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Alex_Mustard

Lens use survey

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A common question on the forum is what lenses should I buy for underwater photography.

 

So I had a look through my. Obviously there are many biases in this. I don't always travel with all lenses and of course the choice of subject/destination will have a strong bias on the results. But if a few of us look this up, it might provide a useful reference, about what lenses we tend to find most useful underwater and how regularly they produce keepers.

 

These numbers come from my laptop's Lightroom Catalogue - representing the images I have brought back from the field. I edit quite heavily in the field (bringing back only about 20% of what I shoot), but I think that this editing is fairly even across different lenses. I have divided the data into FX cameras and DX cameras, for obvious reasons. The numbers do not differentiate when teleconverters etc are used. And I have omitted any land images from the selections.

 

FX Cameras

 

Sigma 15mm FE - 37%

Nikon 16mm FE - 19%

Nikon 16-35mm - 2.6% (new lens)

Nikon 17-35mm - 10%

Nikon 20mm - 0.25%

Sigma 28-70mm - 2%

Nikon 60mm - 7%

Nikon 105mm - 16%

Sigma 150mm - 6%

 

Fisheye total is 56%, wide angle all is almost 70%. Total images surveyed 26144.

 

 

DX Cameras

 

Tokina 10-17mm FE - 39%

Nikon 10.5mm FE - 4%

Nikon 12-24mm - 6%

Nikon 16mm FE - 1%

Nikon 17-35mm & 17-55mm - 1%

Sigma 17-70mm - 18%

Nikon 60mm - 13%

Nikon 105mm - 14%

Sigma 150mm - 5%

 

 

Fisheye total is 44%, wide angle total is less than for FX at 50% (probably reflecting changes in diving as well as my feeling that DX is better for macro, so I have shot less macro on FX). Nikon 60mm gets much more use relative to Nikon 105mm on DX, than FX. Total images surveyed 15057.

 

Anyway, since many people now use Lightroom or similar programs - it would be interesting for others to post the same data for their UW folders - to get a good impression of which UW lenses get the most use and/or produce the most keepers.

 

Alex

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I have just had a look at my Best Of Lightroom Catalogue on my desktop - which are a sub selection of my best images - from the same shoots. Comparing these figures with those above, might say something about which lenses produce the most favourites! The favourites folders percentages are in brackets below

 

FX Cameras

 

Sigma 15mm FE - 37% (25%)

Nikon 16mm FE - 19% (15%)

Nikon 16-35mm - 2.6% (new lens) (0.5%)

Nikon 17-35mm - 10% (10%)

Nikon 20mm - 0.25% (0.1%)

Sigma 28-70mm - 2% (1%)

Nikon 60mm - 7% (14%)

Nikon 105mm - 16% (30%)

Sigma 150mm - 6% (5%)

 

Macro % jumps up in favourites!

 

DX Cameras

 

Tokina 10-17mm FE - 39% (31%)

Nikon 10.5mm FE - 4% (15%)

Nikon 12-24mm - 6% (6%)

Nikon 16mm FE - 1% (4%)

Nikon 17-35mm & 17-55mm - 1% (2.4%)

Sigma 17-70mm - 18% (10%)

Nikon 60mm - 13% (13%)

Nikon 105mm - 14% (20%)

Sigma 150mm - 5% (4%)

 

The Nikon 10.5 shows the biggest change - not sure why. Also the Sigma 17-70mm yields the lowest favourites ratio from the amount of keepers.

 

Alex

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Hi Alex

Are these statistics based on several years of photos or are they just from more recent use? It appears that you use wide angle a great deal and I was wondering if this is just becouse of a current trend towards cfwa.

Mike

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Quite a list there Alex. Would you say then you prefer the Sigma 15 overall then to the Nikon 16, any reason you would still use the Nikon?

How do you like the new 16-35, and your thoughts compared to the 17-35?

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Hi Mike,

 

Yes, there are plenty of biases in there. Which is why I hope more people post their data - as it will be interesting.

Anyway, this represents my photography since I started using Lightroom (August 2007 onwards) - which is why, for example, the Nikon 10.5mm scores low % - because the 10-17mm was already out when Lightroom appeared. This approximately represents the period since completing my most recent book (Reefs Revealed - completed in March 2007) and represents a time when I have been really attempting to diversify my portfolio.

 

The wide angle trend is just me. I actually posted a similar breakdown of the pictures in my first book (The Art Of Diving) here on Wetpixel, which noted that more than half the pictures in that book were fisheye shots. So in general, I always shoot far more wide angle than macro as I enjoy it more and it sells better!

