Diopter Reviews

Detailed diopter reviews for underwater macro photography with compact, mirrorless and DSLR cameras and housings.
Aquatica revamps macro port, extensions, and flip adapter as a complete system to support their +5 and +10 supermacro diopters
By Brent Durand

Aquatica Releases ACU Macro System

Brent Durand
Aquatica revamps macro port, extensions, and flip adapter as a complete system to support their +5 and +10 supermacro diopters

Aquatica has been making moves for macro photographers, and today they announce the Aquatica Close Up System. The ACU system consists of the full Aquatica macro and supermacro system, including recently redesigned elements, grouped together as a complete compenent set.

Aquatica's recently redesigned Mini Macro Port is the base, with a lower front profile than the traditional flat glass port. New extension rings and zoom gears accommodate manual focusing with the popular DSLR macro lenses.

Supermacro shooters can now enjoy a single or double flip adapter for the Aquatica +5 and/or +10 diopters.

With divers shooting more than ever during dives, you can never be too prepared. Having the ability to use AF or MF plus the choice to flip on either diopter will help photographers bring home the shot, whether photo or video. I recently did about 65 dives laying my diopter in the sand all the time, screwing and unscrewing it over and over - not ideal.  A flip adapter is definitely a must for any macro shooter!

 

Aquatica ACU System

The experts at Bluewater Photo can guide you into the ACU system or best components for your macro photography.

PRESS RELEASE

 

Introducing the ACU system from AQUATICA

Aquatica has assembled and redesigned its whole range of close up accessories under the ACU system banner, which stands for Aquatica Close-Up System. 

 

The ACU system consolidates all the components of our macro and close-up accessories (new and existing ones) into a comprehensive underwater close-up system. In doing so, the engineering department reviewed the system so that every component would work flawlessly with each other. Aquatica took the double element close up lenses it already had, now known as the ACU5 and ACU10, and matched every component of the system to the optical characteristics of the macro lens of your choice.

This consolidation makes it simple for you to navigate through the system and pick the right setup for your macrophotography requirements.

With top quality close up lenses as the corner stone of the ACU system, a new Mini Macro Port with a much smaller frontal signature was created, on its front is a bayonet ready to accept the ACU Flip Holder in both single and double versions. To optimize the ACU system to its full potential, the port extension ring selection was revised with a new series being introduced. New gears for manually focusing the popular macro lenses have also joined the ranks of the Aquatica system.

 

 

The ACU System Essential Components:

The ACU5 and ACU10 lenses:

The corner stone of the ACU system are its water contact close up lenses, the ACU5 and ACU10, these are doublet type close up diopters made of BK7 fully coated mineral glass, they offer unsurpassed corner to corner image quality when mounted on our dedicated ACU system. Optical elements are sealed in a lens body which like all ACU System component is machined from top grade aluminum alloys and anodized to military specification. 

 

The ACU Flip Holder:

Available as a single or double hinged holder, it is optimized to work with the ACU5 and ACU10 close up lenses, bringing the rear element of the ACU lenses right to the front window lens of the macro port, an essential detail for making the most of underwater water contact lenses. Its 67mm threads means that it is flexible in its selection of close up lens available. The ACU Flip holder locks firmly on the front of the ACU Mini Macro Port with absolutely no potential of rotating out of alignment by itself.

 

The ACU Mini Macro Port:

This port is a key element of the new system, its small frontal signature makes lighting your macro subject easy in close quarters. This port has a bayonet on its front which is ready for receiving and safely locking in place the ACU Flip Holder at a moment’s notice. Additionally, the rear features a locking tab compatible with the newly introduced lockable 4000 series extension rings. The 77mm diameter of its front is designed so that the ACU Flip Holder lenses are able to sit right up against the port window lens to extract the maximum performance from the ACU5 and ACU10 close up lenses.


The ACU 77mm to 67mm step down ring:

This step down ring is available for converting the ACU Mini Macro Port to accept the ACU5 and ACU10 lenses directly on the port, it also makes the ACU Mini Macro Port compatible with most close up lenses equipped with 67mm thread.


The ACU lens caddy:

 This convenient lens caddy mounts on our Aquatica grips and will accept the ACU lenses as well as most close up lenses of 67mm threaded mounts.

 

Manual focusing gears:

A definitive advantage when working at large magnification is the capability of manually focusing the lens, new focusing gears have been introduced for the popular macro lenses currently used in underwater photography, these connect directly to the housing focusing knob located on the left side of Aquatica housings.

 

Compatibility:

Typical of Aquatica commitment to its already established users, compatibility with previous component is a constant priority for us, previous macro ports can access the ACU5 and ACU10 lenses with our ACU 19351 lens holder, and owner of 1000 series extension can convert these extension rings with a locking collar to secure them to the ACU Mini Macro Port.

