Underwater Video Tips: Inon UCL100 Analysis

Inon introduced a new close up lens in February of this year the UCL100. So why did Inon come up with this after the very successful UCL165 series? Probably some pressure from products like Subsee that produce better quality images than the Inon lenses and more and more lenses with similar performance to the existing Inon lenses. So what is different about the UCL100? First of all this lens is heavy 243/269 grams in the LD/M67 version in air that become 130/151 grams in water double than the UCL165. The lens is made of 3 elements instead of two and is very similar to a Subsee this is more evident taking a look at the lens on land.

This shot is taken with the bare port at 50mm.

LX7 50mm
LX7 50mm

This is the same shot at the same working distance using the UCL100 note the magnification.

LX7 UCL100 50mm
LX7 UCL100 50mm

The lens behaves like a magnifying glass exactly as the Subsee, Inon has made some effort to try to reduce vignetting, this picture is taken on land at 28mm.

UCL100 Fix Land 24mm
UCL100 Fix Land 28mm

Note a little dark bottom right corner, the lens in fact vignettes at 24mm this is due to the huge size of the LX7 lens and may not happen with other cameras.

Here we can see the rear of the lens from the Fix adapter side. The lens sits very close to the glass port.

UCL100 rear lens attached to Fix LD adapter
UCL100 rear lens attached to Fix LD adapter

I have opted for a bayonet version of this lens as I will use the fix as m67 adapter if I had to dive with the wet mate.
If you are a photographer I would definitely recommend the LD bayonet version over the M67 as it is easier to remove and attach in water.

There are some other very interesting characteristics of this lens. Usually a diopter works only around a certain working distance for a given zoom so the issue with such a powerful close up lens is that if we are far away from the working distance the lens is not usable.

The UCL100 instead is quite flexible and has a huge swing of working distances for a given focal length as in the table below.

Zoom Position Min Max
90 60 100
70 45 115
50 20 130
35 10 200
28 0 300

All values are in mm.

So the lens keeps working well far away the nominal 100mm and due to the construction also gives a magnifying effect this means that it is possible to take this lens in water as the only close up lens and there will not be too much of a limitation if for some reason we can’t get that close to the subject. A swing of 40mm at telephoto end is excellent and this becomes 70mm at 70mm zoom and 110 at 50mm.

What about image quality most of you will know by now how specific I am when it comes to aberrations, this is a crop of an image taken with the UCL165

Inon UCL165 Fringing
Inon UCL165 Fringing

You can see the yellow and purple halo around the zero.

This is a detail of the same ruler in water with the UCL100

Inon UCL100 Detail
Inon UCL100 Detail

The image is a bit soft because of the aperture used but absolutely free of any fringing that is astounding for this level of magnification, the quality of the image is same as Subsee.

This lens comes with a lens front and back cover, the front lens is a clip with lanyard. The UCL100 can also be stacked with other M67 lenses if you need more!!!

Inon UCL100
Inon UCL100

With the LX7 the UCL100 achieves a reproduction ratio of 1.1:1 compared to the 1.4:1 of an Inon UCL165. The limitation of the zoom of the LX7 shows a bit here as even the Sony RX100 gets nearly a 1:1 with this lens but the strength of the focus of the LX7 are second to no other camera in this segment so I look forward to using this lens on some really small stuff.

The UCL100 is priced at $282 in US and £275 in UK versus $225/£210 of Subsee so why would you bother getting this lens from Inon instead? I think the main selling point of this lens in addition to the image quality and magnification power is the fact that the lens operates until wide end and has a very wide range of working distances so you are not stuck just around the 100mm nominal focal lenght. This allows use of the full zoom from wide to tele that in video is especially important. For pictures I am not so sure the additional cost is justified as stills are usually at full telephoto end.

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