 

Alex

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Quite a list there Alex. Would you say then you prefer the Sigma 15 overall then to the Nikon 16, any reason you would still use the Nikon?

How do you like the new 16-35, and your thoughts compared to the 17-35?

 

Hey Jeff,

 

Underwater the Nikon 16-35mm is significantly better than the 17-35mm. I am very impressed with its performance on FX. On land I might argue that the 17-35mm is better. There is clearly something about the optical design of the 16-35mm that seems to make it a good performer behind a dome. I am not sure what it is, but possibly related to slight barrel distortion it has at 16mm, which I feel predisposes it to the slight pincushion distortion that you can get with a dome. I dunno. But I know what I see and I like what I see!

I thought you had one. But if you thinking about it - I can email you the test NEF shots I did at apertures F5-F16 on Sugar Wreck in the Bahamas. It is amazingly good at F5 for a rectilinear on FX.

 

Regarding the Sigma 15 and Nikon 16mm, I like both for different reasons. The close focus of the Sigma is a significant advantage, I often run into the minimum focus on the 16mm (and yes, I have the filter detached!). The Sigma 15mm is much more prone to flare than the Nikon and I favour the Nikon when I am shooting sunbursts etc or know I do not need close focus. As they are both small, I regularly travel with both.

 

Alex

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Hey Jeff,

 

Underwater the Nikon 16-35mm is significantly better than the 17-35mm. I am very impressed with its performance on FX. On land I might argue that the 17-35mm is better. There is clearly something about the optical design of the 16-35mm that seems to make it a good performer behind a dome. I am not sure what it is, but possibly related to slight barrel distortion it has at 16mm, which I feel predisposes it to the slight pincushion distortion that you can get with a dome. I dunno. But I know what I see and I like what I see!

I thought you had one. But if you thinking about it - I can email you the test NEF shots I did at apertures F5-F16 on Sugar Wreck in the Bahamas. It is amazingly good at F5 for a rectilinear on FX.

 

Regarding the Sigma 15 and Nikon 16mm, I like both for different reasons. The close focus of the Sigma is a significant advantage, I often run into the minimum focus on the 16mm (and yes, I have the filter detached!). The Sigma 15mm is much more prone to flare than the Nikon and I favour the Nikon when I am shooting sunbursts etc or know I do not need close focus. As they are both small, I regularly travel with both.

 

Alex

Yes, I do have the 16-35, just wanted to know if you were happy with it. I am also very impressed so far. Sharp as a tack and as you say less peripheral distortion behind the dome. My experience though is mostly in the pool, I've only done one dive with it - a ripping drift dive in WPB which is hardly ideal to test it.

Edited by loftus

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Hi all,

 

My stats are as follows:

 

10-17mm 54%

17-70mm 14%

12-24mm 1%

105mm 28%

60mm 3%

 

I'm on Nikon DX only-so can't give figures for FX!

 

This is on my whole underwater catalog over the past 2 years.

 

Let's get as many responses as possible, and I'll post this to the front page!

 

Great idea Alex.

 

Adam

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Here's my breakdown, for all pictures taken underwater, and those I considered favorites:

 

Canon 18-55mm 3%, 1% (kit lens came with camera, quickly replaced with Sigma 17-70)

Canon 100mm 56%, 64%

Canon 10-22mm 5%, 4% (stolen last year, replaced with Tokina 10-17)

Sigma 17-70mm 36%, 30%

Tokina 10-17mm 1%, 2% (recent replacement for Canon 10-22)

 

-Mark

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the Sigma 17-70mm yields the lowest favourites ratio from the amount of keepers.

 

Alex

 

Hmmm. Since I got the 17-70 I've found myself using it less and less (which sucks because it cost me quite a bit to house it). Maybe your analysis gives me one of the reasons why -- wile I got many photos that seem to be pretty good, I never did seem to get a whole lot of stuff that really appealed to me. Maybe I grew so accustomed to going really wide and really small that I've lost the bubble on the stuff in between? It is pretty good for fish portraits, however, though I can usually manage that with the 100mm as well . . .

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Hey Mike,

 

I have a theory that I think that the temptation with lenses like the 17-70mm is to try and use them to cover both wide angle and macro. Neither of which they do as well as a dedicated wide or dedicated macro lens. And when push comes to shove the images at these extremes don't stack up to the highest level of your work. The stuff that does make the grade is when you play to the lens's strength and do the bit in the middle. The stuff that you can't do properly with a wide angle or a macro.

