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Wetpixel Live: Intro to Nauticam Optics

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In this episode of Wetpixel Live, @adamhanlon chats to Nauticam owner, @Edward Lai about the history and his philosophy behind Nauticam's development of a range of water contact optics, specifically designed for underwater image makers. He explains why in some circumstances, these optics can improve image quality, particularly in low light, and gives a very interesting take on the issue of distortion.

 

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It is good that finally this is put out there. None of the wet optics correct distortion and there is no relationship between the size of the lens and amount of distortion.

As he puts it the wet optics are 4-6 elements and can't correct distortion obviously no lens does this is done by software

One of the things I do not agree in full is the idea that all rectilinear lenses have a warping effect. This is actually an issue of software correction and a lens that has less distortion and less correction will not give that problem. This is unrelated to dome port optics is just the lens issue. When you use a wet optic the lens correction is countered by the barrel distortion which mitigates this effect but yet exaggerates the other way fish are big in the centre and tiny at the edges

Older DSLR lenses that had to be straight will not present that issue compared to a new Sony wide angle lens that has a lot of software correction

For pictures there is software that can disable the correction now even lightroom allows on some combination and you can restore the original lens distortion which will remove the warping but still be much less than a fisheye. Lenses at most have 6-7% distortion on MFT as the sensor is small and the optics really short and should have less on larger formats but not necessarily this is true

Edited by Interceptor121
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@adamhanlon, this was likely the best WetPixel Live in quite a while... really excellent.

It was great hearing from  @Edward Lai, re: the explanation of some of physics involved with the water contact optics. From a personal perspective it helped explain why I have imaged (shot with a WACP-1 and older lens) where even the center of the image just looks better than a similar image shot with a dome (esp. in clear conditions where light plays a huge role in overall image quality).

Again, this was great - @adamhanlon, I hope you took the opportunity to ask him "what's next?" in the next video...

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This is indeed a very interesting Wetpixel Youtube Video, where I was able see a pioneer in fabrication of UW housings and, even more important, wetlense explain, how he started and how the wetlenses evolved...

 

I would find it a great help for potential customers, as e.g. me,  if Nauticam, who has the equipment and performs this tests (as can be seen in Alex Mustard's WACP1 review), would make objective measures of sharpness at different apertures in the center, as well as at the border for all different combinations, accessible to the public:

#1.: 8-15mm fisheye lens behind 140 dome (preferentially at 130° AOV).

#2.: Best performing WA lens behind 230 dome (130°).

#3.: Best performing WA lens behind 180 dome (130°).

#4.: Best performing lens behind WWL-C, WWL-1, WACP-C, WACP-1 and WACP-2 at 130°.

#5.: Same data for the newly developed EMWL macro WA wetlenses under comparable conditions.

I addition, data from not so well performing lenses are also welcome. I am sure, Nauticam has already measured this and the data are in a folder...

 

Wolfgang

Edited by Architeuthis

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4 hours ago, oneyellowtang said:

@adamhanlon
Again, this was great - @adamhanlon, I hope you took the opportunity to ask him "what's next?" in the next video...

My postman has some good knowledge too...

1 hour ago, Architeuthis said:

I would find it a great help for potential customers, as e.g. me,  if Nauticam, who has the equipment and performs this tests (as can be seen in Alex Mustard's WACP1 review), would make objective measures of sharpness at different apertures in the center, as well as at the border for all different combinations, accessible to the public:

 

I would be fascinated to see these data in public. However, Nauticam have always been averse to share actual measurement data - because they allow someone else with different testing conditions to claim better numbers for another setup. You can imagine it - "I did a test and my lens is the sharpest in the world!" I also think that the endorsement that they want is actual customers telling other photographers that they like the gear and it helped them get the shots they wanted. 

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23 minutes ago, Alex_Mustard said:

My postman has some good knowledge too...

