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Changing Lenses Underwater : Wet Lens (Nauticam MWL-1)

The nightmare of all underwater imaging experts; When you go to macro shot, you see a shark. The era of relying on a single lens and a single angle underwater is over. Underwater interchangeable lenses; wet-lenses

nauticam macro to wide lens for converting macro images into wide angle
Nauticam MWL-1

I have been shooting underwater videos since 2010. In the years I mentioned, photos were taken with cameras, and videos were shot with video cameras. As far as I remember, the Canon 5D mark 2 camera changed this game. With the development of digital camera technologies, although the Canon 5D was a camera, it shot videos so well that it confused all videographers. When it comes to underwater, until then, the video cameras that everyone had were cameras with certain zoom capabilities and no possibility to change lenses. On the other hand, such a need did not arise. When I looked at the photographers, I felt sorry for them every time, even the thought of deciding to shoot super wide angle or macro was killing me.


When I switched to the Sony A7S3 mirrorless camera in 2022, the nightmare began for me, too. Due to my loyalty to the Nauticam brand, when I was buying a Nauticam housing again, having so many options in front of me to decide on lens - port preference was psychologically challenging for me. Being under a great financial burden prevented me from choosing the lenses I wanted, and on the other hand, it brought me to the brink of a choice I had never known before. During all this research, I discovered wet-lenses. Different brands such as Nauitcam, AOI, WeeFine, Inon had different wet-lens options. These lenses can be screwed onto flat ports using screw logic. It was an option I haven't seen before in photographers. I have seen "wet-lenses" called diopters, which act as a kind of magnifying glass, for macro shots, but I don't remember seeing them in the wide angle section. I had my eye on one of Nauticam's two models called WWL-1 and MWL-1. In particular, the MWL-1 was very suitable for the function I dreamed of. MWL-1, which can be attached to a macro lens, miraculously turns a macro lens into a wide angle (150 degrees).


CMAS European Underwater Video Championship and Wet Lenses

While I was thinking about buying a wet lens, I was also going to participate in the CMAS European Underwater Video Championship held in Madeira in 2022. I wouldn't be able to bring the wet lens to the championship, but at least I chose a lens that I could buy a flat port for so that the future system would be ready for it; Sony 28-70mm f3.5 OSS. I think it was one of the cheapest lenses I could find on the market. However, until I bought a wet lens, I still wanted to be able to shoot videos underwater at a wide range.


At the championship, I met underwater videographers from different countries in Europe. I saw that almost all of them use wet lenses in underwater videography, which most of them do as a profession. Especially Nauticam's WWL-1 model was a very common model. Here too, I realized that Wet Lens would be a meaningful choice.


Nauticam MWL-1 Review

Nauticam MWL-1 (macro to wide lens), which is compatible with the lens I have, has an optical feature that, as the name suggests, converts macro to wide angle. Moreover, according to Nauticam's claim, wet lenses can provide much better results than many standard lenses and dome ports because they are produced according to underwater light-optical information. MWL-1 works between 60-70mm of my 28-70mm lens. Before 60mm, there is blackness coming from the edges of the wet lens in the frame and it is not possible to focus. At 60mm, it can offer a very wide angle of 150 degrees.


When I first started using wet lenses, I realized what a meaningful investment I had made. With Nauticam's quick connect, I can easily attach and remove the lens underwater. While I can shoot fish the size of bream, red mullet and angelfish with a wide angle on land such as 28mm, I wear the MWL-1 wet lens to shoot large coral reefs, model frames and shipwrecks. I can even get super macro results with the Nauticam CMC-1 to shoot macro on the same dive. All in one dive!


The use of wet lenses provides a significant advantage, especially in underwater imaging competitions. Generally, I do not have the opportunity to train before the competition venues. For this reason, I can never be sure what I should shoot, wide angle or macro, at the diving spot. With the wet lens, I no longer have to make such a decision. I can dive and continue diving with the lens I want depending on what I see. It should be noted that changing lenses with neither the quick connect I use nor the flip holders does not take as little as 1-2 seconds, it takes 10-15 seconds no matter how you look at it, especially reaching in front of the camera etc. takes time. Even though we are talking about seconds, you may not be able to switch to a escaping macro when you have a wide angle shot. So it's still beneficial to set an angle and stay at it for the majority of the dive, but you're always free. If I had to summarize wet lens use in one word, I think it could be this; freedom!


If we talk about MWL-1 again, Nauticam ships this product with a very nice packaging and carrying bag. This model, suitable for M67 connection type, can also be used with M77 port with M77 adapter. For correct compatibility in lens - port combinations, Nauticam Port Charts should be consulted:Nauticam Port Chart: MWL-1 MWL-1 has very compact dimensions and can be easily carried with one hand and attached to the housing..


Of course, despite all these tremendous features, there must also be some difficulties, let's talk about them a little. First of all, we are talking about a very heavy product. MWL-1, which weighs 1.2 kg on land, drops to only 580 grams in water, which is still quite heavy. Especially since I use a flat port, I do not have the buoyancy provided by dome ports, and when the MWL-1 is added to my heavy video lights, I have a very heavy system with negative buoyancy underwater. Although I can lighten the system and bring it closer to neutral buoyancy with lifting arms, I need to use large arms and the main problem is that the balance of the system is unfortunately pressed forward with the weight of the lens. To prevent this, I need to use a lifting foam-like material that will provide buoyancy where the MWL-1 or port is located. There is a "float collar" product that can be attached to the Nauticam MWL-1, but this is currently sold for 422 USD.


While we are on the subject of money, one of the first things we need to talk about is of course the cost of this product is quite a considerable amount, its current cost is 2,196 USD. While the price issue is a significant disadvantage, I can say that it is worth it. There may be more affordable products available from WeeFine and AOI, but I do not know if their performance is as effective as Nauticam MWL-1.


Before using the Nauticam MWL-1, the underwater auto focus ability of my 28-70mm lens was significantly superior to the Sony A7S3. I didn't need manual focus even underwater. However, I can say that you should definitely not use auto focus with the Nauticam MWL-1. Since it is a wide angle, manual focus is also very comfortable along with its high f-stop value. Speaking of high f stop, another disadvantage of MWL-1 is the necessity to use high f stop value. If f16 or higher f stop aperture is not used, the sharpness in the image you receive will be very low and a blur effect will appear in the entire frame. Although this is not a big problem for a camera like the Sony A7S3, which can go to high ISOs such as 12800, 25600, if you are considering buying it for different cameras, you need to think about this issue and make sure. Normally, it would be right to decide on this product by seeing whether f16 and above values at wide angle cause problems with the ISO values ​​you can reach on your camera.


One of the last disadvantages is that the available lens-port options are not very wide for Full Frame cameras. The 28-70mm lens I use is an old kit lens and the fact that a new one cannot be found in the market makes it difficult to choose the MWL-1 option. Although this lens is very powerful, Nauticam's new wet lenses may soon replace the MWL-1. The question is whether MWL-2 or a different model will be available.


Few frames from videos shot with MWL-1:



Sample videos shot with Nauticam MWL-1:




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