Fantasea UWL-400F Wide Angle Wet Lens Review

Fantasea UWL-400F proves to be a sharp, high quality, close-focusing wide-angle wet lens coming at an affordable price
By Nirupam Nigam

Rockfish at Octopus Hole, Washington photographed with the Fantasea UWL-400F and Olympus TG-5 Compact Camera

 

Almost every underwater photographer reaches a point where his/her creativity hits a carrying capacity limited by the tools at hand. That is to say, sooner or later every photographer needs a new toy to play with. For many compact and mirrorless users, an upgrade is a complicated affair. A new system is a major investment that many aren’t ready for. However, many photographers are very ready to capture beautiful wide angle reefscapes beyond the limitations of a non-detachable lens. 

One solution is to experiment with new styles of photography using an existing set-up. The best way to do this is to invest in a wide-angle wet lens. Unfortunately, the price of such lenses can only be slightly below the cost of a complete upgrade. Fantasea Line is changing the wide angle wet lens market by offering very affordable options for adding wide angle photography to the compact photographer’s toolkit. At $399.00 the Fantasea UWL-400F is the perfect lens for a compact or mirrorless photographer on a budget looking to take stunning wide-angle and close-focus wide-angle (CFWA) photography. 

Features

Build: Aluminum alloy with black hard anodize, ABS

AR (anti-reflection) coating on all glass elements

Lens wings can be rotated anytime underwater

52mm thread and EyeDaptor M67-F52 lens adaptor included for 67mm threaded lens ports

Comes with Neoprene dome cover, rear lens cap, and padded carrying case

Glass Lens Design: 5 groups and 5 elements

Dimensions (Diameter x Height): 121.8 x 76 mm / 4.8 x 3.0 inch

Weight on land: 591 g / 20.8 oz – lightweight!

Magnification: 0.50x

Mount: 52mm 

Depth rating: 60m / 200ft

 

The Fantasea UWL-400F is available now at Bluewater Photo!

Underwater Photography Guide Tests

The staff at the Underwater Photography Guide had the exciting opportunity to take the UWL-400F deep into the waters of the Pacific Northwest – a locale traditionally very challenging for wide angle photography. We wanted to push this lens to its limits. We paired the lens with the Olympus TG-5 – a popular compact camera currently on the market whose user base has a vested interest in upgrading their photography with a wet wide-angle lens. The TG-5 is a macro powerhouse, but we wanted to see if we could turn it into a successful wide-angle camera as well. We were amazed with just how far we could push it! 

Optical Performance

The Fantasea UWL-400F can be easily installed or removed underwater, giving the user versatility in their photography throughout the dive. It features a 120 degree field of view (FOV) when used with a 25mm lens. 

Field of View without UWL-400F Lens

Field of View With UWL-400F Lens (120 degrees)

The above comparison shows just how much of a difference the UWL-400F makes when shooting wide angle photos. The increased field of view truly adds a significant tool to a compact photographer’s toolbox. Better color, detail, and composition is at your fingertips! 

What makes the release of the UWL-400F so exciting is a minimum focusing distance of 0. This means the lens can literally focus as close as necessary to any subject! High quality close-focus wide-angle photography is well within reach for this lens. Close focusing distances means that this lens will bring out better color and detail in your images by shortening the distance of your light sources and lens to your subject.

The UWL-400F doesn’t just focus close, it’s exceptionally sharp with minimal distortion. What we were most impressed with during our tests was the lack of distortion and sharpness in the corners of our images. Many wide angle wet lenses, and even dedicated wide angle lenses, struggle to maintain sharpness in the corner of images. We found that sharpness was maintained with the UWL-400F rivaling even some dedicated wide-angle mirrorless lenses. 

The image below is a 100% crop of the image above showing the impressive detail captured with this lens in a close-focus wide-angle image. 

Corner Test

We pushed the limits of this lens in our test to see just how much sharpness could be maintained in the corners of our images. 

Below is a photo where the center subject (a rockfish) is on the same focal plane as the subject in the corner (a metridium anemone). 

100% crop showing the detail in the center subject:

100% crop showing the detail in the corner subject:

Although the corner is slightly softer than the center – there is minimal distortion and it maintains a more than acceptable level of sharpness.

Compatibility

The Fantasea UWL-400F has a 57mm thread and easily fits many ports and housings – screw it in and you’re good to go! If you have a 67mm thread there is no need to worry – the EyeDaptor M67-F52 lens adaptor is included which allows for mounting on a 67 mm port. This lens is ideal for many compact and mirrorless cameras. It is designed to be used with cameras featuring a 24mm lens (35mm equivalent) or higher focal range. 

 

Fantasea has also recently announced the UWL-400Q lens which has a slightly modified mount that is compatible with the QRS Bayonet Mounting System

Tips and Tricks

Luckily for the user, the UWL-400F is fairly intuitive to use. There isn’t much you have to do past screwing it in. At wide apertures, photos can become a little soft around the edges. I recommend using f/8 or smaller for the most depth of field and sharpest results. Vignetting should not be a problem, though it could be on some compact systems. If it is, then zoom in until the vignetting goes away. As with all wide-angle photography – make sure you shoot close to the subject and shoot up if possible!  

 

The Fantasea UWL-400F is available now at Bluewater Photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. 

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