I would be fascinated to see these data in public. However, Nauticam have always been averse to share actual measurement data - because they allow someone else with different testing conditions to claim better numbers for another setup. You can imagine it - "I did a test and my lens is the sharpest in the world!" I also think that the endorsement that they want is actual customers telling other photographers that they like the gear and it helped them get the shots they wanted. 

I agree that such comparison is not useful and with the same logic comparing corner sharpness between different optical devices is also not useful

I do not see an overlap between in water optics and what is available unless you use a tokina or a canon 8-15 on APSC/MFT so the solutions are really not overlapping

For what concerns those two formats I doubt very much anyone getting good results with a Tokina 10-17mm would plan to get some WACP solution to get a narrower field of view and likewise if you have a working solution with WWL-1 on MFT and a fixed fisheye you are not going to go and work adapting ASPC/Full frame lenses

The only thing I can say is that it is entirely possible to reduce or eliminate distortion correction of rectilinear lenses and the warping effect Edward describes goes away in photos. But it is still very present in video you just have to decide if you are bothered more by a fish that is small in the corner and gets bigger in the centre (barrell distortion) or by a fish that is ok in the centre and gets elongated at the edges. Personally I shoot wide angle video with distorted optics as with the 16:9 crop the issue is minimised a lot but I am ok to shoot with a dome expect focusing is a nightmare so I only do it in case where I really must

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I also enjoyed the episode with Edward Lai, and found the bit about the distortion correction particularly interesting.  I thought his comments were interesting about overall sharpness, as opposed to just corners of shots.  Frankly, unlike many of you,  I am not that much into all the physics and math and theory, I mostly want to know what works well for various purposes,  benefits, disadvantages, etc.   

As to some of the comments that have been made about the utility of water-contact optics, I think just looking at distortion and FOV might be missing some important points.  There is also the potentially huge benefit of  a broader usable aperture range and perhaps some benefit by not having to deal with things like proper lens placement in a dome, best extension length, etc.

I do wish there were a broader list of lenses tested and listed by Nauticam that work well with these optics, assuming there are any.

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4 hours ago, Draq said:

As to some of the comments that have been made about the utility of water-contact optics, I think just looking at distortion and FOV might be missing some important points.  There is also the potentially huge benefit of  a broader usable aperture range and perhaps some benefit by not having to deal with things like proper lens placement in a dome, best extension length, etc.

I do wish there were a broader list of lenses tested and listed by Nauticam that work well with these optics, assuming there are any.

Nauticam has tested a lot of lenses that aren't on the port chart -- because they don't work acceptably well. So what's on the port charts is what works best.

 

The "huge potential benefit" of a broader usable aperture range is really overplayed, in my view. Sure, in the best case scenario you can shoot at F5.6 with the WACP-1 and you'd have had to shoot at F16 lets say to get comparable sharpness behind a dome. Are those 3 extra stops really going to be the difference between being able to get a shot and not being able to? I don't think so. In most environments most of us spend time shooting, there's plenty of light and full frame camera sensors are good enough that you can shoot at F16 all day and still stay below 3200 ISO. Your results will be clean enough that it doesn't matter. Lower ISO/less noise is not a very compelling reason for the wet contact optics to exist IMO.

Different angles of view/rendition than rectilinear zoom lenses or fisheye lenses is a pretty good reason though.

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Nauticam has tested a lot of lenses that aren't on the port chart -- because they don't work acceptably well. So what's on the port charts is what works best.
 
The "huge potential benefit" of a broader usable aperture range is really overplayed, in my view. Sure, in the best case scenario you can shoot at F5.6 with the WACP-1 and you'd have had to shoot at F16 lets say to get comparable sharpness behind a dome. Are those 3 extra stops really going to be the difference between being able to get a shot and not being able to? I don't think so. In most environments most of us spend time shooting, there's plenty of light and full frame camera sensors are good enough that you can shoot at F16 all day and still stay below 3200 ISO. Your results will be clean enough that it doesn't matter. Lower ISO/less noise is not a very compelling reason for the wet contact optics to exist IMO.
Different angles of view/rendition than rectilinear zoom lenses or fisheye lenses is a pretty good reason though.

