and F5.6, ok at F8, and good at F11 and F14. I would expect corner sharpness to improve slightly in an 8-inch dome, and degrade in a 4-inch dome.
  • If you are moving into a full-frame camera, and already own the Tokina 10-17mm lens, then I see no reason not to keep using it. If you don't own a fisheye lens, then it appears that you can get good results with either lens.   I also tested both lenses on a D800 while diving at Catalina island earlier this year, and at that time I also found the results to be similar
  • If you don't own either lens, then you have a choice. Both lenses are similarly priced. If you want to own a 4-inch glass zen dome, you'll need to shave the hood of the Sigma fisheye, which is a disadvantage. Ikelite users will also experience vignetting. However, users of 6 or 8 inch dome ports on non-Ikelite housings may be able to avoid purchasing an extension ring by going with the Sigma.

 

About the Author

 

Scott GietlerScott is the creator of the Underwater Photography Guide and owner of Bluewater Photo Store. An avid marine naturalist, Scott is the author of the Field Guide to Southern California Marine Life. He was the LAUPS photographer of the year for 2009, and his photos have appeared in magazines, coffee table & marine life books, museums, galleries and aquariums throughout California. He enjoys teaching underwater photography locally on a regular basis.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm Lens Review

Kelli Dickinson
An in-depth look at the Olympus 9-18mm wide-angle lens.

Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm Lens Review

By Kelli Dickinson

 

Diver

Olympus 9-18mm @ 9mm, 1/60 F6.3

 

 
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For micro four-third's shooters there are a variety of wide angle lenses to choose from, with perks and negatives with each lens. How do you decide which lens is right for you? Here is a quick review on one of the popular choices, the Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm.

I tested this lens last month out at Catalina. Until then I have been using the Panasonic 8mm fisheye for wide angle, so this review will compare the two of those. There is the also the Panasonic 7-14mm lens as a great option for wide angle, but it's price point tends to make it not so popular. If you have the money and want a little extra angle of view, it's definitely worth a look!
 
"Diver with Gorgonian" - a classic wide angle shot, easy to achieve with the 9-18mm lens.(1/80, F8 with lens @ 9mm)
 

Quick Specs:

 

9-18mm

8mm Fisheye

Lens Type

Wide Zoom

Fisheye

Angle of View

100⁰ - 62⁰

180⁰

Minimum Focus Distance

0.25 m (9.84")

0.10 m (3.94")

Maximum Aperature

F4-5.6

F3.5

 

 

 

 

Zoom Capability

 
Overall, the Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm lens works great. Having a wide angle lens with zoom capability is great compared to the 8mm fisheye with no zoom capability. This lens gives you a little more flexibility because it is a zoom lens which allows you to shoot animals or other subjects that you canít get close to. With the 8mm fisheye, everything looks a little bit smaller than it actually is due to the fisheye nature of the lens. This means you have to be able to get up close and personal to your subjects, especially if they are small to medium in size.
 

Dramatic Effect

 
One area where the 9-18 just doesnít compare with the 8mm fisheye in terms of dramatic scenes. The 9-18mm is a rectilinear lens, meaning that you don't see any distortion (bending of straight lines) like you do with the fisheye lens. However, that also means that the angle of view is limited to standard focal length proportions, so at 9mm you get approximately 100 degrees angle of view and when zoomed into 18mm it drops to around 60 degrees.
 
This is still fabulous and for most wide angle shots will work great, but it just doesn't portray the depth and grandeur that the 180 degree field of view of the 8mm fisheye captures. While I have not had a chance to test it yet, the 7-14 gives an extra 10 degrees field of view and has the same minimum focus distance as the 9-18, making it a little better choice for wide angle, but it is also about twice as expensive of a lens.
 
 
"Sheephead and Gorgonian" - take an 9mm close to the gorgonian the image has good depth, but just doesn't compare to the 180 degree field of view on the 8mm fisheye, below. (Olympus 9-18mm @ 9mm, 1/80, F8)
 
 
 "Sheephead in Kelp" - the 8mm fisheye has such a wide angle of view that it easily captures the whole scene. Of course this also means you have to really think about shot composition to create some stunning images. (Panasonic 8mm Fisheye, 1/60, F18)
 

Close Focus Wide Angle

What I found to be the largest downside was the focus distance. The 9-18mm focuses only down to .25m, about 9.8in where as the 8mm fisheye has a focus distance of .1m or about 3.9in. This means you can't get right up on the dome port with the 9-18mm like you can with the 8mm fisheye for close focus wide angle. One thing I love about the 8mm is getting in super close, but still being able to see the full background of the scene.
 