 

###

 

The experts at Bluewater Photo can guide you into the ACU system or best components for your macro photography.


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Detailed review and image quality inspection of the Nauticam SMC diopter
By Scott Gietler

Nauticam SMC Review

Scott Gietler
Detailed review and image quality inspection of the Nauticam SMC diopter

The Nauticam SMC (super macro converter) is a very popular wet diopter for magnifying the smallest underwater critters.

Standard macro lenses are able to reproduce small subjects at a 1:1 ratio, meaning the image captured on the camera's sensor matches the real-life size of the critter. This is the world of macro. Diopters come into play when we want to go beyond macro and enter the world of supermacro. The way we do this is through the use of diopters like the SMC or SubSee on the outside of our macro ports. This enhanced magnification makes the tiny subjects appear larger than real life on the sensor, helping to fill the frame with detail.

The Nauticam SMC uses a standard 67mm thread, making it easy to screw into most housing macro ports and adapters. For the smallest subjects, Nauticam also makes a Multipler, which essentially stacks two diopters to create more magnification.

UWPG Publisher, Scott Gietler, used the SMC in Anilao, Philippines on his Nikon D810. We've put together the photos below, including detailed insight from using the diopter, to show the beautiful images created with this supermacro lens combination.

- Brent Durand, Editor

 



View and purchase the Nauticam SMC and Nauticam Multiplier on Bluewater Photo.

Photos below shot with:

Nikon D810, Nikkor 105mm macro lens, Sea&Sea D810 housing, Sea&Sea YS-D1 strobes.


 

Scott's Nauticam SMC Review

This is a very high quality macro lens, and I highly recommend it for a dSLR setup. It is a little stronger than the Subsee +10, and slightly sharper. Casual macro photographers may not notice the difference, but experienced supermacro shooters will. I recommend using the lens with a flip diopter holder and a longer lens, like a 100mm or 105mm macro lens.

Chromatic aberration is not noticeable. Contrast is very good. Corner sharpness is not applicable to a macro lens, as the goal is not and should not be sharp corners.

Downsides are its heavy weight and high cost. All supermacro lenses take a lot of time to get used to, and I highly recommend reading my supermacro tips article. You will need to learn a new technique for holding your rig, bracing yourself, new buoyancy floats and possibly a new focus light to get the most out of this lens. Not to mention a new viewfinder. 

 

Anilao Macro Photos with Nauticam SMC

 

Nauticam SMC underwater photo

100% Crop:

 

Nauticam SMC review

 

Join Scott Gietler for the Anilao Spring 2016 Photo Workshops. Details are below:

Anilao Workshops April / May 2016

 

Nauticam Super Macro Converter review

 

Nauticam Super Macro Converter underwater photos

100% Crop:

 

Nauticam SMC photos

 

Nauticam macro lens review

 

Nauticam macro lens underwater photos

 

Nauticam Super Macro Converter lens

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


Sample Photos Comparing Magnification of both Stacked Diopter Options
By Brent Durand

Nauticam SMC + Multiplier vs. SubSee 10 + 5

Brent Durand
Sample Photos Comparing Magnification of both Stacked Diopter Options

We've just come across some very interesting photos shot by EunJae Im that compare the most popular wet diopter options in macro photography these days. EunJae has compared not just the base diopters, but the stacked combinations as well.

There has been a lot of buzz about Nauticam's new SMC (super macro converter) and comparisons like this will help those deciding which option to purchase or whether an upgrade is worthwhile. There are a number of things to take into consideration when choosing diopters including magnification, sharpness, image quality, size & weight and port mounting options. It's important to remember that EunJae's comparison tests are looking specifically at magnification, so all other aspects of these test photos should be considered less relevant.

 

About the Comparison:

EunJae shot these photos with a Canon 5D Mark3 and the Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens. For each photo, he focus-locked at maximum magnification in order to deliver a true magnification test of the diopter.

 

 

Canon 5D Mark3 & 100mm Lens

Canon 5D Mark 3 Underwater Macro
 
 

Nauticam SMC vs. SubSee +10

Nauticam SMC vs. SubSee +10 Comparison

 

Nauticam SMC + Multiplier vs. SubSee 10 + 5

Nauticam SMC Magnifier vs. SubSee +10 +5 Comparison

 

Check out EunJae Im's website for the original photos & comparison:

EunJae Im Underwater Imaging

 

 

More about the Gear 

Nauticam SMC

Nauticam Multiplier

SubSee +10 Diopter

SubSee +5 Diopter

 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image-maker from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is the editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and leads several photo trips and workshops for Bluewater Photo (see below).  Email Brent at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

La Paz Big Animal Photo Trip (Oct '16)   |   Sri Lanka Wrecks & Reefs OR Whales & Dolphins Workshops (Feb '17)   |   Alor, Indonesia small group Photo Trip (Oct '17)

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


By Scott Gietler

SubSee Wet Diopter Review

Scott Gietler

The SubSee diopter, by ReefNet, is a wet diopter used for supermacro underwater photography. The adapter holds the diopter in front of the lens port, very close to the port but not touching it.

