Do You Really Need a Wide Angle Lens?

Reef Scene

Reef Scene at Sipidan, Malaysia 

Canon S95 INON UFL-165AD with 2 x INON S-2000 Strobes

Well, it’s just a little bit hot today here in my ocean studio, so before I head off to give my compact camera a much needed dip, I wanted to catch up with helping newcomers with their photography skills.

One question that I hear a lot is whether a wide-angle lens or a strobe should be an underwater photographer’s first purchase?   You probably know the answer already, it all depends on what kind of photographs you would like to take.  If you are completely passionate about the small stuff, then simply using your compact camera and it’s built-in flash or a torch/video light, would be plenty enough to capture beautiful memories.

However, if you are as passionate about reef scenes, big animals, huge schooling fish, caves, wrecks and creative scenes of your buddy, then a wide angle lens is definitely a good route to choose.

But why do you need one?  As we learnt when we are divers, water magnifies our subjects, making them appear closer.  As there are also particles in the water, and water is also denser than air, the more that is between us and our subject, the blurrier it can appear in our photographs.  Therefore, by adding on a wide-angle lens, we not only get closer to our subject, giving it far more detail, sharpness and colour, but we can also capture more of the ambience of a scene.  If you are using a strobe, then by being able to get so much closer to your subject, it can work more effectively lighting up the larger scene and adding lots of vibrant colour.

UW Bonsai Tree

USS Liberty Wreck, Bali

Canon S95, INON UWL-165 AD with an INON S-2000 Strobe

So how does it fit onto your existing compact camera system?  There are two different ways, either by attaching it directly through the existing screw thread on the front of your camera housing, or via an adaptor made by INON which has a bayonet fitting and simply push fits onto your housing and is made secure with a screw underneath.  If you choose the bayonet option, please be careful that you make sure that it is completely snug in the adaptor by twisting it and you should hear a little click.  It really is so easy for these to become detached and end up as someone else’s free gift on their dive!  Lens caddies are available which attach onto an arm and both your close-up and wide angle lenses can be safely stored here during your dive.


The Pier at Nuweiba, Egypt

F30D with INON UFL-165AD Fisheye Lens, Underwater Mode

Next do you choose a standard wide-angle lens or a fisheye lens and what is the difference?  A wide-angle lens (useful for schooling fish, sharks, buddies, turtles, small wrecks) will give you a much wider angle of view than your standard compact camera, up to 100 degrees depending on the manufacturer, so always check this before purchasing.  Wide-angle lenses made by INON can add on an extra dome lens giving you up to 150 degrees.  A fisheye lens will add to your underwater creativity by giving straight lines close to you a curved effect and enable you to get much closer to reef scenes and large caves, therefore fitting more seascape views in the frame. If you ever need any independent advice (I don’t sell any underwater equipment) you are welcome to always message me.

Giant Frogfish small

Incredibly Large Painted Frogfish in Taba, Egypt

Cave Rays of Light

Magical Cave, The Passage, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

When I was leading a trip to snorkel with Basking Sharks in Cornwall, UK, I found that very annoyingly, my fisheye lens was way too wide for these large guys and ended up borrowing a guest’s wide-angle lens, for which I am still eternally grateful to be able to get this shot.

Basking Shark mouth closed small

And finally, to finish off with a cooling shot from Alaska which is very welcome in this huge heatwave that we are having here in the UK, either lens will help you to be able to take these kind of split-level shots.  Just remember to unscrew your lens slightly when you descend underwater to get rid of any air bubbles trapped inside and use some environmentally and ocean friendly washing up liquid on the outside of the lens to stop water droplets sticking to it.   And then all you need to do is keep incredibly still 🙂

Split Level Alaska


I really hope that this post helps you and if you need any help or advice, just let me know.

Wishing you lots of happy bubbles and fab diving this weekend.


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