The latest generation of compact cameras is capable of producing top-quality underwater images for a wide range of subjects and in various conditions. But compacts are only as flexible as the focal length range of their built-in zoom lenses, and users who want to get the most from their camera will need to add either a wide-angle wet lens for big subjects, like reef scenes or wrecks, or a macro wet lens for the small stuff, such as nudibranchs and shrimp.
Placed in front of your housing’s port, a macro wet lens reduces the minimum lens-to-subject distance, allowing you to get closer and fill more of the frame with your subject. Otherwise known as a close-up lens, diopter, magnifier or macro converter, these lenses are offered by a variety of manufacturers and vary by optical power, mount type, and price. The major distinguishing factor, optical power, is typically measured in “diopters” (a higher number means higher power) but this is only a guide, as actual magnification depends both on your camera and your port configuration.
Here we look at four of the top choices for macro wet lenses for your compact camera.
Inspired by Nauticam’s Super Macro Converter (SMC-1) for DSLRs, the CMC-1 offers similarly impressive magnifications for compact cameras. The CMC-1 is quoted as giving an average magnification of 4.5x, which Nauticam compares with the optical power of a +15 diopter lens. Equipped with a standard 67mm thread, the lens can be mounted on almost any compatible housing. For use with its own housings, Nauticam suggests using their flip lens holder, which is designed to position the lens close to the lens port on the housing when shooting, and flipped out of the way when not in use. The CMC-1 weighs 260 grams and costs US$320. www.nauticam.com
ReefNet SubSee +5
ReefNet’s SubSee Magnifier comes in a two-element version with an optical power of +5 diopters and a four-element version boasting +10 diopters. With its standard 67mm thread, the lens can be mounted directly onto most housing ports or used with ReefNet’s flip adapters. The SubSee has the added flexibility of being designed for both compacts and full-frame cameras. The ReefNet SubSee +5 weighs 240 grams and costs US$195. www.reefnet.ca
One of the most popular and most highly regarded close-up lenses, the Inon UCL-165M67 is designed to work equally well whether you’re using a compact, mirrorless or DSLR camera. This dual-element lens has an optical power of +6 diopters, and greater magnifications can be achieved by stacking multiple lenses. As the name suggests, the lens has a standard 67mm thread, but Inon make various other versions with different mounts to provide compatibility with almost any housing. The Inon UCL-165M67 weighs 140 grams and costs US$175. www.inon.jp
Offering an average 2.8x magnification, the recently announced CMC-2 is designed to be used side by side with the CMC-1, which boasts a magnification average of 4.5x. Nauticam don’t quote its lenses’ optical power in diopters, but the CMC-2 is likely around half as powerful as its sibling, making it not only easier to use but also a great choice for larger macro subjects. The CMC-2 is constructed using low-dispersion optical grade glass with broadband anti-reflective coatings, and features a 67mm threaded mount. The CMC-2 weighs 220 grams and costs US$290. www.nauticam.com