I am conscious that a post like this is destined to create some stir, however it reflects over one month of testing of the two Nauticam water contact optics with my A1 and summarizes my conclusion for my own use.
Of course if you are reading this you may agree with what you will read and this will be your conclusion too. Or otherwise you would have bought the WACP-C thinking it was an upgrade for your Sony Alpha and well if it turns out it is not you will think it is anyway.
I was fortunate to be able to borrow the WWL-1 DRY from Alex Mustard. This lens is the prototype of the current Nauticam WACP-C. The lens has remained pretty much the same but it now has an integrated fixed float collar and built in extension. Other than a thickening of the rear lens mount ring it looks identical and therefore I assume optical performance is the same.
Someone will say well but it is not the same, but as we know the construction of the WWL-1, WACP-C and WACP-1 is identical and each model is 1.15 bigger than the previous with the optical design made of 6 lenses in 5 groups for all of them.
I have not had the chance to test the WACP-1, Alex said he would lend me that too however I am not interested in such large lens.
I have also had the opportunity to test the WACP-C with a variety of lenses including some not on the port chart like the Tamron 20-40 F2.8 and 17-28 F2.8 both did very well but nothing amazingly better than that little Sony 28-60 or the Sony 28mm prime and therefore I concluded that path is not worth pursuing.
Sony SEL2860 Lens Options
For the purpose of this article I will focus on the comparison with the Sony SEL2860 F4-5.6 28-60mm which is no doubt not an amazing lens but it happens to be pretty sharp from 35mm onwards. It is rather weak at 28mm at the edges so one of the things I wanted to check was if the larger WACP-C was giving an improvement over the smaller WWL-1.
The Sony SEL28060 is a small lens that needs to be extended for use. When mounted on the A1 is pretty compact, no surprise as this is the kit lens for the A7C.
The lens is longest at 60mm but only 1mm shorter at 28mm which makes it ideal for use behind a wet lens.
To use it on the Sony E-Mount Full frame of new generation with the N100 port system you need the flat port 45 that comes with a rather unuseful knob that I have removed from mine.
The set up with the A1 is very compact and portable the whole housing, wet lens camera, strobes and arms together with camera and lens fit a carry on luggage on every airline of the world.
To use the WWL-DRY aka WACP-C I needed to use my 35.5 N120 to N100 adapter and a 25mm adapter ring. The production version only needs a 30mm N100 extension ring but will be as long as you see here.
There is a considerable difference in weight between the two set ups and the production WACP-C is heavier.
I own the original WWL-1 version with non integrated float collar which is lighter than the current WWL-1B.
In the post title image you see both lenses without floatation.
In order to perform a comparison I decided to use a semi scientific method consisting of a fixed scene and shots at very close range. The closest the subject is to the lens more stress is induced on the optics that are designed to focus far away. This means that if a lens is better than another at close range when you point them far way the gap will still be there but will reduce.
The first set of tests was performed with the WWL-1 DRY.
I started at f/5.6 not f/4 that looked visually a waste of time. First I tried with the target on a line to see the potential effect of field of curvature and other issues.
At f/5.6 the sides are already blurry. The edges are even more fuzzy.
The images are 6 megapixels feel free to open them in another tab and look for yourself.
Moving to f/8 improves the situation but not as much as you would think.
The edge remain soft at f/8.
From f/11 we have good performance across the frame using the SEL2860.
Note that the focus point is on the edge and this means the issue if solely due to the water contact optic is not a problem of depth of field or field of curvature.
I proceeded to shoot at f/11 and f/8 avoiding f/5.6.
Shooting at f/8 is possible if there is nothing at the edges and the depth of field is sufficient.
The test with the WWL-1 brought practically identical results.
Sides are soft at f5/6 and the slate shows obvious issues of depth of field.
Edges are very similar to the WWL-1 DRY perhaps a bit better.
At f/8 the situation improves as it had happened with the WACP-C.
From F/11 image quality is consistent across the frame.
There is an obvious issue of depth of field so if you are shooting at close range with the 28-60mm you really need to look at f/16 but this was not the point of the tests.
As you can see by yourself there is really nothing between the two optics and clearly the difference between the wet and dry version is simply in the ergonomics and of course the price. For me there is no reason to consider the WACP-C unless you have serious issues with a wet mount.
After all those tests I decided not to take the WACP-C to Italy and used the WWL-1 for both photos and video with good results.
This shot is taken at 40 meters with the 28-60mm at f/11.
I pretty much used f/11 fixed changing other parameters for the exposure and at time using the zoom.
This is not the red sea it is much darker and as you can see dry suit were in use.
The zoom of the 28-60 has some clear benefits.
The WWL-1 needs the bayonet mount and the flat port 45 to operate with the WWL-1. This comes at cost of $2,119.
The WACP-C needs the N100 extension ring 30 to operate. This comes at $3,426.
If you a Sony full frame E-mount user and have issue dealing with the bubble removal of a wet lens when you jump in the water you can spend $1,306 to avoid yourself the inconvenience. However you will not have any benefit in terms of optical quality and you will be carrying more weight.
For video the wet lens is clearly preferred as you can operate the 28060 with a flat port and wet lenses for close up work.
The WWL-1 remains the true Nauticam master piece and a lens that keeps delivering years after the introduction.