Nauticam has been working on a wet wide angle lens for some time now, the first prototype was seen with the release of the new N50 port system for compact but nothing has come to market yet.
Last week I have received a pre-production version of the WWL-1 (Wet Wide-Angle Lens – 1) coming in a retail box.
Edward had advised that the lens is bigger than the competition and this is due to the construction that includes 6 elements in 5 groups.
The box size is the same of a small compact housing and inside you find a pouch that looks like a mini picnic basket.
The lens comes with a neoprene dome cover.
Other characteristics include an adjustable dome and a large loop ring. I am unsure if this is to secure the lens, as it is so heavy you can’t really remove it in water or to operate it more easily.
Thanks to that ring I could easily remove and replace the lens with gloves.
The other feature is the extremely large rear element that measures 48mm, larger than the Inon UWL-H100. This makes the lens virtually compatible with any camera at 28mm equivalent. Edward mentioned that it could work even with an A7.
The lens has a standard M67 mount.
So off I went to Essex to test the lens in a pool. I was hoping for girls in bikini or at least some model but the water was around 14C so off I went with my dry-suit and gloves.
The lens itself weights 1.28 Kg and is heavier than many compact housings including the camera.
I took some test shots with the WWL-1 and with the Inon UWL-H100 with and without dome.
First of all the WWL-1 seems wider than the Inon once you get rid of the vignette. I was using the WWL-1 with a Panasonic LX-100 in Nauticam housing and short port. The WWL-1 would stop vignetting at 28mm whilst the Inon lens needed zooming until 29mm.
Shooting a Snell’s window gives you an idea of the field of view.
The Snell’s window requires an angle of 97.2 ° in order to be fully captured along a specific axis. We can appreciate that the WWL-1 on the LX-100 at 28mm has more than the required field of view on the diagonal and horizontal dimensions but is narrower than required on the vertical axis. Looking at this image the field of view on the diagonal looks more around 120 ° this may be due to the fact that the lens on the LX100 even with the short port is still around 2 cm away from the glass.
However when compared with the Inon the WWL-1 shows a better field of view overall.
I did have some fun shooting through the window.
The calm conditions of the pool allow the camera to see through the surface.
Having concluded that the WWL-1 is at least as wide as the Inon UWL-H100 I took some shots with the PADI test cards.
The images are taken with strobes at an aperture of f/5.6 which is the sweet spot of the camera. I wanted to check what is the level of softness in the corners as well as chromatic aberration.
I took few shots where the PADI logo was right on the bottom corner and this is the crop.
There is some softness and virtually no chromatic aberration.
The lens has the typical barrel distortion of a fish eye lens.
I took the same shots with the UWL-H100 with dome and the corners were much worse in terms of softness, CA was not a big issue.
I then took a few shots with the UWL-H100 flat, the LX-100 stopped vignetting at 25mm.
I had to step back in order to be able to capture the two cards and I could not achieve a Snell’s window on the horizontal axis as expected however the field of view is impressive for a rectilinear image I would say around 108-110 °.
The wide field of view and the lack of the dome element present challenged, corners present both softness and large amounts of chromatic aberration.
Operating the lens and housing with gloves was acceptable and I could remove it as well.
What I liked the most is the fact that the hood can be adjusted without an allen key just operating the screws on the back.
The retail price of the WWL-1 is going to be $995, £769 and €1060 the lens is going to be slightly more expensive than the Inon UWL-H100 with dome but compared to the Inon it offers increased sharpness and contrast and comparable field of view.
The only draw back is the size the lens weights quarter of a Kg more than the Inon and is substantially longer.
If you are after the best optical quality for a wet lens this is the lens to buy at time of writing.
I would like to thank Edward Lai at Nauticam for sending me this pre-production model and Alex Tattersall at Nauticam UK for shipping me promptly.
I have not bought the item and I do not sell equipment this review is based on my independent view.
I will be testing this lens with the Panasonic GX7 and 14-42mm Mega OIS II soon.