 

 

The diopter (aka SubSee Magifier) and adapter can be purchased separately, but they are often purchased together. The company has plans to offer other diopters of less strength that can be used in the same adapter. Some people have made their own adapter for the diopter.

 

The company will custom-make adapters for dSLR housings and compact housings.

 

SubSee Diopter Description

 

Here's a description from Reefnet:

  • The SubSee Magnifier is a dual-element achromatic lens system (corrects chromatic aberrations) and is sealed in an airspace (to maintain all of its magnification). Just like any other "wet-lenses", it allows more magnification by decreasing the lens-to-subject distance. The more powerful the lens (measured in 'diopters'), the closer you're able to get to the subject, and hence the more magnification achievable. The SubSee is a +10 diopter lens, which can achieve approximately 2.2:1 magnification when couple with a 105mm lens. Results will vary with the primary lens focal length.

 

 

subsee adapter

SubSee adapter. It's very light, sturdy and well made.

 

subsee adapter and diopter

SubSee diopter next to the adapter.

 

subsee adapter on a sea & sea 105mm port

Adapter and diopter on my 105mm lens port. You tighten the screws to secure the adapter on the lens port. This may scuff your port up a little bit where the screws tighten down. The adapter and diopter felt very secure, and I was not concerned about losing either of them.

 

The "New SubSee" magnifier

 

In early 2010, SubSee started shipping out a new diopter. This diopter is larger and can be used with full-frame cameras in addition to cropped-sensor dSLR's and compact cameras. It's also 67mm threaded so it can screw on some compact ports. Thhe price also went up. They are producing a +5 diopter and a +10 diopter. I like the ability to use a +5, because frankly sometimes a +10 is just too strong for many subjects. A +5 would most likely give me around 40-50% max magnification with my 105mm lens. Reefnet says the new diopters have better corner sharpness, but I'm expecting some user feedback soon on this. Currently this review is on the "original" diopter.

 

Weight

 

The SubSee adapter and diopter together are extremely light, weighing 6.55 ounces (186 grams).

 

What kind of cameras?

 

This size diopter will work well with cropped-sensor cameras, but there may be some vignetting in part of the range on a full-sensor camera. Reefnet is making a larger one that will have no vignetting with full-frame cameras. They will also be selling a +5 diopter sometime during the summer of 2009

 

 

Magnification of the diopter

 

  • Pool Tests with my setup show the subsee +10 diopter increases magnification 107%. Please note that the amount of magnification may vary on other setups, because it depends on the distance between the lens and the port glass, which is different in different ports.

  • Magnification will also depend on the focal length of the lens used. Much more magnification is possible with a 150mm focal length lens, witlh a 100mm or 105mm lens you will still get a good amount of magnification, while magnification will be much less with a 60mm lens. Note that I do not recommend using strong diopters with a 60mm lens, you maybe trying to focus inside the port!

 

  • Minimum width of photo with nikon 105mm VR lens - 23mm

  • Minimum width of photo with nikon 105mm with subsee +10 diopter - 11.1mm (107% mag.)

  • Max width of a photo with the 105mm + subsee - 18.2mm (26% mag.) This is the largest photo that I felt I could easily take with the Subsee in the pool.

 

Photo taken in the pool, F16, 1/250th. SubSee + 105mm lens. The bottom of the photo is blurry, because even at F16, the depth of field was not enough to get the entire image in focus. Depth of field is very narrow at these magnifications.

 

Here's some example photos, there are more SubSee diopter example photos at the bottom of this article

 

spanish shawl supermacro shot

Spanish Shawl nudibranch rhinophores, F32. Anacapa island, california

 

xeno crab, bali, with subsee diopter

xeno crab, bali, with subsee diopter. 105mm lens, F25, 1/200th, ISO 400

 

subsee diopter example 100% crop

 100% crop of the Xeno crab photograph

 

Sample photo, uncropped. F29, 1/250th, Starfish at santa cruz island.

 

subsee diopter example

Anemone closeup, Santa cruz island, California. F25, uncropped.

 

Working Distance

 

At 1:1 magnification, my 105mm VR lens focuses around 5 inches (125mm) from my port. With the subsee diopter on, that working distance is reduced to approximately 2.5 - 4 inches (63mm-102mm), depending on the amount of magnification you want from the subsee.