Focus speed is good, on par with any other M4/3rd's lens, and I noticed no hunting, making for quick and easy use.
 

Sharpness

I did notice that there was some blurring in the corners with the 9-18mm which I do not see on the 8mm fisheye (not including standard depth of field blurring).  This seemed to happen mostly with the lower apertures over the higher ones. Nothing that I found too distracting, but it is noticeable.
 
Olympus 9-18mm @ 9mm, 1/60, F11
 

Conclusion

 
My final thoughts on this lens is that it is a great option for those dives when you are shooting animals or other subjects that you cannot get right up close to, but for reef scenes and general wide angle the 8mm fisheye still gets my vote. Having the flexibility of the 9-18mm is wonderful, but doesn't trump the 180 degree field of view of the 8mm fisheye.
 

About the Author

Kelli Dickinson is an avid diver, manager of Bluewater Photo Store and an industry expert on mirrorless cameras and housing options. You can reach her by email at kelli@bluewaterphotostore.com

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
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Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Review

Todd Winner
A review of Canon's new fisheye lens for full-frame and cropped sensor underwater photographers.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Review

A review of the new Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens for full-frame and cropped sensor underwater photographers

By Todd Winner

 
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This is a review of the Canon 8-15mm circular fisheye lens. Since this lens is capable of being used on both cropped and full frame sensors, I've divided my review into two sections below.

 

 

For Cropped Sensor Shooters

The Canon 8-15mm fisheye is one of the most exciting lenses to be released in a long time. It has some very cool features for both full-frame and cropped shooters, but there does seem to be some confusion about who this lens is best suited for. At a retail price of $1499, the Canon 8-15 fisheye lens is not going to be for everyone. It is often compared to the Tokina 10-17mm, and on a cropped sensor camera the Tokina is probably the closest thing to it but at less than half the price.

If you are only shooting on a cropped sensor body it is a very tough decision. The Canon is a better built lens. You will get slightly sharper and contrast-y images straight out of the camera and the most noticeable improvement will be less chromatic apparition. This is a big deal for me, but with a little time spent in post-production most users will not see a huge difference, especially if you don't spend a lot of time viewing your images at 100%.

The useable zoom range on a cropped body is 10-15, so you lose that little bit of extra reach that you would get on the 17mm end of the Tokina. You can of course shoot at 9mm and 8mm but you will start to see the curved corners of the lens. If you want the absolute best image quality then the Canon lens is for you, but if you are a crop only shooter, the Tokina's versatility, low cost and excellent image quality probably will make it a better overall choice.  

 

Canon 8-15mm fisheye - For Full-Frame Shooters

For those shooting full-frame there is not much to compare the Canon 8-15mm to. Canon did make a 15mm fisheye (it has been recently discontinued), but the 15mm end on the 8-15 is not only sharper, but it also focuses to just millimeters in front of the glass. The older 15mm fisheye required too much working distance for really good close focus wide-angle work. Sigma makes a 15mm fisheye that focuses pretty closely, which I have heard good things about but not personally used.

At the Canon 8mm end of the lens you get a full circular fisheye. I happen to really like the look of circular fisheyes, but not so much that I would have invested in a lens like the Sigma 8mm or to have spent a whole dive committed to that shot. Now I don't have to worry about that anymore. I have the best 15mm lens on the market, and when I want a special effect full circular shot I just zoom into the 8mm end. Full-frame shooters are not really going to use the zoom range between the 8 or 15 ends. Of course you can shoot at any zoom range but you will get partially round corners that are not very useful.

canon 8-15mm fisheye lens review underwater photo
Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens @8mm, Canon 5D Mark III. F5.6, 1/40th, ISO 160

 

Dome port choice

You'll want to use a dome port with a removeable dome port shade when using the Canon 8-15mm lens, especially if you want to get a circular fisheye photo at 8mm. I like using a small 4 inch dome port so I can get very close to subjects, the new Zen 8-15mm glass dome port has been working well for me.

Summary

If you're shooting a full-frame body or use both a cropped and full-frame body, the 8-15 is hard to beat in versatility and overall lens quality. On a full-frame body you will get a 15mm full frame fisheye and a 8mm circular fisheye. For cropped only shooters, I do feel the 8-15 is far superior to the Tokina but the Tokina will give you very similar results at less than half the price. On the APS-C cropped sensor you will get a 10-15mm full frame fisheye.