You can use wider aperture because you are not bothered about the corner sharpness as those are compressed by the wet optics
This is the reason to brag about the edge performance
Metabones already showed that focal reducers can reduce chromatic aberrations so this looks a very similar case except the wet optics are distorted
When it comes to sharpness I believe there is another misunderstanding here
A lens normally performe better at a specific aperture say f/8 if you shoot it with a dome at f/16 and with a wet optics at f/8 the latter will be sharper not because the wet optic adds sharpness it can’t but because it makes the lens work in the sweet spot
Mirrorless lenses tend to perform better at wider apertures so the combination with wet optics is more interesting that traditional DSLR
At the end if you have a full frame camera you simply do not have a fisheye zoom so the wet optics fit a gap in the lens line up
There is no need to make comparisons with rectilinear lenses…
For MFT/APSC users you have fisheye zoom lenses that can be used so the use case is limited however when Nauticam sent me the WWL-1 years ago I had no idea I could use the canon 8-15mm and the wwl-1 is in that case more cost effective for video and general purpose but for photos I no longer use it


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11 hours ago, dreifish said:

Nauticam has tested a lot of lenses that aren't on the port chart -- because they don't work acceptably well. So what's on the port charts is what works best.

The "huge potential benefit" of a broader usable aperture range is really overplayed, in my view.

 

Apparently you have inside information.  I have no idea what they tested or did not.  I would be curious as to what lenses they tested and did not work well, if you wish to share that information.  I know the optic was designed around the Nikon 28-70 on full frame, but there are third-party lenses of that same focal length.  It would be interesting to understand whether these were tested.  In APS-C, I find myself wondering if the old Sigma 18-50 might work,  and I am sure such alternatives exist for at least Canon as well.   

To me, the ability to have more flexibility in depth of field and shutter speed while maintaining adequate sharpness throughout the frame is valuable.  I am not trying to sell this product to anyone, so there is no reason the benefit would be overplayed, it is just a personal preference.

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@DraqThey do test continuously. I have seen the optimal combination for some of the Sony lenses change ovetirme in their port chart PDFs (dome type/size, extensions).

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Thanks.  I have seen them update port charts, so I know that happens.  The list of compatible lenses for the WACP-C is larger than that for the WACP-1.  I don't know if that reflects the difference in those two water-contact lenses or it is just an updated list.

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20 hours ago, dreifish said:

Nauticam has tested a lot of lenses that aren't on the port chart -- because they don't work acceptably well. So what's on the port charts is what works best.

 

The "huge potential benefit" of a broader usable aperture range is really overplayed, in my view. Sure, in the best case scenario you can shoot at F5.6 with the WACP-1 and you'd have had to shoot at F16 lets say to get comparable sharpness behind a dome. Are those 3 extra stops really going to be the difference between being able to get a shot and not being able to? I don't think so. In most environments most of us spend time shooting, there's plenty of light and full frame camera sensors are good enough that you can shoot at F16 all day and still stay below 3200 ISO. Your results will be clean enough that it doesn't matter. Lower ISO/less noise is not a very compelling reason for the wet contact optics to exist IMO.

Different angles of view/rendition than rectilinear zoom lenses or fisheye lenses is a pretty good reason though.

I do have to say....for me in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon) shooting salmon and other species in freshwater rivers, it is often difficult to stay below 3200 ISO even at 5.6.  We really struggle to find enough light between forest canopies and deep topographic relief.  Most days the only natural light comes from an indirect source.

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Thanks.  I have seen them update port charts, so I know that happens.  The list of compatible lenses for the WACP-C is larger than that for the WACP-1.  I don't know if that reflects the difference in those two water-contact lenses or it is just an updated list.

With no housings been made for DSLR APSC I would expect Nauticam to focus on mirrorless lenses for the new water contact optics products
The WAPC-C for example opens up to Panasonic mirrorless full frame and Fuji APSC


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