 

Small Depth of Field

 

It is important to keep in mind that the depth of field at 2:1 magnification is very, very small. Even when dealing with a flat subject, it's difficult to get the entire subject into the depth of field. Even at small apertures, the camera must be kept perfectly still and parallel to the subject. I even had difficulty in controlled conditions in my apartment, with a flat subject, when I was at 2:1 magnification. Even with flat subjects, work at small apertures, for example from F20 to F29, or smaller, depending on how much diffraction you do or don't mind.

 

Ease of use underwater & Tips

 

  • The flip-design is great, making it very easy to quickly take a shot with and without the diopter. Occasionally I would need to adjust my strobes for a second so I could place the flipped-out diopter in the correct position.

  • Supermacro photography in general can be difficult. You must find an appropriate subject, and get the composition and focus just right.

  • Even with a little surge, I didn't have any big problems using the subsee, but that is because I have a lot of experience with using my teleconverter for 40% magnification. I always recommend that people first try using their lenses shooting at 1:1 magnification, then try a weak diopter or a 1.4x teleconverter, and then finally use a strong +8 or +10 diopter if they want to photograph even smaller subjects.

  • The working distance is reduced significantly with the diopter, so you are much closer to the subject than you normally would be with a 100mm or 105mm lens. Still, I didn't feel like I was too close.

  • My Sea & Sea TTL converter underexposes at very small apertures, so I had to turn up the compensation on the converter.

  • Remember, when approaching 1:1 magnification (with or without a diopter) and beyond you will experience loss of light due to the bellows effect, so use a good focus light if possible.

  • I use continuous focus mode, and shutter release priority so I can take a shot at any time.

  • For even front-lighting on the subject, move your strobes close in right next to your port. See my strobe position diagrams.

  • Normally I take photos holding the 2 grips of my cameara housing, but recently when shooting supermacro I started holding the underneath of the end of my macro port with my left hand. Sort of like how you hold a rifle. this resulted in much more stability and better shots. It was a little strange at first, but I quickly got used to it.

  • You should not hesitate to shoot at F32 at 1:2 magnification. If you have any triouble getting the exposure you want, just bump your ISO up to ISO 400.

Subsee Photography Tips for Compact camera users

  • Expect auto-focus to be difficult, try to use a good focus light

  • Zoom in at least half-way. Remember that diopters reduce your working distance so if you don't zoom in you will be focusing very cvery close to the camera. Give yourself a little room

  • Use your strobe on manual power.

  • Dont' forget to use macro mode.

  • Use F8 for maximum depth of field

 

Comparison to the MacroMate

 

The macromate diopter is another strong wet-diopter.

 

The SubSee adapter setup is lighter, it is a slightly stronger diopter and slightly more inexpensive than the Macromate. Both are high-quality, achromatic diopters. Like the subsee, the macromate also has a nice flip-out design. Read on to hear my thoughts on whether a stronger diopter is necessary better.

 

What is the best diopter out there?

 

Keep in mind that a stronger diopter is not necessarily better. Both of these diopters are specialty tools with specific ranges. Stronger diopters have smaller ranges, can be more difficult to use and find subjects, and can introduce more distortion. The macromate most likely has a range that slightly overlaps with the range of the 105mm lens. Ideally underwater we could have 2 or 3 diopters ready at a moments notice so we could match the diopter to the composition we are trying to create.

 

Cost

 

Appears to be around $350-$400 including the adapter and diopter, depending on the port. Some ports, like mine, which is a tapered more, need more machining work to make the adapter.

You can call Bluewater Photo for advice and purchasing a complete Subsee setup.

 

 

Further Reading

 

Even More Reading

 

More example photos

 

soft coral crab, bali, subsee diopter

 soft coral crab, bali, subsee diopter, F32, with D300 + 105mm VR lens

 

Tiger shrimp, bali, subsee diopter

Tiger shrimp, bali, Subsee diopter, F32, with D300 + 105mm VR lens

 

Coral polyp, uncropped, photo by Jeff de Guzman. F25, D300, 105mm lens + subsee adapter, Anilao, Phillipines

 

Skeleton Shrimp, uncropped, photo by Jeff de Guzman. F40, D300, 105mm lens + subsee. Anilao, Phillipines.

 

 This is an indoor test I did, at 2:1 magnification, F11. I had to flip the diopter to get the best results on my indoor test.

 

 

 

 

Topside Subsee test, at F25, 2:1 magnification.

 

snail photo, trivia solandri, with subsee diopter

Trivia solandri snail, Anacapa island, California. F32, 105mm lens, subsee +10 diopter

 

subsee magnifier example

Trivia solandri snail, 100% crop

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


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