 

Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 10mm. This is essentially the same angle of view you would get on a full frame body at 15mm.

 

Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 8mm. Notice the curved corners. This is similar to the look on a full frame body at any focal length shorter than 15mm until eventually creating a full circular fisheye at 8mm.

 

Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 15mm. At the 15mm end on a cropped sensor the fisheye distortion is much less noticeable.

 

Canon 5D markII @ 8mm. Full circular fisheye. This type of shot is very stylized but can be used effectively on certain subjects. 

 

Further Reading

 

 


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Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo and Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

Panasonic 8mm Fisheye Lens Review

Scott Gietler
Review of the Panasonic 8mm micro-four thirds fisheye lens, after diving it with an Oly E-PL2 housing & Precision dome port

Panasonic 8mm Fisheye Lens Review

Ultra-wide micro-four thirds lens for Olympus and Panasonic cameras

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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The Panasonic 8mm micro-four thirds fisheye lens is a small, sharp, stunning lens that really needs to get used more often in the underwater world. It mounts on cameras such as the Olympus E-PL2 & E-PL3, and the Panasonic GF2 & GH2. You can read our guide to mirrorless cameras to get the low-down on these types of hybrid cameras, or our intro to fisheye lenses.

 

About the Panasonic F3.5 8mm fisheye lens

The lens has 10 elements in 9 groups. It features a silent built-in auto focus motor that makes it great for use in videos with sound. It is the world's smallest and lightest fisheye lens of its type.

panasonic 8mm fisheye lens review

Olympus E-PL2 and Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens in hand.

 

 

topside photo taken with the panasonic 8mm fisheye & olympus e-pl2

Topside photo with the 8mm fisheye. F8, 1/640th, ISO 200

 

 

panasonic 8mm micro-four thirds fisheye lens review

Close-up of kelp underwater. F22, 1/180th

 

 

Underwater Testing

We took the lens down on an Olympus E-PL2 body in the Olympus housing using the Precision brand custom dome for this lens. The water had some particles in it, which made it difficult at first to control the backscatter. The strobes really need to be pulled back when using this lens, and either be on the sides of the lens, or directly over the top. A few times I even got the strobes in the photo by accident.

Using a small 4-inch dome was really nice, especially for getting close to small subjects. The Precision dome port was custom designed for the 8mm fisheye lens, aligning the nodal point of the lens in the correct position for maximum sharpness.   

 

precision brand dome port for the panasonic 8mm fisheye lens, olympus housing

Precision brand 4-inch dome port for the 8mm fisheye and Olympus E-PL2 housing. 

 

Focusing speed

The lens focuses very fast underwater, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not as instant as a dSLR would, but fast enough so that I could get the shots that I wanted. This is partly because wide-angle lenses often focus much faster than telephoto or macro lenses.

 

Chromatic Aberrations, Fringing, & Flare

I did not notice any aberrations or fringing in the 100% crops of the photos that I took, and the photos pointing toward the sun did not have any significant flare. Well done, Panasonic!

 

Lens specs:

  • Aperture range: F3.5 - F22
  • Weight: 165 grams
  • Size: 61x52mm
  • Mount: Micro-four thirds
  • Close-focus distance:  Very very close, at just under 1 inch from the lens. The lens is capable of focusing inside the dome port.
  • Angle of view: 180 degrees diagonal angle of view
  • Filters: Gel filters accepted at the rear of the lens

 

Close-focus distance

panasonic 8mm fisheye close focus image

This is as close as the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens will focus, just under 1 inch from the lens glass.

 

 

Corner sharpness and best aperture to use

Center sharpness is similar from F3.5 to F16. Corner sharpness improves noticeably when stepping down from F3.5 to F5, and F5 to F7. Corner sharpness is quite good across the range from F7 to F16, with F11 being the best by just a tad.

 

100% crop of corner, F3.5

 

corner sharpness test of panasonic 8mm fisheye lens

100% crop of corner, F11

 

 

Compared to the Tokina 10-17mm

The Panasonic 8mm fisheye is a fixed focal length lens, where the Tokina is a zoom lens. When compared to the Tokina at 10mm, they both have the same 180 degree angle of view diagonally, and the same 35mm equivalent focal length.

 

Compared to wet-mount fisheye lenses

The Pany 8mm fisheye is wider and sharper than wet-mount fisheye lenses for compact cameras like the Dyron 16mm fisheye, or the FIX UWL-04. 