 

Alex

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Hey Alex,

 

I have the Nikon 18-70mm and have found that I don't care for using it as much as either my 12-24mm or my 60mm and I believe it is for the reasons that you have stated above. It seems when I have to push myself to use the limitations of a fixed focal length that I get better results. I also feel my 60mm and 105mm lenses are by far sharper than the 18-70mm.

 

Mike

Edited by Beach Bum

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Alex, I have just moved to FX after I found a D700 Subal housing on Ebay in Germany at a great price.... I already had the camera for land use, so it tipped the scales and I have sold my D200 & D300 cameras etc.

 

I intend to test it out here in Sydney, but the first big trip will be Mozambique in November, so I wanted to check which EXR you are using, if you use a diopter & what brand it is?

 

Thanks, Don

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Alex, I have just moved to FX after I found a D700 Subal housing on Ebay in Germany at a great price.... I already had the camera for land use, so it tipped the scales and I have sold my D200 & D300 cameras etc.

 

I intend to test it out here in Sydney, but the first big trip will be Mozambique in November, so I wanted to check which EXR you are using, if you use a diopter & what brand it is?

 

Thanks, Don

 

 

Alex, sorry - should have stated that I was talking about the 16-35.... so again, which EXR are you using, do you use a diopter & what brand it is?

 

Don

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Alex, sorry - should have stated that I was talking about the 16-35.... so again, which EXR are you using, do you use a diopter & what brand it is?

Don

 

Hi Don,

 

I am using the lens with the Zen 230 dome and (I think) 65-67mm EXR. The dome works really well with the lens. In my tests I find that a dioptre makes not appreciable improvement to the 16-35mm's performance. But with the 17-35mm it does. I think this difference comes from the optical design and the degree of retro-focus in the lens (the more r-f the less benefit of a dioptre). But rather than get too into the theory - I have based my selections on my own tests. With the 17-35mm I use a dioptre, with the 16-35mm, I do not, for the best optical performance!

But most important is the dome. The Zen 230 dome moves the game on for me (and everyone else I know, who has tried it).

 

Alex

 

p.s. I still remain unconvinced that the D700 is an upgrade over a D300 for uw photography.

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Neat topic. I downloaded a trial version of Lightroom to get the numbers, since Bridge doesn't seem to allow to search by lens type (just focal length, which messes up the numbers for zoom lenses).

 

These stats are all for underwater images shot with a Nikon D3 (FX), between April 2008 (when I switched over to digital) and last weekend (when I first tried out the Nikon 16-35mm).

 

All Images

 

---------------------------------
Total underwater images 10913   
---------------------------------
Sigma 15mm FE		   58.36%
Nikon 16-35mm			0.41%  (Very New lens)
Nikon 20mm			  13.21%
Nikon 60mm			   5.54%
Nikon 105mm			 22.47%
---------------------------------
Total wide angle		71.99%
Total macro			 28.01%

 

Keeper Images

 

---------------------------------
Keeper images			1952
---------------------------------
Sigma 15mm FE		   60.09%
Nikon 16-35mm			0.10% 
Nikon 20mm			  11.32%
Nikon 60mm			   5.12% 
Nikon 105mm			 23.36%
---------------------------------
Wide angle keepers	  71.52%
Macro keepers		   28.48%

 

Favorite Images

 

---------------------------------
Favorite images		  551
---------------------------------
Sigma 15mm FE		   40.83%
Nikon 16-35mm			0.00% 
Nikon 20mm			   1.27% 
Nikon 60mm			   4.54% 
Nikon 105mm			 53.36%
---------------------------------
Wide angle favorites	42.11%
Macro favorites		 57.89%
---------------------------------

 

So a lot more overall shooting with wide angle lenses, but the favorites lean more towards macro. Interesting!

 

By the way, is there an easy way to get all these numbers without creating separate collections to do the counting? I'd never used Lightroom before and didn't see anything relevant in the menus or help (although I didn't spend a ton of time searching).

 

And since the topic of the 16-35mm has crept into this thread, I gather from other sources too that it is better than the 17-35mm underwater and is stunning behind the Zen 230 dome. For now, I'm shooting it with my existing Subal 8" Fisheye dome, with a 70mm extension, and am trying shots with and without a 2+ diopter. This is all to keep me busy until it's time to splurge on the Zen dome and have a really sweet combination :D

 

Cheers,

 

Liz

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