 

Other micro-four thirds fisheye lenses

Samyang (not Samsung) is coming out with a 7.5mm fisheye lens for micro-four thirds cameras in September 2011. It will cost much less than the Panasonic fisheye lens, but it will be manual focus only.

 

Underwater photography tips for shooting with the 8mm fisheye

  • To avoid strobe flare and backscatter, your strobes have to pulled back considerably behind the housing, and pointed outwards slightly.
  • Try to keep your strobes to the sides, or straight above the housing.
  • Try to take lots of vertical shots!
  • Don't afraid to get really close to your subjects.
  • Try to get the dome port cover on before handing the camera rig up to boat crew to avoid unwanted/ unnecessary scratches.
  • Review the underwater composition tutorials.

Update: After diving with this lens a second time, by being careful with my strobe placement I was able to control the backscatter much better. I simply kept my strobes back a little further, and tried to align them with one of the port shades.

 

Panasonic 8mm fisheye + E-PL2 underwater photos

starfish and diver with 8mm fisheye lens

Starfish and diver. Olympus E-PL2, Olympus housing, Precision custom dome port for the Panasonic 8mm fisheye. F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

Encounter with a 6 1/2 ft giant black sea bass. F9, 1/160th, ISO 200

panasonic 8mm fisheye lens review

Black sea bass silhouette. F9, 1/160th, ISO 200

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

100% crop of urchin in corner. 

 

kelp and sunlight

F8, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

starfish and urchins

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

100% crop of starfish

 

jellyfish using pany 8mm fisheye

Jellyfish in the sun. F14, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

precision 8mm fisheye dome

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

Further Reading

 

Where to Buy

Equipment mentioned in this article can be purchased and shipped worldwide from Bluewater Photo & Video. Please feel free to contact them with questions regarding housing, camera, lens, strobe, or port choices.

 

 

Lens Review: Dyron Double Macro M77

Michael Zeigler
A review of Dyron's new +7 macro lens

Lens Review: Dyron Double Macro M77

Magnify your macro underwater photography

By Michael Zeigler

 
 
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Always up for trying something new, I volunteered to field test the Dyron Double Macro M77 lens and Ikelite port adapter

 

Ever since discovering the wonderful world of macro underwater photography, I have been looking for ways to get higher magnification.  Using the Dyron Double Macro M77 lens is certainly one way to do it.  I typically use my 60mm macro lens along with a 1.4x Kenko teleconverter, which is attached directly to the camera body.  Therefore, once I put my camera in the housing, it's there to stay for the duration of the dive.

The versatility of being able to remove the Dyron Double Macro M77 lens underwater came in handy.  I was able to shoot fish portraits without the wet lens on the port, and when I saw, for example, a potentially great nudibranch photograph, I simply attached the port adapter and lens, and voilà, I was ready to get some great magnification for the shot. 

 

The Dyron Double Macro M77 lens and port adapter on my Ikelite D90 macro port.

 

 

The Lens

Double Macro M77 features dual coated lenses to limit distortion, and Dyron now also offers an adaptor that allows any M77 threaded lens to be attached externally to Subal, Ikelite, Hugyfot, or Seacam macro ports. This gives the underwater photographer the option of adding an external diopter, in this case the Double Macro M77, to increase magnification to these ports.

It easily attached to the front of my macro port, and when I chose to take it off underwater, it was secured to the port with its own leash.  One should take care, however, to make sure the lens does not contact the reef while it is off the front of the port.  It may get scratched, and/or it may damage the environment.

Due to the magnification of the lens, it did not allow me to focus my 60mm lens to infinity, but rather forced me to get closer to the subject, which is exactly what I should be doing in the first place!

 

Left: Dyron Double Macro Lens.  Right: Dyron port adapter for Ikelite flat ports.

 

 

 

Underwater Photographs with the Dyron Double Marco lens

 

All of my underwater photographs were shot using my Nikon D90 and 60mm macro lens in my Ikelite housing. My Ikelite strobes were set to TTL, and I used either one or both strobes, depending the subject and effect I wanted to create.

 

Flabellina iodinea nudibranch.  1/200, F14, ISO 200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture taken without the M77                                           Same focal distance with the M77

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture taken without the M77                                           Same focal distance with the M77

 

 

1/200, F14, ISO 200

 

 

1/200, F20, ISO 200

 

 

1/200, F16, ISO 200

 

 

Specifications

Further Reading

 


Special thanks to the captain and crew of Sundiver Charters in Long Beach, CA for the great dives and service.  -Ed.

 

 

Sigma 8-16mm lens

Scott Gietler

Sigma 8-16mm lens

Sigma 8-16mm is the widest lens available for cropped-sensor cameras

Review by Scott Gietler

 
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The new Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 lens ($699 in the US) is the widest available lens for cropped sensor dSLRs. I'm a big fan of ultra-wide lenses and love putting my Sigma 10-20mm lens on my camera. Let's see how I liked the Sigma 8-16mm on my Nikon D300, and look at some real-world photographs.

sigma 8-16mm lens review

This photo makes the Sigma 8-16mm lens look larger than actually is!

 

Specs, Design, Focus and Operation

  • Find out how the lens is constructed, how the auto-focus works, what kind of build quality it was, and how the close-focus performance is

Comparison with other wide-angle lenses & fisheye lens

  • See what other wide-angle lenses compare with the Sigma 8-16mm. See test photos taken of the same subject with the Nikon 10.5 fisheye lens and Sigma 10-20mm lens.

Chromatic aberration, vignetting, barrel distortion, flare

Sharpness tests

  • Find out which apertures give the best results, and what strange exposure problem I encountered

Sample outdoor photos

  • See how the lens actually performs out in nature

Sigma 8-16mm underwater photos

  • Underwater photos taken with the sigma 8-16mm lens

Conclusions for topside photography

Conclusions for underwater photography

  • Find out if this lens is a good choice for underwater photography. Also includes comparisons with the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye

Discuss this review in our forums

 

Further Reading

Best underwater lenses for underwater photography

Review: Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye Lens

Sigma and Tokina fisheye lenses on a Nikon D800

 

 

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Nikon 10-24mm lens review

Scott Gietler
Review of the Nikon 10-24mm lens

Nikon 10-24mm lens review

Using the Nikon 10-24mm F3.5/4.5 lens in underwater photography

By Scott Gietler

 
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By friend Wilfried Niedermayr just returned from a trip using the Nikon 10-24mm wide-angle lens.  As expected, the lens performed well.

 

 

This lens has the same focal length as a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye at 10mm, and the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, without the distortion or ultra-wide angle of view that a fisheye lens gives.

 

nikon 10-24mm lens

 

Which means compared to an equivalent fisheye lens

  • It will be easier to light that a fisheye lens

  • The size of objects in the middle will be the same

  • Straight lines will be preserved

  • The additional zoom to 24mm means this lens will be better for skittish sharks & pelagics than a fisheye lens

 

Wilfried says, "What I like about the Nikkor 10-24mm lens is that it is a wide angle lens with which I can zoom a little. I use it when I dive and I am not sure if I will get as close to a object / fish as I would like to get. So I still have the ability to zoom the object a little closer, but I am still able to do wide angle shots which are my favoured way of taking pictures. But my most favoured lens is the Nikkor 10.5mm Fisheye."

The Tokina 12-24mm lens is also a good choice for underwater, but the Nikon 10-24mm goes wider, and has a closer focus distance, two big pluses.

A quick look at my nikon underwater lens chart shows that it has an excellent close-focus distance of 24cm, just like the Sigma 10-20mm lens. Max magnification ratio is 1:5. This lens is for cropped-sensor cameras like the Nikon D90 or D300s. Largest aperture is F3.5 at 10mm, F4.5 at 24mm.

Here is the topside review from Photozone. If want to shoot wide-angle topside with a DX lens, I highly recommend a lens that is 10mm at the widest point. I own the Sigma 10-20mm lens. The lens is $800 USD on Amazon.com

I will continue to use my Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens for reefs and schools of fish, but some people will definitely prefer the Nikon 10-24mm lens for certain types of shots.

 

Nikon 10-24mm underwater photos

Taken with a Seacam 9-inch glass superdome, 30mm extension ring, no diopter. Most domes will work best with a 30-40mm extension ring when using this lens, and maybe a +2 diopter, although one is not needed with Seacam's 9 inch port.

 

Photos by Wilfried Niedermayr

 humpback whale with nikon 10-24mm lens underwater

Humpback Whale in Silver Bank, Dominican Republic. F11, 1/125th, ISO 200 

 

underwater photo with a nikon 10-24mm wide-angle lens

 

nikon 10-24mm lens underwater photography

 

 

Further Reading

 


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Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens

Scott Gietler
Overview of this valuable tool for your underwater photography

Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens Review

A valuable tool for shooting wide-angle

 By Scott Gietler

 

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The tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens is a very popular lens, especially for underwater photography due to the flexibility it gives the underwater photographer. It is the #1 lens of choice for Canon and Nikon cropped-sensor underwater dSLR shooters. 

 

 

The proper name for the lens is the Tokina AT-X DX 10-17mm  F3.5-4.5 Fisheye. This is a variable aperture lens, and the largest aperture is F3.5 at 10mm focal length, and F4.5 at 17mm focal length.

 

Lens Specifications:

  • I weighed the lens at 377 grams, with the cap.
  • Dimensions: 71mm x 70mm
  • Does not take filters
  • I measured the working distance at about 1 inch from the lens glass, very close!
  • Minimum aperture is F22 at 10mm and F29 at 17mm.
  • Diagonal angle of view is 180 at 10mm, 100 degrees at 17mm.
  • Comes in a Canon or Nikon mount.

fisheye lenses

The tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens is on the right, with the S&S zoom ring on. The nikon 10.5mm fisheye is on the left.

 

Tokina 10-17mm example photos

 

All photos taken on a tripod at F8. Interestingly, the Tokina gave a 1/3 stop brighter exposure than the sigma 10-20mm at the same settings. Note that at the same focal length, the tokina and sigma lens have the same magnification in the center of the photo, but not as you move towards the edges.

 

 

Tokina 10-17mm lens at 17mm

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 17mm

 

Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 10mm

Tokina 10-17mm lens at 10mm

 
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens showing curved lines
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens showing curved lines (Barrel distortion)
 

 

 

Comparison with a non-fisheye lens, the Sigma 10-20mm

 

These photos were taken with a tripod in the same position as the above photos, at F8

 

sigma 10-20mm lens

Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm

 

sigma 10-20mm lens at 20mm

Sigma 10-20mm lens at 20mm

 

sigma 10-20mm photo

Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm

 

 

Underwater Performance of the Tokina 10-17mm

 

This lens performs well behind small and large dome ports. Stopping down the lens to F8 or F11 will usually give best results in the corners, especially in a smaller dome port. Most dome ports will benefit from a small 20mm extension ring to get the nodal point lined up with the housing correctly, although the ring is optional with larger dome ports.

 

Because the Tokina 10-17mm is so wide, best results are with at least 2 strobes. Be sure to bring the strobes back far behind the housing to avoid hot spots and glare in the corners of the photos, especially when shooting at 10mm focal length. You can see my strobe position diagrams.

 

The tokina 10-17mm photographs will really shine in clear water, when the subject is about 12 inches from the dome port and properly exposed.

 

When zoomed into 17mm, this lens excels at taking close-focus macro photographs. In this technique, the subject is almost touching the dome port, allowing a macro subject to be portrayed with a wide-angle view in the background.

 

If you want to use filters with natural light shots, this lens has no filter holder like the Nikon 10.5mm has, but there are instructions showing how best to attach a filter here.

 

Tests with different Dome Ports

 

I did some extensive pool tests with this lens, with 3 different Sea & Sea dome ports at different apertures, you can read about a summary of my sea & sea dome port tests.

 

Zoom Rings

 

I use the Sea & Sea zoom ring for the Canon 16-35mm F2.8L lens. It's slightly too big, but putting one strip of the included black tape around the lens allows the zoom ring to fit well. Without the strip, the zoom ring can fall off easily and can scratch the inside of your dome port during a dive, so be careful.

 

Comparison to other fisheye lenses

 

For many dSLR photographers, this lens replaced their Nikon 10.5mm and Sigma 15mm or Nikon 16mm lenses. Although the 10-17mm lens is a sharp lens, the prime lenses can produce even better image quality and some professionals still use prime lenses.

Tokina 10-17mm on a full-frame dSLR

Full-frame shooters usually use a prime fisheye lens like a Sigma 15mm, or a fisheye with a teleconverter, but some full-frame shooters do use the Tokina 10-17mm with a 1.4x teleconverter to gain the flexibility they had when using a cropped-sensor camera. However, using the Tokina on a full-frame camera can give surprisely good results - read our Tokina 10-17mm and Sigma on a full-frame camera article.

 

Tokina 10-17mm underwater photos

 

manta ray

Manta ray in Bali at 10mm, F7

 

reef scene at catalina island

Reef scene at Catalina Island at 12mm, F9

 

Barracuda underwater photo

Barracuda in Bali, 14mm, F11

 

 

close-up underwater fisheye macro photo with tokina 10-17mm lens
Seahorse Photo from Anilao taken with Tokina 10-17mm lens at 17mm. F14

 

 

close-focus wide angle underwater

Tokina 10-17mm lens at 17mm, F13. this is a macro wide-angle photograph, the dome is almost touching the small featherduster worm.

 

wide-angle macro with the tokina 10-17mm fisheye underwater

Nudibranch and diver, Catalina Island. Tokina 10-17mm at 17mm, very close to the nudibranch. F10, 1/125th, ISO 200, 6-inch dome port. A larger dome port and a smaller aperture would have made the diver more in focus, but I like the feel of the photo the way it is.

 

Further Reading

Review: Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye Lens

Dome port optics

Testing the tokina 10-17mm lens in the Sea & Sea Dome Ports

Comparing fisheye lens and rectilinear lenses

Strobe position diagrams

Wide-angle underwater photography technique

Close-focus wide angle technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikon 18-55mm Lens Review

Scott Gietler

Nikon 18-55mm Lens Review

By Scott Gietler

 

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If you love photographing fish and marine life like I do, it can be frustrating trying to photograph a medium-size fish when you are always diving with an ultra-wide fisheye lens, or a macro lens.

 

 

I looked into purchasing the Sigma 17-70mm lens, but I would need the lens, a new port extension, and a zoom ring - now we are potentially over $700, and my new lens budget is almost empty.

 

So I picked up a Nikon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6G ED II lens (not the VR version) for under $100, and a Hoya +2 diopter. I was quite pleased with the results! 

 

Underwater setup that I tested

 

I used the lens with my Nikon D300 behind my Sea & Sea 8-inch dome port with no extension ring. It also fits behind a compact dome port + 20mm extension ring. I used the zoom ring for my tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, which is actually the zoom ring for the canon 16-35mm F2.8 lens. It was a little large, but putting a strip of velcro over the 18-55mm lens allowed the zoom ring to fit on snugly. Since the lens has an auto-focus motor built in, it will auto-focus with any Nikon dSLR camera.

 

nikon 18-55mm example photo

I found creative underwater photography, like zooming and panning, was easier to test using a mid-range zoom lens. F11, 1/3rd shutter speed, 34mm

 

Lens Magnification Ratio

 

I tested the magnification ratio at 55mm at slightly better than 3:1. With the hoya +2 diopter, I got almost 2:1 magnification, just as good as the Sigma 17-70mm! Of course I loose some magnification behind a dome port, but that will be true of any mid-range lens (I recommend using all mid-range lenses behind a dome port).

 

Close-focusing distance

 

The lens does not have a great close-focus distance, but it is not bad either. Without the diopter, at 55mm it was 5 inches from the end of the lens, 9 inches from the back of the lens. The +2 diopter improved that to 3 1/2 inches working distance, and 7 1/2 inches from the back of the lens.

 

Auto-focus speed

 

Underwater, the lens focused fairly fast, even in dimly-lighted conditions. When using a diopter, the lens sometimes couldn't focus on items very far away, because the virtual image in front of the dome port was just out of range of the lens. 

 

Sample Nikon 18-55mm sharpness & underwater photos

 

I was pleasantly surprised with the sharpness of my photos. Although not as sharp as say, my nikon 60mm macro lens, sharpness was more than acceptable to me. Lighting the photos was much easier than lighting with my tokina 10-17mm fisheye on, and it was easy to shoot at small apertures like F10 or F14.

 

According to sharpness tests at Photodo, the sweet spot for the 18-55mm lens is F8-F11 at 18mm, F11-F16 at 35mm, and F14-F18 at 55mm. MTF results at the sweet spots actually looked better than the Sigma 17-70mm at 18mm and 35mm, and comparable at 55mm at F16, although the Nikon 18-55mm does not do well at 55mm from F5.6 to F8.

http://www.photodo.com/topic_219.html

http://www.photodo.com/topic_65.html

 

I suspect if I had shot with a smaller dome port, without a diopter, at wider apertures my results would not be as good, but I haven't confirmed this.

 

nikon 18-55mm underwater photo

Sea fans, F14 at 18mm, using side-lighting and back-lighting.

 

nikon 18-55mm underwater photo

Bat stars, F13, at 31mm focal length

 

starfish underwater photo with nikon 18-55mm lens

Starfish, F20 at 55mm

 

Nikon 18-55mm Conclusions

 

This kit lens is a good mid-range choice for people who want an inexpensive addition to their arsenal for underwater photography, especially if they have been shooting mostly wide-angle and macro. For marine life photos, this range is ideal because you can frame skittish fish perfectly.

 

Stopped down, this lens performs well, which is easy to do if you are lighting your subject with strobes. If you need to shoot ambient light shots wide-open underwater, you might be better off with a different mid-range lens. If you are photographing fish, you can also use your macro lens behind a dome port.

 

Further Reading

 

Review of the Nikon 105mm VR Macro Lens

Scott Gietler

Review of the Nikon 105mm VR Macro Lens

By Scott Gietler

 

 

 
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nikon 105mm vr lens

 

Overview

 

The Nikon 105mm VR lens is one of my favorite lenses for underwater use, especially when I want photograph small fish, skittish subjects, isolate the subject, blur the background, or shoot supermacro with a wet diopter. The lens is very sharp, with excellent color rendition and contrast at all apertures, from center to the corners. The main downside is that it needs a strong focus light to auto-focus in dim light conditions or on night dives. In these conditions, I prefer using my 60mm lens, often with a 1.4x teleconverter.

 

Maximum Magnification

 

  • Minimum width of photo with nikon 105mm VR lens - 23.0mm

nikon 105mm vr test photo

Shot taken in the pool, F16. This is the maximum magnification of the 105mm VR lens on the D300.

 

 

Underwater Photos with the Nikon 105mm VR

 

yellow boxfish, bali

Yellow Boxfish, Bali. Nikon D300, F8, 1/160th, ISO 200. The 105mm is perfect for shy fish.

 

wire coral goby

Wire coral goby, bali. D300, F20, 1/200th, ISO 320. The 105mm is great for small subjects also, and gives you a little more room than using the 60mm.

 

Underwater Photography- What's the 105mm lens best used for?

  • Mantis shrimp, gobies, jawfish
  • Juvenile fish
  • Cleaning stations
  • Isolating the macro subject
  • Shooting with a strong diopter
  • Getting a great Bokeh - the 105mm lens blurs the background nicely, especially at F4 - F9.

Better to use the 60mm lens for:

  • Night dives
  • Larger seahorses, frogfish
  • Showing macro subjects in their habitat

Macro Port Sharing

 

My 105mm lens, 60mm lens, and 60mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter all are useable in my macro port for the 105mm lens. This means I have to travel with less ports, and change ports less often.

 

Diffraction / Sharpness Tests

 

OK, Time to do some pixel peeping.

 

These are 100% crops, taken underwater. Full-size photos are about 48mm across. I took 3 shots at each aperture and chose the best shot. You can see a general loss of sharpness as the aperture gets smaller.

 

To me, the results look fairly good up to F16, with maximum sharpness at F7 or F8.

 

F22 is a not as great, where F25 is getting blurry, and F29 is pushing things. Past F29, not good.

 

The problem with F7-F11, is even though this isn't 1:1 magnification, depth of field is pretty small, so I didn't always get all of the ruler in focus. So even when taking photos of flat or two-dimensional subjects, it might be challenging to get it all in focus when using larger apertures. F14-F16 might be good comprimises. Of course this only applies when taking shots very close up.

 

Lessons learned?

 

  • Please don't start shooting all your close-ups at F8! Get the depth of field you need.
  • Shooting at larger apertures blurs the background. Is that what you want? Please keep in mind the background you want!
  • These differences are barely noticeable when you post photos to the web at 800x600 resolution. See the 2 examples at the bottm of the page.
  • Remember - these are all 100% crops! Take this into consideration only when you feel you really need the detail, which probably isn't as often as you think.

 

F7.1

 

F8

 

 

 F11

 

F14

 

F16

 

F22

 

F25

 

F29

 

F32

 

F36

 

F40

 

Is the difference noticeable when posting photos to the web?

 

Let's see. here's 2 photos, one at F11, one at F29. If I look at the large numbers "3" and "4", I can clearly see more detail in the F11 photo. But in general, both photos look good. Actually, the F29 photo looks better, because the background is in focus. Sorry about the exposure difference. My TTl converter tends to underexposure at higher f-stops.

 

F11

 

F29

 

Further Reading

Review: Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye Lens

Understanding aperture and depth of field

Best lenses for underwater photography

Underwater macro photography tutorial

Underwater composition

Supermacro underwater photography

Comparing the 60mm and 100/105mm lens for underwater photography

 

 

 

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